My dear wife hates art talk–theory, themes, concepts–stuff like that. I agree. It floods artist statements with unreadable and mostly pompous writing and art criticism even when written by art critics and gallerists. I try to stay away from talking about what my work is about, but art talk seeps in anyway. As a result, for these statements, I focus on how the drawing got to its end point–what decisions I had to make to solve the narrative and the references that popped into my mind while drawing. I took a cue from my good friend Sammy Peters to keep it simple.
STRIDE • 2023 • Charcoal and Coffee on Paper • 52½ × 60 inches
The first of the Gatherings series to be blocked out (2022) and the last to be completed (2023). The problem was in the left side. At first, I had just a pond, but the weight was wrong. A group standing around seemed to work and add a direction for the striding group on the right. The tree needed to provide a step to the action so shadows on the ground and clouds and trees along with a whirligig and other patterns finished out the composition.
THE RAVINE • 2023 • Charcoal on Paper • 521 × 60 inches
I had the landscape set from photos I took on hikes around Wellfleet and Cape Cod, MA, and required a long time to translate the planes, textures, and shadows into charcoal [pastel was necessary to complete the image]. The figures came in once the main character on the right was drawn. The middle figure has turned up on other drawings but never stuck. It did here. The men flagging in the background seemed best erased left obscured. The man emerging from the left moves the eye towards the center and echoes the yellow strokes in the landscape. The coffee stains that evoke footsteps were a happy accident.
RESTRAIN • 2023 • Charcoal, Pastel and Coffee on Paper® 52½ × 60 inches.
Along with Stride, the drawing was problematic from the start. I had the group on the left set, the row of houses and two figures gesturing to the group all drawn in. But it just didn’t work. The problem was the space left below this row of activity. I set the drawing aside and after a month or two, erased everything. I moved the houses just above the horizontal middle line, and that fixed the group on the left and I drew them back in. I realized that to stabilize the group on the left, I needed a group on the right. Having discovered how drawing over figure that had been fixed in Throwback, I blocked all the pulling figures in silhouette. That left adding figures to the background. The middle figure serves as a fulcrum with the two men on either side gesturing to “off camera” antagonists. Yellow color matched the shapes of the ground texture at the bottom right, the white pastel added a weight to the right grouping, and the drawing was locked. I should note that Kerry James Marshall’s Our Town, that I saw at Chrystal Bridges, Bentonville, Arkansas, was on my mind while I worked on Restrain.
INTRUSION • 2023 • Charcoal and Coffee on Paper • 52½ × 60 inches
I lock every door and window in my house. Intrusion is a nightmare image for me. The main activity occurs outside the living room and is viewed out from the windows. The interior (which, incidentally, is a drawing of my living room) is a chaotic combination of erased and redrawn windows, tables, chairs, and bookcase. Between the two windows is a 50s style abstraction of Picasso’s Guernica. The coffee stain (located in the center bottom of the drawing) is ambiguous and echoes the frantic gestures coming into the interior from the ceiling above the front door. The warm tones throughout the drawing are caused by rigorous erasing that “burns” the surface of the drawing
INTERRUPTION • 2022 • Charcoal and Coffee on Paper • 52½ × 60 inches
I reconfigured this drawing right from the start with crouching figures under the desk then moved to the back window to erased. The left figure was drawn in twice–once with his arm gesturing to the right-side wall and looking out at the viewer and then drawn turning away and looking at the wall. I took out the raised arm because it looked as if he was pointing to the man (my daughters call him the Golem) in the middle of the drawing. Splotches of coffee are echoed throughout the drawing. The desk was problematic. It isn’t large enough but worked as a kind of kayak shape or blade into the room. The pink adjustment to its leg was a humorous touch to the masculine hormones wafting in the room.
WINDOWS • 2022 • Charcoal and Coffee on Paper • 521 × 60 inches
I lived in a loft like this when I worked in NYC in the 70s. And the noise from those warehouse windows overlooking Bowery between Spring and Prince Streets was constant and loud. One of my first performances used an audio tape of the street as background drone. When the floor collapsed over the bathroom of the floor below, we stacked the planks as it is in the drawing. I originally had a figure lunging away from the windows but, frankly, it looked ridiculous. Now as an erased figure, it adds more to the image than it did fully drawn. For me, it suggests the disturbance coming from outside. The two figures on the left were there from the start. The man looking out from the window took longer to figure out. I originally planned for a pattern on the ceiling like the tin ceilings that were tacked in those spaces but decided that the vertical/horizontal squares looked better framing the left window. The geometry of those windows, the pattern on the wall, and the junction boxes and wood planks nailed on the wall at the right finished the drawing.
THE WATCH • 2023 • Charcoal and Coffee on Paper • 521 × 60 inches
This drawing was finished, then reworked and finished so many times I almost ran out of names to call it and enough of a surface to keep drawing. There was a point where the background was a flooded city street, a South Dakota plain, and even an interior. There was a fence, then a broken fence and then no fence. There were two figures, then three figures, then nine and now would be lucky to find four. The sky was clear, then cloudy, then dark with a moon. I finally pushed the figures back behind a black, coffee, and pastel stained cloud. I had to tear into the drawing to create the gestural marks on the left and the patterns of white and black squares on the center and lower right bottom. The drawing reflected the blowback I experienced every time I confronted this drawing and perfectly reflects the atmosphere that each of the figures in this series are throwing off
BURNT FIELD • 2022 • Charcoal and Coffee on Paper • 52½ × 60 inches
I love this drawing. I was one of the first in the series and started with a path through a burnt field occupied by groups of people–several couples, and lone hikers. I liked the landscape, but the figures didn’t work. I decided to draw a group looking out over a field of wheat but, having blocked out Ocean Tide, decided to move three agitated figures to the background of the field. Since the field seemed to work with that configuration, I only had to add some detailing along with a spot of coffee behind the main figure to render it. The heads in the foreground never bothered me and now serve to mystify the actions of the three men.
THROWBACK • 2022 • Charcoal and Coffee on Paper • 52½ × 60 inches
The figure on the left was used in the Interruption drawing and like this one, never really worked, but it did lead to the figure on the right. That man, with his hand stretched out, is one of my favorites. I didn’t resolve the middle until I saw the curve of the hill and then the man throwing came in. The two others followed. The rocks in the sky are echoes of the “god” object in my Midrash series and the sun a tip of my hat to Ryder. To balance the composition, I added a figure on the left standing behind a metal fence, his face and shoulders wiped out. It was in this drawing that the silhouettes of the last drawings take their hint.
OCEAN TIDE • 2022 • Charcoal and Coffee on Paper • 521 × 60 inches
This was the first in the series. Those men, angry, gesturing, battling an unknown element, fired me up so much that I blocked in five drawings in two weeks. I don’t believe I have ever experienced an aesthetic high as intense and fulfilling as those two weeks. For this drawing, everything was new. How to handle the materials needed to be discovered that fit with the idea. The original background was an interior and it can just be seen in the strong vertical and horizontal lines. After erasing and changing the landscape to water, the figures came trudging through the mud. I tried putting in a running figure on the right and liked it but as in Intrusion, I felt it added too much direction to the actions of the three figures to the left. It remains as a ghost figure. The sky was the result of researching clouds and weather. I wanted them to reflect the men. Positioning the clouds as well as rending them was critical. I was generous with the coffee stain in this drawing but would refine its use in later works. The black tie on the central figure I consider, if asked, to be a master stroke.