Could you talk a little about yourself as a painter?

I believe strongly that a painting needs to be able to stand on its own as an object full of vitality. It needs to be self-contained and autonomous.  The critic Jed Perl has referred to this idea as  “free-standing”.  That’s a challenge that I pursue in painting. How to do that? How to not imitate what’s already been done? And how to be relevant? It requires a constant searching to understand painting especially today because I think there’s this feeling that everything has been done, so I’m intrigued by the question of what can a painter do today to contribute to the tradition or practice of the medium? I constantly return to those questions during the painting process.  It provides a framework that creates rigor.

What is your process?

My painting process is in two-parts.  I work from observation, which is essential for me since my primary involvement is in searching for visual structure.  Working from nature also sets up a resistance from which I can question my decisions during the process.  It provides a truth from which I’m held accountable.

I prefer landscape because of the scale and also because I find that nature has a way of posing sophisticated and difficult problems to work out visually. But as a landscape painter, I’m not interested in making a tree look like a tree or to make a picturesque scene.  So in my process I have to find that gray area that satisfies both my pursuit of the abstract structure and imagery.  By imagery I don’t mean subject matter per se but rather a transformation of the feeling of the landscape into form and color.  I experience both real effort and inspiration in front of the motif — and then at a certain point I take the painting back to my studio where the inspiration is further provoked.

Why do you continue a painting you start outside in your studio?

A whole world of new challenges open up in the studio, most importantly for me – color and texture. This involves a complex painting process that takes place over time. The physical presence of the paint on the two-dimensional plane is significant to me. It opens up new possibilities for creating relationships in the painting and at the same time, is just paint itself, so there’s an interchange between function and form that I’m interested in. For me, painting is really the only medium that is a manifestation of our own being – not just an expression. And that partly comes from the textural aspect, which is the physical evidence of the artist.

Could you talk a little about color?

The potential that color holds in painting and photography is unlimited, and it’s my sense that it often goes untapped. Color has been such a strong force in the way I experience the world that it was really what led me to painting.  I also engage and experiment with color in photography. That has helped me grasp color’s narrative potential in terms of imagery as well as working with color as a spatial element.  But color in painting is very different.  It can be so unruly – meaning a plane of color will sit spatially wherever it wants. Neighboring colors can change a painting’s entire structure if the painter isn’t able to gain some control over it.  And on the other hand gaining control over color isn’t the point either. In fact color theory alone may only lead to more theory or a dead painting.  For me, using color as an active force in painting becomes a combined process of feeling and theory and sometimes you let color do what it wants and other times you wrestle it to the ground.

What about photography?

I have a real affinity for photography because of its unique ability to capture likeness.  This may sound contradictory to my interest in painting but essentially my involvement is the same in both. Photography freed me from the laborious task of rendering appearances and at the same time its mimetic ability became a burden. Since I’m not interested solely in representation as a visual artist, the questions of how and what to compromise in terms of subject matter in order to create a visually dynamic photograph becomes a challenge.  It’s essentially the same question as in painting but coming at it from a different means based on the unique differences in each medium.  In painting, I start with pigment that’s formed from the internal to the external. In photography, I start with the appearances of the external and bring it in line with my internal. Ultimately though in both it’s a matter of the relationships of form, color and space that resolves the process.

How do you feel about subject matter?

Subject matter is incredibly seductive.  We exist in a world where everything is based in appearances – this is a tree, this is a house, this is a dog – subject matter. But as a visual artist, if I can’t see abstractly — meaning beyond the appearance of things – then I’m missing out on the entire structure underlying subject matter.  The photographer, Minor White said, “Photograph things for what they are and for what else they are.”  The abstract structure of a thing is the essence of the subject matter – the truth of the subject matter.  The abstract structure of one thing against the abstract structure of another thing creates a relationship – a dynamic. Relationships are what give meaning to the piece.  It can be as simple as two squares in a Mondrian or two bottles in a Morandi. One is non-objective and the other has subject matter but both paintings are built on the relationships and dynamics of abstract structure.  To not pursue that in the visual arts is to be content with the superficial or in the case of subject matter – the literal.

Could you talk a little about drawing?

In the school, drawing is taught as the underpinning of all visual art whether it’s painting, photography or even sculpture.  It’s a principle that unfortunately is being pulled from many degree programs or is being taught as what should more accurately be seen as illustration.  I think many young artists, myself included, thought of drawing as a system for creating likeness (appearances)– perspective, volume, scale – but in the most formulaic sense. Traditional sketch classes or foundation classes became really a process of rendering subject matter.  On the other hand, I think the influence of Abstract Expressionism left many artists interpreting drawing as simply expression – formless marks on the surface of paper.

In actuality, drawing is the organizational principle of where and how things sit in space.  Drawing is what brings a lifeless 2-dimensional plane into something full of energy – life. But understanding drawing in this way can be difficult because it’s not just rendering and it’s not just arrangement – it’s a visual concept – it’s syntax.  Once that’s understood and engaged then one can understand how drawing is the underpinning of all of the mediums.

How do the multidisciplinary aspects of your work affect your practice as a visual artist?

Working in painting, drawing and photography is a collective and informative experience, and each medium leads me to a furthering of my overall involvement and also a narrowing of that involvement.  I don’t view different media as separate pursuits, even though I may form them into different series or bodies of work.  I’m interested in the unique qualities and limits of each medium and how I come to terms with that medium through whatever subject matter I choose.  Ultimately I think I’m asking the same questions and use each medium to test my views as a way of finding solutions that become manifestations of my sensibility.