“What are you painting?” “Garbage.” “No, what are you painting?”

Yes, I really am painting garbage. I didn’t set out to paint garbage. I didn’t wake up one morning and say painting garbage would be a good thing to do. Instead, while walking near a friend’s house in Sasebo, Japan, I passed the recycling center. In it they were moving bales of recycled paper to prepare them for transport.

Japanese Recycling Center, Sasebo, Japan

Bale of Recycled Paper

The image of their surface was striking to me, like a Harnett trompe l’oeil painting, and the structure of the bales made me think of Don Judd’s boxes.

Harnett, “Mr. Hunting’s Rack”

Donald Judd, “Untitled”, c. 1968-69

Leslie Parke, “Recycled Paper – Sasebo, Japan”, 58 x 48 inches, oil on linen, 2008.

You see, I didn’t see the bales as garbage, but as a comment on art history, part of the continuum of image making. For me it carried everything from Lichtenstein’s cartoon paintings, to Jackson Pollock’s all-over composition.

Roy Lichtenstein

Jackson Pollock, “Lavendar Mist”

Sometime later, on a trip to Maine I took the recyclables to the dump and nearly leaped from the car when I saw bales of crushed cans. Again there was the possibility of trompe l’oeil imagery, but with the crushed metal and shiny lids a new element was introduced – light and the reflection of the surrounding onto the surface of the cans.

Leslie Parke, “Not From Concentrate”, 40 x 60 inches,oil on linen, 2010.

Circles, folds and bands were added to the vocabulary.  So were references to John Chaimberlain’s sculpture and Jasper John’s Savarin coffee can.

John Chamberlain, sculpture

Jasper Johns, “Savarin Can with Brushes,” 1960

I would not disallow a reading of these paintings as an environmental statement, but it was not where I was coming from when I landed on this imagery.

Leslie Parke, “Diced Tomatoes”, 36″ x 58″, oil on linen, 2010.