At times I come across altered subway posters as I travel from place to place in New York City. These posters are ripped, shredded and basically messed with which expose the previous pasted advertisements underneath. These panels then become abstract works of collage on subway platforms.
I initially wanted to do a scribble portrait of David Byrne (Talking Heads). After seeing a documentary of the punk guitarist Johnny Thunders (New York Dolls, The Heartbreakers), I re-imagined the piece using portraits of these two important musician/songwriters of the late 70s early 80s New York music scene. Two distinct personalities. Two musical genres (American punk and new wave). Maybe someday I'll do another piece using two British musicians from the 1980s. I loved that kind of music 30 years ago, and I still love listening to it.
First of all, I have to admit: I’m a sucker for burnt orange.
While looking for pre-made boxes to use to develop assemblage pieces, I came across small cigar boxes online. What I ended up with was a large cardboard box filled with burnt orange cigar boxes. I initially began working on a series of single boxes but, because I didn’t like the small size, I began gluing boxes together to create multi-paneled compositions. The boxes are small with a deep space within, so my working method of filling the interior depth differed from my approach to boxes that are much larger but have a shallower depth. In the end, I look at these as experiments in intimate storytelling more than as formal abstract compositions.
Late last spring I was given an opportunity to do a large painting when a friend of mine in Ann Arbor commissioned me to do another painting in the Southbury Trees series of art works that depict trees along a horizontal expanse. As I planned the painting, I decided to take still photos of the painting as I worked to build up the composition using my iPhone and a time-lapse video app.
As I worked through the summer and into the fall, I continued to document the process of doing the painting. Hand-holding the camera created additional movement as did the repositioning of the equipment and supplies on and adjacent to the easel.
I completed the painting just prior to my deadline. I packed the piece and Laurel and I drove the painting to Michigan and hung the painting on Thanksgiving morning before heading to my sister's house for Thanksgiving dinner with family.
Today Greg would have celebrated his 56th birthday, and I cannot help but think of and miss him. I’ve spent countless moments thinking of my brother since the phone call I received from my sister in February 2010 informing me of Greg’s sudden passing. I’ve spent endless hours looking at photos of him, and one of the things I realized was that alot of them were of the two of us––that we were linked so closely, especially in childhood.
There exist hundreds of photographs that tell the story of my brother’s life. You see a happy baby and a boy with a lovely, innocent smile. You see a young man searching for himself as well as a rebellious teenager. You also see a happy contented partner and loving father.
We’re all destined to the same fate and, unfortunately, my brother left this world much too early. I only hope and pray that he had a good, fulfilling, and eventful life and that it was all worth the adventure of it. I also hope that his three kids understand that their father left a legacy as well as loving memories that Ashley, Alex, and Nick can take with them throughout their own lives.
Greg and I had a bond that is like no other relationship I’ve ever had. We grew up together and went through the typical brotherly love and hate. As we got older and pre-occupied with our own adult issues and concerns, our relationship became more distant. Nevertheless, the relationship remained important to us. I loved seeing him and hearing stories of our childhood and his depictions of the myriad characters involved.
I’m sad to know that Greg is gone from this world, but he’ll always be my brother. I’ll be pleased living out the rest of my own life knowing this.
Laurel was much better at learning French than I was. As a result, I depended on her to navigate the language during our stay in Paris last June. Our first and only Air France flights were highlighted by rude French flight attendants talking down to us, like this little exchange: “You must return to your seat” (English with heavy French accent). “But I have to use the restroom” (Laurel’s perfect English with pure American inflection). “That is your problem” (English with heavy French accent and attitude added).
It was my first trip to Paris. Two days spent in the Louvre and two trips to the Musee D’Orsay gave me an opportunity to finally see paintings that I’d only seen as small reproductions in art books and magazines. We ate breakfast at the same place, Mille et Un Pains, every morning and were served by a very friendly staff. Pastries were made in the back and served with café au lait in the front. Had escargot for the first time at Allard; who would have thought that snails would taste so damn good.
We learned to navigate the Metro subway system--took it to visit Alberto Giacometti’s studio location at 46 rue Hippolyte Maindron. Strolled through the Montparnase Cemetery and underneath the Eiffel Tower. Made stop-action videos at the Jardin des Tuileries. And discovered that the young Parisians don’t walk around their city with cell phones attached to their ears like Americans do…“Oh, it’s like totally awesome…I love to talk about nothing in particular…but really loud blah blah blah.” God, what a pleasant change.
Of course we now want to live there. I suppose I’ll need to learn the language. Laurel and I look forward to returning, but we won’t be taking Air France to get there.
The small white building was once used to entertain guests by the owner that named the cocktail-serving bar the Honey House back in the 1920s. It still has the beautiful old stone fireplace which now heats the space in winter through the use of a wood-burning stove which has been inserted into the hearth. This keeps the space comfortably warm, so I can work there throughout even the coldest winter days. My stepdaughter Indigo insisted on using the Honey House, in more primitive (and much colder) conditions, as sleeping quarters during her adolescence. From the outside, the Honey House looks like it could be a small schoolhouse or chapel. The building is a few steps above the driveway and halfway between the main house and the guest house at the end of a straight inclined stone driveway. The typical cleaning out, throwing away, re-doing the floor, and painting transformed the lovely little building into a studio for drawing and assemblage box construction.
The Honey House was quickly determined to be too small for all of my artistic pursuits. Once Laurel mentioned the idea of transforming the storage shed adjacent to the main house, we began the process of emptying out an accumulation of seventy years of stuff, including a long-dead mummified possum! A floating pine floor was put in with flagstone placed in the corner on which a small wood-burning stove now sits. Lights and a ceiling fan were installed before filling the space with canvases, equipment, and supplies.