Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wow - the Beginning

I’ve been looking at art since I was a little kid and drawing since I could hold a pencil. I drew voraciously everyday until 7th grade when a knife accident and the resultant surgeries left my hand in bandages and therapy for several months. Growing up as a kid I remember being taken to museums like the Met, MoMA and the Brooklyn Museum quite a bit. Mummies were a favorite and I drew all kinds of Egyptian motifs and made books about dinosaurs and all the things little boys like.

I was fortunate to see Picasso’s Guernica as a child at MoMA and remember vividly the impression it left upon me with the horse in agony, the mother holding child, the lamp and the Minotaur. But at that age I never gave a thought to becoming an artist, no, an archaeologist was what I wanted to be.

My route to becoming an artist was circuitous. I studied science intensively with an aim to becoming a zoologist specializing in animal behavior but this was the Reagan era with funding for research being dropped and I found myself disillusioned due to the rigid world view that my teachers had and my future prospects.

I dropped out of college and eventually decided to go back to school to study art. At the time I thought it would be a way to get an easy degree (slacker?) however, something funny happened along the way. I found much to my amazement that I could look at paintings, even the most abstract ones that artists made and by the brushwork tell who made them. Within two months of being in the program I absorbed into my memory a large quantity of information that amazed my fellow students.

More importantly I found my calling. As much as I loved science and still do, art gave my life something that hitherto had been missing, a sense of purpose and belonging that was missing and another family, the family of artists and art. In that way, art became a way for me to integrate into the world that I was alienated from and this is the work that led me to it.

In 1985 I was visiting NY after my first semester in art school.

De Kooning
Painting, 1948
Enamel and oil on canvas
42 5/8 by 56 1/8
MoMA Collection

I remember walking into the gallery and seeing this work, which was a sloppy mess (can you tell that I like sloppiness) with the streaks of enamel, the congealed surface in areas, the choc a bloc overlapping of form that hinted at so many possibilities.

As I looked at it a strange feeling overcame me that I had never experienced before. The best way to describe it was like a humming sound, of course there was no hum except in my head and body. I found myself absorbed into this thing, as if looking at it completed a circuit with the power suddenly now ON within me. But what was this me? I realized that the painting and I were one. I needed the painting and the painting needed me, that reality was not me isolated from the world or floating in this gallery amongst strangers, that reality was the moment of my conscious connection to the world and the world to myself. The concept of self magically evaporated as a fiction, self in the western way I had learned to believe in. My sense of self became this living circuit between my body interfacing with the world and my sensory experience of it operating as a looping system, both interfaces propositional and transitional.

It was at that moment that I realized now having been an “art student” for one semester that I had found meaning. The work was whispering and shouting and telling me Yes, Yes, Yes. The only thing that made any sense to do was to commit myself to being an artist, that I had to listen to this voice as it were and that I had to paint, that I had to wrestle with this strange new feeling, that was intoxicating, visceral and earth shaking, as far as I was concerned, it was the most important thing I could do with my life.

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