I moved to Chicago in 1986, fresh out of grad school at Ohio University, armed with MFAs in photography and printmaking. The week I moved here I had a show opening at DeGraaf Gallery in the bustling River North art district, where I showed monoprints I made in Athens. It was a three person show titled ‘New Chicago Talent.’ I had found my new home. This was the peak of the 80’s art boom, and the art market was soon headed for a monetary ‘correction.’ Without access to a darkroom or a press at the time I started painting. I had experience in watercolors, and drawing, and my graduate thesis show in photography consisted of painting on photographs. It seemed that all my experience in art was leading me towards painting. I had no experience when it came to oil on canvas. I studied painters and paintings and started experimenting with oil paint. I spent a lot of time at the Art Institute of Chicago, and The Contemporary Museum studying the moderns, the abstract expressionists and contemporary works by Phillip Guston, Jean Michael Basquiat, Georg Baselitz, Giacometti, and Lucien Freud. I spent many hours in the local galleries where I came across the Chicago Imagists, another influence from early on.
My first attempts at oil painting were less than fruitful. I was trying to adapt what I had done with the monoprints, (which is essentially a painting process using a press), to painting on canvas. All during this time, I was filling sketchbooks with drawings and this strange head kept appearing. This odd but evocative figure. The monoprints had been non-figurative but dealt with issues of isolation, consumerism, dehumanization, and alienation that would mark all my future work. This new figure was both a self portrait and Everyman. A framework to hang my ideas upon. I finally decided to pursue this figure in paint. After about a year of working canvases and with no desirable results, I went into the studio one day and cut all of my canvases off their stretchers and trashed them. I was starting from scratch. It was then that I did my first figurative piece. This is when I began real painting, finishing a large canvas in two days, and since then this figure, self portrait and Everyman has become central to my work.
This new figure was a highly stylized, personal, self portrait as emotional human. I have always been interested in the way things feel, more so than the way they look. Our eyes may deceive us. When I paint I am in a kind of meditation, a critical non thinking. The intellectual work is done before hand in my sketchbooks, there I work out different elements, composition, symbols and the physical aspects of the piece. It is not uncommon for me to do many sketches of elements in different positions and compositions. While I am in the painting stage I like to put myself in a position to bring my subconscious into the work. To allow the appearance of accident to enter. And from my sketchbooks, I bring a library of images together, using bits and pieces of a number drawings together for a new composition.
Here I begin to react to the paint, the mark making, and color. I try to give the painting a life of it’s own, it’s own reality, it’s own existence. Movement through a simulated space. I intend to make a unique experience, something new to the world. The experience for the viewer actually changes the chemistry of the brain and is stored away in memory, and in this way the experience is carried with you, and reality is affected.