Figurative Paintings

2005 - 2010

“Harley Quin”
Oil on panel
4′ x 4′
2010

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.

“Woman”
Oil/panel
16” x 8”
2010

This tiny painting is a fragment of a painting I cut into small panels. It’s hard to know what part of the painting it was but there is something flesh like about it. Then I used a brush and oil paint to essentially draw a figure on top of that. I wanted to see how much life and character these thin black lines could convey. The model is Sophie who modeled for me quite a bit for many years between 2005 and 2010 or so.

“David Jones”
Oil on Canvas
30″ x 24″
2006

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.

“Sharon As Clown”
Oil /panel
45″ x 35″
2010

Sharon was a Little Red Studio troupe member. She and her partner were involved as volunteers and occasionally acted in skits and dance numbers. Sharon was bitter at her marriage partner’s dysfunction and dependence on her. He was an alcoholic and an out of work welder with aspirations to be a sculptor that were never realized. He was lazy, but adored her. She felt trapped.

I wanted to do a painting of her to see if I could convey in paint the majesty in frustration that her being carried so magnificently. Thinking back on it, I myself experienced a great deal of frustration when painting it. I made countless changes and revisions. In the end I cropped her hands at the wrists to emphasize her powerlessness to change and at last the piece felt right. I also worked and reworked her head and the background behind it. Eventually it took on a kind of encrusted Halo, both fiery and chunky. I even spray painted parts of the painting with gold paint to emphasize the tawdry glamour of it all. I love this piece.

“Woman Behind the Plant”
Oil on canvas
7′ x 4′
2010

This piece was commissioned by the owner of the building that Little Red Studio and Little Red Bistro were housed for a few years. When he sold the building which sent the Studio into a downward spiral from which it never recovered he commissioned 2 paintings as a kind of gesture of conciliation. This one, of his partner, and a portrait of Mother Theresa.

They were both satisfying to create and did bring some much needed funds to help survive the ordeal.

Female Figure

“Female Figure”
Oil/cardboard
30” x 15”
2010

It’s the color, stupid.
All this time I have been puzzling over the contrast of perceiving space on a flat surface in multiple ways. Here there is a female figure. You can not only see her silhouette, but with a little imagination can you see her form. Her volume pushing out front it’s center towards the view and into space. A hip here, breasts there. A shoulder dipping forward.

But we can see through her as a well. We can almost see a landscape taking shape behind her in the distance. She is herself a veil which teases our eye to see in different ways.

The lines, too, dance between describing her exact curve in some places and utterly confuse in others.

But what completes the seduction has nothing to do with these admirable calculations of the mind…..it’s that soothing aqua blue and warm sienna keeps me staring at this little piece of cardboard.

As I write this citation for this piece it’s 2024. It’s been sitting in a box on my racks of paintings for over 14 years. Looking at here makes me want to run home…dig it out…give it a dignified frame and hang it on the wall in my bathroom where I’m sure to stare at it at least twice a day.

 

“Sophie with Candle”
Oil/panel
24 x 40”
2009

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.

“Art”
Oil/canvas
30″ x 24″
2009 approx.

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.

“Inverted Eagle Pose”
Oil/panel
42” x 24”
2009

In the years that I owned the Little Red Bistro, I did some compelling pieces. However, this piece does not belong to a larger body of work. It remains a fairly isolated piece, unlike any others in my body of work. What was developing at that time was the emphatic use of cadmium red as the ground, in the flesh and even in the shadows. This is essentially a red painting. The model is a woman named Mishabae, a friend and member of the Little Red Studio troupe. She was many things including a fantastic poet. But more importantly, as a model, she was a yoga instructor and performer. She posed from life for this piece.

It was my ambition to find a figure type at that time. Or perhaps it is better to say, I was looking for clarity about what my figures would be doing in my paintings. Yet, as always, I was looking to reinvent the figure according to my ideas, but I was less clear about what my figures should be doing than how they should be conceived. Yoga provided some clues in that they are definite and definitive poses that are at one and the same time “poses” and natural. There is also a huge lexicon of official poses, many of them beautifully photographed with magnificent models. Additionally, there is a spiritual dimension to yoga that is implicit in many of the poses. It would seem the perfect ruse: I could set about a series that would be all the yoga poses!

But why didn’t I do this? It’s a good question and I don’t have a sturdy answer. Perhaps that until now my life has not been set up to allow the kind of time and dedication that such an ambitious project would require. However, I think it has more to do with the fact that in the end the paintings would be seen as arty illustrations of yoga for curiosity seekers and yoga devotees. Moreover, the poses do not convey any emotional content nor the nuances of human interaction. Aside from a few poses which involve two people, they are decidedly about the single figure itself, self-contained physically and psychologically. They are admittedly, great shapes in the service of the body as culture. And there is beauty, beauty stemming from the intuitive harmony between the body’s shapes and their energetic and spiritual intent. Maybe another reason for my lack of enthusiasm for taking on yoga as a focus for my work is the way in which yoga has found its way into our culture as primarily a form of exercise.

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?

“Viagra Knights”
Oil/Canvas
8′ x 5’
2009

The image of an exhausted man with a fully developed erection supported by an especially developed drug is somehow the very image of the 20th century man. It is the quintessence of excess and disharmony. The corpulent flesh, the hollow expression and putrid coloration as well as the odd aspect of vitality which is false are all somehow perfect representations of manhood and our culture at this time.

What is hard to see in the photograph of this painting is that the figure is built almost exclusively from multiple layers. These are not just layers of paint that actually add up to the desired optical effect. Rather, these are more like complete layers of a finished painting one on top of another. The effect is a little like a multiple exposure photograph.

This was probably the last serious large figure painting until the work I did during the summer of 2019.

“Sophie Crouching”
Oil/Panel
32″ x 48″
2009

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.

“Witch”
Oil on panel
48″ x 32”
2009

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.

“Young Lovers”
Oil on two panels
5′ x 3′ each
2009

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.

Jentz

“Jentz”
Oil/panel
36” x 24”
2009

Jentz is an extraordinary man with an amazing story. He grew up impoverished in Eastern Germany and then raced to West Germany as soon as the wall came down in 1989. He taught himself how to write code and rode the software wave eventually landing a tech job for a big company in the US. He ended up in my world of art and theater because of his love for the arts and his deep involvement with mime and circus acts.

Jentz and some co-conspirators developed an act for my Little Red Studio theatrical experiment. It was both mime and high clowning. Jentz is a lanky 6’ 6” and his side kick nicknamed “mouse” was barely 5’ and 100 pounds. Together they were as sophisticated as they were funny.

At some point I was lucky enough to have Jentz sit for this portrait. It was done in one sitting so it appears a bit rough to me. But it captures the sharpness of mind and kindhearted goofiness that made him such a delight.

Fortunately for me he was committed to a life of no possessions so I still have this fantastic portrait.

 

“Summer Harlequin”
60” x 36”
Oil on canvas
2009

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.

Mythic Figure

“Orange Harlequin”
5′ x 3′
Oil/Canvas
2008

This was one of a series of Harlequin paintings I created to help promote the Little Red Studio shows. I also knew that it would sell, and I was correct. I sold this painting before the paint was dry. One detail of note is how much the woman turned out to look like a previous lover. I have no photos of her and I had not seen her in years. Yet, when I decided to create this third Harlequin painting based on photographs of Courtney, a friend, I was surprised to see Miho show up.

“Winter Harlequin”
5′ x 3′
Oil/Canvas
2008

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.

“Harlequin”
Oil/canvas
60 x 36”
2008

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 Seated with Knee Up”
Oil/panel
48″ x 48″
2008

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.

“Grey Ass”
Oil on panel
48” x 32”
2008

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.”

“Blue Nude”
Oil/Panel
48” x 32”
2008

During a brief period in the fall of 2008, I had an explosion of paintings and creativity which I jokingly called my blue period, referring to a menstrual period rather than a reference to Picasso. It was as though I was releasing something that had been building up for some time. In this brief few weeks I produced a wide variety of paintings and drawings in a wide variety of styles. I had several breakthroughs in how to combine my interest in the illusion of sculptural form and the illusion of landscape space. This piece was part of that breakthrough.

“Mary: Obfuscation”
Oil/Panel
48″ x 36″ Approximation
2008

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.

“Michael”
Oil/panel
46” x 46”
2008

This was painted at a 24 hour art marathon that I hosted in my Little Red Studio and Bistro. The idea was to bring together the many artists that made up the Little Red Studio community in an art making frenzy that would be fueled by the synergy of our being jammed into one space for longer than is comfortable and see what happens. We also had a coffee bar and bistro to keep everybody caffeinated and fed. Guests were allowed to come and gawk at certain hours and of course were welcome to bring various forms of support.

My one house rule was no drugs. Marijuana was still not legal at that time so I specified no pot as well. I wanted to see how far we could all go without these alterations. That kind of experimenting had already been done a million times. The side affects were clearly undesirable.

During that “day” a lot of art was made. Aerial acts, poetry, music, skits, drawings, jewelry, sculpture and yes…paintings. Among other things I painted this portrait of one of the Studio’s Demi monde. Michael was the very definition of a cad. He was young, exotic, cute and lithe. And to round out the picture he was not too bright and easily caught up in other people’s fantasies of what he could be for them. I came close to feeling pity for him. But he had a sweet quality as well and while his moral compass was spinning like something out the Pirates of the Caribbean, I knew that down in side there he would be ok if he could just make it to 30. He did.

Of course the painting looks unfinished. But is it? He’s all there. And the splashing thin veils of paint are a perfect metaphor for his character and the situation we were in. There was nothing else to do so I left it.

Michael

“Painting For Jim”
Oil/Panel
48″ x 38”
2008

In 2008, I moved my studio back to my place under the freeway. I turned my Art studio at the Little Red Studio Theater into a green room for the Troupe. It was beautiful to be back in this original space where I had spent nearly 15 years painting. Nevertheless, it felt dark and burdened by legacy and history. This painting was among the first I created upon my return and its palette and mode reflect that. The model is Sophie. She would come to my studio every Tuesday for years. I decided to give this painting to her boyfriend as a way to say thank you for all the things he also did for me including managing my bistro when it first opened.

“Mother Teresa: Version ?”
Oil/canvas
40” x 28” approx.
2008

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”
2008
I am not Catholic and as such have no special opinion about this Pope. I do, however, love this painting. It was done at the suggestion of the owner of a Church supply store where I had done on spec several paintings of Mother Theresa and sold them all. The owner thought someone might like a painting of the Pope. And maybe they would. But apparently they either didn’t like this Pope or they didn’t want to see a Penitent Pope.

Of course I didn’t have audience with the Pope to paint his portrait so I had to look at photos available to the public. And being one the world’s most famous leaders, there are literally thousands of photos of him. At this time the Catholic Church was reeling from the discovery of systemic child sex abuse within its leadership. So I thought this was a powerful and appropriate image of the Pope for its time. That may be true, but after having hung on the walls of the store for nearly 2 years, the store owner asked me to come get get my painting. Oh…and could I please bring another Mother Theresa painting.

“Simone…or…Fuck you Barnett Newman”
2008

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”
Oil/panel
6′ x 4′
2008

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.

“Marina”
Oil/Panel
48″ x 24”
2007

Marina was a lover for a brief period and remains to this day one of my dearest friends. I did this portrait of her from life during the period of our friendship long after our time as lovers. She appears to me here in this painting as my friend. The likeness is striking, but the piece has qualities about her no photograph could capture. To be frank, the large green shape on the lower half of the painting was a random act but I decided it was perfect in some intuitive way. The hair and face are really just the beginning of what was intended originally to be a more conventionally complete portrait. However, since so much of Marina’s powerful presence is already so evident, I decided to stop here. Besides, she was a restless model and simply would not sit still even for the brief time I require as a painter.

Debbie”
Oil/canvas
48” x 32”
2007

This painting was commissioned by Debbie for herself. She had just recovered from both a life-threatening disease and a painful divorce. She wanted a painting to celebrate her life, her beauty and to mark her freedom from a painful stultifying marriage. She wanted a nude, but elegant and tasteful. She wanted a likeness but not a photograph. We concluded that a back view with a wrap would achieve those goals. This painting was done from about 4 life sittings. Each session was two hours, and always with her friend present. Having a friend present during sittings is helpful because keeping the model fresh and engaged is important. Otherwise I end up with a bored and distracted model which is what I end up seeing and therefore end up painting.

“Woman Behind White Film”
Oil on panel
24” x 18”
2007

Some pieces just go clunk in the night. Or perhaps it would be better to say some pieces go clunk when you first come upon them, but then slowly grow on you. I have tried to paint over this painting almost since the day I painted it. It is itself, a partial do over. In fact, I think it is a fragment of a larger piece I deemed no good.

The model is a woman named Marni who modeled for me in the early 2000’s and only from photos. But I easily recognize her. The original painting was probably done a few years prior to 2007.

Maybe what’s staying the hand of the executioner is that there is something about the way the head and it’s layer of obfuscation become a kind of window or hole in the painting. This defined space is both inside the painting and yet more shallow than the implied landscape space of the other part of the painting.

When I close my eyes and let my imagination roam my inner vision of space is more like this. It’s not a consistent space like what I see with my eyes open. It’s more like overlapping spaces that are of my consciousness and form my visions unfolding under my closed eyes….presumably in my brain. In fact I have been able to identify at least 7 such layers at a time. The more vague almost tissue like overlays are often driven by pragmatic concerns … did I turn the gas off…that kind of thing. The more dense slower moving visions are often shaped by what I have been thinking about. Strangely, the fastest moving are faces of people … sometimes rolling through so fast I can barely distinguish individual faces…in a kind of Max Headroom flickering of heads.

In this painting there are only 2 such layers of image types or image constructs as I like to refer to them. And maybe that’s why I’m keeping this piece and even presenting it here on my site. It does give one some insight about how imagination might work or what it looks like.

This is potentially useful because when I close my eyes this imagination show does not always take off. Sometimes my mind gets stuck with thoughts that are on a repeat loop and have no images. These tend to be worries or obsessions. Sometimes I need to pause and hold nothing in my mind for a moment and let this joyful process begin. Once it does it has its own momentum and often leads to sleep. So maybe, this clunky little piece has a use beyond aesthetic pleasure. As unpleasant as it might be to look at, perhaps it can help guide others to find the private pleasures of watching their own imagination multilayered picture show.

Sophie with red square

“Sophie With Red Stripe”
Oil/Panel
48″ x 32″
2007

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.

“Benta”
Oil/Canvas
6′ x 8’
2006

This is one of two paintings that I intended as a diptych but does fine on its own. The other piece is called “Yodit” and is the same size. Yodit is an African woman about the same size, stature, and age as Benta. There is a long tradition of painting a beautiful woman reclining on a bed or sofa. This line of paintings extends back to the Ancient Greeks, reappears during the Renaissance and has a consistent showing right up through and into the 21st century. Over that period the female nude has been the torch bearer for so many causes, cosmologies, religious ideologies, and artists’ manifestos. Here, it was my intention to create as unabashed and straightforward an appreciation of a woman and her surroundings as I could.

“Beauty” has been a dirty word throughout my art career, and yet every man I know and almost every woman, is stopped in their tracks by the sight of a beautiful woman. I wanted some of that in my paintings, and in order to make my own mark I painted it as a diptych.

These are both favorite women of mine. Moreover, I chose these two women whose physiques were deliberately not my “type.” In fact, I declined one model for the project because she was too much my type and not suitable for this project. I mention this to punctuate that this was not about me doing a series on women I found personally desirable. Nothing wrong with that, just not what this was about.

During this time I was more interested in beauty defined by proportion. Although we live in a time when beauty is often defined in part by how new something is, I decided to deliberately not have a new style. Instead I emphasized the beauty of the proportions in both the composition, arrangements of the figure in that space and the proportions of the figure herself.

“Yodit”
Oil/canvas
6’ x 7’
2006

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 Commissioned Portrait

“Scott: A commission Portrait”
Oil/canvas
4 x 6’
2005

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 Shoe”
Oil/Panel
40″ x 60”
2005

This painting was originally commissioned by the man in the painting as a gift for his girlfriend. His girlfriend is the woman featured in the painting. However, he never paid for it and they broke up. So I kept the painting. The likeness of each of the models is striking. The details are satisfying and the composition is classic in its arrangement and proportions. And the peculiar way in which I featured her left foot with shoe is unusually bold.

After completing it I felt there was something not quite right about the composition. Nevertheless I put it on display in my theater. One day, for some unknown reason it fell off the wall. There was a large crack in the top part of the panel. Right away, several people had all kinds of ideas about how to repair the panel by doing such things as gluing the whole painting to a sheet of plywood. However, I realized that the easiest solution was to simply cut off the top 6” of the painting which resolved the problem of the composition. There was simply too much painting on the top. So, we ran it through a table saw and removed the top part of the painting that had the large crack and at the same time improved the composition.

Done!

For some reason I love this piece and I’m glad I still have it.