Free Association Funnies


I have long been fascinated by the process of art-making, with the history of the work laid nearly bare as one dances with it.  Those traces, marks and images that arise out the process of making excite me most, as if I am excavating from within.  For many years I have worked between my oil paintings and sketchbook work, attempting to bring the two worlds together, especially the purely drawn mark into the paintings.  That struggle has culminated in a body of work that is a result of my love of painting, drawing, and the narrative arts.  Free Association Funnies is a nod to the cartoon narrative arts that I have loved, collected and studied for decades.  There are narrative elements in these works, though they are often fragmentary pieces, standing apart from other narrative elements. Other times, they tie together by frayed threads.  I often don’t know what the narrative elements fully mean, as I am working as intuitively as possible, responding to and from one image to the next, going back and forth, in and out, up and down within the picture.  In some cases, the narrative elements are fragments of important memories, dreams, or some inner conversation that I’m having at the moment.  Working intuitively in this fashion has resulted in lots of failure, which I have learned to embrace and love.  The failure of one mark or image almost always results in the growth of something down the line.

There is a good deal of language in the work that has remained consistent in my paintings and drawings for many years.  Images of seeds, sacs, pods, Japanese zushis, masks, and linear textures seem to have always been with me; a part of my visual well.  The bird beak/mask figure arose after my father passed away in 2005, and the elephant trunk mask is something more recent, triggered by I-don’t-know-what.  I have long been fascinated by the idea of masking, ever since my days working as an illustrator in Houston in the 1980s.  The mask may be a formal element worn over a face, telling someone that you’re fine when you’re not, or words masking the true intent of meaning.    

Working on these Free Association Funnies has been like following a map that has no clear direction, but with a ride that continues to be satisfying.

Rob Stolzer