The story begins with my first independent studio on the beach at the nascent Headlands Center for the Arts in 1986. I was deeply affected by geologic time because I was surrounded by it. The Marin Headlands is an imprint of both the continental float and polar shifts of the earth. My paintings became impastos as far as I could push them, inspired by plate tectonics, geological strata and the cycle of time beyond human history. Creating work that manifests a temporal flow has been primary to my practice ever since.
Another inspiration is my fascination with the origins of writing based on Bronze Age archeology and pre-historic cave art. Influenced by the connection between the shapes that early humans used to visually communicate and their echo in analog technology, I started to create panel displays that read like hieroglyphics using found objects mined from old machines.These works were equally informed by Arte Povera, Fluxus and Concrete Poetry.
When I moved to New York City, my interest in both histories of geology and archeology merged. The thick topography of my paintings became chatty. Entrails from old typewriters, watches and adding machines, as well as tiny animal bones began to appear among the layers of paint like a palimpsest. Again, I was drawn to eternal shapes that are universal among early writing, engineering and icons on our digital devices, (orbs, teeth, digits, limbs, spines, ribs, levers, resonate patterns in nature…).
A friend once told me that my work looked like the bottom of the East River when the tide was out. Another mental image is testimony I read from survivors of the 2004 Tsunami of what they saw when the waters receded; a kind of Rosetta Stone of debris encrusted in mud. That lead to a fourteen foot wide triptych entitled Nineveh, named after the ancient Assyrian capitol that housed the largest library of its time and where tablets are still being excavated: language, memory and writing literally interred in the earth’s crust.
Gradually the topographical layers shifted in pictorial space to a kind of liquefaction; from seeing beneath rather than above the surface. In my internal mythology, solid terrain gave way to water: to the flood. 33 Years shows this progression through each series: Burial, Silent Language, Submergence and Diluvia.
The breath of time that I conjure and answer to includes where we are but comments on it with an expansion; a kind of surround sound of simultaneity with before and after. Churned up in this cyclone, we’re barely a bleep, yet we leave our traces, mainly for eachother. At the end of the day, we are eachother, implicitly, perpetually trying to reckon with our collective vulnerability to a confluence of forces that’s beyond our control. As Gregory Bateson pointed out, “the map is not the territory”. But it is human nature to keep drawing one, over and over and over.