I have been an artist since 1964. During most of this time I was also a Professor of Sociology at California State University, Fullerton. My occupation greatly influenced how I see the world as an artist and how I present art. Sociologists must be able to analyze and explain the world as observers who are not totally immersed in their cultures. They do not accept institutions and cultural beliefs at face value. This has helped me to avoid fads and fashions in art and to have my own approach to art.
Although I was born and raised in New York City, I also spent many Summers in rural New York State. Consequently, I have a strong attraction to both rural and urban places. Both environments can be seen as landscapes with unique features.
For reasons unknown to me, I have always had a fascination with Australia. Consequently, I have visited Australia several times since 1973 and have observed European - Australian society and Aborigine culture. I saw several shows featuring Aboriginal art and traveled extensively through the Australian outback where I came to appreciate this unique natural environment and it's species. I also observed some of the devastating effects which urbanization has had on native Australian plants and animals.
I have been living in Southern California for 40 years and I am interested in how the city and the desert interact and often conflict as environments. Many of my paintings fantasize about how desert species and urban structures might combine and mutate into weird forms.
ARNHEM LAND TO SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: NATURE AND THE CITY
Aboriginal Australian art dates from 30 to 40 thousand BC, and was amazingly abstract long before European art. However, it was not considered art until recently, and is only now becoming widely appreciated. Arnhem Land is one of the centers of Aboriginal culture in Australia. There, and elsewhere in Australia, Aborigines have lived almost as one with their natural environment. Their culture is symbolic of humans and nature living in a balanced relationship.
Many of the paintings, drawings and constructions in this show use some of the ideas and techniques employed by Aborigines, but the religious, philosophical and mythological meanings which Aborigines rely on in creating art are not intended in my art works. The goal is to interpret my own environmental experiences and observations by using Aborigine symbols such as lines, dots, and earth colors. I also alter some of their symbols and add my own interpretations. For instance, I use large dots, repetitious line patterns which I favor, and modern color combinations. All of the art in this show has at least one feature in common with Aborigine art - a respect and appreciation of nature.
I am attracted to the macrostructure of cities -- to the shapes of buildings, and urban skylines as landscapes. In this show, I fantasize about how Aborigines might paint a skyscraper or a cityscape.
Although most people do not view the desert in Southern California as a place of beauty or interest, it has unique animal and plant species perfectly adapted to it. Perhaps Aborigines would feel at home there since much of their natural environment is arid. I try to imagine desert plants and animals from the Aborigine perspective, and to see the desert as an ecosystem which should exist and thrive on it's own.
I use a variety of materials in my art. These include wood, plywood, sand, cloth, and objects found in the plant, animal or mineral environment. I use these materials to enhance the statements I make about nature or because of the feelings I get from working with them.
My paintings frequently are about the structure of cities. Modern buildings are interesting because of their clean lines and unique forms. The skylines which result from the arrangement of buildings can be called "cityscapes." Imaginary models of cityscapes can be painted in two dimensions on a flat surface, or they can be constructed and painted in three dimensions using wood or other suitable materials. I find that painting patterns and designs into imaginary city structures creates varied and exciting visual effects.
Rural landscapes, especially mountains, can be imagined and painted with similar techniques and conceptual goals. They can be seen as broad structures forming skylines with unique and interesting shapes and colors. They represent the power and timelessness of the earth whereas cityscapes depict how humans have exercised their power over the material world.
The desert as a subject presents a different attitude than city or mountain skylines. Deserts are characterized as relatively flat and having endless horizon lines. The colors of the desert are often depicted as warm (reds, browns, and ochre), but barren of life, rather than having the cool images of the mountains or cities. In reality, deserts are variable and have many forms of life. I often paint desert scenes as landscapes, and to the extent I focus on individuals, they are the plants and animals of the desert. These include succulents and cacti, and animals such as reptiles, coyotes, roadrunners, and raptors.
These three environments (cities, mountains, and deserts) may intrude on each other, interact and force changes in each other. For example, urban places such as in Las Vegas, Phoenix, or Los Angeles invade the desert. However, the reverse may also happen. Cities may eventually become deserts. Desert flora and fauna can repopulate urban places. Invasion has never been a one way process.