We all start somewhere.
I did not really start until I was studying half-time at the art school. I realized pretty soon that I had, for some reason, a deep affinity for color. I also had a feel for compositional arrangement, which is that interval, that staccato movement -- always implied in the presence of form/non-form, or what the Classic Chinese art connoisseurship called "the empty and the full". Landscape came to me easily… . Interestingly, non figurative elements began intruding almost right away. A stray geometric figure would crop up – a triangle here, a circle there, a straight line appearing out of nowhere, but fitting into the composition for some internally satisfying reason.
"Landscape from the East"
44in x 30in (112cm x 76cm) , Acrylic and oil on prepared paper, ca. 1986
At that time in the life of Art, Abstraction was regarded as something of an apex, a proud achievement of our domestic school of painting, and an encompassing, enticing, even transcendent goal to achieve myself. But how to get there?.. My early homespun experiments looked way too random and rudimentary to my eye, already trained to some sensitivity by the most elegant and persuasive art historical references.
Keeping my color advantage in reserve, I took the art courses that would help me with the depiction of volume, of sculptural form, of light and shade – and drawing intensely from the nude for quite a few years. After a while, these figure drawings began combining with landscape as their background, the location changing from the interiors to the outdoors. Some years later, when working on a particularly bright and richly pigmented figure, I distinctly remember feeling, no – knowing, that it was the last figure I was going to paint. It became clear as day to me that I was way more interested in the textures and freedom of those background landscape planes and forms, than in that one prominent "object" that was supposed to be the focus.
25in x 19in (64cm x 48cm), Oil stick on prepared paper, ca. 1992
You may notice (even from this imperfect reproduction, taken from an old slide), how happily I found myself entangled in that velvety rich background. A couple of years later, on the subway from Cambridge to Boston, I had something of an epiphany – though at the time akin more to a mental shock. A beautiful face of one of the riders beckoned to be rendered on paper… but as I started drawing it in my mind's eye, I suddenly realized that I no longer seemed to care at all whether her eyes will end up even, on the same, correct level in my imaginary drawing!.. I was stunned. After years of rendering, hand-eye coordination, caring intensely that the figure appeared just right – this. I could feel that a Cubist approach to the figure, so persuasively laid out by Picasso, was not for me. The figure was simply not the point any more. That train has slowly and almost silently left the station, and was picking up speed.
I had crossed the Rubicon towards abstraction, and I had no desire to turn back.
"The Early Riser"
16in x 23in (41cm x 28cm) , Chalk, w/c stick, pastel
w/c on handmade paper, ca. 1996, Private collection, Cambridge MA
It will take many years for this effort to bring the results I knew I would be happy to share with you, the wise, learned and grateful audience.