May 092010

Reality is occult.  By this I mean that beyond the apparent existence of our senses, there is a deeper, hidden reality, the stuff of which lends meaning to the seeming happenstance of our everyday lives.  We might call this extra-ordinary reality the product of Creative Intelligence.

Using this as a given, it becomes the function of art to express this intelligence.  To call attention to it and highlight it.  It is also art’s function to strive to become, if possible, both the synapse and the spark of understanding that bridges the gap between the self and the non-self, between the known and the unknown.  Art’s function has been to elevate and illuminate humanity.

These ideas and their realizations have been the work of my sixty some years of existence, my more than forty years as a professional artist.  In the last 13 years, these values have resulted in an artistic phenomenon as unique and endangered as the first of a species.

How does one presume to say that one is the vector through which a creation has come into being that is greater than its artist?  As singular as it is humbling, it defies explanation, demanding to be experienced.

The Labyrinth is about time and space & OTHER DIMENSIONS: The First Real Circus.  It offers the public the opportunity to view not only a work-in-progress but over a decade of effort concentrated into one whole-environmental installation.

Encompassing 2,000 square feet, and 250 individual works in 7 sub-environments, the viewer-become-participant wanders through a Labyrinth that is at the same time an Ouroborous.  Beginning and ending in the “birth canal,” the participator embarks on a journey beginning before the notion of time and winding from age to age – each glimpsed through the overlapping perceptions of artists throughout the millennia.  Glutted with its own images, the Serpent of art bites its own tail, poisoning itself so that it might be regenerated in the expanded consciousness of the participant who has progressed with the desire for understanding.

How did this come to be?  When I was very young, I did not know what an artist was, I only knew that I had to do things, make things, create things.  People began telling me I was an artist so often that I decided that I should discover just what art and being an artist was about.

As a person who came from a spiritual background, I have always held to spiritual values, if not to their religious trappings.  This put me, in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s – and even to this day, directly counter to the modern school of art.  I could not see art in terms of investments, how portfolio meant “financial assets,” or how art was to be the self-expression of crippled psyches and frustrated libidos.

But I never stopped making things.  Living in New York in my 20’s, I sold everything I painted.  (See slide 1-4. Note: the painting featured in slide 2 is in the Whitney Collection.)  I found that when I did not try to “express myself,” when I painted natural phenomenon, things worked.  But when I tried to paint “from myself”, my sense of structure would collapse and I would be left with something I could not call art.  This is not to say that my creative process was not influenced by my other occupations – designing ships interiors, dancing with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, being very much involved in theatre; acting, dancing, directing, designing & constructing sets. 

As I grew into my thirties, I had a young family, and needed a more regular income than that gained by exhibits and shows (see resume).  I still made my living through art, however, designing theatre sets and teaching art.

Over these years my paintings developed into two or more paintings filling the same canvas.  While still dealing with natural phenomenon, I now began to see, and portray, natural existence as an abstraction from the Real – the “nonlocal.”  I was not concerned, though, with eliminating the visual for pure abstraction, but of going through it.  The images which were being manifested on the canvases were the simultaneous extrapolations of the various natures of existential phenomenon through which Reality shone as a hidden counterweight. (Is there a simple way to say such a thing?!)

It was in 1976, the year of our nation’s bicentennial, that the tension between the surface appearance and substantial reality grew acute.  The next year, I retired from my teaching position to spend as much time as possible working out the expression of this tension – in painting, sculpting, constructing, whatever it demanded. My work was financed by my father-in-law, who shortly passed on, leaving me with considerable rented space filling with works which did not fit into the schemes of ordinary galleries.

While my father-in-law was still living, he took my family on a 6 week camping tour of Europe.  On this trip, I took hundreds of slides in an exploration of the aspiralling (if I might coin a phrase) ramifications of the Gothic expression of Pythagorean geometry.  Upon returning home, I discovered that almost all of the slides were overexposed!  Yet it was in those slides that I began to see how Reality could shine through the overexposed props of existential phenomenon, just as the super-brilliance of the stained glass windows blazed from the overexposed views of ribbing, groins, vaultings and buttresses.

In January, 1979, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go up the Nile by barge (slow boat).  As I stood atop the Temple of Hathor at Dendera I realized that our whole western civilization began with the Greeks as trying as best they could to imitate the unsurpassable glory that had once been ancient Egypt, and several millennia later the glory still shines through.

Shortly after returning home I lost the studio space; the landlord wanted to put his business offices there.  Because many of the paintings were too large and heavy to move, I made creates for them and just left them stacked.  However, even this apparent setback became a formative experience.  Working in my basement, I created 12 Egyptian charts.  In those charts the multi-layering of symbols of cosmology, Egyptology, numerology, astrology, color frequency and Pythagorean geometry combined into a synthesis that caused one person to remark: “It is as though the paintings were speaking directly to some deeper part of your mind, while your brain was just trying to take in the overwhelming plethora of images.”

One year later, the landlord changed his mind and I regained my studio space.  I propped up the larger paintings in their crates and found the crates became the walls that grew into the twisting corridors of a Labyrinth in which I had become a minotaur – not quite believable to some who venture there.  This project is far from complete, and were it not for the ongoing intrusion of the miraculous in my life, I would not have been able to carry my explorations as far as I have.  My children have grown, and wonder what will happen when I am gone.

Why do I do what I do?  This must be one of the questions most often asked of any artist.  And like many others, I can’t explain.  I only know I feel compelled to follow these ideas to the resolution.  But all the compulsion in the world cannot hold back the occasional tides of insecurity and doubt.  People tell me their experience of the installation has changed their perspective on life, on art.  Some say they have come away transformed, inspired, renewed.  They tell me I must maintain the Work’s integrity.  That it is imperative that it exist as one piece, a totality.  Though I have had opportunities to sell many, I have felt that it must be held together.