Joshua Burbank, Process

My younger brother, Joshua, is a painter. For years we shared a warehouse in San Francisco. There was just one door to the building, and to get to my area I had to walk through Josh's art studio.

Josh is without question one of my favorite painters. I've long enjoyed observing his pieces progress from one day to the next. And yet I've also often felt a tinge of pain as I walked through his room to mine, to find that the piece I so loved yesterday has now been transformed beyond recognition, buried under an opaque sheet of new paint. Josh's paintings take many shapes before he's decides they're ready.

Process is my attempt to hold onto one entire painting, all of its ebbs and flows.

I convinced Josh to literally nail one of his wooden canvases to the wall and allow me to film a painting from start to finish. I sandbagged down a camera (nothing could move if the piece was to be worth a damn), and I gave Josh a couple of boxes of tapes and we went over how to run the camera, and that was that.

The painting in the film was created over the course of about a week. Sometimes I was in the building, mostly not. Of course the same thing happened; during the week I saw may images I considered done but that the next day were changed or covered with new paint. We had no idea if there would be anything worth making into film later.

I've watched the piece with a number of groups now and everyone has a favorite moment. Some early, others the final piece. There are a few moments I'm very fond of (one that gets utterly wiped out early on). But because of our film experiment, I don't think I will ever see the final painting clearly, or the way the artist would have me see it. I've watched this character born and change and I know what a complex and layered woman she is. Now so do you.

In that way I see the final painting almost as a snapshot in a life, a moment in time, the right day to capture and hold the beauty of a character who would otherwise change day after day, like all of us do. How Josh knows when to stop, I'll never know.


California Engineering
California Engineering