Monday, December 30, 2013

Entry - 12.30.13

In my last entry addressing the work of Antonio López-García, I observed how the “realist” label is haphazardly applied to artists with very diverse aims and techniques and questioned whether, at this time, the term has any meaning whatsoever.  I think the Modernist Revolution created an artificial gulf between those artists who depicted recognizable imagery and those who did not, with the result that many artists found themselves grouped into a camp with which they felt no particular philosophical allegiance.  That being said, I would feel comfortable applying the label “realist” to López-García.  In his work, he strives painstakingly to document the external semblance of his subjects, recording minute details during exhaustive sessions and taking measurements to ensure the accuracy of his observations.  As much as I greatly admire his work, I cannot help but raise the question of whether, by focusing on documenting a visual or physical reality, the artist has neglected to address the emotional facet of his subject matter.  Perhaps López-García would respond that it is the responsibility of the viewer to provide the emotional context to his paintings and sculpture, which I think would be a fair answer, but I, being ever of two minds, have to wonder if an artform which attempts to portray subjective, emotional responses to subject matter may more successfully capture the human condition.

In a previous entry, I wrote about my early interest in expressionism, an interest that continues to this day and, at times, became fairly obsessive.  For many years, I painted in my own “expressionist” style and explored woodcut and linocut printmaking techniques, modes of replicating images favored by the German Expressionists, particularly the “Die Brücke” group.

Wickham - John Matthews - 1983

I recognized that an immediate technique that emphasized critical features while minimizing superfluous detail, that permitted color to function as an expressive element untethered to visual reality, could serve as the perfect vehicle to capture the ephemeral nuances of human emotion.  I was fascinated by the expressionist work, in particular, the portraiture, of late nineteenth and early twentieth century artists like Edvard Munch, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel and Egon Schiele.  The visages of their subjects seemed more “real” to me than those depicted in art previously.  Their images mirrored the literature that I was interested in at that time, writing that unflinchingly dissected the motives and perspectives of complicated and flawed characters, work produced by such authors as Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Henrik Ibsen, Knut Hamsun, Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy and Ivan Turgenev.

Munch - The Painter Paul Hermann and the Doctor Paul Contard - 1897

Heckel - Portrait of a Man - 1919

Kirchner - Sitzendes Madchen - 1910

So in a roundabout way I now arrive at the main subject of this entry: Chantal Joffe.  As is probably the case with most individuals interested in art, I enjoy combing through the vast arrays of images that result from random searches on the internet.  It’s a very democratic process that doesn’t favor established artists over amateurs.  For instance, a search for “Dutch self-portraits” could bring up a masterpiece by Rembrandt straddled by a work painted by a Haarlem art student and a cell phone selfie of a grandmother from Amsterdam.  The viewer will open a thumbnail if it impresses or intrigues him, usually without regard to its source.  Many times while doing this, I have been disappointed upon inspecting a full screen image of a thumbnail that caught my attention, but, on the other hand, I have come across many gems that I would probably never have discovered through any other means.  It was during one of my random searches that I happened upon the work of Chantal Joffe.

I was previously unfamiliar with the work of Chantal Joffe.  Even now, after doing a bit of research on her, I’m not sure what kind of a reputation she enjoys in the art world.  I do know that she received serious art training (BA in Fine Art from the Glasgow School of Art and MA from the Royal College of Art), has shown her work in many solo and group exhibits and has received a number of awards, the value of which I am ignorant.  Though born in Vermont (1969), Joffe is an English artist, currently residing in London.  She generally works from photographs gleaned from a number of sources: advertisements, family snapshots, fashion magazines and pornography, but I did find one interview in which she talks of working from the live model.  She prefers painting women, at times accompanied by children.  Her technique is loose and painterly, her energetic brushstrokes spanning the length of her sizeable canvases.

Joffe - Anna B -2012

Joffe - Brunette with a Bob - 2012

Joffe - Green Dress Black Knickers - 2009

Joffe - Kristen - 2010

Joffe - Megan - 2010

Joffe - Self Portrait with Esme - 2009

Joffe - Self Portrait (Year Unavailable)

Joffe - Topless in Purple Gloves - 2009

Joffe - Untitled - 2010
I was surprised to learn that the sources of her imagery are often commercial or salacious in nature because her paintings exude an intense aura of intimacy.  Of course, Joffe is not trying to replicate a photographic image.  She eliminates detail, paring down the information provided by her source material to a minimum, and hopefully, in the process, capturing the intangible essence that initially caught her attention.  She distorts, again partially out of that same sense of economy that permits her to generalize but also to intensify the viewer’s connection with her subject.  For instance, the ashen flesh tones in Self-Portrait with Esme remind us that this is an intimate scene, that these bodies, hers bloated and sagging, the child’s fragile and twisted, are not commonly on display, that under normal circumstances they would not see the light of day.  The exaggerated contrast between darks and lights emphasizes the fact that this image is derived from a poor quality snapshot taken with a flash, a personal family photo documenting a moment shared between an adult and a child.  Or in Megan, the atrophied and twisted legs sheathed in black tights lend an aura of vulnerability to the model.
When looking at Joffe’s work, we should have no doubt that we are witnessing the results of an artist imposing her imprint on a facet of reality.  Her canvases with their intuitive brushwork, energetic splatters and drips of paint and blatant distortions of form and color attest to this fact.  Through an illusive alchemy, she transforms banal subject matter into powerful images that thoroughly engage the viewer, suggesting that momentarily the veneer that shields the private from the public has been penetrated.  Without a doubt, Joffe is tapping into a deep emotional core when approaching these works and uses her source material merely as a framework on which to hang her very personal and subjective interpretations.  Her willingness to empathize with her models and assert her personal emotional response allows her work to document a subjective dimension of being, a critical component of any art that is purported to merit the label “realist”.
Let me know how you respond to Joffe’s work.  Am I seeing something that isn’t there?  Or do these paintings move you too?  Please comment here, or, if you prefer to comment privately, you can email me at

Friday, November 8, 2013

Entry - 11.8.13

Kunisada - Scenes from Kabuki Plays - 1856

Mea culpa!  A few weeks ago, a friend brought to my attention that he had attempted to comment on my blog but wasn't permitted to.  Nothing frustrates me more than when I take the time to perform some lengthy function on an internet site only, upon nearing the end of the process, to discover that I don't have rights or that my credit card number is required.  I've adjusted my Blogger settings accordingly, tested the results and can state with a modicum of confidence that your comments will be posted. My apologies.

For the last month or so, I’ve been working on a project inspired by the fact that we ended up with a lot of recyclable bricks after having some work done on our property.  Ever thrifty, my wife and I tossed about some ideas of what we could make out of the old bricks, finally settling on a fire pit of my own design, a low half circle of brick backed by a wall of about hip height.  Nothing extravagant, just a warm place to sit at on cool evenings, enjoy a glass of wine and watch the sunset.

I’ve never done brickwork before, but, being ever the optimist when tackling some household project, I thought to myself: how hard can this be?  I mean you’re basically piling up a bunch of bricks and slapping some mortar in between.  So, while the masons were at the house, I spent about ten minutes watching them at work and attempted to glean a few tips from them on technique.  I learned that masons are not very talkative.  Undaunted, I performed the obligatory internet search and watched a couple of videos on the art of bricklaying, some of which were informative, a bit anally so, and some chaotic and slipshod.

I was ready to begin.

The first day, I worked eight hours straight and accomplished very little.  I put down my initial row of bricks and removed it twice before finally settling on my third attempt.  My guide line shifted with the slightest breeze.  The finicky bubble in my level verified that my ankle-high wall was already neither level nor plumb.  Mortar oozed out between bricks and ran down the face of the wall.  At the end of the day, I came into the house like a zombie, muscles I didn’t even know I had aching and throbbing painfully.  I forced myself to eat before hitting the carpet and falling asleep.  It was literally days before I could walk normally.

I had found a new respect for masons.

Over the next couple of weekends, I continued to work on the fire pit, never devoting an eight hour stretch to the job again.  With time and experience, I learned to keep my mortar at the right consistency, to control the amount of mortar that got placed between bricks and to make my wall a little more level and plumb.  I ended up spending about five times the hours that an experienced mason would have needed to complete the job, and, even then, the results were disappointing.  The outer rim of the pit dips noticeably on one side, and the rear wall wavers and juts in several places.  The finished product has an Antoni Gaudí feel to it, unfortunately, not deliberately so.

Lest someone with a kind heart should look at the preceding photo and assert consolingly that my creation looks pretty damn good, I include below documentation of the professionals’ labor.

And here’s my point: it takes years of education and practice to attain true craftsmanship.  Recently, there was a period in the art world when craftsmanship was disparaged and experimentation was promoted excessively, much to the profit of conservators and restorers.  I’m not disputing the value of innovation.  Experimentation is essential to art, both technically and intellectually.  It breathes life into stale tradition and opens up new means to address imagery and form.  It permits each generation to believe itself uniquely enlightened and at war with the canons established by the old guard.  But I believe it would be preferable to seek a balance between craftsmanship and experimentation.  For instance, if Leonardo da Vinci hadn’t employed experimental techniques when painting The Last Supper, the work would not have become compromised within just decades after its completion.  Albert Pinkham Ryder’s experimentation with pigments and binders led to his work’s rapid deterioration, pigments congealing and layers sloughing off with gravity, painting surfaces revealing severe cracking.  And, of course, aiming to make art less of a commodity, less precious, many modernists deliberately utilized materials and techniques that they knew would lead quickly to deterioration.  Hopefully, today, “craftsmanship” is no longer such a dirty word.  Craftsmanship permits an artist to control his results, to achieve desired effects consistently and efficiently, to create works that will endure for generations to come.
What better introduction could there be to the work of Antonio López García than an endorsement of craftsmanship?  I was unfamiliar with the work of this talented Spaniard until my wife bought me a monograph on him about a year ago.  Flipping through the plates in the book, I was immediately impressed with his skill and virtuosity, how his relatively loose and varied brushwork could impart a convincing illusion of visual reality and how he habitually tackled subject matter so complex and detailed that most artists would shy away from it.  Not only were his paintings magnificent, but his bas reliefs and sculpture were very accomplished as well.
I couldn’t find a lot of biographical information about López García.  It seems that his life has been fairly uneventful, no clashes with popes, no murders committed from which to flee, never cut off any body parts, never urinated in Peggy Guggenheim’s fireplace.  López García was born in Tomelloso, Cíudad Real in Spain on January 6, 1936.  In 1949, he moved to Madrid to prepare for his entrance examination to the Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando.  He studied from 1950 to 1955, after which he traveled to Italy on a grant from the Spanish Minister of Education.  In 1961, he married fellow painter, Maria Moreno, with whom, today, he has two daughters.  The remainder of his biography is essentially a list of shows, commissions and awards.
López García is a founding member of a group of artists known as the “Madrid Realists”.  Unlike the American photorealists who generally copied photographs using a mechanized means of enlargement and painting with airbrushes, López García works from life employing traditional techniques.
López García’s technique is deceiving.  From a distance, his paintings give the impression that they are incredibly detailed and illusionistic, with transitions between pigments carefully blended.  In truth, his work is very painterly, immediate and intuitive, relying on the viewer’s eye to translate his markings into recognizable form.
López Garcia - Skinned Rabbit - 1972

López Garcia - Skinned Rabbit (detail) - 1972

The label “realist” has been applied to artists as diverse as Gustave Courbet, Otto Dix, Paul Cadmus, Richard Estes and Lucian Freud, artists whose means and goals vary greatly.  At this time, in the art world, the term “realism” has lost all meaning except to define work that results from a vague desire to represent form in an identifiable fashion.  Categorizing López García as a “realist” really does very little to help us better understand his work.  Let’s see what I can come up with.
I want to focus for the moment on López García’s series of bathroom paintings, the work I personally most admire in his oeuvre.  He repeatedly chose to depict this unusual subject matter from the mid-1960’s through the early 70’s.


López Garcia - Toilet - 1966

López Garcia - Sink and Mirror - 1967

López Garcia - Toilet and Window - 1968 to 71

I can’t help but wonder why López García became fixated on the bathroom.  Of course, for an artist seeking to accurately record external reality, the bathroom provides the ideal subject matter.  There are so many challenges to address there: mirrors, intricately patterned tiles, dully polished porcelain, gleaming chrome and translucent windows.  And opting to paint an interior space would permit López García to work continuously for months without being interrupted by inclement weather or having to address radically changing light.  But I believe López García’s interest in his subject matter had to go further.  Outside of the kitchen, there is probably no room in the home which is more utilitarian than the bathroom.  To perform its multiple functions, the bathroom relies on a number of technologies that have evolved over time: sinks, tubs, toilets, faucets, drains, lighting, waterproofing and heating.  Hidden from view, the walls and floors conceal working systems: plumbing, wiring, ventilation, heating pipes and ducts.  In many ways, the room resembles the human body with its vast array of organs and systems.  López García presents us with a functioning bathroom equipped with a host of grooming, medicinal and hygienic supplies.  And, lastly, the artist records the deterioration, the rust, the mildew and staining that inevitably results from habitual use.  In these works, López García is painstakingly documenting a microcosm, a terrarium of sorts, with its working systems, private dramas and cycles of growth and decay.
“Trying to understand the physical world was, to put it simply, what led many to modernity and abstraction.  It led me, specifically, to pursue a form of realism that made sense.”   -    Antonio López García
López García approaches all his subject matter with a similar objective, to attain a more comprehensive understanding of its functions and workings.  When painting a view of a city, he documents the street grid, the traffic signals, dividers and lane markings; private houses, apartment complexes, commercial buildings with cooling towers, advertising signs and tiers of windows; parks, squares and clusters of trees.  His skinned rabbit gives the appearance of having undergone dissection, muscles, sheathing, fatty deposits, veins, sinews and organs exposed for our examination.


López Garcia - Gran Via - 1974 to 81

López Garcia - Madrid visto desde Torres Blancas - 1976 to 82

López García is also a very accomplished sculptor.  As with his painting, his technique is deceptively utilitarian, the surfaces of his work being pitted, clotted and scored, reminiscent of the sculpture of Auguste Rodin and Aristide Maillol.  I say “deceptively” because the overall effect suggests careful examination and precise documentation.

López Garcia - Man and Woman - 1968 to 94

López García’s Man and Woman, contrary to its title, does not present us with prototypes of the male and female human form, does not idealize the features, figures and proportions of its two subjects.  López García depicts two specific individuals: the man bald and standing contrapposto; the woman poses soberly, her hairstyle dated, her body short and high-waisted, her toes pointing outward.  They are a strangely mismatched pairing, presenting precisely the kind of visual anomaly that results from real life couplings and groupings.  The sculptures, placed frontally side-by-side and separated by a few feet, establish an uncanny presence that the viewer cannot help but acknowledge.  By documenting these two figures so convincingly, López García plays the role of Pygmalion, bringing inert material to life.

López Garcia - Night - 2008

López Garcia - La Mujer de Coslada - 2010

López García has been commissioned to execute a number of public works, outdoor sculptures located throughout Madrid.  The two works I present here show subjects that have been greatly enlarged and presented fragmentally.  Initially, I was surprised that  López García chose to distort reality in this fashion and thought that these works related most closely to his early paintings and reliefs (not included here) that were anchored in surrealism.  Upon subsequent examination and consideration, I realize that I was wrong, that these public sculptures function very much like López García’s mature paintings.  The paintings, by exhibiting an almost superhuman effort of observation and documentation, confront the viewer with a subject matter and force him to reevaluate or reconsider his understanding of that subject matter.  López García uses size to similar purpose in his public work.  These colossal apparitions, placed seemingly in haphazard fashion in everyday active environments, cannot be ignored, cannot be walked past unawares.  The pedestrian must consider these forms, to note how the proportions of a child’s head differ from those of an adult’s, to take pleasure in the plump ripeness of the baby’s cheeks, to feel the weight of the woman’s hair gathered in a snood, to observe how the neck muscles support the upturned head, to appreciate her firm, youthful breasts, to study her navel situated a few feet above the pavement.
López García is not a young man.  He is an established artist, whose best known work was produced in the 1960’s and 70’s.  He is represented by the prestigious Marlborough Gallery, and, in 2008, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts presented a solo show of his work.  And yet, in this country his work is relatively unknown.  It’s about time that his work should enjoy wider consideration.  Besides the handful of images that I’ve presented here, you can find plenty of others on the internet.  Take a look.
As always, if you would prefer to comment privately, you may email me at



Sunday, October 13, 2013

Entry - 10.13.13

In my last entry on Seminal Works, I ended my discussion with a look at First Light, a painting completed in 1990 after a period of indecision during which I determined in what manner I would address the figure in my art.  The entry was a long one and I felt compelled to wrap it up, so I summarily addressed the circumstances that lead to the creation of the work and wrote briefly as to why the work is considered “seminal” by me.  I recognized after publishing the entry that it is somewhat misleading.

Wickham - First Light - 1990
In my entry, I mention that I got the idea of painting a double portrait because I felt that my friend who posed for the work embodied a clear duality of conflicting personalities between which lay a chasm that could not be breached.  It was my belief at that time that these personae could not coexist in a single individual and that one persona would have to take precedence over the other.  All of which is true.  But the painting has very little to do with this germ of an idea.  I would be aghast if viewers came to the work thinking it an exploration of how a dominant persona must subdue one less viable in the individual, that this is a painting about a specific person that I knew twenty years ago.  The circumstances that initiate the development of an image are of interest as they expose process but commonly offer very little insight into how the finished work functions… may often lead to misconceptions instead.  That is why I seldom read those cards containing a few neatly printed paragraphs of verbiage that accompany artworks in museum shows.  If I read them, inevitably, the artwork is transformed into an illustration of the context purported by the card.

Picasso - La Vie - 1903

Does it help us to know that La Vie depicts Pablo Picasso’s friend, Casagemas, who committed suicide after being rejected by his lover, supposedly because he was impotent?  Or does this information prevent us from fully experiencing the image.  Picasso himself once opined: “A painting for me, speaks by itself.  What good does it do, after all, to impart explanations?  A painter has only one language.  As for the rest…”  He shrugged.

Gauguin - The Spirit of the Dead Watching - 1892

Does knowing that the nude figure in Spirit of the Dead Watching is Paul Gauguin’s 14 year old Tahitian wife help us to better understand the painting or does it place a context on the painting that most members of a contemporary audience would have trouble getting past to rationally explore the artwork?

By the time I completed First Light, that germ of an idea, visually representing the personality dichotomy of my model, was no longer of primary interest to me.  I didn’t even care if the viewer recognized that the same model was used for both figures.  (In fact, most people don’t notice this.)  Other aspects of the work began to dominate my thinking as the painting progressed.
Early on, as I began to map out my composition in my mind, I thought of the painting as an annunciation.  Although I don’t adhere to any religious beliefs, I have always been captivated by annunciation imagery and have, over the years, addressed the theme in several works.  Most importantly, annunciation imagery represents a charged instant in time when a significant transformation is taking place.  The natural and the supernatural are merged as Mary is impregnated with the seed of god.  On a cosmic level, this moment is charged with such significance on so many levels that it is impossible to go into them here.  But there is a personal story to the annunciation as well.  This is a moment of revelation.  An individual, Mary, is being informed by the angel Gabriel that she is to give birth to the son of god.  This, of course, is rather shocking news, and I am fascinated with how different artists depict Mary’s response.

Greek Orthodox - The Annunciation - 14th Century

Wickham - First Light (detail) - 1990

In researching this entry, I was surprised to find that Orthodox iconography consistently depicted the angel Gabriel with a trailing right foot, turned toward the viewer.  This gesture mirrors that of the standing figure in First Light.  I must have tapped into deep reservoirs of art history images stored in my subconscious because I had no idea that my reference was so explicit at the time I made the painting.  I’m not sure what the significance of this gesture in iconography is.  My guess is that it symbolized the descent of the angel from the cosmic to the mortal plane.  (If any reader can help me with this, I would be appreciative.)  In First Light, I use the gesture to show that the standing figure is caught in mid-action, that she is approaching the supine figure.  It reinforces the sense of the moment.  I also think that it lends the standing figure a slightly threatening aura.

Martini - The Annunciation - 1333

Another thing I like about annunciations is that they are usually compositionally awkward, depicting a huge void between Mary and the angel.  I appreciate unconventional and awkward compositions.  The eye doesn’t know where to go and bounces back and forth between the two figures.  Simone Martini resolves this problem by emphasizing the independence of each figure, placing them in ornate niches and flanking each with the figure of a saint.  The composition becomes frontal and static, relying on a pattern of vertical repetitions to hold it together.  The portrayal of Mary is wonderful in this work, her sinuous body contracts upon itself, her face expresses wariness and dissatisfaction.

Fra Angelico - The Annunciation - 1437 to 46

Like Martini, Fra Angelico also utilizes a composition that places his figures in niches, but he integrates these framing devices into the composition as three dimensional architectural elements.

Botticelli - Cestello Annunciation - 1490

Tintoretto - The Annunciation - 1587

Later artists resolved the compositional problems presented by traditional annunciation imagery by bringing the figures closer together and employing more sophisticated compositional devices to lead the eye through the painting, generally by stressing strong diagonals.  But I have a strong preference for the clumsy compositions of the Byzantine and proto-Renaissance periods. 

Wickham - First Light (detail) - 1990

Of course, in First Light, I had no desire to evoke religious themes but did wish to emphasize the impression that the painting captures a charged moment when something critical is taking place.  As the wisp of smoke caught rising from the just extinguished candle establishes a sense of the instant, my allusion to annunciation imagery is intended to do so as well.  The theme of revelation in annunciation imagery is of equal importance, reinforced in the image by suggestions of drawing back a curtain and shedding light on a subject.

Wickham - First Light (detail) - 1990

In depicting the supine figure in a state of internal musing, I wanted to accentuate her vulnerability.  Too distracted to be aware of the approaching figure, she revels in her personal thoughts, leaving herself open to assault.  It is clear by her exotic dress, make-up, extravagant jewelry and carefully coiffed hair that she has good reason to be engaged in inner musings.  She is sophisticated.  Her life is rich, complex and active.  Balthus also depicted musing figures in his art.

Balthus - Nude with Cat - 1949

But his figures appear to be plotting, to be forming a stratagem to achieve some amoral goal.  They seem dangerous.  My musing figure is weakened by permitting herself the luxury of surrendering to inner thoughts.  She is not conscious of what is happening around her and does not notice the approaching figure.

Though we are unsure of her intentions, I wished to portray the standing figure as dominant; she looms over the reclining figure, studying her dispassionately.  I even deliberately made the silhouette of the candleholder, pointed like a knife, jut into the void over the recumbent figure.  The viewer cannot be sure what is happening here.  It’s possible that nothing is occurring, that we are witnessing a quiet moment of observation when the daily lives of two beings temporarily intersect.  But I’ve also attempted to suggest that something more momentous is in the works, that these two very different figures should not exist in the same space and that a resolution could be impending.  Simultaneously, these beings are strangely linked.  There is a hint that there is a bond holding them together, that we are voyeurs of a strange game.  I do not allow the viewer to come to a firm conclusion concerning this image.  It would be my preference that he vacillate between interpretations, that he never settle on one hypothesis about what is occurring, that he invent an endless series of myths to place the image into a context.  As the creator of the image, I am only responsible for setting the parameters of how far that invention can go.
I will digress a moment to relate a personal story.  Back in the early 90’s, I used to get together with a friend at a bar in lower Manhattan about once a week to relax after work, have a few beers, shoot some pool and engage in freewheeling discussions about a host of subjects, one of which was art.  My friend had seen First Light on several occasions, so, one evening, I was explaining to him how I thought the painting should function, that it could represent a banal moment in the lives of two women but it could also depict something more momentous, that there were suggestions of conflict, violence and decadence in the image.  My friend could only see one facet of the work: two women calmly coexisting in an interior space as the first light of morning illuminates their surroundings.  I described the cyphers embedded in the image that I hoped would suggest alternative interpretations.  I touched upon my references to art history.  Though hesitant to do so, I even conjured up a possible scenario or two to explain what could be happening in the painting.  After all of this, he looked at me dead eyed and stated flatly, “I just don’t see it.”  I must admit that I was nonplussed by his reaction, wondering if my subtle suggestions within the work were too subtle.
A few weeks later, a friend from my wife’s workplace visited her at our apartment in Brooklyn.  At that time, First Light hung outside of our apartment on a landing that capped what seemed an endless series of stairways.  As you climbed the last flight to the top, First Light, lit by a filmy overhead skylight, filled your view.  It was unavoidable.  When I came home from work that evening, I asked my wife how the visit with her friend had gone, and she told me that she had been very disturbed upon seeing First Light.  Her friend thought the painting was sick.  I was surprised that her reaction was so strong but, at the same time, felt relieved that she had picked up on nuances in the work to which my friend had been blind.  In a nutshell, the painting functioned.
As I conclude this entry, I recognize that I am guilty of self-deception here, that I began by questioning whether being provided with biographical facts and explanations actually helps one better understand a work of art and then proceeded to provide a host of biographical facts and explanations about First Light.  I guess my excuse for this blatant contradiction is that, even though wary of the impact that the written word can have on one’s experience of an artwork, I must confess that I greatly enjoy reading about art and artists and take a prurient pleasure in rooting about in the intimate details available concerning the milieu within which an artwork was created.  It seems only natural that I would speculate on my own process, explain my intentions, attempt to unravel the workings of my art and even toss in the occasional private anecdote.  I suspect that most of us would like to remain intellectually “pure” but find ourselves surrendering to personal weaknesses.  I don’t find this a bad thing.  Much of my art takes a sympathetic, if not comic, view of human failings, and I honestly believe that it is our deficiencies which make us creative, innovative and interesting.  I can state one thing with certainty; future blog entries will continue to indulge in this kind of agreeable roving.
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