“Why do you use text or words in your artwork?”
JME: My artwork has always been about the conflict between communicating with the viewer and expressing myself as an artist. I use text or words because of their dualistic nature; visually they are abstract while at the same time they contain information; information that evolved over time into language. Language is human’s way of interfacing with the world. I see language, words, and letterforms as physical properties (although I am skeptical as to their certainty) and rely on them as a rich source of visual subject matter / material.
“Are viewers supposed to read these artworks?”
JME: The ‘characters’ (compressed letters) are there to be deciphered but they are also integrated for other reasons and motivations. If you decide to read or decode the characters that doesn’t necessarily mean you have ‘figured out’ the work. It means you have deciphered the conscious layer. It is always my hope that viewers will use the information to unlock and explore other possibilities, within or outside the canvas. On the other hand, if you don’t want to decipher the characters you can still peruse the surface as you would with any painting or artwork.
“How did you arrive at composing text this way?”
JME: I went to Japan in my early twenties and was immediately overwhelmed by the “Character,” the ideogram. When I returned to the States I slowly evolved a process that finally would become “Monosyble,” a recipe of five principles that compress, compose and convey content. I also think that constantly moving from place to place during my youth played a big part in this need to minimize space and maximize usefulness.
“Do you ever work without characters, words, or letters?”
JME: Yes, about 25% of my painting does not involve using the Monosyble characters, words or texts. A majority of these works are abstract surface effects combined with natural or manufactured material properties; sunlight, dirt, water, plastic, etc.
“Do you know how to paint people, landscapes or animals?”
JME: Yes, my kids are constantly asking me to draw animals and people. I also had two years of life drawing class in college. Recently I have returned to the figure, only to cover it up with characters.
“Whose artwork has influenced you the most?”
JME: The most obvious, direct but esoteric influence would have to be concrete poetry, specifically the Brazilian concrete poets and the work of Augusto De Campos. I would also consider Ed Rusha “s multi-disciplined art to be a strong influence along with Jenny Holzer’s anonymous text in public spaces. Ultimately, my friends and family exert the strongest influence on my artwork.
“How long have you been working this way?”
JME: I’ve been working with the Monosyble construct since 1990. Before that I would weave the characters into other textual works but usually on the periphery.
“What do you hope to achieve as an artist working in this manner?”
JME: I want the viewer to be an active participant in the artwork. The act of re-thinking words into images or patterns of information / expression allows the mind’s eye to see off the surface and into the bigger picture. My bigger picture leads to revelation!