Archive for September, 2008


For every show, I put out a short statement that somewhat describes what I feel the work in that particular show represents to me.  I don’t talk about technique or use any “artspeak”– I just try to honestly express what I see in the work.  This is the statement for my upcoming show at the Kada Gallery in Erie, PA:


“The Time Has Come”

Kada Gallery,  October 2008


The time has come…


Four simple words describing a tipping point, where a decision has been made and a new plan of action set in motion…


When I was nearing the completion of preparation for this show I began to step back from the work a bit and really examine it as a group.  I was looking for the binding element that held the work together as group and gave it an emotional stamp.  I studied piece after piece and found far horizons , suns and moons breaking moodily through clouds, slumbering houses and fragments of paths leading into the distance.  All were at a certain point of stillness and it came to me.


The time has come…


The phrase fits the work so well.  Much of the work is about a tiny moment that resides between inaction and action, about being at the point where a call to action comes and one rises to the task.  Perhaps it is the calm before the storm.  Also, some of the paintings are concerned with coming to a point of realization in one’s life where the path ahead  is clear and  a decision of momentous consequence sends you ahead.  The time has come to end one phase and begin the next.


Even the work from the new “Archaeology” series fit the title.  Much of it seemingly is set in a future time and hints at a world of change where the familiar objects that inhabit our lives have become buried artifacts and we are apparently absent.  One phase has ended and another has started.


The time has come…


This is how I see a lot of these paintings.  Perhaps you’ll see this as well or even better, you’ll see something of your own life and experience in one of these pieces and make a connection. Whatever the case, “the time has come” for me to give you thanks for taking the time to look.


So, enjoy—



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My First Show

As I pointed out in an earlier post, I am currently prepping work for a show that opens next Saturday, October 4th, in Erie, PA at the KADA Gallery.  It’s called “The Time Has Come”  and is about my 20th solo show.  Seems like I should be an old hand by now but I still feel the same anxieties about showing my work as I did the first time I showed my work at the West End Gallery. 

At that point, I had never shown my work to anyone outside family and a few friends and wasn’t sure if there was anything in the work that would touch anyone but myself.  I saw qualities in the work but I worried that it was my vanity that made me see these things.  So when Linda Gardner asked for 10 or 12 pieces for her next show at the West End, I was torn between the elation of acceptance and the terror of possible rejection by the audience.  I saw a new window of possibility ahead of me and I was fearful that it could close just as quickly as it had opened.   I somehow framed and matted the several pieces chosen to show and nervously awaited for the opening.

When the opening finally arrived I came into the gallery, a large open space with high ceilings, and spotted a few of my pieces grouped together in a near corner.  My work at that point  was very small in size and they seemed even smaller in the vast space of the gallery.  I grabbed a drink and hovered, hoping for some feedback from the crowd.  I heard a lot of very good things that night, encouraging and exciting, but the part of that night that struck me the most were the people who walked by my work and didn’t even give more than a quick glance.  Their indifference hit me as hard as if they had stopped in front of my work and had said out loud, “This is crap.” 

I realized at that point that my work didn’t announce itself enough.  By that I mean they were quiet statements but in order to capture the imagination of the viewer needed to be bolder, stronger proclamations.  I knew that the work had to grow stronger and more assertive so that like it or not, my work would stand out. 

That was the lesson of that first show in February of 1995 and I am grateful for the indifference of those few people at that opening.

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Let me continue and finish up telling about how I came to be a painter.  I had fallen from my ladder, been injured, started painting with surprising results and became obsessed with improving as a painter. This is all in Starting Out: Part I on this blog.

So there I was painting away, assembling a mish-mosh of paper and board with smears of paint.  Some pieces really hit and some didn’t but, as in any endeavor, there was a lot to be learned from the misses.  The missteps defined strengths and weaknesses.  A time pass and I felt that the work was growing and was becoming a true expression of myself but I wasn’t thinking I was any more than an avid hobbyist at this point.

I had bought a painting or two over the years from the West End Gallery in Corning, NY.  One of the owners at that time was Tom Gardner, also a well-known painter and teacher.  Tom has a knack for conversation and I would occasionally stop in and we’d end up pulling out chairs in the middle of the spacious gallery and just shoot the breeze for a couple of hours.  It was during one such talk that Tom asked if I painted.  I hemmed and hawed a bit then confessed that I had puttered around a little.  Tom told me that I should bring some stufff in and he’d be glad to critique it but to be prepared to accept a harsh judgement if the work deserved it.  I hesitatingly agreed.

A week or so later I showed up at the gallery and Tom, seeing me, started to laugh.  I was hauling my pieces in an old blue milk crate with pieces of paper and cardboard sticking out all over the place.  It was not the organized portfolio of a serious artist or student.  Tom hunkered down and began shuffling through the pile of work and turned to me.

“I’ve got one question for you,” he said, pausing for a beat. “Where the hell have you been?”

I was shocked and thrilled.  It was a validation of the work.  He saw something original and strong in the work, saw real possibility.  My head reeled.  About this time, co-owner Linda Gardner walked in and looked over Tom’s shoulder for a few minutes.  After a moment she turned to me.

“Can you have 10 or 12 of these ready by next week for our next opening”

I can still remember the giddiness I felt from this unexpected turn of events.  A new possibility opened before me in that one moment, that one simple question.  I said yes. of course I could have the work ready.  I wanted to be confident even though I had no idea how to present the work properly.  But I knew I would learn and learn quickly because there was new horizon in front of me now, an opportunity that I knew I could not squander.  I would give it everything I had.

So, it was started.  Here is one of the first pieces I exhibited and I believe the first piece I ever sold:

Anyway, that’s how I first came to show my work publicly.  I’ll talk more about that in later posts.

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At the Movies #1

I watch a lot of movies in the studio when I am painting, mostly older films from the 30’s and 40’s because of their strong use of dialogue.  That’s important because I can’t always look at the screen.  But the beauty of the language and the way a story is told makes up for the sometime lack of visuals.  Every so often I want to share a quote or a moment from some of my favorites.  This is from Jimmy Stewart’s character, Elwood P. Dowd in the classic  “Harvey”:

“Years ago my mother used to say to to me, she’d say, ‘In this  world, Elwood, you must be’ – she always called me Elwood – ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant’  Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

Something to think about.  Thanks, Elwood.

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I’ll talk a little more on how I started painting but right now I want to talk a bit about show preparation.  I do 3-4 solo shows a year, all at galleries that have represented my work for a while and have built up a base of collectors over the years.  These are big events for me and are a little nerve-racking.  There’s the pressure of satisfying those who follow your work, trying to give them something new and exciting so that their interest is maintained.  There’s the pressure of meeting the expectations of the gallery by producing a body of work that they feel is strong and fresh and will be excited to sell.  There is also the pressure in a solo show that your work is the main source of income for the gallery for a time and that if your work isn’t well received the gallery suffers.  There is also the pressure from myself to see growth in the work.  Finally, there is the pressure to have to meet the public and talk about my paintings.  That is often the greatest struggle mainly because the longer I do this , the more instinctual the action of painting becomes.  There is less time spent thinking out each motion.  Describing something instinctive is difficult.

The show I’m currently preparing is for the KADA Gallery in Erie, PA.  It’s a wonderful  smaller gallery ran by Kathy and Joe DeAngelo who are just wonderful folks and were one of the first galleries to see something in my work.  I have been very fortunate in the people that I’ve worked with in the gallery world and Kathy and Joe are prime examples.  They represent my work with enthusiasm and encouragement and they treat the work the work with the respect I think it deserves.  So it’s very important that I put together a show for them that is first-rate, something that hopefully really shines in the gallery.

The show is titled “The Time Has Come” and opens October 4, 2008.  In the near future I will talk more about the title and the thinking behind it but now I have work to do!

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I thought this might be as good a place as any to tell a bit about how I came to painting.  I ‘ll try to keep it short.

I never expected to be an artist.  I mean, I remember thinking at age 7 or 8 that it might be neat to live as an artist, drawing and painting the days away, but in reality it seemed like a pipe dream.  We were what I would consider lower-middle class (maybe even upper-low class) and the idea of someone being an artist was as fantastic as someone being a fish.  We didn’t know any artists and art didn’t seem to occupy a large place in our lives.  But I thought I would like to be an artist and my parents did their best in meeting this wish, going out and buying me tubes of oil paint and canvas boards.  They didn’t know that a 7 year old would not be able to teach himself to use the oils and would need training and besides, they had no idea how to find such help.  So I plunged ahead and made gray glop on the boards and became frustrated, finally setting aside the paints forever.  Or so I thought.

Over the next few decades I tried my hand at many things: drawing awful little sketches for the school paper, working with leather, writing sophomoric poetry, screen-printing t-shirts, wood carving  and on and on.  Nothing hit for me but I felt there was something in me that had to come out, something that had to be expressed in one form or another.  For a long while I thought it was writing but after many years I came to the realization that what I wanted to write about was the quiet of large open space, the feeling of peering across lands to a far horizon.  How much could one person write on that subject?  I wasn’t interested in telling a tale.  I wanted to make people feel.  I wanted to touch people on an emotional level and my writing wasn’t doing the job.

During this time I held a number of jobs.  I worked as a candy cook in the A&P factory for several years, worked as construction laborer, owned and operated a swimming pool business, sold cars and was a finance manager at a Honda dealership.  Stumbling along, I ended up at a Perkins Restaurant in my mid-30’s as a waiter.  I had no idea what the future held.

It was around this time that my wife, Cheri, and I started to build a home on a parcel of land we had bought several years before.  I would work on the house during the day and wait tables at night.  One September morning I was working at site alone, stapling Tyvek weather barrier to the peak of the house when my ladder slid on the Tyvek, toppling over and catching my feet, throwing me face-first to the ground, about 16 feet below.  I still cringe a bit at the memory of that moss green ground rising up at me and the sudden blackness as it hit.  I was up immediately, leaning against the house and muttering “Oh my god, oh my god…” as I surveyed the damage.  My right wrist had two 90 degree angles in it.  Blood poured down my face and I could feel that the inside of my mouth was all torn up from broken teeth smashing in and through it.  I had no way of calling anyone (pre-cellphone days!) so I drove home, fading in and out during the short drive.

Cheri got me to the hospital and over the course of the next few months I began to mend.  I had plenty of time to myself since I couldn’t work at the restaurant and couldn’t do much on the house.  It was during this time that in my boredom I began to play around with some old air-brush paints from another earlier failed effort.  I would put the brush in my cast and push it around on some bristol paper just to feel like I was doing something.  At first, it seemed the same as always then suddenly, something clicked in my head.  The shapes and colors seemed to come together and make sense.  I don’t know how to exactly describe it.  It was as though my perception had changed and with that came new found ability.

That was the beginning of my new life.  I became obsessed with this new way of expressing myself.  After returning to work, I would paint several hours each evening.  With each session a new avenue would open before me.  My mind raced with each discovery.  I remember with great clarity the night I finished this piece:

The hair on the back of my neck stood up and my heart raced.  It was a moment of epiphany.  For the first time, I saw something that had the same feeling as the images in my head, something that was my own pure expression.  The form was right.  The color was right.  It had its own quality and life.  It was at that moment I knew that painting would be my life.

Okay, that’s enough for the time being.  I’ll elaborate in one of the next posts on what followed this piece.

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I have never aspired to make my private life available in such a public forum but there came a point where my work was creating enough questions and interest that I felt I should make an effort to talk a bit about the work and how it evolved.  For those not familiar with my work, I am a painter of what I would primarily call stylized landscapes.  I have also called them “internal landscapes” because they are not reflective of any one place or time and are generally concerned with mood and emotion rather than narrative.  In other words, I want you to feel something emotionally when you look at my work rather than tell a story.

What I would like to do with this blog is to introduce my work and its evolution, talk a bit about the process and some of the thought behind it, and fill in some biographical stuff with a few stories here and there.  Hopefully, in a pain-free, enjoyable manner for all involved.

This is a recent painting, “Coming to a Realization”, which I think is a good example of the style and subject of much of my work.  It has the strong lines and saturated color that marks much of my work and the central character in this piece is a red tree, an image which permeates my work and has become my signature.  I will talk a bit more about the RedTree in future posts.  This piece is, to me, about taking stock of one’s own life and realizing all that you are as well as all that you are not.  Now I stress that this my interpretation, what I see in the painting and what I take from it.  Someone else will hopefully fill in the blanks of the painting with  thoughts and details from their own experience.  That is when a piece truly begins to have a life that extends beyond the surface of the painting.

Anyway, this is the beginning of this blog.  I hope I can give some insight about my work to those who seek it and look forward to hearing from those with questions or comments. Most of all, enjoy!

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Early Times

These are early examples of my work, from about 1994.  It’s a loose interpretation of the glass factories of my home area, such as those in Corning and particularly Thatcher Glass in Elmira Heights.

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