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Essay


Fire Circle

Fire Circle
Watercolor on Paper, 16" x 11"

My subject matter relates mostly to a particular place: a thickly-wooded rocky island in Lake Huron, off the northern Michigan shore. Since the 1890s, it has been a retreat and gathering place for members of my family. In my own peripatetic life, it is the only geographic constant. I return to it often, and am always rejuvenated. More than a mere scenic refuge, the island has become my spiritual and emotional anchor. My sense of belonging to that place shapes my outlook and personality.

In my work I choose to portray natural objects and features, derived mostly from the island. In my depictions I search for patterns, systems, and relationships that underlie the surface appearances of my subjects. For me this process connects my art-making to my deepest emotional and spiritual longings. Just as I yearn for some sign of a deeper, timeless order underlying the temporal world, in my art I strive to uncover a deeper logic and structure beneath the surface appearances of the natural environment. In the subtle geometries of water, shore, and forest, I find hidden traces of the unseen spiritual dimension of existence, coded messages from a metaphysical realm that we cannot enter. In this way, my painting process is a search for meaning, and a means to intensify and focus my experience of reality.

My work is founded upon rigorous, empirical realism. I rely upon direct observation, sketches and photography to obtain a high degree of verisimilitude. I want my paintings to have the look and "feel" of real things and places, and to be informative about the structure of things and how they look.  However, I do not believe that it is possible or desirable to make paintings that look exactly like reality. What interests me is not mechanical reproduction of visual data in paint, but exploring those processes of abridgement and selectivity that underlay visual perception and cognition.   I try to create paint surfaces that are visually pleasing and challenging while at the same time invoking the sensation of perceiving reality.

My selection of subject matter involves both conscious and subconscious evaluations of meaning.  Sometimes subjects interest me because I recognize them as metaphors for emotional, spiritual or philosophical issues.  At other times subjects interest me for no articulable reason, but later I realize (or someone else points out) that the subject resonates with some symbolic interpretation.  In this way I regard my images as a hybrid of meditation and communication, clarifying and organizing my own thinking and feeling, while opening a portal for visual communication with the viewer.


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