I seem to move through the world as if I am a character in a novel. Being an artist teaches one that there is always another canvas to paint.
I tend to work in series. Often a theme or direction evolves from another series or it will come about as a reference to an experience or place.
The County Road series titles are not to be taken literally, while they may take their cues from names of Wisconsin roads, they are really metaphors for the paths I have traveled these many years as a painter.
Roads lead to destinations; some go through small towns and pass farmers fields, woodlots and lakes. Some roads are made of dirt; seashells or maybe gravel, most macadam and many are concrete. The roads I have traveled throughout my life have been filled with joy and disappointment, therefore the crucial question to me has always been, and does the road have a heart?" If it does not, then I have abandoned it. It is not an easy thing to do, often times it has been with fear, regret or reluctance, but always with the faith that there is an opportunity for discovery.
The Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz said; "If the road goes in, it must come out, and as the Emerald City is on the other end of the road, we must go wherever it leads us."
With the paintings titled County Road Y it is the Y that is significant. The letter Y is a symbol for a fork in the road and the question I have always had to ask myself, "Which way shall I take?"
The Center Avenue paintings began in 2007 and were the breakthrough paintings that I had been seeking for a long time. They leave the planned application of rules behind. They are my dance on a linen land of white lead and dreams that explode quickly without thinking of the steps. No choreography, just moving to my own rhythm. I have re-found my center.
My paintings are often called abstractions, they are not. They are the non-objective landscapes of my inner being, my attempt to move into a greater reality. Bodidharma, the bringer of Zen to China from India said, "Using the mind to look for reality is delusion. Not using the mind to look for reality is awareness. Freeing oneself from words is liberation."
The series of paintings titled "In the Garden of Eden" represents the biblical garden. Joseph Campbell referred to Garden as the place of the historical rejection of the Mother Goddess. He wrote, "Our fall in the Garden sees nature as corrupt, and that myth corrupts the whole world for us. Every spontaneous act is seen as sinful and must not be yield to."
Swami Vivekananda wrote, "Our recovery is possible only by reestablishing contact with our true self."
The "Rusted Heart series of paintings are about lost relationships. These works were challenging because they were about personal endings. There was a rawness about them, a sense of loss and remorse that hit home. Personal work is different than the influence of nature. In this series the dancing movements of my brush and my spirit were critical to the success of the paintings. They required splatters and drips, and most importantly the broken forms of broken dreams and broken hearts.
The series of paintings that followed were entitled Gail's Garden and came a week after I spent the day at the Chicago Botanical Gardens. These paintings appeared to be brighter and painted with a new palette of colors. There was no angst in the work, just joy and beauty. The surfaces less intense, the brush stroke calmer and more certain.
So in 2011 off to Ireland I went. I was appointed artist-in-Residence at the Burren College of Art. I had a good studio in a landscape of mystical beauty. A new series quickly emerged, how could it not? The Burren, Galway Bay and the fishing village of Ballyvaughan inspired 11 oil paintings, 4 drawings and a sketchbook filled with watercolors. I returned to my Jefferson studio with the Irish landscape flowing through me. When I returned to my Wisconsin studio I continued to be influenced by my Irish experience, and for a long time the Burren occupied my mind and heart.
My friend Deane Nesbitt, a gifted painter himself, and someone who has spent a great deal of time in Western Ireland wrote recently about the latest incarnation of my new works based of the Flaggey Shore, a magical spot overlooking Galway Bay.
"This painting is such a beautifully unified blend of power and riveting subtlety. It evokes nostalgia and the memory of place in a way that Seamus Heaney would celebrate. I think it would stir a yearning and nostalgia even in people who have never been there. If the painting arrived at the place it did with no conscious initial intention of going there it could not be more convincing if those intentions had driven the work."
The Burren paintings are inspired by the landscape of Western Ireland. I stayed in a quaint fishing village for four months where I painted every day. In Ballyvaughan and the Burren mountains my eyes focused on the beauty of the place. In such an overwhelming spot of beauty I consumed the vastness of the hills, valley and sea. When I came home I brought with me 11 oil paintings, a sketchbook filled with watercolors and 4 drawings. More importantly, my internal suitcase contained the spirit of the place. And that spirt continues to inspire me .
The stormy weather and rain over the mountain of the painting entitled Burren #00, (First of the Burren paintings that began the series in January of 2011) was captured by swiftly moving brush strokes created through the fast dancing movement of my hand that held a cheap 4" house painting brush saturated with oil and color. I prefer house painters brushes from the hardware store to the expensive artists brushes. I don't give a damn about them which enables me to slash and bend the bristles to the force of my energy. The grayness of the far off mountains caught in the haze of a downpour needed to be subdued and appear distant, and a squeegee was drawn across it's surface to blur the rocky cliffs. The mustard colored pigment represented winter grass blowing in the wind.
In this painting I was taken with the evening sun going down on Galway Bay. In the foreground is a lone tree growing out of the rocky surface on the shoreline. The paint surface is thicker and applied with large brushes and a silk screen squeegee. I enjoy moving and blending paint with unconventional tools. The colors are forced together without conscious thought or control. For me control is arrogant. I look at my approach to painting as opening myself to forces of creativity that are caught rather than conceived by me. I'm a conduit of sorts. I don't stand before a subject and copy it. I breath it in, consume it and let it flow out of me onto canvas. My paintings are a gift from the Universe. What comes through me and appears in this world has never been seen before.
The summer of 2012 was so hot that at night I'd sleep outside on the hammock on my roof. It was on one of those occasions that a new series revealed itself. The view of the surrounding countryside and the light of that moment when the sun begins to disappear and long shadows appear reveled a new source of inspiration. I call these paintings "View From My Studio Rooftop" The more recent of these are influenced by the morning light of Jefferson County and the afternoon sun reflecting off the Rock and Crawfish Rivers.
In early 2013 an angel appeared in one of these landscapes. It caught me by surprise. At first I wasn't sure what the form was. I knew it was not of the land, but roaming over the land. Why I thought? Much like the dragonfly that appeared in a painting I'd done in 2010 I was unable to destroy the image. I have concluded these angels are not female or male they are both. They are not human, yet they are similar. As if they are warriors or celebrants they carry banners with them. They are in my landscape. For how long I dont know.
I returned to Ireland in 2014. I continue to be inspired by the Irish landscape. Counties Clare, Galway, Sligo and Donegal may always influence my work.
Most recently I have been drawn to the landscape of South Dakota. In several ways it reminds me of the Irish landscape,. But it holds more trees and has expansive vistas.