To what can you trace your early interest in art?
I am left-handed. This genetic trait has forced the world to be viewed differently… the left way. However this puts me in the upper (or is it lower) 10% of humanity that is labeled “creative” and “artistic”. A byproduct of early childhood art skills was the ability to “draw” the alphabet and pass third grade perfunctorily without getting my knuckles rapped weekly with a steel-edged wooden ruler by my elementary public school teacher, Mrs. Romero. I had to hide my left-handedness with my upper body crouched over my arm to disguise my distorted hooked left wrist. Later the hooked wrist procedure evolved into a drawing skill that became my form of expression. It was the first thing I showed ability at. Praise came from teachers, parents and other kids for my crude cartoons and basic drawing ability.
Although I scraped by the third grade, objects and doorknobs were still placed on the wrong side by some unknown dictator. My body was continuously bruised from trying to negotiate unsympathetic spatial relationships. I had yet to come to terms with the right-handed totalitarian world. I constantly sight verticals and horizontals with my eyes. This is to make sure buildings, walls, and openings are not off kilter. In addition, this allows for imaginary framing and cropping of mind pictures. I like things plumb, even in my imagination. Oddly though, the objects I am most attracted to are skewed. Why? Seemingly, this is because those objects stand out and are exaggerated for their angular dynamics. Maybe I like them because they are disturbing. The angles become directional devices always useful in meaning and composition and many times implying motion.
In my previous professional life I was trained to make measurements with sight and not a tape measure. Distance and perspective are important visual elements for my work. What is far and what is near? Foreground, mid-ground, and background all contribute to the drama of the image especially when they become flattened out. It is the process of turning physical perspective inside out that is compelling and visually interesting.
My images need to be marked…. like a dog marking his territory. I need to own that space and seek dominance over it. I dislike staying inside restrictive regimented lines. My marks are strong and expressionistic, and gouge the surface. They show construction and exploration of space and proportion with a desired ambiguity and motion between subject and background. These final marks become scars on the surface that are remnants of healed wounds…the scars that make us who we are.
What do you want the viewer to take away after they have seen your work?
My work draws from the richness and struggles of blue collar America with topographical and historical references. Still I can’t expect an audience to always understand the abstractions. What I hope for is that the viewer will look momentarily without preconceptions at the images and question the shapes, marks and color and respond on a gut level. If the viewer can at least ask intuitive questions, it all works.
You say you seek out the underbelly as inspiration for your work; Why is that?
I carve into the painting with chisels and razor blades to accentuate the surfaces and provide patina and "age". This process is basically "scarring" the painting... much like life. The sites that I paint have those scars as well, because of history and culture complete with racial conflicts, politics and religion, crime, unbridled development and environmental concerns. These paintings don't come easily to me and at some point the paint takes over the intent. It is a struggle, but as the paintings start to take shape, it is a really euphoric feeling.