I am sometimes asked how I can be the same artist who began my life as an abstract painter, but now work almost exclusively in the forum of realism – painstakingly detailed, slow realism.
I’ve given a lot of thought to this apparent dichotomy, because the progression of my work over the decades has never felt like a departure from what inspires me, or sources my creativity. I am an experiential painter: my work is the visual expression of thoughts and emotions derived directly from personal experiences and the perspective of my own life. The difference between the paintings produced in 1975 and the work I’m doing now is with: scale, medium, specificity and articulation — everything has changed except experience and heart.
During the seventies and eighties, I used the medium of acrylic paint to create huge emotive works that look like what paint does when it’s wet. For example, when paint is very viscous, it squishes, pools, oozes, envelops other colors, etc.; when thinned, it bleeds, becomes transparent, drips, splashes, and blends with other colors. Those characteristics were used to visually express: tension, violence, exuberance, abundance, delicacy fragility, and tranquility. Lots of emotion — right out of my head, my heart, my life.
Now I use objects arranged into still life that address the same range of the emotional spectrum, but with more thought, articulation and specificity; because the chosen objects have their own story, history, and a sense of place. As for abstraction: everything examined in minutiae is abstract, and that is where I work. I build an object by fitting its’ tiny details together like a puzzle. Objects come alive from the inside out.
This composition of rocks is a good example of how that happens. Beginning with a contour drawing of the shapes, in this case: simple circles, ovals, cylindrical shapes and rectangles. The clues that define each rock are found by looking into the texture. For this painting I used very dramatic lighting and magnification to exaggerate the texture so that I could see it well — light can be easily manipulated in my Brooklyn studio. I always want the viewer to be able to know what that object would feel like in their hand; not just smooth or rough, but even to sense whether it would be cool or warm, slippery, dry, dense, fragile, solid, layered, etc. That is the realism that I’m after, not the photographic look of an object, but the experience of it.
Rocks are everywhere: we all have experiences with them, we’ve all handled them, have favorites, remember the rocks in a special place, keep a rock that resonates with a memory. Lots of people love rocks; they symbolize immortality, stability and permanence.