Still The Beginning (second installment)

17 November 2017

The Center, Detail acrylic on canvas 36″ X 36″ 1974

At Rice my interests outside of art were developing. Among them were classical music and philosophy.  I also had wonderful art history classes, and during these lectures I became fascinated with the thick, gloppy paint areas of the impressionists, the precise color theory, layering and order of the pointillists, the boundless imaginings of the surrealists, (especially Magritte). Later into the 20th century it seemed to me that much of the above styles merged in the work of Richard Pousette-Dart, Wayne Thiebaud and Chuck Close.  All these riches were swimming around in my young brain, along with Mantegna who lived and worked centuries before!

Thinking a lot about how music is constructed, I began mentally parsing paintings for their layers of meaning as well as how they physically developed from idea to finished piece. My aesthetics and logic courses helped me work through this to a degree. Being a right-brained person, however kept all these thoughts in enough disarray that I could work them through in my own painted compositions.

I wasn’t too popular with my painting professors in college. They were not pleased that I refused to do the ‘cubist’ painting, the ‘Matisse-esque” painting etc. Instead I would hand in what I wanted to paint. I was more interested in visually learning about other artists’ process than in trying to emulate what they’d done on canvas.

The professors who were most encouraging were aestheticians and art historians.  They appreciated my attempt at originality and understood that I felt pressed to explore my own way while still far from finding my own best way to do this.

One day I was retrieving a painting from my locker when it caught the eye of Wayne Thiebaud, visiting as an artist in residence for a month in my junior year.  Even then his stature in the art world was iconic. I had seen his work in the museum! That he liked my work enough to comment favorably (and unsolicited) gave me the confidence I needed to apply to graduate school the following year.


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