For me, one of the hardest parts of making art is striking the proper balance
between clarity and poetry. Creating symbolism is relatively
simple; creating symbolism that’s neither too obvious nor too obscure
is relatively difficult.
To this end, I have, for years, painted
for that mythical person I’ve called “the thoughtful viewer,” trying
to create metaphors that are neither bang-you-over-the-head obvious nor so difficult
that they require my explanation to be understood.
With this body of work, I’ve found a happy
middle ground, creating a series of paintings that can be deciphered
without my input. The formula that allows this to happen
is to simply juxtapose two elements out of which comes a third: a point
of view. Here’s
how I arrived at this formula.
It began with a desire to somehow incorporate
some of the coloring books of my youth into a piece of art. I
had a small collection of coloring books from the early 60’s and
as I looked through them I was struck by how gender stereotypes were
presented. The “Annette
Funicello Coloring Book,” which had belonged to my sister, was
all about being pretty, getting married and making a home. The “Fighting
Men in Action” coloring book, which was mine, was all about masculine
aggression and the cool machinery of war.
At first, I thought that simply
copying selected images from these books onto a large canvas would be
enough to convey meaning. But
then, from either a desire to make them more “mine,” more
clever, or more clear, I decided that they would work better if they
were not just copied onto plain white canvas, but onto pages from meaningful
I found “Women and Self-esteem,” and “Anger Kills,” pulled
them apart, glued their pages to the canvas, sanded them smooth and copied
the coloring book images onto them. These two pieces became “Shopping
for Clothes” and “Pitching a Hand Grenade”, both on
the theme that gender stereotypes are reinforced from a very young age
and that this is not necessarily a healthy thing.
these first two pieces were created, I was very enthusiastic about the
format: two elements in each painting; one of them defining the topic,
and its juxtaposition against the other creating a point of view on that
topic. It’s simple, readable, and aesthetically
pleasing, and so I pursued it, creating works on other themes
such as feminism (“Save Me”), environmentalism (“Silent
the desire for sexual adventure (“Delta of Venus,”), advertising
(“Makes me like milk more,”) and faith ("The age of
also started considering ways to make the pieces more aesthetically interesting
within the format, and you’ll see that the surfaces are varied.
paintings in this series are fun to look at and fun to think about, and
while there are precedents in Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg and Warhol,
the most important precedent for me is my own art movement, the one I’ve called “funism,” whose simple tenets
are as follow:
•Art should be as much fun to look at as
it is to think about.
•Art should be intellectually engaging without
being intellectually elitist.
•Art should invite interpretation.
these criteria, this body of work succeeds; I hope my “thoughtful viewer” agrees.