An artistic mentor once told me, more or less: As an artist, you should always be observing, always contemplating what you’ve observed, and then inventing on the basis of what you’ve learned. I have used this advice as my North Star.
Below are descriptions of my recent works. I’ve divided the work into different series, which start from different jumping-off points. But they merge and inform each other in the process of execution.
These paintings are part of the series I call Bitter Rice, which began after I revisited de Kooning’s “Excavation” (1950). According to de Kooning, the Italian film Bitter Rice (1949) had given him the idea for this painting.”
The film is a somewhat muddled mix of ambitions. It’s part social commentary and part crime drama, with scenes of workers planting rice seedlings in flooded fields in the midst of a labor dispute. The rice planting, shot from above, devolves into wrestling and fighting in the churned-up ground. I’m pretty sure that de Kooning had that scene’s sharp elbows and thrashing limbs in mind as inspiration for his “all over” approach to “Excavation.”
Similar shapes and contortions are a driving force in this series of my work. I’m equally interested in Fernand Léger’s Contrast of Form series (1914), which can be described as a battle of volumes. So the dialogue in my studio now involves both the rigor in de Kooning’s merger of cubist and surrealist space, and the kinetic energy and implied volume in Léger.
The purpose of that dialogue in my studio is to lead to new logical systems for defining form in abstraction. This isn’t just a formal examination; it’s my desire to represent the forces that propel us, and to reflect on our place among other shapes and spaces in the universe.
Willem deKooning, Excavation, (1950)
The Card Game is my name for another portion of my practice. This work revolves around strategies I employ to bring narrative and imagery to what would otherwise be purely abstract paintings.
My cues for this recent series come from many sources, but most singularly from Léger, above all his study “The Card Game” (1917). Léger creates a cubist interior in this drawing, with divergent yet intertwined forms somehow held together by a pair of descending staircases. On one side, curved forms imply an arm reaching in towards the center. A staircase doubles as the 4 fingers of a “card player.” This for me is a brilliant mix of abstracted form, with a conceptual narrative.
My Card Game paintings take their cue from this mix, and work from an appreciation of Léger’s achievement. My paintings contain dynamic abstract spaces, where battling forms interplay with suggestions of imagery and narrative. Maybe it’s because the images shuffle in and out among each other that I call these card game paintings. It could also be the autonomy I feel, controlling all the elements like I’m holding them in my hands.
Fernand Léger, The Card Game, (1917)
This ongoing series of generally smaller works begin with daubs of color amongst a tangle of linear elements or against a darkened and sometimes speckled field. This series began with the idea of a floral composition as an almost neutral ground of narrative. Unlike Andy Warhol, I have attributed my source to Patricia Caulfield's Photos published in Modern Photography, June 1964