I am interested in narrative invention and how the mind reflects back on itself through the stories we make up. I think of narrative painting as a way of travelling through spaces where events can happen and rise to a level of ideation. Telling layered visual stories that probe our cultural fishbowl through the lens of my own psyche, while also allowing for pathways that take the mind’s eye into places beyond: that is what keeps me running to the studio every morning. I was brought up on stories-- of martyred saints and a man who died for my sins-- so storytelling was edifying and eventful for me, heady stuff. But against the backdrop of the 60s revolution, that Catholic orthodoxy I was spoonfed for 12 years in parochial schools collided with “question authority” bumper stickers, and I turned to art in order to probe the invisible mysteries I kept butting up against. I couldn’t make those statues in Our Lady of Loretto church move through miracles, much as I tried, but I could bring them to life in my own make-believe play. So, distrust of cant along with the desire to see more deeply, to penetrate foggy spaces-- these vectors have defined my life and art.
I grew up in the West, so am inclined towards mighty spaces. Thomas Cole and Albert Bierstadt’s grand landscapes make perfect sense to me. Our family’s version of a cheap vacation was camping in gorgeous National Parks such as Yosemite and Lassen. Like Cole, the places we visited got us as close to god as we could possibly imagine being. At the same time, they represented what we had lost.
My recent work is focused on making sense of the world around me after calamities such as Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. We are slowly making our world unlivable, and I want to find imagery to describe the destructive action, waste, and contamination that is generally invisible to us. I paint to imagine alternatives, mountains and seas that remind us of the 2016 refugee crisis, shanty towns made out of old mattresses and appliances, or characters outfitted with tools for clean up, to envision how we might remake the world as it is slowly falling apart.
I have always been up for a good journey and that is what painting offers me. Like the game Chutes and Ladders, its basic thrust constituting an adventure of rising and falling repeatedly, my work allows the eye to meander: climb mountains, cross rivers and fall down cataracts, get lost in thickets singed by forest fires, pass warning signs and control towers that speak, in smoke signals, to our great distress; but if I'm lucky I will find a pattern within all those elements, one that speaks to a kind of intricate design capable of knitting together a new story for me.