These series of earlier paintings are discussed in the hour-long lectures I gave during the exhibitions and shown elsewhere on this website. Since I have an educational bent, I jumped at the chance that I was offered to talk about my ideas—visual, literary, philosophical. I focused on explaining the thoughts behind my paintings, more than the techniques. And, also, I emphasized the writers, teachers, and artists who had impacted my thinking. These included, among others, critics like Gaston Bachelard and Harold Bloom; writers such as Italo Calvino, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Emily Dickinson (and many more); art teachers like Betty Edwards and those of mine from Yale, including Bernard Chaet, Richard Lyttle, William Bailey, and others; and artists from the world at large who were exemplary, such as Anni and Josef Albers, Francisco de Zubaran, Henri Matisse, and Paul Klee. I even ruminated on how my art had been impacted by my managing a large digital animation studio in my “day job,” how the animators thought about and created their work, actors of the lined moving character, so to speak.
For each series, I had a specific concept and each painting was an exploration of that. Thus, for my Quilt series, at first, I drew a sort of idealized quilt design, but soon varied into a less standard depiction of what I thought were imaginative variants in the form of color and shape. It was also about expanding my work to include a feminist concern, that works made by cutting and sewing fabrics, the assembling and piecing together of reclaimed structures, were somehow not part of the recognized history of fine art. Instead, these “pieces” were relegated to being simply pastimes. On the other hand, Paul Klee was an example for this work. too, and when, years later, I got to visit Bern, Switzerland where Klee grew up, I could imagine how the diverse shapes of the multi-colored rooftops across the river surrounding the city created an ongoing mental model for his precise work.
Meanwhile, for my Suddenness series, I spun off of one of my favorite poets, Emily Dickinson, and a particular poem of hers and the experience I had of seeing lightning bolts shoot across the night sky while driving through the United States to Los Angeles. For my Suddenness series, I drew upon my personal interest in Judaism and the author, Aviva Zornberg, whose wonderful work I had been reading. These paintings for me represented a natural process of freezing and thawing, a structure for the exuberance of the ongoing changes in the world. For my Between the Branches series, I wrote about my interest in the earthshaking works of Sigmund Freud, the thinking of Aristole in his De Anima, fiction authors such as Marcel Proust, W.G. Sebald, and Franz Kafka, and, finally, painters who influenced me such as Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cezanne. For my Encounter and Memories series, I wrote about another Jewish influence, Martin Buber and his “I and Thou” exploration into modern thought and psychology.
To envision these Buber inspired works, I strove in my paintings to depict the perpetual tension between surface pattern and spatial illusion. Although the finished work is sometimes abstract in appearance, I started with a closely rendered drawing based on real world observation—a tree, such as Buber wrote about, but in my case a tree that I personally knew well. I was interested in how I could convincingly communicate the energy and sense of spatial possibilities of a three-dimensional experience in a two-dimensional format. My goal was to give the viewer insight into his or her perception of motion and organization of space. Often, I conveyed the implied energy by using broad gestural strokes that evoked calligraphic painting.
I was very much involved with color in my earlier, representational, paintings. I was continually intrigued by natural optical phenomena, such as the play of light on the surface of the water, or the rapidly shifting hues revealed in plant's foliage as it is shaken by the wind. I wanted to show the ability of any tree to struggle and grow, the factual physical structure, with a playfully altered lighting and the dramatic interruption of shadows.