Mythic Figures, 2001-2005


30” x 30”

This painting is hard to categorize. Is it realistic? Is it “mythic figurative?”

Since I don’t have that many paintings in my “mythic figurative section” I decided to put it here.

In some ways this piece epitomizes a mature phase of my work. When confronted with doing a portrait I could now pull on my comfort with a number of different styles I had absorbed and integrated from other artists, relax and just see what comes out. I had, by this time, long since given up on supplying a gallery with a consistent brand of paintings. I not only chafed at the very idea of that, but even when I succeeded, no one was interested in my brand. So why not free myself to paint whatever and however the fuck I wanted?

And that is what you see here. The influences range from Picasso to Van Gogh to Kuhn and even my own earlier “styles.” I put the word styles in quotes because I had come to see style as at best another element to utilize in painting like color. And at worst, like a brand that might boost sales but would never the less restrict creativity and freedom.

Artists are under so much pressure to create a signature style. Something that makes their work easily recognizable and theoretically an honest expression of their true self. And with a little luck and good marketing … successful in the market place. Well, like a true Coyote spirit I developed a number of styles making the very notion of shifting styles my true style. Have I lost you yet? Hopefully so, like any good Coyote I’m trying to cover my tracks and disappear leaving only tantalizing hints and having crossed into various dimensions.


18” x 12”

“Erotic Works”
Oil and ink on various materials
Various sizes
Various dates

Betty Dodson would have said these paintings would be better described as sex art rather than erotic art. She hated the term erotic art and preferred the more direct phrase calling out what the subject was without the pretense and baggage associated with the word erotic.

Like Dodson, I dislike the word erotic but for different reasons. I dislike what it has come to mean in modern America which generally speaking means polite porn. Or perhaps more accurate but less poetic, arty porn.

I like my porn raunchy and direct and arty. But I’m going off on a tangent here.

The reason I don’t like” erotic” is because it’s original Ancient Greek meaning has been lost in all this gibber jabber about what is porn and what is art etc…. Yawn. The original meaning was closer to a power in the universe that draws things together and animates them … energizes them. A little like the energy that can be felt when opposite poles of a magnet approach each other. The ancients believed that Eros was a god or force of nature. And was not limited to sex although it included that as one of its expressions. They would have said that a group of musicians finding their groove together was Eros as much as two lovers getting excited about sex together. They also believed sex could be performed without Eros and from what I can tell that was as disappointing to them as it would be to most of us today. In the same way that listening to musicians mechanically going through the motions but having no special connection would be disappointing.

From the years 2002 or so until about 2012 I created and ran an experimental theater called the Little Red Studio that was meant to explore this very subject. And we did. This website is not the place to describe all that it was. I will suffice it to say that we all learned a lot, had a lot of fun and made a lot of art. And to the consternation and disbelief of those who never actually attended, did not have any more or less sex than anybody else. As I have said earlier in this essay and thousands of times before … it wasn’t about sex.

It’s hard to say that food is not about quenching hunger to a starving man. It’s about nourishment, enjoyment, connecting with family and so much more to someone who is not starving.

Well, because Americans are largely sex starved and or sexually repressed a big part of Little Red Studio was educational. And like all education it was exhausting. After 10 years I was burnt out from that effort. I had done my part to help as many as I could understand that Eros is more generally about increase and “erotic” roughly meant non rot…..or to grow and be fertile with life and energy. Seems so obvious once you aren’t starving and take a moment to feel what’s happening … or isn’t happening. Aagghghg.

Those that were there and got it are deeply grateful to me and hopefully continue spreading that awareness in their lives.

And, I made a ton of art in every aspect of what had become my standard ways of making art: mythic figurative works like these, realistic figurative work, abstract painting, sculpture and works on paper. And as prolific as I was, when I look back on those years I feel like I squandered most of it. Thank god I what I did.

Erotic Works

“Melinda, Jeff, Sam and Lulu”
Oil on panel/canvas
Various sizes

This is as close as I got to painting a family portrait. They were not done at the same time and I should probably do another version of Lulu as a clown like the other ones. These paintings all ended up in the home of my ex and the mother of our kids. That is her in the bright green colored outfit and hat. These are highly stylized of course but unmistakably who they represent. The one of Lulu was painted from the picture I carried of her in my wallet until it just fell apart. Maybe I’ll offer Melinda a trade. A new painting of LuLu as a clown to match the other pieces in exchange for this one?

“A Scream”
32” x 24”

I painted over an older painting. What is inside the mouth is all that you can see of the older painting which in an odd sort of way makes the squirming yellow mess a kind of pun. On top of the white out are a few dashed lines that make up the face. The furrowed brow, pinched eyes and the nasolabial fold lines convey so much emotion. Am I feeling angst about my previous work? Are the marks of my previous work still an effective way to express difficult feelings? Is this pent up emotions from my past? Really…way more clever than I realized when I painted it.

“Someone in Little Red Studio”
20” x 15”

“Couple Dancing”
24″ x 18″

“Study for Suffering Change”
8″ x 8″

I rarely do this. Make a sketch in oil paint of something I am thinking of doing in a realistic style. I’m not sure why. And I’m not sure why I made an exception this time. But here it is. This was one of the first sketches I did for the large cabinet piece called “Suffering Change”. As it turns out I didn’t use this particular arrangement. But you can see me working out the ideas here. Two men appear to be hoisting a third man up by his ankles. I have included a picture of the middle section of the finished cabinet piece so that you can see how this initial idea got me started.

“Sisyphus With Cart”
24″ x 36”
I don’t remember when I painted this piece. It looks like the visual vocabulary I created 10 years earlier in the early 90’s. However, even though the central focus of my work was figural realism and full on abstraction, I continue even to this day in 2020 to sketch in this manner. There is something about the handling of the paint that makes me think it was 2004 or so.
I am attracted to the myth of Sisyphus because it has so many layers of metaphors and speaks directly to the modern conundrum of “work vs. labor” and artistic creation vs. artwork. In the myth, Sisyphus is condemned by the gods to push a large rock up a hill each day. At the end of the day, the rock rolls back down and he must begin again. On one level, this is the story of my libido. Each day he must labor up the hill with the burden of his sex drive. The hill gets steeper and the road gets narrower as the day continues. With persistence and focus, he will keep it together and arrive at the top without ruining his life. There, he will have a brief moment of ecstasy only to find himself at the bottom of the hill again the next morning.
In this painting Sisyphus has transformed into a phallus and labors with an empty cart. I hardly need to elaborate. However, what is worth further comment, perhaps, is the fact that his head is a kind of visual pun with the mountain top, thus implying that the journey is not just to the top of the mountain but up and out of this continuous sex drive to a higher level of thinking. Or perhaps it suggests that the sex drive is a kind of fuel to arrive at something higher. It isn’t clear, but does imply questions like this.
As an artist, I feel it is important to have an empty cart, an empty bowl and an empty heart. The beggar is a metaphor for the emptiness and receptivity that is part of the creative spirit. Sisyphus begins his journey with an empty cart in hopes that indeed it will be full by the time he reaches the “top” of each day.