months after graduating from the Corcoran College of Art and Design I sold two of my paintings. The experience really rattled
It wasn't so much that someone actually paid money for my paintings. It was
because the works were so personal. One was essentially about the end of marriage, while the other was basically a portrait
of my former wife with our dog and cat.
The man who purchased them was also an older adult, divorced and a dog-owner.
I realized that I had communicated with another person through colorful images,
confirming for me what I had realized at the Corcoran about my mission as a painter -- to continue story telling, but through
visual story telling.
I had been a story teller most of my adult life as newspaper reporter and
magazine writer and editor. I had written fiction as well, two unpublished novels and several published short stories. The
root for all of the fiction, of course, was life, mine and the lives of others.
Visually, in the study of art and in learning to make art, I had intuitively
responded to early 20th Century painters and their bright, symbolic primary colors: Gabriele Munter, Edvard Munch, Pierre
Bonnard, Ernst Kirchner, Max Beckmann, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso (especially his blue period). For me, they painted
about what was in their lives and what they saw and knew. Visually, as I learned from the Germans, Munch and Bonnard, I also
work for imbalance, in the odd perspectives, composition and seemingly crude drawing as a way to pull viewers in.
I had entered art school in my late 40s, about five years after I first started
Painting. Applying paint to a surface.
There are those who consider painting, especially narrative, figurative painting,
so retro, so out of it, so un-contemporary. Where are the digital images, the found objects, the massive constructions?
As I say to some of my long-suffering friends who roll their eyes at yet
another pathological painting about marriage, divorce and longing: So what?
My paintings really serve more as elegies than as pathologies. Many are celebrations
of a loving domesticity, even if the domesticity and love are nostalgic. As for the recurring dog, she is an art-historic
symbol of domesticity, dependability and unconditional love. Some of the paintings are "fun," friends and their children playing
in a park or farm scenes with horses, cows and pigs, while others are fantastical domestic scenes with an imaginary wife,
child and pets.
Again: So what?
A line from a Bob Dylan song has the character singing that his future is
in his past.
For me, my future is my past (and sometimes present) and that is what I am
communicating: emotions and celebrations of a life that now seem out of reach. Except in painting.
As in serious fiction writing, where it is often best to write about what
you know, the same applies to painting: paint about what you know, what you miss and what you desire.