At the Maryland Institute College of Art, I studied painting with the late Ed Dugmore and came under the influence Nolde, Munch, Bacon, Kollwitz and Ernst. My work at that time was dark and moody, with figurative elements half-buried in the space and emerging to the surface in ambiguous ways. Sometimes the surface was well-worked, the layering of color inciting surprise as images rose to the surface and darted away again.
I think in images. To present images in a more definite space, putting the psychology of emotion under the light, I improvise in a spontaneous vein. I�m led around by the brush in an automatic way that allows for sensitivity. Subsequent decisions are then made from practice and experience. Executed pre-meditated meaning makes lifeless art�no improvisation, no process.
The meaning in my work is the poetry between image and space�implied rather than overt, human psychology, painted. The mental landscape is abstract and can be felt. The figurative elements are elements I start with in a painting. The space is improvised.
In my drawings, I make figures in a space suited to them. Using the figurative head in an abstract space focuses the relationship between the figurative and abstract elements and lets the viewer experience the psychology of the human figure. To connect the head to its surroundings, I add wires, tacks, viaducts, tubes, railroad tracks, stitches, etc. to establish the psychological relationship between head and space. One critic described this work (as shown in my three books, FLYTRAP, HEADS, and PRISONER'S DILEMMA), "mysterious, subtly erotic; the graphic equivalent of black humor."
Lately I’ve begun to merge the figurative with the abstract in my work. Miles Davis’ jazz fusion, Turner’s mature work of storms, fire and vague buildings in the background, Picasso’s Les Demoiselles ’d Avignon, Kandinsky’s improvisations, Gorky’s subliminal imagery combined with lyrical color, DeKooning with his women’s series –all used figuration and abstraction, and serve as my models. Themes of pursuing vision—trying to see what blocks understanding; entrapment; relationships between people -- are all subjects for my work, and lend themselves to oil paint because it has fluidity. Since it doesn’t dry too fast, I can go from one space to another, one shape to another, and that allows me to show a metamorphosis from space to image, tracking my thought processes.
Science interests me, its controlled randomness -- like the somewhat unpredictable trajectory of an electron or the element of chance in natural selection, or a Degas where the figures (dancers) are arranged in what seems to be a sort of randomness, but the composition is still very much controlled. There is some chance in my drawings when I put white acrylic over grey chalk and charcoal and end up in a fit of pique, slashing the white with more charcoal and finish up with a texture and a degree of dark- light that works well with the whole drawing. That moment of chance is stored as experience.
Music inspires me – Hendrix, Miles Davis, Waits, classical music. Music creates an environment that allows an image to pop into my head. It's not a completely formed image. I don't want it to be. I want something spontaneous to happen when I start to draw or paint. After losing and getting back the drawing many times, and developing the space, I can recapture the original image. German Expressionists like Gorky, Max Ernst, Schiele, Bacon, and most especially Munch have influenced my work greatly. I'm not completely an expressionist, though. There's objectivity and logic and subjectivity in the space I create, and some realism in the image, usually a head. So I'm not entirely self-indulgent and personal!
In all my art, I aim to provoke thought in both the viewer and myself.