January 15, 2010

A look back

I wanted to take a stroll down memory lane to give myself and anyone else who might be interested a look at where I was with my paintings and where I am trying to go. In the immortal words of Mr. Bob Dylan " I never want to think I have arrived, that would be death" or something like that. Anyway, it really means (to me) that I have known where I wanted to go and I might at times think I have gotten there, but just as that thought comes to mind I am already considering something else.
The paintings that begin this particular section are from 1995 just a year after I moved to New York City and the time which I decided I wanted to pursue fine art as opposed to Illustration. I am selecting the major landmark paintings that seemed to be specific to any shift in direction and the range of paintings will go into 2009.

The Decision-1995
This painting is probably the most significant painting in my early career. I had just moved to New York City and 

I was a feeling a little beat up and frustrated. It was probably more the feeling of longing for success and wanting to be further along than I was with my work. Either way, as I was falling asleep one night, this image came to me. I immediately jumped out of bed and started working out the composition, writing down everything I could remember. In the original image, I could see the other boxers leg in the foreground and the people in the crowd- all men with exception to one woman. She was the only one crying while the men were all cheering for my demise. Why I edited that out I don't really know, naivite mostly. I know the other boxer wasn't necessary to tell the story and didn't add to the composition so I excluded him. This painting took some time because I wasn't sure how to handle some of the technical problems of form and surface and I was not a very good painter so these issues set me back a few times. As I look back on this painting, I am amazed at the power that comes from not knowing the technical answers and how this creates a certain honesty because of the struggle. I only wish I had been as successful with subsequent paintings and that I had 30 more just like this one.

The Boy's Club-1995
This painting was inspired by a night out with friends. Dining out in the city was always magical-an event all by itself. This particular evening we were at a restaurant on the upper west side. The conversation was particularly interesting and the ambience was breathtaking. The restaurant had a beautiful greenish glow to it which was accented by a subtle orange glow from the candles. I was struck by the mood of both the conversation and the lighting. I later revisited the restaurant and got permission from the manager to sit and do some thumbnail drawings of the tables and other aspects of the interior. I wasn't exactly sure of the composition so, I wanted to cover my bases. As I explored the idea, I realized that the composition didn't need to be any more complicated than just the four of us. So, I arranged a table in my studio, purchased some gels from a theatrical supply store, bought some candles and persuaded all of the gentlemen at the table to come and sit for me. I took rolls and rolls of photographs and for the pictures of myself, my roommate (the guy in the painting looking bored and distracted) stood behind the camera. I toned the surface with burnt sienna and much of that was left to come through the greenish hue. I did several drawings of each person before hand which allowed me to sift through all the poses to pick the best one for the narrative-subtle as it may be.

Alexis II-1998
These next few paintings are of a girl named Alexis. We were in graduate school together and she became not only my favorite model and my muse but my girlfriend as well. She has one of those faces that seemed so easy to paint. Big beautiful eyes, and striking features. I fell for her immediately. All tolled I have close to 15 paintings of her. Some better than others and some that are more important to my development. I am posting the few that stand out.

Alexis (group of six) 18x 27-1999
Alexis (group of four) 72 x 96-2000
The large series of Alexis (group of four) have been exhibited in several venues but most notably would be at the auction houses of Sotheby's and James de Pury. They currently hang in the New York Academy of Art.

Alexis in Blue (detail)

Alexis in Orange (detail)

Alexis in Yellow (detail)

The Hat-2000

Diploma Project-(44 portraits)-2000
This tapestry of portraits was my graduate thesis. It consisted of portraits of all those who graduated with me at The New York Academy of Art. A homage, if you will, towards all of us that passed through the halls of that school for 2 years. I had gotten the idea as I studied and sketched the faces of fellow classmates during one class or another and I knew deep down inside that the final image (all of the faces in one frame) would be a very handsome and special way to say thank you to all of them for the challenges and friendship forged through the struggles presented at the school. I was discouraged by my advisor for not pushing myself into more uncharted territory, but I was stubborn and determined to do it my way. He was right and at the same time, so was I. This particular painting received the first annual Forbes Award and gave me the chance to travel to Northern France for a painting residency at the Forbes Chateau in the beautiful village of Balleroy. I am not convinced that any other painting would have garnered the same result.
Nathan (Detail)
Dana (detail

This next series of images are a direct result of the series of Alexis and my diploma project. I call these my rotating heads. I spent 3 years working on these paintings and they are the subject of the only one man show so far in my career, sad but true. But as luck would have it, they are now being exhibited in an article just coming out in American Artist/March Issue. My good friend Dean Dalfonzo wrote the article and he is the reason for new interest. Most of these paintings are small in format. Of course collectively they make a larger layout, but most of the individual windows are no bigger than 5"x 7" and the smallest is 3"x 4". They started out as study's for  bigger images but I grew fond of the intimate scale and the challenge of working so small. There are other's but for sake of interest I have only included a few. The magazine contains the process of how these images came about. 

Tom (graphite)-2000


Laura- 2003

I moved away from the multiple panel images around 2004 and decided to go back to the single image. As I regrouped and tried to find my way back to the narrative-single image, I started setting up still life's just to keep my chops, if you will. The first painting you will see is called "Jesus I'm a sinner" it is a tag line from a design my friend Tom (from England) gave me when he visited me while I was living in New York City (Tom is the first rotation). I thought it funny enough because of it's duality that I hung it on my bulletin board and it became part of this next painting. This painting is of my studio space in my New York City apartment. I had since moved to Connecticut but always wanted to create something that represented my years there. It is also a self portrait of sorts as it represents many factors of my life. Obviously the imagery is mostly of the post cards and cutouts I had collected over the years and posted on my bulletin board as inspiration. The books represent my mother who always loved to read and many of these books are from my uncle who had passed away a few years prior to this. The duck was carved by my grandfather and then of course the paints are self explanatory. If this was to be my last painting I ever created, I could be satisfied.

As such is the case, I have been able to continue painting and I will post a few more images that came around this same time.

This next series of paintings are referred to as "American Snapshots" They are exploring the idea of the 1950's archetype.

It is a group of original 1950's imagery that I came across in a discarded box of slides. As I began to look, I immediately recognized the potential for their transition into another media. I was struck by many things which generated the desire for me to make this shift in  a new direction. What I needed to do next is explore the merits of this new idea and come to some kind of inner understanding as to why I should go here. You could say that I was at a cross roads in my own work and was looking for something. What I didn't figure into this quest was that it might come from a complete outside source, I was very excited and yet experiencing some trepidation at the same time. I know how people feel about working from photography (yet, I have done this most of my career) as well as using resources beyond my own camera lens. I was curious to find the answer why I was so driven to do this. As I discussed thiswith friends and colleagues, I began to understand the role these images are playing for me. First, I came to the conclusion that I needed to follow my instincts, regardless. If I was to hear of others opinions I would need to be firm in my commitment when it came time to begin. Secondly, I thought of two very prominent artist who ventured down such roads: Gerhardt Richter and Marcel Duchamp. Gerhardt took black and white photographs and transfered them to paint on a very large scale, tit for tat, taking no liberties with the image. Marcel of course was the first to explore the idea of "anxious Art" where the object on view (a urinal) was in question as to being valid as 'Art'. For better or worse, the idea that you could take an object or in this case someone else's photography and by the mere transference from one medium to another-one venue to another- could create a shift in perception of that 'thing' and it's function in our society. Low art into high art by nothing more than taking a family snapshot meant to be viewed every few years in the living room of the family home, to a painting to be viewed by strangers inside the venue of an art gallery. The idea alone creates arguement and discussion. Some hate it, some understand. Either way, I am okay with it because I have come to my own understanding and will do this project regardless. Let them sort it out after the fact, if in fact they find it worthy of such debate. It is not for me to decide, just to do.


Chris said...

I am constantly amazed and always in awe of the talent you possess. I'm sure to the trained eye, an evolution may have taken place from your early work till the present, but to me, all your works have been great. I'm truly proud of you. Hope to see many more.-Chris Berry

Elizabeth said...

I have always admired your work, and I remember being floored by your rotating heads, but there's something new in your snapshot series that has really connected to my gut. You have magically united subject with method and produced paintings that could be my grandfather, or my best friend's mother, or even nobody I ever knew whom I somehow remember anyway. You have evoked a specific nostalgia in me for old, curling, overexposed Polaroid instant shots. Congratulations, they are really beautifully done.

Pooh said...

I remember when you did the boxer. I also really liked the guy on the subway. Wasn't that one of Peter? Funny to see Adam in the one of the dinner out with friends. Sunday night potluck with Adam's burritos! I'll always be glad to have a Michael J. Peery oil in my collection.

You've done really well for yourself. It's cool to see that you're teaching. I like your current work. My how you've grown! I'm proud of you...