If you just want raw paintings check out the online gallery for my Person's paintings and sculpture. If you are curious about the ideas and history behind my Person's abortive artistic output read on. Below is a table of contents. Click on the mini-picture for a larger view and an explanation.
|1. The Womb
|2. Raking Leaves
A Primitive Experience
|3. Ngady a Mwaash
A Mother's Pain
|5. Eddie Stankey
'I'd Rather Go Fishing'
Back from the Dead
|A Hiatus (1978-85)
the Otto painting
|7. Renaissance Faire
Offered the Cup of Fire
The World is Alive
|An Art Exhibit
(December 14, 1991)
|11. Master Ni
|12. Kiersarge Pass
|13. My Three Women
Before the Fall
|14. Maternal Love
Spirits of Colombia River
|15. Self Portrait as a Young Man
Me & ma Musa
(1974, 2002, 2008, 2010)
Most professional artists attempt to create something beautiful. As an accidental artist, I can only create from my soul. Consequently either beauty or ugliness may emerge. Further I cannot reproduce the techniques because of the spontaneous, untrained nature of my ability. Because each painting was an outburst from my soul – something unplanned, almost accidental – there are not many of them. Because of the limited number of these soul bursts, they are all included regardless of the finished quality. Enjoy.
Always interested but never encouraged, (presumably due to my prodigious mathematical talent) I never had an art class in all my years of school through college. However while in college I began organizing art sessions, where many of us sat around (probably smoking pot, maybe even on psychdelics from time to time) and created in a multiplicity of mediums, including clay, crayons, and colored pencils. All were encouraged regardless of ability. My Muse was looking for a way to break my Person's verbal box.
Although this frivolous, useless activity performed by untrained and untalented people frustrated my mother (manifesting in many word battles) she gave me a set of oils for Christmas of my 21st year. This revolutionized my art. Just throwing some of these oils down on paper I was able to do some remarkable portraits - at least to my liking. This culminated in the following painting.
Oil on White Construction Paper. (14"x12")
The Root of it all – the beginning of my relation with Laurie – my first experience with oils. There are many hidden images in the painting, symbolizing some deep personal mysteries. A heart felt Passion.
And then a few more perspectives to indicate the dimensionality of the painting.
Realizing I had no idea what I was doing, I began taking art classes from Brad Wright after an accidental introduction. Didn't even show him my first painting – too weird – thinking he would probably laugh at me. After many lessons he finally saw it and said, "I've ruined you. You should have showed it to me before we started. "
From the beginning our lessons were bunchy – bursts followed by emptiness – probably a reluctance to embrace my quirky artistic talent. The lessons reflected my output – working frantically, then stopping in the middle of a piece – presumably had reached an impasse – didn't believe that my talent could realize my vision. This discontinous progress plagued the following painting, an assignment from my painting master. Thought I was done - never to pick up the brush again – when suddenly, for who knows what reason, in a burst of inspiration my Person finished the piece, Blew me away. Was highly skeptical of his talent. Thinking he was wasting his time. Still plagued with the delusion that he should be a scientist (went back to school a few years later to disprove the point).
Regardless the painting was a major turning point. First it established that my Person had a modicum of artistic talent, not an abundance, which deserved cultivating through manifestion. Second it established his discontinous mode of creation. We thought we were over the Art thing, when the Muse possessed us to do something remarkable. However my lack of craft denied me the possibility of easy replication. My inspiration was frustrated by my inability to recreate the same incredible effects. Decided that we just had to wait for ma Musa to tell us when.
Oil on Panel (as are all the rest). (24"x30")
A copy of a 'primitive' Bulgarian artist. Laurie is working, raking the leaves, while I hold them down. A few extensions of the original, especially in the trees.
Oil on Panel (12"x12")
This is the mask of Ngady a Mwaash, which is found at the base of the initiation wall of the Bushongo tribe in Africa. She is depicted giving birth to twins, the original man and woman. She is shown weeping in childbirth, not from labor pains, but because she foresees all the pain that will come to her creation, mainly from their own cruelty to each other. 'Life is filled with suffering.'
Oil on Panel (12"x14")
Grigsby, an old black man, was jailed at the age of 19 for the alleged rape of a white woman, which he always denied. At 90 years old he was given his release from prison in honor of Thanksgiving. Although finally given his 'freedom' after having spent more years in jail than any other American, he turns them down saying he'd rather stay in jail. A man, at peace with himself and his earthly prison. Note, however, his beaver and raven costumes, with which he escapes into the midnight air – a magician to be sure.
(Cat spray adds to the bedraggled look of Grigsby's coat.)
Oil on Panel (11"x13")
Eddie Stankey is shown in his only day as Major League Manager of the Texas Rangers. After a day on the job, he resigned saying he'd 'rather go fishing'. An 'honored' position with lots of status is turned down by this Taoist master in favor of inner peace.
Oil on Panel (20"x24")
Bur, my father, shown after his ulcer operation, shirt pulled back to reveal the scar, hair fluffed up, and growling. On the operating table he smiles and says, "Just another experience." That's my Dad. Ngady makes her reappearance.
My Person was just 27 years when he completed this painting of a photograph taken when his father was 60. He thought it was a great example of persistence through adversity. Now that the artist is 60 years old himself and has survived multiple health threats, he understands the painting on more intimate levels. The portrait of a human defiantly transitioning from middle to old age. "Whew! Survived that attack on my life. Wasn't easy. But prevailed over adversity - dealt with pain - I look Death bravely in the face and say, "You are going to win the war, but I just won this battle. And I'm proud. It wasn't easy. Entering the last third standing upright – ready and waiting for the next challenge." Had no idea in my 20s what aging was all about. Am probably still just a beginner.
After this flurry of early creations my Painter went into hibernation (8 years). Why? A quirk? Certainly children were not a factor. Hadn't been born yet. Daughter Serena actually inspired his return to the brush. Further both daughters have testified that oil painting was fun and inclusive - not resented in the slightest. So what happened?
I'm just now (22 years later) understanding the series of events that derailed my artistic expression. On external levels the artist began remodeling his home, the external walls - inside and out - lots of physical labor. This transitioned abruptly into children. Both incredible time vacuums.
However on internal levels the Artist experienced a failure of will. He embarked upon a project that was beyond his ability (or so he felt). An oil painting of Otto man of the world, (an abiding influence in our hero's life - a Zorba the Greek of the waiter world – living life to the fullest - unafriad of public opinion as he boldly stand on a nude beach - naked before the world – an image of the globe behind him - indicating his international nature.
All is well for our budding artist. Then he attempts to draw a waiter scene from his imagination. Stumbling badly. Inadequate. Then he decided to replace Otto's face with Ngady's - thought it would be cool. (Perhaps this change was actually from the fear of failure. "Won't be able to represent Otto's face accurately - People will certainly laugh at me. Will stick with Ngady - Have done her before. Must be in control."
The coup de grace – Ken Bryant, a fellow restaurant employee along with Otto of the Olive Mill Bistro of Butter on Table Seven fame, upon seeing the unfinished drawing: "You've ruined it. I want to see Otto's face." Ouch! Never picked up a pencil or brush for the next 8 years.
Why? Very busy with the external world - home construction followed by children. However that’s just an excuse. Actually Ken saw right through me, but I couldn’t see myself. The internal bears closer examination, as the effects were inadvertent due to ignorance. Understanding is a way of blunting the influence of psychology.
In brief: an emotional stumble followed and justified by a state of denial. Fear of failure - to take the leap into the abyss - out of control. Finally came face-to-face with this tendency in Maternal Love. But transcended paralysis by seriousness in Before the Fall.
Oil on Panel (12"x16")
A long hiatus from painting, 9 years. My 5-year-old daughter Serena's curiosity inspires me. Again an unintentional passion overwhelms me. I picked up a pencil to draw for Serena and three months later this painting emerged. The lines of our inner luminous eggs begin to emerge in this first family portrait. A historical painting, representing our family's first Renaissance Faire as venders, an intense experience to be sure.
Oil on Panel (12"x15")
Another historical painting representing our family's first trip to Chichinitza in the Yucatan. An ancient Mayan priest offers me a cup filled with Fire, as Daughter Miranda looks on. Will I take the Cup? I am circling in a Tai Chi movement called Push Hands.
Oil on Panel (16"x20")
The third historical painting of this momentous year – a family portrait at Tulum in the Yucatan. Here again, as in my first painting, The Womb, there are many secret figures hidden throughout this family portrait – certainly an anthropomorphic world. Additionally the inner spectral lines of our luminous eggs become more obvious.
Oil on Panel (16"x20")
My 7-year-old daughter is shown reclining on the front porch of our old house. The painting was finished after we had moved to our new house. Again the vegetation is alive and Serena's luminous lines are showing, the Empress of her own little world. Note the Shoes and the Innocence. And how about a closeup of my sweety.
My only public art exhibit was held at St. Anthony's Seminary on December 14, 1991 – due to the prodding of Eric, my marvelous youngest brother. Strangely enough although it was only a two day affair with limited response, it left a permanent residue. I framed my paintings for the exhibit and wrote up these brief descriptions of my works of art, which inspired this part of website. We never know what the smallest things will bring.
Interestingly enough I had such little respect for this world that I neither varnished, framed, or even took care of my paintings that I spent so much time to create. It is only now in 2010, nearly 40 years after painting The Womb, that I finally varnished my paintings. They look great. At the advanced age of 60 I finally care enough about my inspirations to actually attempt to protect them from Time. Although a hopeless task, it's always a worthy pursuit to reverse entropy – although inevitably doomed to failure.
Why did I allow the degeneration, including multiple damaged corners from falling unprotected, scratches, and cat pee? Lack of respect for the material. Thinking myself above the external world - I let it go. An attachment to not caring. Now in a deeper maturity I attempt to care for my creations, while not being attached. A higher state to be sure.
Oil on Panel (16"x20")
Five interlocking spirals frame Master Ni teaching a class of Tai Chi. In each of the four corners is a smaller Ni in a Tai Chi stance. However the focus is Master Ni transmitting his knowledge to others. The spectral lines of his luminous egg are obvious.
Acrylic on foam core (10"x26"x10").
This creation has to rate as one of my Person’s most bizarre creations. As of this moment (April 2010) he has never done anything vaguely similar – before or since.
What is it? Roughly speaking – a 1’ tall by 1’ wide by 2’ long sculpture of Kiersarge Pass in the Eastern Sierras, just a little north of Mount Whitney – the tallest mountain in the continental US. Made from foam core the sculpture is a topo form based on a combination of US Geological Survey maps.
Why? As usual in the life of an accidental artist one thing led to the next. Inspired by Tom McQuaid we embark on a family backpack to Onion Valley just outside of Little Pine – my wife, 2 daughters and 2 friends (2 ten year olds & 2 fifteen year olds girls). What was I thinking? Actually we were all experienced back packers due to multiple trips to Nira in the Sierra Madres.
After acclimating at 8000’ hike up to Lake Gilbert (10,000’ on the massive granite basolith (300x100 miles) known as the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range). Are greeted by friendly marmots popping from their holes to chirp at our invasion of their forest wonderland. After setting up camp discover an ancient Bristle Cone pine tree and a frigid glacial lake on a circuitous solo hike. Share with family on a day trip. Hiking in the late afternoon with wife Laurie we proceeded up, up, up a winding trial – no altitude sickness whatsoever. Fascinating and bewildering landscape for a So Cal boy – no glacial valleys where we come from.
Up to this time the dirt trail has been meandering in and out of trees, but now that we are above the timberline (about 14K’) it opens out onto the valley. Uh oh! Seeing this wide-open (over 180º) vista my Person imagines the path leading into slippery shale. “Yikes!!” His fear of heights kicks in (slipped down a mountain in my teens – burned a hole in my blue jeans (just realized this connection – April 2010)) Double yikes! “Think we better turn back. Getting late and all. For the kid’s sake. Don’t want to leave them alone.”
After luxuriating in the outdoors for a few days, which included an encounter with a raiding bear (in the National Wilderness Area animals have priority) we hiked down the steep mountain side and drove home.
Tormented by my failure of will and perplexed by the bewildering landscape I began looking at the topo map of the area shortly after arriving home – to see if I could make any sense out of the experience. Color penciled the different altitudes as a visual aid for comprehension. “Looks cool. Still can’t quite understand. Would love to see it in 3D. Hmmm? Could buildup the topo map in layers. Hmmm? Perhaps cardboard.” Wife: “No. Foam core. Can cut it easily - doesn’t warp - uniform thickness - can paint it.” And thus began a nearly year long relationship with this inanimate stuff.
Begin 2400 meter layer with ¼” foam core. Move up the mountain in 100-meter increments. As I approach Kiersarge Pass and the peaks realize need more in-between layers. Too many discontinuities for comprehension. Need more differentiation to really understand Kiersarge - the fragile pass between the peaks. Shift to 1/8” foam core about 3200 meters. Still not enough. Discover 1/16” exists. Must have. After an extensive search discover 16” foam core from SF @ $279 box. Spare no expense – all speed ahead for art.
Go for it. Lost in the nearly automatic process now. To center the 20-meter layers I use my fingers. Ahhh! Feels so cool. My fingers crave the feel; my palm wants to touch this mammoth basolith. Proceed back down the mountain – shaving layer by layer to insert the rest of the 20-meter layers that were skipped previously. Six months later I snap out of the frenzy.
Still don’t fully understand the rock formations. Do research. Write my What is a Mountain? book – includes findings and motivations behind this weird obsession. Return to Kiersarge 2 summers after the original scare to face my fears – accompanied by youngest daughter 12-year-old Miranda, 43-year-old wife Laurie, and Leo our insane Jack Russell puppy. Armed with understanding and two walking sticks for stability make it up to the Pass with the whole pack – conquering fear. Whoa! Such a frenzy. What a rush! And the incredible residue: a mini mountain, a book and a marvelous memory.
Multiple perspectives of this unusual sculpture.
Strangely enough this unusual project was bookended by my next painting, “My Three Women: Before the Fall”.
Oil on Panel (12"x16")
One of my favorites. The love of daughters and mother is obvious due to the group hug, which is augmented by the bench that envelops them and the vegetation that encloses them. Love the circling lines, the integrated colors, the intimacy and the spontaneity of the vision. Note the pot of fire at the lower right – coals glowing with potential. The girls are pre-puberty – still living at home, still engrossed in the life of the nuclear family – hence before the fall into boys, ambition, adulthood and ultimately leaving home – with the pain of separation that this entails.
Also had an artistic-psychological breakthrough in the process of painting. Began this project in 1995. Finished the drawing; began the painting – just some vegetation in the upper right; and then came to an abrupt halt. Felt inadequate to complete the painting. Somewhat same reasons for stopping the Otto painting way back in 1977. Busy with other things, combined with the fear that my technical abilities would get in the way of the realization of my vision. In the meantime began and finished the mammoth, but mechanical, Kiersarge project combined with the What is a Mountain? book. Wasn’t sure if I would ever return – still paralyzed by my supposed lack my talent.
Then in 1999, after my Muse impelled me to mix some paints, came to the understanding that I was too serious – wanted to be in charge. For fun must allow the painting to be what it needs to be rather than attempt to control the creative process. Let my vision lead the execution rather than vice versa. Get the ball rolling with a good drawing, then stand back and allow the palette do the rest. For instance: draw the problematic clothes to establish the limited realism and then employ the color to augment the vision. Let go of reality as a goal; instead make beauty the purpose.
Laurie’s green sweater suggests sweater, but is not like any sweater anyone has ever seen. But the lines are flowing and pleasing and the colors are integrated due to the grays of the Renaissance palette (learned from Brad Wright, my only art teacher). Strangely enough this painting taught me to focus on art and let go of realism. (My wife laughs because my earlier paintings are hardly what one would call realistic.) The lesson: Don't be so serious and have fun.
Despite this realization it took me a full decade before picking up the pencil and brush again. This time due to the ambition of the 50s – write, edit and finish a restaurant trilogy – attempt to get it published – set up a website to promote my writings – have a psycho-physical breakdown – maybe never again – recover – and then finally I lay the following egg – to show my contentment and recuperation. Hooray, hoorah!
Oil on Panel (12"x9") – my smallest painting to date.
An even longer hiatus from oil painting – over 10 years this time. Talk about bunchy. Accidental as well. The artist attempted a drawing of his daughters as a Xmas present to them. Frustrated with his execution he immediately shifted to the painting instead.
Re The Philosophy behind Maternal Love:
One theory of art holds that the evaluation of beauty is determined in part by the ability of the work of art to reflect the personal philosophy of the viewer and/or the creator. For instance photo-realism leaves me cold, for I live in a magical reality filled with spirits and meaning – not a technically perfect 3D world. What is the philosophy represented by Maternal Love?
First and foremost it is an expression of the deep love between mother and daughters which is independent of culture. This affection is expressed in a multitude of ways – 1) the expression of joy on their faces – 2) the figures are inclined towards one another in a group hug– 3) the 3 are so tightly intertwined that there are only two arms – and 4) the shadow of the group has only one head.
This love stands in direct opposition to the murder and mayhem that humanity seems obsessed with. No valiant acts of bravery in senseless battles orchestrated by the military aristocracy. Just love. Further this mutual love has nurtured 3 powerful women – exhibited by their confident and independent postures. Although joined at the hips, the three are free to conquer their respective domains – as they are regularly nourished from this fount of love and affection. Although a widespread and powerful emotion there are not many artistic representations of this important quality. Perhaps women haven’t been important enough on our patriarchal planet. Artists have instead reflected men’s issues, i.e. the glory of war, the power of the aristocracy, the mythology of hierarchical religions. It was only in the last century that couple love or just pure beauty unassociated with content was also represented.
More philosophy: Note the flat background. The artist was deliberately creating ‘wall paper’ – a background for his mother/daughter merger. This is his way of destroying the space-time continuum, which he considers an illusion. The only reality is relationship. Love is dimensionless.
And some Jung: Note 1) the floating rock on the right – a symbol of integration and wholeness, 2) the wood creatures – an indication of the anthropomorphic nature of existence, 3) the river winding off into horizon – the concept of an unknown event horizon. The river could take us anywhere & 4) Serena's wild hair - symbol of spontaneity. Note also the kaleidoscope of colors (only 10 paint tubes for the entire picture) – a symbol that everyone can get along harmoniously despite incredible diversity.
A closer look at my loving ladies. And their beautiful faces