I spent a lot of my free time at the Metropolitan and Guggenheim. Whenever I occasionally popped into the galleries to see what was happening, it always sent me reeling, why am I here, what am I supposed to be doing. I was disillusioned with painting so, I started sculpting again, something I hadn’t done since high school. To be perfectly honest, for the first time in my life, I just didn’t know what to paint. I had an inner struggle with what is, or is not, painting. Sculpture on the other hand, was always a straightforward discipline in anatomy, at least with what I was doing. But then again, even sculpture turned out to be something different than what I expected. The galleries were showing some really wild things like, assembled trash, no joke, trash from the city dump, glued or welded together or stacked up in a corner – what in the world was going on, really people – small appliances in plexiglass containers, severed animal heads in formaldehyde, yikes.
I couldn’t figure out the answers – did I miss a memo, is this what they were teaching in Art Schools. There was a lot of art speak and the artists wouldn’t or couldn’t say what their Art was about in straight english. That seemed like a red flag to me. There were a lot of Art Theories being thrown around but, it felt like the only theory that made sense was a conspiracy theory, I’m joking of course but, in the back of my mind at least for a brief moment I wondered if gallery owners and artists were patting each other on the backs and smoking cigars on a yacht somewhere. How was it possible for this stuff to cost millions of dollars and for a living artist at that, when didi this start happening. Were these artworks a follow through on art history that miraculously made it through the critical media gauntlet in secret, when did I turn into Rip Van Winkle.
In physics they talk about entropy and the arrow of time, “A one way direction,” for the abstract concept of time to follow. This may be fine and well in arguing why we can’t travel back in time but, in Art, there’s no such law. However, in the, “Art World,” critics and gallerists will have you believe that there is indeed a time line that must be followed, a linear connection to Art History, anything outside of the cannon and you’re toast, your work is irrelevant. Duchamp propped up a urinal, titled it, “Fountain,” and poof, the invention of, ”Found Art,” and even though he did it as a joke, it set the wheels in motion. Then, Greenberg championed Pollock and poof, “Action Painting,” an evolution in Modern Art and so on. Well, if you subscribe to this time line, it’s easy to see why artists are trying anything and everything to get attention. An artist today is able to throw dung on a canvas, point to the recent past and say, “Nobody has ever done that before, I am a great artist.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there isn’t validity in the statements from from the last century, there is for sure but, it would make more sense as a succinct expressions of isolation, a one-time thing. We could say, “Hey, that’s an interesting concept, I think I see where he’s coming from,” instead of young artists trying to build an entire career around the notion. It just looks like piles of nonsense to the rest of the world. So, that’s what I was dealing with in the early 90’s, heaps of trash and neon signs. I didn’t really want to be a part of it but, in a way I already was, we all are whether we like it or not.
By 1995, I was beginning to think it was impossible to make a living as a painter until I met Dave Cutler, who introduced me to Illustration. He was doing well for himself and since I was just eking out a living bartending I figured, why not. It’s easy to feel like you sold out or something when you’re painting Commercial Art but hey, some of my favorite artists kept alive with Commercial Art, Warhol and Rosenquist to name a few. And better yet, to operate as an Illustrator in the 90’s, all you needed was a phone and a fax machine – it was a new era in communication and you could illustrate from anywhere in the world. Well then – goodbye New Jersey and hello Charleston, it really was a no-brainer. The, “art scene,” was – whatever, and with Illustration, I could make a living far from the New York prices. I put together a portfolio, sent out some mailers and instantly began getting work. After a few years, I had forgotten all about SoHo and Chelsea and was busy moving from one project to another. It was 2001 and my income was steadily rising and I was beginning to get comfortable. – That’s when the panic set in, why am I here, What am I supposed to be doing. – Part 3