This painting arose out of an embarrassing memory of an event in college. Back in 1977 I was living in a wild co-op. We ran around naked, some did a lot of dope, and we ate strictly vegetarian meals (self-cooked and generally gritty). But only half the co-op members were vegetarian, and the rest of us occasionally rebelled. We had a rickety pier, and I went fishing off it with co-op friend, Bob. We filled a bucket with bluegills in no time, and brought them back into the kitchen to clean them. As we began scaling the fish something came over us, a kind of insane blood-lust. We started popping out the fishes’ eyes, and chopping their bodies into little pieces. We made a horrible bloody mess of the kitchen, splattered ourselves with gore, and cackled like evil gnomes as we did it. Even now, thirty years later, it shames me to think of it, and I have no idea what suddenly spurred it.
The event did, however, lead to an interesting painting, one with heavy homosexual overtones, and a hint of impending violence. At the time I was proud of the ripples in the water, totally invented, and the easy swirl of fish in the bucket.
This one is so impressive. The fact that you invented the ripples in the water is masterly in it self, but they also look so real; just as if you were on a lake; a dark reflective surface. The detail on the mans arm and the detail in the news paper he’s on is notable. But this one is dramatic because of the colors. The whole painting glows. Most of your paintings have a nice polish but this one just works perfectly. From the color of the wood to the color of the skin and the color of the drapery; and the drapery is done exquisitely, as usual.
I’m a big fan of the story behind this painting. The secret is held within the gaze between the men. The water is well observed, the ripples in the water flow into the drapery with ease.
Thanks, Mi-chelley. The gaze between people in my paintings evolved over time in my paintings done in the 80s. I’ll begin to post some of those this week. The psychological tension between my characters is something that is, for me, critical to the ‘why’ of making art. It has been there since my earliest drawings.
“You better put that fish down on the newspaper” said Frodo with a knife. "Im sorry Mr. Frodo, it’s my fish now . You’ll just have to catch your own " , said Samwise feeling his fish, precious in his hands.
Seriously, not for everyones wall, but well painted and with an ambiguous story. Well done.
That’s pretty funny, Alan. I realized in a talk with Gordon Fuglie a few yers ago, that my life had been very influenced by Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I’d read it seven times by 10th grade. Frodo’s mission, carrying the ring and completing his mission, against all odds and against all comers, is sort of how I ended up approaching art-making. This insight was a revelation.
I remember spending an evening on the pier and at that co-op in 77. Crab lice had infested every object in the place, animate and inanimate alike. Good times!!
I remember that evening. We went swimming at night with our girlfriends, all naked, in the middle of a violent thunderstorm. Probably the electric current cured your crab lice!
Scott, I just love what you have embedded in the newspaper. The eye of the storm, “War Crimes Trial!?”, “Gouge Out…” and the more obvious “Storms Batter Coast” … It just says REDRUM, doesn’t it?
Scott, This is a great painting! I’ve never seen this one an dI really find it appealing….everything about it, but especially the expression on the face of the lad holding the fish and the visual conversation between the draping and the water. Great piece!
Thanks, Grady. You mention the water, and I just remembered trying to work a face into the ripples. Kind of like those old ideas about subliminal advertising that were talked about back in the 70s. All sorts of things painted into the ice in liquor ads, for example. I wonder if that stuff works.
Berfore I saw yor full commentary I was very impressed with the ripples. Now I know that they are invented I am even more so. A fine balance (in content as well as composition) so that the delicate rendering of the print of the newspaper is noticeable but not distracting. I like the gold/bronze fabric too.
Your comment means a lot coming from such a master of invention. I’d done water in a couple pieces before this, so I’d had some practice. Overall, the water was easier to learn than clouds were, and much easier than reflections in windows for me. I generally paint things solid as concrete, so when it comes to wispy things like clouds, or double realities as one finds in reflections, I have to concentrate very hard.
You had to restore balance. Sounds like a healthy Bronze-Age response to New-Age strictness. I could almost picture your painting of the bloody kitchen.
wonderful painting…the way he is holding the fish suggests a lot and the ripples are great. story like a waking dream.
I remember reading somewhere that fish are phallic symbols, maybe it was in relation to a Beckmann painting. Of course, those scales are like chain-mail armor, and with all those spines… ouch!
Your feeling of shame is fascinating, Homoerotic? Sure. Violent? Absolutely. How much of who we are or who we were gets expressed in our art? I suppose lots of primitive stuff is going on under the beautiful water’s surface… One can trace some of these themes in your later work. I know that my “humor” in my work is driven by what I fear or am angry about or lust for… Sometimes I feel ashamed too. Have I said too much? revealed too much of a self that I am ashamed about? Fortunately, Scott, you didn’t let your shame keep you from making this painting.
I’ve often had students who were afraid to paint images that were too close to them, too personally revealing. I always told them that it was there job as an artist to put that stuff out there, in one form or another. Those bits of unique and very personal content are what make it the art of an individual, rather than just another boring exercise in paint. Putting it all out there often makes a piece more difficult to sell, because it disturbs people, and I imagine that is another reason so many artists are afraid to express those deepest thoughts. Personally, I can never tell in advance which pieces of mine are going to intrigue or disturb, so I have the luxury of just being able to do it.