Ad Reinhardt said, "The only way to say what an artist-as-artist is, is to say what an artist-as-artist is not."
The first painting retrospective I remember attending that moved me dramatically was that of Edvard Munch. It was the late 1970s in Washington D.C., I was at the impressionable age of 12. I found myself
enamored, I thought I had found a kindred spirit. He seemed so tortured and yet so eloquent about his subject matter. I found I wasn't alone in my ideas about expressive color and emotive line. But
yet the agonizing themes of unrequited love and lost innocence soon became a place of departure for myself. Also around this time Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Klimt, Whistler and anything to do with
exotic color attracted and held my attention for some time.
During art school, after being bludgeoned with the why's and when's of all the "great artists, movements, and history" I would have to ask myself about the fixed pole of judgment placed at various
stages of Classicism's feet. With its predilection for mathematical and geometric forms over organic irregularities... I didn't feel this was the only way to measure greatness, there had to be other ways to
express an ideal in painting.
I began to become dejected. In the late 1980's when the battle cry went out that painting was dead, where did that leave all of us painters...? Was painting dead then? I was glad to have contemplated
this; it shocked me and led me to delve deeper into movements and individuals who would never consider this as a truth.
For example when I came across the work of the Luminst's of the 1800's, with their brush strokeless aims at presenting a transcendental utopia, I felt like joining their party with all those sunsets,
seas and mountains. But still I found that it was just a piece of the answer, to the questions I was forming about what it was I was trying to strive for.
I admire the minds and earnestness of the AAA (American Abstract Artists) with their die hard geometric adherence to a pictures internal structure. But again where would I fit into so structured an
environment? Trying to meld some these diametrically opposing viewpoints at least was creating an interesting chaos on my canvases anyway.
There are a number of individual artists that I count as seriously influential to my own development. Without getting into an art treatise on each of them I will try to encapsulate the essence of
their contributions to my own development as I see it.
At one time after seeing a terrific Gottlieb show at the Brooklyn museum with the Indian Space Painters, I realized I shared with them the use of a primitive pictograph like language depicting a
mystical, poetic universal language.
Max and Jimmy Ernst
Besides their indelible spirit, I often refer to their painting for their ingenious creativity and color sensitivity. I step out and review their work often.
His incredible personal imagery is so pure it's scary. His suicide shortened what would have been a continued and sustained genius.
A most likely and obvious influence. As the assistant librarian at the Guggenheim Museum, I had many a chance to study his works and writings. I admire his works more for the spirituality he imbued
into his work then even his palette, his use of forms and color have inspired many of us.
The retrospective a few years ago at MOMA explored his incredible meditative studies of the effects of color in its purest forms. His writing's, especially when he was a member of the 1950's AAA,
were incredibly witty and insightful on the art of his day, and its criticism's still hold up.
Willem De Kooning
The sheer fierceness of his stroke and appetite to deconstruct the things before him are so compelling. A master of color as well. Another major influence.
In the shadow of her famous husband (Jackson Pollock) she created some very exciting paintings of her own, biomorphic and strong. Her Brooklyn Museum retrospective in 2000 was an eye opener to the general public.
Another Artist/Mystic, his images are transcending and his words transformative. I just am beginning to explore his genius. More to come.
Her organic/metamorphic sculpture and persevering spirit I find inspiring. She has a wonderful sense of humor about the art world that I find truly refreshing, even in her 90's she could laugh at all
the pretense surrounding her "late in life" retrospectives and "re-discovery".
I find he might be one of the strongest influences in terms of color for me. I have never seen such exciting movement and breaking of traditional color combinations, Their immensity also contributes
to the unique experience.
This list is just a beginning, I just listed a few of the quick to mind influences. I am one who believes that all my experiences and exposures make me what I am. Not just a few people I choose to
On fighting disinclination
I find the best way to get into studio, to get to work is through ritual. Like Magritte I set out the paints and palate every time and then pack them all up when the days work is done. I don't have
to do this, but the ritual of the act sees me though the fears of the "starting".
On being Objective
One of the most difficult challenges of painting for me is being objective about the work. I have found ways to work around it though, which is the most important part. The trick for me is walking
away from the work for a while, not to long though. Too long and you forget what you were trying for, especially if it was by intuitive design. The right length is about an hour or two. Then the work
stops swirling with uncertainty and you can truly tell the damage or the breakthrough.
But is it good?
I used to think too much about the intangible and subjective quality of what makes a piece of art. That is something best left to feeling. In fact as the years progress I find what I personally found irritating in my
work, like the timidity up square against an assured stroke is what makes the work alive. To hide these real frailties hides the honesty I so want to preserve in my work.
Perhaps the schizoid way I approached telling a little bit about myself helps illuminate the way I see the art that I create. It comes from a silent felt knowledge, it exposes the concept to me that
linear time is an illusion. It's a little frightening and spending too much time describing and putting it in neat little boxes makes me feel dizzy. But I tried.