I was priming canvases yesterday. Some friends of ours were moving and had some old painted-on canvases they no longer wanted, so they wondered if I had use for them. Uh, free paint supports? Need you ask? So I came home from packing boxes and lugging furniture with a stack of pieces, anything from little 8x10's to a couple of big 30" hardboard squares. And yesterday, I primed them.
It felt a little strange, loading a great 4" brush full of white wall primer, and just shlopping it clear across someone else's painting. Sacrilegious, somehow. But, honestly, my friends didn't want the paintings any more; most of them were practise pieces, anyway. They didn't give them to me to hang on my wall, they gave them to me to do exactly what I was doing, paint over them. So I did. Three thick, goopy layers of white primer.
But one of the things about some of these paintings is that you can't obliterate them entirely. They're abstracts, painted very thickly in acrylics, and the bumps and ridges of the dried-on paint is still clearly visible under the white layer. So then I got to thinking: isn't that just like life? We might be able to slop whitewash over the original layers of our experience, but, depending on how prominent those layers were, they refuse to be hidden.
So then what do we do with them? Use them, that's what. Actually, I'm looking forward to putting my own ridgy thick sloppy abstracts on top of my friend's work. The bumps and ridges of her painting are going to make my own that much more interesting, and the finished piece will be something that, in a sense, we both created. Art with a history?
Life, the Universe, and Re-primed Canvases. It's all in the layers.