Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog film – Cave – paraphrase

Language refers to a certain culture – place – and an image is timeless- what was before – what is present – what is future. This is why translation is important. These images in the caves according to one archeologist is where the Shaman energy and reality – the spirit world and reality have fused – there is no boundary. A story told about Aborigines always touching on ancient work – if they see it start to deteriorate – and when asked – ‘Why are you doing it’?- the reply  – ‘ I am not doing it. The spirit is guiding me ‘

“life is the illusion behind which lies the reality of dreams.”
– Werner Herzog

How the mind works. A narrative becomes how it is constructed that conveys another narrative, that is fiction. 

In reading Lolita, by Nabokov, it is not so much about the subject but the language inside Humbert’s head, the reality becomes the trauma that the mind holds. This is very similar to the main character in Austerlitz, by Sebald, where there is a blurring of what reality is. The boundary between the internal and external perceptions no longer exists as all of reality real or imagined is fused where reality and imagination meet, where reality and dream intersect.

Memory and imagination
What is remembered or what is imagined
It does not matter as long as it is real.


Ilya Kaminsky

I first met Ilya Kaminsky while at the Vermont Studio School. Ilya was the writer in residence who was originally from the Ukraine, the former Soviet Republic and was granted asylum to the United States in 1993. 

Excerpts from Ilya’s workshop on craft-

Ecstatic moment is standing outside yourself
Take preexisting forms and change them and 
as we change them, we change ( the body)
Expansive and intimate at the same time
Great poets invent their own language

Pema Chodron
“only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.”

When we come back to our body, whatever is true at the moment is a deeper truth that goes beyond our own narrative, our own story.

One hundred years ago in 1922 my father was born on the escape route out of Ukraine in Rovno, a border town that had just become Poland. Issac Babel had passed through Rovno while with the Red Army. Babel was also shot in the head by the side of the road just for being Babel.

My great Uncle was also shot in the head in the Proskuriv Pogrom in the Ukraine – 1918 – 1919 just for being a Jew.

My grandparents came from what is today called Mykolaiv in the Southern Ukraine that is situated next to the Buh River. My grandmother used to say that there were two towns. One name referred to the actual town, and the other name referred to the Shtetl where they were forced to live as Jews. My cousin who is a Russian Studies scholar went back years ago to find the town, and everything had been reduced to rubble, was only a crossroads. All that remained were fragments. My grandmother would swim in the Dnipro River and also go to Odessa in the summer to swim in the Black Sea. 

The family were furriers and had a contract with the Russian Army to make the fur linings of the uniforms. They were useful and then they were not. Because the family had a telephone, the Russians accused them of being spies. After my grandfather’s brother was murdered  my grandparents were forced to leave for their own safety. There were four siblings out of eight that committed suicide. My grandfather was one of them. The family was torn apart from the harsh realties of survival and immigration. Not by choice, but as refugees.

I did not imagine that Ukraine would become another site for mass annihilation and suffering this time solely inflicted by the Russians. As I write this, the Russians are trying to destroy the port by the Black Sea of Mykolaiv. Others will also starve as this port exports grain to other nations. 

It has taken four generations to be released from this generational trauma that my grandparents and father endured.

How many generations for the people who are currently living there?

From the Street of Crocodiles /  Bruno Shultz

“The pale pink of human skin, some golden – some blue grey, all flat, warm and velvety in the sun, like sun dials, trodden to the point of obliteration, into blessed nothingness”

Obliteration of material to light, and in Shultz the premonition of annihilation. 

I am dealing with memory, not actual memory of experience, but rather memory that is part of my DNA – and that – juxtaposed with the actual moment of experience, can connote a different sense of time.   

‘ Falling out of Time’ by David Grossman
(the first book written after his son was killed – 2006 – Southern Lebanon, two days before a cease fire ordered by the UN)

“only in Art can life and death meet”
Shum Vremeni- Mandelstam – ‘ The noise of Time ‘ 


The process of painting

The process of painting is to go beyond language to reach the edges of what the rational mind can think and know. The possibility of discovering what is unknown beyond the self. Rational thought only suppresses the imagination. 

Where there is color, there is light

Does art that illicit instant political messaging the only important work worth considering, or can painting have a role? Empathy, heightened consciousness?

Art becomes radical in that the act of looking can alter a viewer’s perception. 

The Chicago Art Institute is running a program of art as part of the conversation concerning empathy. Judges that are part of the criminal justice system have to make decisions everyday as well as doctors treating patients who are very ill from Covid. It was found that when Art became part of the dialogue, there was an increase in empathy. 

‘ The Deer Fence’ 
Tang Dynasty poet Wang Wei

“ empty mountain/ no one to be seen but hear – human sounds /
returning sunlight enters the dark woods / shining again on green moss.”


Roland Barthes

Notes from Blue Fabriano journal. April 7, 2015

Roland Barthes — 

 “it had all been done before as no individual expression possible.”

Is painting a hermetic activity?

The question I asked when starting these new group of paintings that were titled “Traveling Light” was, could the meaning of the work go beyond just the materials of the painter? The “what you see is what you see” said by Stella could be replaced with what you see you don’t see, or in the words of Paul Klee — “to make visible“. Greenberg denounced the hidden and spirituality in favor of the optical and materiality. Arts purpose was to search for its purest material state.

Joseph Beuys — the alchemy of an artist’s materials and the power of transformation that evoke meaning.

Painting is about feeling what would occur next; in the next moment.

Looking for something more expansive, than taking years to develop a signature style and using patterns and color juxtapositions to highlight the subjective nature of experience.

While the nature of paintings limitations as a two dimensional flat object, the image  can evoke a sense of vibration and movement.

Realizing that the painting process is an inquiry rather than a set of predetermined ideas or theories.

Creating a surface of feeling.

Ease between resting on structure and allowing openness to generate through repetition, brings you to a higher plane.

Give the paintings a sense of structure that allows the process to remain open and generative, and in a sense is mimicking nature.

In visiting Petra, Jordan — the notion of the physicality of material, cinnabar, copper, iron and the tension between what is earthbound and what moves toward the infinite, the horizon.

Not interested in the fragmentation of memory, but rather time – the fluidity of time, the present moment of experiences and the material of paint. 

Stella aligned himself with a reductive, materialist view of art where paint is paint on a surface, rather than interested in the ineffable roots of abstraction that goes back to Hilma af Klint and the relationship between materiality and immateriality, between finiteness and infinity. One sees this in the paintings of Agnes Martin.


Art is an expression of human relation to human psyche and to the cosmos. Abstraction has been widely conceived of as non-dependency on nature and connection to the void as well as a discovery of invisible spiritual patterns”
— Bracha Ettinger

John Yau. “strips away everything until left with one simple repetitive act that requires intense concentration and a precision that allows for change and accident. It is a way of marking time’s relentless unfolding in which infinity is the only destination. The placement of each impression influences the orientation of the following adjacent impression.”

Macke— an open mechanical process where the touch of the brush leads you through the activity of creating through intuition rather than just a closed repetitive system.

Painting as an act of slow focused contemplation where the mark of the brush marks times unfolding presence.

Color is space and not just something applied to the canvas. Structure, improvisation and the relationship of color creates light and vibration. 


Painting as healing process


Painting can be a healing process as it deals with the transformation of vibrations of color that opens up energy from contraction to expansion. Painting can be a portal between the material and spiritual, between the materiality of paint and the infinite, while reaching a heightened level of consciousness, of possibility. 

‘The Deer Fence’
Tang Dynasty poet Wang Wei

“empty mountain/ no one to be seen but hear — 
human sounds / returning sunlight enters the dark
woods / shining again on green moss.”



May 26, 2015

I remember reading the writings of Motherwell a few years ago, and coming across this idea he presented, about the love relationship between parent and child, or between the object. Motherwell stated that there could be a disruption between the child and the object, and that through the creative act, the medium would then become the object, and the feelings of loss could be amended.


Morphic Resonance

Morphic Resonance – each successive generation
One generation generating the next. A pattern is expressed. When there is trauma, the pattern needs to be broken for a healthier pattern to exist.

The intestine is a vascular network of muscle layer. The stomach is a gastric gland that functions how we digest and process information. 

My father died of gastric cancer when he had just turned seventy three. It was a tragic death. 

Christa Wolf 
“one always dies too soon or too late. And yet life is there, finished : The line is drawn, and it must all be added up. You are nothing other than your life.”

Too late Too Early refers to a death that will not arrive at the right time.
From No Exist – Sartre 1944

How will the families and loved ones of over one million individuals who died from Covid be mourned, be remembered? 

The Vagus nerve is the longest running nerve to the stomach and organs. It is how we process trauma, our fight and flight response. The parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system. 


Kirk Varnadoe

October 21, 2021- Ankara Lecture American Embassy

As the late Kirk Varnadoe implied at the last Mellon lecture he delivered at the National Gallery of Art, “ it is through an act of faith in the importance of our own experiences and perceptions that we create art.” – Spring/2003

I would like to spend some time speaking to you about Oleg Grabar, a scholar of Islamic Art who wrote an important book called The Mediation of Ornament, based on the lecture series he also gave at the National Gallery of Art , and had a profound influence on the development of my own work. I felt I had found a scholar whose work I found very compelling. 

From the Mediation of Ornament Grabar writes “ when Chinese writers talk about writing, their imagery does not dwell on proportions or purity of line, but on life forces, on the storage of energy. It is as though the making and the viewing serve to release the living and active forces of nature.”

If you look closely at the image on the left, Hazine, a 15th century Iranian Manuscript and the image on the right, Broadway  Boogie Woogy,  by the Dutch artist, Mondrian. Grabar states that he juxtaposes these two images as a way to support his belief that there are universal approaches to visual behavior based on universal values.

A quote from the Southern literary writer, William Faulkner states, “ the aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again, since it is life”. 

So here you have a manuscript over 500 years old and a modern painting from over 70 years ago, and they both have this uncanny relationship to the act of seeing, the encounter with works of art. What I find particularly interesting about these two works of art is how the image extends to the edges that evokes a feeling of the infinite, of consciousness expanding, while also feeling contained. Viewing these paintings can go beyond time and cultural context, and beyond politics and ideology. For me, that’s the power of these works.


Kansas City

June 2022

I have always been interested in music. While attending the Kansa City Art Institute I was able to hear some of the greatest jazz musicians such as Charles Mingus. He was dressed in black and his presence evoked his power as a great artist. He played his instrument where a magical transformation could be heard. 

This was one of the most profound musical moments I have had in experiencing sound through my senses. When I first encountered the Sun Ra Arkestra, all the musicians were playing their instruments at the same time that created this cacophony of sound, where I felt elated. It was as if I was always waiting for this moment. It was both familiar and strange. 

I asked myself whether a painting through color could also raise the vibration for the viewer. How many people have had the experience of looking at works of art and not knowing what they mean? Does this distract you from looking and you just move on? I feel that those works that we find compelling is what we choose to stand before, trying to comprehend on some level through the sensations of the body. What I am describing is experiential seeing. 



  • Mbuti – paintings by Pygmy women of the Ituri Forest
  • The sound of the forest through yodeling of vowels
  • Language going back to the Nile – 3500 B.C.
  • Aramaic 
  • Gees bend
  • Sound of gospel, spirituals
  • The incantations, the timbre 
  • Morton Feldman said the mourners Kaddish for Philip Guston
  • The incantations
  • The music
  • The vibration
  • The hope of possibilities
  • Abstraction is about nothing
  • And everything