Oil on panel
4′ x 4′
This painting was inspired by a friend of mine who was a talented performer. She joined the group of performing artists I led in the 2000’s called the Little Red Studio. She was a highly accomplished aerialist who developed and made her own costumes, directed and choreographed her own pieces and even made her own music.
She made this Harli Quin costume and modeled for photos. I then did this and several other paintings inspired by her work.
This particular painting became a real favorite and was on display in my spa lobby for many years. It also has the distinction of being the last painting I didn’t sell and became the reason I stopped selling my work.
Selling art is not easy. Everyone knows that. It’s like saying it’s cold when it snows. Another aspect to all of that is that pricing paintings is also difficult. Since art is not a commodity it’s hard to develop a price based on the standard ways we do that. How much time did it take to create? What are the cost of the materials? What are comparable paintings priced at? The first two questions are superfluous when it comes to art and the 3rd question is increasingly irrelevant the more we think of it as art. Think of it in reverse, the more it’s like everything else the less we think of it as a work of art. It’s just the next item off the factory line made increasingly, by the way, by robots.
So what it comes down to is some price that the artist just makes up based on some intuitive sense of how much money would help the exchange feel ok. But even that requires some intermediary translation because money and artistic creation exist in different dimensions. Usually the artist has to translate money into how much time it will provide to make more art….or something like that.
Then, there is honor. And that brings us to this painting. It was popular from the beginning which meant many people pondered amongst themselves about the possibility of buying it. Several even asked me the price. “$3,000” I would say without hesitation. Ok. One day a couple approached me with the body language that said they were serious about buying this piece. The price nocked them back a pinch so they went away.
A few months later they were back at my spa and asked me again about the piece. But would I accept a lower price. I suggested I could come down to $2,500. I was a bit uncomfortable saying that but a little more uncomfortable that they did not even offer a counter. They went away.
Again they returned. This time I was trying to raise money for a remodel project and was desperate for cash. Before I could say anything they offered $1,000. I accepted and we shook hands. I felt like I had cheapened myself but reasoned internally that I was using the money for something urgent and important.
Well, all was settled but when the party was over they realized they had left their checkbook at home and besides the car was not big enough to transport it. They asked if they could come back later to take care of everything.
Ok, a week latter they arrived with a pick up truck. They apologized though because they needed to change the terms of the deal again. They had just discovered that one of their favorite bands was doing a show in LA so they bought tickets and flights to the show and would I accept $500 because that’s all they could afford at that time.
The painting is still in my collection. And from that moment on my work has not been for sale. So, I still have this amazing painting and my dignity. And I’ll admit, it brings me a little joy knowing they don’t have it.
Oil on Canvas
30″ x 24″
David Jones is a poet and a very talented performer. He was one of the stars of Little Red Studio. His poetry read well enough on the page but read…or more accurately…performed live it was unforgettable. David loved life. He drank it in with great big gulps. And he let it out with even greater force. He tried to be angry at the world for all the injustices he suffered daily as a Black man in America. But he couldn’t help himself. He transformed that negativity into love and joy and almost always with a dash of humor. His heart always seemed to be a few paces ahead of whatever wrongs he endured and whatever vitriol he tried to cook up.
He met his match as a poet and as a human being in another star of the Little Red Studio: Eileen Fix. She was the Queen and David was the King. And like good royalty their power was greater than the sum it’s parts. They carried the lesser poets along in their wake and they blazed a trail into even the coldest audience with their collective volcanic heat.
Whoever got to see these two lead the poetry set at Little Red Studio is no doubt still talking about 15 years later. It was transformative and humble all at the same time.
David would sometimes come hang out with me during the week while I painted. One day, while he sat and bitched about women and the world and…women, I painted him as quickly as I could. It’s more of a sketch really. But it’s him. It’s his likeness, but more importantly it conveys something of his power and his grace…his gift of blending the feral beast within and as he himself would say, his proper domesticated mask so vital for a Black man to wear just to make it through the day.
“Sophie with Candle”
24 x 40”
We often associate blowing out a candle with birthdays. It is one of the most common and most powerful little mini rituals that Americans do about once a year. I have managed to miss a few but pretty much somehow or another a candle or many candles are placed before me on my birthday and I am admonished to make a wish and blow out the candles. These days the number of candles needed to represent my age has grown so large that people usually just say “fuck it” and put one big candle on my cake. It makes sense to me because the amount of wind needed to extinguish all the candles is simply not possible. And we all know that if you can’t extinguish the candles in one breath your wish will not come true.
Let me first point out a few obvious things. Sophie is beautiful. But she is beautiful with a purpose here. I wanted you to be seduced into first gorging on this stunning profile with soft smooth skin and rich flowing chocolate brown hair and this statuesque frame and profile. Sophie, and to be more precise, beauty is the fulcrum between two opposing forces. Something is clearly restraining if not pulling her to the left away from the flame. And yet something unseen in a different way is pulling her towards the flame. But what are those forces? Who or what is pulling the chain and who or what is pulling her arms back?
Clearly she is attempting to blow out the candle. But what is holding the candle? Is that red blob supposed to represent death… or life… or both? Is the candle her birthday wish or the more traditional symbolic meaning of life’s fragility? It’s hard to say but one thing is for sure, every time I see this painting I enjoy the contrast between the luscious clarity of Sophie’s “real ness” and obvious beauty on the one hand, the ambiguous action and meaning of those actions on the other. My eyes literally move back and forth across the long thin panel and pause each time on Sophie’s profile. And mind likewise shifts back and forth between visual clarity and ambiguous message and once again in a different way pauses on Sophie’s profile. It is the very definition of dynamic tension and balance.
30″ x 24″
Art was my helper and my side-kick for many years. He was a retired concert pianist who made a career playing solo concerts in small halls until his increasing years and diminishing interest in that sort of thing put him out of business. He specialized in playing Liszt, Hindiman, Chopin and other big showy 19th century piano masters. His specialty was obscure 19th century Eastern European romantic composers. It was a bizarre and amazing repertoire and style of playing. Art was thoughtful and sensitive as well as a hard worker. He was also homeless when I met him. Once I realized he was living in his non road worthy old Buick I encouraged him to start sleeping at the studio. He had no family in Seattle and the studio and its retinue of artists and freaks quickly become his friends and his home.
Maybe I would be more motivated to paint more yoga paintings if I felt my work could be part our culture’s deepening understanding of yoga as a spiritual practice. The excitement that comes from a broader cultural cause does not motivate me like it used to do. Now, I am more inclined to get busy painting people in yoga poses simply because I am into yoga, or not. And at least at the time of this writing I am not in a yoga class and have no plan to do so. And so the search goes on. What will my new figures be doing in their fabulously newly invented bodies?
32″ x 48″
Every Tuesday for several years, Sophie would come to my studio and model for me and my friend Roshi. Sophie was the consummate model. She understood what painters need and want. We need a model who knows how to strike a pose that is both artful but not overtly artificial. We need our model to know how to hold that pose for a time and then know how to refresh the pose and return to it. We need them to be comfortable being looked at as an object. We need them to not get cold and we need them to know a thing or two about art.
Sophie was all that and more. She would not only show up on Tuesday night to model, she would bring a bottle of Port or ice cream… not for herself, but for Roshi and I. She enjoyed modeling for us so much she brought us gifts to express her appreciation for the opportunity and the work we were creating.
We always had fun but we always made a lot of art. And much of it was very high quality. I love this piece and wish I still owned it. I also did a second version of it that is simply lines on a red ground. Unfortunately I don’t own that piece either and don’t have a photograph of it.
Oil on panel
48″ x 32”
This painting was done from life. The model was my lover but this was the only painting she posed for. Unfortunately it was stolen by my art dealer at that time: Roland Crane. If anybody knows where this painting is or has it I will be willing to pay to recover it. My assumption is that Crane sold the painting to an unknowing person.
The piece conveys the sweetness and tenderness of my lover that makes it especially valuable to me.
Oil on two panels
5′ x 3′ each
These pieces were painted as set pieces for a play that was produced and presented in the theater I owned at that time called the Little Red Studio. The figures in the painting were the actors in the play. It was a lot of fun to create paintings that would be used this way but would then hopefully be worthy of keeping around even after the rest of the set and scenery were struck.
The play featured young lovers who were coming of age and discovering that they did indeed love each other but that they were both gay. The play was both funny and very tender. The actors were in their young twenties but playing the roles of teenagers. I mention this because I think there is something in their poses that captures the feelings and look of people in their teens, but their faces seem like the people they really were, young people in their twenties. They were both small people which helped make their roles believable. But they were not only in their twenties, they were mature for their age and made them appear older to me.
The other thing that was fun for me as the painter was to play on the long standing tradition of presenting a young couple with a painting of them in separate panels but looking across the picture frame at each other at the time of their wedding. This tradition started during the early Baroque era and lasted well into the 20th century with paintings being replaced by side by side photos somewhere along the way. I think the idea of having husband and wife in separate paintings was to maintain some illusion of decorum and chastity. Of course they were always presented in the most stylish clothes of their day and of course, never in the nude. It was fun to turn that tradition on its head by presenting them here as a couple and shown during the play when they were struggling with their virginity and confused sexual yearnings.
60” x 36”
Oil on canvas
This is one of four paintings of this model in this format. The pose and composition of each of the four paintings is about the same. The colors and mode of the painting are intended to convey some feeling of each of the four seasons. This painting is also referred to as the Blue Harlequin. They are inspired by a talented woman who creates her own costumes, personae and performance pieces.
This series is also inspired by the tradition of the Comedia Del Arts that has its origins in medieval Italy. The idea of Harlequin is that they are so full of mirth and mischief because they are souls that recently escaped from hell. They were made popular again with Picasso’s Rose Period paintings and then again with the rise in popularity of the Harley Quin character in the Batman superhero stories.
I am often inspired to paint models who have already made themselves into a work of art. Hence, blend the boundaries between what is real and what is imagined as well as what is artifice and what is natural.
5′ x 3′
5′ x 3′
Harlequins and paintings in series had both become well established aspects of my work by the time I painted this piece. I also owned and operated a complex and experimental theater at this time called The Little Red Studio. The theater was filled with interesting characters. Most of them were professionals by day and performance artists by night.
This painting was the 4th and final piece in this series. It was created as a promotional piece for the theater and as such appeared on cards, posters and all kinds of promotional materials. Each piece in the series was meant to invoke a season through its tone and palette. This piece could arguably be used to represent Autumn. It was, in fact, painted in November of 2008. Several of my friends and I went out and gathered the withering remains of neighborhood urban gardens. We got the frost bitten and rain soaked remains of the abandoned harvest and summer’s bounteous overflow and excess. We gathered corn leaves, sticks, rotten tomato vines and dried flowers of various kinds. We brought all these things back to the studio where I covered my model in mud and paint then decorated him with the dried plants we had gathered.
The original idea was Harlequin but he quickly turned into a hybrid of Harlequin and my mud man figures of 10 years earlier. The model is also a hybrid. I started with Leopold and indeed the body is Leopold. But the face became that of someone else… Kerry.
Kerry was my personal assistant and theater director for many years. She was the model for a painting I had done just before this one and as such was very much on my mind. Kerry was also a fantastic performer with a striking presence, a presence I felt was more suitable for this painting.
60 x 36”
This was the first painting I did of my friend Courtney and the first of a series of four paintings I did as posters to help promote the Little Red Studio. Courtney was a very creative woman who joined the troupe. She was a very accomplished aerialist and choreography. She was also an accomplished musician and gifted costumer.
Courtney created many powerful acts for the Little Red Day Spa over a period of three to four years. One of her talents was making costumes and modeling. She created her own version of the Harley Quinn character. I was fortunate to have an opportunity to do a few paintings of her during these very busy and exciting years. Every painting I did of her was compelling and sold quickly. The only one I still own could have sold several times. This particular painting was purchased before it was even finished. I had to borrow it back to get a photograph of the painting.
Sophie was an incredible model. She knew how to strike a pose and she had powerful and full forms. She understood “line” and was dedicated to art.
This painting was the pinnacle coming together of this period of my art and suggests clues about what and how to develop my art from that point. The distortions in the figure are driven by forces that push the expression of the fullness of the figure to completion. The pose is natural and yet fresh. She is large and hence powerful, yet not so much so as to appear comic or monstrous. The handling of the paint employs techniques I began using in this chapter of my work. I used house painting brushes to leave broad parallel striations in the paint to further convey volume and catch light.
Oil on panel
48” x 32”
Grey Ass is probably the least flattering painting I have ever done of a person. It happens to be the ass of one of the most beautiful women who ever modeled for me. It’s strange. I don’t know why this piece turned out so weird and even funny. But there it is. It is also weird to me how many women love this painting.
When I painted it in the mid 2000’s big butts were not the rage that they are now. Somewhere between now and the time of this writing Kim Kardashian and the whole big butt phenomenon just took off. Now, I’m told, women spend as much if not more on butt implants than breast implants. Amazing.
All those years I was trying to be ahead of my times with thoughtful insights about ancient Chinese philosophy and the death of the Avant-garde. Little did I know my most prescient work may have been an intuitive leap about what makes for an attractive ass. Wow. It really gives credence to the old saying, “too bad youth is wasted on the young.”
48″ x 36″ Approximation
Mary was one of the three incredibly talented, smart, and beautiful women that helped me start the Little Red Studio in 2002. This began as a little weekly gathering in my studio to bring authentic and fresh energy into my workshop, but eventually it turned into a gigantic entity involving hundreds of people, a theater and even a restaurant and bar. I was fortunate enough to have the enthusiastic support of Mary, Eileen, and Yodit right from the beginning.
Mary also was kind enough to model for me. Like Sophie and Richard and a few other people, I had the privilege to work with over the arc of my career, Mary really understood how to strike a pose that was arresting, yet not forced. She moved well and knew when to hold.
She also did not mind being the “object” that I used for my artistic experiments. Many people would chafe at the objectification that was implicit and undeniable. But for whatever reason, she trusted that I was up to something artistically. She seemed to find pleasure being part that even while I twisted and turned and in this case even obliterated her body. I would like to think that as a person and as a model I treated her with respect.
Furthermore, I think it mattered to her that I actually made paintings, lots of them, as a result of our collaboration. Whatever the reason, Mary and I collaborated on many things from designing the “evenings” for the Little Red Studio to photo shoots and paintings for many years. As a result I was able to create many remarkable and memorable events and some of my most powerful paintings.
In this piece I combined figurative realism with the abstract work I was doing with rollers. The result is a figure that is both obfuscated in part and highlighted as well. And it is also a landscape, or shall I say multiple landscapes that overlap, intrude on each other and interact over and within the volumes of the figure.
I have elaborated in other entries on this website about how I have doggedly tried to find ways to combine figurative space with landscape space so I won’t go into that expose again here. Suffice it to say that this piece seems to elegantly combine these concerns in a way that is at least graphically pleasing. Whether it provides a visual clue to my cosmology that all things are one and one thing is all… well… I leave that to you as the viewer to decide.
“Mother Teresa: Version ?”
40” x 28” approx.
I could have made a career painting portraits of Mother Teresa. I think at the time of this writing I have already painted 10 Mother Teresa portraits. And I enjoyed painting all of them. Some were painted as gifts. And most for sale.
Around 1994 when my figurative painting came into its own, I had decided that I would paint dead animals through out my career. Each one would reflect the style I was working in at that particular time. I did after all get my start as a painter copying the work of wildlife artist J. Fenwick Lansdowne. He was a Canadian artist who painted birds. As I write this, I am 53 years old, and it looks like portraits of Mother Teresa may be a better common thread of work to look at over the arch of my career.
“Pope John Paul II”
Oil on panel
36” x 24”
“Simone…or…Fuck you Barnett Newman”
During the glory days of my Little Red Studio I had a couple that were very involved in the performances. Bruce and Simone. They were aerialists, photographers and rabble rousers. One day we got the idea to cover Simone in stripes of paint and then photograph her. Bruce was a photographer and I was a painter. So Bruce made photographs and I made a painting.
And here it is. I was also keenly aware of how far I had come from the art dogma I absorbed during my undergraduate years at Penn State.
Barnett Newman was one of the major figures of the abstract expressionist movement and so called New York school that was so powerful in shaping my original thoughts about what art should and shouldn’t be. His art was extremely minimal and eventually distilled down to simply stripes of a single color on a single colored ground. In fact, he became known as the stripe painter of abstract expressionism.
One thing that this nearly high priesthood of painting would have disdained was a painting of a figure, especially a realistic figure with unabashed illusionistic volumes. Well, while there is a lot of value and beauty in those abstract expressionistic ideas and paintings, clearly it was time for some fresh air. So, I went the other direction from this heady intellectual art. I slathered paint all over Simon’s naked body and in a kind of twisted homage to Newman painted her in stripes. Then, to make matters worse, made a more or less realistic painting of her in nothing but stripes of paint. It was actually rather challenging to get the stripes to look like stripes of paint on a body rather than just stripes of paint on a canvas.
But are they stripes of a paint on a body or in fact aren’t they still just stripes of paint on a canvas that just looks like a body? Does anybody even for a moment think this is actually a body up there on the wall? Maybe this was in fact a fresh way to ask the very same questions that Newman was asking. And wasn’t the whole point of his questions to be just that… questions?
“Large Mishabe in Yoga Pose”
6′ x 4′
This painting was created in my studio on Dexter and Harrison in the back room that later would become the dressing room of my theater. It had a great wall for doing paintings and beautiful natural light. The painting is on one level inspired by a photograph of my friend Mishabe. The photo was taken by another friend named Hawk.
Hawk gave me permission to use the photograph for this painting. I was searching for a grand figure style that had power and presence. These photos struck me because it had all the power in the forms themselves, not in the facial expression of Mishabe. Additionally, though, the pose was dynamic and fresh. I decided to crop it to increase the intensity and that also allowed me to zoom in and increase the scale. She is about twice life size in this painting.
For some reason the palette is very red as were several other paintings I did at this time. This piece as well as the others became breakthrough pieces in the use of large house painting brushes to move paint and create streaks that would catch the light and guide the eye along the volumes by virtue of these parallel striations.
“Woman Behind the Plant”
Oil on canvas
7′ x 4′
“Woman Behind White Film”
Oil on panel
24” x 18”
“Sophie With Red Stripe”
48″ x 32″
Every now and then something just comes out perfectly without much effort. This piece distills in a most elegant way my desire to combine the volumetric presence of the figure with the open illusionistic space of landscape painting, while at the same time hovering between abstract and illusionistic. Over and above that, it has a graphic appeal. People just like this painting.
In reproductions of this painting, the subtleties of the landscape aspects are lost, appearing rather as a graphic splooge of paint. In high quality reproductions and the original piece itself, it is easy to see the multiple overlapping landscapes in the vertical strips of the painting.
Another element worth commenting on is the quality of the line that creates the figure. Clearly the calligraphic aspect of the line contributes to the oscillating nature of the figure. It is at once both a line and a hip or a thigh, etc. Likewise, the space between the lines is both flesh and landscape space. The success of this dynamic oscillation is also predicated on a balancing out of all the parts. They all need to be just so in order for this to work. I know this because there were many failures that I discarded before this piece just arrived seemingly without effort.
6’ x 7’
This is the other half of a diptych. The other half of the set is called “Benta.” You can read about the terms of the diptych under that painting. What I can add here of note is that these two paintings were years in the making. I remember building the stretcher bars and stretching the canvases in 2002 or so and then the canvases sat in my shed for two years. The concept for the paintings and even some photographs were clearly in my mind the whole time. I don’t really know why it took that long to get to it. Once I started the paintings they were done quickly one right after the other. What is fascinating to me is that I did get to it. Both of them. At some point I guess I was just ready to do them. These pieces currently hang separately in my spa. And they appear to work just fine on their own. It was my intention, though, to see them hung side by side as they appear below.
“Scott: A commission Portrait”
4 x 6’
I only ever knew Scott as a client. He learned of my art through another client and commissioned a life size portrait of himself. He was quite involved with the whole process but ultimately he trusted me to make final decisions which resulted in him getting a first rate painting. I don’t usually include commissioned works in portfolios like this because they are usually so compromised by my commissioners’ concerns that they no longer represent my ideas or work. They may be good works of art but they aren’t mine… not really anyway. And this is a website of my works and here it is.
I’ll take this opportunity to say that I leaned heavily on my excitement to one day carve a reclining male nude inspired by Ancient Greek and Roman sculptures from the Parthenon to the River Gods adorning bridges over the rivers of Italy. Perhaps the most famous of these works is a fragment that was taken from the sight of the Acropolis and carted back to England by a notorious British military man who had a passion for archeology, Sir Edwin Elgin. That fragment along with many others he took now reside in the Royal British Museum and are known as the Elgin Marbles. It is, of course, contested that they be repatriated to Greece but so far that has not happened. Why not is a highly interesting subject on many levels but not the subject of this website. Below is a photo of my favorite of these marbles on display when the British Government recently loaned them to Russia for an exhibit in Moscow to much fanfare and outrage by the people of Greece and the world’s art community.
“The Little Red Studio”
36” x 46” Approximate
This painting somehow captures the energy and spirit of the Little Red Studio.
This weekly crazy event that happened in my studio for 10 years began as a small gathering and eventually ballooned into something that required its own location which eventually included a theater, a 48 seat bistro and a gallery. At its grandest there were events and shows running seven days a week. To say that it took over my life for those years is an understatement. For myself and many of the hundreds of people involved it may stand out as the most significant period of their lives.
This piece features Mary who was one of the three women who helped me start it and without whom it simply would not have happened. She would periodically model for me for photo shoots. I never worked from life with her. She was a busy PhD candidate at the University of Washington during these years and did not have time for that.
Nevertheless, her presence was so striking and she was in my weekly routine so much and in such a rarified way that I was able to make some truly dynamic paintings that both feature her and were inspired by her.
This piece was painted over a painting I was gifted by another artist years earlier. This artist gave me her blessing to paint over her painting if I chose to because she hated the piece. She was right. It was an awful painting. I waited a few years to be sure. But she was right.
I love painting over other paintings including my own. It isn’t an ego trip. No, it’s more like gardening where you turn over last year’s remaining crops into the soil to enrich it. It’s so much better and more fun than starting on a stark white smooth painting. To be sure, some projects require that kind of perfectly “clean slate.” But for a lot of my work, the lumps and colors and marks of the original painting add grist and surprises that inspire the new work to move along but also peek through in places and ways that add a freshness and frankness that simply couldn’t be created in any other way. Furthermore, those same makes and bumps force me to be nimble and flexible as I work to both incorporate what is already there and what is evolving from my imagination. It’s a dance and like all dances it can feel clumsy at times and at others it feels like flying.
I gifted this piece at one point to a couple who had devoted so much time and energy and money to the Little Red Studio. I had also promised to do a sculpture for them but had never got to it. Years later, having enjoyed it for a long time they offered to gift it back to me. I was so thrilled to get it back. I am so grateful to them and the thousands of other people who gave so much to make those years so memorable and to collectively contribute so much to the making of so many compelling pieces.
What you see here in this painting is Mary. But what you don’t see directly, is not only the painting underneath it by my friend, but the many dedicated people who gave so much of themselves week after week to create a setting and hold space where people could come to explore a deeper riskier side of themselves and hopefully rediscover the power of gifting to rejuvenate the self and create the fabric of community.
“Cunt Pack” Two Versions
46” x 22”
2004 and 1996
This painting was inspired by a painting almost exactly like it that I had painted in 1995. That painting was stolen by my studio mate around the same time that I painted it. The first painting looked very similar. It was the same size and shape and inspired by the same photograph, a tiny photograph among many that was part of an advertisement for other pornography.
The affects seem carnal and outright bizarre. There even seems to be a gynecological or zoological aspect to the work. The flesh seems quite alive in the painting on the left and not so much in the painting on the left. The models even look a bit like cadavers.
The second version is slightly more detailed and “complete” which makes sense because that is how all my work looked at this time.
Oil on canvas
6′ x 5′
I don’t usually include commissioned work in this online portfolio. However, this piece is very close to what I would have created without any constraints of the commission. In fact, I would be hard pressed to say what is causing me to qualify that statement with “very close.” I think it is that I always paint pictures of people I know or that I choose for a particular project. These people came to me and asked me if they could pay me to paint their picture.
Perhaps by the time you are reading this I will have created a section in this archive of commissioned works. But at the time of this writing it has not yet been created. I include here because it was part of how and why my work shifted to more realistic portrayals and less singularly about the figures sculptural presence. In fact I would go further and say it was increasingly about these particular individuals than about their sculptural presence. This is a likeness of two particular people. And not so incidentally, the 2 people who were paying me to do the work.
Oil on panel
10” x 6”
This is a self portrait. That’s me. I hardly ever paint miniature people. This piece is small but the figure is even small within this small painting. Clearly this is a painting of me as an artist embryo. Here I am, tiny and naked in a womb of paint in a painting of my own making. Even in this miniature you can see the internal resolve as though I am gathering myself in preparation of bursting out. I don’t remember why I painted this. It wasn’t a gift for someone as is usually the case if I paint something small. And I don’t remember what happened to it. Maybe it was stolen like so many other pieces by Roland Crane, but I can’t say that for sure. But it is fun to see and makes me wonder why I didn’t do more small works like this. Maybe that is what I will do when I am old and frail…whichever comes first.
“Woman” & “White Out”
Oil on canvas
48″ x 33″ each
1997 and 2004
“Goddess of Rot”
55” x 45” Approximate
I painted this work when I was exploring the content and technique of an artist named Lucian Freud. Freud had recently become widely known for his incredibly intense and probing nude paintings. He is a contemporary British painter who recently passed away. I was also interested in his working methods which included intense prolonged live sittings with models in his humble studio. Freud was, in a sense, the unapologetic consummate old fashioned artist. His work, his working methods and his success were both a breath of fresh air for me and vindication of my interest and commitment to the figure and more or less traditional approach to painting.
And yet, his work and it’s emphasis on the psychology of the sitter was entirely new. He expressed this psychology through the bodies of his sitter, the method and results of his technique as well as the facial expressions of his sitters. He also let his sitters simply “be” in his studio. While a few paintings looked staged and arty, for the most part, the figures look more like so much meat with a personality which draped itself unselfconsciously around his studio.
With this painting and others I did at this time I tried out some of those ideas. Here is a woman named Janel who modeled for me for a few pieces. She originally tried to be a “pretty girl” model but eventually grasped the deeper level of work I was striving for. She would spend hours in my studio and allowed me to put her in less than ideal settings.
Outside my studio, I had a compost pile where I put the detritus of things I used as props in my studio including pumpkins, gourds, tree parts etc. Like Freud, the paint is built up with relatively dry paint applied with small brushes. The affect is a kind of crumbly accretion of lumps of paint. This represents a real departure from the smooth fast wet into wet approach that I often took.
This is another piece that was stolen by my dealer Roland Crane. If anyone has information about the location of this piece please let me know.
“Marni White Out” & “Boy White Out”
Both approximately 28” x 22”
Both approximately 2003
About 2003 I began seriously re-evaluating my past paintings. Some of them were clearly not my best work and others were even more clearly just flat out bad paintings. And so I decided to start culling my racks. Storing everything was becoming an increasing challenge but also I was beginning to enter my middle year’s and hence had early years to look back on. I was, in short, beginning to develop my own personal history.
Being thrifty I rarely throw anything away so I began painting over old paintings that didn’t make the cut. However, I quickly discovered that some paintings improved dramatically when they were either partially covered or completely covered in white paint or gesso. (Gesso is a white substance used to prepare a surface for paint. It is essentially a fancy word for primer.). Gesso can be thinned with water to make it more transparent or thickened by leaving it sit with the lid off the can for a few days. The thicker it is, the more opaque it is.
I soon discovered that driveway tar and all kinds of other substances could be slathered on old paintings with really terrific affect. In fact, I got so excited about this process that one of my friends cautioned me at this time to be careful not to paint over everything. She even joked that maybe she should move my collection to her facility to safeguard my work.
Eventually my zeal for whiting and blacking out my work slowed down. But even now, 15 years later after the initial storm of obliterations I still have a pile of questionable works that are at risk of getting whited out. In fact, I have found that this kind of creative process is a powerful way to leverage my energy when I want to do something creative but don’t have much zip. Starting a new painting or even re-entering a painting that is underway but left idle for a few days can be daunting and require more energy than I have sometimes. And yet, I am often not tired enough to call it a day. That’s when I start eyeballing my discard pile to see what great things might be achieved with minimal effort.
It’s fun. And usually a little surprising. And if all else fails I just keep going until the image is completely gone and I have a nice “new” surface for a totally new work.
Later, after grieving the loss of my friend and model, as well as coming to terms with the sudden disruption to my routine, I realized how I wanted to complete this painting. I needed to obfuscate Dave. I thought of his soul somehow dematerializing into energy and patterns. I decided to roll and scrape white paint over the whole top of his image. Now, as I look at it 15 years later, the painting does indeed seem complete and “right.”
“Thesis… Antithisis… synthesis!” That is what one of my favorite college professors used to say about the development of ideas and art. Well… every now and then, that is how I approach a painting.
In this case, I somehow had the idea that there was a good painting in the combination of two powerful images that I had seen and greatly influenced my thinking. One was the iconic image of Marilyn Monroe stretched out on a red satin bed sheet. I never saw that image on the cover of Playboy magazine, but if you grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and didn’t see that somewhere you were probably living under a rock. The image was the epitome of female beauty and a man’s idea of what feminism itself was at its finest at that time; youthful, supine, smooth and vulnerable as well as visually lush.
On the other hand, many years later, I saw a painting in the Seattle Art Museum by Lucien Freud of his model Leigh Bowery sprawled out on an old beat up studio chair with his big ole cock flopped on his thigh for all the world to see. Adding to the impact was that fact that Mr. Bowery himself was a big man, well over 6’ tall and the painting depicted him over life size on a canvas that was at least 8’ tall. Add to that, the fact that Freud’s painting style is rich, meaty and thick and you had a virtual sucker punch to your gut the moment you turned the corner and saw the piece for the first time. Mr. Bowery was a popular Drag Queen in London and was comfortable comporting himself in all kinds of ways and positions. His full frontal display of his masculinity was complicated by his pose which was slightly reminiscent of the way women are portrayed in pornography. It was, to say the least, a disturbing first contact.
And yet, there was another painting that I saw around this time that added another important ingredient to the mix. It is the painting of Pope Innocent the X by Velasquez made famous by one of Freud’s friends, Francis Bacon. I had just seen this painting in Rome and like the Freud painting gave me a moment of aesthetic arrest when I first saw it.
So here is Dave Lewis, my 6’ 2” 63 year old muscle leather Daddy posed in some weird synthesis of Marilyn Monroe on her satin sheets and Freud’s Leigh Bowery sprawled on an old stuffed chair. Instead, I placed David standing against the wall with arms up in a gesture of vulnerability but with a glare as sharp as daggers. And then, I surrounded him in wall drapings of red satin and rough painter’s canvas to extend the rhythms of his flesh into the background and pay homage to the Velasquez.
Someday I would love to see my piece hung beside the Freud. I want to see if it holds up in some way. To be sure it is not as singularly carnal. But It has other qualities the Freud does not. I am American after all, not British and so the piece has a current of optimism and vitality. I would like to think those qualities are added in here without diminishing the power of the work, without making it sentimental or nostalgic.
48” x 32”
40” x 32”
Mary was introduced to me by a mutual friend as someone who would be willing and able to come sit for paintings as a model. She would like to say she was gainfully unemployed. I never asked what that meant but she had enough time to sit for me at a time when my working methods were at their most meticulous and slow. She came to my studio twice a week for this painting which took several months to complete.
In the process she shared a great deal about her challenges with her self image as she moved into her 50’s. I learned a lot about her challenges with having been seen and valued as a “beautiful” woman to that of being a “powerful” woman and what that meant for her. She was smart and articulate and forthcoming. She was also deeply frustrated with that transition and questioning all her relationships with the men in her life.
I realized that being a man myself she might direct her ire at me at some point. However, that never happened. In fact she outright told me that she considered the portrait sittings to be “our work together.” What she meant was that the sittings were useful for her almost like a therapy session not just because she could talk about her issues with a nonjudgemental listener but also because the painting I was creating was like an evolving mirror for her to see more truthfully into herself. And of course I was producing a work of art for my collection as well. She gave me her blessing to sell the piece but ai never did. Like so much of my work, I saw it being part of a larger collection rather than part of someone’s decor.
Eventually Mary posed for the “winter” painting in the series of the four seasons. But those are the only 2 paintings I did of her. After that we simply lost touch.
With few exceptions, the photography of these scenes does not capture the more meaningful elements and dynamics of this activity. While I was not personally into this kind of activity, I could see and was often moved by the deep care and attention these couples paid to each other and their craft during these gatherings.
Additionally, there are elements of tradition dating back centuries in both Eastern and Western cultures of the aesthetic beauty of the spectacle of the body in bondage, not to mention the psychological and emotional implications that are on stark display. And all of this is being done slowly and with the notion of a final moment of presentation. These are all things painters love.
This painting was done from photographs I took of a scene at a play party in my studio. I was able to control the lighting and the setting. The painting is typical of my work at that time. The figure still has volumetric presence but there is much more surface detail than paintings I had done a few years before. Compare this painting to all the “Jo” paintings I did in the mid 90’s. It is interesting to me that, given all these ideal conditions, I did not do more paintings like this or of “scenes.” The reason, I suppose, is two fold. First, the way in which I arrived at creating these works was tedious, time consuming and not satisfying in the creative method and not suited to my temperament. Secondly, I just simply wasn’t interested in the activity on any level other than my intellectual recognition of it as an important social movement. Additionally, in 2004, I did a kind of grand masterpiece which involved elements of BDSM and brought to a magnificent conclusion my interest in all of this.
I never saw my work as an artist in any way effective in helping direct or motivate social change. Photography and the internet and the iPhone were much more powerful agents of change than painting. Instead, I saw myself as providing a layer of historical depth or significance by virtue of rendering these things in oil paint… maybe wanting to ennoble them. Perhaps that’s why I summarized all of this work in the huge “Suffering Change” piece and then moved on.
”Portrait of Dave”
24” x 18”
This is an unusually small painting for me. Dave is just barely life size in this work. For information about my incredible working relationship with Dave Lewis between 2000 and 2004 please see the essays under the other paintings here on this website during those years.
Dave used to jokingly tell friends he was sitting for me so that he would be preserved for a long time beyond his death. At the time it was always worth a chuckle. Now, 16 years since his sudden death from a heart attack this little painting of him still hangs in my studio and very much is helping to keep his presence very much alive and well in my shop and in my heart.
This piece was the only one I did of them, although I had intended to do more. It was done from both photos I shot of them and countless sittings in my studio. They were a delight to work with and helped me produce a truly wonderful and weird work of Art.
This piece was created right in the middle of my most realistic period. Before and after this 2-3 year period my work became less detailed and less about the personalities of my sitters and instead became more about sculptural form or concepts of space and time and Art. I am so grateful I had people like Jim and Tim at this time who were willing to make the kind of time available to me to create paintings like this.
“Jim and Tim”
72” x 60” Approximate
Jim and Tim were a couple that often attended an event that was held in my Art studio about 4 times a year from the late 1990’s to about 2004. It was called Romp Naked. It was an all male naked dance party where no drugs, no alcohol and no sex were aloud. It was, among other things, about establishing a safe space where men could have a tribal experience in the company of only men without the psychological and physical risks that substances and sex might invite. Remember, this group of men had only just prior to this survived the Aids epidemic. You had to be over 18 but there was no upper age limit. Transgender people who identified as male whatever state of their bodies were also welcomed. It was quite a sight to see so many men of all ages and all degrees of fitness celebrating the joy of life together in a celebratory and even kind of sacred space.
These events usually began with a lot of drumming and chanting and even a bit of Robert Bly-like hocus pocus. There was a fee to enter but if you couldn’t afford the nominal fee there were lots of volunteer opportunities. The money was used to cover the rent on the space and other expenses to ensure nobody had to have out of pocket expenses to host the event. In an effort to keep it as egalitarian as possible, the leadership of the event passed from one person to another each time. It’s interesting to me that the event died once a particular person somehow felt it was his event and insisted on maintaining control and leadership of the event instead of passing on the contact list and leadership baton to the next person.
These events attempted to not be gay events and indeed some straight men attended, including myself. But eventually the events became too carnivorous and meaty for me and the other straight men so I gradually stopped coming even when they were in my space.
During those events I met some really wonderful people including Jim and Tim. They were obviously comfortable being naked and I thought they were adorable together so I asked them to model for me. Tim, the seated figure, is blind so their interactions in the studio were particularly tender since Jim had to assist Tim in everything from finding his way around to finding his underpants when it was time to go.
Oil on two panels
48″ x 32”
“Hanging Man Study”
32” x 24”
“Hanging Man” 3 versions
5 x 3’
The Hanging Man is one of the important cards in a Tarot deck. Every Tarot deck has 4 suits just like a deck of playing cards. In addition to that it has 13 more cards that are called the Major Arcana. They can roughly be thought of as Jungian archetypes.
This Major Arcana generally features a man hanging upside down from one leg with the other leg crossed in this particular way with his arms folded behind him as shown here. Under his head are usually a group of stones with secret symbols on them.
It is generally understood that choosing this card indicates that one must delve deep into one’s unconscious in order to be able to see something that is ordinarily hidden and secretive but which nevertheless has some significance for you. Usually there is some hardship required to be able to see and decipher these messages. One has to literally turn oneself upside down in order to see the messages. Another way to state this would be to say that one sometimes needs a fresh perspective to be able to know how to resolve a problem or go forward.
The unique position comes from a long tradition similar to yoga where it is believed that placing our body in certain positions isn’t just a good stretch for our muscles and tendons but has some affect on our sense of well being. There is some scientific evidence now that suggests these ancient positions do indeed stimulate the brain to produce more hormones such as serotonin that really do affect our sense of well being, relieve pain and even stimulate regenerative health.
Well, that’s all very interesting but at some level it’s just a very striking image. So much so that during the time between when this piece was stolen and subsequently recovered I received two more commissions for this image. You can see the other two versions below. The Hawaiian one was painted in 2010 and the smoother indoors one was painted in 2012.
“Two Men In the Studio”
77’ x 55’
What I found so appealing about this pose was that it was at one and the same time something a little odd and even a little contrived to represent something about the condition of relationships in contemporary life and yet on the other hand is simply a warm up stretch for one’s yoga class. It is contrived and yet it is not. The same is true for the way it is painted. It is realistic, and yet it is not. I balanced my faithfulness to paint things as they look with my conviction to reveal something that is true but not necessarily realistic.
“Bruce with Cactus” 4 Additional Versions
48” x 32”
“Luther and Roni”
8’ x 4’
This piece demonstrates that from about this time on my interest had shifted from my models as sculptural presences to complex personalities with all kinds of reasons for want to stand in front of me naked or nearly naked.
Clearly I was now no longer interested in a classical notion of beauty either. The plain unadulterated fact of this man is presented unabashedly by both himself as a model and by my choice to present him this way in his pose, lighting and method of painting.
I met Luther at an all male nude dance party held near Halloween at my studio. All the guests were encouraged to come in creative undress. This is how Luther creatively undressed for the party. I was struck by the unusual candor and grace with which this 73 year old man carried and presented himself even in the nude. We struck up a friendship but this is the only painting that came of our connection.
I also like to present this piece along side of another painting the same size and shape. That painting is called “Roni” and features a nude woman standing similarly unadorned and frank. The impact of the painting is nearly the exact opposite of this one. Roni was uncomfortable when posing. She is huddled on a very small delicate stool clutching a wad of clothes, presumably the ones she just removed. The two paintings seen together invite much speculation about the relationship of the two people and the comparisons and contrasts of the people they depict.
“Ken with Stick”
Oil on panel
48″ x 32”