| 'Berkeley' 2002
Regarding Form and Perception
We see our external world horizontally yet our relationship with the universe is vertical. It is a fundamental response to the complexities of visual experience. Our evolution as a species required that we have two eyes placed side by side on our face as a means of scanning the landscape for potential food and detection of predators. This is how we absorb our surroundings and it is a key to our survival.
So I have included this peripheral vision in my paintings via the narrow landscape format. Upon viewing, the eye moves horizontally back and forth through undulations of light and dark space. Also included is a vertical awareness of earth to sky, presented in the paintings as vertical brush strokes. As the eye moves through these color landscapes, the brain picks up identity through specific selections of color based on a theme.
The important thing to remember about the color selections is that no two colors are exactly the same, just like the infinite diversity of life. I have also included extreme lights and darks to represent the full value scale inherent in the bright sun and deepest shadows. And so the spectrum paintings are ultimately translating the visual experience of our environment through the combination of undulating space and color identity. The result is a glowing color landscape, optically breathing with the life force of each unique concept.
The process of Spectrum Painting has been compared to a scientific experiment. The method being the creation of a painting based on a theme representative of current events or concepts, and the observation of the reaction generated by the test subject(the Viewer). The selected theme is researched through observation of found images on the internet or photos taken by the artist, and the recreation of the colors, forms and emotional resonances of these images in an abstract format.
As an example, for the show entitled ‘Euphoria,’ I chose the title ‘Skinny Dip’ for a painting because I was fascinated by the feeling of being naked in the water. I was interested in how it is a completely natural connection to the earth, and a recreation of birth, yet somehow taboo or sexually titillating. When I entered the word on an internet search engine and clicked ‘images,’ everything from photos of people skinny dipping to film stills, to ice cream to fashion, to a photo of a politician involved in a scandal appeared. So as I observe these somewhat random images I choose not only colors but spacial values, tones and even energy signatures for the creation of a painting.
When I begin the work, I will print out select images that represent the color and feel of the theme and interpret these plus what I’ve seen and held in my memory into a spontaneous composition of color and space. I have found that this produces a translation of the original theme in an abstract format that can generate an emotional response from the viewer. This spontaneous spectrogram triggers the part of brain that uses specific colors, tonality and space to identify the event or concept and evoke a familiar acknowledgment of that theme. Because the representation is abstracted in an optical undulation it suggests a changing definition of that concept in the living, evolving world.
Natural Selection - Choosing a Theme
Is there such a thing as collective consciousness? I do believe there is, now more than ever, with the evolution of the ubiquitous internet. It began with radio, then television, and now the smart phone which carries that collective voice with us wherever we go. The real question is: who controls the information provided and for what purpose is it provided? Is this information reliable?
So the driving force of theme selection for the spectrum paintings is relative truth in the vast sea of the information age. I select certain events or concepts from popular culture or scientific discovery that act as metaphors for this collective consciousness. My purpose is to present these relative truths for your contemplation and analysis to provide a deeper understanding of what drives our motivations. The following are themes for past series of spectrum paintings and some examples of paintings that illustrate the metaphors they are based on.
Much of our collective identity is typified by the projection of outside information onto us. Some of the sources of that information are misleading or distorted based on the agenda of the parties controlling it. One of the most far-reaching sources of this type are television news broadcasts. So I used these colors and the formula with which they are applied to create ‘6’oclock News’. Similarly, ‘State of the Union’ is taken from a televised state of the union address, after the events of September 11th, foreshadowing America’s retaliation. ‘Currency’ is based on the literal color of a dollar bill and the thrill it gives us when we see the color of money. ‘Self portrait’ is just that, a sampling of the color of my skin and hair, arranged in a composition matching the barcode taken from the back of my driver’s license.
'6 O'Clock News' 'State of the Union' 'Currency' 'Self Portrait'
As technology progresses I am fascinated with our changing relationship to the planet and how time alters our perception of our place on the earth. For this series I chose certain events that represented marks in time that described this evolution of perception. The painting ‘13 Billion Years’ arose from the discovery of photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope which show young galaxies forming after the birth of our universe captured by the long distance lens that looks 13 billion years back into time. For ‘Excavation: Tel Dor’ I chose colors from photos of an archaeological dig in Israel that I participated in. The layers of soil, sandstone, ruins, pottery shards and other artifacts describe the layering of cultures and their changing motivations and technology.
'13 Billion Years' 'Excavation: Tel Dor'
The war in Iraq became a war of language used to manipulate the American public into support for an invasion for the purpose of controlling middle east oil resources. The evening news used terms like ‘smart’ bombs and ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction.’ I used this irony in the painting ‘Patriot Missile’ with a composition based on an actual color scheme of a patriot missile. This title also represented the current administration and news media’s co-opting of patriotism as a weapon to brainwash American opinion. Also in this series was the painting ‘Mesopotamia’ whose colors were taken from the artifacts stolen from Iraqi museums during the war. ‘Civilian’ and ‘Refugee’ used colors sampled from the traditional clothing of the Iraqi people. The damage to Iraqi culture and civilians was rarely mentioned during the media’s assault on American minds.
'Patriot Missile' 'Mesopotamia'
As it is becoming more and more difficult to deny the impact the human race is having on the planet we are exposed to an increased frequency of natural disasters. They are a symbol of impermanence in both our physical world and our collective ideologies. These world-wide events represent an inevitability of change and malleability. Humanity as part of the natural evolution of the planet is now issued the task of using the very thing that made us prolific (our intelligence) to control our impact on the Earth. So I chose, and sometimes even predicted major events in the changing global environment. The day before the devastating tsunami in Indonesia of 2004, I painted ‘Pulse’, based on the force of a title wave. ‘Blaze’ predicted the fires in LA later that year. Also in this series, were ‘Twister’ and ‘Flood’ referencing the violent and murky colors of hurricane Katrina.
'Pulse' 'Blaze' 'Flood'
There is a beauty in the cycle of life and death and I wanted to reinforce the idea that decomposition are not negative concepts to be feared but the natural path of existence. So I sought out these elemental states of consciousness in order to acknowledge their importance in accepting the inevitability of time. One example is the beautiful colors of rust generated by the dramatic change in energy shown in the paintings ‘Corrosion’ and ‘Decomposition’. Once again referencing the changing atmosphere of global warming I produced ‘Rising Tide’ and ‘Glacier’. Addressing this transference of energy in the metaphysical context of human consciousness I created the more ambiguous ‘Vision Quest’.
'Corrosion' 'Decomposition' 'Rising Tide'
'Glacier' 'Vision Quest'
Endangered Species (2007)
To continue this celebration of change and diversity, I selected plants and animals from the endangered species list to create the next series of paintings. The objective was not to mourn the loss of species but to rejoice in the growing awareness of diversity and climate change. To celebrate the colors of the ‘Thick-Billed Parrot’ or the ‘Florida Panther’ was a great uplifting experience of living in such a lush forest. Included in these works such as ‘Eastern Indigo Snake’ are the natural habitat of grass, sky and water as well as the colors of their fur, feathers and eyes.
'Thick-Billed Parrot' 'Florida Panther' 'Eastern Indigo Snake'
Revisiting the concept of collective consciousness I began to focus in on American pop culture and mass media’s obsession with it. In order to keep television ratings high and consumer culture sales booming, we saw the proliferation of so-called reality TV, or more appropriately shock and awe candy. So as I became more fascinated with this staged reality I painted the paintings ‘American Idol’ and ‘Survivor’, using the very specific and hypnotic colors of these TV shows. This obsession with titillation continued with the electric colors of ‘Casino’, the sensual candy of ‘Paris Hilton’s Lipstick’ and ‘Britney Spears’ Perfume’, and ‘Broadway’, which was sampled from the colors of the bright lights and advertisements of New York’s Broadway Ave.
'American Idol' 'Survivor' 'Casino' 'Broadway'
'Paris Hilton's Lipstick' 'Britney Spears' Perfume'
Leisure Quest (2010-2011)
The concept of leisure seems to be present in everyone’s consciousness, from the weekend warrior to the leisure class. The idea of working for the weekend or placing a value on leisure drove this series of work, as I selected symbols, locations or items of leisure that represented the great lengths we go through to attain free time. So for the painting ‘Vacation’ I chose colors and atmospheres from a variety of beach photographs, as I chose specific colors and feelings of resort destinations for ‘Resort’. I wanted to capture the smells and tastes of ‘Happy Hour’ from the colors of cocktails, dim lighting and bright spirits.
'Vacation' 'Resort' 'Happy Hour'
In further exploring the concepts pleasure and exhilaration I found many sources of what drives human desire. I tried to capture those things both neutral and naughty that sparked that unquenchable human curiosity and made us compulsively search deeper. I chose photos from both Brazil’s and San Francisco’s parades for the painting ‘Carnival’ which celebrates naked beauty and fertility of life. For ‘Skinny Dip’ I wanted to capture the euphoric feeling of swimming naked, a direct connection to nature yet a cultural taboo. With ‘Boudoir’ the secret setting of the personal sexy space, private yet inviting.
'Carnival' 'Skinny Dip' 'Boudoir'
Speed of Light (2014)
For this series of paintings I want to explore the human fascination with speed. Everything from concepts of rush hour to broadband plays on our mind and sets our rhythm every day. Our actions are guided by the need for speed wether planning freeway travel time depending on rush hour or buying a faster car for the thrill of it. I see it as an inevitable part of our evolution as a high tech and highly motivated people. Fluctuations of time and speed drive the pulse of everyday life. We flow like molecules of water in a stream of energy, accelerating around obstacles towards our goals with great fervor. As a planet we speed toward the stars. As a race our destination is unknown.
'Broadband' 'Night Driver' 'Time Machine"
It seems voyeurism is a part of every day life. From instant feeds of images and world events to personal explorations and obsessions, stimuli is readily available for us to soothe and titilate our curiousity. The need to know and understand is a force that is strong in us and effects our judgement with every new thread of information. As we navigate the sensual environment there is an undercurrent of desire and motivation driven by the fruit of knowledge. The question becomes then, what is important to us? What are those things that capture our imagination and are so compelling that we cannot divert our eyes. By understanding what captivates us we can see into our future and free the path of our dreams.
'Crush' 'Broadcast' 'Spectacle'
In a progression from the patterned aesthetic of the spectrum paintings, the junk mail and wrapping paper collages are color translations of our every day consumer experience. By combining a plethora of sales imagery into an illusionistic pattern, the original message is de-powered, and instead is an abstract code of our consumer culture with its own strange and chaotic beauty. The profuse advertisements that are delivered directly to the home become a never ending free art material which invades our personal space and consciousness. This fodder of numbers, faces and dollar signs draws us in to a fundamental desire of consumption, while commenting on the ephemeral moods of current economics. Hovering from beast to beauty, this work exudes the tension and release of the modern human experience in a commercial society.
'Ocean of Abundance' 'Enchanted Forest' 'Love Supreme'
A Metaphor for Ideology?
Constantly subject to perceptual distortion, the brain compensates with preexisting ideals. Perception is fluid and therefore even these ideals upon which we heavily depend are distorted. Spectrum paintings are a sample of this perceptual nuance, a reminder that our concept of reality is subject to relativity. The shifting perception of the passages of life confirm impermanence and upset the idea of a solid moral foundation which we project onto everything.
In the 2004 series I have used natural disasters as a metaphor for this impermanence. A phenomenon beyond our control, the physical instability of earth and life resembles the fragility of an ideal. Perhaps the biggest distortion we are exposed to is ideology. Through the illusion of mass media the ideal is presented for our consumption. Full of misinformation and hidden desires we are mis-educated by those with something to gain. A democracy is only as good and thorough as its education. The illusion is everywhere and creeping into our subconscious. We are so unaware of this technological hyper-distortion that it becomes reality.
The attraction of an illusionist reality is generated by the need for a comfortable bliss. So what happens if this reality is exposed as an illusion? We must deal with the possibility that all we know is distorted, and re-evaluate our comfort zone. The more aware we are of an illusion the better equipped we are to perceive the world as a distortion. This can be difficult but quite liberating. Realizing this view of the universe empowers us to grasp a new visual paradigm, opening the way for a new understanding of perception.
A PLACE IN HISTORY
Over the years of modernist painting, artists have declared painting dead or revived as it suits their place in a linear history of abstraction. Abstract painting can be described as the funneling of visual interpretation into a quest for conceptual essence. Since Rodchenko’s monochromes and Malevich’s squares the Pandora’s box of minimalism is open to any who choose to take on the monumental task of revival. I declare painting neither dead nor revived but rather exploded or expanded in a four dimensional model, much like the birth of the universe.
So if this is the case then the question becomes: how do we grasp where these conceptual abstractions land in contemporary discussion? If painting dies only to be resurrected then why do it at all? Because painting never seems to go away even when we’ve written great treatises on why no one can make meaningful paintings ever again. Painting then, has its own life greater than the sum of words, and I have found a way to explode painting, or better, collapse the viewer’s perception of it. The effect is ultimately to disorient the visual-conceptual experience while at the same time stimulate a sense of passion for the unknown.
Spectrum Painting has as much to do with diversity as it does with being a perceptual practical joke, but the end result is a place that no one can reach or avoid. The pulsations of glowing light contrasted with dark disappearing depths never allow our eyes to fix or focus, reminding us that our perceptions are ultimately suspect. The experience can be soothing and even pleasing while at the same time disorienting, frustrating and foreboding. These visual puzzles allow no resolution, and can even be said to exist outside the realm of painting as experiments to sample the response of a random subject. In any event, the viewer is helplessly drawn to the hypnotic journey, forced to embrace the possibility that all is not how we see it.
One of the most travelled themes in the history of art is the examination of the forces which create the relationship between human and environment. Many have thrown ideas into the pot to try and boil down the vast amount of stimuli to find a profound fundamental experience. At a time when Albert Einstein was developing his Theory of Relativity and a possible unified equation to the universe, artists were investigating what would become a new visual paradigm.
It was the colorist Delacroix and Pre-Impressionist Turner who dissected the visual science in order to view the complexities of color and light. As the Impressionists and Fauvists continued this work, artists like Degas and Van Gough would develop it into a language of expression and movement. As the 20th century unfolded, abstractionists took over the job of deconstructing the essence of form and color, as evident in the Constructivist movement in Russia, where simple shapes could symbolize political movements and even the hopes and dreams of a utopian future.
These lofty ideals eventually translated into the industrial critique of the minimalists as an extension of the more humanist approaches of Rothko and Diebenkorn. Minimalism was later stretched into the abstract perceptualism of the west coast ‘cool school’ of Robert Irwin and James Turrell. At the time east coast Op artists like Bridget Riley and systematic conceptualist Sol LeWitt pushed the form and function of patterned abstraction.
This connection to an exploration of visual fundamentalism and the power of the filter through which we view our world is what drives my work. Spectrum Painting is both filter and reality, as much as we hope to know it through culturally distorted perceptions. They are a translation of real events, significant influences and political currents, broken down to a hum or glow of secret metaphysical machinery at work, controlling the destiny of our turbulent planet. They are reminders not only of furious inevitability but of the malleability of the translation itself, reasserting control to the viewer and ultimately the individual.