It’s easy to get comfortable when your surrounding are pleasant. It’s easy to loose focus when Art Directors are giving you work and praising the great job you’re doing and after a while, especially if you have children, you shift your focus to other things. There’s not a contemporary art scene so, you don’t go to opening or even want to see Art Trade papers because the Art here is mainly of lighthouses or the historic district, it’s not the center of the Art world. – You get the idea, out of sight, out of mind. This feeling of complacency is also the reason I woke up one day feeling like David Byrne, “How did I get here!” It’s 2005, I’m 38 and all the warning lights are in the steady, “On,” position.
It’s time to finish what I started so, I build a decent studio apart from my house and get to work, I’m trying to connect the dots in Art History and I’m finding there might be a way to merge Abstract Expressionism with Realism or Romanticism and come up with something that feels right. I work like a dog for two years and send out some brochures. The galleries in New York do not respond, no big mystery there but, a local gallery and one in Palm Beach give me the green light. Great except, it’s 2008 and the economy starts to collapse – well isn’t that something. They say that, “When life throws you lemons…” No, sometimes it’s just lemons and they’re sour – galleries are closing their doors all over the country, the Illustration work slows down, newspapers and magazines are going out of business. I know the drill, keep my head down and keep working. In a way, it was a blessing in disguise, the slow-down forced me to reexamine what I was doing and I wouldn’t have have reached any conclusions if, I had kept working on just my original idea.
They say that time is a luxury, I think that’s true, especially if you’re a thinking artist. What I mean is, when you have plenty of time without selling paintings, you just sit around staring at the ceiling and open up that part of your abstract mind. Suddenly, there are possibilities that you never would have though of. Ideas and images come into focus and the theories and isms start to disappear. When Ad Reinhardt painted his black paintings, it was supposed to be the end of painting, well, it didn’t last long, Robert Rauschenberg painted his white paintings that attracted stuff, (whatever that means) it allowed the art world to move on but, more importantly, it also meant that what is done, can also be undone.
This is the premise for what I’m doing today, my path in the Art History cannon – there is nothing that can’t be undone. Hey, I didn’t make up the rules and I’m not saying that anything goes. Unlike Dada, which in my opinion was more about anti-establishment, this methodology simply means, there is no one to answer to, not a gallery, curator or critic. The establishment is the culture and vis-a-versa, there’s no need for a rebellion or an old guard to throw out – it just, “Is.” Any movement from any time period can intermingle with any other movement and play a key role in the creation of something new and relevant with one single exception or rule, it must be raised to the highest level – it must be raised to an Art Form.
I think the problem with what I was seeing in the 90’s was, it didn’t seem like artists were raising the bar. It was haphazard and loosely thrown together in order to make a statement that might possibly, “Stick.” I can’t believe that our culture would be satisfied with simple statements about Art, like a spray painted gallery wall that reads, “There’s nothing here,” or, an inebriated artist riding his bicycle around in circles. Those statements might fly as a one-time mission but, for a complete body of work it needs to be at the highest level of execution. That’s what Artist’s, by their very name and definition do, they elevate something to an Art Form. Even the marketing people at Subway know this. But, who gets to decide what passes as Art. It appears as though we are at the eternal crossroads again, what is Art. I still don’t think anyone really knows, maybe it’s a collective decision and if so, it’s going to be a challenge. I may not be equipped with the intellect to decipher what Art is. Consider that Art means different things, in different ways, for different people – it’s impossible to bottle something like that.
For me, it’s 2015, I’m in my studio painting everyday, trying new things and examining my process daily. I’m certain that this is what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life – as I always have. I’m 47 now, and I feel like a twelve year old with my hand gliding over the canvas, free from the world, in my own space and time. Am I worried about the New York art scene – I’ve moved on. I know what I’m doing now, I know why I’m here. I paint because that’s what I do, it’s what I am..