Dark Horse is pretty straight forward, though the possible readings are many. I was aware of a few background stories, like Lady Godiva, but really I just wanted to paint a horse, and get a great sense of movement. I think I succeeded there. The extremes of black and white, a nude in the cold and crashing through forests, human and animal, etc., are all part of it. At first you think she is being chased, but she has a little smile on her lips.
I’d envisioned a number of people in the procession, all of them somehow carrying something that would relate to the shovel in the protagonist’s hand. A mother with a dead child (bury grief), a sapling (plant hope), a bucket (dig for water), but the urgency of those metaphors just sort of evaporated as I worked on the image. Something a little more free-form came into play, and the piece took off in its own direction.
In an updating of Max Beckmann’s 1918 painting, The Night, an American family suffers through a sit-com after working through an evening meal of McDonald’s take-out. Mom pops a pill, while Dad puts an all too loving arm around his little girl. The boy twists his militaristic transformer toy, as the dog steals a french fry from the table. Preparatory drawings, artist comments, and art historical references are posted in the attached facets.
Youth versus age is a theme that has been coming up in a number of my recent works, and with a slew of world-wide protests taking place over the last few years I’ve had plenty of inspiration. The revolts in the Middle East in particular have been rife with poignant visuals, with a number of family connections and coincidences that make it even more relevant. My own aging, and the observation that ever younger players are taking over all aspects of running our society, made me want to do a battle scene of crotchety old farts fighting slacker-hipsters.
I’ve had an image in my head for a few months of old guys fighting young guys. This piece is a study for a section of that work, though the other image may morph into something completely different. I knew that figures in the mud would have to be done in a very narrow tonal range, and when I finished this piece I realized they’ll have to be worked in an even narrower range. I like the sense of space here, achieved using a very minimal palette. Mostly mud colors were used, but I did use a bit of turquoise to spice up the cools.
I don’t care much for the content of French artist William Bouguereau’s work, but the man can paint soft female flesh better than I ever will. I made this piece after rediscovering a kitschy old sketch of mine, and deciding to convert it to be about the death of the famous academic painter. He spent most of his life happily painting beautiful girls and women (not a bad occupation for a lifetime), so I felt it would be interesting for him to be tossed out the window of his La Rochelle studio by a modern dance troupe consisting of little girls in black leotards.
As a ‘realist’ painter the art world often presents itself as a bastion of everything I don’t believe in, and on rare occasions my bile erupts against this anti-skill prejudice in a work like Procession. Here a curator/critic type opens the door of the newly built MOCA gift shop to a silk-suited collector. Behind him, the art dealer, in a red dress, digs her claws into the rich man’s shoulder. Behind her the artist, in splattered overalls, tries to ignore his mother who is whispering over his shoulder. In the background, another mother, dressed in a blouse printed with Van Gogh’s Irises (at the time the most expensive painting in the world), pushes her apprehensive son down into the museum.
I collaborated with Persian poet Abbas Saffari on this piece. In his poem he discussed three artists; Frida Kahlo, Max Beckmann, and Lucian Freud. He wasn’t especially happy with any of their approaches to the human figure, but disliked Freud the most. I, on the other hand, think Freud is the greatest living realist painter, so my response to the poem was sympathetic to Freud’s stance. The entire project was generated by Didi Menendez at Poets and Artists magazine, and out collaboration appears alongside that of many others in the 25th issue
One of the most popular of the images I made in the 80s, Sudden Storm depicts a thunderstorm in America’s happiest place. Over two hundred figures scatter as the rain hits: parents search for missing children, adults cower under newspaper and jackets, and even Mickey and Donald dash for cover as a little brat pesters them. In the sky the clouds swirl, and a gnome’s visage seems to be peering out of one. It reminded me of ET, and try as I might, I couldn’t get the damn face to disappear. It only morphed into another form. I finally realized it was meant to be.
The deserts out here in California are both beautiful and dangerous. The landscape can be stunning, with colors and rock formations like nothing you’ve ever seen, but to get to them you go to some very isolated places. Eccentric characters roam these spaces, and many of them are armed to the teeth. I’ve seen the hulk of abandoned vehicles shot so full of holes it looked like a sieve, and even had holes six inches in diameter from some shoulder fired missiles. Come join the desert fun! Bring the kids!