Mechanical objects are an extension of humans who create and use them. As human beings we all use mechanical devices to aid us in accomplishing tasks that benefit our lives. We have used these objects for thousands of years. The relationship between humans and machines can be quite intimate in the sense of the time we spend using them and the purposes for which we use them. My mother-in-law has a sewing machine that her mother used to make clothing for her as a child. It is the machine my mother-in-law learned to sew on and used to make clothing for her children. In turn, she also taught her daughters to sew on the same machine. This machine has been part of three generations of lives in her family and still is today.
I think about the objects I paint and how they relate to their environments. If I paint an old motor I consider how long it has sat in the garage under a bench, collecting dust and staining the floor with its oil. I think about the length of time the object has spent in its environment and how that has created a relationship. The objects and their environments are like people and how humans spend time together and trade parts of themselves. That exchange creates relationships.
I have been involved with different types of motors and mechanical devices my entire life. My father was an automobile mechanic and I started going to work with him when I was about six years old. Besides repairing other people’s vehicles, we also had to fix our own lawnmowers, washing machines, dryers, and vacuums. Purchasing something new was a foreign concept in our home, if something broke we simply fixed it or kept it for parts to fix another machine. My relationship with my father developed over a long period of time while working together on mechanical devices. This relationship continued when I became an adult. I started a commercial printing business and trained my father to operate the printing presses. I have gained knowledge from the shared experience of working on and learning about mechanical objects.
Painting mechanical objects causes me to consider how they operate, what their function is, and who might use them. Having a mechanical understanding of how devices operate, I appreciate what has gone into the design and manufacturing of them. Painting them brings a different appreciation of these machines. It’s one thing to understand them as a mechanical object but it’s quite different to start to see them as objects of beauty. The landscape of their design is interesting and they can have color notes that are as inspiring as a floral still life. Using a fragile substance like paint to depict an object of metal makes me think about the frailties of the objects I paint. While these machines are engineered to operate efficiently and to specific tolerances they are also vulnerable to failure just as the human body is.