Personal: then and now - what moves me
I am constantly looking for and seeking that which is present, but almost always overlooked. There is an unseen presence is most places - but some locations are imbued with such powerful history that its presence screams to be noticed and acknowledged... if one takes the time to listen. Time is the key. Multiple days and countless hours of losing oneself and tuning in to past human activity that fills the landscape, stone walls, concrete and steel with a energy that is palpable, active, resonant and absolutely present. Secrets are revealed. Mysteries seen. There is a continuum of human beings creating, constructing, conjuring miracles and striving for connection locked in the landscape and the structures I visit. That is what I am seeking - where I aim my camera. Finding unseen presence.
Then and Now
I have lived and worked in Santa Fe, New Mexico for over 25 years. Born in LA, I grew up in Orange County close to the beach. I studied at Otis when it was located near McArthur Park and after traveling the world, landed in Santa Barbara for a few years. In 1989 I moved to Santa Fe for change - seasons, lifestyle, and to find myself, and a voice for my painting and photography. The move proved to be a paradigm shift for me in literally every aspect of my life. In Santa Fe, I am surrounded by a spectacular high desert environment, legendary light, a remarkable network of friends, engaging professional support and my small wonderful family. I love living and working in New Mexico, but in September 2015 I leased a loft in downtown Los Angeles. It’s just south of the Arts District, east of the Fashion District, and on the fringes of the Produce and Industrial Districts. Encouraged by an architect friend in LA who also has roots in New Mexico, I realized I needed to be back in the city, in California - professionally and personally.
The loft is in an old furniture factory built in 1901. The brick, concrete and wood trussed building was developed as artist live/work spaces in 1989. We have 2000 square feet of gorgeous ambient light filtering through vintage American industrial casement windows and skylights. Original wood floors, exposed brick walls, and a fire escape landing add to the rustic charm. It isn’t slick - but functions perfectly as a combined working studio and living space. I spend about half my year occupying the loft in alternate months. Primarily I paint and draw abstractly - very large or very small - and the space is perfect for painting on both scales. Currently the work is based on historic paintings that have influenced my sensibilities and practice. I also photograph a variety of subjects. Presently I am focusing on architecture in cities, primarily Los Angeles and New York, the desert landscape as I drive back and forth from Santa Fe to Los Angeles and the ocean - in all off its infinite varieties.
I think of the Los Angeles space as a private “artist-in-residence.” It provides physical and creative support for my career in the city where I grew up and went to school; I am fortunate to have this connecting thread to my roots. When I’m in LA, I am fully engaged and absorbed with my work and the city. I can pursue painting and photography any time of the day or night. The focus is singular. The space has given me the opportunity to live with the work in progress, consistently and constantly, for extended periods of time. The immersion in urban living has been invaluable in terms of refining my vision and absorbing the “edge” of the city. There is peculiar flux and severity in Los Angeles that is collaborating with my “romanticized” sensibilities and the resulting juxtaposition seems already evident in my painting and photography. It manifests itself in a more direct approach to mark-making and an open mind to diverse found realities in the lens of a camera.
My first camera, a Kodak Brownie Starmite was a gift, given to me when I was around seven or eight. I loved to shoot with my Brownie, even though I had no idea what I was doing. I was thrilled with that little camera and would escape behind it and view the world through its tiny clouded lens. I took a couple of darkroom courses in college using an Olympus OM2 35 mm, which I also used traveling around the world. In Santa Barbara I owned a 4 x 5 large format camera. I traded an old Mazda truck for a Canon Rebel a number of years ago. I still have it - and the Olympus too.
I’ve always had cameras around, but professionally I focused on printmaking and painting, until a few years ago when I was given a Canon 5D Mark III. It is a serious piece of equipment that deserved serious considerations. Finding my voice in photography has been a similar journey to painting, one that encompasses continual refinement and discovery. Forty years of printmaking, painting and addressing the formal considerations of composition - color, line, shape, form, dynamics and tension - directly translates to photography, thereby enabling me to prioritize “vision.” I know what I want to find looking through the camera. Do I always see it? Not necessarily, but I’m compelled and persistent.
Then there is the complexity of a camera’s technical features and the various processing options in the digital realm, which I have resolved to learn and overcome. They are essential tools that require continual practice to perfect - and as with painting, there is a new language and vocabulary to learn and absorb. Those vocabularies continue to grow and expand in my practice. It is never-ending. A Sisyphean task.
Ultimately photography is about light, and is parallel to painting. I have an old-school chiaroscuro sensibility and aesthetic. In the darkroom at college I learned how to push, tweak and adjust the values and colors of photographs. There is a direct correlation between how I process a photograph and how I approach the formal elements of painting. Light/dark, warm/cool, push/pull, dynamic range, cadence, rhythm, spatial tensions, focus, point, line, plane... Multiple layers I would compose for a multi-color lithograph while printmaking decidedly correlates to multiple layers in Photoshop - although the options and variables are limitless on a computer. I love the process.
The bottom line really; “shit in - shit out.” You can’t take a bad photo and manipulate it into a moving piece of art that has something inventive to say. Technically, conceptually and aesthetically it’s not going to happen. The source photograph needs to have integrity, intention and that ever-evasive element of random or accidental timing and/or action. Precisely like painting. Knowing when to recognize those unplanned and accidental moments and record or keep them is key. Learning when to place yourself in a position to experience those moments takes courage, continual pursuit and plain dumb luck.