ARTIST STATEMENT

I’m 71 as I write this in 2018. Born in 1947, I became a child of the 60s’ very messy counterculture, which, in my twenties, gave me an easy opportunity for extended experimentation with consciousness-expanding plants and chemicals. Eastern philosophy became important to many of us in that counterculture, often because of such experimentation. Since those heady days, all the phases of my professional artistic development have been concerned with higher and deeper levels of awareness, and my work has always reflected my emotional spiritual journey.

All through my school years I concentrated on figurative painting and drawing. I simply lost that interest in 1969, and by the spring of 1971 I was painting abstract paintings with a kind of ballet-like movement of shapes in space. Miro and Matisse (especially his Jazz cut-outs) were the background, as well as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 - the space station and the shuttle, to Johann Strauss’ Blue Danube.

Around this time, a dear painter friend was making wonderful advances in his work, which was intense, energetic, and structurally very complex. I responded to the challenge his painting presented. Again I looked to 2001, but this time I looked to the time-warp journey of dazzling color that ends with the dying time of Kubrick’s aging star-child-to-be. This is when I first experimented with bringing gravity’s grounding pull into my paint drawing – starting with a loaded brushful of color.

But then, late in 1971, my dazzling color world suddenly imploded into a very dark place where I spent nearly a decade. I was 24 when I first became symptomatic for bipolar disorder. Over most of that decade my life collapsed: multiple mental institutions, several prison stays, occasional homelessness, and suicide attempts. But a support system of people who never gave up on me ultimately helped me win the new beginnings of a renewed life. Now, in my seventy-second year, twenty-two years after my love Marion and I began finding ourselves together through our fifties and sixties, my life is bright with purpose, balance, and joy.

In 1980, at 33, I began to paint constantly again. My mindset was to use my painting process to ground myself - to create solid structured paintings for a solid structured me. The paintings I did from ’80 to ‘82 - on the Convergence and Emergence pages of the website - were never intended to express the emotional pain I had been through during the previous decade. I was consciously intent on being in the present and looking forward to the future. Recently, however, I began looking at those paintings again, and I can see now that their expressive force flowed directly out of that psychological hollowing-out and descent into a solipsistic universe of my own madness, and the pain I had caused others and myself. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but that emotional experience is certainly heartfelt in those 1980 to ‘82 paintings.

In the paintings that followed, from 1983 to 1989 - on the Additional Paintings page - I further developed the pouring and spraying paint-handling techniques that I used in the Convergence and Emergence paintings from ’80 to ‘82, but to create much more freely improvisational compositions, with much more complex structures. Still, through all the emotional development in my paintings from ‘80 to ’89 (as my thirties became my forties),  I did consistently combine the expressionist composition and acrylic painting technique which are the basic elements of my painting today.

I use the terms expressionist composition or expressionist painting because they emphasize – to put it simply - that a particular painter’s explicit primary intention is direct emotional self-expression.  My favorite definitive examples of expressionism in the abstract painting tradition are the Abstract Expressionism of Pollock and Rothko. Throughout my ‘80 to ‘89 paintings, I combined my expressionist composition of shapes and colors with the acrylic painting technique of overlapping poured and sprayed paint-handling (which art-store acrylics first made possible in the 1960s), especially poured paint-handling that uses gravity to draw new paint-shapes that show the passing of time.

Through the 1983 to ‘89 period I was looking hard at Picasso, Pollock, and Matisse. My reading in those days concentrated on layman’s books on quantum physics, relativity theory, astrophysics, consciousness (psychoanalysis, shamanism, New Age literature), and science fiction. I view these paintings as macro/micro images of a kind of cosmic consciousness, intellectually and intuitively developed through my reading, with the kind of energy and complexity that I was searching for back in 1971.

By the end of 1989, after 7 years of having wondrous fun with this compositional and technical liberation and intellectual discovery, the inspiration faded out. I consciously decided to go forward without all the intellectual influence, and began to paint entirely intuitively.

About a year later, I began to work exclusively with paint and oil stick on paper. And then, one day in 1991, at 44, I finished a work on paper in my studio and felt compelled to go meditate. I sat for half an hour, and so began my 27 years, so far, of meditation practice. And not long after that, part of the time I spend meditating became a place of visualizing images to paint. Intuitive painting led to meditating led to seeing images to paint.

The two years of paint and oil stick on paper led to two years of Chinese brush and ink on rice paper, which led to two years of paint on patterned papers. At the beginning of these six years of paper works, from 1991 to 1997, the one crucial ground rule I gave myself was not to think that I was making art. This was going to be an open ended journey to I didn’t know where, and showing these works on paper was not to be part of the process.

Then, in the Summer of 1997 - around the same time that I committed to practice with a Guru - I saw my way to making bigger paintings again. There are some paintings from 1998 to 2004 on the Additional Paintings page. Much in the preceding paper works became imagery for these paintings. From 1997 through 2001 my new visual vocabulary was fabric on a sprayed field on canvas, with marks on and around the fabric. The fabric was always centered. When I then dispensed with the fabric, I kept the simple drawn image and its centeredness for two years, 2002 and 2003.

My spiritual practice had become the ground through which my Western abstract painting bubbled up. And in 2004 I saw a new, elementally simple composition form that felt vastly spacious to me, drew my attention very gently but very strongly, and was certainly distilled by my thirteen years of meditating. The form was just a central dot between two symmetrically-placed sets of two parallel vertical lines, painted on a horizontal rectangular sprayed field - on the Stillpoint Paintings page. This form felt so right to me that I painted it repeatedly, for over four years, watching its colors change.

The Stillpoint Paintings ended abruptly in 2008 when I received a phone call that my mother had died - suddenly and unexpectedly. At my father’s passing eleven years earlier, he had endured a prolonged illness, the family was at his bedside, and I had closure. After my mother’s passing, however, I found that I needed to paint my way to closure. I mourned in paint with varying degrees of grief from 2008 to 2012. Those paintings are on the Grief and After page and I’ll let them speak for themselves.

With the New Chapter paintings, from 2013 to 2017, I developed, simplified, and concentrated the visual vocabulary that I had discovered throughout the mourning process. I moved on with that new vocabulary, to express my new, freer awareness - the expression of Spirit, of a lived life with its successes and defeats, somehow set free in an expanded space referenced in the cosmos by a primordial disc. These paintings, to me, seem to be a kind of futuristic sci-fi haiku.

In formal painting terms, my eleven 2017 paintings - the six paintings of the Diogenes at the White House series and the five paintings of the American Nightmare Suite – do continue with the visual vocabulary that I developed in the New Chapter paintings. But these paintings depart radically from the development of my painting before and after in their original emotional impulse. All eleven were intended to briefly but immediately express my constantly intensifying alarm at America’s social and political disintegration.

The now-decades-long gradual surrender of our mid-20th-century national belief in a new, science-informed, ever-more-reciprocal common future - to a science-ignorant, future-blind, other-hating fear of change, does continue. But so does the increasing protest in support of fairness, honesty, decency, and an economy that respects what the natural environment is showing us. I, however, have returned to simply sharing, as best I can, the kind of truth and beauty I see and feel throughout our seven-hundred-year-old, socially evolving western painting tradition, by expressing my personal spiritual journey in acrylic paint on canvas.

In 2016 I received a diagnosis of prostate cancer. I was advised, convincingly, to take the mainstream medical approach of radiation therapy, and thanks to our contemporary science, I’m now cancer-free. (What a charged phrase that is.) But I also, simultaneously, adopted a complementary alternative approach – a new, very strict anti-cancer diet, plus a daily supplements program and a vigorous exercise regimen – all for the rest of my life. And it turns out that the alternative approach has brought a wonderful new clarity to my awareness, and joy in my physical being. These are interesting times.

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I’m blessed with an abundance of multi-talented friends. A bunch of them were kind enough to read my draft of this bio and help me find much better words to show and tell you my story. I’m grateful for their support of my work and their caring understanding. Thank you for looking and listening.

ABOUT THE ARTIST

1947 Born January 7, Brooklyn, New York

1963-67 Hunter College, B. F. A.

1967 William Graff Scholarship for graduate study

1967-69 Hunter Graduate School, M. A. Program

VIEW ADDITIONAL WORK

www.NewYorkArtists.net