From my earliest, consciously made images, I have always worked with multiple, complex layers of figures or grounds
that were combined in a narrative. One of my first works as an artist, an acrylic of a crossing guard in a silouette
floating in a field of aborginial symbols and squares touches upon this potential of tjhe conceptual and the real:
the abstract content meshed with a narrative depicition, Another work, Notes from the Underground, from a series
entitled Ironic Pentametr; the layered images seek a third or fourth level of meaning. Here, three "picture" layeers-
girls getting facials, a girl running in the breeze and boys walking in a school cafeteria with empty food trays-pull
together adolescent activities into a single frame as if they are happening simultaneously, or in the mind of a viewer
or participant. These split screens permit me to rake the surface of meaning and compress, via metaphor, the
rich bed of images - banal as they sometimes are - that sometimes keep me awake at night. In the end, working
this way allows me to create more engaging work, images that engage me on many fronts.
At my Morgan Lehman Gallery exhibition, After Kafka, in New York, I employed a silhouetted image of a young
girl hula-hooping in black set against a grid background of candy-colored squares. The basic figure was stripped
down to the most essential lines and the hula-hoop dominated - poetically I think - the space. Added to
this was a colored grid, and behind the girl, a molecular structure in white floating in space. Variations of this were
combined in a single color, black, unifying the grid and activity. Other works evolved from this image:
A boy jumping over a fence, a pair of girls skipping with their hoops. While these may not seem like particularly
ominous images, the seeds of dread are sown. Innocence portrayed, in my mind, in any state or stage is always
laden with its own imminent death. The girl with the hula-hoop is a little atom, spinning (and exploding) in her
own world. In that, I think, there is great mystery, soul and spirituality that is part and parcel of our American dream.
I was drawn to thinking about my work by a University of California Santa Barbara study I read about. Two
groups were tested with regards to their feelings about predictability, or in other words, happy endings. One
group looked at films with predictable endings summer love stories, romantic comedies, etc.) and the other
group read stories by Kafka and viewed films by David Lynch. Clearly, the latter group was saddled with the
more complex puzzles, and their generally unsatisfying (if richer) endings. In thinking about the way I construct
images, I started to subtract information so the viewer would have to complete the work (in their mind). It's a <
bit of work, admittedly, but way more appropriate for how I view the world around me. For example, a work
that doesn't require this kind of effort would be Monet's poppy fields, or any number of works by Matisse. That
is not to denigrate those artists or their works, but my interest in painting and image making is what I call
Conceptual Imagery. Here the viewer participates to complete the image.
I remain fascinated with the banality of the everyday. Someone working at a desk, or walking or ironing or
vacuuming and at the same time, this person is also existing in another time and place - his or her mind, and
the minds of the viewers/observers. That subjective reality and its shifting, contradictory and torrid data stream is
compelling. Using the term "conceptual imagery" in my work seemed to be closer to what I was essentially
working at, rather than other terms like "realism" or "new painting." It is not what you are looking at that produces
meaning, but what your mind makes out of the language issuing from the images. I realized how nearly everything
is modulated by language, spoken or thought, and that informs meaning, especially where visuals (as opposed to
musical works) are introduced.
Images combine naturally or not with their titles; and the words used ostensibly to describe the works, end
up modulating their meaning. But all in a way towards blending the visual/mental/emotional art experience
towards some kind of conclusion, especially if it cannot be verbally expressed. Recently I produced a series of
works "in two directions." One was an image cut up on different planes. One could only see the complete image
"occasionally," that is at specific angles as you passed in front of the work. Yet, I believe the drawing itself was so
compelling; you come back to it again and again, even though you can't fully see it from any single point of view.
What is this like? It's like seeing yourself in a mirror. No matter how you try (and even with multiple mirrors), you
can never see yourself as completely as another person can see you. What I realize was that there was a built-in
level of incompleteness to visual works, particularly mine, and I have since attempted to sharpen that point.
In these "incomplete works" I finally made the transition to sculpture. I had always wanted to make sculpture but
I wanted the perfect fit - a method, and a result with the look and feel that was not strained and true to my visual
vocabulary. The essential idea came from a revelation I had about shadows. One day some years ago, as I was
exiting a subway station in Brooklyn I was struck with an illusion that made me swoon. The street and all my
surroundings was very dream like and it was unclear to me why. When I got to my studio, I found it nearly impossible
to walk. I turned on the radio. The news jockey announced that right then there was an eclipse of the sun in
Brooklyn. And indeed, looking out the window, I saw light coming from either side of the moon
and making two distinct shadows on the ground. It was beautiful and extremely disorienting.
In making these new sculptures, I began by drawing and traced the results onto wood or
aluminum. Then the works are cut and painted (the aluminum is cut by water jet). Because they
are three-dimensional and open (like paper dolls), the works draw shadows, and add another
kind of complexity. As an additional image comes out of subtraction of material, I feel as if
I've entered into a new territory that is particular to me, and my content. To reinforce the piece's
complexity, I light the works from both sides, recreating this dream state of two shadows that
The works resulted in a series for After Kafka.
Using a variety of media such as paper, wood and brushed aluminum, I produced
monochromatic sculptural paintings that utilize repetitive images of children in motion and
at play. In the case of the wood and metal works, negative space is created directly by the
white walls of the gallery. The imagery is often repeated serially in different scale, material and
size elevating the subjects to an iconic status.
In another study at the University of California
Santa Barbara psychology department, people were tested on how they processed
images. Presented with complex images or non-sequential images "become smarter,"
claimed the study because by the images not being related to each other, the brain starts
sequencing on its own - working overtime in an effort to make sense out of what it is seeing.
After working through what the study described as an "imbalance state" for a period of time,
the brain addresses everything it encounters, and as a result, is faster and better at solving
problems and gaining knowledge. However once the pattern is normalized the brain rests, stops
questioning. Is this cup of coffee hot or cold? Oh, it's cold; processing stops.
Science and poetry play a part in my thinking. The great electrical engineer Nikola Telsa,
inventor of Alternating Current, rival to Edison and holder of hundreds of US patents was also a
great lover of poetry. He noted that each level of the Italian poets Inferno moves in an opposite
direction of the previous level. Telsa, who borrowed a line from Dante for the sign above
the entrance to his Colorado Springs Laboratory,
"Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here,"
projected A/C power onto the puzzle of how to create a pattern of electricity that didn't lose any
power over distance.
While 1960s suburban American remains my
primary source of inspiration, rethinking the linkage of image, shadow and subsequent
images, sets off a conceptual clock of instantly recognizable pieces to a more complex puzzle.
It's my way of generating psychological power.