Statements for Nance Galleries Anniversary Show

Here are some statements for my pieces that will appear in the 63rd Anniversary Show, opening at Nance Galleries in Evansville, Indiana October 30, 2010.

Click on any image to enlarge it.

113. Mannequin

This mannequin came to me with the scars and fractures of her previous life.  She had such a winsome, yet wistful, look, that I set out to give her a second life as a canvas for musings about conventional notions of beauty.  I sought to submerge her form under images that would transform breasts, belly, eyes, lips, into other forms, relieving her of the burden of her own beauty.  Even as the cave painter exploited a bulge in a rock wall to form the shoulder of a bison, I employed her curves, and even her scars, to give form to the images of my own imagining.

374. Processional

A recent development in my work is a series of drawings and paintings on wood.  Using unprimed panels allows the wood grain to be an integral part of the image.  In fact, in most cases, the image arises from the grain of the wood, and my job is simply to recognize and draw out the image that lurks there.  Of course it isn’t that simple, as another eye, another sensibility, would see something entirely different.  If two people are finding images in cloud formations, the images each sees will profoundly reflect his or her own thought processes.  My own philosophical and emotional preoccupations will, of course, be reflected in the images that emerge, as I wrest them forth from the grain of the wood.

The Bird-Man emerged first, in this case, and he seemed to be involved in some unnamed ritual, so he was soon joined by other seekers and celebrants, in a stately procession toward what ceremony we can not yet know. Like anthropologists, we must derive our speculations from careful study of the artifacts at hand.

375. Riven

The features of this individual, which clearly echo those of my own face, are riven and thrown into disorder by the thrusting void of this unnamed shape in the grain of the wood, left deliberately featureless.  Its very ambiguity evokes a variety of images, according to the sensibility of the viewer.  The sense of being torn by forces within and without us is universal; the instrument of the tearing is as varied as we are.

376. Muted Symphony

As we age, as hearing and vision begin to decline, we turn our attention more and more to the symphony within, even as we continue to strain toward the music from without.

379. Forensic Face-off

The word “forensic” is used here to mean the practice of formal argument, or debate.  When we employ masks and protective gestures, our conversations tend to deteriorate into unresolvable stand-off.

380. Shared Song

The artist works in isolation, with himself/herself as the sole audience, but the work is static and essentially meaningless until it resonates with someone else.  We sing in the hope that another will hear our song, and then perhaps sing it to another, and so on…

392. Rite of Veneration

A dear friend was in mourning for the death of her favorite uncle, a renowned anthropologist.  One night, after a Life Drawing class at a local arts center, we created a memorial to him in a lighted jewelry case, using a cast of a skull bedecked with necklaces and other jewelry.  It was a cathartic and ceremonial act, which I chose to commemorate in this drawing.

393. Scales and Arpeggios

The title is nearly always the last part of the work to resolve itself.  Existing in the world of words rather than images, the title is an integral part of each painting or drawing, providing a linguistic bridge from the language of sound to the language of images… a key to the arduous job of translation.  This title was provided by my youngest son, a percussionist and student of musical composition.  He walked into my studio as I was pondering the finished drawing. I told him that I had been so far unable to arrive at a title for it, and he said without a second’s hesitation, “Scales and Arpeggios,” in a tone that implied “of course!”

399. Regeneration

This is a hopeful painting, about rebirth… not so much in the sense of a supernatural afterlife, but referring rather to our ability to continue to reinvent ourselves as we grow through life.   And, too, it is about our inextricable ties to the world around us and to the ecological system which allows our existence even as we ignore its needs.


The Fall of Icarus is a frequent subject of artists; I’ve used it more than once.  Less frequently depicted is his father Daedalus, who gave his son wings to grant him escape, only to watch him perish as he flew too close to the sun.  Every parent faces this sense of peril inherent in letting go.  We teach our children to fly, knowing the peril that is inherent in freedom.  We encourage them to think for themselves, and then, to our consternation, they do!

405. Tom’s Vessel

This remarkable wooden vessel was made by my friend Tom Dietz, a master woodworker.  He handed it to me one evening, with the request that I paint on it.  I was reluctant at first, but eventually (after two years of pondering) I completed the image in transparent glazes, which allow the beauty of the wood to participate fully in the completed painting.

406. Saturday Serial, Our Story So Far

This little peep show hearkens back to the movie serials that always preceded the Saturday Matinee at our local movie theater when I was a kid in the 1950s.  The weekly episode, usually a Batman or Flash Gordon from the 1940s, always started with the words “Our Story So Far…” followed by a quick montage of images from previous episodes. Even as we age, our story continues to write itself, and we can know only what has been so far.  What remains to be is a mystery.

409. No Going Back

Growth is irrevocable.  The genie can leave the lamp, but she cannot return.  Try as we might to second-guess ourselves, the only viable direction is forward.

411. Dawn/ 412. Sleep

This allegory just grew from the patterns of poured and splattered paint.  All I could do was refine the images that already were there.

414. Los Pintores Españoles

The title translates as “The Spanish Painters.”  I began with a doodled shape, which reminded me of a bull.  As I drew the musculature and genitals of the bull, I was reminded of Picasso’s evolving lithographs of the bull.  I drew a man’s features, and added the horns, and was shading around the horns when I recognized the hat of Goya and the goatee of Velasquez.  The brush-as-tail reminded me of the presence of Dali.  And there you have my four favorite Spanish Painters: Picasso, Goya, Velasquez, and Dali.

419. Full of Sound and Fury

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.


421. Minstrel

The minstrel cannot but continue to perform, even when the audience has gone away.

423. Evasive Action

An art professor of mine in college maintained that all creative efforts were “stays against death.”  It does seem that our own mortality is a fact we evade, by whatever means we have at our disposal.

424. Still, We Do The Best We Can

Neuroscience has revealed that only 20% of the information that reaches our visual cortex comes from our eyes, while the remaining 80% comes from other regions of the brain such as our memory centers.  Apparently, purely objective vision is not within our grasp.  We are inescapably subjective in our perceptions.  Still, we do the best we can.

427. Seeing Is Deceiving

We delude ourselves into thinking that we see clearly.  We surround ourselves with people of like mind, and marginalize those who disagree.  We grow increasingly fixed in our perceptions, and increasingly polarized as a people.

429. Level Four Cat’s Cradle

Our entanglements both sustain and restrain us; we lean on them for support, and strain against their tethers.

430. Twist and Shout

No matter how franticly we dance, the tempo outpaces us, and we lose the beat.  We keep dancing, though.  What else can we do?

431. Flailing Man

Sometimes I flail about, hoping to find direction, but more often finding myself frozen in mid-flail.

437. He Grows Weary, But the Dance Continues

Age and futility take their toll, but we have no choice but to continue dancing.

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