The process of experimentation and creation resonates loudly with me. It’s something that’s always given me a lot of energy throughout my life and career.  I’m a believer that the forces of intent, accident and necessity all play a part in the creative process, whatever the discipline. As such, I was so intrigued to read Joseph O’Neal‘s take about making his new body of work in this short essay, Trapping Ghosts.  The poetic and evocative symbolism of catching, attracting and trapping ghosts helps us gain such clear insights into O’Neal’s approach to his work and his mindset.

It is my job to simply catch ghosts. The problem is ghosts never let you see them straight on and they never give you a signal of when they plan to appear. Most of my studio days are spent moving paint and material around structures as a rain dance in order to tempt the ghosts out of hiding. I do this by putting myself in positions that encourage accidents in hopes that some of these mishaps will attract a ghost. When a ghost shows up I acknowledge the preceding accident and can then create an environment that will foster more of the same. In this particular body of work the accident was spilled coffee. For weeks my gambit in the ghost game became pouring coffee over everything in the studio in hopes that the ghosts would follow.

Cabin (2016) | Industrial paint, acrylic, found paper, coffee, oil stick, gel medium on canvas | 12″ x 9″

The words on the paintings arrive the same way the other elements do; by showing up in the ether at the right time. The words are not meant to mean anything. This is not to say that they don’t mean something, just that they were not meant to mean anything. I realize that by putting words on the surface of my work that this will naturally cause viewers to look for symbols within the elements of the pieces for association. It is my intention that this back and forth will cause viewers to fall past the surface and experience the trapped ghosts.

Archer (2016) | Industrial paint, acrylic, found paper, coffee, oil stick, gel medium on canvas | 12″ x 9″

See more sublime pieces by O’Neal in the gallery.