Her pose is self-reflective, Magdalena is internalized and self-possessed. Her back turned to the artist and the viewer; she cares not. She is contemplative and self-aware, John Paul’s Mona Lisa.
A mighty expanse of alizarin crimson blood flows within; carrying teardrop forms, the lime colored forms, highlighted with zinc yellow.
These forms, her protean DNA, emerge from a winding internal canyon of deep burgundy, which defines the perimeter of her body in the picture. The forms are buoyant, gathering upward, seeking to manifest the woman in the world; another victory in sport or profession, or another loving act as wife and friend. This is my child.
A spring palette surrounds her. The twenty-five carved pieces of canvas are interposed to undulate and counterpoint one another, ever redirecting the viewers’ attention back to the subject, forming a colliding garden of moving components around her. In the background, textural spring floral oil paint mixed with sand flutters and stumbles across an azure hue of pale blue sky behind.
A competitive swimmer and triathlete, I have watched Magdalena remove her swim cap on the pool deck a hundred times after a race. Her long dark burnt umber hair would fall onto and through a waiting hand as she briefly groomed it and strained the water out . The long-mirrored shock of hair arises from the nape of her neck, arches over her head and passes down the length of a strong athletic torso and leg.
Effortlessly kneeling and passively stretching a limb, the cascade of polished bronze reaches her lower femur, It curves inward toward the other leg. I intend this long bronze metal shape to be perceived as a path of energy, originating in her spiritual center and returning to her lower body, thereby sustaining a continuum of graceful repose.
“Lady in Waiting” is the muse of course. By that I mean, the presentation relies on the general map of a woman’s physical anatomy, totally impersonal, something which we know in a generic sense, she is no one in particular. No culture, race or political agenda or philosophy…only gender. The geometric forms, substitute her body parts and copper hair with abstract shapes, not realistically fashioned, lacking details of identity; not a specific person. Yet the structural architecture of feminine form prevails. It is an armature to compose a color and textural composition, to which I gave my full energy for three months in 2018.
The muse in the artistic context provides the possibility of much more in meaning, much less in identity. The power of symbolism replaces the power of ideological reason. Often one hears spoken; “what women want” or “what women think”. These statements always impress me as presumptuous. In symbolic presentation, the physical muse has a chance to get closer to woman.
Her existential being is presented as structure and Art. She is not illustrated, photogenic or nuanced. This image is not indebted to reality.
Further emphasizing her as symbol, the physically deepest and darkest part of this picture, closest to the unconscious, is her face...and it is absent. The absent face emphasizes the depth of the unconscious.. as most significant.Thus rendering the usual facial glamour of as irrelevant.
Her gesture is of course one of fixing her reddish mane (cut copper pate). I prefer a simple unpretentious act of self-maintenance, as it refers to herself, not a watching world.
The composition is two stacked rectangles. The lower has the back leg cutting diagonally through, upward (with elbow on knee) the upper rectangle, has the head and neck moving diagonally through upward in parallel,to aforementioned leg in bottom rectangle.
Finally the tittle: The initial oil sketch on canvas, the zinc yellow ground, tumbled through my life (studio) for ten years. I glanced or studied the canvas on a constant basis over that period. Finally, I formulated a strategy as to how I might proceed this year.
I wanted to create a muse, a woman who existed before time. She is a priestess, her attributes are both spiritual and ritualistic, yet she exhibits desire, she feels alone. She accesses the ethereal universe, inhabited by spirits and souls, yet she is a physical being whose purpose is to survive on formative earth.
We find her at home, in the location of her choosing; a tidal pool, protected by a rocky structure behind, separating her from the primordial brine from which she arose. She walks on all four limbs, ready for any threat.
Her habits, lifestyle and capabilities are expressed in symbols of her own conception. They are inscribed, and then inlaid in the craggy rock of the background, non-precious metals inlaid…maid precious. Their purpose and meaning,a proclamation of self to both the natural and spirit world. They are a statement or warning to any who trespass her territory. Or…we who simply observe. The symbols she has crafted are simultaneously abstract and real. They are her truths; home, protector, spirit medium, warrior, sensualist and survivor. Foremost she possesses the transformative Magik: she is the first alchemist.
She feels deeply. She is a medium and feels everything that mankind will ultimately feel, but does not understand to what end. She feels exhilaration at her apparent invincibility, but loneliness as she waits for an answer to the question, which haunts her; why am I here? She seeks to share her quest with a mate.
Like a predator in the wild, she drops her forehead laterally, in order to stack eyes vertically to better track a vertical prey; man. She has disposed of an intruder, an imposter, whose remains are dissembled at the bottom of the pool. Her silver hair catches sunlight from the sky, transforming it into fire. She has strung a necklace from his metacarpal bones.
She is the progenitor of all our feelings and aspirations. She is the super-man that Nietchze described, a human who existed before the invented gods.
Like the Greek warriors who follow centuries later, Alchema is intimately connected to her prey. The fallen prey, sustains her life and fulfills a hunters imperative. She devours his flesh and drinks the psych’nous from his skull ,extracting it through alchemized daggered hair.
She notices you. Her head is cocked at an extreme angle, suddenly alerted to your presence. You are prey who entered a predator’s vision.
While running in the woods in the High Country of Northern California this picture came to me complete, a vision intact.
I had run 3 miles pretty much straight uphill with a friend to Alpine Lake near Bear Mountain. The thin air and subsequent oxygen debt undoubtedly contributed to the scene burgeoning in my minds eye; a woman being borne, coming into being, as if a vapor ,slowly assuming a shape.…. something like ‘Eve’.
She would rise upward from a pedestal, opening like pedals of a flower or a formative gas …coming forth simultaneously outward from inside of the painting, toward the viewer. I thought her appearance at first glance should be both abstract and a life-like. This duality intended to suspend the viewers understanding momentarily of what exactly was taking place; fantasy, reality or both.
I wanted fundamental elements from that day to be present too. The White birch trees were essential and would became a useful color design element. Seeing the light through the trees limbs, a cloudscape behind of luminous and dark clouds were observable that day and a distant horizon.
Later that summer day ,while descending from Alpine Lake, I collected bark, from the forest floor, not entirely sure what I would do with it.
Weeks later in New York, I found myself sketching then painting the scene. As the picture evolved I determine to sculpt the figure, giving it preeminence in front of the landscape. I needed her it emerge from the background.I used the collected bark for the surface a sculpted tree stump. The logistics would be daunting; to keep the picture both light in weight and manageable in scale as it was developing into a 3-D reality of its own.
I spent exactly 3 months; sketching the overall, painting the landscape, sculpting the figure, finally crafting the bronze hair and assembling the whole, to resemble my vision while ascending to Alpine Lake.
I never expected to paint the woman entirely in red. I had readied the background; anticipation was building within as to how I was going to color her. I wanted to paint a woman who’s emotion was %100 unified, unequivocal,” No Room for Doubt”. She loved someone with her entire being, I wanted this expressed. Soon after I unscrewed the tubes of red, stopping would not be possible. It was strange, memorable, wonderful work session, worth noting here. As soon as I started applying the red oil paint, my heart raced, my breath shallow’d and I was barely able to control the material, the painting was driving itself.Applying a brushy red on white surface was going to be like diving off a cliff and hoping for deep water.Best to enjoy the view because the landing could be dicey.I saw the color arrangement in my minds eye from the beginning. Yet I was surprised when the red/white ruled the cooler hue easily. Her pose implies forward movement(viewers right).Even the background forms are somewhat reminiscent the dust cloud raised when ‘The Roadrunner’(cartoon) took off at full speed ,spinning his wheels(feet) momentarily and would appear at full speed exiting the cloud of dust.
This work was a giving into the seductiveness of the brushed metal surface. I had included the metal sections in one or two earlier 3-D works, becoming more attracted by results all the time. My preoccupation with a way to show the essence of man, is to represent man at his best. This would be achieved thru the pose it has been an ongoing quest. The sketch where I developed this pose was done with a dried out magic marker on scrap of ripped paper. An inauspicious beginning , for a somewhat imposing fellow. From there I leaped to an oil sketch, the blue-green color was largely determined by the reddish tint the copper sheet. Prussian blue is a complement with enough strength and contrast to stand up to the copper. The fundamental urge to reveal this powerful body was oddly accompanied by the desire to decorate him in a silly clown outfit. I imagined this picture at first with the costume clinging and billowing from powerful limbs. As it evolved in sketch form to canvas ,the Jester began to apply color from his paintbrush directly on to what would be his garment as it spins off the canvas role in the bottom right.
The idea here was to paint the figure as if the viewers line of site was at the level of the figures naval, straight on. Normally we look at a figure directly in the eye. To view the torso and limbs one looks down. To eliminate the feet and head was unexpectantly exhilarating. So many difficult details, the net advantage of inclusion?…. nonessential. It is tempting to discuss this painting strictly on the basis of color.It would not be unusual for me to paint the background first as was done here. All of my paintings begin as abstraction. The figure is introduced later via, hallucination, accident or preconceived intent .The delicacy of pastoral blue and zinc yellow background would create inevitable difficulties with the foreground figure color. Alchemy and thinking in reverse, were useful in determining colors which did not alienate the background of WALKING FEMALE .Cutting up the canvas, three-dimensional-izing the pieces, resembling all of the pieces askew, introduces a whole new set of surfaces, which turn out to be very useful when backed into a color problem .The new surfaces provide a location for subordinate colors which allow not quite complements to cooperate .A group of colors can be as so many dominos you alter one, and you know what happens.An artist may have a emotional steak in a given color I’m very fond of the blue/yellow background,the edges which are turned outward give sensation of scratching the retinal nerve, when discussing paintings where theres pain theres pleasure.
This picture started out as an oil, flat on canvas, I had every intention of keeping that way. One of the better backgrounds I had yet lucked upon, nice movement and a satisfying composition of warm colors; ultramarine rose, earth orange , raw umber. I liked the gritty black line tracing throughout the rectangle like a cowboy wrangler's lasso, under, around, below and over the top. . On the other side of the studio I was delighted with a pose which emerged out of group of sketches that I had worked on for several weeks. A drawing of a dancer; I eliminated one of the arms and enlarged the other to balance the leg carriage underneath. The hair streaming off to the left compensated for the absent arm. I was very fond of the torso and wanted to present it unfettered by limbs, like a classical bust. The shoulders, breast shapes and tummy are an arrangement that fit together in a most appealing way, my favorite precinct of the picture. What I did not anticipate was the warm medium dark back ground would not be easily overcome by a cool hued figure. Warms tend to dominate cools when located behind. To create contrast it, the body would have to be a very light blue and….it just did not work! I was blinded by belief and anticipation , the requisite optimism i I need to create something from nothing ;I did not expect it would fail,.. The figure would not visually lift off, separate from its background. Being an airborne dance movement increased this imperative. I brought the picture up from my studio to the gallery and soon I overheard a disparaging comment. I was crestfallen, dashed, hurt…destroyed!...the painting returned to the storage rack for two years. The observer was correct. However during that period I never stopped considering it, pulling it out and reconsidering strategies , contemplating a the means of liberating the figure. How to let it soar above the background? After the success of Black Beach Beauty, came an epiphany; I saw in my minds eye the gleaming form which now appears to the left. I cut out the blue figure in canvas, so many pieces dropped to the floor. Over period of six weeks I carved a three dimensional figure and then transformed the background into undulating planes interposed.
If possible I like the being depicted to have a clearly stated mood. It is important to stop well short of illustrating this, rather have it become evident, arise from body language, select facial features, color and fragmentation and paint handling. The head despairingly propped by the right hand the omnipotent detachment of the left arm conveys a self divided. I was particularly pleased by the odd composure of the two legs, suggesting frontal and profile simultaneously. The isolated torso tilted left at length south to north contribute to her resignation. The resulting spaces allow the sap green and burnt sienna background to come through. They performed nicely contrasting the highlighted and contoured Prussian blue body
A figure at rest allows weight shifts and limb locations within the restraints of gravity. A fascinating sculptural form is the thrill I am always seeking. She is expectant, slightly anxious but poised. These elements were worked out quickly on a scrap of paper made at an outdoor café while observing a New Yorker. The commitment to a color scheme occurred quickly; as soon as I stained the raw canvas background with pale Earth Orange and transparent Zinc Yellow .The dark, cool body hues are dragged over with dry brushed cobalt Violet light. This is the point when the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. A thin veil was applied of sand over the entire canvas before painting the muse.This allows the joy of gently scumbled oil paint over her limbs. I will cherish this painting for the single brush stroke which begins at the right breast, includes her chin and ends with flipped hair.
This painting was an unexpected turning point in my work and possibly my life. I had decided ‘Black Beach’ would be my last 3-D painting. That being said, I would give it every opportunity to succeed..I had planned the passages in advance; the black sand background, copper slatted lounge chair diagonally positioned, half on beach and half in water. I saw it in my minds eye as a compositional lock.. I would handle the figure very differently than ever before. Although somewhat abstract I would sculpt her parts entirely round and imbed them into the chair. In previous outings the roundness of human form was achieved through illusion; illustrated on flat canvas planes and interposed with one another.. In ‘Black Beach Beauty’ foam would be sculpted round with a smooth stone patina surface, painted pale Naples Yellow. I envisioned something as shiny as automobile bumper. From the beginning the thrill of the 3-D paintings was; the sculptural feel wedded to the painterly. Quite honestly , my first allegiance was to painting. In this work the sculptural element presides. An observer made a comment during the progress of this work- ” the lines in the sand look very French”. I was uplifted to hear this. The lines in the sand lend simplicity like only line can. It was my way of importing wind to the beach albeit with French curves. I wanted to keep the body abstract and avoid descriptive devices .Rendering the face in simple line also was a natural extension of the drawing and lent a dash of futurism. Finally throughout the sketching and planning stages ;the mood of the water was going to be a roiling frolic. The reaction of the sea to the presence of beauty of the beautiful girl on the chair.. I let this notion remain unchecked in my mind. With every wave piece I sculpted the feeling and the vision increased and the exuberance of the water was paramount. When rendering the sea in-a classical painting technique or sculpting it abstract, one is consulting the laws of physics... chaos and order into beauty.
This painting can be discussed as a work of abstract form or…as a figure moving through space. Something an artists understand experientially, what can be referred to as the background color evolved from an initial color choice which would allow the texture of the under painting to to be visible through the surface layer. The first step in this painting was a consideration of the last step.
I have encountered people who experienced life vicariously through movies. I will admit to wanting to see something or someone so I manage to create it in a painting. This process started out long ago in far more modest scale as a boy of 16. A visual condition which defines an original work like no other is texture. Sculptural relief really is only a texture scaled up. In ‘Not My Eyes’ as often is true I needed incompatible elements. I wanted you and I to see this supple and beautiful draping pose. I was even willing to paint her in cool turquoise in contrast to primarily warm background with cool complimentary accents. Not allowing you to escape ‘looking’ at her. To make something compelling in the best way is to make it irresistible and morally repugnant simultaneously. Of course the repugnant part is where the denial starts. I was equally committed to the sensuality of the back ground as the pose. To see this painting in person is to be simultaneously caught by its texture/color and sexuality. When I speak of this painting I use the term barroom nude. That does not come close to revealing how I feel about this girl, this fantasy, this picture though. The challenge here, not the only one by any means, was to paint the reclining woman with her legs akimbo retain dignity while providing intrigue for the audience and myself. Let the seduction happen . More like get out of the way.