Timelines: A Painter’s Progress
Inclusions Gallery, San Francisco, Ca
Most of the work in this exhibition is titled “Timelines”. While the work continues in the vein of wall sculpture, the new element in this series is an exploration of gradients. Gradients reminds me, in a way, of time lapse photography. The juxtaposition of different values, while speaking of relationships and context, also refer to the passing of time, as in a color bleaching out over time. So, each color value articulates themselves as unique, in space and time. That is, they cannot exist in the same moment, but are separate and equally important.
Similarly, when I think of my work over the last forty years, I can visualize it as time lapse photography. The many different series, styles, genres, and mediums have all been unique and important individually, but in a sense, all parts of one grand symphony.
The title of the exhibit, “A Painter’s Progress”, is a take-off of the literary work, “Pilgrim’s Progress”. By eliminating the religious connotation, the message is the same. That our “Progress” is a journey, fraught with ups and downs, accomplishments and defeats. Forget about the destination, and enjoy the ride.
Humans are a diverse and complex creation. So, it’s no surprise that I would pursue my goal of expression by way of several disparate series. I think of this in terms of a multi-faceted stone. Reflecting different views of itself, the artist similarly spins off ideas, feelings, and concepts that require more than one point of view. While structure is my focus, its ubiquity calls for an examination in multiple ways. Here is a brief explanation of the four series that I’m currently working on:
“Skin Deep” is a series that I started almost ten years ago. I began by expanding the idea of structure beyond mere presentation, into letting the structure break out of the picture, creating a sculptural object. The title refutes itself, as the works depth and presence imply that there is much more to behold under the surface.
The “Migration” series began in 2018. The title refers to movement. Migration is, of course, a very loaded word in these times. For me, the movement is back and forth between painting and sculpture. Change is inherent in artmaking, and it serves me well, in a liberating and creative way.
“Axis Mundi” is a series of 2D paintings, where the structural imagery is illustrative. I’m giving myself the liberty to concentrate on the physicality of the paint, in order to expand and develop my ideas. The title refers to the place between heaven and earth. I interpret that to be the artists intentions, and their actual creations.
“Roundabout”, my most recently started series, takes the subject of structure into a more playful realm. The concept of a continuous and perpetual journey, one with many entrances and exits, is a fitting description of an artist’s path. This is a lifework that I happily embrace.
“Just finish 100 paintings”. That was an admonition to me from an art teacher over 40 years ago. His point was that you learn how to paint by not simply studying it, but by actually doing it. As I found out, artmaking and problem solving go hand in hand. Of course, my teacher was correct. To finish an artwork, means to resolve it. My personal benchmark for this is that there is nothing about the piece that bothers me or feels incomplete.
As time goes on, our tool box grows. Techniques are learned, materials are explored, and our ability to critique our own work improves. This helps to focus more on intention. That is, what we would like to express to the world.
For me, Daily Practice is a continuation of this concept. I’m reminded of the Tortoise and the Hare fable. Through slow, but steady application, our goals can be reached. For an artist, that means finishing an artwork to resolution, and communicating a message or a feeling to the viewer.
Over the decades, my work has changed many times. But these changes did not come out of thin air. Each change was born and nurtured by the work that came before it. When asked how long an artwork took to complete, I tell the inquirer my age.
So, I continue my Daily Practice. Remembering that the objective is not the destination, but the journey.
Artist Statement for “Bone Black”
As my work has moved towards a more sculptural orientation, the palette has likewise followed with a much reduced chromatic range. Working in black and white primarily, has helped me to visualize my artwork in terms of form and structure. I see the neutrally painted areas as “holding space”. In keeping with the definition of that phrase, the paint carries neither judgement or associative powers. While a strong black will call attention to itself, its sole purpose is to articulate space. A secondary, and almost ironic ‘raison d’etre’ is to reflect light, brightening what is ordinarily considered ‘dark’.
Bauhaus 100 year anniversary
Ruth's Table Gallery, San Francisco
My work resonates deeply with the Bauhaus school. In theory and practice, I follow its mandates. That is, my work involves fine art as well as applied arts. Painting, wall sculpture, design, and wood working exist on a level playing field.
The thought that all things made, can be imbued with creativity is very appealing to me. Already, most distinctions between art and craft have been banished.
With regards to Bauhaus color theory, I particularly connect with Joseph Albers. His practice with context and relativity explains a world that makes sense to me. Further, perception relying on context is most clearly demonstrated with color.
My piece for this exhibit is the most colorful to date. As I progressed with it, I was made very aware of the colors changing as I worked on an adjacent area.
I’m pleased that “Skin Deep 19-2” has a home in this exhibition, celebrating 100 years of Bauhaus, and particularly its work with the interaction of color.
By exposing the structure of my paintings, the work becomes sculptural as well.
This sets up an integration of two very differently defined things. Paintings, which are pictures of things, are illusionistic. Sculpture exists as it is, not an interpretation of something.
The integration that happens is the latest iteration of my long running theme, “No Separation”. For me, whether I’m making things or pictures, they are connected by intent, execution, and sheer enjoyment.
The subject matter I employ is Structure. A concept so ubiquitous that it is a noun and a verb. As an image, it grew out of my use of geometry and grids. Now, Structure is my substrate and my palette.
Howard Hersh is an artist who uses structural imagery as a metaphor for identifying ourselves in space and time. Additionally, structure is a template for social, intellectual, work, and virtually every aspect of our daily lives.
Also, when Hersh reveals the construction of the paintings substrate, he is implying that while paintings are pictures of things, (illusions), they are also objects that stand on their own.
In this way, structure serves not only as a metaphor, but as a physical presence, exerting itself as such.
From the beginning of my career I have resisted allowing my painting practice to become static or predictable. I continually challenge myself to question and refine my modes of expression. In 2012, I began to wrestle with the conundrum that paintings are illusionary in nature: they are pictures of things. At the same time, since childhood, I have had a passion for making ‘things.’ I wanted to renew that commitment to making objects, while continuing to paint. In other words, I wanted to make paintings that are themselves objects. I started by breaking out of the traditional rectangular, flat format, creating dimensionality and irregular shapes. But the work wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be. It remained clearly in the domain of painting. In 2013, I began to create paintings that exposed the construction of the substrates. I learned woodworking skills, acquired new tools, and dedicated studio space to the construction of these ‘frame’ works. Finally, the structural imagery in the paintings had complete continuity with the underlying structures themselves: they had become objects.
TWO MEANS TO AN END
Over the course of an artist’s working life, it’s not unusual for one body of work to inform another. I currently find myself in a less familiar situation: working on two distinctly different bodies of work that address the same issues from opposing directions.
“Dispositions of Structure” (encaustic on panel) are paintings about structure: the fabric of the universe as we know it, from invisible forms of energy pulsing through every atom to visible natural phenomena. And beyond physical structures, these paintings tackle the societal, political, and intellectual structures we all must navigate.
“Skin Deep” (acrylic on birch and basswood) developed from an inquiry into the nature of painting itself. Specifically, I am questioning the notion that paintings exist as pictures of something — illusions – while sculptures exist on their own, as objects. Because I love making things as well as paintings, I wanted to deconstruct painting and push this work closer to “objecthood.” The basswood wall structures of “Skin Deep” exert themselves as objects, encapsulating as well as supporting the paintings.
Simply put, “Two Means to an End” are paintings about structure and structures about painting