One of the first coherent images in young children’s drawings is the wobbly circle that represents a person’s body, followed by straight lines that radiate out of the body and represent our limbs. Sometimes a mouth and dots for eyes are added within the wobbly circle.
My compulsion to make the figure feels no different from that of a child despite four years of art school and painting the figure for over forty-five years. I have to start over each time and I can’t picture how it will end.
Each of these recent paintings begins with thin layers of two or three colors in smears and splashes. The colors vibrate and feel like an extension of what I see and feel in my meditation practice. There is nothing but space and air and freedom. Meanwhile I have found a model and begun work by making drawings. Sometimes I have a pose in mind, something I have seen or been moved by. Often the model takes a pose of his or her own that is so touching or poignant that it supersedes anything I had in mind and we go with that.
Light and space are essential in these paintings. Light gives the figures mass and bathes the surroundings with soft air. The size and placement of the figures is adjusted each time to give maximum importance to the light and space. But there is something intangible that I am trying to get at as well.
Lucretius, an ancient Roman poet, describes people and the natural world in terms of atoms moving in empty space. I make my figures and their surroundings out of pieces and dots of color layered up. The tiny bits of vibrating paint feel like the atoms of the poem.
I have made a conscious effort with this group of paintings to simplify the surroundings and paint only what is essential. By eliminating objects that link a setting to a particular culture, I hope to allow the paintings to be appreciated by anyone, anywhere in the world.