Tuesday, October 30, 2007

portraits of friends

I have recently done a series of portraits of friends. This was the first. Sally would spend her evening hours reading in bed, often reading an excerpt from one book and then going to another. The one in her hand is Dante.
After I had completed the second portrait Sally looked at them both and told me that they were all about light. When the third was finished I realized that this was true. In each there is a place that is defined by artificial light. This light makes the portrait possible but also delineates aspects of the person.
I hadn't thought about it that way while I was working--but seeing them all together I realized how the light sculpted out the space and the person's specific volume within it. The quality of the illumination embodied a sense of the person, as though each had sought out an environment that simulated their own aura.

This is Britt Nhi who I coach in aerial hoops (lyra). She was performing on the ice when she was six. Later it was dance and then it was the air. She has moved through many elements to be here, and lounging in the most narrow of habitats she is comfortable in that fine focus . It was that physicality that intrigued me.
Here the light is theatrical with its own shape that makes the aerialist's life visible (possible) for us. There is no ground or ceiling and one always hopes for the outfoxing of gravity:

Here it is sodium vapor, stoplights and melting headlights. The urban night is a map of greys, grits and reflections. This is a portrait of my friend Chris and he was standing out in front of my loft.
He's a guy who truly knows the street. His description of his arrival there goes like this:
"While rocketing along that ol' Highway of Life late one rainy evening, I swerved to avoid making the rather sudden and thoroughly forced acquaintance of a horseless conveyance bearing a modicum of success and recognition in the Grand Duchy ofMoyerville . The initial repercussions of this selfless act of automotive courtesy sent me careening down a metaphysical off-ramp that deposited me in this desolate twilight country..."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

extreme memory

These are the fall colors of upstate New York--the halogen like illuminations of tree leaves framed and scribble over with the black trunks and branches of their fellows...often it is the contrasts of darks and extreme color that entrance me.
And here is my studio, stroked with the late sun, and guarded by the hydrangea's pinked blooms. To me the studio is a place of magic--its structure a host to possibilities and strange instructions. This one has a trapeze and many books, not to mention a ten foot high wall to paint on.
I've been reading Krakauer's Into the Wild. It was pressed on me by a friend, otherwise I probably would have ignored it, thinking it somewhere in the geography of Herzog's Grizzly Man. But it isn't.
I am reminded of a very young self ending up in a hospital in the Sahara in Algeria. Not enough salt--it can kill you. I was lucky--I only ran a 104 degree temperature for several days.
This was before the circus. And before martial arts.
I am reminded of that heedless drive and recklessness. A part of me misses it. The Mom part of me cringes at the thought of my son stepping into it, and yet I would be sad if he never spent time there.
So---I plunge the world into my eyes and drink deep...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

garden in B & W

7 am is still dark. Almost 8 and the light is a blued grey. The summer is being pummeled into the streets by rain, which is straining to bring autumn into the peculiar state of this late October. The ink brush painting above is my garden upstate. The one I walk through on the way to my studio. It isn't an exact representation. The mimosa tree (or tartuffala tree as I call it) on the left is actually at least 20 feet tall--and the hummingbirds did hover there. The buddeleia bush with its attendent monarch-huge in the forground-is the singular stand-in for the many (pink-violet, white and coming next year: deep purple).
When I'd wander out there I would call for my cat, Ming, who would come bounding, dog-like to my side, and lift up his face and one paw to greet me.
So the rain delivers its summer memories as it dashes them to the asphalt.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Double Trapeze

This is a photo of myself and my partner in the Big Apple Circus. I'm the one hanging by her knees. When I look at these now they have a peculiar resonance with my painting. Often the shapes and linear topography of the rigging coincides with the silhouettes & lines in my pictures.
I thing of the catspiders and their odd outlines, the single figured pictures like Blue and then the circus fantasmagoria of Demon on Canal.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Its hard to write narrative for images that resist decisive plotting. And it narrows their flavor, voice, and shifty edges. One can tell stories about the picture or about how the rattle of approach defines the hoof of the horse. That can be fun. One could talk about curli-cues. I love spirals and the dreamy hand . Have always wanted to liberate the doodles. One could talk about icons or logos. A good logo is something that tatoos the retina and then stays lit in the brain tank with the other luminescent fish. Greek vases are brilliant that way.
So here, the queen of blue doodle revolution; of course the source being herself...becoming what I fondly think might be sky.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Simple Light Years/Blade Runner

Saw Blade Runner tonight at the Ziegfeld. It looks as beautiful as it does in my memory, except more so. When I came out into the night I was still in the movie. Every face on the street, every bicycle rickshaw, garbage guys, pushcarts moving, sliced-off building top illuminated in the furry air--all blade runner. It wasn't until the subway got to 14 th Street and through the opened doors I could see Tom Otterness's sculptures cavorting on the platform that I knew I was back in New York.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

dark green sea

To paint with the grace of a cat stepping off onto nebulae, or as someone saw them-snowflakes.
And then to simply walk home:

Monday, October 15, 2007

pisces moon

Pisces is a fish, actually 2 fish in the symbol, swimming in opposite directions. Really its the attempt to see things from all points of view. Visually this presents some interesting layers of perception. Seen in this photo of the moon from my window are the multiple points of reference: within the window, behind the fire escape iron work, beyond the building's construct, out between buildings, behind the buildings, above the buildings in the night sky, on the moon, outer space. Implied but not seen is the space from where I stand and what is behind me.
There is an Escher piece which rather simply invokes this without using any visual tricks. It is an etching or drawing of water where one can see through the water to a fish, and the surface of the water which reflects its surroundings and also bears a leaf. Its not a new idea but he renders it in a way that illuminates the permutations of the event in a perfectly prosaic condition while invoking all the metaphoric riffs that such an image is possible of.
Here I'm at home. That's what I meant about the fish with an itch to see from everywhere. That's why we swim.
I've recieved the new wood to paint on. When I ordered it built I wasn't thinking about size, only proportions. Now its hanging on the wall, gloriously huge and blank. Its 66 inches by 70 inches.
Its going to be a western. Yes, the fish go there, too.

Friday, October 12, 2007

membranes & transitions

This is an old, old photograph (a polaroid, actually) taken from my fire escape. I've been reading M John Harrison's Nova Swing. I've been thinking about a new painting. I've been thinking about a new life. About the membrane between moments, between worlds, between dimensions. All a perceptual movement through time and this so-called place of illusion. Is anything really fixed? Maybe that's why we take pictures and make them. It offers the tactile proof of an event. Breadcrumbs back through the forest. We can't follow it but can gaze back at its pattern--so many illuminated particles along the slipstream of our passage.
I am flypaper to all these things I see: the fiery sunset from a tiny photo, the rain's black asphalt inscriptions, and the picture the sound of wheels through it. And now here the spiky letters making their thicket on fake paper. Reading them might give you another permutation of marking the journey through a world of slowed-down light (what matter is).
Its all a grand, debased love affair with chaos.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Aqua de Dios

Finally all together--- the woman and the catspiders (& 3 fish). The place is an actual place in La Jolla, California. If you swim out from the cove's small, sandy beach you will find these fields of undulating green weeds atop dark, fissured rocks. Down among the green and shadowy cracks are brilliant golden-orange fish. This is an image that I carried around in my head for decades until I knew how to use it and how to paint it.
Often this is the way my images grow: an actual vision is mated with an internal or dreamt one. Occasionally it is something that someone has said. Ladle of Blood/Heart of Wings began as a friend's description of an autopsy-he told me that they ladled the blood out of the abdomen.

Vanishing began as another friend's description of a fight in a topless joint. In that case I actually visited the place and did a couple of quick drawings-before the owner came over and told me I was upsetting the girls.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thursday's Jewels

Morning light on a body of water suddenly Caribbean. I have a thing for water. Somehow it is terribly important. Something about its permeability, its transparency, its reflective qualities, and its secrets.
The continuous liquid jewel.
Although the jewels in the title are the catspiders, and Thursday is guru's day. So there you go.
Or you could just get lost in the foliage. That's the thing with stories and visions. They keep zipping off on all these intertwined tangents. Is it any different than what you see as you step out of your doorway?
Every book in my place spills these events if you peal them open. Every place I swing my head to face has this potential.
And then there are all the paintings on the wall. They talk to each other. And the thing is that they laugh. They are far more witty than their parent.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Fireflies Palace

And now, night: the rich, deep volume for the fire flies blooms. Traditional illusion was beginning to erode in Dream Gods with the catspiders silhouettes outlined in red. The realm of flat stage sets and created depth begin to collage. Kind of knock heads.

I was working on these paintings and 2 Dead Girls (as yet unpublished graphic novel written by Pam Noles) simultaneously. The comic has many silhouettes, and I thought about them a lot. A fair amount of cross fertilization happened.
I imagine a bee, pollen starred in its furry legs, skid landing on a velvety bloom. This leaves a stroke of information that will show up in some new configuration next spring.
That's how it works in my brain.

Dream Gods & city origins

This is the second painting in the series. Above it is the painting that contains the same city that is sillouetted in its background.
Now we are among the catspiders themselves, rather than hovering in the aerial sweet spot. Time has happened, allowing me to go nuts with sunset, clouds and reflections. The river has become a lake, probably a pause in its impulse to journey. The city comes from the older painting, also based on a dream, called : City of Green Fire. In the course of their narrative outside my sleep, the catspiders and alter-self have transversed the geography of another escaped story. There is another version of myself in the green fire city as the Patron Saint of Roses. She takes roses and turns them into pink fish who swim in the lucent lime air. This is just what artists do. Take one thing and make it into another. The alchemy of dreams into flesh (or the illusion through dirt-in-oil), thought into pattern, words into symbols. The great joy of making marks.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

paintings from dreams

Sometimes you have a dream that rolls across your brain leaving a wake of rearranged landscape. And sometimes, decades later, that path is still there, running clear and wide through the jungle. I have quite a lot of those dreams, but the catspider dream is probably the queen. It has inspired two large oil paintings and many paper paintings. Recently (in the last several years) I took that path and charmed it around a narrative beyond its own. At first I thought it would be some kind of illustrated book or comic and started in watercolor. But after two watercolors I realized that it really wanted the depth and color of oil. So the first one came out as you see with the curled woman in the boat pierced by swords that flees with the current. The catspiders, now multiplied from their original single character, and colored in the hues of the other parts of my brain, watch from the cliffs. Thus the title is: What Shape What Place; a double quiery about the state of self (in a boat pierce by swords fleeing with the current) and the state of ones animus or dream angel(s).

Friday, October 5, 2007


There are configurations of arranged physical details and then there are shapes that have come about through time---usually the two are intermixed and interdependent. Today one of my aerial students was working on a double hoop act where we want to keep most of the movement off the ground, but incorporate the ground-to-air neccesity as part of the piece. I often see the trajectories of my friends lives in the same way--but from a distance, having had nothing to do with their actual choreography (except perhaps as a character therein). These shapes are their logos, fantastical & purposeful constructions often appearing as writing in light in a darkened place.
Again, I think: campfires
or maybe finger painted starlight

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


In a self motivated life there are chapters where events occur in the fringe country. That's the place where the streetlights are all blown or where there have never been any. Its OK for a while but the campfire is a good thing. It could be anything, although, contradictorily, it can't just be anything. Some mornings I get up very early and recently saw this. Enough illumination to star and shadow the fringe country. And then it becomes a place of fireflies and demons.