On Depicting Objects
I am making non-objective paintings again after years of using objects as compositional devices in sparse paintings. In those earlier pieces, I placed a single object against an ambiguous space, defined loosely by a basic line for a horizon. These compositions reminded me of musical compositions and how placing a single note in the right spot can make or break a piece. So I decided to trade concrete things like chairs and shoes for fields of color and explore how these fields interact with shapes to keep the focus on composition, mark making, rhythms, and the marking of time.
My new work is largely indebted to composers who have been categorized as minimalists. Like minimalists in the visual arts, these composers have created deep, complex works through what may seem to be very simplistic means. Like these musicians, I am just as interested in what is left out of a work as what is included. Composers like Morton Feldman, David Lang, György Ligeti, Steve Reich, and Brian Eno influence my work equally if not more than visual artists.
I often use song lyrics that I find interesting when naming a piece, and I keep a list of phrases and songlines for future use. While the naming usually comes when the piece is almost done or completely finished, I always reflect on the composer in mind right from the beginning. This helps me structure the work, and I often include the composer’s name in the title for a frame of reference. None of these works are invocative of a single piece of music. They reflect a more general understanding of a composer’s work, though they may be reflective of a certain period.
I feel most comfortable painting human sized, generally between 5 to 8 feet. This size is not meant to overwhelm, but as Rothko said, to create an intimacy with the viewer. My intention is that the work be big enough to capture attention while inviting the viewer to get closer and start a personal dialogue with the piece. I equate the size I use to a contemporary musical composition of about 10 minutes—long enough to develop thoroughly but short enough to fit on a program of more established concert pieces. I do make some very small pieces, etudes, that act as trials for larger ideas.