In a 2020 interview with the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, David Hockey said:
‘I have to paint. I’ve always wanted to paint; I’ve always wanted to make pictures from when I was tiny. That’s my job I think, making pictures, and I’ve gone on doing it for over sixty years. I’m still doing it, and I think they are still interesting as well. The world is very, very beautiful if you look at it, but most people don’t look very much, with an intensity, do they? I do.’
Yesterday I posted to Instagram Stories the photograph at the top of this page, and quipped that I’d been doing Cape Cod field work since 1971. In a sense, it’s true. I have been looking at this place intensely since I was a child, and from a young age I always understood it as my landscape.
I can’t paint anywhere. I admire — envy a little — painters who can travel anywhere and make beautiful artworks. I can’t do that. I need to be immersed in a place for a long time before I understand it enough to say something. I need to feel the place in my body. But, most of all, I need to have enough time to look at it deeply. And then look some more.
This project is about looking and seeing. And about understanding the difference between looking and seeing.
In November of 2017, I started a psychogeography* project with Provincetown Art Association and Museum. The project’s conceit was to walk the perimeter of Provincetown through a series of six or seven looped walks. We took three of the walks — the length of commercial street and then back on the bay beach; down the sunny fire road, out to Race Point light, around the point and back through the bike trail; and down the Old Colony rail trail to Truro border, along the border to the Atlantic and up the snail road path. After that, my mother entered the final stage of life and I moved to Connecticut for the better part of three months. The project got postponed. On my own I’ve pursued it a little — walking the breakwater to Long Point, around the beachside to Herring Cove and back into town; as well as walking Race Point to the Truro border. But I never reconvened the group in part because leading a group kept me from look and seeing — in a sense undermining the project.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Keri Smith’s book, How To Be An Explorer of the World. Smith’s book begins with a list of ideas she gathered from teachers, artists and experience. I’m reproducing it here to remind me of my intentions.
Page 5 of Keri Smith’s book, How To Be An Explorer Of The World.
*Psychogeography is an intentional practice of realigning your relationship to place by undertaking explorations that break patterns and invite new engagements with place. It invites reflection on how place feels. While utilizing the concerns of both psychology and geography, the practice emphasizes playfulness and drifting.
Field Guide: Walking & Painting on Cape Cod is a fundraiser to support Provincetown Commons’ artist studios, co-working facility, meeting spaces and exhibition gallery. Please donate at our website: https://www.provincetowncommons.org/fieldguide-walkingandpaintingcapecod