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Old Haunts is me putting everything on the table. It is an attempt to push at the limits of my knowledge of painting and my understanding of how they can be made. It is the result of an effort to figure out what exactly it is that draws me to painting, what keeps me coming back. My narrative points of departure include American history, its myth and iconography, art history, and my own life. I relish oil paint for its physicality: its potential for thickness, grittiness, and roughness, to create images that are not only seen but felt viscerally.
The surprise or reveal of seeing how something will look painted is the most reliably satisfying part of making paintings. This is why I often start paintings without having a specific idea, and why I am so willing to loosen up formally, especially when painting figures and faces; I don’t want always to be in total control, because I don’t want to know what things are going to look like. I want to be surprised by the face that appears. This unpredictability is pushed furthest in the larger paintings, which are the result of a long series of decisions, reactions, improvisations, and accidents of color and texture, proportion and perspective.
I sometimes feel the paintings are getting out of control or that their qualities aren’t premeditated enough and I’m not the master of them. But mostly, I like and am enticed by this sort of otherness of the works, that I don’t always know exactly how they’re functioning or how they’re going to be read by viewers. I am fascinated by the way the paintings depart from their original ideas and come together to work in service of something greater, something more confusing, more alive.
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Smith, Simon Steinbrock, "Old Haunts: An exhibition of paintings" (2016). Senior Projects Spring 2016. 441.
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