oil on linen, 82 x 66 inches, studio inventory.
Laying down in a closed, dark, tiled space, too young to understand, too inexperienced to sort through feelings, and in too much pain to be aware of the world around him, the ten year old had no choice but to examine everything–or face oblivion. Deep inside him surfaced a feeling of goodness. That feeling would ultimately anchor him to life and earth.
Counterpose: Chaos, the Bringer of Equilibrium, oil on linen, 36 x 42 inches, studio inventory
Chaos was depressed. No matter how hard she tried she couldn’t manage to cope with all of the contradictory forces within her: darkness, burning lights, forms, demons, angels, and bright colors. No single element was the answer to the meaning of existence. It was as if a hundred opinionated voices were speaking all at once, forcefully demanding their spot at the top of the heap. There was nothing tangible to fight, and there was no place to flee. She said: “What an unbearable life.”
There was one tiny, microscopic Sublime atom in the chaotic flux that wasn’t fighting, yelling, or competing. It softly mused: “This is all so silly because there is beauty in everything and everything has its nature. I know there is sense to all of this, we only need to discover the key.”
“The Collector”, oil on canvas, 60 x 50 inches, private collection
“Life is made up of compromises,” said his teacher. “You will learn that the world doesn’t work that way,” said his other teacher. “Yes, I know I said ‘always be aggressive when you are ahead,’ but make this an exception and be safe,” said his desperate coach. Only once did he discount his inner voice and follow advice that didn’t compute; it ended in a colossal failure. The problem wasn’t so much that their advice was bad, but it didn’t resonate with him.
Man from Manhattan (Self-Portrait), oil on linen, 66 x 44 inches, private collection
Grandparents and Rothko
Before World War II, my maternal grandfather, George, moved from Switzerland (or Germany, accounts are a little fuzzy) to live in Argentina, then Canada, where he seduced 18-year-old Edna, who would later become my grandmother. . Then they drove south to Los Angeles and got married. He wore hats and suits, she did too, wide brimmed hats and silk stockings. He loved sports and opera and she loved the Renaissance and Romantic painters. Edna found a particular Time magazine cover story hilariously funny. On the cover was a Rothko painting, and she roared with laughter at her joke: “This is like the house painter painting large square patches and saying: “Hey lady, which color do you want?” She never had any doubts about absurdities.
oil on linen, 60 x 70 inches, private collection.
As a pre-teen, I often felt an unbearable delight in things: There was a local sub shop run by a Sicilian man named Tony. Tony used imported Italian ingredients to make his submarine sandwiches, and the combination of rich flavors created an explosion in my mouth and spirit. It was the same with da Vinci drawings. Da Vinci drawings swept me through currents of light and air giving me a delicious feeling for his beautiful people. I felt like I was born Italian in a past life, but was cursed to be brought up in the artificially bright culture of mid-20th century America, with its Doris Day look-alikes, CIA-sponsored Rothko paintings, Wishbone dressing, and psychologically immature, posturing, drunken men. Though my normal character loves wondrous things, I also felt sadness and shyness. Shyness about the things that rocked my world, and sadness for seeing so much superficiality in my town.
Venus 3, oil on linen, 46 x 26 inches. Studio inventory.
Venus was the most beautiful baby born, but she was cursed in two ways: First, no one knew who her father was, her mother deftly convincing the village that the father was Zeus. The second curse was that she was indeed beautiful. She drew looks of appraisal and sometimes envy from everyone she passed. But she felt tremendous shame because she thought they were staring at her because of her illegitimacy.
Decades ago at 2:30 a.m. on a back street in La Jolla, I was arrested driving my mom’s ’68 Firebird 400 convertible. I had our tiny mutts Nikki and Dinky as passengers. I was 12 years old. The feeling of driving was incredibly delicious. Riding home in the back of the cop car, I asked the two burly policemen what I did wrong. I obviously didn’t want to make that mistake again. They looked at each other, not sure they should educate me on the rules of the road. It turned out I was driving with the high beams on. After some prodding, they kindly explained what and how they worked.
My feeling for art is a lot like that adventure–it is hot, daring, and a beautiful experience. I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything, including life and love. I didn’t have the words to answer people who tried to steer me towards business or a tennis career–it wasn’t going to happen.
My show Intimacy at the White Cloud Gallery, Washington, D.C. Nov 3 – Dec 14, 2017
Last year I was painting life-sized nudes, mostly monochromatic, in my Idyllwild cabin with my dog Frida for company. It was like living in a dream, get up in the morning, enjoy my coffee, and then enter into the universe of art. As I painted, I would play music in the background, listening to complete sets of Beethoven’s Symphonies and Handel’s Oratorios, or binge on the complete series of Star Trek Next Generation and Voyager. I was exploring new and challenging ways to express love, myth, and beauty on the canvas. One challenge was how to paint an explicit lovers’ embrace in order to capture their primary feeling of love. Another challenge was creating the deepest space I have ever done. In creating this body of work, I felt my prayers to contribute to a better world being realized.
Portrait of Duchamp, ink on paper, 5 x 5″