My surreal landscapes are taken from scenes in everyday life that have a quality that is strange or otherworldly. For a number of first wave surrealist painters, emptiness was a significant feature in the art. De Chirico and Dali both drew heavily from scenes expressing existential void. I think that surrealism is more than a genre of art, it is a condition of existence. There are moments when one becomes aware of the strangeness of life, and this is an experience of surrealism.
My work focuses on the altered landscape and cultural emptiness. I take photographs that are the basis for the paintings. These go through a digitization process to reduce the visual information in a scene. I choose dead malls, places left behind, blank billboards and stealth towers for my subjects. The colors in my work are pushed to reference memory, emotional states, climate change, nuclear reality and artificial life. Rather than inventing surrealistic scenes in an illustrative way, I paint scenes from real life that already appear surreal.
I am inventing a new form of abstract painting that is based on real life material objects. My work expands the definition of abstraction beyond ideas in the imagination. I have discovered abstract visual language in tangible phenomena that has nothing to do with minimal, geometric or abstract expressionist art forms. The work reflects my ongoing interest in various forms of patterning.
My paintings are derived from CNC router cutting boards which are called “spoil boards.” The MDF boards are castaways from commercial and industrial projects. Grids, curvilinear lines, and all manner of shapes are inscribed on the boards through robotics which creates a bas relief surface. I do not program any designs into the boards. The design matrix on a board is created purely by chance and it has associations with the “automatic drawing” of the Surrealists. I call this matrix “Robot Pollock.”
My method is to present the boards as they are with a minimum of artistic interpretation. I forego a painterly approach in favor of flooding techniques and the use of rollers. The works are a result of me partnering with robotics and chance to create a new kind of abstract painting.
In 1990 I began making my first cement paintings. To the best of my knowledge, I am one of the first American painters to use cement as a medium for painting. I discovered automobile valve bodies in a junkyard in LA and was fascinated by the abstract visual language they contained. My experience with construction further drew me into painting with cement. Indian petroglyphs inspired me to explore artwork done in bas relief. Cement paintings led me to do public art projects with GFRC (glass fiber reinforced concrete).
In 2008 I created 13 precast cement panels for the Tri Cities Cancer Center in Kennewick, Washington. In 2013 I completed an 8’ by 18’ GFRC cement mural for the University of New Mexico in Los Alamos which also included fused glass elements.
The smaller works which I call tablets are part of my continuing quest to make abstract art from real life material objects. They are made by pressing mechanical automobile components into cement. The impression functions somewhat like a contemporary fossil, an artifact of our age. They suggest off world sites, architecture, and cuneiform writing. Engineers who created valve bodies for reasons of form and function may or may not have recognized the aesthetic appeal of their creations.
ROUTE 66 SERIES
The Route 66 series comes from my long love affair with the Mother Road. The fabled highway is emblematic of the culture and places America has left behind. I have a strong connection to the landscape of the Western states and to the roadside attractions that line the highway. I grew up in the 1950s and many memories still resonate from road trips our family took.
In 1986, I discovered the dying town of Seligman on old 66 in Arizona. Empty buildings lined the streets since the freeway bypass took the travelers and the economy. Now Seligman has been rediscovered and buses of Japanese tourists come from LA to see it. The point is the hold that Route 66 has on the imagination of Americans and people around the world. I paint signs and scenes along old 66, not to have a moment of nostalgia, but to honor what I consider to be the bedrock of American culture.