The "box" series is comprised of both drawings and paintings. Each piece consists of seated or standing figures wearing cardboard boxes. The figures, either sharing a box or existing alone inside a box, are placed within a plane of pure infinite hue. The plane of hue serves as a duality of flatness and infinite space dipping into what I want to seek to give a presence to in my work, the eternal. The boxes usually have a different color base that vibrates against the color plane while both the figure and the box are drawn with thin ink-like coats of brown. Information is focused and a beautiful variety of fresh mark abounds within the definition of each box and figure. Through saturated color and symmetrical composition I invite the viewer's appreciation of skillfully rendered subjects and the consideration of those subjects to be metaphorical. The concealed identity of the figures further allows for these considerations and the personal applicability of the metaphors investigated.
In order to become more informed with the framework of employing a box as metaphor, I decided to go through a book of mine, Signs & symbols in Christian art by George Wells Ferguson. According to this book a circle relates to Heaven when viewed as the perfect geometric shape. The square, in contrast to the circle, is the emblem of the earth, and of earthly existence. In consideration of what I found, the box could represent being "of" versus "in" the world/earth, a scripturally based concept.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” --1 John 2:15 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
For the grace of God has appeared, with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. --Titus 2:11-13 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
This is important because the box is a limitation for the figure and the above scripture references imply that becoming too caught up in the world can lead to the loss of a life-giving, loving, meaningful life. Loving God and loving people equals a life full of relationships not objects. In my "box" series the figures are veiled and blinded by an object. The box appears to read as a barrier that the figure cannot, chooses not, or naively doesn't recognize the need to escape.
The metaphor of the box and spaces broadened as this series progressed. Viewers began to ask what the box meant and what was going on inside. The planes of color became psychological, the figures were inhabiting a form of faith, lies, identity, limitations, a secret, a false belief system, or a limited perspective. Mental space and spiritual space became a focus by replacing the background of my photographic reference with one hue and capturing a sense of the nonobjective within the rendering of the box surface. The balance between capturing the visceral immediacy of my mark making and creating a work that one can commune with is very important to me. I do not want to over work a piece and produce a sense of under valuing the "fresh" qualities of mark while leaving the content to do all the work. Poor consideration of form and function could run the risk of presenting dead facts versus, what I would consider, presenting the truth in love.
The same inclusivity versus exclusivity from the notice series reappeared but these paintings acted more as a presentation addressing the box rather than an invitation to join or enter the box. The invisible versus visible came into play responding to a lot of what I was reading at the time. "We have lost an awareness of the invisible and eternal. The world is too much with us so that the invisible and the eternal seem to be quite forgotten or at least we are not aware of it. We're only briefly aware of it when somebody dies. " -A.W. Tozer, The Attributes of God Vol. 1
Like my previous series, the box series began with a question: Why and how do we hide? I wanted to deal with isolation, and compartmentalizing. Veiling and perspective became significant while questioning what feels safe and comfortable. The box began to represent the unknown, a void for the viewer to fill with their own projections. I believe we were created with the need for community, and communication beyond ourselves. So I created scenarios where the figure, consumed by a cardboard box, was clearly limited by the level of physical interaction they could have with another human being unless they shared a box with someone. Within my own struggles for my work to reach out and make the personal something both accessible and local I found this series addressing the same issue. Asking questions is a great way to encounter someone else's inner dialogue with the hope of understanding. The hope of relationship. It's seeking common ground and a person's heart, not the box. In Box No. 6 I added another element, a light source within the box. Another perspective emerged in my dealing with this series and I began to think about light as a metaphor for knowledge and innocence. I relate innocence to the box. It's a veil representing the unreconciled self to sin. It's odd to think of innocence as darkness but I think it's true at least in the sense of knowing. Illumination comes with the recognition that innocence is dangerous. There's a freedom in purity that doesn't lead to destruction. So the question is, "What is purity?" It's what Jesus has done for human nature. In light of these paintings, it's the removal of the box.
The "box" series reflects and in some ways documents my own spiritual questions regarding faith, innocence, purity, community, human nature, relationships, and truth. The biblical definition of faith continued my investigation. Faith: A firm conviction in what cannot be seen. In 2 Corinthians 4:18 it states, "The things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." What's inside the box? What's outside the box? Can we see the invisible if we look with the heart and not our eyes? How do you do that? I think relationship is key so my figures began to share their boxes with other figures. I’ve found that cadmium yellow light on canvas operates in a similar way to the white of paper. The white of paper can exist without question and serve as a flat, infinite, and psychological or spiritual space. Employing a color plane or atmosphere can separate the subject from a physical reality and suggest the suspension of disbelief like a Giotto painting with his expensive blue paint.
A fellow artist once said, during a critique, "A secret can control or shape your entire life." Do these boxes keep us from influencing the lives of others and being influenced as we live this life. Intimacy or superficiality? That's our decision. That's our opportunity. It's a relational lifestyle. If we walk around in a "box" we prevent anyone from truly knowing us and we may never get to truly know anyone else.
Years ago the goal was, for the most part, to get rid of the box both aesthetically and conceptually. Yet, it has provided a means of addressing identity and the unseen. As much as I continue to be intrigued with these concepts I wonder if I can ever get away from the occupation of the box.
"God Almighty is running His world; the day will come when God will lift a cloud off the world and they shall gather in admiration from everywhere and say how wonderful God is" - A.W.Tozer
We are under occupation. This blinding oppressive cloud will one day be completely gone. 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 states: “For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known. Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Now we see in part but then....whole. No lies, no masks, no false belief systems, no sin. We will be boxless.....
- Craig Hawkins 2011
LEO weekly review of Craig Hawkins: Infinite Space