October – 2017

The number one question I always get asked is whether I am going to explain the paintings. The evening of the opening I spoke briefly about the importance of the viewer and I would like to elaborate on that, I will first tell you that painting and language in the sense of speech are oxymorons. One is visual and preverbal and the other is a means of linguistics and  communication.

So when someone says what do these mean I can only give you hints of my process and the ideas that I think about. 

I like to set up fundamental questions like – how do I get a two dimensional flat surface to have movement. 

I see painting as anthropomorphic  to the point of breathing – Louise Fishman 

Optical and lightness – gravity is suspended – Agnes Martin

Heightened state of perception
Resides in the medium but yes you must surpass that. 
The reality of painting is its surface, it’s materials
Color becomes its own structure 

The continuity between time and space between the making of the work, the work itself, and the viewer.  I wanted material and color relationships – optics and physicality.

The issue is how to paint – In painting as in music, the idea can not be communicated other than through the arrangement of color or sounds. Colors behave like intonations.

Transfer of physical sensations to the object which in turn are transferred to the viewer. This interaction with a mute, inanimate object fused with a melding of lived ideas and experience that make painting so compelling. 


Varnedoe Lectures

April 14, 2015

By its nature, painting presents the interesting paradox of an object that is flat and inanimate, but whose essence is space and movement. I am reminded of what the late Kirk Varnedoe in the Spring of 2003 at the Sixth and last Mellon lecture he delivered at the National Gallery. “It is our dependence on the material and experiential dimension of art to yield meaning that sets it apart from other symbolic systems that we use, most notably language.”

The Varnedoe lectures had a profound impact on my thinking and approach to abstract painting with respect to my preconceptions of paintings limitations and possibilities. I willfully chose to work alone and quietly for years without the pressures of having finished work to exhibit. This exploration grew into hundreds of journal entries, drawings, and works on paper that created the ground work for the paintings to come. It was not until 2012 that the paintings began to take form. In the process, I felt my painting tap into the larger and unknowable truths that surround us, and thus the group of paintings Traveling Light was created.

 As I worked during this period of exploration, it became clear that I was not drawn to a predetermined theory about painting. I discovered that the rumination of my own thoughts and unconscious associations could determine the painting’s structure. I became completely devoted to the physical act of painting and its insistence and unpredictability where the painting would guide the next step without expecting an outcome. 

I am not interested in the fragmentation of memory, but rather time – the fluidity of time, the present moment of experiences and the materials of paint where the painting is not strictly an optical field, but rather an object with physical dimension. The real stuff of painting is here – connecting and becoming sensitive to the natural rhythms around us and the energies of the body to creative thought and process, all within the formal structure of a painting.

In reading Oleg Grabar’s The Mediation of Ornament, he 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.”

I want the viewer to get close, to come up to the surface and take it in, and back up and look again. I also want the viewers sense of physical space and even their sense of mortality to be affected, so that the viewer is no longer a spectator but has become part of the painting process, which I would consider an authentic act of seeing and experiencing. 


Vermont Studio School

Lecture / Vermont Studio School / 2017/ Discordant Voices

These paintings are all oil and alkyd resin on linen done the past two years and although after many years of painting, I always feel like I am beginning again. 

I will be reading some excerpts from my journals that were taking note of my thought process, before, during and after making this body of work.  

What most interests me is the fluidity of time and how the present moment can be expressed within the formal  structure  of a painting. Because simply put,  right there on the canvas is where my thought and my materials reach their deepest level of engagement with the natural rhythms around us, and the energies of the body.

I use pattern and color juxtapositions or tensions to highlight the subjective nature of experience. The structure of a painting is a way into the experience, and acts as an armature for the random prompting of the mind and body.

As T.S. Elliot said “freedom is only truly freedom when it appears against the background of an artificial limitation” I found that painting, as a repetitive act with intense concentration,  allows for change and accident. 

Color is space and not just something applied to the canvas. I think of painting as not depicting ‘ something ‘ but an energy — a moment in time where the image can stimulate sensation, a thought or a pattern of speech. 

I do not set out to deal with form but rather a series of movements that creates a kind of slowness that keeps me in the present moment — 

Abstraction can be a distillation or essence, and it can be generated through an idea and as a line of color on the canvas. Color takes on a kind of voice that expresses movement and emotion. A Call and Response begins to happen where a dialogue is created between colors that takes on a conversational tone. 

The process of painting for me is always one of change. Everything that takes place on the surface is in the act of flux, shifting and thus activating the surface.

Why I work large — I always feel this sense of expansiveness when I am in a landscape, and therefore feel a sense of freedom, while seeking the intimacy of being in the painting at the same time. 

I am trying to create an expansive surface that keeps regenerating to the edges and beyond, a feeling of consciousness expanding beyond the self, beyond what I think I know.

Once when I was in New York standing before a large painting by Louise Fishman, I became so engaged with the painting, I thought I saw it take a breadth, inhale and exhale.

This same level of engagement happened in front of an Agnes Martin at the National Gallery in Washington and all of a sudden I saw the painting leave the edges and float into the room. 

This juxtaposition of the materiality of paint and density expressed as an object while also expressing anthropomorphic associations of the body, and the ability of a painting to move beyond its edges as a purely optical experience, suggests the mysterious and compelling nature of what it means to paint.

I return again to this idea that Painting can be a portal between the material and spiritual world, between a painting taking a breath and the ethereal nature of seeing, that defines the power of the imagination.

Abstract paintings are like novels in that they are about the human condition.

I went to a book party for an author and was in conversation with this interesting writer. She asked me what kind of work I did and I said that I create fiction and she said ‘oh, I thought you said you were a painter.’ 


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.