Inspiration comes in unexpected ways when you’re a child and open to everything. The artist and cartoonist Stan Lynde created the syndicated western series Rick O’Shay in the late Fifties, and in it he featured a gunslinger named Hipshot Percussion. Hipshot was a cool dude, something of a loner, and, amazingly, a transcendental mystic who found divinity in the grandeur of Nature. Regular townspeople went to church, while Hipshot rode off into the mountains. Through him, Stan Lynde showed me something very important early on, a perspective I was not getting elsewhere, a viewpoint that felt honest and stuck with me even as those comic book cartoon days receded into the past: the realization that Nature itself is divine.
I should admit that I’ve been chasing God since I was a kid. A personified diety was stuffed into my imagination by the Benedictine priests and Franciscan nuns of the Catholic grade school I attended. The Program: 1) Bend to Higher Authority 2) Accept the Mysteries 3) Don’t Ask Questions Ask Forgiveness 4) Embrace Your Inner Guilt 5) Keep Your Hands to Yourself. I began to see through the folly and hypocrisy early on, but the experience dug in deep, the incense was thick, and I could not easily avoid asking Who or What is God? Where is God? What, in the name of God, can be expected? It did not occur to me to stop believing, but, rather, my search was inclined toward the discovery of what it might be that I COULD believe.
My seeking continued at university, where I dabbled in art history and painting while digging into literature and philosophy. The writings of Spinoza rang especially true. Excommunicated for heresy by the rabbis of Amsterdam, Spinoza set out to prove his intuition that God is ALL things, every bit - all we see, hear, feel or imagine are details in a perfect divinity, attributes of One. For him, like Hipshot, contact with the divine can be a direct relationship - and that’s not what spiritual middlemen like to hear. The truth of this revelation remains central to what I am trying to achieve as a person and as an artist.
A reliance on the physical activity of drawing has continued with varying degrees of focus since childhood. Drawing has always been a way for me to look closely at things. Making the brief, calligraphic contour drawings of Foreground Notes is an activity that helps me see. The process pulls me into details I would certainly overlook, pulls me out of myself and into the world. It is a moment of connection that I have come to recognize as groping towards a state of grace.
I began to take photography seriously during solo travel in Asia with notebook, sketchbook and camera. I learned then and there to economize on film and focus my attention: days were spent planning the setting for photographs I would later take. By going about it in this deliberate way, the photographs gained weight and meaning. The finite number of frames available in a roll of film proved to be a strength rather than a limitation.
Finally, standing transfixed inches away from Picasso’s Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler it dawned on me what a painting is. As for other picture-makers, I have been deeply influenced by the work of Georges Seurat, Man Ray, Sonia Delauney, Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp, Eva Hesse, Agnes Martin, Cy Twombly and especially, Jasper Johns. John Cage looms large as a person I was honored to meet and converse with, nevermind me not quite knowing what to say. I am touched by the brevity of Feynman diagrams, the neurological drawings of Cajal, chaos theory and the wonderful notion that blind chance serves a useful purpose.