You have two kinds of boys born in 1970: Lego boys and Lincoln Log boys. I’m a Lego boy. I was seven years old when I saw Star Wars for the first time, and when I got home I went straight to the Lego box to build the things I had just seen on the big screen. It’s not hard to imagine the scene: a boy on the shag carpet in his bedroom in rural Tennessee, hunched over a bin of Legos in a concentrated effort to connect with the story he’d seen hours before. And after building his own version of Star Wars ships, becoming part of the story himself.
Legos were a way for me to create whatever I could imagine, and I am still doing that now only with paint instead. I am trying to understand why these experiences of real life or moments in stories or movies move me. The way Elwood P. Dowd says, “and the evening wore on” in Harvey... spending time with my daughter drawing on the porch… the recording of a my father’s voice telling a story from childhood... a late-night road trip with an abrasive friend... all of these events contain the powerful impact of something pure and raw: a moment of full-body-pleasure. Since 2002 my paintings have focused on experiences with particular people, hence the series of initials in the titles. Since each painting is based on a specific experience with a particular friend or family member each painting tends to have its own sets of parameters and challenges. I use painting to focus on an experience and to wrap myself in the moment. By building the experience I begin to understand what about the moment moved me to paint in the first place.
Hamlett Dobbins, Untitled (For A.A.R./E.J.H./M.L.B.), 2013Oil on linen on panel
38 x 45.72 cm
Image courtesy the artist and David Lusk Gallery, Memphis