Pittsfield — Berkshire-based artist Joe Goodwin creates abstract paintings with an extraordinary play of color and texture, inspired by nature and his extensive travels. A solo show of his recent work, titled Liminal Artifacts, is on view at the Berkshire Museum now through Sunday, June 19, in the Museum’s spacious and sunlit Crane Room.
Goodwin achieves his distinctive color palette and unique textures through the use of proprietary techniques developed over his long career as a painter. He mixes his paint from dry pigments and polymer emulsions, and utilizes an innovative and complex layering process. During a recent interview at the Museum, Goodwin explained one of the significant inspirations behind his work.
“Years ago when I lived in New York City, back in the 1980s,” Goodwin said, “I went on a trip to Turkey. I wanted to capture the state of disrepair, peeling paint, and the layers of time, but I had no idea how to do it.” When he returned home, he was out of money, so he decided to try painting over some old canvases. “There was a lot of thick paint, and it was going to show through,” he said. “I got out a power sander and started sanding the surface – and I found what I was looking for. It was a major moment. Now I use less aggressive sanding methods, but the surface, the texture, and the edges all remind me of those ancient and distressed surfaces I saw in Turkey.”
As far as color, Goodwin prefers a matte finish. He starts with an arbitrary color, sometimes with a palette in mind, and mixes colors before he starts a group of paintings. “I am influenced by the time of the year,” Goodwin said. “In spring it’s the particular green of baby lettuce, or the pinkness at the end of the branches as the hillsides begin to change. In autumn it’s the firebush. Anything I start with most likely won’t be seen in the finished painting. What I start with is a point of departure.”
Goodwin works on multiple canvases simultaneously. “Back in the 1980s I was invited to do a show in Germany. I had 3 months to produce 20 to 25 works,” Goodwin laughed. “So I decided it would be like a factory. I was working furiously. When I got tired or came to an impasse on one canvas, I would switch to another canvas and take that one as far as it could go. I still work this way. Problems get solved, it’s consistent, and it helps in the development of the imagery.”
Nature has a significant impact on Goodwin’s process. He enjoys spending time out-of-doors and finds that his experiences come out in the work. He finds that people recognize nature and the organic in his paintings. “Some people see outer space, some people see microorganisms. A researcher I met on a train could identify actual bacteria,” Goodwin said. “I love to look at microscopic images. I’ve been tempted to paint bacteria.”
Goodwin also has been influenced by the work and insights of Carl Jung, especially his concept of the collective unconscious and his interest in dreams. “Painting and dreaming have a lot in common,” said Goodwin. “When I am painting, my subconscious perceptions are able to register graphically, just as they do in dreams. I have come to see painting as a developing solution to the unconscious.”
Last September, Goodwin was invited to present his work at “Art and Psyche, Sicily,” held in Siracusa, Sicily, and sponsored by the International Association for Analytical Psychology, an invitation that led to an exciting moment. “Last summer,” Goodwin recounted, “I was working on the painting Vesica Piscis, preparing to go to Siracusa. As I was working I was thinking about the audience of therapists and analysts and how things from the unconscious come into the imagery. I had a circle on the left side with a rectangle and a space on the right and I thought it was lopsided and unresolved. Suddenly it occurred to me to put in a second circle the same size, overlapping, and then I stood back and looked and thought I’ve seen this before. I did some research and it had a name – the vesica piscis, the almond shape created by the overlap of the circles. It is referenced by Archimedes, and it struck me that Archimedes lived in Siracusa – a full-fledged incident of synchronicity! That’s exciting!”
Goodwin works at creating a balance between life – his garden, his home, even cooking, which he enjoys — and time in the studio. He paints, he said, out of an internal necessity that is hard to explain.
He has to be in neutral; to let things begin to flow. When asked what’s next, the reply is simple: to regroup and start a new body of work.
For more information on Joe Goodwin and his art, visit www.jgoodwinstudio.com.
Located in downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts, at 39 South St., the Berkshire Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $13 adult, $6 child; Museum members and children age 3 and under enjoy free admission. For more information, visit www.berkshiremuseum.org or call 413-443-7171.