Notes on my Painting and Process:
I. Early Training
“My earliest training in drawing and painting were begun at age 7 with a local artist tutor, thanks to the efforts of my middle class family and in particular my mother who has a great love of art and fine painting and believed it a worthwhile effort to encourage. Many trips to the MFA Boston, Boston symphony, various Catholic churches and history and art museums fueled my early passion for art, Also, the influence of my uncle who was an artist and set designer, grandfather who was a civil engineer, and cousins who were well known musical actors in theater. However I date my real work to the last year of my undergraduate education at the School of the Museum of fine Arts Boston. Here I flourished under great teachers, and truly began to explore what I could accomplish in the Arts. All my work previous to this, in childhood and throughout high school and my foundational studies at RISD, is considered by me only preliminary training, as I had not actually anything to say artistically through my work, focusing only on technique.
II. Early Works: 1992-1997
My early paintings were primarily concerned with finding a new way of fusing world mythological symbolism, traditional tribal forms and Gothic iconography with Modernist abstraction.
Immersing myself in the study of comparative religion and early art history, I was seeking to reconcile the still-potent mythological forms of earlier civilizations with the open free-flowing abstractions of mid to late modernism. In the museums and libraries I found great mysterious objects from long gone civilizations, and they spoke to me with their spiritual power, the elegance of their design and execution. I studied the mythologies of Native peoples, sought out eastern philosophy teachers, and explored medieval imagery as well as all the modern painting from mid 20th century onward. So when I came of age artistically, I began looking for a way to reconcile that ancient, mythological unity with the new modern freedoms without discrediting either. I sought to re-invigorate abstract painting with a heroic and transcendent spirit by reconnecting it to earlier, potent mythic iconography. What was the primary spirit that those earlier generations tapped into? Could I tap into it too?
My paintings from the period of 1993 to 2003 were compositions that fused abstraction and figuration in a deliberately loose, gestural application, or alternate between the two modes in an attempt to get at closer 'primacy' At times my figures were based on classical representations from the European Renaissance or from earlier Gothic figures found in medieval painted manuscripts and cathedral sculpture I had studied, as well as references to even earlier tribal African, Oceanic, and Native American painted forms. This was due in part to the reopening of the galleries dedicated to this art at the MFA Boston where I was a student. My paintings of this time included abstracted animals, transformed religious iconography, archaic symbols, and shamanic forms. My paintings of this period are a record of my attempts to essentially take the universal hero-myth and make it contemporary and personal. I felt a lot of contemporary art was focused on the conceptual, the gimmick, or was pseudo scientific. Art was and is meant to be a vehicle of myth, metaphor and poetry. I felt young and heroic in this endeavor and it seemed like a good challenge for my energies.
“The paintings of 1997-1999 were informed primarily by the following areas: my studies in the symbolism of metaphysics and medieval European Christianity; my new apprenticeship in an old Gothic-Revival stained glass painting studio; my study in Zen Buddhist painting; and my interest in the paintings of German Expressionism of the 1930’s and Italian Expressionism of the 1980's. After graduation I was given an opportunity to travel all over Europe and the British Isles on a Grand Tour. After returning from long travels in 2000, I sought to infuse all I had learned in Europe, but the classical tradition did not call to me. I was more interested in the celtic art, the standing stone circles, the cathedral ruins, the catacombs, and the medieval stained glass..
My paint handling was again deliberately heavy-handed and I experimented with the surface addition of materials such as tar, molded ceramics, modeling paste, gold leaf, and carved plywood. I approached the painting as a tablet upon which to inscribe, eschewing illusion-ism. This eventually led to more 'primitivist' influenced images that also combined East Asian zen painting approaches, and mask imagery. I called my approach ‘Mytho-Expressionism’.”
IV. New York: 2000-2003
“After returning, I moved to the largest city in the eastern US, New York and settled in Brooklyn in a building with many other artists. From 2000 to 2003 I worked mainly in acrylics in my loft, and worked with commercial and artist-grade paint in combination due to the cost. Previous to that I worked in oils and enamels, but the fumes were not conducive as I was living in my space, and I changed to low-odor acrylics. The quick drying time meant a speed was given to execution, and thus this progression of ideas was worked out in rapid succession with ranging results. This was a fertile and experimental time. Many of these works have not survived because of cracking surfaces and my inability to store them correctly at the time. I destroyed quite a bit when I had to move as well.
I painted as much as I could. The influence of classical figuration and heads arose in my works, but was quickly replaced by more abstract imagery and the repeating motifs of a sphere and a serpent. These in turn evolved to become a labyrinth-like line and a circular vortex. The vortex became more resolved into a spiral, then the spiral flowered into a blossom. From there my forms resolved itself into a geometric mandala. The labyrinth became a more considered, delicately drawn line. The forms of 'figures' and 'heads', so central earlier, vanished altogether. I now view these paintings as a record of a 'rebirth' of sorts. Each image is a step in that progression to greater awareness, out from my own limited ideas that existed solely inside my concepts and personal myths, and into a greater realm of sensation and feeling derived from direct engagement with the reality of the earth, light, the cosmos, and nature. I was moving out of history and archetype and into my own direct exploration
“The last of these works was made in 2003 before I departed NYC for road travels to experience and study the great natural wonders throughout the U.S., later settling in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. After the events of 9/11, the NYC blackout, cutbacks in my income and loss of a significant relationship, I decided I needed to travel, lick my wounds, and reconnect with the Earth. The Earth would heal my mind from the wounds of civilization and its history. I longed to get back to the Source...Light, vapor, pigment, trees, rock, wind, lightning, and find deeper self within them. I longed for spiritual unity after such a romantic bohemian period.
I traveled all over the United States, alone, in a used car. I visited every national park and scenic wonder I could find. I spent a good deal of time visiting Native sites throughout the desert southwest and photographing ancient pictographs and petroglyphs. As I studied Great Nature in all its various manifestations and landscapes, my spirit healed and my work began to become truly unique. My painting practice thus developed into one that no longer needed the architecture of the narrative image, but distilled its relationship to luminous and transcendent qualities found in nature and light itself. By this time I had moved away from the vocabularies of my earlier, lyrical Romanticism into a more dispassionate approach to painting.At this point my process sought to minimize expressionist histrionics in order to create and enlarge an emotional feeling derived from purely visual sensation. Phenomenology replaced self-analysis and personal fixation. To this end, the mechanisms I learned to work with are primarily color itself, blackness, greyness, reflection and refraction, light, movement, fluidity, temperature, visual rhythm /geometry, close scrutiny of nature, and materiality itself. I feel my art has, as it were, passed through the ‘mythopoetic’ and hot expressionism of my early years to make room and delve into a deeper empathy and vision of those miraculous, living forms of the Earth, the source itself for such mythic inspiration in the mind.
In the absence of a studio while traveling, and often finding myself in the field, I increasingly turned to photography and sketching as a way to process ideas and notate/record new subject matter, my content now being discovered out in the natural world in changing light. I have made 20,000 photographs over the last ten years. In my process, I use memory, sketches, notes, photographic documents made out on my hikes as departure points for more involved works. However I have found that simply translating photos or sketches renders them stillborn as art. I thus insist the studio piece evolve organically, only using the original idea as a kernel to start the discovery process inherent in painting.
This point has marked a new, more mature phase in my practice. I now draw my subject matter for my paintings from both the process of working in studio, a close study of light and color, and also my observations of natural formations. Such sources include clouds, birds, mountains, trees and roots, rivers, waves and waterfalls, rocks, boulders and riverstones, the moon, and the changing weather. etc...
This has been helped by my decision to reside in Northern California, in San Francisco the last 10 years. I am close to the majestic Sierra Mountains, the dramatic coasts of Big Sur, the deserts of Joshua Tree, the towering Redwood Forests, and the great expanse of the Pacific Ocean. I have been able to take my spiritual nourishment from such environments and continue infusing my painting practice with it.
My current works focus is my attempt to depict 'primacy', and my own sense of awe. This is pursued with the intention of communicating our universes’ great interconnectedness and our own interconnection within it.
V. 2014- present
In 2014, After returning from travels throughout India, the use of bright, controlled color itself and hard geometries has become an increasingly important. This is due to the extensive traveling to all manner of Vedic, Hindu, Muslim, Jain, and Buddhist temple complexes to study the architecture and symbolism, and to my study with the renowned Neo-Tantra painter Prof. Om Prakash Sharma, whose use of color and geometry are without equal. I had always loved cosmic temples, and had visited every Gothic Cathedral in France, England, Spain and Italy. I particularly loved rose windows. So I found many parallels in Indian art especially in the form of the 'mandala'
My next phase will be focused on the marriage of my earlier landscape expressionism with the controlled color relationships and hard lined geometry of sacred and mystical art. My current series "Temple" series explores the weaving together of the two strands...