Monday, October 29, 2012

Work in Progress

Since beginning my triptych tentatively titled: "House of Cards," I have been rummaging about in what you might call my 'mental attic,' kicking over boxes, flipping through faded photo albums... remembering. 

It feels masochistic to me. In some cases, as I open one Pandora's box after another, reliving moments I had all but forgotten, I can almost feel the ground beneath me crumbling and falling away. 

I've said this before: Psychology is merely a "dull reflection of carnival fortune telling." I still think that. How is excavating all this hurt a good thing? For years, I have been adopting Zen philosophy into my everyday life. Zen teaches us to "let go" and "eliminate the ego." According to Shunryu Suzuki Roshi: "Renunciation is not giving up the things of the world, but accepting that they go away."

Can I do both? Or do I dig it up, relive it and face what comes? Or maybe I should just let it pass like a kidney stone?? For now, it seems, I am to face these evils. Perhaps, by facing them, I can then finally let them go? It gives one pause. Right now, as I write this, clarity feels impossible. Nonetheless, I am progressing with my project. I'm helpless not to. I got caught in the undertow...

My MFA experience has been, on the whole, marvelous. The newness of the space, the furtive atmosphere... where I get tripped up however, is the critiques. As an artist who has been professionally producing and exhibiting for twenty seven years (and with higher notoriety in the last eight) I have become fairly accustomed to criticism. Usually though, it's a critique on a certain piece or series or body of work or even just style and presentation, not the process itself. I don't know how to really give feedback on someone's thought process... I certainly don't know what to do with it when it's about me. I get an idea. An image flashes in front of me and I give it form. To me, it's a simple issue of production. There is no guess work... no need to "try something out" because I already know how it's meant to be. I just need to get it done. Right?? 

When an idea presents itself, the first thought I have is: is the image a sculpture? A photo?? A drawing??? Do I realize it through performance? Is it only meant to be a doodle in my journal?? Should I write about it??? Mostly, the work says; "paint me.The thing is, recently, I have been feeling the need to change. Sure paint it,  but how? I like my work but I'm stuck. It feels somehow played out. Routine. I'm not sure what to do now.

I found my 'voice' a long time ago. It was around the same time my work started "taking off," so the only way I can see myself evolving, is through technique. But recently that voice seems muted. Perhaps, at this point in my career, it's about amplification. Transcendence. 

It all comes back to honesty and clarity: allowing myself to be more honest and being bold enough to challenge my status quo. On a technical level, I want to expand my skillset: do things with my surface, for instance, that cannot be recreated digitally. something more tactile, more visceral. After a long, matter-of-fact conversation with Michael Goodson, I can see now that I have to, as he put it, "kick in the door." "You're at the dock," jump the fuck in.

It's maddening to be so close to discovery and yet be completely blind.

What I don't want to change, is this drive in me to connect. I want to reach out to people... Invite them into my work... help them see beyond themselves... maybe even bridge some social gaps? Of course, with this particular project, the point is to heal. I've been in ruins for far too long, it's time to rebuild.

I keep getting asked; "who are you looking at?" "what is informing you?" "who are you looking at?" "what is informing you?" "who are you looking at?" "what is informing you?" "who are you looking at?" "what is informing you?" "who are you looking at?" "what is informing you?" "who are you looking at?" "what is informing you?" "who are you looking at?" "what is informing you?" "who are you looking at?" "what is informing you?" "who are you looking at?" "what is informing you?" "who are you looking at?" "what is informing you?" "who are you looking at?" "what is informing you?" "who are you looking at?" "what is informing you?" It's all I can do not to start screaming:


In 2010, when my wife and I were blissfully wandering around provincial France, I read "Dear Theo." Being Bi-Polar myself, I completely identify with Van Gogh. His work makes sense to me. His passion is infectious, even now after so many years. To a point, being inside his head was informative, but not in how I do my work so much as how I think about it. The same can be said for any of the work I admire. Michelangelo, Botticelli, Mucha, Lichtenstein... At best, I look at work to study an artist's technique... to better understand WHY they painted what they painted and to listen to what the work says to me, if it says anything at all. I've tried looking at more contemporary work but most if it sucks. Of course, by "sucks" I mean it's terrible. There's a whole lot of crap out there and it always seems to find representation. On the other hand, I have specific tastes and I tend to hold other artists to the crazy standards I hold myself to so I won't name any names here...

There have been some great artists emerging off the streets; "Misk 1," and "Mars" come to mind. I spent a good five years running with this crowd and really got into the ferocity and spontaneity of their work. Coming from a more academic background, I'm also a big fan of Chuck Close, Robert Betchle and Edward Hopper but I also love Stuart Davis and Rothko. Many of my favorite artists have been illustrators: Mucha, Leyendecker, Sargent and Frazetta. But I love photography, too... Rodin is my favorite sculptor as well as my primary source of artistic inspiration and theory.

Misk 1

R. Betchle

S. Davis

F. Frazetta

During the summer, I read up on Matthew Richie, Nancy Burson and Kehinde Wiley... but as I said, since starting the MFA program, with the exception of my classmates, I haven't looked at anyone. Aside from the essays in our Theory and Criticism class, I haven't been reading anything either. Though, I guess you could say that my thoughts and ideas about identity and personal turmoil have been influenced by the other artists that have been discussed in class. 

What I have been doing, is listening. I listen to the work. What is it telling me? What does it need me to do?? It wants to be something and it's my task let it. As to what is informing me or more precisely, what has been inspiring me -- getting my head where it needs to be for this project, has been music. I have been listening to hours of dark, atmospheric trip-hop and crunchy, angst-ridden industrial: Massive Attack, Portishead, Thievery Corporation, Nine Inch Nails, Lords of Acid, The Crystal method...

In this last critique, I got asked; "What do you want from us?" I've had to think on that because at the time, I didn't have a good answer. Sometimes, getting all the extra input on work that is still in the process of becoming confuses me. In truth, I just don't know. I came into this program because I had hit a wall. I have been doing the work I do - what I have become known for, and doing it well but It's become stale to me. My work wants to be somewhere, but I don't know how to get it where it wants to go. It's very frustrating and I just don't see how looking at other artists work is supposed to help me. I don't want to do someone elses work, after all.

My work is my work and it comes from within... Of course, it has occurred to me that maybe I am not understanding the question. In which case, kindly disregard this entire post.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Crit 2: Crit's Revenge

Meh. Blog.

I've been on a series of art benders, where I sequester myself to the studio for sixteen and twenty hour blocks alternately sketching, conceptualizing and curled into a tight ball.

Put simply, my current project is kicking my ass.

I expected this. When you set out to confront years of emotional clutter, you open yourself up to reliving moments once thought forgotten and as it turns out, there are an awful lot of moments in my life worth forgetting.

I find that tragic. Our moments are finite and therefore precious. I am comforted, however, that in recent years I have amassed a disproportionately large amount of memories worth remembering. 

There is value in obsessive persistence. 

Anyway... Triptych. Yeah.

I was looking at this as one big piece - which it is, to a point - and getting overwhelmed by the complexity and sheer size of the thing. I find that working on three separate, stand-alone images that each tell the story of the other and somehow pull together as one, is much like assembling a thousand piece puzzle of a solid color with no edge pieces. Even as I type this, I can feel myself breaking out into a cold sweat. 

Fun times.

So, early last week - in mid panic, I eeny, meeny, miney, moe'd a panel and got to work. Inevitably, I began with the portrait of my father. To me, he is the most abstract element of this project, as he was not present for the majority of my life. Only until the last decade, have I ever thought of him as anything more than a symbol. A concept. 

I was surprised at how easy the drawing of him came.

It's as I envisioned however, while I worked, I began recalling some of the most early memories of life with him - memories I had all but forgotten, and these spawned some alternate ideas... Since he is not a person to me, only and idea, why do a true portrait when I have the freedom to do something more interpretive? 

That's when I drew the angry dog.

To me, that's more close to how I remember him... more than any photo could ever show: an angry, violent, unpredictable, snarling junkyard dog.

Yet, I like the irony of the portrait I drew. He seems so benign, almost like a sitcom dad from the seventies.

I stepped away to let that soak in a bit and went home to get some sleep and dreamed of a giant rabid dog tearing into me.

Dad, Sketch one
Snarling Dog

Dad final drawing, maybe

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Demon Creepy-eyed Pig of DOOM

Playing with 3D software....

Wordcloud! Neato Burrito!!!

This is a word cloud dealio of my previous blog post!!!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

This Train Don't Stop...

Ah... another bloggy post. 

There is joy, minion.


As I look out the window across the campus at the ginormous typographical "Art" sculpture   and sip at my second coffee in as many hours, I am captivated by a multitude of young, eager students -- some in capes, frantically scurrying against the undertow of an unwritten future. At last; the right place at the right time. Go them, go CCAD.

This is my first break in roughly nine hours out of... thirty. I'm glad for the daylight. Campus during the small hours of the morning can be such a lonely place. But I have my work, a nearly endless playlist of my favorite music and the internet to keep me occupied for days and days. 

My mind tends to wander when I work... The effect is not unlike meditation: the lisping whisper of the brush hurriedly spreading secrets and rumors across the board, the skritching impatience of my pencil... everything unhinges and I go deep within myself, relieved. Free.

I call this; "Falling into the hole." It's a happy place where I can let go of whatever societal norm is currently anchoring me to the here and now, and allow the madness of the creative process take me whole. In this place, with all my waking thoughts and observations safely swirling around me like a tornado, I can finally stop clenching and get to work ironing the kinks out of my Id.

Therein lies the 'Art Therapy' aspect of my process.

This last week, with my recent critique still ricocheting inside my head, I've set to the task of hammering out ideas and techy dealios for my semester one project, by way of the two remaining commission pieces that perpetually take turns on my easel. To those NOT in my head, what I am working out may not, necessarily, be totally obvious... 

None-the-less, I have been steadily obsessing over the parameters of my project with increasing intensity. (and loving every second of it!) Pallet. Composition. Narrative. The overall flow and presentation of what has taken a lifetime to overcome.

Ric, our program coordinator extraordinaire, had, during my recent critique, mentioned that he was wondering if my my graphic, reductionist style would carry the heavy theme of my topic or if it would somehow diminish it's communicative power.

I'm not sure that I can answer that satisfactorily, but I don't think it would, as both the sentiment and iconography are coming honestly. And while I can feel my work transitioning into what will be it's latest incarnation, I've begun to trust that my essential aesthetic will remain. That is, graphic, high-contrast imagery reduced to it's essential components. 

The difference here, I believe, will be dialectic; the tools, the materials -- the texture. Adding pieces and "relief" elements that break the fourth wall, if you will, while also adding a more tangible dimensionality. To illustrate, I present the following Rauschenberg:

I had made mention of preserving my essential aesthetic while still allowing the work to evolve. The best example I can offer you of an artist who did precisely that, is Roy Lichtenstien. In the infancy of his career, he -- like many of the time, reinvented the everyday by way of appropriation. In this case, individual panels from pulp "action" comics. This was only a starting point of the inventive, technical exploration I hope to emulate. The following four samples span the artist's entire professional career and show a willingness to grow and mature while still maintaining a"look" that was unmistakably "Lichtenstien."

The 1960s.

The 1970s.

The 1980s.

The 1990s.

I accept the possibility that this project may completely fall apart in my hands but am encouraged by the new direction this journey is taking me and what wonders lie ahead. 

In that sense, failure cannot exist.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Project Notes

Uhm.. yeah. So, I'm getting to this late...

So far, my first MFA project has been in the "think about it" phase. That is, I have been conceptualizing what I want to do for semester one. Until now, I have had the concept but none of the imagery; I plan to do a triptych that directly deals with my somewhat less-than-fortunate childhood and find ways to introduce sculptural/3D elements to my surface. 

My plan is to do a symbolic self portrait flanked by portraits of my parents. I had gotten stuck on 2 elements: 

1> What would be the best way to represent myself without crossing the line into a "private" image? 
2> How the hell am I going to work out the framing and hinges to get the piece to open and close the way I want it to? 

Then, at the end of last weeks projects class, I got smacked in the face with with a revelation! The whole piece, in my head at least, came at me it in a rush of images. (minus the hinge and frame thing) And it did so as most of my creative endeavors often do -- inexplicably and without method. 

Obediently, I quickly jotted down some notes and then set to the task of assembling my references and building materials. 

The emotional side of this project has been harder to cope with than I initially thought and the idea of dredging up all this crap that I worked so hard to forget has cost me more than a few nights of sleep. So, I did an all-nighter and assembled my panels...  

And have since gone back to thinking. 

Yesterday I met with my mentor, Walt, who told me to get out of my head and sketch what I am thinking. Ric concurred. 

For the record, this is not my usual methodology. When an idea crystallizes, I can see it in front of me as though my eyes were projecting the image on (insert surface, here) and all I then have to do is trace it out. Make it happen. 

Easy peasy, lemon squeasy.

The bad thing is that if, for whatever reason, the idea doesn't happen in my head, I get stuck so, sketching things out MIGHT be a good plan. That's how I will be spending the next several days -- recording my thought processes and keeping myself on target.

Hopefully, by next class, I should be ready to start laying paint to board.

My list of artists who are inspiring this piece, for those interested, may not make much sense to anyone else but me... It's a personal project so, stylistically, I don't want too many outside influences mucking up my production. Conceptually however, I do have a list for your consideration:

Beethoven's "Midnight Sonata."
The music of a band called: "Lost in the Trees."
The writings of Benjamin Hoff, Ken Kesey and Irving Stone.
Dali's painting; "Portrait of My Dead Brother."
Francis Bacon's "Self Portrait."


Wednesday, September 26, 2012


So, in my Digital Culture class, we were assigned to create a spiffy sample presentation. It's web-based and WAY cooler than Powerpoint. This is the one I did, just to try it out... Click This!!!

Side note: In the presentation, there's this short video of an addictive 8 bit game called: Super Crate Box! Available through steam. I highly recommend it! Hit the play button during the presentation for a preview!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Have You Hugged An Artist Today?

In the public eye of the United States, we artists are often times marginalized. Our best efforts – bastardized and formalized by big business, gets put into neat little boxes and promptly mass produced to aid in the national pursuit of more, ultimately useless “stuff.” Stuff that clutters our lives thereby making us feel as though we are somehow more or less successful in some ridiculous way than the person standing right beside us. In the film “Fight Club,” actor Brad Pitt delivers a simple yet scathing observation; “The things you own, end up owning you.” Truer words are seldom spoken. 

But I am veering off point.

When people ask me what I do and I say; “I’m an artist,” the usual reply I get is; “no, I mean what do you really do?” Because… what? You’ll spend your life living out of a box? Being an artist is not a real vocation; it’s a hobby, at best? If you honestly think that, then you are an ignorant moron. 

Consider this: Everything tangible in the world that is not naturally occurring was created by an artist. EVERYTHING.

The clothes you wear.
The vehicle you operate.
The place where you keep your stuff.

All of it exists because an artist of some sort thought it up. When you go out to eat, your meal is prepared – for better or worse, by a culinary ARTIST. If Jules Verne hadn’t penned: “From the Earth to the Moon,” would science have figured out the logistics to do just that a mere hundred years later? Doubtful. And let’s not forget to thank a certain Captain James T. Kirk for introducing us to the cellular flip phone or, Leonardo Da Vinci for inventing the first working model of the airplane. Or the helicopter.

It’s thanks to him and other such artists that modern medicine has precise and detailed and exceptionally thorough schematics of human anatomy. If you’ve ever been operated on and lived to talk about it, well… you’re welcome.

But these are only a few examples that cover mostly “commercial” applications.

Museums are FILLED with art chronicling, with painstaking detail, the entirety of human history. For you Christian types, you should consider the genius of Dante degli Alighieri. If not for his writings, you’d have no concept of Heaven or Hell or any of that. Nor, if not for Michelangelo Buonarroti, would you have the uplifting and inspiring visuals to accompany them.

Art, so profound, that it influenced and changed the perception of an entire RELIGION.

Politically, art is often a key element in helping to shape a nations awareness. Case in point, the Obama hope poster. Televised satire in the form of sketch comedy. Informative documentaries. I could go on but my ultimate point is this; without the arts, civilization as we know it would simply cease.


And it’s not like anyone can just dive in and do it. Physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, psychologically – Art is HARD. It takes a lifetime of dedication, commitment and a willingness to experience life completely unfiltered. All for your benefit, I might add. 

As an artist, you have ‘to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it’ and constantly tear yourself apart only start the whole process over again. And again. For some, this level of intensity can often times lead to madness. (insert Van Gogh or Sylvia Plath or Dali, for example, here)

But for those of us who persevere and find that delicate balance between reason and intuition, the arts can also be one of the most rewarding life choices a person can make.

This is why I get so pissed off when people ask me stupid questions like; “An artist?!? What, you couldn’t get a real job?” or when I hear about local governments cutting funding to the arts and especially, art education. Ken Danby, an insightful and beautifully gifted painter once said; “The degree to which the arts are included in our educational curriculum is totally inadequate. The arts are just as important… as any other endeavor in our lives.” This is not a new thought, folks. Long before the near decimation of our current, rather pathetic “educational system,” it was once the belief that you were not fully learned unless you had studied art, as you would science or math or astronomy. 

Note: You don’t have to be an artist to study and appreciate art. 

Practically, art teaches us critical thinking as well as the ability to problem solve and to 'think outside the box.' This translates to gains in math, reading, cognitive ability and verbal skills. Beyond that, involvement in the arts can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, teamwork and (perhaps) a healthier form of self expression. Consider that after the next family function, when you're found under the table, in a fetal position. Naked.

This why I feel that there should be a day; An “Artist Appreciation Day.” There isn’t one, I checked. 

I don’t know about you but my calendar is just lousy with holidays like, Groundhog Day, Flag Day, International Youth Day... No Artist Appreciation Day!

International youth day?!? Seriously?? What the fuck?!? 

This needs to be rectified. I say, put it right as autumn gets started; on September 23rd, when nature is exploding with color and there are no other pesky holidays to interfere. The day could begin with a celebratory brunch, because we artists often like to sleep in a bit... 

French toast.
Fruit parfait.

Something nice. And artists also appreciate quality materials to work with so, treat the creative person in your life to a gift card to his or her favorite supply shop/recycling center/hardware store. Go to a reading. Hit up an art opening. Pay the cover charge on open mic night. 

Break out the crayons and color for an hour – go nuts, you’ll be glad that you did. 

And the next time you see a squirrely kid whip out a sketchbook and start mapping out their next masterpiece, walk right up, stick out your hand and say; “Thank you, artist, for making my life interesting. I appreciate you!” 

Then, bow low, as you gracefully back away.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

QR Code of DOOM

Yay for technology! 

I have made a nifty looking QR code that links to the recently-redone-blog that you are currently reading!! But, as it seems redundant to post here, I am instead linking you to my FB fan page... 

The code is there. 

Scan it with your super smart phone and be redirected back to here. Then, you can click on the link that takes you back to my FB fan page and have my fan page AND my blog each running on their own separate devices!!!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Another Day in Paradise...


It's day two of a no-sleep art bender that I'm on, four if you count a weekend fraught with insomnia, and after a quick twenty minute nap -- I'm still raring to go. 

Yay mania!

You may or may not be tickled to know that I've been a very productive Artist @ Large! I finally worked out the detail dealios of my semester one project, met with Charlotte (who graciously talked me down from a frightening website related panic,) knocked out a third of a new painting and still had time to handcraft a Brooklyn style pesto pizza!

Currently, I am writing this weeks blog posting.

Shortly after, I gots some sketchin' to do, followed by a bit of time invested on what I hope will be my new website, before heading home to spend some quality time with the missus, our bird and a somewhat grumpy pygmy hedgehog named Moxy. We may even work in some quirky DVD entertainment, assuming we don't immediately  pass out after dinner...

My project idea, in brief, goes something like this:

I will be producing 3 pieces, assembled into a triptych. In the center, will be a self portrait. This will not be a traditional image of myself, but rather an icon that represents me. (The specifics of this image has not yet presented itself.) It will be flanked by a portrait of my Mother on the left and my Father on the right. I plan to dive into a more constructed approach – ironic, as my style is a deconstruction of my subject(s), by adding sculptural elements to the face of the painting(s). This, I feel, will help ease me into the world of sculpture and installation. As for the concept behind the art, well, I'll save that for my in-class presentation on Thursday...

I don't seem to have anything else on my mind at the moment, so I s'pose that's all for now.

Monday, September 3, 2012

MFA Post


Today, I am secluded in the studio while the masses celebrate Labor Day by not laboring. I find this odd. At any rate, it's been three months and change since I last posted something here, so let's get right to it, shall we?

I'm told that my usual rambling approach to blogging may be off-putting and that some of you may lose interest half way through and wander away.

Fuck it.
Your loss.

There are big things happening with your Local Artist @ Large... Namely, I have begun the masters program at the Columbus College of Art and Design. I'm pretty pumped. The campus is awesome, my new studio space is super sweet and everyone I've met so far is, in their own right, totally amazing.

And I'm not just saying that because of my digital culture class, where we are meant to post weekly, review each others progress in the virtual world and in general, beef up our “Google footprint.”


Anyway. I've been thinking a lot about what I need to get done as a student, as a professional and as a somewhat manic guy living his life and how all these elements seem to intermingle. It feels cluttered. I hate clutter. So, this weekend has been about me sorting shit out and making lists.

I LOVE lists, especially “to-do” lists. In fact, as I write this, I have successfully checked off no less than eight things from today's list. Yeah, that's right: EIGHT. Suck it.


The project that I had in mind for this semester went through a few drafts before, just after my third bowl of chocolate cheerios, I had an epiphany. Or maybe gas. Either way, I now have a clearer idea of what to do so, now I can move forward. Essentially, I will be doing some painting and diving into my troubled past as I focus on the idea of isolation and abandonment. Not very cheery I'm afraid, but a long overdue step in my continuing evolution as an artist. More on that later.

Professionally, I am coming out of a long slump which was coming out of a long run of high productivity. This has to happen from time to time and while frustrating as it can be, one must honor the rest cycle as we prepare for what's next.

Personally, I have been juggling big, life-altering decisions that threaten to overwhelm me resulting in this nagging feeling of bemused excitement inter-dispersed with blinding, piss-yourself terror. I've been coping by way of heavy lifting at the gym and the occasional bag of M&Ms.

Life's funny.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Seeing the Light

“I catch hold of one thing and another; later things will arrange themselves and settle into shape of their own accord. But here I will not begin with a prearranged plan; on the contrary, I want my plan to result from my studies. As yet I do not know the real character of the country; now I draw everything that presents itself, but later on, after some experience, I shall try to reproduce it in its real character…” –Excerpt from a letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh -- Drenthe, 12 October 1883

In art school, aside from absorbing technique, perspective and anatomy, color theory, composition and getting in some sweet studio time, you burn a lot of calories studying the usual suspects of art history – analyzing the “How” and “Why” they created what they created, and when. As a result, I have many art heroes: Michelangelo for his passion and devotion, Leonardo for his keen scientific approach, Mucha for his sensitivity, Dali and Picasso for their genius and innovation. And like many fellow art school geeks, I also spent a good amount of time studying the impressionists. This is my favorite period of art. The impressionists were all about seeing beyond convention. They seemed to exist in a place where intellect and inspiration mingled with the bittersweet, candid passing of the everyday moment. Perhaps, this new take on life was brought on by the invention of the camera, calling to mind the type of old family snapshots you might happen upon while rummaging around in your grandmother’s attic.

Never the less, the notion of studying the light and expressing its reactions within the context of the impressionist’s eye has much to do with understanding the color spectrum and how time of day, emotion and even season change can affect the impact it has on a wide range of subject matter. Waves of tall grass tickling the sky on a windy day, dancers preparing for a show, a couple surrendering their sorrows to the hallucinogenic properties of absinthe, even a bright and starry night, swirling high above a sleeping metropolis can become something more than just a mundane moment if cast in the right light. And for many of the impressionists, Van Gough for instance, the right light could only really be found off the Mediterranean coast, in the “Cote D’Azur.”


So when Gwen and I were offered the chance to spend a couple of months honeymooning along the French Riviera as guests in Cogolin: the sleepy, French-provincial village that time forgot – I freaked out like a 1960’s teen-aged girl at a Beatles concert.


It’s one thing to read about color theory and have a working knowledge of light and atmospheric perspective, it’s quite another to see it in action. Of course, I’ve been applying these theories to my urban life… cities remain for me a bottomless pit of inspiration, forever flooding me with unexpected and willing subject matter. Add to this, compounding years of unquenchable wanderlust and you begin to get a sense of why I refer to myself as the “Artist at Large.” I’ve traveled to, through and spent some time exploring every continental state in the U.S.. I’ve taken stock of the multitude of historic landmarks, roadside attractions and strange, out-of-the-way corners that this land of ours has to offer, along the way capturing and analyzing the things that pique my artistic curiosity. We live in a multifaceted, beautiful and diverse country. Sadly, not enough of us see that as a good thing… however, not to be diverted… my point here is that I have seen the light through more filters than I can count. The bald bulb glare of the Utah Salt Flats, the Texan sky, so vast and clear, you can actually see where the horizon begins to curve down. Then, there’s the blurry, smeared orange light of Mississippi in the summer, the surreal, life altering glow of Arizona’s Painted Desert, just as the top edge of the sun dips out of view… endless, endless filters.

I discovered my favorite American light source on my way home from a long month on the road in June, 2007. Close to the California border, just out of Nevada, there’s a small, winding road off the main highway. I took it on recommendation of my fellow traveler and navigator, with the hope of getting us home a day sooner. Sadly, the name escapes me but regardless... I followed a river up the side of a mountain and back down into a valley where light was reborn amongst the redwoods and sequoias, becoming prismed, the way it would through the rose window of a cathedral. It danced on leaves and floated down in rays, twinkling like glitter and refracting within the calm waters of the neighboring river like diamonds. It was so beautiful; I had to keep reminding myself to breathe. “This,” I thought, “is why they called this land ‘California.’”

One legend claims that "California" means “heaven on earth.”

That said, I’ve never seen light like the way it is here in the Gulf of St. Tropez.

If you’ve ever flown anywhere and pressed your nose against your window as the plane makes its decent, you might notice a band of burnt orange nestled in between where the sky and the ground meet. That’s pollution and it acts like a lens filter changing the light, which in turn affects the color of everything it touches. Here on the ground, we’ve become so accustomed to the ambient light, that we’re not likely to even notice. Of course, depending on where you’re landing, this tell-tale band may be anything from a faint, subtle change in tint to a dense, almost opaque haze like you see when you fly into L.A.. The thing is, I’ve never NOT seen it – until recently, when Gwen and I flew into Europe. I want to say that this is the reason the light is so different, but I can’t really be certain.


Being here, experiencing the light in similar settings to some of the most innovative minds in art history has been more valuable to me than any formalized schooling. And like a small child, I’ve been actively seeing –experiencing everything around me as though for the first time. The trees, vested in vines, are a sonnet of every hue in the Green gamut, Black and Grey. Depending on the time of day, shadows spread out in wide abstract pools of Blue-Violet, Violet or sometimes even a deep Red-Violet, as though someone knocked over a bucket of paint. And against all this lush, intensely saturated plant life are bright Red daubs of Poppies and spatters of wildflowers exploding like fireworks in Oranges and Yellows. Everywhere you look, along the sides of roads, against the dusky hillsides – is a painter’s wet dream.

I attribute this arrogant display of tints and hues to the truly unique light I have found here. Its balance of both temperature and clarity turns the sky into a specific shade of cerulean that causes the world beneath it to vibrate with a static charge that you can almost feel. Colors pop and hum with an intensity that leads one to believe that if you were to reach out and touch it, your hand would come away wet with paint. The scenery alone is staggeringly succulent but when you add in the neighboring architecture and loose, pastel linen attire of the locals reflecting a summer sunset and cut that against the deep sapphire hue of the Mediterranean, it’s no wonder why so many travelers become lost here.

Imagine being Van Gough, alone in a field fighting against time and the elements to capture not just the colors he saw but the way they felt. The way they moved in playful union with the wind, flickering and sparkling… every vista more gorgeous than the last… a deeply religious man experiencing rapture first hand for so long that he had no choice but surrender to it.

I’m an artist that prides himself on being a master of technique. True enough, my work is constantly mistaken for the less-than-romantic digital methods that I openly shun and actively avoid. To me, painting – brush in hand, the feel of raw pigment claiming a virgin board versus the disconnected, formulaic approach afforded me by contemporary design software, is like comparing the slick feel of unhinged passionate lovemaking to pathetically masturbating into an old gym sock. No thank you. But for all my skill at presenting the perfect beauty of imperfection, my desire to create the reddest Red or the bluest Blue – I worry that I may not be able to accurately capture the subtle impressionistic overload of this one-of-a-kind paradise… it’s a long overdue challenge that I willfully embrace: can I finally, utterly and completely submit to my senses?

Only time will tell.

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Official, One-On-One Interview With Jesus Christ

Hello my dear minions!

I'm so sorry for being absent as of late, but I have been painting and plotting and planning. -- It's all very time consuming.

Anyhoo... I hope you're sitting down because I -- wait for it -- interviewed JESUS FREAKING CHRIST.

The Jesus!!!!
Check it out and be illuminated.
Like many descendants of the Italian-American immigration boom of the early twentieth century, I was raised exceptionally catholic. And as an exceptionally good catholic, I dutifully checked holy sacraments off my metaphysical to-do list, attended C.C.D. (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine), worked the altar for the high mass with the extended homily and even spent a good amount of time practicing my pious gesticulations in the mirror;

Grooming myself, as they say, for the priesthood. This made my family very happy which in turn, made me very happy, as I could now use my future Papal seat and the threat of excommunication to fend off the near daily atomic wedgies, choke holds and the ever hilarious, “hang-the-little-guinea-by-his-ankles-until-he-passes-out-then-take-all-his-clothes-off-and-throw-them-in-the-pool” gag from any one of a dozen greaser cousins.

You see, in the Italian heritage, having a priest in the family is much like having a friend waiting at the back door of a movie theater to sneak you in. Suddenly, you become a living golden ticket, a “get-out-of-hell-free card” and EVERYONE wants a piece of you. People start giving you things as though they were making payments on an insurance policy like; a personalized copy of the bible or a rosary carved from the remnants of the cross or a recipe for communal wafers or… myrrh.

Then one day, tragically, I turned eleven and “discovered” my penis. I’ll spare you the gruesome details save to say that I did not; in fact; ultimately decide to become a priest, much to my family’s collective dismay. No, I instead went to art school and spent much of my off time exploring the full potential of my discovery.

The women in my family remain veiled in black to this very day. True story.

So, you could imagine my surprise when, twenty five years later, one of my house plants unexpectedly burst into flame and began emitting in a thunderous, albeit hurried, somewhat nasally voice: “The following message is from the office of the Lord your GOD, please stand by…” Then, in a puff of smoke the plant went out. A moment or two went by of me checking to make sure that I was still wearing clean underwear, when the plant abruptly re-ignited and boomed:

“This is the Lord your GOD, here… How’s it going,’ kid?”

I looked into the flames, frantic for an appropriate response. “Uhh… Could be better, could be worse, your godship sir?” If a flaming ficus could nod approvingly, then this one did: hallelujah.

Then his godliness spoke: “Fine, fine. Glad to hear it. OK so, here it is: There’s been a lot going on down there that I just don’t like… wars, corruption, reality entertainment – it’s Babylon all over again. And while I’d like to step in with a flood or a meteor or something, well, it’s just not my thing anymore. Besides, I promised I’d let you guys handle things and I’m nothing if not a god of my word.” I nodded stupidly, humbled by an obscure sense of déjà vu. “But,” continued the plant, “the fact remains that SOMETHING needs to be done and quick – the End Times is still a good ways off and I simply refuse to be hurried, you follow me?”

“Yes, sir.” I said, instinctively falling to my knees for indeed, I did “Follow.”

“Therefore,” said the Lord, “it is after much consideration that I have decided to grant you and you alone, an exclusive, one-on-one interview.”

Then I answered and said, “Uhh, an interview sir?”

“Yes.” Said the Lord. “You will compose ten questions which shall then be answered with ten replies filled with the poignant, candid honesty of the Holy Spirit and then present this transcript to the world’s media elders and with I as your witness you shall say unto them; ‘the Lord GOD has spoken unto me and these are the words thus spoken!’ Or, you know, something along those lines. Feel free to ad lib.”

Again I answered the highest of highs and said; “Ad lib? Your godliness, are you suggesting that I ‘wing’ an interview with you?”

“Wing -- what? Hah! No, you won’t be interviewing me, kid. No, no, no.” Said the Lord, “The full magnitude of my actual presence in the room with you would snap your fragile human intellect like a twig. No, I’m sending you my son, instead.”
“Your son, sir?!?” I exclaimed, suddenly lightheaded, “Jesus Christ!

“Yes, exactly.” Replied the Lord. “My boy Yahshua. His flight is just coming in; you should expect him within the hour.” And with that, my house plant again went out in a puff of smoke, leaving behind the charred, smoldering remnants of what was once a hearty and easy to maintain Ficus Religiosa.

The next half hour was a blur of preparation as I did my best to make my crappy little apartment as presentable as possible. I called a few friends; “Ok, I’m Jesus and you get to ask me one question – GO!”

I brushed my teeth.
I put on a tie.
I skimmed through the New Testament, anticipating a pop quiz and breathed deeply into a brown paper bag.

Somehow, I had been chosen to represent the entirety of humanity. Me. The guy who had once felt up Maureen Houlihan in a confessional during her brother’s christening. Was this Judgment day? Was I really going to hell like Sister Shelia once predicted?? Is there actually a hand-basket involved??? I ran to the nearest window, scanning the sky for falling brimstone when my panic was interrupted by two soft knocks at my door.



As I open the Door, I am greeted by a Middle Eastern man in his early thirties. He is lean, clean shaven and smells faintly of cloves. His shoulder length hair is pulled into a loose ponytail and he is casually dressed in flip-flops, an old pair of blue jeans and a tight fitting tee shirt with a graphic of a potato addressing an order of fast food fries with the inscription; “You’ve changed, man.”

Without saying a word, he sets his well-worn rucksack just inside the doorway and embraces me.

Jesus Christ: “Hey guy… thanks for seeing me on such short notice.”
Me: “Y-you’re joking, right?”

After a length of time bordering on uncomfortable, Jesus pulls away, pats me on the cheek, shuffles over to my trendy, overstuffed papasan and settles in.

JC: “Sweet place you have here. Much nicer than that hostel I was staying in.”

Me: “Where were you staying in a hostel?”

JC:Amsterdam. I just spent the last year back-packing across Europe and that’s where I ended up.”

Me:Amsterdam? You don’t say. I’ve never… h-h-how was it?”

JC: “Relaxing. Really, really relaxing.” (he winks at me)

Me: “That’s very… ah… illuminating. Uhm, can I get you something to drink or eat – are you hungry?”

JC: “Oh no, thank you. I ate on the flight over. Some milk and honey would be nice, though…if you have it.”

I hurry to the kitchen and quickly microwave a glass of milk and grab a fistful of KFC honey packs from the fridge.

Me: “Please don’t take this the wrong way Jesus sir, but you don’t look anything like your pictures.”

JC: (shrugs) “Gotta love the renaissance, right? (grins slightly) I WISH I was that ripped. (laughs) Might explain all that fuss at the airport, though. “Randomly selected” my tuckas.”

Me: “Aw CRAP! Really?!”

JC: “It wasn’t as bad as all that... the guard was very gentle. And afterwards, he gave me a lollipop.”

Me: “Sir, on behalf of the entire human race – I am very, really and truly sorry.”

JC: “Oh, it’s OK. Honestly. I completely understand… things are a real mess right now... which is why we’re here today, having this little interview. Besides, it could’ve been a whole lot worse. (holds up his hands) ”

Me: “Yikes! Why do those look so… y’know, current?”

JC: “Ignorance leaves wounds that never heal, my brother.”

Me: “That’s what’s up!” (the lord and i fist-bump)

JC: “This is fun.” (jesus claps to himself, lightly) “So, do you have your questions ready?”

Me: “Wha?-Uh... Yeah but before we begin, I have to know: why me Jesus?”

JC: “Why you what?”

Me: “Why was I chosen for this interview?”

JC: “Ah. I drew your name out of a hat.”

Me: “I’m sorry, did you say a… a hat?”

JC: “Yes, my father is very fond of hats, especially derbies.”

Me: “Hats. GOD is fond of… hats. Seriously.”

JC: “Well, ever since the Paleolithic Period when he started going bald…”

Me: “…”

JC: “Anyway, he wrote down the name of every living man woman and child over the age of four onto little scraps of paper, put them into his hat and then I closed my eyes, reached in, picked one out and well… there you go.”

Me: “So… you’re saying we’re here today -- in my living room -- because of a sort of lottery?”

JC: “A lottery, that’s right. Its how most decisions in the universe are made, actually. Keeps things fair – are you… alright? You look kind of pale.”

Me: “You’ll have to excuse me… my mind’s kind of
blown right now. Maybe we should just get started.”
JC: “I’m ready whenever you are.”

I check the counter on the tape deck I have going, tap the mic to test the levels and make the appropriate notations on my ledger.

Me: “Ahem. Check, check, check… uhm… The following is my interview with our lord and savior, the messiah and one true son of GOD. Yahshua, bother, teacher -- Jesus Christ, welcome.”

JC: “Shalom, brother and if I may? A very happy forthcoming Festivus to you as well.”

Me: “Excuse me?”

JC: “You know, ‘a Festivus for the rest of us?’ Seinfeld??”

Me: “Uhh, Seinfeld, Lord?”

JC: “Funny, funny guy…”

Me: “I-I didn’t realize you were a fan.”

JC: “Are you kidding?!
The Soup Nazi? The contest?? (chuckles) Genius.”
Me: “You don’t say.”

JC: “Oh absolutely. If he had been my opening act, y’know, instead of that leper -- things might have gone much differently during my ministry.”

Me: “Wow. I am SO reminded of this joke I once heard…”

* The next few moments of the Lord and I exchanging off-color jokes involving priests and rabbis walking into various bars have been omitted for the sake of time and in the name of tact. *

JC: “Forgot the Tip! Ha! That’s Hilarious… WHOOO!

Me: “Yes, well… thank you… anyway, let’s let that lead into my first question; which path or ‘religion,’ if you will – is the correct one?”

JC: “Well, that kind of depends on you, don’t you think?”

Me: “Not the answer I was expecting – could you expand on that?”

JC: “Sure. Religion is a subjective and uniquely individualistic experience. What works for you, may not work for someone else… and that’s totally OK. The point of a religion or any organized life philosophy for that matter, is to help keep you focused on your connection to the world around you. For many, it’s a cultural unifier, a way to feel some sense of purpose within a group. Belonging, as it were. In my experience, I’ve observed that people often find comfort in community. But then there are others who think outside the box and set out for a greater sense of oneness. Some choose to rely on their intuition while there are those who choose a more intellectual route. Ultimately, what does it matter? The point is to live your life as best as you can. And, if you can get through life learning through adversity and savoring happiness where you find it and to do so without harming others along the way – awesome.”

Me: “Having said that, do you ever think that there can be peace in the Middle East?”

JC: “Peace doesn’t just happen, brother. You have to work at it – learn to compromise and try to meet people half way.”

Me: “Agree to disagree?”

JC: “Something like that, yes.”

Me: “Well, so far, we seem to really suck at it. What might you suggest?”

JC: “Honestly, I don’t know anymore. Every time someone comes along talking about goodwill and love and treating people as you would want to be treated, you nail them to a tree. Or if some poor soul even suggests that you try imagining it, you gun them down in a confused rage. God help anyone who ‘has a dream.’ But if I were to really think about it, I might offer you two words; ‘Time Share.’ At this point, what can it hurt?”

Me: “I suppose there are worse ideas…”

JC: “Then instead of guns and suicide bombers, you’d have rental agreements and guys maniacally grinning at you with their crazy, larger-than-life capped teeth offering you a free getaway in exchange for a half hour of your time so that I can get stuck with one third of a condo I never use… by the way, brother, have you ever been to Colorado?”

Me: “Yes. Once, and I got altitude sickness. So when can we expect your big comeback?”

JC: “If you were me, and everywhere you went there were people sporting charms and iconography of your dead and mutilated corpse -- would you plan a comeback?”

Me: “Point taken. Moving on… there are those of us who truly feel your fathers absence in these modern times – care to comment?”

JC: “Dad? Absent?? I guess I could see that. He’s been pretty preoccupied with his current project.”

Me: “Oh?”

JC: “Opposite end of the galaxy. Humanity 4.0.”

Me: “I’m not sure I heard you right, did you say… four?”
JC: “Yeah, the first two versions never went much beyond the research and development phase.”
Me: “Seriously?”

JC: “Oh for sure. Believe me, you’re glad he got over that whole ‘tentacle’ thing… involved a lot of mucus and was ultimately pointless and kinda gross.”

Me: “Please tell me that you’re just messing with me…”

JC: (here, the lord merely shrugs.)

Me: “OK then... here’s one that a buddy of mine suggested – Do you have any super powers, like can you fly or bend steel bars with your mind?”

JC: “Whoa! That would be pretty cool… no, but how about this… clear your thoughts and visualize a playing card -- but don’t tell me what it is!”

Me: “Oh, a card trick. Alright…”

Suddenly, I am overcome by an intense coughing fit, resulting in a casino style playing card jettisoning out of my mouth and onto the floor. It’s the queen of hearts. The exact
card I had pictured only a moment before.
Me: “Wow! That was amazing. (hack) Unnecessary and a little slimy but still (cough, cough) – pretty amazing.”

JC: “Keep that card, in remembrance of me.”

Me: “I… will… Uh, thank you. So… what’s heaven like?”

JC: “It’s like the happiest you’ve ever felt EVER, times a million, on a loop – all the time, always.”

Me: “Disneyland on shrooms. Got it. Let’s see… Ah… Here we go… You’ve been quoted saying; ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ Really?”

JC: “Well… See, that’s what you’d call a metaphor… I’m also not actually a lamb, in case you had any follow-up questions in that regard.”

Me: “Hey look, if I’ve offended you…”

JC: “No. Don’t be silly, I’m not offended… and I apologize if I seemed curt. It’s just that I get so tired of constantly being misquoted. People don’t take Lau Tzu or the Buddha so literally… why am I the lucky one?”

Me: “Perhaps if you were more direct? Y’know, spell out the truth in a way that would prevent corrupt religious and political leaders from preying on the rest of us by twisting your words to suit their evil needs and agendas?”

JC: “Brother, if history has taught us anything, it’s that people don’t want the truth – what they want, is confirmation of what they believe the truth to be.”

Me: “I see.”

JC: “And apparently, ‘HD’ everything.”

Me: “What makes you say that?”

JC: “You might be surprised. People pray for the weirdest things…”

Me: “Then you do hear prayers! I honestly thought that was all a bunch of – Uhm... Do you handle those directly or do you outsource to other deities?”

Here, the Lord glares at me -- apparently displeased with my off-handed remark.

“Er…Ah… allow me to rephrase that... do prayers ever get answered?”
JC: “Yes, but not always and then – only to a point.”

Me: “I’m not sure I understand.”

JC: (jesus takes a breath) “It’s quite complicated and all depends on how and what you’re praying for... wait… I’ll start again. Essentially, I… I try to deal with prayer on a case-by-case basis. For example, if you were to pray for strength or clarity or wisdom, you could be assured of a prompt and positive response.”

Me: “But what if I prayed for… say… a promotion or a nicer house or increased musculature?”

JC: “There. That’s exactly my point. I’m not a genie, OK? You don’t rub on the bible or some holy relic and expect me to spontaneously appear and POOF! grant your every wish. That’s’ idiotic and quite frankly, a little racist. Besides, that’s not how prayer works. Prayer is about meditating on what is good in your life and what is not. If you want a promotion, work harder. If you want a nicer house, either re-decorate or move, man. And bigger muscles? Don’t be so lazy! Why do you think you were given free will in the first place? You’re given what you’re given and take it from there. Anyone who thinks otherwise has COMPLETELY missed the point of my teachings.”

Me: “I can see that this is real bone of contention for you…”

JC: “Please. Don’t get me started.”

Me: “Yes. Well, just so you know – this next question was my grandmother’s idea.”

JC: “Lay it on me.”

“What was the deal with you and Mary Magdalene, I mean were you and her – uhm… That is, did you ever… Y’know…”

“Hook up?” (shaking his head) “Thank you, Dan Brown.”

Me: “Too personal?”

“A bit… there was that one retreat… (he blushes) You know what? Rather than completely derail this interview and potentially scar my credibility, I will -- how do you Americans put it? ‘plead the Fifth?’”

“Fair enough.… my Gram will never let me live it down, but I totally get it. Well then… this brings us to my final question: what, in your opinion sir, is the meaning of life?”

JC: “Oh that’s easy. The meaning of life, of course, is to live it.”

At that, Jesus waves a hand over his empty glass which then abruptly fills with what appears to be a vintage port. Before downing his drink, he tips the glass in my direction:
JC: “L'chaim.”
“Alright now, see -- that’s just cool.”

JC: (smirks) “I have my moments.”

Me: “Well Jesus, thank you so very much for this eye opening and somewhat unsettling interview. Hopefully, it will reach the minds of those who need it the most.”

JC: “I’ll certainly keep my fingers crossed.”

There’s a flash of light and what sounds like a hundred party balloons popping simultaneously and then he and his rucksack are gone. Just like that. On the floor, is his half-full glass of fine port and a still soggy queen of hearts casino style playing card.