The 2013 Otis and Velma Davis Dozier Travel Grant recipient, Matthew Bourbon, writes about his art and how he will use the DMA travel grant to visit Japan and conduct research for his painting practice.
In order to construct my paintings, I am always on the prowl for something I deem useful to my artistic endeavor. I am an image hunter. In fact, I collect all manner of visual information, sorting items into books and office files (or when I’m less organized, into mounds of paper fragments sitting on my studio floor).
This diverse material is the generative spark that serves as building blocks from which my painted vignettes are born. The “research” material I use is essential to how I function as an artist, because everything I create involves altering and reconfiguring the sources I adopt, replacing the original intent of the imagery with my own set of concerns.
Painting, for me, is a process of gathering, adjustment, refinement, and editing. My paintings are the remainder of this process, revealing the many decisions I make about facture—the accumulated details of how I alter and invent form, color, and pattern, as well as abrogate easy interpretations of subject.
When I was awarded the Dozier Travel Grant for Artists, I was thrilled, because I knew I could go on a long-desired fact-finding mission. For many years, I have been driven to combine Western and Eastern notions of painting. Thankfully, I have been to Europe, and I am steeped in the painted histories of artists like Giotto, Fra Angelico, Piero Della Francesca, and Masaccio. I have not, however, been to Asia. Yet, I have yearned to study the masterpieces housed throughout China, Thailand, and, in particular, in Japanese museums. Feeling rather obsessed with my painting investigations, I need to deepen my understanding of the often compressed and shallow spaces created within great Eastern painting. In the spring of 2014, I will visit the preeminent art collections of Tokyo and Kyoto, with an eye to reverse-engineer screen paintings, woodblock printmaking, and the myriad abstract patterns found within traditional textile design. The Otis and Velma Davis Dozier Travel Grant will allow me to decipher and absorb firsthand information, some of it planned and some of it happenstance. As travel always seems filled with what we intend to do and what spontaneously unravels, how my experiences in Japan will change and enrich my painting is unknown—but change is certain.
I am immensely thankful that the DMA has enabled me to make this trip and fulfill what feels like the necessary and inevitable next step in the development of my art.
Matthew Bourbon is an associate professor of art at the College of Visual Arts and Design at the University of North Texas. His work is currently on view at the Texas Biennial at Blue Star Contemporary in San Antonio and at Kenise Barnes Fine Arts in Larchmont, New York. To learn more about his art, visit his website.
We are now accepting applications for the 2014 Awards to Artists, visit the DMA’s website for additional information and to apply.