My current work both abandons and embraces premises
of the two previous series shown in the last six years - (There
Was Once A World and Sympathetic Criminals) - which took for inspiration
a perplexed puppet named Lorelei. The puppet, her family, and
her compadres in industrial dioramas formed a traditional still
life set up. In much of this work, the process of painting was reactionary,
old fashioned, reviving the old masters techniques. Observation
and a constrained set of steps an underpainting, thin glazes
- were key.
Initially, in the current work, my usual small scale
wooden panels became even smaller to deal with larger, lofty themes
like mortality, creating an irony and ambivalent spatial relationships
But, consciously, I wanted to find a womans
narrative story as a basis and I settled on the 1911 Manhattan Triangle
Factory Fire (where 146 immigrant women died.) I bought a very old
bellows, drawn by the way it operated, feeding the fire with air.
The bellows rounded petal and angular shapes (similar in some
ways to misshapen Lorelei) were what I loved. But, rather than doing
a painting of the object, my impulse was to pull the actual bellows
apart. But, it couldnt be put be put back together again.
The individual shapes united and reunited forming a sort of hybrid
form that felt both familiar and mysterious, balanced and imbalanced.
More bellows followed.
Instead of technical constraints serving as a guide
and only using oil paint on panel, multiple techniques and materials
accrued to these hybrid sculptures: Odd bedfellows -cast concrete
and homespun fabric, wood and wool, bound physically to each other
and reacted together unexpectedly. They formed a kind of old world
symbiosis where the materials hold memory.
As my painting was no longer based on observation,
each one could be described as a fragment or a footnote to something
once there and then gone, with one foot in our reality and the other
in the other world. Oddly, in some sense one could imagine the painting
spawning, the hybrid sculptures; or the objects escaping their trap
spilling into actual space --- Some of the paintings and objects
coupled off creating a third meaning, sometimes they changed partners.
Finally, this body of work strives to be inclusive
on many levels, in subject, process, materials, and in person.
Minor Characters and Sympathetic Criminals
My current body of work continues the themes of There
for but the grace of God go I and the meek shall inherit
the earth that was begun in There Was Once a World.
But now the main character, a puppet named Lorelei,
is just one among the many strugglers depicted, - among weavers,
workers, pickpockets, policemen, idlers, and occupiers. Lorelei
and the others are pinned into their architecture, their circumstances
figuratively and literally. They get by, though barely, in some
mysterious space where narrative and abstraction meet. Sometimes
the architecture looms over them like a reminding metaphor or becomes
the character itself.
Still employing the traditional old master oil painting
techniques that were present in the
previous work, the color palette has now lowered and deepened a
few octaves, with more attention to color interaction. The process
involves establishing a form, then seeking out
the actual concrete piece in the world. This series can be seen
as reflecting a more solemn time, both publicaly and personally.
I plan to expand on my previous themes of characters
at work, to create a series of paintings of both the energy of work
and the sad idleness of empty architecture. I will continue using
puppets for stand-ins, bulding sets for metaphoric architecture
to use as triggers. Combining old master techniques but with ramshackle
content I will try to re-invent notion of Still and Not So Still
Lives from the characters in the studio warehouse complex called
the Giant Trade Center in San Pablo and have it open as an off-site
There Was Once a World
The central characters I use in my small paintings
are based on a Lorelei, a Japanese puppet I bought at a flea market
and her French puppet husband. Later, I bought their child on eBay
-- a diminutive creature with the same spout mouth. The completed
family became a metaphorical tool I use to stage allegorical human
stories. The characters imaginary settings include pastoral
landscapes and industrial sites constructed from combinations of
old junkyard machinery parts, photographs and stills from You Tube
Simultaneously old-fashioned and contemporary, naive
and sophisticated, my content and painting style are intentionally
at odds. Rejecting certain aspects of Modern Art and Post Modernism,
the expressive brushwork of Abstract Expressionism and a focus on
surface over illusion for example, Ive purposefully painted
in an earnest, restrained and understated way. Deliberately, Ive
resurrected some Old Masters academic techniques which include
thin layers of delicate glazes and body color over a black and white
grisaille, chiaroscuro (though off-kilter) atmospheric perspective,
and in some, a modified Flemish palette. Thus, in both content and
technique I am striving to combine the folksy and the classical.
Part puppet/part human, Lorelei could be every peasant,
immigrant, orphan or artist in every sweatshop, factory, studio,
or day job, in Poland, or Russia, or an industrial city like Cleveland,
my hometown, in its faded glory of down-trodden industrial buildings
full of pipes and machines, the uses of which are mysterious. Lorelei
is my metaphor for perplexity, paradox and a womans predicament.
In context, she symbolizes the conflict between reverie and creativity
on the one hand, and secular practicality, the tasks and work of
this world on the other.
Themes of there for but the grace of God go
I and the meek shall inherit the earth are underpinning
of this series. But the primary goals are to create an ironic nostalgia
and reinstate genuine pathos and tenderness.