……………………no Mayflower roots, no religious fixation, ardor or eagerness, no mystic liaison, no academic pedigree, no pet exploitation, no ex-hedge fund manager, no brush with death, no minority identity to plumb, no transcultural displacement, no graduate of a government re-education program, no trust fund, no brave men run in my family, no academic misfit, no compunctions, no cool kid, no painful childhood, no snapshot of myself at 5 absorbed in a creative/scientific act, no stints in a mental hospital (or prison), no parent a famous artist, no unfathomable anger, no punk band leader, no signature style, no child of a circus family, no debilitating illness to overcome, no memories of persecution, no hair, no hereditary largess, no mommy fixation, no paranoid recluse, no hobo-aesthete, no raconteur, no party-on, no exhibitionist, no memberof an active (or defunct) school of thought, no social diseases, no gimmicks or tricks, no wealthy patrician lineage, no surfer dude, no tormented lovelife, no larger than life personality, no shadowy figure, no drinking problem, no hero-enigma, no dysfunction,
I’m not insane, not insane… under what rock?
The following ideas are stenciled to the trusses in my studio. Some are citations or slightly altered citations of other authors(*). I consider them my studio assistants.
What are the bounds between discipline and surrender--Simplicity is never simple--It is better to be silent--Painting is like hands stuck in a mattress*--The nature of art is never entirely present*--Ideas go unfulfilled if craft is ignored--Geometry is the illusion of order--Painting exists between presence and absence--Self-expression is inevitable, possibly unwanted--All bad ideas begin as good ones-- Much madness is the divinest sense to a discerning eye*--Specificity is bound to craft--There are angels in the dust--Chance and randomness trump relativity--Time is elastic--There are familiar colors, unfamiliar colors and forbidden colors--Tell all the truth but tell it slant*--There is no center, just edges--Painting must do what nothing else can do--Pools of feelings, hung on walls--Something there, then isn't--Adults are pack rats with old and useless emotions-- A bad painting is one that vanishes into meaning*--Absence rescues art from certainty--The only thing of value in art is what cannot be explained*--Nature is a haunted house but art a house that tries to be haunted*--Painting is painting, everything else is everything else*--Linear time gives birth to fear of death--Forgetting takes time to remember--Perception of an object costs precise the object's loss*--Precariousness is essential*--The truth must dazzle gradually*--Yellow she affords only scantly*--The River Agnes--The landscape of abstraction is an enigma*--Art, and in particular painting, must remain purposeless--Throw fish at the sea--The essence of any thing is subject to continuous incompleteness
There are angels in the Dust
Shortly after I began painting, I realized to make painting relevant I needed to locate my practice at its material source. For me that source could only be dust. Dust is everywhere, the result of natural and human activity and the offspring of good and bad ideas. It was a revelation to first create visual experiences by lifting the dust from the floor and transcribing it with my finger onto paper. I understood the dust was more than a primordial source of life, and for me, its essence was immediate, tactile and intriguingly ephemeral.
As the dust collected, I came to rely increasingly on this medium, at first wherever I could find it (ashes, brick dust, charcoal, etc.), but eventually I turned to dry pigments. Dry pigment as pure color is neither line nor form; it is merely dust, and there is no tool separating the artist from the activity. Here the body is the tool, hands probe, arms strike, fingers react, one’s breath coaxes; the concept of manipulation and verification of both the maker and what is made is subsumed by the intrinsic qualities of the dust. To this day my practice has remained within these bounds.
The History of Art in Dyssynchronous Order
It has often been noted that history is a corrupted system, a fiction, or series of fictions, stitched together for expediency. It is distressing how much of an actual history might have been negated or lost due to gender bias, cultural bias, regional bias, or personal bias. And we will never know how serious the lapses are. I often wonder what shape art history might take today if there had been a true accounting of all the creative acts realized. Considering myself somewhat of an outsider to the art world (not wholly by choice), I've always been fascinated by the gaps and lost moments in any art historical narrative, particularly the artists who have fallen through the cracks, the schemes and concepts touched on by artists and then dropped, unexplored. So much of what we do as artists is dependent on and reflective of past efforts, what might contemporary art (and painting in particular) look like if we were aware of a complete, unabridged narrative.
This series provides me the freedom to explore themes, and unfamiliar approaches to the construction of a painting absent the reticence of straying too far from personal certitude or style. Although presented as a series, there is no sequential logic, each painting separated from the ones flanking it. And while there are implicit historical references, interpretations are admittedly through a personal filter, thereby confounding those references.
Getting up in the morning--
The Slope of Time series began before I had a title for it. I had been thinking about Time (for an extended period) about still Time vs stilling Time, and about how, despite commonly accepted conventions, Time is elastic; as gravity bends light, so too, feelings seem capable of compressing or stretching Time. And that while linear, Time is rarely a straight line. It bends and twists, meanders and charges off into the distance. It squiggles, studders and glides, and can even turn and cross itself, providing us with those breathtaking occurrences when the past reappears in the present.
As I was completing what became, eventually, the first painting of this series, a black bar materialized as a result of other actions committed to elsewhere on the paper. I politely acknowledged its presence and influence on the composition. This led to a second image in which the black bar was a dominant and deliberately bold presence and I realized that my meditations on Time had assumed a human focus: the bar a concrete representation of something we each live with from moment to moment. It might be some ancient trauma, a physical or psychological disability, perhaps an awareness of one’s own death. Whatever it is for each of us, we alternatively ignore or acknowledge it, toy with it, try to bury it, or attempt to outrun it. Yet it is always with us, our one constant companion, and to one degree or another, our relationship to it shapes us and the manner in which we each manipulate Time.
Simplicity is never simple--
The Birds of Paradise represent a delicate balancing act between presence and absence. It’s a shell game whereby I'm striving to achieve an equilibrium between the addition and removal of paint, leaving a trace image built of liquid gestures of making and unmaking. The image is constructed from a series of cancellations and resurrections.
Presence and absence is also at work literally in the manner I approach making a work of art. I believe if you put yourself in a precarious position, you increase the odds of stumbling across, or discovering a perception that is fresh and which knocks you off your perch. Thus my operational strategy involves defining a concise structure within which to begin, not unlike the type of structure for Haiku. It is precise and yet open-ended, and allows me to absent myself from the process, to float so to speak, and that has always been a fundamental intent. I’m a free radical in a circumscribed landscape and my goal is to locate myself somewhere in the boundary separating discipline from surrender.
My intent with the Skin Flicks series has been to set up a process whereby I can remove myself (as a control), essentially, to clear out a space of all dogma and personal certitude and see what seeps back in to fill the void. The pieces are hybrids of drawing and printmaking, each activity transforming the other until the synthesis defies classification. The series title evolved from allusions to the process, the quality of space defined, and of course, the submerged content.
The process entails applying an ink surface to the paper to give it bite, covering the inked field with a sheet of carbon paper, and through the carbon paper, draw a series of lines. With the field hidden by the carbon paper, I am prohibited from any conscious input (I don’t cheat). Compositional effects develop on their own. At some point there is a sense of completeness to the process (perhaps I just get tired – there are often a minimum of 6,000-7,000 lines in each image). The images are unbidden and develop from the “piling up” of linework. The work succeeds or fails of its own merit. Failures are discarded (inked over) and begun again. The cumulative effect is the subject matter. Associative meanings are there for you (the observer), to formulate.
Slippages(America Suite 29-35)
As a young adult, I was greatly affected by the spaces I inhabited. That usually included (for me growing up in NYC), alleyways, rear yards and the circumscribed spaces within city blocks. These were dynamic, leftover spaces, chance mash-ups of purely functional architectural fragments; for the most part, vertical in character and light capturing. In a sense the Slippage series is an attempt to extract the memories of those places, the shapes and scale, the qualities of light, all of which, I discovered later in life to be strangely reminiscent of certain natural landscapes. Merriam Webster’s disquisition on the verb, ‘to slip’, alludes to my experiences of these places.
1. To move with a smooth sliding motion
2. To move quietly and cautiously
3. To pass quickly
4. To escape from memory or consciousness
5. To become uttered through inadvertence
6. To become lost
7. To slide out of place
8. To slide from one’s grasp
9. To elude
10. To free oneself
11. To escape
12. To release
The Hiro Series (impressions unique)
This series explores the range and reach of transfer printing without the use of a mechanic press.
Shortly before moving to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I came upon a palette of this paper lying on the floor of an art supply house in Portland, Maine. The paper is handmade by two families in separate villages somewhere in the Punjab area of India. What struck me about the paper was its tactile surface and casual look. The process I’ve used involves applying ink to a blank etching plate, sometimes merely by rolling the ink on with little control over the form it takes and other times masking off areas with tape, applying the ink and then removing the tape before printing. By hand rubbing, I can control the amount of ink transferred and therefore the resulting texture as well as the quality of a shape’s edges. Before the ink dries on the paper, I place tracing paper over the inked area and through rubbing again, begin to remove some of the ink applied producing ghostly images of shapes hidden beneath other shapes. This is done multiple times to develop each composition. With this hand rubbing technique, the paper’s surface texture is integrated into the composition. The entire process is painterly and although it incorporates elements of printing techniques, the images are unique.
Some questions about art which have concerned me lately--
Is a work of art an end in itself?
Must a work of art carry a message or convey an idea?
Is the prime motive in artistic creation to question the identity of things?
Is the role of art to make the world comprehensible?
Should artistic creation divulge meaning?
Can one make an art that cannot be absorbed into the system?
Can an artist know too much?
Can an artist create objects which defy classification?
Is painting a mode of thought?
When does a painting become a painting?
What are one’s expectations of a painting?
How much should be revealed?
What position does absence take?
How generous should one’s voice be?
What are the bounds between discipline and surrender?
Do you need to experience a work of art for it to be a work of art?
Is an artwork always the same? Is it different 30 years from its conception?
Where does the edge of a painting end and the edge of the world begin?
Is painting merely the application of the rules of composition?
Is painting the representation of objects? The freezing of movement? Or merely
one way of organizing the world?
Is paint a requisite to the act of painting?