Judson Vereen is a multi-disciplinary artist and author born in 1986 in Atlanta, Georgia. His work in painting includes, but is not limited to, large scale abstractions, collage works, and assemblage. Drawing from the New York School and the abstract expressionists, Vereen creates brooding emotional works that function as the artist's living diary.
Additionally, he is the author of a book of poetry, 62 poems from Judson Vereen, and American Pleasure, a novel published in 2016. Vereen is currently working on several book projects, including Letters from a Jeep Cherokee, a collection of letters and poems, and On Painting, a book of essays dedicated to the art of painting.
The artist also released a full album of recorded songs on which he sings and play guitar, and acted in Vacation, a 2014's short film that won critical acclaim and was featured in several film festivals, including the New Filmmakers Festival in Los Angeles.
Judson Vereen has lived in Atlanta, New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and currently lives with his wife Yasmin Vereen in Brazil. Vereen is part of an increasingly rare group of artists who are autodidacts - he had never attended art school and has no academic training. This website serves as a compendium of all his creative efforts.
Judson Vereen was featured on The Reckless Muse podcast on March 28th, 2022.
I think one thing outsiders-especially artists, are oblivious to is the idea of the industry itself. The art world, if that is what we shall call it, is not a world where success is based on talent, expertise or merit of that sort. Like many industries, it is based on networking and not much else. This truth is far from the romance that artists dream about when pursuing their careers at the very start. It is an ugly truth, in all honesty. Many artists will spend decades going to every gallery opening, attending every lecture and gallery walk-through possible in the spirit of “seeing and being seen”- the lifestyle this creates is one far that is far from being an artist in the poetic sense. The bitter truth- the art world can be a quite revolting place where people are constantly using and being used. There was an old saying not long ago among art dealers- “The art world would be perfect if we could only somehow get rid of the artists.” Another maxim is that it is quite a wonderful idea to have a Van Gogh painting in your living room, but to have dear old Vincent sitting on your living room couch is not so wonderful. I think the goal of an artist should be to rid themselves of delusion, and the industry revolving around the arts is full of delusion. Selling paintings and having gallery representation is all fine and good, but one must not get lost in this world.
One thing that sets me apart from other artists- I refused to step foot into an art school. I dropped out of high school junior year I was ready to start making work, learning from life, etc. I think the academic institutions have a mold- a template, in a sense. This factory-style production of artists is simply unappealing to me. I was fortunate that at an early age I knew what I wanted to be and I was rebellious enough, I suppose, to reject the notion of the classroom artist. I didn’t want to be coached. I wanted to get my hands dirty, make some mistakes. I didn’t want it to be easy I think. I looked at those old photographs of artists in their freezing cold lofts and they were all dirt poor most of the time. When I was young I thought this lifestyle was going to be fun. And I lived it. Through and through. I am still living it to some degree- as I have never been very secure in my life. But when I look back, I was right. Dropping out of school and taking the plunge as an artist has provided me quite an adventurous life and one that I am quite proud and lucky to be able to live. At least that is how I see it. I would be much more successful had I gone to an academy and played the MFA game. But it would not have been worth it. I would have been a completely different person. Of course, this is not for everyone and frankly, I don’t even recommend it. Don’t do what I did. Don’t try my life at home. Go to school, follow the rules. Play it safe, kids.
You know, Los Angeles has some interesting places and I guess it depends on your friend. I have taken friends to Jumbo’s Clown Room, The Venice Beach Boardwalk. One thing I like to do almost anywhere in California is to go on a drive at night- windows down and just look at the lights and feel the buzz of the city. It doesn’t matter where you take them, does it? My advice- don’t make plans and don’t take advice. Allow yourself the freedom of improvisation. When people travel, especially to LA they can get caught up in all the sites and all the things they think they are supposed to see and do. Don’t fall for it. Get lost. Go hungry. Take a stroll with no money in your pockets. Take big breaths and open your eyes and ears. It is all there waiting for you. You will never see it all, but if you can feel like you are a genuine part of a big moving breathing city, then you can say you’ve been there. You can say you were a part of the magic. This doesn’t require a ticket or a motive, just an open heart.
Throughout my life being an artist I have had many, many influences who I can and must acknowledge. It was Robert Rauschenberg and Willem de Kooning who first made me realize I was going to be an artist. It was familiarizing myself with their work and their struggles that softened the blows of anxiety so often associated with survival. I know I have always kept the works of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, the poet e.e. Cummings around for inspiration. I am quite fond of Clarice Lispector’s “Agua Viva” and anything by Henry Miller. When I found Henry Miller, I found much of myself in many ways. Miller’s work is purely autobiographical- himself and his work are indistinguishable. Picasso is similar in that way. I want to live a life like that. I want to be what I do and do what I am. My father, Henry Vereen, was also a great motivator. He always taught me I could be what I wanted and I believed him. I have a long list of influences. The older I get, the longer the list. I am also intrigued by the chef Marco Pierre White. He speaks about food like a poet. Cooking is similar to painting in some ways. So my influences come from a range of mediums. My favorite brain is probably Christopher Hitchens.
A look at the unknown artist and
why he continues to make his work,
wheter anybody cares about it or not
January 5th, 2020
In the age of the art star, the gallery mascot and instantaneous social media fame, there are very focused artists quietly making work, contributing to the silent unknown. Judson Vereen, an American artist whose work spans across several different mediums, is certainly one of them. During the past decade, Vereen has produced significant work in several categories. While he has dedicated the bulk of his creative output to painting, he has also published a work of romantic poetry, as well as an autobiographical novel, released an album of folk songs, which he sang, played guitar and helped produce, and acted in a film which he played the lead role. All of these projects were completed independently, on a shoe-string budget, and in the dead silence of any funding or support.
As a child, Judson Vereen (b. 1986) was a student of the illustrations found in MAD magazine and the political cartoons of Mike Luckovich. At the age of fifteen, he was beginning to paint - and was pretty serious about it. In high school, Vereen says "I practically lived in the art studio during those years. I began to really focus, and all the other elements of my formal education fell away". So much so that by junior year Vereen had decided to leave school altogether. "Perhaps I was taking myself too seriously, I don't know, but I was going to be an artist and if I had to starve then so be it". In 2004, Vereen moved to New York City to the neighborhood of Bed-Stuy to pursue his life as an artist and in his own words he "hasn't put the brush down since". Drawn to large work, Vereen's canvases echo the action painters of the post-war movements, most notably the Abstract-Expressionists. His work is exotic, bold and painterly. When asked why he prefers to work in abstraction, Vereen simply replies "I paint emotions and emotions are very abstract to me". While Vereen had some momentum in the early stages of his career (he had his first solo show at the age of eighteen and his second at the age of twenty), he says most of his career has been a steep, uphill battle, as he puts it "the entire way". When asked why he chose not to attend art school Vereen says "I was a bit sick of school. Everybody goes to art school now. Everybody is an art studen. I think it would have been a mistake". Nowadays, Vereen rarely sells any work but, nevertheless, paints everyday. When asked about his future in painting he clarifies that "I'll never retire and I'll just keep moving". While Vereen's career has long been a struggle well into his adulthood, Vereen insists that "struggle is a big part of the picture but the key is to just survive. To keep making work. You can't worry yourself about it. It isn't about money or success, it's about going to work, every single day, for the rest of your life".
"Ride the soft line between man and beast", reads the introductory verse to Vereen's first published work in the written word, a compendium of poetry titled "62" (TARANTULAPRESS). The work is a collection of writings from the years 2004–2010 and covers the artists early experiences and travels during that six-year period. The book includes literature penned in the cities of New York, Atlanta, and briefly San Francisco. Vereen is extremely revealing in the poems dedicated to friends, lovers and erotic experiences. Written in abstracted and obscured metaphor, the artist unabashedly picks fights with societal norms and expectations, scoffs at higher education, and taunts former lovers with poetry that hugs you warmly and then slaps you in your face. "Everything I do is autobiographical. I like poetry for the same reason I like being on stage", says the artist, "because there is simply nowhere to hide".
"The moon wasn't breathtaking, the guitar sang and followed, a voice that was lovemaking, an angels heart hollowed", reads one of the short haiku/limerick-like poems indicative of Vereen's style. "Humor is an element of daily life for me", says Vereen, "So no matter the poems topic, an element of whimsy within the tragedy can still exist". The writer concludes the chapbook with this last humorous yet devastating line:
"While the universe still ever is,
get your gets and give your gives,
try to take to bed yer' dates,
Don't we all end up in wooden crates?
For it's only the heart, that which falsity breaks"
In 2014, Vereen was cast and featured in "Vacation", a short film by San Francisco filmmaker Tracy Brown. "Vacation" follows a day in the life of a young chain-smoking bohemian living on the brink of existential collapse. Part inner-city dweller, part poet and part petty thief, this unnamed lead played by Vereen nabs purses, picks up loose, like-minded women, and alludes the cops while providing commentary on the trappings of modern day life. Yearning for a way out, the character has dreams of escaping a role in society he does not want and did not ask for. "He's a thief, yes, but he is much more than that. To me, in my mind, he is an artist", says Vereen, "he expresses himself in childish ways, and is prone to tantrums and impulse. He is being suffocated by a society that sees little in him and he is sick of trying to please it" . In one of the more surreal scenes, Vereen plays both hunter cowboy and indian prey underneath the blaring glaze of a burning peace sign. He then poses the dilemma: "They say war is not the answer. . .", he whispers calmly, "I believe that highly depends on the question". Director Tracy Brown was introduced to Vereen by another actor, Mark DiRuzza, and as Brown says, "I could see the raw talent immediately. Judson is an artist of a very high, capable calibre. He had no acting experience, but I liked it that way. We worked together extremely well. It was amazing to watch him fill the screen with so much character and intrigue". Others happen to agree. The film, just over ten minutes long, features cinematography from Michael Duffy and was screened at several festivals, including New Filmmakers LA, The DEADcenter Film Festival and the European Independent Film Festival.
After Vacation's release, Vereen's attention was once again turned emphatically to the literary world. His autobiographical novel "American Pleasure" exhales bohemia and grit while making a passionate reflection upon his experiences living in San Francisco and his former relationship with a rapidly rising adult film star. It's a work with a vibrating level of honesty that manages to keep things tasteful and elegant, no matter how obscene you can expect such a story to be - and it is obscene, in the best way possible. References to Vereen's passion for self-excavation and introspection are made quite evident in the book, that sits at 217 pages. With an introductory quote by James Baldwin, which encourages the artist to "tell the whole truth" and to "vomit the anguish up", Vereen once again shows his determination to tell all, leaving no stone unturned. In "American Pleasure", Vereen writes unflinchingly about his own struggles with substance abuse and his grappling with sexual desire amid the realities of the inner city. "I was living destitute in San Francisco. It was a busy city and I never broke out as an artist above the big city noise. So, I kinda gave up and in a way, I let the demons take me over. It is a rather vulgar book, but my life at that time was rather vulgar". Although the book could be considered a scathing critique of his former lover and the not-so-subtly veiled pornography empire which dominated San Francisco's porn scene, and the antics of hardcore pornography itself, Vereen insists that the book is all about his demons, and not a bashing of his former partner. "I wrote the book more or less as a love letter to her and the time we spent together. I never judged her for her profession, to have sex on film for a living, but she was getting into humiliation and disgrace and I learned I couldn't go down that road beside her." While the novel was exhaustedly promoted by its author, at the time of this writing, it has sold less than 100 copies. Vereen says of the book "I wanted more for it, of course. But that is how it goes. Perhaps someone can find it later. I've already moved on".
Informed by his poetry, Vereen is also deeply rooted in songwriting and stage performance. Starting to perform in his early twenties at the bar beneath his apartment in the small town of Newnan, Georgia, he began busking in the subway stations and street corners of San Francisco soon after his arrival. Shortly thereafter he made his way to the cafe scene. "I played a lot at this cafe on Market Street right in the mix of the city. But there were very few people who came. I think they payed me twenty dollars a night and gave me lasagna and a beer on the house. I was happy. I got to play whatever I wanted and to get paid anything at all, well, I felt really grateful about that. That was pretty cool, you know?". After a year playing in the cafe's, Vereen eventually graduated to having shows of his own at smaller venues around San Francisco. After writing and performing for nearly three years alongside his brother, the two recorded a series of Vereen's own songs, as well as covers, in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. On the recording, the folksy howl of Vereen's voice and harmonica and bluesy guitar melodies are backed by Stefan's delicate movements on the piano and organ. "An introduction to the songs of Judson Vereen" is the songwriter's first record to the public in the medium of songwriting but certainly not the last. The brothers intend to record a "A little something in between", another album of mostly original songs. According to Vereen, "My background is painting, but around 2010 I began writing songs and playing the guitar. I used to read my poetry aloud and still do, but I feel the need to raise my voice and sing them as well. My music is rather mathematical and simple. It doesn't need to be anything else. On the album I sing "You do what you want to" and "Heart in the city" as originals of mine. I cover the Stone's "Cocksucker Blues", which they wrote as a finger in the eye to the recording company, but I've always taken the song quite seriously. I sing Bob Dylan's "John Brown" and "Someday you'll call my name and I won't answer" by Hank Williams Sr. The songs I sing on the album are personal, even the one's that weren't written by me. I believe in showing the origins of my life's work. You can see exactly where I come from. Like I said, there is nowhere to hide".
Reflecting on the process of making the album, Vereen emphasizes how special it was to have his brother play on the recordings. "I was also very fortunate to have Kyle Leslie's help in the studio. He was a gifted and dedicated friend". Kyle Leslie, the noteworthy music producer in San Francisco, known for his gentle spirit and expert ear for detail, died of cancer shortly after the album's release. "Kyle was practically a legend to local musicians in San Francisco and his legacy will continue to shine on through the artist's that he influenced". Vereen is currently writing songs for a new album and hopes to release more projects in collaboration with Stefan. The pressing of the album only printed fifty copies, that Vereen gave to friends. "I didn't make any money with it and almost nobody listened to it", Vereen shrugs. "But I never tried to sell it. Sometimes you have to give yourself away in a sense".
Ask any artist and they will tell you that creative work needs some amount of support - before, during and after the production of the work itself. Artists today are scrambling their dealers, their studios, their managers and producers, all for the right amount of support, (i.e money) to get what their projects done. Are Vereen and the others like him independent of this system any different? "I do believe in support systems. It's nice to know when someone is behind you, but I only had that support officially for about a year, but that was almost two decades ago. I was with a gallery once, back in Atlanta. I was exhibiting my paintings, I was selling some of them occasionally, I was being interviewed, reviewed and all of that. Then I was fired. I haven't stepped into the gallery scene since. Artist's must learn to make work independent of others, of money, and of institutional support systems". When asked why it is so hard to get one's work out to the public, Vereen says "there's is just too much noise. The world is a noisy place. Big publishing houses, studios and galleries have the money to scream, the independent artist can really only afford to whisper".
Vereen relies now on the support of mostly himself: "There are a few people that have always supported me. My mother for one. My brother Stefan. I could not have released an album all by myself. Tracy Brown and Kyle Leslie were a great help in regards to the film and the album. I knew nothing about making a film and Tracy guided me through the whole process. The same goes for my work with Kyle Leslie on the sound of the first record. Kyle was needed in that project and he was there all the way. This is an awesome example of how good work can be made independently of big budget studios and steady cash flow. This is an age where people are steady busy just being busy. I prefer to be steady busy making work, and I have the goods to prove that. If I have to make a project work on a shoe string budget, that is just what I'll do. Artist's are fortunate in this day and age. We can become dualists. Even if you have no money, you can still produce work".
Judson Stacy Vereen, originally from Atlanta, Georgia, dropped out of The Woodward Academy, a prominent preparatory school, in his junior year of high school, and moved to New York City to dedicate his life to his creative pursuits. He then lived in San Francisco and Los Angeles. When asked about his time in Los Angeles, Vereen says "Los Angeles was not easy. I struggled, lived in my car, didn't get very far in that town. But I did what I always did. I painted, I made work, I kept moving". After his time spent in Los Angeles, Vereen moved to a location he would rather not disclose. "Nobody knows who I am, but after years in the big cities, I guess I'm kinda hiding out for a while", the 34 year-old artist says with a grin.
Vereen's upcoming projects include "Through San Francisco, DARKLY", a second anthology of his poetry, which includes short stories and song lyrics, and a book of correspondence, "Letters from a Jeep Cherokee", based on his experiences living in his car and his struggles in Los Angeles. With so much work in his past, and so much work in his future, it seems Vereen will not be persuaded by lack of success and vows to never retire from being an artist. Whatever the case, Judson Vereen makes work tirelessly, whether we listen, watch, read - or not. Either way, the work will be there for us, whenever we're ready.
Inquiries about Judson Vereen and his work can be submitted to: Tarantulapress@gmail.com
For more information about Judson Vereen's work, visit judsonvereen.com
Yasmin França is a freelancer writer and lover of good art.
All rights reserved. 2020.
Today we’d like to introduce you to Judson Vereen.
Judson, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I would say I was about fifteen when I began to paint and about sixteen when I started taking it seriously. In school, I took as many art classes as I could, all devoted to painting, and I really think that was it, you know? My spirit was crying out- at that time, for something, something to put myself into. Something I could lose myself in and I became totally immersed in art. I began to read and write poetry, started listening to Bob Dylan for the first time. It was all very exciting. I got so wrapped up in it I never even finished school. I left high school junior year and honestly never looked back. I moved from my home in Georgia to New York City and that’s when I really started to dream. It was the first time I could see myself in the world. I just saw everything in a different light- I was enamored with the big city.
After New York, it was San Francisco for about seven years. I spent most of my twenties there. And it’s such a wonderful place- I really opened up there. I acted in a film, I put out an album of music…I guess I opened up more as an artist and was a part of some really great projects with some really great people. But San Francisco- It ran its course, I suppose. I miss it but it was such a big part of my life that at some point it made sense to leave it behind in a way. Hard to explain, really. So, I came to Los Angeles and I was really the poorest and most excited that I have ever been. But hey, you make friends, you live in your car for a while, you end up getting by. So like many, I struggled for a bit. But it’s all in good fun- nobody said it was easy! A few years back I got lucky with a great live/work studio and have called it my home ever since. These days, I paint and work on my book projects, mostly. But I love life in Los Angeles. Many people leave this city before the end of the growing pains. I’m just now getting the swing of things…I have been really focused on painting, and soon I think I will be ready to start showing.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Attitude is everything, isn’t it? When I was young, I immersed myself in the stories of my heroes. Poets, writers, bohemians, painters, singers- people who really saw the bottom of the barrel. So, you do your best to study the lives of the shoulders your standing on. This prepares you a little bit for struggle, in some ways. But I knew early on that I didn’t want an easy life. What I want is a full life. And artists do struggle for various reasons- finances, substance abuse, creative drought, pitfalls of the city…I have made many mistakes! What you learn, I think, in this life is that it is full of exits. Nothing is too permanent. When I lived in my car in Los Angeles, it was all a head game. But I never bought into it- I said to myself, well, ok, I am here now, I can handle this. I kept a cool head and when I look back now, it was the most exciting time in my life. I was broke but totally free. You are never stuck is what I am saying. I guess when I look back at hard times- I just try to become grateful for them. It is the hard times that make us who we are. In the end, I think we could all look back and say, thank god it was not easy. Thank god they didn’t just give it all to me…
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
As of late, I have been focused on my paintings, my writing. Everything else, like music, or acting has taken a backseat. I think it was de Kooning who said something about dipping your hand into art and essentially pulling out anything you like. I tend to do that. I tend to “dip” like that. But what I wanted to do was to put together a new body of work- all new paintings, and I kinda surprised myself. I wanted something new and focused because I bounce around styles too often. I never went to an art school- but I was totally dedicated to painting. Trips to the Met and the Whitney served as an education of sorts. But I collected and devoured art books- read everything I could, spent a long time looking. I am very content with being self-taught. You could call me an outsider artist in that way. But I am in my thirties now and honestly, I still struggle- I have no style, I bounce around a lot. I do not come with an art school paradigm. It is freeing in away. I feel like an outsider and I have learned to embrace it. I can dip my hand into art and pull out what I want to. I guess in that way, making art is a lifestyle. I paint all the time, I chip away at them, I make messes…
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
When it comes to mentors and friendships, I have been lucky! Firstly, I would say so much support was given to me by my parents. My father, who is passed now, always encouraged my artistic side. Without him, I would have never made it. My mother as well always encouraged me to pursue my own goals. She is my true guide now. I had a very happy childhood and together they both taught me that I could be anything I wanted. As for friends, I have had many. And truly, I am forever grateful for the ones that stick around. As you get older, you lose people, and that’s okay, too. It’s part of life. But I have had some truly amazing friends along the way. I have had friends that have bought my paintings, lent me money, had my back, the whole thing, you know? And I always wonder, what did I do to deserve friends like these? When I was in San Francisco, I would have never made it without my friends Tracy Brown and Tyler Wintermute. They taught me how to survive. I always think I will lose touch with people, but in this world, it is too easy to reach out. That is important I think. If I have ever loved you, my door is always open. One day I hope to have a party and everyone is invited. At least that is how I see it…
An Unprofessional Analysis of the Paintings of Judson Vereen
by Lauren Cline
February 16th, 2016
"To deny the past for the sake of being conscious only of the present would be sheer futility. Today has meaning only if it stands between yesterday and tomorrow...Only the man who is conscious of the present in this sense may call himself modern. Many people call themselves modern - especially the pseudo moderns. Therefore, the really modern man is often found among those who call themselves old-fashioned."
Carl Jung wrote this in 1928, in a paper titled "The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man." He was concerned with the tendency in his generation for people, especially artists and intellectuals, to become obsessed with the pursuit of progress, romanced by the idea of the new, of the improved, of innovation for innovation's sake. This is a problem, of course, not limited to Jung's time, but shared by every era - certainly our own. The idea of innovation and newness is always seductive, and we are now generating the "new" faster than ever. With new materials, new technical capacities, new realities crafted in an abstracted, virtual sphere.
In part this is an act of narcissism: if progress is always better, then we are always better, better than the past and all the people and ideas it contains. The cult of newness saves us from having to question ourselves about the value of our era. What are we doing, other than moving blindly forward? What do we value? Deeper and further than our technical innovations, how are we different from those who came before us? What have we added and why? What do we really want, individually and collectively? It cannot be progress, not innovation alone. Those are simply the easiest available answers, but empty when not connected to a purpose. Even a child can identify what is new, point out what is different. If we are a different sort of human now who needs a new kind of art to speak to us, then why is this the case? What changed us, and what do we need in response? We are shielded from these questions by the immaculate facade of the cult of newness.
This brings me to the paintings of Judson Vereen, which are not innovative or progressive, not broken from the past. They are familiar like a feeling you've had since childhood, like a folk song, or a soft old jacket: broken-in, the smell of leather delicately permeating the air as the garment is slipped across the shoulder blades. "Old-fashioned," in Jung's use of the term. They are heavy, aged-looking things, caked in layers of paint. They seem timeless, as if they've been there forever and will always remain. In the era of the digital, the repeated image, the virtual, these paintings are grounded in reality. Solid objects that cannot be replicated in a photograph in any truly satisfactory way, because the photograph will miss the heft of them, the tactility, the artist's sensitivity to texture: as finessed and subtle as an Impressionist painter's sensitivity to color and to light. These paintings are not so much the voice of our era as they are the antidote for it. In this, I would argue, is their genius.
The antidote: we need things that exist. Things that are objects. We are afraid of this of course. Objects: one can lose them, they can be destroyed. We have sought and found safety in the realm of the virtual image, which can be hidden, saved, drawn out again when desired. Ignored when it is inconvenient. We do not just do this in art. Across the board we are becoming increasingly afraid of taking risks. We want all the benefits with none of the commitment, none of the danger. Our wars are fought with drones and are no longer called wars at all, do not have to be sanctioned by Congress and officially waged: they are just a trickle of violence running off from our state of peace, perpetual, easy to ignore when we would like to. I bring this up not to digress from the idea of art, but rather because I hold the (self-indulgent, perhaps) notion that our art both reflects and influences the state of our world. Our world right now, as it moves from past to future through the undefinable thing we call the present. Our present can only be defined retroactively, by the critics of the future, reflecting on us as their past. We hope they will see progress, innovation. But what have we lost?
Vereen's work answers this question for us before we knew to ask it, gives us back what we have been missing before we noticed it was gone. We felt its absence of course but weren't sure what should have been there: something real, and human and natural, as Vereen's paintings are. His brushwork is sometimes fiercely confident and instinctual, powerful to the point of near violence; sometimes scumbling and searching, reaching, missing. It is not polished. It is not finished. It is not new. It is not the past or the future, for those are both more solid. It is evolving, changing, living between the those two solid realities in the uncertain present, just as we are. Fecund. Stretching across them like a bridge we can't see the end of. Entering into the world of his paintings, we are forced to take the risk of walking down this bridge towards an uncertain future. Refusing to deny the past as what has brought us there, to the precipice, the start of the bridge. Engaging with his paintings involves taking a risk, being vulnerable. It is the risk of trusting something that you can't be sure of, something that is dictated by impulse and passion. Something that might fail: his paintings, because they are living and not dead, always run the risk of failure. They embrace that risk, as a prerequisite to being truly alive, to having value. They invite us to embrace that risk as well.
But Vereen's work does more than beckon to us. It begins to show us the way. In looking at his paintings, we feel our own hand at work in the place of his. We are invited into the creative process. All of the marks are exposed. We can see where something has been covered over, and how hastily or carefully, with what temperament or sensation. Everything is told in those marks, nothing hidden. We see the painting's whole birth, complete with its difficulties, cul-de-sacs, dead ends. All of this is exposed, open like a wound uncovered. One uncovers a wound because it needs the air around it in order to heal, because the flesh inside it is still alive and subject to change, to influence from the outside. In this way, Vereen's work is open and ambiguous enough that we can understand it viscerally, in whatever way we need to see it. It has high emotional resonance. It is honest and open and we understand that about it instinctually, and can see in it our own vulnerable truths.
But all of this aside, Vereen's work is valuable to us because it does what needs to be done, without caring if it is correct, or beautiful, or relevant. Whether it is innovative, or special, or - that most poisonous of all modern words - cool. In not caring, by serving the unknowable needs of their artist, Vereen's paintings are able to accomplish all of this and more. Tastes may change. The idea of what is progressive will certainly change, because that is the nature of the idea (or illusion) of progress. But what is honest will always remain. Honesty is beautiful. It is simple and old-fashioned. Vereen's paintings will continue to be relevant, showing us what we have always known about ourselves but forgotten. Showing us how to walk the invisible line of the present, as it stretches both backwards and forwards between future and past.