Woven Tale Press Artist: Barry Masteller
April 11, 2018
"I want my work to always be in flux."
Interview by Jennifer Nelson, WTP Feature Writer
Barry G. Masteller is a self-taught abstract painter and photographer living in New York City and Albuquerque, New Mexico. He became deeply interested in photography after moving to the Monterey Peninsu-la from Los Angeles in 1970. His photographs are centered around landscape and the figure, often re-worked, post production, into abstractions. His oil paintings meticulously use color and texture, often incor-porating a substrate of cut canvas collage and other elements. His imagery ranges from landscape to non-objective abstract utilizing layers of tonal glazes. Masteller's paintings are in the public collections of The Palace of the Legion of Honor, Achenbach Collection, San Jose Museum of Art, Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, the Palm Springs Museum of Art, Crocker Art Museum, the Triton Museum of Art, and the Monterey Museum of Art.
Nelson: You first became interested in pursuing art as a teenager in Los Angeles. What experiences during this time influenced this decision?
Masteller: Actually, I've always been making and looking at art. Early on, I had two elementary school teachers that encouraged me. I recall doing a painting to represent my school-selected from all the other students' work to hang at the Board of Education in downtown Los Angeles. I was in the fourth grade. Later, I was selected to design the program for my sixth-grade promotion with a painting of mine on the cover; it was silk screened into copies by my fellow classmates. I had seen paintings before-as my mother exposed me to some collections in Los Angeles. I had two "uncles" who were artists and craftsman that lived across the street from me. I had a keen interest in what they did and how they did it-one was a package designer and carpenter and the other a watercolorist and bon vivant.
I started painting in oils when I was fifteen. A friend of mine showed me a small, approximately eight-by-eight-inch painting that he made. I remember holding it in my hands and just staring at it for a long time. I was struck by the color, paint texture, and form. It was a painting of a mask. Seeing it and holding it was a epiphany for me; I asked him how I could do something like he did. He said, "just get some paint and do it!" so I did. Once I did, I never wanted to stop.
Nelson: For several decades, you have worked full-time as an artist. Yet earlier, you earned a living working in art restoration and conservation, running your own gallery and representing other artists, and creating a line of hand-carved, gold-leaf period frames. How did you balance the art against your other responsibilities?
Masteller: Being a full-time "mud wrestler" (painter) has always been a challenge. I feel it's vital to be in the studio everyday-even if I just sit in my chair and study what I'm working on without picking up a tool. It's being one with the work and the process. I've never separated the other things I do from painting-it's all about the same thing-everything I've done is art related and, therefore, has influenced my painting and my way of seeing. I just can't separate myself into chunks. I quit being an employee as a framer and painting restorer in 1980. It was then that I converted my studio into a full-on-everything space-gallery, frame design, art restoration, and painting studio. My days have always been long and dedicated to my process.
Barry Masteller, Sequence 17, 2018.
Construct photograph on paper on aluminum, 30" x 30"
Nelson: In the Sequence series, you use construct photography to create abstract artwork with vivid colors. Can you explain the techniques and processes of this type of photography that involves painting, as well as the tools you use?
Masteller: When I was living and working in California, I had my work stored in several places. It wasn't until I relocated to Albuquerque that I had it all in one place. I took the opportunity to make a hi-resolution photo inventory of all the remaining work I had. The Sequence series began as a way for me to bring together fragments of my painting history, cropping areas of the photographs of my older work and incorporating them into new and different images. I have always felt that my paintings are like words-each making up a story or a journal up to that moment in time.
The series actually began in 2013 when I started making close-up photographs of several of my paintings. I found the photographs very exciting, but I was unsure how I would use them. I had forgotten about them until I rediscovered some on a computer file I had buried. They were all in 35-millimeter-rectangular format. I began turning them into squares as so many of my paintings are. Filling the upper area of the square with fragments from some of the other close-ups, and eventually moving to the landscape photographs I was currently doing and images from my historical inventory.
Barry Masteller, Insomnolence 4851E, 2017.
Construct photograph on paper on aluminum, 30" x 30"
Nelson: In the Insomnolence series, you took pictures at night and manipulated them to create art. What are the advantages and disadvantages of working at night? And is there a type of camera best suited for this purpose?
Masteller: When I relocated to Albuquerque, I began to re-explore landscape photography. The space I now occupy has huge windows that face north and on a busy downtown street. I would often wake up in the middle of the night from my insomnia, grab my camera and photograph the passing cars, street and signal lights using camera movement, processing the images with photo-editing software. The advantage of working at night is primarily about the light-or lack thereof. My favorite time is just before dawn as the sky turns violet and dark blue. The camera I use is a full frame 35-millimeter. I mostly use it hand-held so that I can get camera movement. My go-to lens is a 15-millimeter diagonal fish eye prime with long, some-times bulb exposures so that I can capture the light in different ways. I use this lens for its distorted effects and it gives me circular images that I can manipulate in post-production.
Barry Masteller, Natural Occurrence 141, 2009.
Oil on canvas, 36" x 36"
Nelson: Earlier in your career, you lived and worked in Northern California where you painted artwork for such series as Natural Occurrence, The Woods, and Clouds Over Sea. How did the landscape inspire you to depict nature, and why did you decide on oil paints as your medium?
Masteller: Some of my first paintings were landscapes, and I have always felt an affinity to it. My abstract work has always been centered on the landscape as opposed to the figure or non-objective. My deeper interest in painting the landscape directly came about through my painting restoration work. I specialized in early California paintings from the late-nineteenth century through about 1945. I worked on literally hundreds of paintings that were surfacing during the 1980s and '90s, many requiring major restoration, but many just cleaning and varnishing. I had to get up close and personal with many of them, studying and working on them magnified. I would often incorporate some of the painting techniques into my own work as a way to better understand the processes used and to expand my work both technically and personally. I started out painting with oils and still do. I also work with acrylic and watercolor; they each have their own unique characteristics and each painting kind of lets me know which medium to use.
In 1992, I bought five acres in the country where I built my studio. The acreage was almost completely covered with coastal oak trees, which I have always loved. My view was somewhat elevated and I could see the surrounding hills and valleys for miles. At first, I was painting my abstract work, but within about a year or two, I was interpreting my surroundings and it was finding its way into my work. I didn't start out to make landscapes as I feel that my work is principally abstract. In fact, I feel all painting is abstract. And it's this difference and similarity that I find so intriguing about photography.
Nelson: How has your move to Albuquerque and New York from California impacted your artwork?
Masteller: I'm not sure it has, though maybe I'm still in process. I began to move more into "pure" abstraction around 2010 after breaking away from galleries that just wanted my more representational landscape work. I felt that the paintings were going in a direction that I wasn't comfortable with-I needed to move on in more ways than one.
When I was in New York, I was working small, doing figurative abstractions and collages. The figurative works were interpretations of people mostly from those sitting across from me on the subway. I think it was my way of feeling a connection to humanity that I missed in my work in the country. The collages were intimate seven-by-ten-inch mostly cut and torn painted pages from The New York Times.
Albuquerque sometimes reminds me of my years growing up in Los Angeles. It's a city of a million people very spread out and with two major highways crossing from the four directions. The light and climate are similar and very unlike the weather in the Bay Area or New York. When I first set up my studio, I started painting landscape interpretations using cut canvas as a substrate on panels. I think I was attempting to get a feel for this new place, but my work has returned to my more introspective abstraction that I was doing before I left California. So, in that sense, I guess my work is still on the same track, though it has become more formal and I've begun using the grid as a foundation to the forms. The place where I live has metal screens along the stairway and railings. It's in a two-inch grid pattern. I wanted to figure out how I could use it in my painting by painting onto it and pressing it onto the canvas; I gave up on the idea as impractical. But one day, it found its way into one of my paintings and continues on.
Barry Masteller in his studio
Nelson: What's a typical day like for you in your studio?
Masteller: I used to work an eight-hour day, sometimes splitting it four in the morning and four in the evening when I was employed. Since about 1980, I just work all the time. I feel like I'm always in the studio as I have two. One where I go around 8:00 in the morning and work five or six hours; I use it to paint, stretch canvas, for woodworking and photography. The other is where I live and do my night photography, comput-er work, and smaller work on paper.
Nelson: How do you see your artwork evolving in the future?
Masteller: I'm just always surprised by the work, I never want it to be static. I don't understand why artists want to be brands or have a consistent look-painting the same painting. I want my work to always be in flux-pushing me in different and new directions. I want to remain focused on abstraction, the process of interpretation and change. How one work affects the next and how my daily life is brought into them as my story and history. Paintings are like time capsules, each one a part of a personal journey.
Nelson: What painters have influenced your artwork?
Masteller: So many did and still do. Rembrandt, J.M.W. Turner, Monet, Daumier, Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Matisse, Picasso, Duchamp, Philip Guston, Joan Mitchell, Pollock, Alberto Burri, Diebenkorn, de Kooning, Cy Twombly.
Essay By Marcelle Polednik
In an age when California landscape painting is less an aesthetic category than a geographical designation, Barry Masteller contemplates the history of this genre and the distinctiveness of the scenery that inspired it. At first glance, Masteller's paintings evade specificities of time and place. Depicting a somewhere that is nowhere in particular, a golden, eternal hour, they are at once transcendent and elusive. This timeless quality, however, is neither universal nor indefinite. Rather, it has its roots in Masteller's sustained engagement with the particularity of his surrounding landscape and the history of its representation.
Since the 19th century, artists have flocked to California compelled by the beauty of its natural terrain and the unique light that floods the soil. The exceptional setting inspired two diverging sensibilities, each one aimed at capturing the rare qualities of the environs. Artists such as William Keith and Joseph Breuer strove to painstakingly and faithfully record the luminous views they observed. Their contemporaries, Gottardo Piazzoni and Xavier Martinez, on the other hand, focused on light as a mercurial agent of transformation and created contemplative, abstracted compositions.
While distinctly contemporary, Masteller's canvases betray the influence of those early pioneers who recognized California's singular fusion of land and light as fruitful ground for a more meditative approach. Piazzoni continually emphasized his concern “not with the external aspect of the landscape, but with its inward life.” The haunting glow that envelops Masteller's landscapes also hints at the mystery lurking beneath the natural world. For Barry Masteller as well as for his historical predecessors, the landscape serves as a conduit to unknown worlds and hidden dimensions.
Tall and wiry, round and sensual, or angular, trees are the protagonists of Masteller's paintings. In The Woods series, rows of trees silhouetted against the burning sky transform the landscape into a contemplative interplay of light and form. In other series, such as Clouds over Sea, the sky itself takes center stage. The linear, horizontal bands of distant sea and clouds break over the middle ground, revealing billowing, recognizable cloud formations. Abstract color fields give way to the physical world. Rather than focusing on land, these landscapes explore what can be seen from the earthbound perspective. Though firmly grounded, the paintings soar to new heights.
Masteller's works remind that paintings not only represent but also exist as physical landscapes. They reflect a keen understanding of paintings as three-dimensional terrains, formed by sedimented layers of pigment, binder and varnish, and built up, like geological formations, over the course of time. Rather than a weighty, physical presence, however, the works exude a lightness more befitting of a mirage. The ethereal brushstrokes that hover on the surface of these canvases enhance the insubstantial quality of the apparitions. The painstaking method with which Masteller applies the paint to canvas, the delicacy of the forms and the subtlety of the deep, sultry hues invokes the jewel-like tonalist surfaces that haunt his compositions.
Barry Masteller's paintings offer a provocative challenge to the notion that the past brilliance of place California landscape painting has dimmed in recent decades. Light burns intensily, albeit wistfully, over the expanse of his canvases.
Marcelle Polednik PhD.
Director of Collections and Exhibitions, Monterey Museum of Art. Currently Director of the Milwaukee Museum of Art.
Enigmatic Urbanscapes: Barry Masteller's Boulevards
by Donald Kuspit
Is there a precedent for Barry Masteller's beautiful, haunting
boulevards? We see the same moody elegance in Gustave Caillebotte's Paris, the Place de l'Europe on a Rainy Day, 1877--the same brooding isolation, the same grandly empty spaces, for all the figures that inhabit them.
Masteller's cities are 21st century New York and San Francisco, and his lights and darks are more cunningly balanced than Caillebotte's--the dark clothing of his 19th century figures hardly makes a dent in the hazy luminosity, while the strong radiation from Masteller's luminous windows locks horns with the darkness (their interaction conveys the tension of the
city, hidden by its deceptively bland geometry)--but they have the same strange spaciousness: a peculiar mix of seemingly infinitely extending straight streets and the claustophobic intersections--deceptively broad, open spaces--where they converge.
Caillebotte's place and Masteller's boulevards are equally grand, but the boulevards are much more complex--not to say dramatic and disturbing--than the place. The Parisian buildings and umbrellas are curved, fluid structures, with an ornamental flair, the American buildings are bleakly rational--facilely functional rectangles, with the wrap-around Bauhaus-style windows that confirm their basicness. Whatever curves appear, as in the sidewalk of Boulevard 53 and the pipes of Boulevard 54, both 2005, or ornamental patterns, as in Boulevard 46 and Boulevard 47, both 2005, seem incidental to the matter of fact look of the scene. Masteller's light softens hard American cities, more the products of mechanical engineering than imagination, while Caillebotte's light brings out the softness of the Parisian surfaces, giving them an imaginative expressiveness.
But in the end Masteller's New York City and San Francisco are much more uncanny and fantastic than Caillebotte's place CityParis. Caillebotte observes a scene, but Masteller invents his scenes: his pictures are abstract constructions that convey the strangeness and alienation of urban life even as they suggest the larger enigma of representation, hinting at its problematic, uncertain character. Masteller is a conceptual painter: he unites fragments of the urban environment--carefully chosen from a repertoire of photographs--to create a kind of picture puzzle, that is, a representation that conveys the unreal look of every convincing representation even as it precisely realizes reality. The empirical is subsumed in the enigmatic, making for a sense of uncanny truthfulness, however factually bizarre the picture finally seems. Boulevard 44 and Boulevard 45, both 2004 convey this doubleness--the sense of the unfathomableness of reality that emerges from excruciating attention to its detail. What Masteller finally represents is the uncanniness immanent in space--space whose uncanniness becomes manifest because Masteller has lived its contradictions. These are evident in the at-oddness of the buildings and streets, and above all in the clash of light and dark. There is a hint of latent violence in Masteller's Boulevards, for all their apparent calm.
I think Masteller's urbanscapes are a breakthrough. He has previously been known for landscapes, influenced by Monet, as he has acknowledged. His trees have a glowing intensity, his clouds a peculiar impenetrability, for all their ephemerality. Masteller is clearly a master observer of atmosphere, light and dark, natural form, and their interplay. The results are solemnly harmonious pictures. But in the urbanscapes this facade of harmony is broken, nature is no longer the scene, and there is a sense of disruptive, even demonic power. Perhaps Masteller has discovered himself through his experience of the city.
The innocence of the landscape has certainly disappeared. No apologies for haunting beauty; it remains credible, despite the attacks on it by different modernists, among them Duchamp and Newman. Beauty conveys the esthetic conviction that is the core of art at its most intimate.
Donald Kuspit is an art critic and a professor of art history and philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Kuspit is a contributing editor at Artforum, Sculpture,and New Art Examiner magazines, the editor of Art Criticism, and the editor of a series on American Art and Art Criticism for Cambridge University Press.
Ecstatic Reserve in the Work of Barry Masteller
By Dominique Nahas
The shimmering bimorphic forms of Barry Masteller's landscape paintings predominate the artist's work. This is not to say that Masteller has ignored urban scenes or the use of hard-edged geometry. In his Boulevard series, for example, the artist has arranged city streets and apartment buildings, along with the silent movements of silhouetted Hopperesque people seen through store or apartment windows, to create a sense of community and isolation. In another body of work entitled Moon Sequence the artist has gone out of his way to investigate geometric repetition by painting naturalistic scenes as sequential events. We see the differing position of moon and stars over varying dusky silhouettes of trees in Moon Sequence 6 (2004), for example, where an entire image consists of nine panels stacked vertically in sets of three. In Moon Sequence 2 (2003) the artist lays out, predella-like, a horizontal ordering of three small panels. When read from left to right the work creates a narrative of shifting perspectives of land and night sky, as if we were viewing several frames of a film at one time.
Deep vistas of land, water and sky, however, are where Barry Masteller finds his essential voice. His sensory landscapes, all imaginary, are immediately identifiable through his signature use of saturated colors such as auburns, crimsons, browns and ochres. The varying light effects in his work recall the glowing effects in the works of Rembrandt and Turner, the charcoal drawings of Seurat, as well as the early-century California Tonalists.
To achieve his chiaroscuro effects the artist uses a light, delicate touch in which brushes and rags are used to apply pigments and washes as well as to wipe away wet areas of the canvas. Mark making and image-formation and spatial tension, therefore, are created as much by accretion as by reduction. The essential drama that Masteller suggests through his deft use of light is cyclic: perpetual emergence and dissolution from gauzy indeterminance into anticipatory consciousness. His paintings, irradiated with light, are seemingly at a standstill, mysteriously elusive and ecstatic. In the works, the suffused contours of our world as we know it are present but they seem wholly other, as in Earth and Sky 479, (2003). This is not surprising, as the artist's indwelling worlds --- not inhabitable by man - appear to be undergoing deep-rooted, slow change.
Masteller wants us to participate in his intensified perception of objects and the space around them, in the transcendental sublime. His image making compels us to take stock of primary dimensions of sensible phenomena, which open up and then dissipate into the realms of invisibility and the hidden. These immanent fields of possibilities, paradoxically, seem to rise up from within the earth itself, confronting us with an outward sense of harmonious fullness which seems to close in on itself, as in Earth and Sky 470 (2003). In a mid-ground of reflected water there lies a concealed reserve of time and space which pulses secretly throughout the artist's work, often punctuated by the silhouettes of round-shouldered trees, as in Earth and Sky 498 (2004) which serve as surrogates for the human form. This imagistic play is clearly not so much a depiction of the actual physical world held in suspension as much as a reflection of the painter's varying states of mind.
Barry Masteller's ongoing Earth and Sky series asks that we reconsider, in pictorial terms, what we take for granted. When we see a horizon line shimmering in the distance of his bucolic scenes we are not meant to train our eyes and thoughts solely and exclusively to time that is to be but also to be aware of hidden realms within his work. Subliminally, we join a dimension of absence, which is literally grounded in the artist's work, as we consider the terrain that lies below the mounded earth in the foreground, expressed as unseen. Similarly we become slowly aware and marvelously compelled by a sense of the unknowable in the area which lies beyond the horizon in each of his paintings --- implied but undepictable regions of time and space --- made manifest through the suggestion of aura which permeates the earth.
Wonderment regarding the hidden face of the order of things seems to preoccupy Barry Masteller. He captures that feeling in his paintings. In his notes he writes: “ With the passing of the years I feel a greater connection to the earth, especially to light and the way the physical world responds to light with illumination, reflection and emanation.”
Dominique Nahas is an art critic and independent curator based in Manhattan. He is also a regular reviewer for Art in America and the editor of d'Art International
Artist fell for magic of painting as a teen
Museum of the Southwest Exhibition.
Painting has "always been this magical kind of quest" for artist Barry Masteller.
"I was just smitten by the magic of it -- this tactile material you could spread around and make things happen," Masteller said of completing his first oil painting when he was a teenager. "It knocked me out. I remember saying what I wanted to be in life was an artist."
This native Californian has worked as an artist while doing other things, including running his own gallery that represented other artists, working in art restoration and conservation and creating a line of hand-carved, gold-leaf period frames. He credits such electives in school as wood shop and metal shop as "shaping" him as an artist. "It allowed me to think more creatively and to think of myself as a creative person."
Since 1995, he has painted full time.
His studio and home outside San Francisco are surrounded by trees. This October the rain and wind toppled a 75-year-old oak. The tree hit both of his cars that were parked in the driveway.
The cars are being repaired. The tree is gone forever.
"It was a real centerpiece," Masteller said of the oak. "It's like losing an old friend. There are two or three thousand of them on my property. That was the oldest one.
"We have five acres completely covered with oak trees. And the house in the middle of them all. It's on a hillside. You walk through the trees to get to it. There's a real spiritual connection with trees especially for me. I built my studio in such a way that no tree was sacrificed."
"I think I get most of it right out of my head," Masteller said of his subject matter. "I tend to think of myself more as a surrealist or abstract painter although most of my paintings are representational subject matter. But it's the process of painting, of manipulating the material. It so happens the work comes out representational, it's really more abstract based. If you look at the surfaces, they are very lively, loose brush work, glazing and wiping away. It's less about making something pictorial than it is about manipulating the material."
Upon entering the Here and Now Gallery at the Museum of the Southwest, the paintings encourage the visitor to draw closer. Those in the Earth and Sky series speak in shimmering lights and meditating shadows. Those in the Boulevard series whisper of hushed streets, lighted encounters and silhouetted forms.
"I think painting has always been a language," Masteller said. "Sometimes they are words, and all these words are making up paragraphs, and the paragraphs make up a story.
"I'm continually amazed when I finish a piece. It's one experience to paint it, and another experience to sit back and study it. There's always this kind of quest for that magic and that language and putting the two together. There's just this story that takes place."
2022 Interview by Caroline Haller, Fine Art Curator
Art Dealer Street
creation, outside from the materials and paintbrushes which you create art, Are there tools that are essential for your creation, outside from the materials and paintbrushes?
For many years my studio and workshop were in my home and property in rural northern California. The property is full of nature, lots of costal oaks and wild life. After leaving California in 2015 I lived in New York City for about a year . From there I set up a new studio workshop in Albuquerque New Mexico, located in a light industrial park. The contrast between the spaces couldn’t be more different, from rural to the big city to small city within a years’ time. I brought all my shop tools with me, table saw, power tools, all for wood working: as I love building frames and working with wood. Living and working in Albuquerque has had a definite impact on my world view and how I approach my work, being here reminds me a lot of my years growing up and working in Los Angeles, I think it’s reawakened a lot of feeling and observations from the past, this has all found its way into my work in an interpretive and expressive way. Older references in the landscape and architecture have been re-interpreted and laid down in new ways leading to re-freshed concepts and directions that I am continually excited about.
What is one experience that has been invaluable to you, as an artist?
‘One experience’ that’s difficult as I feel so many. I guess if I had to boil it down to one, I would have to go back to my childhood… Learning to be alone. As a child I spent a lot of time by myself, often exploring new and different places as I rode my bike around Hollywood and the Silver Lake district in LA where I grew up. I think it really set the stage for me as an artist. The artist must spend a lot of time alone with the work. Discoveries are made in the work itself through critical thinking, editing and being alone with oneself is invaluable to the process.
You’ve mentioned you felt as if painting was a language telling a story. What story do you feel like your art has told over the last five decades? How has it been told?
I first started painting in oils when I was sixteen, I had a very limited palette; yellow ochre, burnt sienna, raw umber, tierra verde, black and white, no primary colors at all. This palette was not by choice but the colors had been given to me as a gift. I did two small paintings. The first one was an intuitive abstract and the other a realistic landscape. Crude as these paintings were they taught me where this journey would eventually lead. I have always felt that my work is fundamentally intuitive landscape or at least landscape based, its basic language. The story comes in the doing and in the discovery and the critical process of interpretation. I do this through abstraction or an abstraction of landscape. I don't subscribe to the idea of completely nonobjective painting; once you place a horizontal line, form or delineation within the picture plane it automatically becomes landscape, you can’t get away from it, It's in the DNA. All painting is a form of visual poetry. A story begins with a line, draw a horizontal line across the canvas and it becomes a horizon. From there the story unfolds even if the line disappears. It's a beautiful thing.
Does your work in conservation and restoration of historical paintings bleed over into your art? If so, how?
It does, or did. I stopped doing painting restoration many years ago and as a result my work has moved more and more away from interpretive landscape and more back towards intuitive abstraction. A lot of my restoration work was on early California landscape painting. Many of the works suffered from surface damage causing holes, tears and missing paint. Repairing this involved a lot of filling, matching canvas and brush mark texture and finally in-painting to match the missing area with the surrounding areas. In order to do this, the areas had to be magnified, filling my view completely. When one looks at a realistic painting this close up all you see is abstraction, colors flowing into other colors and textures. Its like magic…what you see is not what you see, because when you step back, it’s a landscape again. I also spent some time working on several tonalist works that I was technically intrigued by. I studied the technique and began to paint my own interpretation using the property of my home as a model, plein air style. This actually started a long-lasting series of paintings I called 'Earth and Sky' that I explored for many years to its conclusion.
How has living in New Mexico inspired your art? What natural forms have been inspirational?
New Mexico is vast, visually the open landscape is like the ocean for me and sometime when I miss seeing the Pacific every day, I look at the desert and its vastness. The things that stand out for me are the small lonely buildings surrounded by sand and low vegetation. Juniper trees and tumble weeds. I enjoy painting this as I often go back to these subjects in my work. When I first moved here, I set out to do a series of small works based on the land and sky, they became my New Mexico series. I was looking at some of these paintings recently and I saw a lot of Diebenkorn’s New Mexico paintings in some of them, the land defiantly rubs off on you, but you have to first let it speak.
When did you start adding figures to your artworks again? What was the motivation behind this?
It’s hard for me to say when I started with the figure, I can recall some very early paintings I did that involved the figure. I travel and have lived in New York City off and on over the years and I love watching people, in the park, on the subway, walking down the street in groups or alone. On one occasion I had an opportunity to stay at the Four Seasons Hotel high above 57th street. I had my 35mm with me and took a ton of photographs of the street below and all of the surrounding buildings. When I returned to California, I looked the photos over and began to do some small sketches from them. One thing led to another and I was off on a new series I called ‘Boulevard’ all of the paintings were of architecture and people or figures in situ.
Can you speak about the figures, poses, symbols or shapes that are present in the works listed on Art Dealer Street (Closer, Forecast, Levitation, Moving Around, Red Sock, and Within Reason?
The more recent figure paintings are of the lone figure within the landscape. For me these paintings are more autobiographical and personal. The lone figure is not a lonely figure but an individual, alone within the landscape, a part of it, incorporated. The poses are about individuality, each has its own persona and a different role to play as part of a greater whole.
I often see us; as human kind separating ourselves from our earth and nature, more and more as time goes on. I want to show in this work that we are not separate from nature but an integral part of it, that everything we do as individuals affects the world around us. Natural forces are always at play and we are part of that play just not always conscious of it. I like to think of the symbols and lines that move in and out of the figure as communication with the life force that’s part of us all… an awareness and recognition.