Genesis Formation as An Artist
My brush flows through pigment, is rooted in my collective experiences gathered during my lifetime of travels. At any given moment, a stroke becomes a modulated dance, be it a dense, crisp, earthy, elegant, fleshy, opulent, refined, silky, steely, structured, or a velvety move. Each new environmental landscape I find myself brings forth new insights that become embedded as illuminated memories to be embodied and expressed, at times, years later.
I will take you on a journey, traveling back in time to my youth and the foundational influencers in my life, education, and then onto the influences of traveling and nature.
We lived in the 'projects,' a place for families of little means. There on the 10th floor, my view of the sky was not treetops but rooftops. My mother took me on journeys far away to distant lands and time for she traveled through books; that is where my name came from. She would always remind me to 'look up at the sky,' which I did. It was,s for her, a metaphor for seeking a better life.
Family Returning Home
My uncle Melvin, my father figure, did travel. After serving as a sergeant in the Marines during WWII in the Pacific, he entered the merchant marines, where he brought the world to me through the unique foods of those distant lands that he would share with me.
Junior and Arts High School
Miss Brown, in Jr. High School, was the first to encourage me to consider art. She was an illustrator of children's books. After being accepted into Arts High School for the talented and gifted, I chose advertising. The turning point which moved me into fine art was the final assignment where I was to design a full spread ad for the Golden Age of Aviation. To obtain an 'A', I was told to change the sky from yellow to blue. 'When the sun shines the sky is yellow', I said. Needless to say, I did not receive an A.
One Flight Up
Traveling just one flight up was the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts, for training professional artists. Samuel Brecher, who was from the American Impressionist school, taught me in the academy's classics, while Donald Brown the role of music in contemporary art. Both my mentors and later friends were opposites of race, culture, and artist expression, yet were the dearest of friends. Samuel Brecher taught me about legacy; his mentor was Charles W. Hawthorne, while his mentor was William Merritt Chase.
New York City - Brooklyn
I never traveled outside of New Jersey. So when Brown, a graduate of the International Max Beckman Scholarship at the Brooklyn Museum, suggested I apply it, such as a world away from what I knew. Under the tutelage of Ruben Tam, a contemporary impressionist landscape painter, he directed us to integrate our history to experiment with new ways of expression. The final piece Black Couple in Bed Looking at the TV, which is on permanent display at the Newark Museum, was a work that began as a classical figure painting and was completed in a deconstructed style. I attempted to join the worlds of Brecher and Brown to express the reality of the day. Though it was there, Tam introduced me to Maine and its timeless, rugged landscape.
NYC – Manhattan
Living now in Westbeth, the artist housing in the village, Cooper Union offered me a scholarship to study. There 2 of my instructors exposed me to new ideas of how to see the world through researching the history of music and the politics of the Americas. Additionally, Will Barnet did not teach us how to paint but how to be a painter, while Wolf Kahn demanded we be real to who we were. During this time, I was teaching back at the Newark School, Brooklyn Museum, and Cooper's student-teacher program. Who was I? How would I become?
Our view was the NY skyline with its sunrises and sunsets from our rooftop and the nearby pier. At the Brooklyn Museum, I taught painting, where we took influences from the great masterworks in addition to experiencing the beauty next door at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens – oh those Cherry Blossoms. It was the earth and sky that kept calling me.
Hiking through New York State and New England
We were only married two years when we began to travel outside of the metro area. Hiking the trails in upstate New York, the Berkshires, and Maine was our weekend getaways, in addition to visiting my wife's family back in New Jersey. My work changed from figures to now sky and land with wide horizons of darkened clouds with reddened sunsets, for Ryder was now my influence. Hiking the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine fueled my colors to become brighter in my New England Trek Series.
After my wife finished her studies, we moved to Connecticut, a world away from city life. We were gifted to live for the summer in the home of the artist Michel Delacroix. It was there I experienced a way of living within nature that became my primary inspiration. We decided to stay in Greenwich we were able to purchase a tiny house with multiple acres. There I experienced a daily encounter with nature as I walked our dogs at night, soaking up the sky's nightly moods, which influenced my Nocturne series.
US National Parks – Our Legacy
Throughout our marriage, we looked to nature for our travels. Maine's Acarida, US Virgin Islands on St. John, and California Redwoods filled those areas in my heart upon which I continue to draw inspiration. What was local to me was Weir Farm National Historical Park which has become my home base for teaching en plein air for the past decade.
The daffodils at Weir Farm became my muse. I looked forward to my annual trip to catch the golden yellows spring forth from the snow-laden floor. The apple trees were another muse for me, so alive with their tortured trunk and delicate tops, one could hear the tree working as it produced fruit while the rhythmic energy of the community of wildflowers at the edge of the meadow looked as if it longed for something more in the forest.
The World's Museums
Throughout my career and travels, I had the privilege to view many great works in NYC, Paris, Rome, Vienna, and new contemporary works in Beijing.
Caribbean – Blue Skies
Since we were now settled into building our careers, we began traveling outside of the US, initially to several Caribbean islands where the spa-like blue pigments crept into my world. Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Dominican Republic, St. Martin, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Cayman Islands, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands.
Europe - Ireland Glistening Greens
My first trip outside the USA to Europe was to Ireland to visit my wife's cousins. A land where I experienced the legacy of a multi-generational family as we sat next to the peat fire in a tiny home with a front door older than my country. There along the tiny hedge-lined roads, stretched hills and valleys coated with a multiple of greens incredible beyond description. As the fog lifted each morning, exposing the tiny dots of islands in the bay, the air was wet with dew, sparkled with clarity, as if they grew up from the sea. Memories were held later for the tidepool series.
Central and Sound America - Gratitude
Ecuador – volunteering – narrow rugged roads woven around sharply peaked mountains was where I learned about my ability to endure. Quito, Cuenca in the foothills of the Andes Mountains gave me the courage to roam.
Guatemala – volunteering to paint murals in a city school and church formed in me a deeper way to express a grand narrative beyond illustration.
Europe - Italy Savoring Life
Italy was the most immersive experience, for we stayed where the food, olive oil, and wine grew; it was my orchard experience, a connection between the subject and what sustained me. It was paintable. It was beautiful yet different because there, this nourished my body and soul, first in Rome, Assisi, and then throughout the countryside in Lazio and Tuscany. My first expression of a spiritual narrative of the orchard, sensing being one with nature. There, I pushed and pulled new movements into my work.
Europe – Provence - Colors Danced
Teaching on Cote d' Azur in Provence, I discovered a palette of the colors from that embodied experience similar to Ital. The radiant vibration of the light bouncing off the blueness of the Mediterranean Sea contrasted with the flora purples and oranges of the terra cotta roofs. (I charged forth was new colors.)
Europe - Austria - Form and Structure
We stayed in Sonntagberg and Kalwang, then traveled onto Vienna with its pastries and museums. There was an incredible sense of order and discipline as the urbanscape transitioned from neatly kept villages well placed amidst the forested pine mountains. There was a competency of caring for the natural environment as if each person and nature's elements were in agreement with this systematic pattern of tidiness. (Such supported my systematic way of working.)
China –The World Widens, We Speak the Same
We then visited China to meet our new extended family. The scale was monumental as smaller cities grew to larger ones, row upon row of buildings as if an endless loop one sees in a video game. In Bejing's art district, a vast maze of creativity and commercialism stood eminence-sized international galleries, sprinkled in-between were boutique galleries leading to rows of tiny stalls selling copies of the Masters, with open-air auction houses packed in side by side all competing for clients. The larger-than-life landscapes, with the Great Wall weaving throughout the hills, were so immense, it threw me off optically onto this new spinning world of humanity. I came away from this experience with an understanding and appreciation that we each have a place in this grand design of creation.