By Damon Arhos
One of my earliest memories is of a dense thunderstorm in my hometown of Austin, Texas. Recalling that memory motivated me to try treating my paints as rain, and my canvases as windowpanes.
For more than a year now I’ve mixed acrylic paint and water and watched – over and over again – as gravity forces the viscous substance down the surface. The process is enlivening for me as it emphasizes the intricacies that exist between background, foreground and everything in-between.
As the paint runs down the canvas it creates puddles of pigment on the tarp I put down to protect the studio floor. I didn’t plan for these series to be an exploration of gravity, surface, and water, but they are. Each piece represents a window with paint caught like rain running down its surface.
I’m currently applying the process to works on wood. Applying both stain and paint these canvases emanate color from the wood fibers and the viscous drips that I apply. I’m also experimenting with holding everyday objects up to the surface, which forces the stain and paint into unusual trajectories down the surface of a canvas.
I’ve been interested in the confluence of the ordinary and the accidental for some time. Back in 1998 I dug through a box of family photos that my mother had collected and selected some as bases for paintings, often choosing to deconstruct figures and objects and occasionally adding in surreal elements. After my mother’s passing in 2010 I shredded documents (from her life) and integrated them into mixed media pieces as a way of exploring the meaning of physical traces. I also used family photos in some of those compositions, photocopying and layering them with paint and sections of metal screen. With those works I transitioned into abstraction – an approach that continues to be the focus of my art practice today.
It was the process of ordinary observation that motivated me to begin creating artwork nearly 20 years ago, and above all else I am grateful for the opportunity to pursue my passion for art each and every day. As time passes and our busy lives continue, how do we direct our attention? We see some things. We ignore others. Many appealing objects exist right before our eyes yet we often don’t see anything.
About the Author
A native of Austin, Texas, Damon Arhos is a visual artist and studio art MFA candidate at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore. He has shown artwork in exhibits and galleries across the United States and abroad. Exhibition venues have included Strathmore Hall Foundation (Bethesda, Maryland); Foundry Gallery (Washington, DC); City of Austin People’s Gallery (Austin, Texas); East Austin Studio Tour (E.A.S.T. | Austin, Texas); Plano Art Association (Plano, Texas); and the Barrett Art Center (Poughkeepsie, New York), among others. A frequent collaborator on artistic projects, Arhos has affiliated with DC Arts Studios and Washington Printmakers Gallery in Washington, DC, as well as Art Alliance Austin, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, and the Pump Project Art Complex in Austin, Texas. Arhos currently lives and works in the Washington, DC metro area. View the artist’s website here.
This article was produced and published on in the arts magazine Bourgeon with the support of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities within a partnership between Day Eight and the Washington Project for the Arts in conjunction with WPA's Hothouse: ImPRINT exhbition that will open in May at the Capitol Skyline Hotel.
May 4, 2015