My American Dream Exhibition Catalog [Part 2]

Page 1



Act Three 20 14

















33 10


6 7

C 1 C 2 C 3 C 4 C 5 C 6 C 7 C 8 C 9 C 10 C 11 C 12 C 13 C 14 C 15 C 16 C 17 C 18 C 19 C 20 C 21 C 22













9 8










C 23 Lincoln Remembers, 2001 C 24 Sunrise over Elsinore, 2011 C 25 Large Iconscape, 2012 C 26 American Eagle, 2012 C 27 Andrew in the Proust Room on Our 40th Birthdays, 2010 C 28 Me in the Proust Room for Our 40th Birthdays, 2010 C 29 Our Wedding, July 22, 2008, Meadbrook, CA, 2010 C 30 Julian & Rosa, 2011 C 31 Andrew and the Pups in the Pool, 2011 C 32 Andrew in Amsterdam (on the way to the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum), 2011 C 33 Andrew and Obama, 2011 C 34 Neo, 2003 C 35 Andrew Smelling the Floweres in the Proust Room, 2009 C 36 Husbands (Andrew and I), 2012 C 37 My Family, 2013 C 38 Drum Majors (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Family), 2008 C 39 The Little Princess, 2008 C 40 After Peanuts: Pictures to Color (Homage to Alicia, 2005), 2012 C 41 North America from Space, 2012 C 42 First Men on the Moon, 2012 C 43 Blue Boy (Ty Cashe), 1991 C 44 That’s All Folks!, 2004

The Dalai Lama Teaching the Diamond Cutter Sutra and Seventy Verses on Emptiness at Radio City Music Hall, Oct 14, 2007, 2008 Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., 2006 Eleanor Roosevelt and JFK (The Raft and Tilsit), 2006 Young Gregory Peck, 2005 Me in ‘83, 2010 Baby and I on 46th Street in ‘99, 2012 Clipper Ship “Comet,” 2007-8 36th and 10th, 2010 Circle Iconscape, 1998 K and A Ranch, Meadowbrook, CA, 2010 Radiant Landscape (with Andrew and the Dogs), 2011 Rosa, 2012 Michelangelo, 2012 Cabin Essence, 2011 Movin’ Right Along, 2014 Mona Moi (from the Kermitage Collection), 2015 View from Empire, 2013 View from Our Chelsea Window, 2012 Night Cabin, 2011 Plastic Ono Band/Peace (Diptych), 2003 Edna Ferber and James Dean, 2007 Fassbinder and Warhol on the Set of Querelle, 2006























































































Finale 16





18 17







19 11


22 10







30 8




D 1 D 2 D 3 D 4 D 5 D 6 D 7 D 8 D 9 D 10 D 11 D 12 D 13 D 14


D 15 D 16 D 17 D 18 D 19 D 20 D 21 D 22 D 23 D 24 D 25 D 26 D 27 D 28 D 29 D 30

Flag Iconscape, 1997 Jesus Iconscape, 1997 The Vision of St. John: The Opening of the Fifth Seal (After El Greco), 2008 The Phantom, 2002 Westworld, 2004 Iconscape (Police), 1995 Lance (Diptych), 2013 Temptation on the Mount (King Kong and Fay Wray Battle the Giant Taradactyle), 2006 Madonna and Child (After Duccio), 2008 Model for the Crucifix (After Michelangelo), 2008 Christ Embracing the Cross after El Greco (Detail from Hamlet 1999), 2002 Thomas Eakins Coming Out, 2009 Last Judgment Resurrection, 2009 Frankenstein (Amazing Grace), 2015



Love Triumphant (James Dean in a Tree), 2006 Heaven, 2014 Jackie, 2007 Blue James Dean, 2003 Madonna and Child, 2004 Michelangelo Jesus, 2002 Last Judgment, 2006 Red (Spanish) Jesus, 2004 Hamlet, 2001 Eyesight to the Blind, 2003 Superman, 2014 Blue Jesus, 1997 Miles Davis/Bitches Brew, 2008 Captain Kangaroo and the Dancing Bear, 2005 Bal’I Ha’I, 2006 The White House, The Rebel, and The Chimp, 2005
















































Index with notes from the Artist


Act One

in the plastic space of the picture plane. Hopefully I’m doing this here, as I strive to think about all the wonderful things this picture conjured within me (most of all, my love for Andrew), when I created this painting, and hope that this all comes out in ways that, at the end, are felt but defy categorization. 

In many ways, like another of my painterly hero’s Vermeer, in his “Art of Painting,” this work is an allegory of what I believe I’m about as an artist and painter, and significantly begin the allegory of the whole “My American Dream” installation at the Whitney with this image. “My American Dream” as a theme works both symbolically and literally, perhaps all the paintings in the exhibition, like the reflections presented in this picture (and the salon behind the sleeper), are elements and scenes of what Andrew may be dreaming about in the moment this picture describes.


Sleeper, 2011 oil on linen 48 x 36 inches Collection of Robert Crabb

Inspiration. I have always loved Hopper’s paintings, especially those inspired by films (which are many) and looking through windows, “Rear Window” style, revealing private moments.

Sleeper is a portrait of my husband Andrew, from a photo I took one afternoon at our cabin in Riverside, California, through the window, with the reflection of the hill behind our home appearing simultaneously as the image through the window, in addition to the lens flare of the camera itself. “Sleeper” is not only the subject matter of the image, but also a reference to one of our favorite Arthur Rimbaud poems, called “Sleeper in the Valley,” which describes the life surrounding a dead soldier in a field. While Andrew is very much alive, the visionary aspects of the poem--which reflected upon the living agency of nature and the world transcending humans’ understanding of the normal everyday, is hopefully reflected in the reflection, and the mash-up of symbolic representation. The narcissism of our ego’s filtering out the life of how our environment can defy categorization and understanding is something I feel is the artist’s job to expose, and someone like Goya, whose book appears on the nightstand, did this in extraordinary ways, allowing his symbolic allegories to jettison his hand and mind to paint ultimately ineffable works that we feel, but can’t completely explain away. The book is next to a red plastic ball that reminds me of a clown’s nose, and I like the juxtaposition in that I feel much of my work seems like a tragic comedy, or Goya with a clown nose. Of course the American Flag appears, invoking our great country but here in the form of a towel draped across an old chair (which like much of the furniture, including Andrew’s grandparents bed and nightstand, have much history and meaning for us). In the room hang older works by me that I have given to Andrew over the years, including early framed Pinocchio drawings, and a large painting of a cat from the early ‘90’s (I’m proud to say other pet paintings of this series are owned by LACMA and SF MOMA). I hope, with the pillowcase next to Andrew, that this work (in addition to all my art) ultimately defies language, like the great paintings and art that inspire me, and enjoy how the letters on the pillow begin to break apart in their folding and eclipsing elements. Perhaps like what Andrew may be dreaming about, the reflection creates a surreal world beyond the cabin, and the light ball hovering in midrange (a reflection of the camera flash? A lens flare?) also frustrates any easy reading of representation, breaking into abstraction or like a representation of the unconscious. I enjoy painting all elements I see in photos as if “they are really there,” and see the job now, post-Richter of people that paint from photos as their source imagery, to penetrate the surface of the photo, and bring out the “third meaning” (to quote Roland Barthes’ idea), of what they as artists can bring to the photo, in not just their hand, but their conscious and unconscious minds. If oil paint can make things look more “real” than most other mediums, perhaps oil paint can make the unconscious and emotional mind “real” and concrete

One of my favorite paintings from my youth, and one that still captivates today is the great “Tribulations of St. Anthony” by James Ensor at MoMA. When I was in college I would come and stare at the amalgamations of strange beings culled from his imagination--and seemingly rendered from unconscious swirls of paint that he brought out later, consciously, to render for others to see. Importantly for me, he was able to do this without “illustrating” them completely, like Dali might, leaving a painterly impression that creates a life and allows the figures to vacillate in the weird perspective planes that defy logic. I hope that my unconscious spills out in micro-managed moments of my painting, and especially when rendering reflections, shadows, and other forms that are difficult for my left brain to ascertain, I feel the unconscious is allowed play when navigating the optical space my inner mind “sees.”


Anne Frank’s Wall, 2007 oil on canvas 40 x 60 inches Collection Zach Feuer and Alison Fox See notes for Anne Frank’s Room.



ago when I went back to the Anne Frank house, I was struck again by her room--when she first pasted the photos on the wall she declared it to be (I’m paraphrasing here?) like a “huge drawing” and it really does work this way... I also realized that I had spent a large part of my career making shows of open-ended narratives, by juxtaposing “high” and “low” images together in installations of paintings and drawings that have a distant cousin in that room. The room, like the house, is a character in itself, and I was inspired to paint an image of the space photographed as it may have been furnished in her time, as it really resembled--and importantly, could stand in as an allegory for her experience-Van Gogh’s room, another Amsterdam hero.
When I paint my imagery based on appropriated sources and/or historical imagery, I research my topic seriously, as to fully understand what it is I’m creating an image of, and in the hope that not only will it have intellectual value in terms of its content, but that it might also resonate emotionally and transcend received notions and ideas to ultimately create an ineffable, sublime affect. Much like a method actor who would suture his own life into his character in order to both better understand his subject and to breathe life and real emotion into his performance, I try my best to understand the person I’m portraying as I’m painting a portrait, or world of a person or a culture, as to help animate it and make it become alive. Many of my thoughts regarding this are inspired by Scott McCloud’s great book Understanding Comics, when he discusses the power of an icon--that it is relatable to a large audience, and that, at least in the case of an essentialized iconic form like a cartoon, that “we” become “it” when we view the image. Much like the Chinese monks who would enter into a state of “maw” when they made a screen or scroll--wanting themselves as artists, in addition to the viewer, to “enter nature,” they would meditate while rendering and “become” the simplified figure in a complex background, using it as an avatar into that world, I sometimes use real-life icons to not only create allegories based on what people might know about that figure and how it operates within the context I created for it, but also, by my handling of the paint and formal nuance, for them to “feel” what the character might be feeling. While painting anything associated with Anne Frank, for example, I listen to the audio tapes of her diary, music that was recorded around the same time that they hypothetically could have been listening to, and read research and view films about her and this period when I take breaks from my painting. When I finished my first portrait of her (now at the Cleveland Museum!), it was at the end of a long process where I had listened several times to the entire audio of the diaries, and at the end of my painting the tape was at a biographic section describing her seeing her longlost friend and her weeping, and I found myself crying looking at my painting and feeling for her. Since then, I keep being drawn back to her as a figure (my last two shows in NY featured images of her, and my recent show in Amsterdam had over 10 drawings of her--one constituted over 40 tiny drawn portraits based on her photobooth pictures--which I’m planning to turn into an animation soon), and hope that I learn more each time and the work has become even more nuanced.

With these two images, I’m hoping it might be interesting for the viewer to see what images perhaps inspired Anne Frank’s mind and optimism to make her incredible work, in addition, like in Rauschenberg’s famous “Rebus” painting, to make their own associations as to how to ultimately “read” the juxtapositions of images (McCloud calls this process “closure”--when the viewer creates the ultimate content when viewing just a part of something--for him, a sequence of panels depicting a larger scene). While doing so, I also hope that it posits the viewer in Anne Frank’s POV, where they find themselves “suturing” into the role of Anne, as they look at the reproductions painted exactly to scale of her wall-basically they are looking at a tromp l’oeil of the original surface. Like in the story “the Yellow Wallpaper,” though, by allowing

Anne Frank’s Room, 2007 oil on linen 26 x 34 inches Private Collection

Although when I initially conceived of “My American Dream” to not have images that referenced things outside of our country, Stuart Comer, when curating the Biennial, felt strongly otherwise, especially in regard to Anne Frank’s Wall, which he felt was essential and was right. In thinking about it, as she really was more influential with her writings in America first, and as her story is the story of so many who, if they survived, and/or were able to escape, that represents the Jewish assimilation story of so many Americans that it was not only important to include in the continued cosmology of the show, but also more works of her that I have painted for many years. The painting, of a wall in the Anne Frank House that remains basically as it was when Anne first wheat-pasted the images on it to give her hope, is a “key” or “legend” to the map of images in the installation itself. Like her (but in MUCH less of a tragic way of course!) I grew up with posters salon-style hung in my room, mixing high and low, to give me hope, and continue to this day to live in environments of salon-style hangings of my own and friend’s work, among many other images, that feng shui my world. This is a micro-managed world of the install itself, with high/low imagery mixed together, that I have truly painted in all these years to give myself hope, and as a young American when I first saw the wall on a trip after just graduating college, I had deep empathy for not only Anne but her writing and art (as did much of America, who read before Judy Blume her story, not just of the holocaust, but of her coming of age as a young independent woman and writer). From a letter in 2009 to Daniel Belasco, then curator at the Jewish Museum in NY, for an article in book published in 2012 as “Suturing In: Anne Frank as Conceptual Model for Visual Art,” in Anne Frank Unbound: Media/Imagination/Memory, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Jeffrey Shandler, eds., Indiana University Press: When I first went to the Anne Frank house in the late 80’s after college, I was deeply moved by the experience, and in particular, was struck by the way that she had pasted, salonstyle, images that gave her optimism, contemplation, and hope in her room. I found an affinity in how she was able to juxtapose art reproductions with pop iconography, and, by being on the same plane and surface, make powerful historical images equatable (and more personable) by bringing them next to charming illustrations and photos from her everyday world. Certainly there is a melancholy associated with any photo of an almost-lost moment, and in the patina of time as the yellowing clippings became almost the same color as the mustard-palate wallpaper behind it, the collective peeling look brought out the synaesthetic emotions of the whole environment.
Several years


myself to meditate upon my own reflections and associations while painting these pieces, I hope something else slips through, and that my unconscious thoughts and emotions also become embedded into the work, making it animated and ultimately elusive of having specific fixed content and representation, while it moves into more emotional and psychological terrain that would ultimately help to encapsulate, or attempt to breach, the intensity and depth of what Anne Frank and so many others went through. My work concerning Anne Frank is in honor of her, and all the other peoples who suffered, in the hope to keep their experience alive to teach us now what must never be forgotten...

and people to join with him peacefully, nourishing them and providing support, and his camp continually expanded into a community of over 10,000 people. When Custer’s 7th Cavalry attacked the Cheyenne and Lakota tribes at their camp on the Little Big Horn River (known as the Greasy Grass River to the Lakota) on June 25, 1876, they didn’t realize how large the camp was. More than 2,000 Native American warriors had left their reservations to follow Sitting Bull, and being inspired by his vision where he saw the soldiers being killed upon entering the camp, they fought back, lead by Crazy Horse, and annihilated them. Sitting Bull and his peoples victory didn’t last long, as Custer was a national hero, and the news of his death inspired the government to bring thousands of more soldiers to the area, forcing many of the Native Americans to surrender, and ultimately leading Sitting Bull and his people to retreat to Canada. Although he made friends with Canadian/British leaders there, they couldn’t sustain themselves for lack of food and resources, and after 4 years, starving and exhausted, eventually gave into surrender to the United States in 1881, with Sitting Bull having his young son Crow Foot his rifle to the commanding officer at Fort Buford, and told them that he wished to regard the soldiers and the white race as friends but he wanted to know who would teach his son the new ways of the world. Prisoners of war, Sitting Bull and his band of now 186 people were kept at different Forts, separated from the rest of the other Hunkpapa. But in 1885, Sitting Bull was allowed to leave the reservation to participate with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. He had met Annie Oakley, who so impressed him he adopted her as his daughter, and she returned his respect and treasured him as a friend, and he earned $50 a week riding around the area once a show, either cursing the audience under his breath, or by other accounts, giving speeches abut his desire for education for the young, and reconciling relations between the Sioux and Whites. In just four months, before he was forced to return to Standing Rock Agency by the government, he became, along with Annie, the most popular attraction of the show, where people considered him a romanticized warrior and celebrity, and although Sitting Bull earned quite a bit of money charging for his autograph and pictures, he have his money away to the homeless. Back at Standing Rock, a new movement called the “Ghost Dance” had been growing, based on the belief that spirits would one day arise and give back the Native peoples their land, and although Sitting Bull himself didn’t believe in this, allowed his people to chant and dance for hours in ritual practice, as he felt it gave them hope. This created fear amongst the soldiers, however, and they accused Sitting Bull in leading and encouraging the movement, and wanted to forcefully arrest him. Sitting Bull peacefully refused the arrest, but panic ensued as the Sioux in the village were enraged, and ultimately a Sioux police officer ended up shooting Sitting Bull in the head killing him, completing the prophecy Sitting Bull had of being killed by his own people.


Sitting Bull, 2013 oil on linen 48 x 36 inches

Sitting Bull (1931-90) was a Hunkpapa Lakota holy man and tribal chief during the years of resistance to US government policies, famous also for helping his people defeat Custer and his cavalry during the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, as he saw of vision of Custer and his soldiers dying before the battle, giving his people the motivation for one of their greatest victories (and unfortunately the motivation for the government to retaliate in full, leading to the defeat at Standing Rock and eventually Sitting Bull’s death). Unlike many of the Native American leaders in his time, Sitting Bull refused to compromise his people’s land and agency in the bogus treaties and agreements that the US government tried to have tribes sign to compromise their land for western expansion and manifest destiny. Although born in Dakota territory, Sitting Bull’s people weren’t involved in the Dakota War of 1862, where several bands of eastern Dakota people killed an estimated 300 to 800 settlers and soldiers in south-central Minnesota in response to poor treatment by the government. But in 1863/64 while they were still fighting the Civil War, the United States army retaliated against bands that had not been involved anyway, involving Sitting Bull, who, along with many others, defended his people. In a time of many tribes with different idiosyncratic tendencies and rivalries, Sitting Bull was elected to lead, some say as the “Supreme Chief of the whole Sioux Nation,” however this has also been refuted as the Lakota society was highly decentralized, still, Sitting Bull was seen by many as a great leader. In the Great Sioux War of 1876, leading to the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull’s band of Hunkpapa continued to battle migrating parties following Custer’s instigation of the Black Hills Gold Rush (Custer had announced that there was gold in government-issued Sioux sacred territory, encouraging and motivating expansion there), successfully compromising the movement. During the period of 1868-76, Sitting Bull developed into the most important of Native American chiefs, refusing to become dependent on government support and having his people living on government enforced reservations, and was joined by many others who didn’t want to fall under subjugation. Sitting Bull welcomed all tribes

I, like so many Americans, grew up knowing of Sitting Bull, but not enough about his life story and plight of Native Americans in detail at this time, as my early education barely scratched this surface of our horrible history of the mass genocide of Native American peoples in the colonization of this country. It was incredible to learn more about him and paint this picture, listening to the excellent book “The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn” by Nathaniel Philbrick (who I’m proud to say saw this painting and enjoyed it!), in addition to traditional Lakota music and songs, in addition to recordings of Pow-wow’s and other Native American music. I really wanted to by homage to this great hero, who we don’t see enough of in museums or galleries (or of course, by extension,


any Native American presence, beyond Frederic Remington paintings and statues and questionable representation in Hudson River School Paintings (although I have been inspired by the pro (for his time) Native-American works of George Catlin). Our country recognizes its horrible history of slavery and mistreatment of many peoples of color, Native Americans’ included, but this aspect of American History in the “ethnic cleansing” of Native Americans doesn’t see enough representation in our cultural media. I truly wanted to pay homage to this great man, and also recognize what he represents in taking one of the great last stands for the rights of his people. I was really moved in painting this picture—like that of Annie Oakley, he stands in front of a painted backdrop, which seems, like the special effects of films like the Wizard of Oz, to spill out into surreal, unconsciously realized worlds, I thought of all the people that he tried to save, and the sacred lands he tried to keep for his people, and the joy of his life, his compassion, understanding, and leadership, in addition to his bittersweet demise—his memory certainly lives on, in addition to the values he kept to life, the country, and its people, of all races, creeds, colors, and class.

her abilities, that he “adopted” her as his daughter and they joined with him Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in 1885, where she quickly became a headliner. Audiences couldn’t get enough of her, as she could shoot the tip of a cigarette held in her husband’s lips, hit the thin edge of a playing card from 30 paces and shoot distant targets while looking in a mirror and more. When the Wild West Show traveled Europe, Annie was a sensation, and got to meet Queen Victoria and shot a cigarette out of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s mouth. She eventually left (and came back) to the Wild West Show, but continued to perform. Being a top earner for the Wild West, she shared her money with her extended family and gave donations to orphan charities. During WWI she volunteered to organize a regiment of female sharpshooters, but after her petition was ignored, helped to raise money for the Red Cross with exhibition work at army camps. She was slandered by Hearst’s publications-Oakley spent six years winning 54 of 55 libel lawsuits against his newspapers, which begat laws to prevent yellow journalism that still stand today. After a debilitating automobile accident that forced her to wear a steel brace on her right leg, she recovered to perform and set more records, and held classes for teaching women to shoot for free. After her death at age 66 in 126 from pernicious anemia in Ohio, her husband Frank was so grieved that he stopped eating and died 18 days later. After her death it was discovered she had given her entire fortune away to her extended family and to charity.

Inspiration. Velázquez is the painting Master, and his allegorical pictures of humble but powerful figures that can teach us something have long been a guide for me. Sitting Bull was partly inspired by his painting of the great Aesop.

It was really amazing painting this portrait of this incredible woman. I always advocate, especially with my cartooning students, for “strong female protagonists,” and Annie was certainly that—way before Lady Gaga and Madonna she was internationally known as not only the best sharpshooter of her day (when shooting was a way of life for many), but as a kind, smart (and self-educated), and super strong woman, in a loving relationship with a husband who easily let her take the driving seat in their marriage and in their acclaimed act. When painting from photos, I feel it’s my job to make it “better” than the photo, and how it’s “not like the photo” is ultimately what is “me” about it. In these studio shots, I tried to paint the painted backgrounds as if they were “real,” and I hope they bliss out into a Wizard of Oz like phantasia. When I’m painting, I always listen to music and audiobooks, etc., to help me get to know the person even more, and like a method actor, to get inside the character and relate to it to help it come “alive.” For Annie, I listened of course to her famous biography written by a her friend stage comedian Fred Stone, in addition to versions of the musical (even the Ethel Merman was really a fiction based very loosely on fact), and a lot of country music that she might have enjoyed if she had lived to hear it (Dolly Parton was especially good). I found the Carter Family, the famous foundation of much of country music (and folk) worked the best, as they recorded many traditional songs that existed in Annie’s time, much of it religious music (and Annie was pretty religious). I hope I did justice to her bearing and her legacy—it was interesting to bring color to the sepiatoned image, and imagine, interpreting the painting behind her to be as “real” as possible, the other worlds that it could depict, both the forests her rural upbringing, but also a “cabin in the sky” where hopefully her spirit resides today!

I have long been inspired by George Catlin’s amazing images of Native Americans, and how he hoped to help their cause by painting respectful homage to them that traveled the country, showing people their culture and helping to give them their agency.


Annie Oakley, 2013 oil on linen 48 x 36 inches Collection of Leigh and Reggie Smith

Annie Oakley was the first American female superstar, and a real exemplary version of the American Dream. Born 1860 in a rural area of Ohio, she was given away by her mother after her father died at age 9 along with her sister to work at an orphanage as she couldn’t afford to keep her, and was “adopted” by an evil family that put her through an almost indentured slavery, before she escaped after two years, returning to the orphanage. She eventually went back to her original family, and to help pay for food and mortgage, mastered shooting small game cleanly to sell to restaurants and hotels, eventually earning a great reputation. When she was put up to a shooting competition with Frank Butler, a top shooter and vaudeville performer, she beat Frank, who quickly fell in love with her, and realizing that she was better than he, made her the head of their act. In 1884 she met NativeAmerican leader Sitting Bull, who was so impressed with her and

Inspiration. When the Manet/ Velázquez show came to the Met, it was a revelation to me. Not only was it outstandingly sublime in its wondrous painting by both these masters, it also was instructive that you can make work that was painterly, transcendent, but also “about something” that had great content. The painting of the Infanta Margarita was especially astounding: it seemed she was breathing life! I felt he must have known (and loved) his subject matter so, that he simply painted his heart out while thinking about what his subjects meant to him, while perhaps talking with them or simply meditating on his thoughts,


and he had such facility that the loose paint handling somehow strong together to imbue his characters with life, movement, the colors subtly arguing with one another in a manner to keep them constantly vacillating in the minds eye. I try to attempt to do this as much as possible, micro-managing to the macromanaged whole while listening to things that bring about my passion for the picture and thinking my thoughts to make it try to come to life.

much in his lifetime due to the uncanny out of focus elements of it, but this made a perfect image for me to paint from (Lincoln also took other photos for the purpose of creating a source image for his portraitist Matthew Wilson!). After looking and gathering Lincoln images throughout the years, I was drawn to this one as it really seemed to capture the expression of Lincoln winning the war, but quite cognizant of the great sacrifice it took upon the country and its peoples, and his giant beneficence-at only 55, Lincoln seems wizened beyond his years as the great emancipator. But also the background intrigued me, as it seems to be withholding all kinds of forms and symbols, which like the details of the floor and chair and table seemed to harness secrets to unpack. I love in the Old Masters, in micromanaged moments paintings fall into unconscious abstraction, and how in many modern works from Cézanne forward, how images may break apart into unconsciously realized figures and forms, and here, with perhaps a painted backdrop behind Lincoln, it seems to fall into other dimensions, perhaps the spirits or souls of those who he helped to save or whom were killed in his time of struggle. Nine days after his sitting John Hay, on the behalf of the President, wrote the following letter to Gardner, which Lincoln signed:


Abraham Lincoln, 2013 oil on linen 70 x 53 inches


Washington, August 18, 1863.

My Dear Sir,
Allow me to return my sincere thanks for the cards and pictures which you have kindly sent me. I think they are very successful. The Imperial photograph in which the head leans upon the hand I regard as the best that I have yet seen.

I am very truly, Your Obt Sevt,

A. Lincoln

I painted this specifically for the Biennial, but also knowing it would--like a coming attraction for a movie--first appear at a NADA fair in Miami. I wanted it to be specifically at this fair, as being in Miami, Lincoln is a dynamic political image there that for me could be in part be an example of a “good Republican” who fought for the rights and agency of the American people, which in a time that race is still a factor, and the rights of LGBT people is in a current state of struggle, the vision of Lincoln seems more pertinent and dynamic than ever. More than merely Miami, however, I knew of and was creating my non-linear narrative installation “My American Dream” for the Whitney, and I absolutely wanted Lincoln to be included. I have rendered him several times before, in diptychs (with portraits with his cabin at his side-”Lincoln Remembers,” from when W. Bush was first elected and I was missing my partner Andrew who was at our cabin in CA, a drawing diptych of Lincoln and Obama coming on stage for his inaugural address, and more). I have been thinking of Lincoln in the past few years and have been wanting to paint him again, collecting images and contemplating, and also waiting for the Spielberg movie-that serendipitously came out during this time-to subside so neither I or my viewer may be too influenced either by that wonderful interpretation by Spielberg and Daniel Day Lewis.

I feel more than most other presidents, Lincoln helped to forge the ideology for civil liberties that my husband and I enjoy (having married after 20 years the first chance we could in CA before the window closed temporarily). Of course the rumored sexuality of Lincoln is very intriguing, if not provable (but I also think our contemporary ideas of homosexuality hadn’t even been formed at this time). But more than this, I like to paint images, when from appropriation, of people and scenes that give me hope, that I would want to aspire to be, to learn something about them more to give me clues on how to live a great life and to help others, and hope in painting these images, to inspire them about what inspires me about the picture. Adjacent to Sitting Bull and Annie Oakley, which are also studio views with painted backdrops, I hope this creates a triptych-like arrangement of American heroes that were ahead of their time in their struggle for agency and respect for themselves and others like them. As a part of this non-linear narrative of “My American Dream,” in context, I hope that Abraham Lincoln becomes a wonderful patriarch of an America that I want to live in, that has given me the freedom to do what I do as an artist and teacher and person, along with so many others who enjoy the rights these people helped fight for. In the super salon installation, I do see it like a comic on the wall, with each painting like a panel in a comic, juxtaposed to create meaning, but also like a mural, a “gay Guernica,” but in a good way, or Last Judgment, or a Thomas Hart Benton. Although I have done salons in the past, for the Biennial, I was thinking of the early years of the Whitney, where salon shows of “figurative narrative allegory” were more common, now heightened (literally, as the tallest painting grazed the Breuer cement ceiling, and the bottom pictures just touched the floor!) to bring attention to the fantastic architecture and its history, not just to bespeak for the Whitney and its past, but also for the Met (whose art both within the American Painting wing and much beyond continues to inspire me) and its future, as obviously the building’s new home will be for the visions that great museum will bring to it!

Like a method actor, while I am painting, I like to step in the shoes of the character I am portraying, and bring some of my own life to it to help bring life to the image. While painting this, along with the Mozart opera Lincoln loved, I listened to Team of Rivals (the unabridged version!). The original photo was taken by Alexander Gardner, (who at that time had become known as a civil war photographer, and whom Lincoln knew at his new studio at 7th and D Street, above Shephard and Riley’s Bookstore in Washington, D.C. He also had a new camera, which didn’t take as long to pose for, and Lincoln volunteered to be the first person he would photograph with it, on Sunday, August 9,1863, accompanied by his secretary John Hay in 1863, as Team of Rivals mentions. I was thrilled as I went to Brown University, where Hay went to school, and where now the John Hay Library is, and thought this was interesting and special! Lincoln was in a good mood as the tide was turning in their favor during the war. Evidently it was one of Lincoln’s favorite pictures of himself, that wasn’t seen

Inspiration. This great Velazquez at the Prado traveled to the


Met, and was a huge inspiration to me—of the Holy Trinity crowning of Mary, it is both rendered fastidiously, but also has the life and nuance of a spiritual unconscious driving the work. It has more life to me than the American Gilbert Stuart’s famous presidential portraits, such as the
Lansdowne Portrait of Washington at the National Gallery, which seems awkward and stiff. And although I love these early American (and based on life and photos, perhaps for the first time) portraits of Lincoln by his contemporaries Healy and Wilson. I do love some of these early American works, and even though Stuart was like a Warhol of his time, as he repeated motifs and did many copies of the same portrait of Washington for money, he was also able to paint transcendent beauties like the Skater in the National Gallery. As much as I appreciate these great American Portraits, I think we can revisit historical paintings with less academic restraint, and like the old masters, try to invoke a spiritual, subconscious, transcendent painterly poetry to the proceedings, that not only depict these great figures, but also allow for the images to portray the inner personality of the people, and the ineffable effect they ultimately had on our world and culture.

feelings of our life experience that hopefully gives the work itself a life of its own.


Peanuts: Pictures to Color (Homage to Alicia), 2005 oil on linen 38 x 24 inches

This was a very special painting, as it was for my husband Andrew in memory of his best friend Alicia, who had died due to HIV related causes. Like us, she loved all things Snoopy, and had given me this coloring book (the painting was an appropriation of the cover) the last time I had seen her, and I painted this just after she died. 
When I make works, like a method actor, I really try to get into the “head” of the person and/or scene that I’m painting, to try bring emotion and life to the work--I listen to relevant music and audiobooks about the scene I’m depicting, and very much meditative on my thoughts while working. For this, of course I was thinking of our great friend Alicia, and was mournful of her passing, and really was thinking of her, and our relationship to her, and having these emotions and feelings suture into the iconography of the characters in the painting.


Andrew and I, 2013-14 oil on linen
 48 x 72 inches (diptych)

The artist Joe Bradley curated me into a show at Gavin Brown’s in 2012 and I recreated the work, as we really didn’t want to sell this one. I like the new version as much as the first, ultimately they are still about Alicia, but also our relationship not just with her, but evolving after her passing both emotionally and for me, as an artist since that time. Like how early Snoopy looked a lot different from later renditions of Snoopy, my work had grown as I had, the images look different, but hopefully both are good.

Andrew and I is based on our respective Mom’s favorite childhood pictures of my husband and myself, taken about age 4. We’ve been together for 23 years now, and born just 4 days apart from one another, so romantically we seemed destined to be with one another, and its always struck me how these images easily go together, with Andrew standing on a “stairway to heaven” looking in my direction, with me on a “flying carpet.” Although Andrew is Latino/Native American and is a brunette, as a child he was a towhead, although uncannily, we still wear similar clothes. Andrew had jackets just like this one now (although not the shorts!), and we both have t-neck white sweaters, and I still love wearing boots (I grew up in Colorado, hence the boots in my picture). Andrew’s photo was hand-colored, mine was black and white, and it was interesting to interpret the colors in the images while painting – it was interesting that the backgrounds happened to turn out blue and pink. While working, as I always do, I try to get into the “heads” of my portraits, listening to music that is meaningful to my subject matter, listening to audiobooks and so on. It was fun to listen to the late 60’s/early 70’s music of our youth (including Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin for Andrew, the American Graffiti soundtrack, Cat Stevens, the Who and Steve Martin comedy albums for me, amongst many many others). For children’s portraits, I think that Goya is one of the best. I’ve always loved his portrait of the boy in red with the magpie and cats (Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuniga), and strived to create something here that was just as uncanny and alive, with more than just merely a pleasant picture of whimsical youth and more of a portrait that is impacted with ineffable


View of Empire from a Train, 2011 oil on linen 48 x 36 inches Collection of Greg and Patricia Lichko, Cleveland

This is an image of the Empire State Building I painted from a photo I took from a subway train window coming back from a


Brooklyn College MFA show in Williamsburg. I have always loved the Carl Andre stack of bricks that almost feel like they are falling perceived through the Judd Foundation/Former house in Soho, entitled Manifest Destiny with the name brand “Empire” stamped on them. To me, it is allegorical for the temporality of Empires—in their hubris they think they will last forever but ultimately are doomed to fall in time.


The tragedy of 9-11 has always haunted me since we experienced the horrific event from out apartment and soon thereafter with my NYU students in Washington Square park, and of course I hope the “American Empire” will continue to stand strong for as long as possible. The Empire State Building represents the power of our country (and NYC!) to me, and the weight of its name I think adds to it standing as this metaphor. To have it fall as another incredibly tall building and icon would be an unforgivable nightmare, but to have it move around, in a sci-fi like scenario feels like a wonderful animated fantasy of good Godzilla-like power, and hopefully this image can provoke both comedy and tragedy. Ultimately hopefully it also projects hope—the hopeful feeling I had taking the picture, proud and happy to have the edifying experience of teaching great grads and their success I enjoyed at their opening in Williamsburg, and also happy to return to Manhattan, to my husband and our apartment, feeling truly fortunate to be an artist and teacher living my dream in one of the greatest cities on Earth to return to my easel to paint, moving into the future.

River Phoenix, 2004 oil on linen 20 x 16 inches

This early picture of River Phoenix has always been a favorite of mine, and in thinking of one my major inspirations for the cosmology—Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, I thought he would be a perfect “angel” to have installed high up on a wall that involves so much tragedy, that hopefully he could be a good energy talisman to ease some of the pain and tension of the wall. River Phoenix was a great actor and human being, a starry-eyed optimist who really wanted to make good in the world, but was brought down by drugs and perhaps some disillusionment, which was so sad for a person so young and talented. I had followed his career since the early days, seeing Stand By Me when I was not too much older than the kids in that film, and felt like he was sort of a fellow traveler as I really related to his sincerity, warmth, and integrity in every role he played. When My Own Private Idaho came out, it really blew my mind, as another icon of my scope was Keanu Reeves, and the two of them together in this Shakespearean, homoerotic, beautiful post-modern film by Gus Van Sant was such a invigorating film in more ways than one, that after seeing it I rushed back to my graduate studio and created my first works in those first weeks at UC Irvine. He continued to be a star in my “star system,” becoming Pinocchio at times in Pinocchio the Big Fag and here he was Horatio, Hamlet (“played” by Keanu), in Hamlet 1999. In this work he seems to be an angel in heaven, illuminated by a gossamer, golden light, together again with Keanu and looking at us over this scene, a non-denominational angel of our time, whose legacy lives on in the amazing films he created in his all-too-short brilliant career.


View of Liberty, 2012 oil on linen 36 x 48 inches

I had been wanting to paint the Statue of Liberty for some time, I first photographed her to paint last spring when I was on the Staten Island Ferry with students, but the day before Labor Day my husband and I took a boat ride from the Chelsea Piers at twilight, which seemed more meaningful to be with him just before the beginning of the school year and teaching. The challenge was to make a non-cheesy painting of this iconic subject, try to turn around what we already know and make it fresh. There was a storm brewing that evening that never came about, but she seemed to be floating in the sea of clouds, like the country at the time of intense political debates, as we continue to struggle beyond the recession and strife. I wanted to think about what the immigrants would see in her when they first arrived, and thinking about what liberty and freedom mean to me in today’s world. I try to live through my paintings, and I too thought of her a beacon of hope. When the photoshoped image of the storm surrounding Liberty came out at the time of Sandy I also thought my painting felt prescient, but was glad we were able to survive.


Keanu Dreaming, 2003 oil on linen 30 x 22 inches Collection of Joyce M. Lerner, New York

This painting of Keanu stayed with me for years, as a sort of golden protector and talisman of good energy, and I felt it


appropriate to put next to his deceased friend River Phoenix as a sort of angel on a wall that involved so much tragedy. As I have written elsewhere, Keanu has always been a “scope” for me, and an avatar of sorts that I have “employed” in my “star system” to stand in for so many characters. Here he was one of the Hamlets in my series Hamlet 1999, the predecessor to My American Dream but such an important work that I wanted to bring him in to be with River in a sort of heaven that the “angels” of this wall could coincide with the more religious pictures to give a sense of balance and good energy. Despite rumors to the contrary, I have always thought of Keanu as a “good actor” and someone who has maintained a career in the now decades that he has been working with some of the great directors of our time, and has created now iconic films such as the Matrix that have had such an influence. Important to me is that he represents a different kind of masculinity not seen in films much before, especially when he first began appearing in the eighties, but even now. He is not a John Wayne, shoot-em-up sort of patriarch. Up until the Matrix, he was mostly submissive, not the seducer but the one seduced, not the instigator of action, but the one who caught the bomb that Dennis Hopper, and stopping the bus and saving the people. He is a Gen X model of masculinity, one who can get the job done and take care of things, but also not afraid to touch on his more “feminine” side—something that I think threatens a lot of people, especially straight men, who are confused by this super strong person who doesn’t quite fit into the traditional “dad” role of patriarchal codes. He is also of part Hawaiian heritage, and not exactly white, and has a general post-slacker, post-modern knowing ease in his stiffness, and works hard with integrity in projects he believes in and is able to elevate the material with his talent and smart passion. He has always been someone that, at the least in their persona, is great to have around in a painting, and I’m hoping here, coping with his own abjection by culture— not to the degree of Frankenstein—but surviving past his friend River Phoenix, that he earns his place as an angel on this wall.

images, but also styles of rendering for all the productive baggage they could have herein. Coming to New York City, and reading the John Richardson biographies of Picasso, instead of art directing myself to draw and paint in a certain way or to use the appropriations of art history and culture to discuss ideas within pre-existing narratives that I would unpack by the retelling, I decided I would try a lot of automatic drawing and rendering, trying to find the “signature” that made all the works I did somehow consistent and/or perceptively “by the same hand,” and when working with appropriated imagery, try even further to “get inside the image” and like a method actor, empathize with the image, using it as a vehicle to express ideas and experiences of my own life. Frankenstein’s monster, an enigmatic creation first created by Mary Shelley and furthered into mythology by the great movies of James Whale starring Boris Karloff as the Monster, has always been a touchstone for me since I was a youth drawing pictures of him and portraying him for Halloween. For Shelley, he was a sentient being who was an articulate abject soul rejected by the Phallocentric Patriarchal Order as a speaking subject that wasn’t part of “nature,” or how the newly industrialized society and science-obsessed world would receive this amalgamation of man’s manipulation of nature (and perhaps too an avatar of a post-adolescent brilliant writer working amongst men in a more misogynist time where a female voice of her stature couldn’t find as much footing as her friends, colleagues, and husband Percy Shelley. For Whale, an openly gay man during the time of WWI and British expatriate making Hollywood films after coming from theater, I feel he used the characters of Frankenstein and his monster to allegorically speak through avatars about his own plight and ideas—the monster coming from a Romantic era into the Symbolic, where the feelings and fears of not fitting in could be amalgamated by the aesthetic manifestations of fog and withered trees and the Monster writhing and moaning among them. When I came to NYC, I didn’t feel necessarily like Frankenstein’s monster, but realized the potency of the symbolic metaphor, and like Karloff, wanted to step into the mask of the monster to express my feelings of isolation and antipathy repressed inside as a post-adolescent gay man and as an artist within Corporate Commodity Culture. How can you make a non-cheesy image of Frankenstein’s monster? I was going through a bit of a “blue period,” using the melancholic palate consciously of the master Picasso, and “went for it” with this image, that I hoped also broke down into abstraction (hence the original title, where I was naming and numbering all my works as “Iconscapes” to create a leveling field between the figurative and “figurative/abstract” works I was culling from my imagination. This was one of the first images you saw walking in, next to a circle “Iconscape” that almost looked like a bullet hitting the Monster, shot by a nearby Keanu Reeves from an image of Point Break. It was a memorable show, one that acted much like the Monster’s legacy—excited (by artists mostly) and reviled (by collectors mostly) it lives on in infamy—and here, hopefully the Monster is a resurrected angel, looking onto the scenes below him with empathy and compassion, and coming into his own, a pop-culture Lazarus, in the recent revisiting of this image I created on the last Finale (Last Judgment) wall.


Frankenstein (IS 0036), 1997 oil on linen 30 x 26 inches Collection of Tony Payne, Los Angeles

When I had my breakout New York City debut at Jay Gorney Modern Art on Greene Street in SoHo, it was a major, store front gallery that my teachers and friends Lari Pittman and Cathy Opie also showed at, and was my dream destination as a gallery. My show freaked people out, however—I would like to think a great art show creates binaries—if people love it and some people hate it (hopefully more love than hate!) than you know as an artist you are “doing something,” creating change perhaps or moving along a discourse. Coming from Post Modernism and a child of the Pictures Generation, I wanted, with this show, to get the “batteries that were operating the engine” of my earlier works that I had become known for—where I was appropriating



any event, this painting is to bring good energy to the wall, she was Gertrude in my Hamlet 1999 series, and here she really is the Virgin Mary. The wall has so much pathos that as much good energy and prayer I could give it starts out the narrative optimistically before we see them at the end. I painted this work, one of the first from my own photos that I created, in a moment where I really needed the joy it could provide—religious or not, icons this powerful are edifying to project to and with, and I hope her spirit can overlook all those on the wall and the show with the powerful love she symbolizes. The second in this series is of the Study of Christ for the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, another of my heroes (although he didn’t have the same warmth of Michelangelo, he probably was the better painter, and of course, its always edifying to know two of the greatest artists in the history of the world were gay!). This was inspired and painted from an old, crinkled reproduction in a used book of Da Vinci I got from the Strand Book Store, and just the paper itself had a patinaed, relic quality that made the already sublime image more impactful. At this time I was painting literally in a closet—a tiny room in our tiny apartment with our clothes hanging in the same room with a single light bulb, and an artist lamp and my desk lamp (and next to my shepherd Julian’s dog bed!) hence the palate of these works, sometimes a little green, sometimes, in the case of this work, a little gold, bedazzled by the original, trying to learn from the Master, and gleaming every bit of spiritual jouissance from the image. Every painting I create is a prayer, these especially so. Near this same time, I did this Jesus painting of Michelangelo’s crucifix, which is the one at the Santa Maria del Santo Spirito di Firenze, Florence. I love Michelangelo for his embracement of both the sacred and the profane, and in this early sculpture of his (one of the earliest on record—he was only 17 when he created it!) he truly captured an uncanny spirit. I have yet to see it in person, but the photos of it send me—there is something sensual about his body, but not erotic, simultaneously it also seems alive, or to be specific, both dead, as it is Jesus on the cross, but also alive with a spirit. I love to learn from the masters, following their lead, with Michelangelo, whom I have painted many appropriations from (including the Green Jesus painting on the last Last Judgment wall, which is a close up of this very same Christ, and the other crucifix on that wall is the other Crucifix statue attributed to Michelangelo from the same time), and his chisel marks give me guidance as to create form in paint. When painting from his painting (again, the Last Judgment Wall is a quote of the Last Judgment—in fact, this whole show and that wall is to invoke the Sistine Chapel!) I learn what it is to be a true artist, painting from devotion to my subject matter. This is a work I absolutely needed to paint when I did (I feel I’m projected unconsciously in the negative space surrounding him). I also learn, by following the Masters, to be creating works that transcend their subject matter: beyond any decorative motifs, I paint through my life and live through my paint.

Sullivan Street Madonna, 2002 oil on linen 24 x 18 inches Collection of Ann Craven See notes for Michelangelo Crucifix. A15

Da Vinci Jesus, 2001 oil on linen 22 x 18 inches Collection of Ann Craven See notes for Michelangelo Crucifix. A16

Michelangelo Crucifix, 2002 oil on linen 24 x 16 inches Collection of Ann Craven We lived for a long time in a tiny apartment on Prince between Sullivan and Thompson—the two of us, my German Shepherd Julian and our little poodle Rosa. I would take the dogs around the block, and would always stop at the church between those two blocks on Houston, and say a little prayer looking at their great Madonna statue. I’m not religious—my dad is Jewish and my mom is Southern Baptist, so I’m a religious mutt, but I am a spiritual person, and a little prayer can always help! In


Inspiration. I still want to make a painting of the first appearance of Spiderman on the cover of Amazing Fantasy 15, from 1962. Originally a character created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, the cover was actually penciled by Marvel giant Jack Kirby, and inked by Ditko, as many mainstream superhero comics were and still are group efforts. Ditko was inspiring to Mike Kelley for his eccentric characters and drawing—he still lives, but is a libertarian recluse, self-publishing ranting comics about society, and in his earlier, slightly more sane days, he was able to propel life into his characters by channeling all of his conscious and unconscious ideas into his work, grounded by Stan Lee and his business and creative canny sensibilities. Kirby was also an amazing artist, able to create formal nuance, that if you turn his pages sideways to abstract them, and squint your eyes, they sometimes can create Pollock paintings from his amazing use of darks and lights, and his “Kirby Krackle” of positive and negative space. These are images that are fused with feeling, not about Duchamp/Warhol/Lichtenstein maneuvers of high and low, but more in the Guston/Saul tradition of identifying and “becoming” as you render the iconic avatar. One of my longtime favorite paintings at the Frick is The Polish Rider, allegedly by Rembrandt (although this has been contested). I still think it must be by the master, as the emotions and the mystery is so great in this painting, and whether or not he painted it (or if he had help by his pupil) doesn’t matter to me, as the Romantic intensity is so pervasive in this work. I think its an ideal idealized hero, the youth on horseback, on an adventure through a murky landscape, him standing out from the golden hues of the gravylike colors of the background, on some mission for truth and justice it seems, or acknowledging with “great power comes great responsibility,” something I was trying to convey in the tentative leap to heroism of our contemporary hero.


Spiderman on the Roof, 2002 oil on linen 28 x 34 inches Private Collection, New York

I grew up in Colorado, and my access to art was really through comics, and of course I loved Spiderman. I have taught comics at the School of Visual Arts since the early ‘90’s (after publishing an acclaimed graphic novel Horror Hospital Unplugged, along with the writer Dennis Cooper), and I am the “Cartooning Coordinator” at SVA. In some ways, I see myself as an “avantgarde cartoonist” as many of my exhibitions are a series of juxtaposed images in a deliberate sequence that tell (albeit, and open-ended, nonlinear) stories. “Spiderman on the Roof ” was originally in the Hamlet 1999 exhibition, in 2004, and there was like a Hamlet, trying to save the world as best as he could, specifically in juxtaposition to the King Kong painting next to it here (retaining a similar relationship from the Hamlet show). We lived in Soho at the time of 9/11, and saw the World Trade Center buildings with the holes in the side and the people inside, and witnessed (with my drawing students from NYU!) the collapse of both the buildings. It was all I can do to make this series of paintings near that time... I enjoyed the 2002 Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire Spiderman film, and thought that this image of him would be perfect for “Rotoscoping” a Spiderman that was filled with real life and intrigue, fueled by my looking at the film still and thinking my thoughts about the last two years of New York, post 9/11, and wishing I could have done more to save the people in the towers, and the subsequent issues arising from the event—I was empowered, in that I had my health and acumen as an artist and a teacher, but of course the world events were hugely beyond any one person’s ability to make amends like a superhero.


Vertigo, 2002 oil on linen 32 x 42 inches Collection of Ellen S. Abramowitz

The power of masked heroes, to paraphrase Scott McCloud’s famous “Understanding Comics” book, is the power of the icon. When Peter Parker is just Peter Parker he could be the kid next to you in the high school chemistry class—just another geeky kid. But when he dons his mask as Spiderman, he is red, with giant alien-eyes—he could be anyone. My theory on Spiderman is perhaps as a child you are reading a Spiderman comic in your bedroom with a flashlight, and maybe your parents are fighting in the other room—you can’t do much about your parents, but as you relate to the character in the comic, when he has his mask on he could be you—and you suture into the avatar of Spiderman, and as he thwarts evil, so do you! When I’m painting this or many of my works, I find myself transcending into the character and scene that I’m depicting, much in the same way you do when playing a video game or reading (or creating!) a comic, and I think I did so here, becoming Spiderman as I’m painting him, being in that space of that world to try to make it a better place. Specifically placed here in this installation, I see him trying to help King Kong who has already fallen, and Spiderman’s frustration that he couldn’t do more to help..

We witnessed the 9-11 tragedy and the fall of the two towers— outside our Soho apartment I stood on Thompson and Prince street after hearing the plane fly overhead and seeing it on the news and saw the hole with the people in it clearly in the building, and then went on my way to work at NYU, where I was to teach my freshmen drawing class “composition via the gag cartoon.” Everyone was in a tremendous state of shock, and I certainly didn’t feel like teaching gag cartoons, so mentioned that “art wasn’t therapy, but I don’t what else to do but to go to Washington Square Park and draw this in order to try to understand it.” We got there, and as soon as the students began to open their books and sketch, the first tower fell. The adults in the park began to cry and scream—my kids were great got up to hug and console them—I told the students that “class was cancelled” and to go home and call their parents to let them know they were alright. I’ve written about more of this with the other 9-11


works I have created, but I continued to think of all the people who died in the towers that day, and all the people jumping and falling to their deaths, and was traumatized by nightmares. At the time, my father was in town and saved the newspapers and said I should paint the photos of them—which I did do years later after continuing to have the nightmares—but during this time I could only deal with it by painting through allegory. Vertigo, the classic Hitchcock movie has these intense scenes of everyman Jimmy Stuart hanging on for his life on the precipice of a building with a blissed-out background, and reminded me of what it must have been like for those people who were the victims of this horrible tragedy. I painted this thinking of them, of their anguish, wanting to have empathy and compassion for them, their feelings, and all they lost on the brink of their fall. This was a tough painting to do, but helped me through this torment that I was experiencing, where hopefully I could suture into the avatar of Stewart portraying his psychological event, and purge myself of my feelings by channeling through him and this scene. Of course the great thing about the actual movie is that Stewart survives, and it his heroic being that helps him survive, and his courageous ability to face his fears and win in the end. Ultimately all those people were heroes who were in the towers, not just the amazing police and firemen who raced at the expense of their own lives to save them, but also the people in the buildings, who jumped to their death rather than getting burned alive or worse. It’s the courage of humanity, our ability to survive at all costs, to do our most to be our best while at the same time hopefully helping others and the world that gives me hope, something that I wish this painting might embue—not just tragedy, but the courage and strength of a hero.

we think it might (or have the language for). I believe this gives a spiritual component to ideas of ideology and language forming thought—it doesn’t take what is beyond that away. If we can achieve a critical distance to objectify oneself as a being within the world, we can think look at it and us in a different way (and hopefully in the realization of this come together recognizing we are all part of a larger system in a world that we need to take care of in order to survive). Sometimes the epiphany of this achieves a momentary sublime, which I hope to someday affect with my work. In any event, for me the gorilla is an iconic avatar for humanity in general, here controlled by the machine (of Capital?), but underneath this layer, there is a subjective human being, who hopefully has elements and a consciousness that are transcendent of subjugation. As much as I consciously meditate upon these thoughts when painting the picture, being a son of a psychoanalyst and a painterly painter who loves modernity, I want to allow for my unconscious to drive the picture, and hope that when, especially in micromanaging, abstract elements also come into the picture plane. Here in the brain area, the small machinations of the mask became minute, and I hope that my unconscious is able here and in other parts of this (and all) my work, break into unconscious iconic abstraction, where my inner thoughts and memory take form in volumetric plastic space—when I look into these areas I see other worlds and planes. When Cézanne painted, I think he was using the landscape he was perceiving to help map his inner thoughts with form and color, I hope I can do this here and also when looking at other images, reinterpreting through both my conscious and unconscious driving my hand and brush, to create optical surrealities within realities that are more reflections of the inner mind, like dreams, come to life, that transcend language. Inspiration. I do believe that paintings can be “windows onto other worlds”—if oil paint was created and first used to depict things more concrete and actualized in the plastic space of the picture plane, couldn’t it also do this for thoughts, feelings, the unconscious? Deep in the meditation of painting, when the hand is consciously creating marks that render “what you want,” it also is recording the “unconscious hand,” triggered by your thoughts, provoked by the subconscious, it simultaneously is translating your inner thoughts and iconic subconscious gestures. I think this is what gives life to painterly paintings and modernism in general, and if you can suture this gesture with a post-modern relationship to your imagery that relates to the world outside of the picture plane, than hopefully you can have something new (or old, if you consider most of the great paintings of the past incorporate meaningful allegorical scenes along with transcendent painterly moves to create images that give you much to think about and feel while you are contemplating their subject matter and experiencing their aura).


Buddy (Robot Gorilla), 2004 oil on linen 32 x 26 inches Collection of Steve DiBenedetto and Michelle Segre

The source image of this was from a special effects book, which had this image, from the making of the 1997 movie Buddy, with creature effects by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. When I essentialize ideas towards Post-Modernity, a major aspect seems to me to be “agency being reified into capital,” (I think of this like the human spirit, soul, ideas of independence being folded into, like flour into pizza dough, the “Capitalist Machine”). Who are we as individuals may be influenced by ideology, in this case the ideology of phallocentric patriarchy, and so on. I remember asking my Semiotics teacher, in learning about language being like the software operating the hardware of our minds and consciousness, “if it all adds up to nothing, what is the point?” in a moment of nihilistic despair. He replied “well, sometimes that is interesting to talk about,” which made sense to me. Many of my Semiotics friends became Buddhist, and out of all the religions, I have had my hands hover over the flame of Tibetan Buddhism the most. In that ancient religion, it realizes that everything exists, but doesn’t exist in the same manner


Iconscape 4, 2012 oil on linen 22 x 30 inches Collection of Nina and Cary Smith


As a son of a psychoanalyst, I have a penchant for the unconscious, and have tried, since college, to realize iconic images from my subconscious into a more Renaissance plastic space than Gorky, without “Illustrating” dream worlds like Dali. At my thesis show at Brown I hung these “iconscapes” next to figurative works, and again most prominently at my NYC debut show at Jay Gorney in 1997, and again at Derek Eller in 2003-04 for my Hamlet 1999 exhibition. With a show in 2011 (with the good people!) at Knoedler of my 90’s Iconscapes, I was inspired once again to pick up my brush and try again to tap my inner mind to bring it into an outer world.

I was living in SoHo during the time of 9-11, and that morning heard the planes flying overhead as I was preparing to go to work to teach drawing at New York University. Very soon my partner and I saw the news on the television that a plane had hit one of the towers, and we left the apartment to see the hole in the building, with the people inside quite visible from the intersection nearby our apartment at the intersection of West Broadway and Prince. In shock, I proceeded to go to my class (I was to teach my freshman “composition via the gag cartoon”), where my students were awaiting, also stupefied as to what was happening in the city and country at that moment. I told them that I certainly didn’t feel it right to look at cartoons at that moment, and although I don’t necessarily feel “art is therapy,” but perhaps we should go out to Washington Square Park and draw what it was that was happening at that moment. We went to the park, by that time the second plane had hit the other tower, and just as my students began to draw, the first tower collapsed. Adults in the park cried and shouted out in pain, and my students and myself comforted whom we could, and I dismissed class, telling the students to please call their parents and let them know they were okay.


My own father was in town, whom we spent the rest of this time with, and who also collected the newspapers, telling me “I should paint images of this one day.” I told him “no, that this was in bad taste” and found other means and images to express my feelings and ideas towards the horrific events of this time in the proceeding years. However, I continued to have nightmares, one in particular that I saw the falling bodies of the victims of the towers, whom (being a John Lennon fan) I called out to saying “all you need is love!” One morning, after a particularly acute nightmare in 2007, I felt the desire to dig out one of the newspapers my father had given me to save, and began to paint this few series of paintings. I felt it would be cathartic to finally paint directly (and not, as previously, by means of allegory) imagery from the morning of 9-11, in order to “save” the people of this tragedy by remembering their images and the events by painting them.

Iconscape 3, 2012 oil on linen 22 x 30 inches Collection of Grace S. Pak, New York

I hope by hanging the Iconscapes next to the figurative works, they bring out what is abstract in the representational (in this case, the God—like faces in the sky over Fairmount sending their beams of light to James Dean’s Hometown, and what was happening in the snowy earth), and what is representational in the abstract. I have always felt that Marx and Duchamp took us on a necessary, politically speaking, track away from Cézanne, Picasso and Freud, but now, although things are far from perfect, there is room once again to explore notions of the unconscious. Since I was in college I have wanted to be able to channel my subconscious and make it “real.” If oil paint was used at the beginning to make things appear more “real” in the plastic space of the picture plane, couldn’t oil paint also do this with our unconscious thoughts, dreams and feelings?

This was one of the most difficult paintings I have ever created. To make myself calm and to allow myself to keep working, I listened to audio cd’s of lectures and writings of the Dalai Lama and also Tibetan chants, along with soothing (and symbolic—as in Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, etc.) classical music that (like I do with all my works) created a synaesthetic audio environment for me to create in. This painting took a very long time (for me) to paint, as I wanted to micromanage as much as possible to make the best painting I could to record what had happened and also my sensory memory and feelings of the moment as a witness to it all. It was a “beautiful” clear day that morning, and I was (as were many) fully aware of the irony of such a horribly catastrophic event juxtaposed to a clear and light blue sky of a September morning. I tried my best to record the colors as they appeared in the source image, in addition to being mindful of my thoughts and memories of that day as I was painting, hoping that the emotions I felt would come through the translation of my rendering. I am also influenced by much of art history, and impressionism and the works of Monet were something of particular relevance to the time of this painting, and in the back of my mind (although I wanted to avoid consciously contrived relevance) thought of Monet’s smoke in his train and the Gare Saint-Lazare paintings. I am also a son of a psychoanalyst, and believe in the ideas of the subconscious “leaking through” in painterly works, and hope that in the micromanaging of what I perceived in looking and remembering the image as I was painting it, that the ineffable and unconsciously symbolic ideas and emotions might also present themselves somehow in how I was painting the image, to make it have a life of its own.


9-11, 2007 oil on linen 40 x 62 inches Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Gift of Lois Plehn


Ultimately, I hope to have done justice to the people that were directly affected by the tragedy, and our nation and world that were forever changed in my painting of this historical event.


After painting this work (and the other triptych now in the Corcoran Gallery) I was gratified in the sense that I no longer had the nightmares of that morning and its victims. However, I was nervous to exhibit the painting for fear of how people might react. I first showed the work in a solo exhibition in Cleveland entitled “Friends and Family” (along with other important real and fictive people and events—such as Anne Frank—in a painting acquired by the Cleveland Museum, Matthew Shepard, JFK, the planet Earth, etc.). Instead of being offended, people were moved by the painting and received (at least those who discussed the image with me) basically what I had hoped they might—that it was an homage to those who died in the towers, and the day that changed history for all of us. I then exhibited the work in a group show at John Connelly Presents that was thematically curated around ideas of melancholy in America post-9-11, with similar responses. I finally wanted to exhibit the work in the context I had grown to desire the most, along with the 9-11 triptych that had more close-up views of those who died in the towers that day. This was in the exhibition “Good Leaders, Endangered Species, Ships at Sea” at Derek Eller Gallery in New York, the second part of an exhibition begun in Los Angeles at Lightbox Gallery, where I hoped that viewers would realize through the juxtaposition of imagery that “we need good leaders, as they are like endangered species, in a world that was a ship at sea.” Along with images of Barack Obama, Louise Bourgeois, endangered animals, and references to religious icons of now (like the Dalai Lama) and art history (as in appropriations of the Duccio painting at the Met of the Madonna and Child, and El Greco’s Opening of the Fifth Seal) I was able to show this work isolated with the other 9-11 paintings to represent allegorically “ships at sea” but mostly directly reference this event for what it represents for all of us.

Empathy for those in the Towers, 2007 oil on linen 50 x 56 ½ inches


Ode to Falling Man, 2007 oil on linen 66 x 56 inches

N3 It was my hope that a museums in Washington D.C. and New York City would finally acquire these works, as I didn’t want them to go to personal collections and that they would be safely in museums in the cities that were directly affected by the tragedies of that morning. I am very honored that the Whitney Museum of American Art would want to have this painting in their permanent collection. This is a most moving to me, and I hope it helps others remember this day and everything that it conveys symbolically and emotionally, and I truly hope it honors those who were lost and affected by one of the most tragically important mornings in our nation’s history.

Compassion for those in the Towers, 2007 oil on linen 56 x 38 inches

I felt it would be cathartic to finally paint directly (and not, as previously, by means of allegory) imagery from the morning of 9-11, in order to “save” the people of this tragedy by remembering their images and the events by painting them. I found this image at the NY Picture collection, a part of the Mid Manhattan Library. The original photo was taken by an amateur photographer Seth McAllister, and as he wrote me after seeing the work at the Whitney (I didn’t know originally who had taken the image), it appeared on the cover of the Washington Post and appeared elsewhere and is still available from AFP (Agence France Presse). Fortunately, Mr. McCallister was happy to see it rendered “in such a beautiful way,” despite its troubling subject matter.

The 9/11 paintings are from photos in the New York Times, of the atrociously sublime day I experienced and saw outside my apartment in SoHo, and, soon thereafter, with my NYU students (in time for the first tower to fall) in Washington Park. I tried to have empathy and compassion for each of the victims I painted, hoping that I could do something to help them, or at least the memory of them and their experience, and ours, by painting these pictures–the most difficult images I have ever worked upon. They really seemed like a world lost, or like our ship at sea, compounded by the fact that at the time of painting Wall Street had just crashed and we were in an ideological war for our president and what he and America stood for. We had heard the planes fly overhead from our tiny apartment, and went out in the street and saw the hole in the building with


the tiny people inside from our view on the corner of Sullivan and Prince Streets, along with all the other dazed onlookers that morning. I had to teach at NYU, and went to class in a state of shock—my students were there in a similar state—it was one of the first weeks of school for a freshman drawing class, and I told them I didn’t know what else to do but to go “and draw this event”—art wasn’t necessarily therapy, but school hadn’t been canceled, I didn’t feel like teaching composition “via the gag cartoon” as I had previously planned for that day, and that we should go to Washington Square Park and deal with it by drawing it. We got there in time for the first tower to fall. The adults in the park were screaming and crying, my students were great and hugged and consoled them—I told them “class is canceled, go home and call your parents and tell them you are okay,” and went back myself to be with Andrew, and call my father, who had been staying with our cousin uptown and had no idea what was happening. We had just been to the Staten Island Ferry the day before, weirdly serendipitously went to Fort Sumter the day before, and commented on how the United States had never been attacked in our domestic country, Hawaii excluded, and commented on the Towers, how my sister used to work there—that night we even ate a local restaurant, and my Dad asked how to get uptown, and I had mentioned you can always see the Twin Towers and know your directions!). He had saved the papers that day, and mentioned to me that I should really paint from the pictures—at that time there was no way I could do this—I never would want to “exploit the situation” and could only paint it by way of allegory. But after years of nightmares of the people falling (being a John Lennon fan I would reach out to the people in the dream exclaiming “all you need is love!”) I finally dug out the papers, went to the NY Picture Collection, and being a son of a psychoanalyst, painted these images.

in their time, as painters didn’t paint contemporary technology/ industry, but seem conservative now with age), and Turner’s Burning of the Houses of Parliament and eh Houses of Lords and Commons. Like Turner, I wanted to depict these scenes that I witnessed, to remember those who lost their lives in this tremendous tragedy that changed our world, and like Monet, wanted to paint from my heart depictions of my contemporary life that brought out the synaesthetic qualities of that day, and that was of a scene that was fundamental important to our modern world. I think if there is anything edgy about the paintings, is that they are actually “conservative” and traditional type of history oil paintings, but done in a contemporary time. Also, I’m pleased once again to mention that I have never had any adverse reaction to any of these works--quite the opposite, as it seems that people are moved by them in a way that perhaps people who once saw paintings like this in history were moved as it depicted scenes that had affected their lives in a painterly manner.
People were really moved by the 9/11 paintings. I was super nervous about them, but I only received good responses–I watched people go into the room, standing between the images of the people in the two buildings, and begin to cry. This wasn’t my intention, but, I have to say, I was overwhelmed that the viewers were able to feel and experience, synaesthetically, what I felt about that horrible day and time. It made me feel that I had successfully conveyed what I wanted to express: emotion, remembrance, honor, and so on. Perhaps the abstracted, unconscious elements were part of this experience as their brain perceived the image, I don’t know. There is something that comes between content and form, signifier and signified. It’s the mortar between the bricks, perhaps it has to do with brain perception, but also perhaps it has to do with the Buddhist interpretation of the self, or even an idea of the “soul.”

I also painted three works with the intention of having them hang together as a sort of triptych. I designed them so that the first image “Empathy for Those in the Towers” would be on the left, “ Ode to Falling Man” would be in the middle, and “Compassion for those in the Towers” would be on the right.

I don’t know if I’m the only one on this path, but as a monk for art and a pilgrim for artistic journeys, I hope I have a lot of fellow travelers who are passionate about their pursuits. It very much pleased me that the paintings were accepted donations to institutions—not to private hands—in cities that were affected by this horrible tragedy—the 9-11 triptych to the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C., and the 9-11 painting to the Whitney.

These, along with the 9-11 painting that the Whitney and was exhibited as part of the inaugural exhibition of the new Whitney, were the hardest paintings I have ever painted. I had nightmares of the people falling for years, and finally decided to paint these images to “get the nightmares out.” While painting these, the only way I could do it was to listen to tapes of the Dalai Lama, monks singing and chanting, and in quiet meditation—I would break down in tears often. Each time I painted one of the victims, I would recite a Buddhist prayer for their behalf, and tried my best to have empathy and compassion and to take on the suffering for each and relieve them of their suffering, painting the images in homage of their lives. I had never seen the famous “Falling Man” image, as they kept it from us New Yorkers and it wasn’t published in local publications when it happened and we had no access of the bigger world. When painting it, it felt that the edifice of the Tower was opening into another world, and I hope that the “falling man” was entering a sort of heaven, an otherworldy transcendence I hope all the victims and heroes of the tragedy were able to find.


Imagine, 2004 oil on linen 16 x 16 inches Collection of Lisa Applebaum and George Haddad, New York

Adam Weinberg at the Whitney, in my “Breakfast with the Director” talk with him during “My American Dream” painting installation at the Biennial mentioned he most thinks of me as a “history painter,” and truly, it is my goal to have these paintings serve as a reminder for what happened, and the emotions it might have invoked.

This is one of the few paintings that snuck into this show from an earlier body of work, Hamlet 1999. In that series, John Lennon represented the Ghost of Hamlet, his father back from the dead

I was also inspired by Monet’s train paintings (that were radical


seeking revenge for his death from Hamlet’s uncle, and also to act as a sort of “Obi Wan Kenobi” to help set his guiding principals of life. Of course this is from the cover of Lennon’s fantastic Imagine album, from a Polaroid taken by Andy Warhol, where the effect of taking his image through the window with the clouds has already the feeling of a mournful transcendence.

Dali Lama dies, he will carry the torch and help to spread the word and spirit of Buddhism. China has a “fake Karmapa” that they try to trick people into believing in their oppressive regime but this painting is of the “real” Karmapa, , Ogyen Trinley Dorje, who they had to sneak out of China to safety in India in a trunk of a car. The Dalai Lama helps to find and recognize his reincarnation, but now with China being what it is, there won’t be anyone to officially acknowledge his reincarnation when he passes, and no one to find the next Karmapa after this one dies, making the 17th Karmapa perhaps the last of this kind of reincarnated Tibetan spiritual leaders.

I was having many dreams of the people falling from the Towers of the World Trade Center after witnessing the horrific events of 9-11. Being a huge John Lennon fan, I would call out them in my sleep “All You Need is Love!” and finally, in homage to them and to remember the tragedy and my feelings about it, created the painting now owned by the Whitney Museum to the left of this image. I’m hoping by the placement here that it depicts a sensation of what I was feeling in those dreams, as if the smoke of the 9-11 painting becomes a cloud in this work, as Lennon too arises from the earlier painting below him, as a young man in Rubber Soul (and adjacent to the appropriation of Bobby Kennedy by Roy Lichtenstein).

When they felt it was safe enough for the Karmapa to travel stateside, my friend Lisa Kirk (who introduced me to Tibetan Buddhism and to the existence of the Karmapa) gave me this image when we were going to teachings together on 2nd ave above the McDonald’s in the East Village. She had simply made a color Xerox on my behalf, and I had it up in the little one-room apartment I was subleasing from a friend as I was trying to forge a place for Andrew and I to come back to NYC after exiling ourselves from the city and art world. This image gave me hope, and even after it became water damaged—became even more transcendent, and continued to be an iconic photo that I literally looked up to in every way. I made this image thinking of all this when I painted it, and the painting has stayed with me for over a decade, watching over me and my studio and bringing good energy, as I hope it does here on the wall next to 9-11 (a painting I created while listening to Buddhist chants, the Karmapa’s music, and Dalai Lama tapes), John Lennon, Bobby Kennedy, Anne Frank and more peoples who are remembered for their sacrifice (and empathy and compassion).

I feel that if you could have the populist notions of Warhol, making work of people and images that relate to the outer world, but coupled with the feelings, and painterly emotion of a Rembrandt, perhaps you could have something new. Certainly this is what I’m thinking of here, when I created this image while playing his music, the soul of Lennon coming alive through his music, being felt by my brush.



Karmapa, 2004 oil on linen 16 x 14 inches Rubber Soul/John Lennon, 2003 oil on linen 28 x 20 inches

I’m a spiritual person, but perhaps not a religious one, as I believe in the transcendent and ineffable, and that we don’t know everything we think we know (although of course I believe in Darwin and Science and the non-subjugation of peoples and our planet due to the dogma of ideological beliefs that can be ruinous to the spirit of the world). But bits and parts of religion and belief systems are appealing to me, along with the Joseph Campbell idea that there are similarities or myths that are ubiquitous throughout the world that become a spiritual-like necessity. To paraphrase, his idea of an artist is that “it is an artist’s job to tell stories for a culture to understand itself in order for the culture to progress,” and hopefully religion does this at its best, and of course this is also what I try to do in my art and teaching. Tibetan Buddhism makes a lot of sense to me—like the semiotics I studied as an undergraduate student at Brown University, Buddhism is a much more ancient ideology that everything exists in the world--but perhaps not in the same manner as we perceive it in though or language.

This early painting in the show I did when we lived in Soho, in a tiny apartment that we lived in upon our return to New York. Working here I had to paint from photos again instead of en pleine air as I had in our cabin, and I decided to create works surrounding a sci-fi homoerotic screenplay I had written while in California called Hamlet 1999. This was from this series, that was hung salon-style around our place, like living in a storyboard of paintings. John Lennon was one of the people I employed in my “star system” to play the Ghost of Hamlet, Hamlet’s father, who begs him to right the wrongs of Elsinore. I have done many paintings of John Lennon, and he always gives me hope, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to listen to his music and that of the Beatles, some of the greatest music of all time that is filled with love. I grew up with Rubber Soul, one of the best albums of all time, as my sister was named Michele, and my folks had the album with her song on it as one of the only Beatles albums in their collection. I would listen to it again and again, and

His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, is the leading inheritor of Tibetan Buddhism—after His Holiness the 14th


stare into the incredible cover and back cover, wondering and fantasizing about the Beatles, and love this period of theirs, and the photoshoots they did around the album, which have incredible “60’s” colors and a romantic, wanton look that sends me. Painting this work I would regress to my childhood, but also channel John, wondering what he would say in the Bush era post9-11, hopefully he would be filled with hope, and good messages of Peace and Love, with a bit of wry criticality to the politics of our culture, which weren’t too different than in his time.

In fact, the day I found out I was in the Whitney Biennial, I was on the steps of the Met when I received the email, after taking my SVA comics kids on the “kinda like comics” tour of the Met. where we look at narrative works and also seek out the people of color and respectful pictures of women throughout the museum, to give these students (many of whom aren’t regular museum goers) as sense of the history of narrative in art, and also to demystify and give access to art history, which can seem remote to them, for political reasons of class, race, and gender. I don’t want to make the same mistakes of art history, and want to people my exhibitions of all kinds of communities and histories that make up our world. The “Sister Wendy” story of this work was that Velasquez was already famous in Spain, but when he wanted commissions while visiting Italy, he had his assistant Juan Pareja hold this painting up and slowly lower it, to show how well he painted and how he was able to capture the proud dignity of the man who carried the work, who was himself an artist, who Velasquez freed from slavery, and whose work he encouraged to leave around the studio to introduce it to patrons and royalty, establishing Area as a renown artist in his own right and lifetime. I hope to bring proud agency to the people in my painted portraits, especially those like Gaye, who changed culture with his amazing work.


What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye), 2005 oil on linen 36 x 42 inches Collection of Patrick Wallace


This is a picture of Marvin Gaye, an appropriation from the cover of his famous “What’s Going On” record that changed Motown records and made music history as being one of the most politically charged soul albums of all time. The smoky, spiritual sounds of it send me and I was obsessively listening to it while painting the “Archer Prewitt (Montgomery Clift)” painting that was also featured in the show this originated in “Rebel Angels at the End of the World” at QED Gallery in Los Angeles in 2005, and felt compelled to render the cover of Gaye’s masterpiece immediately. This album seemed more relevant than ever in those dour times as we were getting more involved in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and Gaye’s cynical, yet somehow ultimately hopeful view of humanity seems as necessary as ever. He is a transcendent figure, in a way a saint and a true rebel, one of our great artists, murdered by his own father. It is my hope to be able to make work, that like Gaye’s is able to address the culture outside of the work itself, to make work that is political and conscious of it’s place in contemporary times and also cultural history, but also to have the same work be beautifully formal, and ultimately transcendent beyond immediate context and times and meaning. Gaye began his amazing career as a Motown soul stylist, helping to forge the sound of that great studio, but as the politics of the time and the singer/songwriter movement grew to create songs of deeper meanings, Gaye fought for the right to make this and subsequent works of great meaning, and while Berry Gordy resisted this creative control, ultimately everyone realized the power of the work and it became one of the touchstone albums of all time. It’s always important to make work that is “about something,” but also, in a post Post Modern way, to make work that can also be instinctive, melodic, and ultimately sublime in transcendence beyond language. While painting this, I listened to Gaye obsessively, and tried to capture the spirit of all this while painting the cover of the album, like I used to listen to records as a kid while gazing at the cover, bringing me to another place within the music.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, 2007 oil on linen 44 ⅛ x 30 ⅛ inches Collection of Bill Cournoyer

I love the Dalai Lama, and everything he stands for. Although I’m not a Buddhist, many of my Semiotics friends from Brown became Buddhists, as it is the ancient philosophy, akin to Semiotics, that everything around us exists, but perhaps not in the same way you THINK it exists (via language in Semiotics and some post-modern theory). I hold my hand over the flame of many religions, but Buddhism seems to make the most sense to me, as it also, with Tibetan Buddhism, by way of the Dalai Lama, wants to prove scientifically many of its beliefs, and has done so, especially in regard to meditation, and I’ve found living a life trying my best to have empathy and compassion for all things has made my life a better place to be. I’ve seen the Dalai Lama on several occasions, but the first time was at a stadium at Rutgers in New Jersey, when he spoke to a huge crowd, and as I was in first throws of learning about Tibetan Buddhism, it was extremely moving to me. As we were leaving the talk someone handed me a print of this image, which was also pertinent as it was a famous image of him, yet it wasn’t allowed of course to be printed or seen in China, which has aggressively occupied Tibet for years. I always think about Warhol and his legacy, and famously he created his Mao portraits as he wanted to make images of one of the most famous people in the world, ironically for an American at the time, it was Mao. In relationship to Warhol, I thought it would be interesting to create this warm and empathic image

Inspiration. One of my favorite portraits at the Met, and one of my favorite in the world, is the picture at the Met of Juan Pareja.


of His Holiness, unlike the silkscreen “flat” image of Warhol’s, and try to bring him to life by painting this image, which hasn’t been seen that much in the East as its forbidden, while listening to Buddhist chants and Dalai Lama audiobooks, learning even more about my subject, literally listening to his voice, as I painted. Ultimately however I wanted, after painting many devotional images derived from the West, to paint this “living Buddha” of the East in a direct manner that was very respectful, and hopefully learning more about the great philosophy behind this man and beliefs, to make my own life and world better in the analytical meditation of creating the painting.

a perfect rendition of “Perfect Day” and this young leader’s truly insightful simple--yet elegantly deep thoughts and presence--was an amazingly transformative experience. If you are a believer, he as a reincarnation of the entity depicted in the Thangka painting behind him, and , like when I saw the Dalai Lama at Radio City Music Hall, it was neat to see how much the real life scene resembled the imagery in the Thangka. The Karmapa is also a poet, artist, and musician, and while painting this picture I listened to his cool music which sounds like a Tibetan prayer set to the music of Radiohead. I was organizing a complex exhibition of hundreds of artists at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in Manhattan, and this work helped me through it, active as a calming prayer throughout the process of working though the politics, personalities, and installation of this intense show. It also served as a blessing as the first work in the “My Modern Lift” show—the first exhibition I had that displayed mostly works of paintings derived from my own imagery more than appropriated imagery, a huge revelation for me that gave me full authorship and autonomy over the image—a direct relationship I felt wonderfully while painting the image of this beautiful leader and day.



The Karmapa in NYC, 2010 oil on linen 30 x 22 inches

I’m a spiritual person, but perhaps not a religious one, as I believe in the transcendent and ineffable, and that we don’t know everything we think we know (although of course I believe in Darwin and Science and the non-subjugation of peoples and our planet due to the dogma of ideological beliefs that can be ruinous to the spirit of the world). But bits and parts of religion and belief systems are appealing to me, along with the Joseph Campbell idea that there are similarities or myths that are ubiquitous throughout the world that become a spiritual-like necessity. To paraphrase, his idea of an artist is that “it is an artist’s job to tell stories for a culture to understand itself in order for the culture to progress,” and hopefully religion does this at its best, and of course this is also what I try to do in my art and teaching. Tibetan Buddhism makes a lot of sense to me—like the semiotics I studied as an undergraduate student at Brown University, Buddhism is a much more ancient ideology that everything exists in the world--but perhaps not in the same manner as we perceive it in though or language.

Jimi Hendrix, Voodoo Chile, 2005 oil on linen 40 x 40 inches Collection of Mitchell and Amy Kaneff

Jimi Hendrix is a god-like icon of music—someone who was able to reach infinity with his song writing and playing. A band like Led Zeppelin is fantastic, but there is a ceiling to the metaphors and even Jimmy Page’s incredible guitar work. Hendrix is transcendence—the poetry of his lyricism, his sci-fi mystical vision, and his uncanny, ineffable music takes rock and roll, jazz, and rhythmic stylings into another dimension. He also is exemplary of the “American Dream,” working his way up the ladder (as an ex army man!) through the Chitlin’ Circuit, working with greats like Little Richard, but never being satisfied, and not allowing others to put him in a box or subjugate his vision. When he fully emerged in England, he blew everyone away with his incredible playing and songwriting—all the white Brits that were emulating and appropriating American Blues and Rock n’ Roll couldn’t believe the genius they saw before them, in a short time, Hendrix took over the world. I love that he comes out of love—that he really wanted to create a church with his music—to have people FEEL what it is that he was playing and singing about, in a deep way that they would be forever moved—and they were. Like any great music, I can listen to Hendrix again and again, and get something new out of it—and I he really crosses and exceeds genres—typically he is known for Rock n’ Roll and the Sixties, but I think he is much more than that—his genius knows no bounds. I hope that my work and painting in particular can emulate what he is striving

His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, is the leading inheritor of Tibetan Buddhism—after His Holiness the 14th Dali Lama dies, he will carry the torch and help to spread the word and spirit of Buddhism. China has a “fake Karmapa” that they try to trick people into believing in their oppressive regime but this painting is of the “real” Karmapa, , Ogyen Trinley Dorje, who they had to sneak out of China to safety in India in a trunk of a car. The Dalai Lama helps to find and recognize his reincarnation, but now with China being what it is, there won’t be anyone to officially acknowledge his reincarnation when he passes, and no one to find the next Karmapa after this one dies, making the 17th Karmapa perhaps the last of this kind of reincarnated Tibetan spiritual leaders. When they felt it was safe enough for the Karmapa to travel stateside, my friend Lisa Kirk (who introduced me to Tibetan Buddhism and to the existence of the Karmapa) went and saw him in midtown Manhattan. Lou Reed opened for him, singing


for—and in particular, how his music and lyrics fuse together in form and content to become something that is transcendent beyond language. Painting this I listened exclusively to his entire oeuvre, read about him, and really tried to get within the music and its message. I’m hoping that, like in his music, my work is able to break into abstraction, and hope that in his vest and his body it not only synaesthetically captures the mood and feeling of the music, but also slips into unconscious other worlds. The image is from an old Rock n’ Roll book that our friend Alicia gave us specifically so I could paint this image before she shockingly died from complications due to AIDS (none of us, including her, knew she had it!), so this painting was also an homage to a dear friend—my husband Andrew’s best friend, and like at the end of a New Orleans jazz funeral, I hope this painting brought a jubilant epiphany and coda, looking towards a spiritual future, after the end of her amazing life.


King Kong, 2004 oil on linen 34 x 50 inches Collection of David Jensen

When 9-11 happened, I was living in Soho on Prince Street with my partner (now husband), and we heard the plane fly overhead and minutes later, saw it on the news and went outside to see, slack-jawed, the two buildings, with the holes in them and we could just make out the people inside. I went to NYU to teach my Drawings Fundamentals class in a state of shock, and my students were there waiting, also hapless and not knowing what to do. Normally, at the beginning of the semester I teach “Composition via the Gag Cartoon,” but was in no mood to do this on that day, and told the students that hopefully “we artists help to understand things by drawing them,” so we went to Washington Square Park with our sketchbooks to draw the towers, but just as we began, the towers began to fall. The adults watching in the park began to scream and cry in pain and terror, but my students were amazing, comforting those around them. I told them that class was obviously dismissed, and that they should go home and call their families to let them know it was all right. 

I had nightmares about the events since that time, and although my father who was in town during the crises kept the newspapers for me to render from (which I did eventually, one is in the permanent collection at the Whitney, a triptych of the theme is at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington), at the time all I could do (and felt tasteful enough to render) was to speak through allegory, hence this work, a painting from the film still of the 1976 King Kong remake, produced by Dino De Laurentis. I have always felt that Kong represented the agency of humanity—who we are as natural human being animals within the world, and of course, through the power of iconic allegory, King Kong can mean so many different things in different eras through different points of view. But at this moment it really felt that we lost so much during this time, not only all the people who were tragically and monstrously killed in the events, but also who we were as people and a country since that moment, the sentiments of which inform the emotions of this work. 

But also I grew up with Dynamite Magazine, a publication that young students subscribed to with the Scholastic Books Club as kids through school, and one of the first magazines that I got that I loved was with King Kong, celebrating the remake, with Laverne and Shirley in his arms. The article had a great effect on me, and this image is from the pages of that magazine—the colors distorted in the printing era/paper of that time. I also went to the premier of the movie when it opened in Tamarac Square (and was the official opening of this suburban Denver mall), and will never forget the excitement and thrill of seeing the film for the first time as a kid.

When I create works, I allow the image to infuse within me thoughts and emotions that I hope come out in the finished work. With this painting, the conflicting feelings of nostalgia along with regret hopefully manifest themselves, which could also be, allegorically speaking, the nostalgia for a more innocent time and for the people lost of an era, and the


King Kong, 2005 oil on linen 44 x 56 inches Collection of Stacey and Matthew May

I was thinking of ending the show with the Dorothy painting, a freeze-frame of confused pathos, like in the end of the “400 blows,” but felt compelled to paint this painting, really portraying a version of what she might be looking at “the end of the world.” I have also always wanted to paint this image as it was large black and white poster of this was tacked to my bedroom wall when I was a child, and I have always loved it. I teach a section of my senior class at NYU on King Kong (the voodoo nature of stop-motion animation-so fake its real!), and we discuss the allegorical associations with the narrative, in addition to looking at the formal attributes of a “moving sculpture” that has been obsessively “rendered” in that it appears to be “breathing life.” There are obviously colonial references throughout the film, and it is about race and slavery as much as anything else. I, however, have a real interest in the iconographic power of anthropomorphosized animals to portray humans, and feel for me that gorillas, monkeys, and humans in animal suits are representative of human beings, sentient animals that are trained and conditioned to act within ideological power structures. I painted this during the entire Hurricane Katrina debacle, in despair of what was happening and how it represents capital at its worse: the disregard of people, our environment, and our world for the sake of profit and corporate greed. Kong is all of humanity, and perhaps nature itself, reacting in rage and pathos to what man has created and its subjugation by a belief system that threatens to annihilate itself and bring on “the end.” (2005)


regret of a more contemporary circumstance of who we are as people and a nation being transformed into a less innocent time of the 21century.

bottle opener becomes a fun dancing man when we play with them as kids! McCloud has the example of when someone hits your car, you don’t say “someone hit my car” you say “someone hit ME!”—you become part of the car—road rage! When you play an RPG game, you don’t say “someone killed my avatar” you say “someone killed ME.” So when you see the “have a nice day dude” you first recognize it’s a face, secondly since you know what other people look like but not what yourself looks like it could be YOU, and because we anthropomorphize inanimate objects, it could be you and you BECOME the smiley face and have a nice day! Or buy Kool Aid! Or buy anything commercials that use cartoons to appeal to the relatability of a consumer as you “become” that character consuming that product. A lot of pharmaceutical commercials use cartoons and the power of the icon to sell their very expensive and complex products, and McCloud is taught in advertising, graphic design, fine art classes in addition to the few comics classes there are because he simply teaches the power of aesthetics to sway people (and also to make them think with the power of “Closure” that I write about elsewhere). In any event, I always teach that Peter Parker, before he dons his mask as Spiderman, could be any geeky kid in your chemistry class but he isn’t YOU, but once he puts on his mask—the simple red thing with giant white alien eyes he could be YOU. If you are a kid reading your Spiderman comic and your parents are fighting in the other room, you might not be able to control what’s going on with them, but when you read Spiderman, you “mask” into that character, becoming them, and as he is able to fight for good over evil, you do to and have power.

Inspiration. Ben Shahn has long been an inspiration, as he not only painted figurative narrative works from photos, but that he was able to infuse such life and emotion in a painterly fashion that they transcend notions of “illustration” and work, like an American German expressionist, to create political allegories that draw you in and have you become involved in their subject matter. I also love that Shahn is a great American Jewish artist, and that you often see his works proudly displayed in this context, and he was exhibited in a time that anti-semitism still lurked in artworld circles. The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti (1931-32) often exhibited at the Whitney, was part of a series of images he created about an infamous trial of two Italian immigrants and committed anarchists that were persecuted by their radicalism and their ethnicity more than the ambiguous evidence, to death for the murder of a shoe factory guard, creating one of the most controversial trials of the twentieth century. I like that Shahn created history paintings that were liberal and smart, and that he had deep empathy for his subject matter that permeates the paintings and makes them transcend the specifics of the event he was depicting, making them hopefully eternal (like Goya and Manet before him) for conveying issues we still face today in painterly ways.

A31 Teaching comics is very relevant to what I do in fine art and painting for this and many reasons. After 9-11 I felt traumatized not being able to have power over that situation (in addition to other things that were happening in my life), but painting Spiderman, in this film still from the second Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire movie with Alfred Molina playing Doctor Octopus, I was able to suture into that character and feel the struggle as he tries to wrangle away from the evil Doc Ock’s tentacled arms. When Chinese monks painted, they would become the simplified pilgrims and iconic figures in their screens and scrolls to transcend into those characters to “feel” the nature rendered around them, and for their viewers to become the icons to have a similar meditation of transcendence into nature. It is the very purpose of Thangka paintings to meditate upon them, “becoming” the icons in their spiritual cosmological world, to “become” a Buddha by suturing in feeling and understanding that world. I feel with my work, and in this one in particular, that I “became” not only the character in the painting, but also painted myself into the picture. Da Vinci said we always paint ourselves, and I feel we don’t just do this by painting portraits that resemble us, but also our inner minds. Something the painter can bring to the table in our contemporary age is our memories, emotions, and inner life—as we render things consciously with our brush, our unconscious is also driving our hand, and in the slippery moments of the negative space, our subconscious thoughts and feelings are simultaneously being projected into the work as we think about what it means to us—the subject matter becomes a map for our feelings and thoughts—the inner mind of the artist. I love how this painting hopefully breaks up into unconscious worlds, where I see figures and dreams in micromanaged moments that subliminally gives the works their unconscious life, and where you can hopefully also see subconsciously derived imagery emerge that may be a clue to what dreams could look like.

Spiderman vs. Doc Ock, 2004 oil on linen 50 x 36 inches Private Collection, California

Spiderman is an awesome character, and I teach comics as the Cartooning Coordinator at one of the best programs in the world for comics at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Part of the power of the icon, according to Scott McCloud in his terrific book Understanding Comics is that if a character is essentialized and reduced to its most simple elements, i.e. a “smiley face” with two dots for eyes and a line for a mouth, its relatable to most people, for three reasons. We see faces in everything—as a survival skill for human being animals we need to recognize faces—a cop once told me if you are feeling thwarted walking down a deserted alley with a stranger look at them in the face and they won’t mug you! Try this on a subway sometime—you might get a date, or you might be clubbed! Some people don’t see faces in things, as their brains aren’t wired that way—Chuck Close supposedly doesn’t remember faces, so he’s made a career out of obsessively painting huge pictures of them…. The second phenomena is that you know what other people look like, but we have a very fuzzy notion of what we ourselves look like—I remember what I looked like when I brushed my teeth this morning, but as I’m writing this, I might as well be a brain in a jar. The third phenomena—perhaps the most intriguing one—is that we tend to anthropomorphized unliving things—the wine



through the cartoon. It took me a long while to render the image, using a grid system I use when painting from the photos, I painstakingly painted each of the “Ben-day dots” counting each to equate what was in the original image, listening to dense biographies of Bobby Kennedy, in addition to the music he loved most, including his favorite “Man of La Mancha”—deeply loaded as it is of course about Don Quixote, and who could be more “quixotic” than Bobby Kennedy, yearning to right the wrongs of the past, a utopic thinker for peace, prosperity, and equality for all after first being more of a hawkish, paranoid protector of his brother and stalwart against the mob, Humphrey, but also against Communism and bullish towards what was to be deemed the Red Scare. Ultimately it is a sad story as I think he would have made a terrific president, and would have continued to lead the nation into a much more productive direction than when his likely road to presidency was stopped in its tracks. The advantage of iconic images, according to Scott McCloud’s great Understanding Comics is that you can relate and “suture into” the character that you are portraying. What was interesting and moving for me was to have an empathic relationship to Bobby Kennedy as a character, and this lexicon of history, was being able to empathically cathect while painting this iconic image of him in a similar manner of a cartoonist bringing their comic book character to hopefully bring the image to life.

Bobby Kennedy/Roy Lichtenstein, 2013 oil on linen 28 x 20 inches Collection of Greg and Patricia Lichko, Cleveland

I have a deep reverence for not only Warhol, but also Roy Lichtenstein, the great pop artist who appropriated comic book images, and also for Bobby Kennedy, JFK’s brother, who was even more impassioned and idealistic than his brother later in his life. Teaching comics at the School of Visual Arts, I always discuss and stress the idea of “suturing into” a character when you draw it—a classic example of this is when you are drawing a character that is smiling and you find yourself smiling too—at this point you KNOW you are drawing well and “acting” the character, alchemizing them with ink the way a puppeteer might with their puppet. Post Warhol and Lichtenstein, who were making Duchampian maneuvers by appropriating “low” comic art and reclaiming them as fine art images—not wholly ironically, as embracing their formal and semiotic importance, I feel what I can bring to the table is to reclaim, within a paradigmatic practice, the warm notion of masking into the character I’m portraying, making not only a claim to the symbolic importance of the image, but also to try to revitalize the figure within the image, like a Frankenstein monster, bringing it back to life.


Anne Frank at Her Desk, 2008 oil on linen 46 x 28 inches Collection of Beth Rudin DeWoody

Lichtenstein had a career of almost exclusively appropriating his imagery, finessing it into perfection from original sources, changing it as not only rendered in paint from a page or other source, but making it into a perfected graphic sign. Interestingly, this image he did as a TIME magazine cover, just one week before Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, was not from a comic image, but from a photo he made into a comic-like image for a magazine, bringing back his practice to the primary role of a cartoonist/illustrator, making an illustration for a cover of a magazine to celebrate this new “pop” presidential candidate. It was also a prescient image, as it appears as if, in retrospect, that Kennedy is in shock, with a glowing explosion appearing behind his head, that looks very much like photos of this great would-be leader just after he was attacked in a California hotel after he one the primary elections in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel. After the assassinations, TIME commissioned Lichtenstein once again, this time creating a hand holding a pistol straight at the viewer on their cover, to discuss this and other assignations. Although each was a single image, and therefore technically illustration, as the magazine covers had subsequent images by the artist, within the paradigm of the magazine’s release, it was akin to a two panel subject-to-subject comic narrativeKennedy looking shocked from the attack of an assassin’s gun. As Lichtenstein usually also made images that were only loosely relevant to the time by metonymic association, this image was unusual as it had direct significance to both the young candidate and just later, his murder.

I’ve done many pictures of Anne (one that has been at the Cleveland Museum of Art on continuous exhibition for years now), but this is one of my favorites. Although she wasn’t American, I hope that she and her story fits into this show as her work had more influence in America that it did in Europe when it first came out, and beyond relating the horrors of the Holocaust, she also was able to relay what it was to be a strong female protagonist to a nation of baby boomers, serving as a model of not just of Holocaust and Redemption, but also becoming a Judy Blume-like writer of a young woman who didn’t want to be “merely domestic” like her own mother. What’s also uncanny to remember is that she would still be alive if she hadn’t been murdered by the Nazis, and it could be quite possible she would have immigrated to America, where she would be about the same age as my father. I love this picture that I painted from a black and white photo, and like when I’ve painted other works of her, I listened to the entire unabridged Anne Frank diary, which I always find new relevance with, and profoundly am always moved by her strength, eloquence, but also maturity as she grows quickly from a young girl to an articulate, empathic and compassionate young woman. One thing that always strikes me when reading is that she says that she wants to be a writer who is able to relate the cause and plight of the Jews in

While painting this, I wanted to reclaim the life of Kennedy


everything in a white mist.” Importantly, like the other maritime paintings that are included in the show, the boat survived the storm, as we as a nation have survived the recessions and recent atrocities like 9-11. Personally, as I was painting this at our cabin in Riverside California, I was thinking of my husband and I surviving the perils of our own lives, and achieving the successes of life and career that we have and being thankful for our own strength and endurance. I love the maritime genre of ships at sea, and of course Winslow Homer and especially Turner, and hope to be able to do something new in this great world of art— by working by way of allegory, and a contemporary scene of a chemical tanker that was at peril but arrived home safe, I could infuse into the life of the work all the meditation of what it means to me personally and politically to give it a life of its own.

exile to the world, and its performative, as while she is thinking this she is actually doing this, as her writing is one of the most important documents of our time about World War II. Pertinent to this image is the watch on her wrist, which reminds me of the short time she had, and unconsciously, as I finished the work, I realized the molding behind her reminds me of the train tracks to Auschwitz where she would be transported and perish, and also unconsciously, it seems that underneath the desk is a shape that reminds me of her heart, which was so strong, and her spirit, which is still alive today through her work. This originally was for a show entitled “Good Leaders, Endangered Species, Ships at Sea pt. II” which acted as a sort of “chapter” or “book” for the meta-narrative of My American Dream, the idea being that we needed more Good Leaders, as they were like an Endangered Species, in a world that was like a Ship at Sea, exhibited during the election that was won, wonderfully, by Obama. What better example of this subject than Anne Frank, who was such a great leader in a perilous time. I do think art can change the world and make it a better place, and Anne Frank and her work is an example of this and model for us all.



Good Rockin’ Tonight, 2005 oil on linen 64 x 46 inches

We had a great friend of ours pass away in the fall. Our friend Alicia. She was Andrew’s, my boyfriend, best friend growing up. And she got sick and died at age 38. And she went to the hospital, and they were like, “not only do you have pneumonia, but you have full-blown AIDS,” and she died within a week. And so it was this horrible tragedy, and it totally upset us. Isn’t that horrible? But she lived in Orange County, they just don’t’ have the information out there. People with AIDS are treated a little bit like lepers. And it’s horrible. She didn’t have good models. We tried to help her. She was always a high-strung character. And she was pretty wild. In Orange County there are a people are sort of in a somnolescent sleep and it’s sad. It’s not about critical thinking. I think that’s why art is important, hopefully it induces people to think for themselves.

Rogue Wave and Stolt Surf, 2008 oil on linen 28 x 42 inches Collection of Michael Perlis and Colleen DeLee

This painting was from a show entitled “Good Leaders, Endangered Species, Ships at Sea,” an installation of paintings created in the spring before the election that Obama first won, where in the Bush years, I felt we need “Good Leaders” as they were like “Endangered Species” in a world that was like a “ship at sea.” Juxtaposed in a deliberate sequence to create a poetic allegory of images, paintings of positive iconic figures from popular and political cultural history were exhibited along with images of animals that are truly endangered in our fragile ecology, next to pictures of vessels striving to overcome seemingly insurmountable storms, symbolizing an optimistic outlook that we can healthily triumph through the chaotic crises of our time. If even conservatives can hopefully understand why it is important to have whales and tigers roaming free on our Earth, hopefully they can agree that we need to take care of ourselves and our planet in order to survive!

One way that I really understood portraiture was the movie Rembrandt, with Charles Laughton as Rembrandt. It was this great black and white movie, from I think 1936, or something like that, and it has all these guys with moustaches out to here, and they’re walking across these snowy-white landscapes with windmills, a beautiful movie. But after Rembrandt is exiled out to Rembrandt land, because he was painting people too realistically, or he did the Night Watch, which challenges composition and so on, there’s this great scene in the movie where he hires a bum to paint him because he couldn’t afford real models. And the bum is dressed as Kind Sol, or King Solomon in this scene, and he turns to Rembrandt, or Charles Laughton dressed as Rembrandt, and he says “why are you painting me, I’m just a bum!” And Charles Laughton says, “you’re not a bum, you’re dressed as King Sol, and this is what it means to me…” And then he goes on this whole teary-eyed soliloquy of “Vanity of vanities, everything is vanity, “ all this stuff, that he says. And I realized, “Oh my gosh! Really good portraiture, or figurative painting, is like method acting in a way… That he set up an

Rogue Wave and the Stolt Surf , is a painting from a photo taken by a sailor Karsten Peterson of Denmark who describes himself as Sailor/Photographer/World Traveler/Adventurer on his website called “The Storm: Stolt Surf in the North Pacific, 1977.” The site tells the story onboard the Chemical Tanker “Stolt Surf ” that was voyaging across the Pacific Ocean from Singapore to Portland, Oregon of U.S. in October, 1977 and encountered a hurricane like storm. While in the midst of the height of the storm, as he tells it as: ”The howling wind tears off the top of the waves, and sends it as a horizontal spray across the ocean covering


allegorical situation that means something to him that he thinks about it while he’s painting it. And even though we don’t really understand who those characters are or those people who he painted--we don’t know who they are--we still care about the figures in the work, and the synaesthetic feeling that the real Rembrandt is bringing to the portrait in his painting. You feel it. You feel the emotion. You feel the care. You feel the pathos. Maybe the ineffable thing that you can’t put into words. 

If I stand in front of Rembrandt or a Vermeer or an El Greco or a Velázquez, I don’t really care about who the people are in the paintings… When you find out more, it informs your ideas about the pictures, but ultimately its really about you having an experience in front of this thing and it moves you, maybe, hopefully, in a way you can’t put into words. And maybe, if you’re really lucky, it gives you an epiphany about life., or yourself, or your being within the world. I don’t’ know for my work, but this is something to aspire for…


Post-modernism is important as a movement because it made you step away from the work of art seeing how it operated in a larger system… It was all about looking as a language, and the received way of looking at things as constructed by ideology… You can’t control the way a viewer will receive a work…That the key is that you are always stepping back from the work of art, you’re stepping back from how we see things so you can see something that’s new! To hopefully, make changes, or to make progress, or to keep the discourse going, or to essentialize what is happening…

During the W. Bush era, instead of creating “Bush is Bad” type art, I wanted to create optimistic images to posit positive views for the future and what I believed in. I always loved Frank Capra, who was really an auteur in the Studio System days, where all of his movies seemed to be driven with a spirit to make the world a better place, and where it was usually the underdog who won and saved the day. Of course I’m also a huge Jimmy Stewart fan, and had painted him before in Vertigo for his heroic ability to stand tall and to be confident and driven, while at the same time to be a consummate everyman, someone who feels intrinsically American without, despite his gender and ethnicity, patriarchal and representative of phallocentric power. He had empathy and compassion and heart of gold, which seemed to come through with every role he played.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, 2006 oil on linen 72 x 60 inches Collection of Jack and Julie Heller

Modernism for me in a nutshell is that “It’s not the subject matter that’s important its what you bring to the subject matter that’s important.” When Van Gogh paints the flowers, its not the flowers is about how he paints the flowers… For Cézanne, obviously, it’s not about the landscape, it’s about what he perceives, or maps onto that landscape. For me, Post-modernism is stepping back from a work of art and seeing how it operates in a larger system. There’s not one truth, there’s a multiplicity of truths, and there are no hierarchy’s, everything is subjective…

For my show Kings & Queens I wanted to create images of people and scenes that represented allegorically were I felt we were at—in some ways it was like a Last Judgment with all the characters being like Seraphim angels in heaven, and felt elegiac in the darker days of the Bush years, post 9-11 and headstrong into the wars. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was always a favorite film of mine growing up, and I would break down with tears of happiness at the vindication of this Boy Scout honest man who had become quickly a senator who wants also to expose the graft and the political machine that threatened not only the land he wanted to get funding for to build a boy’s camp, but allegorically to bring truth and integrity to an America seemed gone astray. I painted this work of course thinking of our time, and how we needed someone like a Mr. Smith, here of course looking towards Lincoln at the Memorial with hopeful, but pensive anticipation.

I think you can have your cake and it, too… I think a lot of post-modernism broke down the aesthetic nature of things. Or took away beauty. They want to take all the seductive agents, especially with painting away so you can get to the “core,” as a philosophical, and political action. I want to make work that relates to the world outside of itself, but also have an inner emotion and ineffable “life of its own.” When I do Elvis, I play Elvis all the time, or watch Elvis movies. When I painted this work, I was thinking of him, how he moved, how he helped to change music, but I was also thinking about our friend Alicia, and trying to paint through those emotions for release from our anguish. Picasso said a painter paints to unload themselves—when they go to the forest of Fontainebleau and get filled with a green feeling then go back and spill out the green into their canvas. I was listening and trying to channel Elvis, but also spill out what I felt about Alicia, and all the emotions surrounding her death, to achieve a sort of catharsis. I was projecting onto the icon of Elvis, sort of suturing into him, while at the same time using him as a vehicle for these very personal emotions, to help me through this period, but also to make a work that was relevant not only to me but for the world. (excerpted from an interview with Ross Bleckner for show catalog, 2006)

Part of the challenge here was to paint a black and white image into color, and to make it look alive and not just like a film still. Having recently traveled to Europe where we saw many Old Master paintings—especially an inspirational Caravaggio/ Rembrandt show at the Van Gogh Museum (like one of those Sunday rock concerts with the titans of Rock all jamming together!), it was illuminating to see how they would “micromanage to the macro-managed whole” thinking their thoughts about the figurative allegorical narrative they were painting, and in the negative space, the abstracted notions of their unconscious would spill into their conscious renderings giving them a life of their own that transcended the ages. I had been making paintings that had taken their time, as a son of a psychoanalyst, I wanted my subconscious to spill through and break into abstraction figurative elements, and as soon as it seemed to have a life, or when the muse would leave me, I would leave it alone, sometimes in fragmented forms with canvas spilling through, a la Cézanne and the Impressionists. I realized, looking into the


negative space of those Old Masters, that strange eyes, faces, unconscious reflections of the inner mind of the artist would be projected into the inner space of the painting—kind of like the negative space arrow in the Fed Ex logo makes you subliminally think that the Fed Ex brand is faster, perhaps this inner life of the painting was the thing that drove the ineffable emotions of Rembrandt, Caravaggio, and Velasquez—where, like Van Gogh, where I see his unconscious projection of his visage in his cypress trees and so on, we see the dreams of the masters unconsciously coming through their projections of life. Specific to this image, we also got good quality luggage when we went on this whirlwind trip for our 40th birthdays—and I realized that perhaps they were worth what we paid because when you looked at all the detail, the luggage itself, while not being art, was certainly incredibly well made—and shouldn’t painting or any kind of art be well crafted too, in addition to being alive to transcend the ages—or maybe that it was exactly the voodoo-doll like nature of making something that has a life of its own. When you obsess about what you obsess about, like weaving over and over a human hair in a voodoo doll, thinking about your image and transmuting your thoughts and feelings with every stroke of your brush, perhaps you get something that goes beyond your intentions and time to create a feeling of the sublime. Micro managing to the Macro managed whole equates what the sublime does when you are in nature—where every little leaf in every tree and every grass in a meadow is alive all together and you are overwhelmed with that sensation when you are a small child without the “filters” to not think about how everything is alive—perhaps if a painter actively paints a surface, figuring out the golden-ration arguments for every part of every inch of all the surface, it then reignites that feeling in the viewer, touching those buttons of those sensations when one is young and the world overwhelms.

Embracing both modernist and post-modern ideals, I seek to create self-aware paintings that are content-rich and relate to the larger socio-political world, and still retain agency through their warmth, emotion, and transcendence. This painting was from a series entitled Kings and Queens, and as always, I chose images that I found deeply meaningful, and - while I negotiate the abstract notions of negative and positive space in rendering the painting - I think about their significance to me, with the aspiration that his subconscious might become infused into his conscious creation. I hope that my popular imagery has “universal” appeal via its iconography, but also is an homage to the personas within each of the works. Seen together as a series (and as they manifest themselves here), the paintings that make up Kings &Queens created a non-linear narrative that could be perceived as a “Last Judgment” allegory of our apocalyptic times. Considered separately, each is a scene containing individuals from our culture whose activities and/or struggles have had a massive productive impact on our perceived way of looking at life and our world. Some of these personas were from the arts, some were from the world of politics and Civil Rights , and someone of the paintings are from scenes of films that changed cinema history and have affected western consciousness such as this one from My Own Private Idaho. This movie came out at a seminal time in my life and career—I had recently moved to Laguna Beach California from New York City to attend graduate school for my MFA at the University of California, Irvine. I was lonely, and without much of a clue about how to proceed with my art and my life—I felt displaced in many respects. This amazing film by Gus Van Sant came out with the emergence of the “New Queer Cinema,” and seeing it at a small art theater in Balboa Beach in Orange County gave me such a new lease on life that I was compelled to race to my studio right afterwards to create my first painting of my grad school career.

With this work, what became uncanny to me is that—hopefully this doesn’t sound racist, but after Obama won, I looked back at this work, which was painted in ’06 way before I became cognoscente of Obama, and it seems like it looks a bit like Obama in whiteface?! And/or at least the shadow on the column could be an effigy of someone coming to Washington in the future who could be like the icon Mr. Smith. When Obama first won, serendipitously that very morning after the election I was in Washington DC as I had been asked to be a visiting artist at American University there. I had some time off, and I actually found myself, with my bags in hand and in a jubilant but weary state, walking with my bags (I was on my way back to the train station) down the Mall, and stopped and had my picture taken standing in just this position looking at the Lincoln Memorial, so happy and relieved that this Senator of Integrity had come to Washington and elected President to hopefully cleanse the government of its egregiousness and bring honesty and truth back to our great system and Nation.

One of my great friends from Brown University, where I went as an undergrad, was Jenny Hok, who had devised an idea and phenomena she called “scoping.” Back in an age of the late ‘80’s where people were less concerned about stalking, you could actually go to the Registrar’s office and look up any fellow student you might have a crush on, and see their class schedule in order to know when they might appear next! As per Jenny’s advice, however, part of scoping was to never actually meet your scope—if you did it could crush your crush, deflating your desire like a balloon if you found out your person was actually a human being with flaws and all… Jenny’s ultimate scope, for some reason, was Axl Rose! She would write him letters, and ultimately sent a nude picture of herself in a giant ceramic Easter egg she sent to him—but alas, never heard back. My scope was to be Keanu Reeves, who had just come out in the movie “River’s Edge.” He was my ideal, in that he wasn’t a traditional masculine character—he always seemed passive in his roles. Not the John Wayne type, he always catches the balls that are thrown to him but doesn’t throw them first, and is usually the one seduced, and not the seducer. He also is part Hawaiian, and not totally white, and his slacker-like persona seemed to me the Gen X equivalent of what it could be to be a “cool dude” and not a dick. When Idaho came out I was head over heels, as he had married up to another icon of mine, River Phoenix, and this gay love story was a non-linear of sorts transmutation of Shakespeare—a post modern knowing retelling of a mythic play using quotes and antecedents in an engaging, entertaining, emotional, and beautiful film that ultimately I found to be thrilling and optimistic, despite its bittersweet end. In any event, I began using Keanu as my own character in my work, “casting” him in my own star system into paintings, drawings, and narratives—he was Lampwick in my retelling of Pinocchio (Pinocchio the Big Fag), Hamlet in Hamlet 1999 and so on.


River & Keanu as Mike & Scott in My Own Private Idaho, 2006 oil on linen 40 x 58 inches Collection of Derek Eller Gallery, New York


Act Two

I did have an epiphany when I was in the movie theater seeing his film Constantine that I remember distinctly—maybe he wasn’t a good actor (after years and years of defending him and his work!) and that I had spent years and years employing him into my work as one of my ultimate icons! I had begun to paint people who REALLY had made an impact in a positive way in culture, and decided to switch gears and create images of people like James Dean (who helped to give a voice to youth culture) more that people like Keanu… But I did come around again, and realized Keanu and his importance—like him or not, he has continued to create great films, and has survived all these years, working with some of the best people in the business—and gave us not only Idaho, but the Matrix and other iconic films. And I still love River, who I have painted many many pictures of as a starry-eyed idealist who was thwarted by life and his culture.


The Alien and Andy Williams, 2005 oil on linen 52 x 42 inches Collection of Lawrence B. Benenson, New York

With this painting I wanted to make the ULTIMATE Keanu/ River/Idaho painting! I had just had a show in Brussels, where my husband and I had gone to its museums, in addition to having incredible inspiration in Amsterdam at the Rijksmuseum and at the Van Gogh Museum, and I realized that for the Old Masters, the secret was they were “micromanaging to the macromanaged whole.” When we went on this whirlwind trip to these places and to Paris, we bought expensive luggage at Andrew’s request, and I realized, looking at this luggage, and incredibly well made and exquisite it was—and maybe even worth the money given the “fine tailoring” of the hand made qualities. I realized that, while painting certainly isn’t luggage, that if I want my work to extend beyond my own time, and be worth the amount I would hope it to be worth, that I had better really put all my time and effort to making it the best it could possibly be.

This is another image culled from photos of the costume character actor Janos Prohaska who died in a plane crash. He more famously was the “cookie bear” on the Andy Williams show for a brief time in the early 70’s, where Andy who begin to croon his famous “Moon River,” and just before, the “Cookie Bear” would shuffle onto the stage asking for a cookie, to which Andy would reply “You can’t have a cookie!” and the saddened bear would shuffle off. This was Janos as an alien, however, in a more positive role, and I feel he represents an alien angel telling Andy (representing Man) that all you need is “Love.” This work “blisses” out into otherworldly landscapes, hopefully appropriate to its theme. Since college I have made abstract paintings (that subconsciously perhaps begin to cohere as figurative scenes) side-by-side figurative works (that purposively fall apart into abstraction). With this show (Rebel Angels, 2005), and specifically in this painting, I feel that I have finally been able to conflate both abstraction and the figurative into works that have recognizable themes and subject matter for the viewer to “suture into,” and upon contemplation, have them “open up” into other worldly (inner worldly?) situations that are transcendent and sublime. I want all my paintings to be “puzzle boxes” that first appear to be “normal” recognizable images, only to have their veil pulled off to reveal subconsciously derived “windows onto other worlds” the more the viewer “unlocks” the works by their persistent gaze. (2005)

I used to stop when the muse left me—being “Cézanned out” suddenly sometimes the energy would leave my mind and brush and I would say “it’s done”! Sometimes if I went into these paintings, it would be like taking a soufflé out of the oven before it was time and they would deflate, killing what was good about them. But regarding the Old Masters, with people like Velazquez, Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Michelangelo, I’m sure they would paint through these moments to the “other side,” and reading about people like Matisse, I knew those seemingly simple sublime works were achieved after much trial and error. Certainly I knew the best of my paintings came from editing, and I really began to push through painting—working through passages again and again to achieve something that not only had its own skin, but a life of its own. With this work, I thought not only about these actors and all they meant to me, but these actors playing these roles that became so important to their lives, and this film which affected my life greatly and had such an impact on me an my art. I played music that I had listened to during this time, and the movie and its soundtrack itself, thinking my thoughts, and wanting to achieve my Own Private Idaho in my meditation and this painting.


Head Iconscape IS0029, 1997 oil on linen 24 x 17 ⅞ inches

I first investigated manifestations of the unconscious painted as abstract “landscapes”—works that I designated as Iconscapes. These abstract paintings that were exhibited in the 90’s, and have


become a component embedded in my current figurative art (and I have gone back to creating some Iconscapes more recently, also included in this show). From my Knoedler Press Release, 2011.

it, also imbue the work with synaesthetic feeling? When you map out a puppet form of a face before you begin to render sometimes in fine art and in comics, you create a vertical line where the nose and center of the mouth may be within an oval form, and a horizontal line where the eyes would be placed, forming a cross-like design, the perfect Golden Ratio. Realizing this a fundamental design element in a sketchbook for this painting, I realized that there was a holy spiritual notion in this, symbolically speaking—that there was a “cross within all of us.” Not that I’m religious, but just spiritual enough to go with this notion, which had generated along with it a halo like affect, and hopefully optimistic palate that while the painting hopefully has a life of its own, and starts to undulate the more you look at it, suture into it, that it could fill the viewer with a bright sensation of spiritual uplift, a little sublime transcendence. This is a key painting for me, as it serves as the basis of much of my work sense this I painted it and now, as I hope my figurative works still break into abstraction in micro-managed moments, with pockets of atom-like undulations unconsciously created, like atoms, to make the painting come alive.

My work emerged in the early 1990s with figurative narrative images rendered in highly crafted drawings and paintings of different styles to suit the content of larger allegories. Upon my move from Los Angeles to New York in 1995, I strove to find the emotive essence that fueled my earlier post-modern work by taking my cues from modernity, creating automatic drawings and instinctive gestural painting in the hope of harnessing the unconscious imagery emerging from micromanaged moments and from the negative space of paintings from the old masters to the New York School. As a son of psychoanalyst and a semiotics major from Brown University, I believe in the power of iconic, essentialized forms to signify complex ideas and feelings in the cognitive mind of the viewer, and that, like the discourse that informed the works of the modernists inspired by Picasso and the Surrealists, I strive to depict the inner consciousness within the plastic space of the picture plane. Being schooled within post-modernity, I also acknowledge the importance of works being able to relate to the world outside the canvas, and I play with the idea of suggestive source material, symbolic uses of color, the power of signs to bring about complex ideas of culture, and creating work that is conscious of how it performs within the context of art history and our time.


The first Iconscapes begin when I eschewed the nuance of appropriated style, for which I had first gained recognition, in favor of raw, intense, and textured abstractions. These gave rise to the vocabulary of the “circle” paintings whose tightly-wound bands of color create an oscillating effect that varies in mood and space from one to the next. I was also creating “expressionist” works inspired by source imagery, where I refer back into figurative paintings with gestures that hope to transcend the underlying subject matter to reveal emotive moments of synaesthetic form and color. This work lead to paintings that aspire to grasp symbolic forms of the unconscious in illusions of three dimensional space while I reacted to the politics and the mood of the end of the 20 th century.

Jesus Christ Superstar, 1995 oil on canvas 20 x 16 inches

My stake in cartoons is that I believe that part of their power exists in our dreams, where we probably see iconic images of ghost-like smiley faces that we project onto (that’s grandpa!, etc). Our minds have simplified forms as memory devices that metonymically stir up language and experiential associations. I wanted, with my “iconscapes,” to render these into life–with plastic space and volume, like a Gorky painted with the “reality” representation of the Renaissance–like a painted, three-dimensional dream. I would think of memories and dreams while I painted, hoping my hands would conjure them up, hoping, like when a kid tries to erase an etch-a-sketch board to see what made it work, to erase consciously realized representation to find the ghost that haunts it from behind.

This is a very important painting for me, and one of the earliest works in the show. I am a spiritual person, always seeking, and although I hold my hand over the flame of some religions, I haven’t given myself over to any just one, but am fascinated and respect all. My relationship to Catholicism growing up (beyond going to Southern Baptist bible school when I visited my grandmother!) was through Jesus Christ Superstar, the musical. My parents had the original Broadway cast recording (brown cover) when I was small, and I used to play it over and over, and sing the songs. I also loved the movie when I was older, and still occasionally play both soundtracks and enjoy going back to that place of my youth, but also the great music and retelling of the story. When Andrew and I lived on Christopher Street in the West Village in the mid 90’s, the building manager allowed me to use the basement as a studio. Although small (and perhaps asbestos filled!) it had its own bohemian allure, and it was down there that I worked on this painting fervently over (for that period in my work) some time, and as it was a hard period, really seeking solace through the act of painting the work, which of course I did while listening to the soundtrack. I feel it is my job to make the image better than merely the film still—I love the text by Roland Barthes called “The Third Meaning” which discusses “vertical” readings towards film stills—what you can’t put into words, the emotions, ideas, and experience that exceeds the conscious expectations of the film makers, that ultimately may make the image resonate deeply for the viewer. Hopefully I was able to bring this out here, I wanted to capture a certain ecstatic quality of all of what this image could be about. I tried and

We see faces in everything, I believe, as a survival skill as human being animals. Good compositions look like faces because of this, and Scott McCloud, in his great book Understanding Comics discusses how when we have very simplified forms, like a “happy face,” we can “suture into” these forms, transcending into and becoming them. In wanting to make my work vacillate, and have a life of its own, I had a great epiphany one evening walking to my studio after teaching this notion at the School of Visual Arts in my comics class. What if you made a painting that had a shape or form that was like a simplified face that you could relate to, that you could “suture into,” but then also repeat that form in a vacillating manner with color and texture, widths and shapes—would it start to “move,” and could you, given the design and palate of


tried, and couldn’t quite get it right, but one day the electrician had to come and do some work in the building’s basement, and he knocked over the painting on my palate, causing the dots and smears to appear. Eureka! It was finished, as it seemed this blotches were like Jesus being stoned, and/or creating the binary in which his ecstasy seemed to counter...

This painting appeared in my first solo show in New York at Jay Gorney Modern Art in the fall of 1997. I had begun to make a name for myself and work with creating narrative installations of drawings and paintings that were tightly controlled and nuanced, with specific stylistic antecedents and intentions. When I had the show at Jay’s, it was in a period after moving to NYC, when I really wanted to get “to the batteries that were operating the engine” of my appropriated styles—what was “me” in my various works that gave them consistency and signature. I began creating a lot of automatic drawings and paintings, and allowed myself to try to really suture into my works while creating, not thinking consciously about what I was doing, but being mindful of my thoughts about what the subject matter meant to me, hoping that would come through in the works. I hung abstract “Iconscapes” (two of which appear in the Whitney installation) of essentialized forms truly culled from my unconscious next to these representational works. At the time, in this prominent, street level in Soho gallery, the show was an anomaly. In the time of “Art & Fashion” when most paintings were photorealistic, this show threw people, hopefully in a good way. I think a good art show is like a bomb that goes off, in a good way, where hopefully people are challenged and it can help to change the discourse in a more positive direction. With these kinds of shows, some people hate them, some people love them. With my Jay Gorney show, simply titled “Keith Mayerson, Paintings and Drawings,” instead of appropriating/retelling narratives (I had emerged by a drawing suite entitled “Pinocchio the Big Fag,” inspired by a musical I wrote of the same name), the narrative this time was myself and my work and interests—much the same as the Whitney installation. These roughly hewn works (while Chaim Soutine was being enjoyed uptown at the Jewish Museum, and Nicolas de Stael shows that inspired me were also being positively reviewed) were often misunderstood. Relating them to Thrift Store painting (Jim Shaw’s book and exhibition of thrift store art was around the same time), etc., was a common misconception... I thought I was relating to modernity, early American Modernism if anything, works by Dove, Hartley, O’Keefe, Forrest Bess, Burchfield, Albert Pinkham Ryder and so on were important to me, as I felt a post Post-modern affiliation to that kind of ideology and practice. While some of the collectors ran to the hills, many painters really loved and “got” the show, and I’m proud that these folks are still my friends (and some of them are younger, prominent artists who mentioned being inspired in part by this work and show). It was also very positively reviewed later in Art in America, which printed this image, and Burlington Magazine, by the artist and critic Merlin James. I felt vindicated in 2011 when the GOOD people at Knoedler gave me one of their last project room shows of the Iconscapes, and certainly am proud to have it included in the Biennial. We live with this painting, which gives us good energy and hope, and I placed it here with the Buddy Gorilla and POLICE Iconscape paintings, as if the Buddy Robot Gorilla is the human spirit emerging from the King Kong/9/11 painting beside it, which gives the energy hopefully embodied by the POLICE painting. I love and was very inspired by Michelangelo’s Last Judgment for this installation, and Jesus here is like one of his angels, helping the soul of King Kong (and all the peoples it may represent) to ascend.

believes they were channeling the entity they were painting (which would almost come alive by their brush and “talk back to them”), I believe if you fervently believe in what you are painting, it does come alive, at least in your mind, but also hopefully in the mind of your viewer. I think your unconscious spills out into your brush as you are painting like this, and amazing subconscious things occur in the paint—like subliminal advertising, unbeknownst perhaps even to the painter, strange things occur in the negative space, “interior negative space” and the nooks and crannies of the painting that the conscious, leftbrain mind can’t control. Famously in El Greco, eyes, faces, etc. happen in the folds of clothes (this is perhaps why Picasso and even Pollock learned so much by copying the master), and in this great painting in particular, above the blind man’s brow, an unconscious “third eye” appears like a Cyclops in his forehead... I want this to happen as much as possible in my painting, I hope this starts happening in the ecstatic moments of this early work, and has continued to become more refined and embedded in my later works I’m painting now...


MLK, 2005 oil on linen 56 x 38 ½ inches

MLK was a painting I did some years later after Hamlet 1999, but another stormy time in our world. We had moved to Chelsea, and I had a larger place to work and better light to work in, and we were generally happy, enjoying the success of my newly assimilated career, and our life in general, but Andrew’s best friend Alicia had just abruptly died, due to justrealized complications due to AIDS, and Hurricane Katrina had just happened down South. We were going through a lot of personal trauma as to Alicia, and were frankly appalled at the US government’s reaction to the tragedy befalling New Orleans and the southern region that many of my family come from. I felt if Dr. Martin Luther King were alive to experience what had happened, he would never stop crying, and painted this for the Miami art fair soon after the tragedy occurred. I do think art can make the world a better place, and after creating many narratives through the years “employing” famous actors and icons to play different characters, I realized that any portrait was truly about bringing out the inner personality of that person, and if I painted real people that had real relevance to impacting the culture of our world, I could make an iconic painting that would stand for both that person and allegorically what they represent to our culture, where the viewer could relate to the figure or scene also due to the modernist notions of how paint can transcribe warmth and feeling in the experience of looking at it, in addition to the content of what it could “mean.” I hope that this painting of MLK goes beyond Katrina or other timely matters—I have painted a number of portraits of this great man (two of which were recently in the Whitney Biennial), and we have lived with this picture of him (one of my favorite portraits I have ever

Inspiration. I have also always been a fan of El Greco, and his ecstatic rendering of Christ and other religious scenes. Working from a tradition of Byzantine Icons, where the artist truly


painted) on our walls for years to give us hope. Dr. King helped to change the world and give people agency through his passion and teaching and beliefs, and serves as a great model (I also appreciate that many homes throughout the world live with this image in photographs and posters) for all people including artists.

the characters” as much as it was about using these images as tropes to critically talk about “high” vs. “low” culture, for the symbolism and metaphors—and yes, the narrative syntax that could still have metaphoric and allegorical reliability to fine art viewers. And in Warhol’s case, perhaps he really did want to become a Superman, an Elvis, a Jackie—but it wasn’t about him “masking into” the character with warmth and emotion, living through their avatar to make them come alive.


I’m friends, I’m proud to say, and have shown with the contemporary master Peter Saul, and love of course Philip Guston, who both (Peter I believe emerged slightly before Guston!), along with the Hairy Who and more used cartoon iconography in a more traditional manner—speaking through the iconic avatar and narrative scene they are rendering with not just allegorical intent, but actually “warming” the characters by perhaps “becoming them” for the moments they are painting and drawing, in a similar way as traditional cartoonists, but using their intelligence and great abilities to paint to create transcendent, moving images that are relatable via their aesthetic, resonate as to their allegorical outcome, and feel “alive” due to their great ability to manipulate paint and their meditations while painting.

Captain Marvel, 2005 oil on linen 60 x 30 inches

With my “cartoon paintings” I’m striving to do both a “Modernist” and “Post Modernist” strategy—to make culturally relatable imagery self consciously, but also to be able to have a transformative experience in the act of painting while also working unselfconsciously—being in the “moment,” being mindful, and allowing my instincts to riff upon the subject matter and what it conjures within me to make work that hopefully has a life of its own.

Captain Marvel, otherwise known as Shazam, is a superhero originally created in 1939 by the artist C.C. Beck and the writer Bill Parker, and this image was from his first appearance in Whiz Comics #2, published by Fawcett Comics in 1940. I first knew Shazam from the live action Saturday Morning serial from my ‘70’s youth, and really enjoyed watching Billy Batson say the magic word “Shazam” that made him grow into a full blown immortal superhero man Captain Marvel—“in a never ending mission to right wrongs, to develop understanding, and to seek justice for all!” Part of the power of comics is the ability for a reader to identify and relate, to “suture into” the characters they are reading, just like alter egos in comics who put on a mask and become their better selves, or in Billy’s case, say a powerful word and become a man of power. Art is language, and language is power, and while painting, not that I believe in wish fulfillment completely, I like to sometimes create optimistic images to meditate upon so perhaps, as I’m solving the abstract puzzle pieces of form, light, color, and so on, perhaps simultaneously, if I’m thinking about my thoughts, I can also solve the problems of my day. For a cartoonist, or any artist, when you are drawing well, sometimes your “right brain turns on” and you lose a sense of your critical consciousness, your “left brain” and it is like a dream-like state where your unconscious can be given full reign. If dreams are in part about your mind solving problems of your day so you wake up with epiphanies, perhaps making art in this manner can do the same thing. Also, when you are drawing well, and your character is smiling, you might find you are smiling too, “masking” into the character as you draw, and alchemizing them, making them “come alive” as they are your two-dimensional puppet that you are animating by suturing in.

With C.C. Beck, he had a beautiful, deceptively simple manner of drawing that I find gorgeous, but also terrific in its ability to allow one to “suture in” as it is incredibly iconic. This, married to how it was printed on this original newsprint sheet (I found a page of this in the Picture Collection at the New York Public Library) that had become patinaed in time, and the colors were already slightly off-register. It’s intriguing to me to totally observe the paper and the printing when I’m painting, as it can be a key to making the work ultimately more optical and three dimensional, in a manner the traditional Pop artists might not—they were concerned about surface, and sometimes, sure, had texture and abstraction incorporated into a “push pull” image, but it wasn’t about optically puncturing into the picture plane. With my comic works, I want the letters to appear three dimensional, in a manner of the old 70’s animated logos of shows such as Shazam, but also use the off-register colors as key elements to make even the contour lines three dimensional, cutting through space. Picasso loved cartoons, and of course, much of his work took the same cartoon tactics as he lived through his avatars while painting. If I could take the same strategy when I’m working with appropriated imagery, bending it optically through the plastic vehicle of oil paint, perhaps my subconscious can emerge within the frame of the design of the original image. Like Picasso, who has silhouette of himself consciously and unconsciously appearing in imagery, I think the Billy’s hair here seems to form a slight silhouetted profile, of perhaps C.C. Beck but also maybe myself. The locks of hair appear almost like fingers, and as I was painting the optical black by many times over going into it with purple, red, and blue tones, I start to see dream like imagery in the optical space of that world, and the liminal like space of the cloud like form of his word balloon in whites and purples above. Hopefully the image itself could act as a talisman to project thoughts onto, breaking form into abstraction. While young Billy here might not be a Mount St. Victoire, he acts similarly as a character that I can

I love Roy Lichtenstein and Warhol, and other masters of Pop Art that made Duchampian maneuvers with their appropriations, especially when they appropriated comics and brought them into the realm of fine art. But with these masters, it was more about a critical, very conscious take on the forms they were looking at, and in some cases, aesthetically “improving”—when you see panels by the original comic artist that Lichtenstein was appropriating, you can see that its not a strict translation—he would change contour lines, Ben-day dots, sometimes the colors and backgrounds. But these geniuses weren’t “suturing in”—it wasn’t about for them “becoming


relate to, become, remind me of my own youth and aspirations as my unconscious mind melds with my conscious mind in my own transformative act yearning for transcendence.

second term, I’m still a believer, and think that, despite all, he is a President that changed the world, and a model of what it takes to be a Great Leader.



Barack Obama, 2008 oil on linen 48 x 38 inches Collection of Ellen Schapps and Richard P. Richman

The Abduction of Ganymede (Rescued from Eagle’s Nest), 2006 oil on linen 48 ½ x 61 inches

Irony is such a loaded word. If irony means that “the surface meaning and the underlying meaning of what is said are not the same,” I hope that my work is NOT ironic, but, rather, that the images are about everything they seem to be and also work as metaphors for larger allegorical truths.

When Andrew and I had our 40th birthday blowout on the occasion of a show I had in Brussels, we traveled to Amsterdam, where there was a Rembrandt/Caravaggio show at Van Gogh museum, which has had an everlasting effect on me. I realized that these masters, like Cézanne, must have set up allegorical scenes that had great meaning for them, and the in micromanaged moments, their unconscious would spill through, allowing for unconsciously realized moments of dream worlds and imagery to emerge, giving surreal life to their paintings. I wanted to micromanage even more because of this, and also to choose deeper mythological themes to ponder while painting. In this show was the famous “The Abduction of Ganymede” painting from 1635, the image of Zeus, in the form of an eagle, taking a baby (who is peeing in fear!) to Mount Olympus to be a water bearer. Like the “Love Triumphant (James Dean in a Tree)” painting in the cosmology installation (an appropriation of an idea of and image from Caravaggio), I chose a photo that emulated the scene, in this case a film still from the Thomas Edison special effect fantasy movie “Rescued from the Eagles Nest” (1907), where a animatronics taxidermy eagle is carrying a real life baby “aloft,” the baby’s feet flaying as the eagle bats his wings. I love the Roland Barthes’ essay “The Third Meaning,” where he discusses looking at Eisenstein film stills for their first meaning (the description of what you see), the second meaning (the symbolic meaning intended by the artist), and finally, the third meaning (the “vertical” reading—something that has to do with the emotion, the signifier without a specific signified, all the things you may bring to an image that the artist might not have intended, but which tends to give the work a transcendent “life of its’ own for the viewer”). This is so important for me in painting mostly from photos, many of which are from films.

When I create my work I use a similar process as a method actor, trying to project my own life, thoughts, and feelings onto the image. As I paint the abstract notions of positive and negative forms, dark and light values, etc, I listen to music, audiobooks, etc, that relate to the work’s subject matter, and otherwise do my research, but ultimately I think about what the work means in my own personal ideological and emotional world to hopefully bring life (and perhaps my unconscious thoughts and feelings) into the frame of the representational aspects of the image. The subject matter is pertinent, but it’s what I bring to subject matter that is important, and then, like a comic stain-glassed window or prose poem, how that image coincides with other images in the installation gives the work its ultimate meaning. For example, this painting came from a body of work Good Leaders, Endangered Species, Ships at Sea, which was exhibited just before and during the presidential election when Obama first won. I really felt that we needed “good leaders,” as we were all like “endangered species” in a world that was like a “ship at sea.” I painted Obama because I truly admire him and his ideology–I chose an image of him in front of the Capitol (infamously built by slaves) with his armed crossed and a confident smile as he represented (at the time) one of the few African American senators in American history. I listened to his autobiographies on audio while painting and learned all I could about the man to hopefully bring out his inner personality in the portrait and my feelings about him.

In the great 1936 film “Rembrandt,” starring Charles Laughton (who very much resembles Rembrandt), directed by Alexander Korda, there is a great scene of “Rembrandt” painting a picture (after he has exiled himself to “Rembrandt land,” postNightwatch, after painting people too much how they “really were”) where he is painting a picture of a homeless man (the only models he could afford to pose for him) dressed as King Solomon. I’m paraphrasing here, but he homeless guy says “why are you painting me, I’m just a homeless person,” and Rembrandt responds “no you are dressed as King Solomon and it means this and this to me, “the vanity of vanities all is just vanities” and so on, and by the end of it, the homeless guy is crying, Tobias, posing with a lute nearby is also moved, and Rembrandt has

You think that the artworld is mostly “super lefty liberal” but its not always… Your show always begins with the invitation, and I chose to put this image for the poster we sent out to people. I was shocked that people a few people called into the gallery to say “take me off your mailing list—FOREVER” as they were McCain supporters! But I was very proud and happy to have this painting up before and after he was first elected, and elated how many found it to be a warm, powerful image that they “needed to see”—I worked super hard on this painting to give it all I had— for me, he was the first president since the Jimmy Carter of my youth that I could really believe in, and in the last months of his


a tear in his eye. I realized in watching this, that Rembrandt was like a method actor, that he chose allegorical scenes that meant something to him, and while he was negotiating the abstract notions of positive and negative space, form, light, and color, he was thinking about his thoughts of what it meant to him, and somehow in doing so, the real feelings of his real life came spilling into the picture, giving it life. When looking at Rembrandt, who the people may be isn’t as important as the emotions, and I feel that in a Post Post Modern scenario, you can make work that is about something, that its allegorical content can relate to the world, but also, what is so important is that the third meanings, the emotions, the things you can’t put into words can also be described. If oil painting was invented at first in part because it could make tangible and “real” objects and people within the plastic space of the picture plane, couldn’t this also happen with dreams and emotions and subconsciously derived surrealities?

and context, and the pre-existing source imagery from which they derive. My respect for post-modernism results in paintings that are highly self aware and referential to external ideas and politics. Simultaneously, my love of modernism renders my paintings highly personalized, allowing them to move beyond their original context, and become as much about what I bring to and invests in my subject matter than the subject matter itself. Through coupling this with a painterly verve reminiscent of Impressionist and old master painting, I seek to a foster post-post modernist sensibility that embraces concept, beauty, emotion, transcendence, and the subconscious. Muhammad Ali is one of the greatest icons of all time, which has earned his place in world history. People forget that he was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., having changed his name after converting to Islam and his affiliation with the Nation of Islam, an incredibly radical public thing to do as a great American who also happened to be the smartest, greatest Heavyweight Champion of the World. After his public outcry against the Vietnam War, he was outcast and denied a boxing license in every state and stripped of his passport. He couldn’t fight for three years, touring colleges to speak out against the war, and advocating African American rights, justice, and pride. The Supreme Court finally overturned his conviction, and he was able to fight again, famously beating Joe Fraizer in the “Fight of Century.” This is around the time this LIFE magazine came out, and I learned much about boxing and his amazing influence around the world, where he was like a king for so many people in so many countries and still is to many. He was a fiercely intelligent, brave, and courageous fighter, and continues to be an inspiration to this day.

Like the method actor James Dean, who wanted to be on the Mount Olympus of great artists along with Michelangelo and Picasso, I hope to make important art that matters, to be a water bearer too for the gods on Mount Olympus, and it’s a long Sisyphean battle of pushing the boulder up the mountain to do so, but hopefully one day the eagle will born me aloft to greater heights! This was a painting originally in a show called “Kings and Queens” but here hopefully not just represents Zeus, Rembrandt, and art history, but also the idea that hopes and aspirations are the things that keep us going, and also what helped to forge the great country that we can all hope to achieve our “American Dream.”

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Ali, 2007 oil on linen 50 x 40 inches Collection of Doreen and Dick Cahoon, Cleveland Heights

Darby Crash, 2005 oil on linen 46 x 42 inches

I painted this image for a show called Friends and Family, that depict a wide range of iconic figures, images and moments from popular culture, history, art, literature, film and music in the service of composing a larger allegorical narrative about the times in which we live, and the issues and values that shape our collective history and future. I wanted to be at once individual and collective, admonishing and optimistic, for my work to serve as both a personal homage to those people and experiences that have shaped his own individual identity and beliefs, and a reminder of their broader social and historical impact.

Darby Crash was the leader of the seminal Southern California punk band “The Germs,” the band that was one of the primary leaders of the movement. Listening to the Germs now, they don’t seem dated, they seem even more artful, skilled Dada artists creating a sound that still rips and feels right-on target. Darby was gay, and according to one of my friends who knew him well at the time, it was one of the reasons he committed suicide. He couldn’t stand the fact that the other punks might hate him because he loved ballet. He was a virtuosic poet, and his lyrics come close at times to being a 20th century Rimbaud, and as he shouted them, not always into the microphone, he created a sound that exactly replicated the fury of his content.

I wanted to endeavors to imbue the theme/notion of friends and family with a broader, social and humanistic concept. Although I base my paintings on pictures appropriated from magazines, books, newspapers, and films, his complete personal immersion in, and reverential, painterly treatment of his chosen subjects and moments transforms them, allowing them to transcend time


portraitist, try to essentialize what it was about them that made them so great. (From an interview with Ross Bleckner, 2005)


When I made this painting, which was from a photo of Elvis as a young man as its source image, I listened to all of Elvis’s extensive oeuvre, from his early Sun Sessions recordings to his last 70’s Las Vegas concert appearances. What was uncanny to me is in the end, he resembles an older Elvis in a young man’s profile—but his lambchops appear and he looks like he is weary and wary of the world, but still a great king. Elvis the King, 2006 oil on linen 36 x 48 inches


Scott McCloud, in his incredible book Understanding Comics talked about the power of the icon, and closure. Closure is about putting two different elements together to create content… The power of the icon is that it is an essentialized form that people can relate to—a picture with a thousand words. When I’m painting a famous person, I’m hoping I’m able to make a great portrait of scene that has the productive baggage of what they can mean metaphorically as icons—while not like a “smiley face” icon that people can suture into and become, they are figures that have a common point of reference. In thinking about how they relate to the person and scene, and then the theme or narrative I am employing the subject matter for, I hope the viewer creates the closure of what this might mean, how it all fits together, in their own mind to create dynamic meaning and feeling that they will remember in this artful moment.

The Unsinkable Katharine Hepburn, 2007 oil on linen 30 x 20 inches Collection of Paula and Hayden Dunbar

This was for a show I had in Cleveland at Brett Shaheen Modern and Contemporary, called “Friends and Family.” I didn’t want McCain to win the next election, and Ohio being a swing state (like my home state Colorado) I wanted to do “my part” by creating a conversation of who might be “friends and family” for the America I want to live in, one that is about the agency of all peoples to rise up, and have equal power for everyone. Katherine Hepburn is a “strong female protagonist” of all the films she is in, a powerful figure in Hollywood cinema who also acted as a wonderful role model for all. She was one of the first to wear pants suits for women, helping to create a craze for this fashion, which become ubiquitous and also symbolically powerful. She also was fiercely independent, outspoken, and strove and fought for her important place in Hollywood for her long career. Despite her secret long affair with Spencer Tracey, its also rumored she was bisexual, and/or a lesbian, which was probable, and was public speculation that didn’t diminish her idolization—which is also intriguing as she played spinsters in her later life that had indomitable, “unsinkable” spirits, like the great lady herself.

For Elvis, it was amazing for me to see his famous comeback special, where for the first time I realized this was a real human being that, despite the politics, really helped to change culture. When you look at his early appearances on television, you see an incredible young man who had this impassioned energy to help create rock n’ roll, and to take all he learned from African American culture—this is the colonizing politics, unfortunately—and marry it with the hillbilly music he also loved, to help come up with something new—building of the great work from the black performers he revered (again, part of the politics). But if you like Elvis, you like to think he acknowledged that history and influence, and continued, as “white trash from across the tracks” to commiserate with the outsider, beyond a patriarchal phallocentric power structure, helping to promote what his idol, the gay man James Dean, began, to give a voice to a youth culture and to change attitudes and the world. When I do Elvis, I play Elvis all the time, or watch Elvis movies. It would drive Andrew my boyfriend crazy a little bit because there would be Elvis on all the time in the house, and then when I would take breaks I’d be watching Elvis. I’m trying to get underneath what it’s about. And then also, I’m consciously thinking about Warhol and people like that. I feel like painting Elvis is a weird, you know… Warhol did Elvis too, and in some ways, I feel like Warhol really loved the figures that he was painting.


If Warhol is constantly repeating Elvis over and over again, it’s not who Elvis was as a talent, what happens is the risk of that redundancy that we lose who they are as people or we forget their history. Elvis is a fat joke now. I don’t think for Warhol it was about Elvis as a person, or “Elvis the Incredible Talent We Loved,” it was about our reception of Warhol, and also what you’re saying too, to make it more humble by reducing it. What I think for me is important, is to bring back who they were as people, and like any

Rebel, 2005 oil on linen 30 x 30 inches


This was one of the first paintings I did for the show. When I was creating the “Hamlet 1999” series, Dean became one of the iconographic references for the figure of Hamlet. I have painted and drawn pictures of him since college. Many people still don’t know this, but Dean was almost completely gay, and had many documented experiences and lovers, as well as being one of the greatest actors of all time, and an icon for rebellion America. I started long ago, before grad school, to paint pictures of porn stars, as they were “cheap and easy” models, already printed in a magazine, therefore, by painting them, I wasn’t objectifying them first hand--they had already been objectified by the original photographer... I was also coming out, and felt the nonsubjugated world of “free to be you and me” lovers was a utopic fantasy to suture into. Growing older, I realized that my favorite artists and actors do a better job fulfilling the role of a model--in film stills, it captures a performance (or a genius’s aura) where the persona is concentrating on being the role they stand in for, or just being themselves as great artists. By painting them, I can have some of the best models in the world posing for me in scenes reality and from films that have allegorical resonance to me, and hopefully, by extension, to our times...

would like that post 9-11, post recent recession, we are still a nation holding strong, and long after the Twin Towers, and notso iconic One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building still holds strong. I always liked the Carl Andre stack of bricks in the window of the Judd Foundation downtown, however, called “Manifest Destiny” with the brand “Empire” stamped into the bricks, and like that leaning tower, also wanted to evoke that the power of the Empire building might be a nostalgic one, too, one that may not be so immortal, and that we should be careful. I’m also thinking of the 24 hour Warhol movie “Empire,” and to make something of this scale as if it were a painting lasting longer than the projected image of that film, and also Monet’s Rouen Cathedrals, as I was taking images each day of the building to post on Facebook and to see the different attitudes it could project through different locations and times. Ultimately, however, it is a prayer for hope and optimism in the New York where I’m always happy and grateful to see it standing tall each day and time I see it and smile. It is our Duomo as a landmark, but also stands for peace, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—a brother to our Lady Liberty.

Hopefully, this image of Dean captures some of his rebel spirit, which hopefully is more than just about sexuality, and about the fighting against repression and subjugation...



Top of the Rock, 2012 oil on linen 36 x 48 inches Collection of Carole Server and Oliver Frankel Empire, 2010 oil on linen 64 x 48 inches Private Collection, New York

We lived for a time at the turn of the century on 46 st. above a mob-owned bordello in an apartment where our poodle puppy had died tragically. I would escape to the roof and I would look north and paint the “GE Building,” Rockefeller Center, and the surrounding environment of canyons of powerful buildings, allowing them to fall into abstraction in my bohemian despair. Now over a decade later and feeling much better I actually wanted to go to the “Top of the Rock,” and look back, painting south towards the Empire State Building, which always gives me hope, as does the city at night, which as cheesy at it seems, still gives me a rush of romantic possibility. I wanted to feel that again in painting this picture that hopefully breaks into tiny Broadway Boogie-Woogies in the minutia of windows and trestles.

I love the Empire State Building, and have taken many pictures and made many paintings of this iconic structure that to me stands for the power of an old New York that still holds hopefully strong for the city and the nation. For this work, I wanted to make an “ultimate” Empire painting, and chose the top edifice with its tower, projecting an “RKO Radio Pictures” type radiance into the optical black of the sky. The top of the building was to serve as a Zeppelin landing, and as ridiculous as this sounds in our contemporary times, this art-deco way of thinking, with all of its optimism projected into its architecture is something that just sends me—it’s a living history where a building that has always stood for so much continues to have relevance today. When it was first built during the Great Depression, it only took about a year for it to be built which seems incredible, and Mohawk Indians were some of the great pioneer skyscraper builders unafraid of heights who were some of its construction heroes. When it first opened, however, it wasn’t so popular, and it was King Kong that really made it iconic for the world, which is amazing to me that it was branded by a giant fictional gorilla into being. It does stand for power— and being inspired by more than just a pencil, a very phallic skyscraper that doesn’t lose its serious agency because of it. I




Sky Over Fairmont, James Dean’s Hometown, 2012 oil on linen 36 x 48 inches Collection of Carole Server and Oliver Frankel

Iconscape 5, 2012 oil on linen 30 x 36 inches Collection of Ross Bleckner

We made a pilgrimage to Indiana, to see where Dean primarily grew up before he went to New York and later to Hollywood, and felt the sky open up with God’s fingers of light pointing to the way. He has always been an inspiration to me, and many people don’t realize he was gay, or at the very least, Hollywood bisexual... He also wanted to be a great artist, one that was on Mount Olympus with Michelangelo, Picasso, and the rest, and he succeeded. In just three movies he made before he passed at age 24, he was the first to give a popular voice for youth culture, inspired Elvis to be Elvis and John Lennon to be Lennon, helping to begat Rock n’ Roll and Woodstock and changing culture in a great way forever...

In micromanaged moments of the old masters, I have found that their imagery breaks apart into abstraction, and strange, subconscious realized eyes and anatomy appear in the negative space. With the modernists, the subject matter is sometimes not as important as what they projected into the subject matter. There are “Cézanne holes” in the middle his works where his head must have been located when he was painting where you can perceive his eyes and teeth and beard, same for Van Gogh who in his cypress tress lurk his unconsciously realized facial features. Picasso (consciously?) appears in his negative spaces, and Matisse form his Santa-like visage appears in figurative elements of his paintings. I want to strip away the map projected on the representational and get to the core.

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The James Dean Family Farmhouse, 2011-12 oil on linen 36 x 48 inches

Gusher, 2005 oil on linen 60 x 44 inches Collection of Lou Reese

When we made our pilgrimage to Fairmount, Indiana the highlight was to see the Marcus Winslow family farmhouse, Dean’s younger cousin, who was more like his little brother as he was raised by his aunt and uncle. Marcus still owns and lives in the house, and keeps it pristine and how it appeared in photos of Dean in front of it in the fifties for the pilgrims like us. It’s like seeing where our pop culture Jesus was born, a living Buddha whose ghost still feels present in this world of his home. In my mind it seems that the tree on the right is pointing to passerby’s the window, the one on the top right, which was Dean’s bedroom.

From 2005 when I first painted this picture:

 This is from an outtake from the filming of Giant, when Dean has had his makeup applied for the scene when he finally strikes (and becomes covered in) oil, both bringing on his financial success and his spiritual demise. I was listening to the liberal talk radio “Air America” through the painting of this and many of the other images in the show, and feel this is a commentary on Iraq, and subsequently, all other decisions by the Bush administration to prioritize oil and profit over humanity. This is “blood for oil” with a lusty relish, “God” is in his pocket (with his emblematic chain), as the “Good Old Boys” in the background look on... In the slippery slope of allegory, however, I feel this has more than one meaning... Like most of the other images from the show in which I first exhibited this painting (Rebel Angels at the End of the World, QED Gallery, LA, 2005), this was derived from


a black and white (and fuzzy!) image, and I part of the artistry of painting these images comes from projecting onto them not only emotionally and thematically, but also formally, creating color interpretations for values that I see, and hopefully creating synaesthetic worlds from those interpretations. I love painting, and quite frankly, really enjoyed painting this (as with all the works in that show!) and feel that my love for OIL (painting, that is!) is hopefully conveyed in this work (in addition to all the other layers on interpretation)...

book (James Dean: American Icon, with the photos archived by David Loehr, owner of the James Dean Museum, that I have subsequently become friendly with) that is I felt compelled in the middle of the movie “Room With A View” that I was watching one summer day when I was at Brown to run out to the bookstore and get... Obviously this relates to Andy Warhol disaster series... If painting is like punk rock, which is essentially about “killing your father” to do something new (although I love my dad!), Warhol is the father to kill in order for art to progress into the 21 century.... After all is said and done, I really believe that Warhol was a pock-marked gay poor kid from Pittsburgh who really wanted to BE Marilyn Monroe, and that his work was saturated with the pathos of the agency being reified into commodity culture, and his work is exemplary of a culture spinning out of control, and talked about it in a spiritual way... However, this isn’t how his work was considered in his time, and the “slip-shod” way of his “non-hand” silk-screening a painting surface was all about HIM killing the fathers of abstract-expressionism, and perhaps Picasso and all that came before...

Inspiration. Of course the Francis Bacon painting after the Velazquez portrait of Pope Innocent X is intense and great, and well-earned in its legend. But of course the original Velazquez is hard to beat, as it’s a master painting by the master! Bacon, as amazing as he is I feel tires after a while—he usually fengshui’s the figure as if it got lost in a psychological photoshop, in a distilled, Matissian-color field background, with pathos, over and over again—not exactly formula—but seeing his retrospective, I wonder if it was almost like listening to Joy Division every day without a break—even the Smiths had more of a sense of humor and balance, and couldn’t a gay guy like Bacon get a break (although who am I to belittle a contemporary master like Bacon, and I do get a more Picasso-esque interiority and nuance of being in his work when I want)... But Velazquez, kind of like Lucian Freud, I think does a thing harder—instead of people screaming in boxes to have emotive effect, I think its in the layering of the skins of paint, the micro-managed moments, that have a wonderful range of intensity and personality in his sitters. Can you have your cake and eat it, too, exaggerating some of the moments, but also embed them in figurative representation closer to life?

But what if Warhol painted like Rembrandt? Or Van Gogh? Or Velasquez? With all of the ideology (modernist? or what came to be considered the ideology of modernism--i.e. its not the subject matter that was important, but what you bring to the subject matter that is important? The mind of the artist, the subconscious, the transcendent and perhaps SUBLIME affects of painting?)... I think that post-modernism has opened up so many doors and windows considering the politics that surround art and the language in which we interpret it, that the time for painting being able to be PAINTING while at the same time smart and true to the culture in which it is brought out in is possible...

Another contemporary Master, de Kooning, recognized the power of talismans to riff off into a spasm of emotional abstraction—his epiphany was the weirdness of objectifying the orifice of the mouth, spurring on his imagination to create his powerful Woman series—not to get into the complicated politics of this, and loving his ability to slide from representational into the abstract, but could you bring the mouth back to the figure and also have it reside in plastic space that adheres to form and still have the intensity, and abstraction in micro-managed moments like the old masters?

While painting this I was thinking how his car crash is emblematic of a culture that is currently embracing cars, oil, technology and so on in such a manner as to disregard where it is leading us.... James Dean is the humanistic sincerity of all of us caught up in a system that doesn’t care, that will ultimately serve to destroy the people that help to drive it... I love Van Gogh, but wasn’t thinking consciously of him or his work when I was doing this; it just came out that way... I love looking at the space in modernist (and premodern) paintings in the subconscious pockets of plastic space that appear in the negative space between things, think that the artist was able to have their inner mind (or eye, or spirituality) spill out into the works, giving it the alchemy of life. There are many wild pockets of activity in this painting, and I have spent hours gazing into it, interpreting it... I feel that James Dean is in the back car seat, and saw in the photo what I took to be Christ or an angel lifting him up... I’m not a religious person, but a spiritual one, and found that unlike many of the other posed photos I appropriate, this real life scene was saturated with Third Meanings that gave it such a life that it seemed like a recording of an otherworldly event... Whether or not this is true, certainly when painting it I felt driven and inspired as my subconscious took over, describing the death of one of Americas great iconographic actors that came to an untimely end, surrounded by the patriarchal-like figures of his mechanic (who miraculously?) was thrown to safety, and those who happened (?) to be at the scene to help to pick up the pieces...


James Dean Crash Site, 2005 oil on linen 44 x 66 inches Collection of Lou Reese

From 2005 when I first painted this picture: This is from an image from the original crash site, painted on the 50th anniversary of the James Dean’s death... I wasn’t thinking of this however when I was painting it, it was from a James Dean




Iconscape 1, 2012 oil on linen 20 x 16 inches

Iconscape 2, 2012 oil on linen 20 x 16 inches

I have taught comics for many years, and think the power of the iconic cartoon is not only that it’s simplified so we can relate to it (like Scott McCloud states in the great “Understanding Comics”), but also this is the language of our inner mind and how we perceive ourselves and others in memories, thoughts, and dreams.

I think when we dream we dream in iconic, simplified, ghost– like forms we later identify as “Grandpa,” and the like...



Dorothy (Judy Garland), 2005 oil on linen 44 x 44 inches Collection of Dana Schutz and Ryan Johnson

James Dean Cemetery, 2012 oil on linen 18 x 29 inches Collection of David Jensen

Part of me wanted to start painting these Judy Garland paintings because it was one of those things where a lot of older gay men love Judy when a lot of younger gay men, or younger people in general, are terrified of her or don’t know who she is or something… When a reporter does a story about a cult and then becomes a member I sort of became a member in just finding what it was about Judy Garland that used to appeal to everybody. By painting her it was terrifying…

Next to their family farmhouse, and next to my painting of the house, is the cemetery where Dean and his family are buried. He would escape from his window at night to visit the grave of his mother, who died when he was six. He said he would see and talk with her. I thought I felt his presence when I visited his grave, now buried next to his mothers’, and kissed his grave, too. Like a method actor I try to get into the head of the character I’m portraying while painting, doing all my research, and listening to what they listened to and thinking about what they thought about and my relationship to it, in the hopes that something “real” will come out. Dean loved and carried with him everywhere the book of the Little Prince, and as I listened to the audio book while painting, I realized the prince seemed like the angel to the left, the fox appeared in somehow in a shadow or sculpture on the right, and Dean, the ghost-like Prince spoke to me as I was like the Pilot painting the picture. If you look closely, you can see his face in the flower wrap on the right of the tombstone--all of which seemed to also appear in the photo.

She had such a sorted life… She was such an empowered person, and really incredibly talented… You see any movie of her, she completely just glows right off the screen, and she’s fantastic. You know, she would make comeback after comeback after comeback… Everything is allegorical. I am using these people as vehicles to talk about different ideas that I have. The was the theme of the show I initially painted this work was for a show called “Heroes,” and for me Judy Garland is a hero… Post-Modernism, I think if I could put it into a nutshell, it’s about agency being reified into Capital … It’s like agency, our spirit, our soul, our position as individuals reified--like flour into pizza dough, being folded into Capital… I feel we live in a Corporate Commodity Culture now where a lot of our ideas are decided and contained by committee. Somebody like Judy Garland or Elvis, who is almost like the brother of Judy Garland,


in a way, were these people had incredible talent, were incredibly skilled…

about, but also to point to aspects tourist might not see behind the verneer. I love Manet, who was able to turn his personal world into an also political one, that referred to aspects and ideas in the world beyond his canvas, and also bringing an emotive, painterly touch to his brush that also could simultaneously convey emotion and transcendence to his critical mind and ideas. In painting Times Square, I wanted to expose the buildings and the edifices that the bright world of capital and corporate conglomerate culture almost submerges, to bring about the human, hopefully sublime experience that I still feel when I cross through the bustling universe that seems the center of our globe. In the movie “They Live” by John Carpenter, its an almost post-Marxist satire on America, where when the working class obtain special glasses, they can see the wealthy are alien robots who control the masses—when with the same sunglasses they look at billboards, the words on the sign say things like “CONSUME” and “BUY.” At this moment, around Christmas time in Times Square, the HSBC sign flashed “DO” during a sequence, and I appreciated how this could be a theme for our America, but maybe in a good way. I am inspired by the films and references in the signs here, and we really are about “DO” everyday as New Yorkers to survive and succeed, and as much as this could be a comment on Capitalism, its also an endorsement for the American Dream, in that hopefully its still true that if we try hard, we can achieve our goals, and lift ourselves into a world of freedom and responsibility. As a son of a psychoanalyst, I have a penchant for the unconscious, and want some of the abstract, unconscious feelings and subconscious iconography spill out along with my conscious brush, and hope that in the lower portion of the painting especially, where humans and cars habitate underneath the signage, that it breaks down into little Broadway Boogie Woogies that are synaesthetic for the excited human agency that populates and hopefully makes even better our world.

I’m talking about the past in order to hopefully forge a place for the future…I always think that (I teach a lot and I love it ) and I feel it’s the job of an artist in a way to be a teacher, and I feel like these were people who were these living entities that were true geniuses that were able to be within the popular culture, and that, you know, there was a reason for them being there… Joseph Campbell’s idea of an artist was that artist was supposed to tell stories for a culture to understand itself in order to progress… I feel that these people were like that, they were artists who were really trying to do something, but to do it within a popular vein, in order to reach the most amount of people. To move them, to have them experience something, to maybe have them think about their life a little better, to think about the world in which we live. And yet, the tragedy… So much about being a hero is about the giving over of oneself, in a way… I don’t think you have to suffer to be a good artist, I don’t think that, but… (excerpted from a interview with Ross Bleckner in 2006 for show catalog)


I have always appreciated the Ashcan school in general, but in particular, George Bellows, who like Monet and his steam engines, portrayed a content-charged landscape of New York by painting it as it “really was” at his time, for timeless pictures that still resonate.

Times Square, 2011 oil on linen 48 x 66 inches Private Collection

I have been painting from my own photos for some years now, after years of working from appropriation, using characters and scenes as allegorical avatars for the larger, non-linear narratives I assemble from paintings working like panels in a comic, where the viewer ultimately decides the ultimate narrative what the theme could be about. I love the Beatles, who a sort of first Post Modern band, spoke through avatars about their real life (they weren’t the Beatles, they were “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” when Paul wrote a song for John Lennon’s first son when he parents were getting divorced it wasn’t “Hey Julian,” but “Hey Jude”). I also love John and Yoko, post-Beatles, when they wrote and sung songs about themselves, a sort of Post Post-Modernism, because the personal was political, and although autobiographic, the music and the sentiment was so strong it had more “universal value.” So in painting pictures of my husband Andrew Madrid and I, of our world living in New York and California, I’m hoping the painterly resonance of the pictures appeals to others who can cathect to it’s vision.


Louise Bourgeois, 2008 oil on linen 42 x 30 inches Private Collection

I have always loved Louise Bourgeois and her work. My second job after college was working the front desk at Robert Miller Gallery, in the late 80’s, when they were uptown on 57th street in the Fuller Building, Cheim and Read were the directors, and they represented Louise. She would come in with her assistant Jerry Gorovoy, and I would have conversations with them, especially during a time when she was in a Who’s Who

I was influenced also in part by T.J. Clark’s “The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers,” where he described how the impressionist wanted to paint scenes of Paris, but not necessarily the aspects the tourists knew, but the gentrified margins that the tourists didn’t see, the real Paris. In painting from my photos of New York, I want to bring this


directory, which she took very seriously, and I sat down with her (and talked with her on the phone) about the exacting detail of her pages of career. I was always impressed with her being a great “long distance runner”: I always tell students that to be a great artist, you always have to best the best thing you have ever done, and keep doing this until you get really old and then you can ice cream and die like Louise Bourgeois”! Of course, Louise kept making incredible work all of her life, always challenging herself and what she could do (I’m not sure she ever settled for ice cream!) until she passed away. Most importantly, for me, she is a great Post Post-modern master, as she made work that was always “about something” (and far more complex than of her famous nightmare of her father eating her, like Saturn eating his young, and/or based on her father’s affair with their maid, which is often what her work is essentialized into being about). I believe she began each work with a motivational cue, thinking about her family and so on, but then allowed it to be a meditation about this and so many other things. Coming from surrealism and the great age of psychoanalysis, Freud and Jung, she also had a penchant for the unconscious, and at the same time had incredible formal skills, so the results of her sculptures and images were potent, both in how you could look at them for a long time, but also how you could think about them for a long time, too. Psychoanalysts would say it was about the father, or psychoanalysis, feminists would say it was about feminism, and so on, and while I don’t think Louise ever intended her work to be about any or all of this specifically, their “noodles would stick on the cabinet” as they would all be right—the work is so rich that it, like all great work, means so many different things to different people and the interpretations hold up as the art itself is so complex and open-ended, but directed in form, content, and attitudinal gesture.

a good, excited way in bringing my work to her (and it was also my way of sharing my work with my students, whom I never discussed my work with usually). She wanted the others to interact, although we seldom did, in the spirit of a “real salon,” as we were all hanging on her words and reactions. She was old, but her pilot light was still very much on—you could tell with the twinkle in her eye and her quick wit to respond to things—she really was engaged, although she would barely get to the table, navigating with her hands the counter, etc., to it (I don’t think she wanted people to see her use her walker), and sometimes, like in this picture, her housecoat could be stained and she didn’t always look great, but her bohemian self (I remember seeing her and Jerry at J and R once, in their long black coats, looking like they came from the 19 century in a 21 century technological world). But I don’t think she cared much—money, etc., didn’t mean much when she finally came into her own (although fame and respect did, I suppose!), and hopefully we don’t have to wait until the 70’s to finally get the recognition we deserve, but sometimes this helps?! In Louise’s case, I think when she did finally achieve status and wealth, the money didn’t mean much to her, and she just kept challenging herself to make great artworks, which I love too for their psychological meditation and dimension—I think she made work because it was the modus operandi of her life—she was a monk for art and this was her world and way of expressing herself and living, inseparable from her being in her day to day life. I realized in painting this, a picture from my own photo that I asked her if I could take to paint a portrait from, that the world of her desk is really a cosmology of her work. From the Hugo Ball poster she designed (which serendipitously was also at the Whitney Biennial, reproduced almost exactly in the same place, if there was a laser beam from its placement to the Semiotexte wall where they put it in the wallpaper design of their installation), to the balls, mirrors, etc., that were reproduced hugely in her sculptures, to the red ink on the table, left over I suppose from her insomnia drawings. Also, when painting this, I realized her hands on the table resembled her famous marble sculptures with hands on rough surfaces, and her twisted housecoat resembles after the fact of painting it, in my mind, her hanging sculptural effigies. 

After I painted the picture, I sent images of it to her studio, and they mentioned that she saw it and approved, to my great relief. I first exhibited the work in a show at Derek Eller entitled “Good Leaders, Endangered Species, Ships at Sea” as I felt she was a great leader and model for what a great artist should be, and a later incarnation of the exhibit (called Good Leaders, Endangered Species) that was installed at Broadway Windows, on 8th and Broadway as a part of NYU to the public. She died during the time of this exhibit, and I hope this ultimately was a respectful homage to this great lady and artist, who in the painting seems to be pointing to the beyond of the door, perhaps symbolizing the afterlife, where she is now immortal through her great works and legacy that will hopefully endure through the ages. I’m sure, too, that anyone who attended the salons will never forget their experience, being in the realm of this Post Post Modern Master.

I used to bring my NYU students at the end of their senior year (usually on Easter Sunday!) to Louise’s salons, as a sort of baptism into the artworld. I felt that if you were in Paris during the latter years of Giacometti, you would visit him with plaster in his hair in his bohemian abode, and Louise’s world was like that for our time. She was a conduit between modernism and postmodernism, a bridge between the old New York School and now. She lived in a Chelsea Townhouse on 20th Street, and you could just call her up on the phone and ask her if you could come—she might make you sing her a song (!?) or something, but ultimately would say “come at 3 on Sunday” and hang up. And sometimes I would also just come on my own. Her place was old and somewhat disheveled, with yellowing reviews and posters on the bulletin board behind her, with the paint and plaster peeling, but you could tell she was well taken care of—there was never a spec of dust anywhere. These afternoons were “exquisitely boring” in that they could last for hours—they would finally kick us out at about 7:00 in the evening, and people would become woozy drinking the aperitifs and warm alcohol and soda people would bring (in addition to chocolate, which Louise loved), and one by one you would come up to her little table and present your work to her. She always had an “Ed McMahon” to her “Johnny Carson”—sometimes it would be famous curators like Robert Storr, sometimes one of her sons, sometimes someone you never heard of, and the “salon” itself was populated by sometimes famous artists, sometimes janitors, sometimes curators and critics wanting to visit with her (she would make them come on Sundays occasionally if they wanted to consort with her). She sometimes made people cry—although I don’t think she was intentionally ever really “mean,” but could be dismissive if she didn’t “get” the work. But often she would engage—this was her way I think of continuing to teach, in addition to having contact with the outside creative world, and if she would exclaim “very good!” it would send you to the moon for a week! I loved having her approval, and would always be pensive and apprehensive in

Inspiration. Alice Neel is one of my favorite painters of all time, and I have always cherished the portrait she did of Warhol, post shooting, that exposed a real tenderness and vulnerability of t his great cool genius. I was thinking very specifically of this work when I was painting my picture of Louise—I think great portraits bring out the inner personality of the person they are portraying, and hope I was able to do this when painting Bourgeois, in the emulation of how Neel painted Warhol.



trope of the image that somehow supercedes being clichéd or banal by the power of the image, of John F. Kennedy and the Stars and Stripes of Old Glory. I was born just post JFK, in 1966, and so was always naively nostalgic about him and his era, but somehow felt that truly the nation had been “better” or that, growing up as a young child in the sixties and seventies, on the tail end of the Boomers, that the hippies—my babysitters, teachers, and cultural influencers were right about the country going wrong after his assignation. Certainly my parents are also liberal, although a little too old to have been hippies, they were part of a smart cocktail generation that had beatniks, jazz, and poetry on the sidelines with their own wave of being anti-authoritarian and suspect of egregious uses of power. While painting this work, I listened to many audiobooks of John F. Kennedy, and of course had learned and thought about him before in my mature life, and knew and know he was a flawed figure, however I’m still bowled over by his handsome regard for integrity, his spirit and intelligence, and before Obama— and my knowing of Obama--a great president who mostly told the truth and tried his best to steer the country in great directions (despite also nearly bringing us to the brink of catastrophe, he also pulled us out of it).

Errol Flynn as Robin Hood, 2006 oil on linen 32 x 44 inches Collection of Grace S. Pak, New York Painted originally for the Heroes series, the beginning of the My American Dream meta-narrative, this painting represents Errol Flynn, who was a great actor who happened to be bisexual but powerful and one of the greats who started United Artists, as the character Robin Hood, one of the best characters in adventure story fiction. I realized at this point in my career that although I had been painting people in a sort of “star system” where I would “employ” them to act out in characters in stories of my own device, that while painting important people in history, there was enough story in them, and historical resonance to give them symbolic weight and allegorical power, and that they also had enough visual verve to send me into great meditations while painting. This image had both the real-life hero that was Flynn, and the cultural hero of Robin Hood, so it was really “one stop shopping” while painting—I could think of this man who changed Hollywood with his winning charisma, one that was partially derived from his “queerdom,” and also the “queer” notions of how Robin Hood was able to stand strong outside the capitalist, phallocentric order—how as a rebel and a rogue he was able to contradict a poisoned authority and bring justice to all the people in his land with style and panache. I love Cézanne rocks and foliage, that for me spill into unconscious worlds that were projected by his subconscious onto the map of what his conscious mind was painting, and hope that here the wild other worlds of Nature also steep into an unconscious, optimistic dream world of all this painting can stand for—not just for children in the UK, but generations of Americans and all parts of the world this great character--and actor who defined Robin Hood and is still the definitive performance.

The great thing about pictorial icons is that they are truly pictures that say a thousand words, but instead of merely wanting to embrace the iconographic flag in the Duchamp-like maneuver of Jasper Johns, who appropriated the pre-existing design of the flag, and painstakingly recreated it in the slow process of encaustic in different ways (which of course has its own political relevance), I think, post-Johns, it’s my job to penetrate the picture plane and while acknowledging that the painting itself is an object, do something at the same time “old school” with the power of oil paint to create plastic space, and paint through the image. I love Warhol, but in his “flattening” of the iconic figures, made them into the symbols that the culture, at the speeded up time of Corporate Commodity Culture getting its footing, made them into merely iconic symbols, without individual agency, in the same manner the culture and media was doing to the same people he was transmuting into flat, repeated images. I wanted, even with this ghost-like visage, to get to the real JFK, a Hamlet’s Ghost, coming back from the dead to deliver his message of his history.



Flag, 2010 oil on linen 36 x 48 inches

I live on the corner of 25th and 10 th in Chelsea, Manhattan, and was walking my German Shepherd Julian late one night after I got one of my first cellphones with a good camera, and took this picture of the flag waving in the wind on top of a storage facility, now the fancy private school Avenues. It was only after I finished the painting and it was being exhibited that a friend of mine recognized, or thought it could be the flag created by the artist Frank Benson, someone I never met, and in the distortion of the

JFK/Stars and Stripes Forever, 2006 oil on linen 44 x 44 inches

This is an image appropriated from a cover of an old boxed set of JFK speeches on vinyl that I found somewhere. I love the heroic


image, had no idea that it was an artwork created to enhance the feeling of movement. In fact, this was the reason I wanted to paint the image, to create a feeling of movement in a still image, in my case, an oil painting of (as I recognized later) an artistic appropriation that became its own appropriation—and for me, a ultimately a reaction to create a work thinking about Jasper Johns. I think the idea of appropriation is taking something that pre-exists and put your own spin on it, changing the thing in the process. When Johns was creating his flags, being inspired by Duchamp, he took a pre-existing design and by painting it in encaustic and paint and newspaper making it into something new, creating a painting that wasn’t, famously, a picture of a flag, but that WAS a flag. As I have mentioned, I think my job, working from photos post-Johns, post-Warhol, and even postRichter is, instead of painting merely the surface, is to penetrate the picture plane and move through the image, to make a “window onto another world,” after obviously recognizing the parameters of the picture, knowing its an object that exists in space and within a material world of capital, etc. In teaching comics in addition to fine art, I teach how to make images that have a feeling of moving in space, of changing form to emphasize movement and emotion within the viewer. I think still images can do this, and create sensations, via form and light and color, that generate synaesthetic responses from the viewer. When painting from a photo, I like to paint all the distortions, the blurriness, the out of focus elements, the lens flares and so on—I think it acknowledges that I’m painting from contemporary technological processes, which contemporizes the image, and also it creates amazing talisman that allow me to subconsciously build on abstractions and hopefully turn them into something else. In this image, even thought I had a little help with the initial flag design, the flag WAS incredibly moving in the wild wind at the time I took this shaky and out of focus photo that I made the picture from, being pulled by my shepherd, who was hurrying to get back to the warmth of my apartment, at a time of uncertainty when we were still in thralls of the most recent recession. Ultimately I wanted to create an image of how I felt about America at that moment, that it was still standing strong in a world that was threatening it and it was threatening others, and like the flag in the Star Spangled Banner, still standing, but in the abstract nature of how it was out of focus and undulating, creating its own surreal optical worlds in the process. Hopefully it’s subconsciously and unconsciously derived surreal distortion of a distorted photo of a distorted flag in a manner of thinking of appropriation of an appropriation of an appropriation of an appropriation (?!) and making something “real” and moving in an emotional way. John’s famous quote is “take and object. Do something to it. Do something else to it” which is what I hope I’ve done here.

I love Elvis, and despite the politics, feel he really helped to change culture. Of course he got a lot of his ideas, verve, dancing, and more from growing up in the South and attending gospel performances at African American churches, and also from being inspired by black performers like Little Richard and more. But he also mixed this with hillbilly and country music, and many different influences (and he hopefully also payed homage to all of these influences then and in later life rather than merely being a colonialist!) and is a complex figure, but also tried his best to be a good person (who gave back generously) of course was one of the major figures to give birth to Rock n’ Roll, changing the world in so doing. Buddhists believe in the idea of the Manjusri, or teaching Buddha, and feel (I believe!) that Buddhas can also be non-religious, who as extra special people can be teachers that make the world a better place. Art is about teaching, and I think the greatest of artists help to teach a culture to understand and express itself better. Elvis certainly did this, and in his incredible music (inspired by James Dean!) helped to give youth a voice and a means of expression in a particularly American way that spread throughout the cultural universe. At the birth of his fame, in 1956, no one had seen anything quite like Elvis—in this painting, derived from a black and white photo from one of his first public concerts, the manager in the back with his hand on his mouth is looking quite pensive, as the audience in the high school gymnasium was going WILD and no one had ever seen a performer generate such an incredible display of excited, transformative exaltation before, and quite frankly, it scared him and so many others. Elvis was religious, however, and I think he might really have felt that he was destined to bring his message and voice to the people, and in painting this, realized that the lights in the background were almost like the “Father and Holy Spirit” and Elvis almost like the “son,” with his mike stand forming a cross with the neck of his guitar. I also love Warhol, but feel that Warhol might have been on the spectrum of ASD—like people who have Aspergers (and I have had many students on the spectrum!) they can be geniuses, and certainly Warhol was a genius, but aren’t necessarily “touchy feely” people, and have different ways of portraying emotion. When Warhol painted his Elvis pictures, they were dynamic and great, and like Elvis wanting to be like Dean on the silver screen, painted on silver, made him an iconic avatar, like the religious icons of the past, but in a more emotionally muted tone than when Fra Angelico made his iconic pictures of saints with gilding behind them. Loving Rembrandt, and the emotions that you synaesthetically feel when looking at his paintings, I think that if you can have the cultural relativity of Warhol, mixed in with the painterly emotions of Rembrandt, maybe you can have something new. Whereas Warhol flattened in his silk-screens great cultural heroes (in the same manner that in a post-modern paradigm Capitalism can reify agency, or “flatten out, like flour in pizza dough, who we are as people and spirits in the Capitalist machine”) and made them into non-human icons, I want to be able to bring out the REAL people and the REAL emotions that these geniuses generated in their cultural revolutions, to pay homage to them in historical paintings that also exalt the spirit of who they were as cultural creators. I’m hoping that in this seminal moment captured on film, that I can bring about the energy that was happening in this recorded moment of a time that changed history.


Elvis ‘56, 2006 oil on linen 60 x 60 inches Collection of Alison and Lawrence Wolfson, New York



The Third Meaning for Barthes is the “vertical reading”—what an audience may bring to a work of art, what they gleam from watching something that perhaps was not intended by the director or the artist, but something that is provoked by the form and content of the art—the ineffable “something” that gives a work a life of its own in the eyes and mind of the viewer who brings their own closure to a piece by critically thinking about, while perhaps also emotionally being stirred or feeling what is conjured inside of them—but moved in a manner of how they think about how they are being moved, and importantly, why and how it may then serve to make them think for themselves about their life and world.

Duck Soup (We’re Going to War!), 2008 oil on linen 54 x 72 inches Collection of Lois Plehn, New York

When painting this work, and all my works while looking at photos, the “third meaning” is intrinsic to my process. I use the photographic image as a talisman to project my own thoughts and associations, meanings and feelings, hoping that in the abstract notions of the picture plane, my unconscious will break into a subconsciously derived abstraction that will then induce a life among the viewer. I’ve been incredibly influenced by Cézanne and the Modernists, but before this, the Old Masters, and in this case, in particular, El Greco. El Greco was originally inspired and came out of Byzantine icon painting, where painters really felt that they were channeling something real when painting images of saints and holy figures—that painting them was like a direct communication with that entity that would come alive and speak to them through their brush, and then for the person praying, meditating, or otherwise regarding the image. Unlike many of the Old Masters who were relegated to the margins by not making things look “real” or “good” (the very reason they are now the Old Masters is that they painted in excess to the commission and brought their own vision to the “reality” before them), El Greco made a great career for himself as the particular sect of Catholicism valued the PASSION that he brought to his subject matter. Although his figures and forms looked like they got lost in Photoshop and couldn’t find their way out, the result was that, within the sinewy figures where the negative and positive space converge, there are strange and wonderful tableaus, and synaesthetic energy created that makes one FEEL the emotions that he wanted you to feel, while you THINK about what the subject matter was about for yourself— in his case, mostly religious. While obviously not a religious image, while painting this I was definitely thinking about the almost sublime absurdity of going into war, our current ones or almost any in history. While of course it is important to protect our nation and people, and defeat evil whenever necessary, so much of the time it really is of course about money, power, and ego, and so many lives are lost and so much tragedy occurs in this horrible history. While transferring the black and white image into color, while negotiating all the folds and forms and strange abstractions that happened in the micromanaged space in this image, I thought deep thoughts not only about the generous and amazing smart comedy generated by the Marx Brothers (and Groucho in particular) but about my own ethnic Jewish history (or half Jewish—my father is Jewish, my mother Southern Baptist which technically doesn’t make me a Jew but my sister is reform and changed her name to Chaya Rivka and it is cultural identity I feel the closest to), and how Jewish comedy has come through time and tragedy, the craziness of the Bush years, and my own life as an artist, wanting to entertain but make people think, too. And much much more—as of course the world was coming into holocaust when this film was being made, and being in the show “Good Leaders, Endangered Species, Ships at Sea,” our own country at this time was headed into its own great depression.

This is a picture of the great Marx Brothers in their masterpiece anti-war comedy as their characters hysterically celebrate a decision to go to war while in the background generals and politicians gesticulate frantically in dance (a vision originally created as Hitler, Franco and Mussolini—who banned the film—were rising to power. This film is both hilarious and disturbing and apocalyptic, in a scene that emulates American’s false claims to the UN that began the war in Iraq. While painting this, I listened to the Marx Brothers incredible films and radio broadcasts, I also listened to music recorded at the time, etc, as I did Groucho Marx’s letters while I painted him, and so on, to get a real “feeling” of them while I worked. Humor is very close to fine art—it usually is about the juxtaposition of two or more things that normally don’t go together going together to create a fissure—in this case, a celebratory dance and declaration of war. In all art, it recognizes that there is a breach between signified and signifier—what we are looking at, and how we traditionally are taught to understand what we are looking at. For Eisenstein, his idea of the “filmic” is when you see a picture of a field, but hear a sound of a boot, and your mind needs to negotiate that juxtaposition. Or he would say that Van Gogh painted “red trees”—trees aren’t usually red, but this was the poetry of Van Gogh. The Marx Brothers at their best were artful—they would, in a carnivalesque manner, throwing everything you think you know up in the air so you had to look at it anew—of course we usually don’t break into dance when going into war, but there is a strange excitement that charges the air—something very much felt around the country after our decision to go into war after 9-11, strategically set up to make us feel this way. In Roland Barthes’ great essay “The Third Meaning,” he discusses his ideas via Eisenstein film stills, who created movies inspired by painting, but also Walt Disney, who he felt made moving paintings. After communism went wrong, and he wanted to continue making movies in the Stalinist regime, he quietly subverted his supposed propaganda films to get by the censors and the government who funded his projects, but wanted his audience to critically think or upset how they would normally see when watching. For Barthes, the first meaning is literally what you see—in this case—the Marx Brothers wildly gesticulating in front of Germanic looking soldiers and officials. The second meaning for Barthes is what the artist was consciously thinking about when creating the work, the “obvious” symbolism—that you can read in an image, and “horizontal” reading of the scenes happening in time. In this case, I’m pretty sure the Marx Brothers, although they claimed this WASN’T an anti-war vehicle, were making fun of governments and people getting worked up over nothing, and creating real chaos and terror in the process of the testosterone-fueled energy dynamic of warring parties and nations, and the irony of this being like a wild dance.

My paintings aren’t photorealistic but “felt,” I suppose, and I hope my unconscious spills out into them to give them life. I love modernity for the emotions and feelings works of that time


can project, but also for their hegemonic formal nuances of light, color, and so on, and how they really could be “windows into other worlds,” the subconscious. But I also revere post-modernity for its politics and content, for producing art that had everything to do with the culture surrounding it and how it reflected larger truths beyond the picture plane. I hope to embrace both sensibilities in my paintings and drawings. They might not look exactly like received images that we are accustomed to seeing, perhaps simply because I’m gay and choose subject matter that many might take seriously (I also believe people like Judy Garland, Elvis, and James Dean made a significant impact on our way of life and culture). Sometimes people don’t know how to read my work, but I hope this is part of its strength, and that, ultimately, people might bring to the image and their relationship to the iconic subject matter their own ideas and will “get it,” its seriousness, in addition to my embrace of beauty and/or truth beyond surface representations.

Superman is a painting appropriated from the very first comic strip that Siegel & Shuster created, from Jerry Siegel’s writing and Joe Shuster’s art. I grew up loving Superman, and like many iconic avatars that children suture into, he helped to form a nonreligious model of what it takes to be a good person, and was inspired by the comics to create my narratives today. Superman of course is an assimilation story, and Siegel & Shuster, like most of the early American comic creators, were Jewish, and Superman was a vehicle for them not just to entertain the masses, but also to allegorically speak about their own plight to be great Americans. I painted this during the Bush/Kerry debates, and unconsciously felt afterwards that he resembles a bit Kerry, who I was for during this time to help to save America. I feel that postWarhol, instead of just appropriating comics in a Duchampian mode, it is my job to bring emotion to the image for what it projects from me, and how, as like a method-actor, I try to step into the shoes of the characters I’m portraying, can help to bring them to life. Superman feels pensive to me, like I felt about New York, post 9-11, during this time, and I hope that the repeated lines of the arms and hands indicates movement and feeling. Bringing color naturally to the appropriated image of a patinaed newspaper image, Superman also feels to me a bringing an old world, black and white world to help save the more colorful 21-century. Also unconsciously, as I painted, the letters in his name seem to emphasize the letters S PERM AN and I like this, as it perhaps satirizes gently the perhaps aware of the Patriarchal undertones of the image (along with the phallic building behind him), while still hopefully carrying the warm feelings I have for this great character that still as important today as when he was first created.


Obama’s Night, 2012
 oil on linen
 42 x 32 inches


I always wanted to paint Obama and his family, but now onstage the evening he was reelected, as photographed for the New York Times for its front page that next day. For a show I had on the eve of his first election, I had painted a picture of him in front of the capital, and used it for my poster invite (some conservatives called Derek to take them off his mailing list--forever!), and was so happy he won. For this show--My American Dream--this is the only “appropriated” image in the exhibition, but its so amazing that we now live in the future, and the best president of my life is actually a reality--I used to ask students, when teaching notions of ideology, what the American Dream was--bringing up “can anyone grow up to be president” which of course back in the day didn’t seem true, but now it does... (2012)

The New Yorker, 2010 oil on linen 24 x 36 inches Collection of Rose and Morton Landowne

After years of painting from appropriated imagery, I have been more and more inspired to paint from my own pictures, wanting complete autonomy and authorship of the image, and also realizing that by painting from photos that I myself took, I have a direct connection with the image and subject matter, and somehow even more feelings and thoughts hopefully become transmuted into the painting. I was inspired by T.J. Clark’s book “The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers.” A post-Marxist critic, Clark discusses in this how the impressionists didn’t want to paint the tourist-y parts of Paris, but the sections where the gentrification of this city was affecting the people who lived there, and the transfiguration of the city itself. I wanted to paint sections of New York City that were vital to me, but perhaps forgotten or overlooked by the tourists and even current residents, and love the New Yorker Hotel, which we see all the time when we go to the movies across the street. Just down from the Empire State Building, the New


Superman, 2004 oil on linen 42 x 34 inches Collection of Jack and Julie Heller


Yorker hotel was built around the same time, and is an amazing art-deco masterpiece that has endured throughout the ages. One of the largest hotels in the world when it was first built in 1928, it was like a micro-city, with the “largest power plant in the United States” at the time, with the largest barber shop in the world, five restaurants (and 10 dining salons), 92 “telephone girls” and ballrooms that hosted many of the popular Big Bands, such as Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey. Spencer Tracy, Joan Crawford and Fidel Castor stayed there (as did my Uncle when he first came to New York!), and Nikola Tesla spent his last decade there. In 1971 Muhammad Ali even recouped there after his historic fight with Joe Frazier at the Garden. It closed for a while, and then was taken over by the Moonies—the Unification Church of the United States! Gradually they relinquished their claim on the property, and it became a hotel for the public again, joining the Ramada chain in 2000 and is now part of Wyndam Hotels.

For me, the building is almost like a “King Kong” of buildings of the city, reminding me of New York’s former glory, coexisting with it’s 21 century comrades of contemporary architecture, and holding its own—barely (sometimes the lights in the iconic sign are out—I always remember the Saturday Night Live guests would stay there and they would plug the hotel with a slide of the sign in the 70’s), and I often hear rumors of its closing. But like how hopefully New York still stands strong as the power center of our country, which still holds its own as the great nation of the world. I feel its symbolic of our resilience as a city and as a country to stand for the values we hold dear and to keep fighting for our strength and nation.

like he participated in not what he was critiquing, but maybe embellishing… Walter Benjamin, in Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction mentions when actors are constantly under the camera’s gaze they lose something of their agency as they’re put into these films… It becomes more about the director than they as people. And by constantly replicating Jackie, Warhol, over and over again, he is sort of doing what capital did to these people already. If Warhol is taking Jackie out of her context of her real funeral, and just making it a chic image—you know, of course I love him and I think he’s great--but I think at the same time its not about who Jackie was as a person… What happens is the risk of that redundancy that we lose who they are as people or we forget their history. What I think for me is important, is to bring back who they were as people, and like any portraitist, try to essentialize what it was about them that made them so great. When I made this image, I was trying to get back to the real feelings that the Kennedy’s had for this real event that changed history and the real funeral where they, the nation, and the world was mourning the loss of this great leader who meant so much for the world, and his wife who carried the strength and resolve and positive ideology that she continued to bring to the all the important, great work she did in her life. (excerpted from an interview with Ross Bleckner in 2006 for show catalog)

Inspiration. I have always loved early 20c paintings by American modernists of buildings and architecture, especially those of Sheeler and Demuth (and Bellows!) that seemed to be remarking on America’s growth and industry, in addition to nostalgia for bygone years soon passing in the industrial age, and the elements of abstraction that happen in the tight-lipped repressed way they painted.


B34 Red, 2010 oil on linen 30 x 22 inches Private Collection, New York

One thing I learned from punk, whether it be the Clash, who really knew how to play their instruments, and the Germs, who barely could and Darby Crash, their lead singer, who wouldn’t sing into the mike, is that you could have great, poetic content that did have a critical, political edge, but at the same time have emotion and feeling surging through the words to give it life. The lyrics were the content, and the music was the form, much like what figurative painting can be—where the “lyrics” are the narrative allegory of whatever the people in the scenes are doing or represent, and the “music” is the way the artist has brought up the idea aesthetically... Maybe the Americans lost the ability, at their most cool, to convey emotion in their smart art in the Postmodern debunking of beauty and more Modernist notions of form conveying the ineffable. Beauty and emotion were seen as a drug that made the viewer forget their mind and mystify how work might not be addressing the world outside the hegemony of the picture plane--the subjugation of peoples and the proletariat digging the ditch wouldn’t be helped by pictures of women with parasols in a flowery meadows or Rothko creating sublime color machines to transport people while he listened to tragic

Jackie in Mourning, 2005 oil on linen 32 x 64 inches

I’m a huge Fassbinder fan, and at the end of one of his stories, everybody always dies or comes to a horrible end. But then hopefully from the ruin of that, you can learn about, just like any ruin, the culture in which that ruin began and try not to do the same thing. I’m consciously thinking about Warhol and feel like Warhol really loved the figures that he was painting. I think Warhol’s story was that he was this poor pockmarked kid from Pittsburgh who loved Marilyn Monroe and wanted to be like Marilyn Monroe… and by the painting of her, maybe he became like that. When he did Jackie, he would repeat them endlessly, and I felt


opera. I think Postmodernity was important politically to let more people into the system and voices to be heard, and to necessitate content into the taste of fine art industry and the mainstream viewing public, inspiring artists to make work that did address issues surrounding the work as much as the form of the work itself. However, in not privileging what a picture might do best--to “say a thousand words” and to remind people they were human being living animals that have emotions--possibly we forgot something in the process. I love that image by David Wojnarowicz of himself as Arthur Rimbaud standing in front of the graffiti quoting Joseph Beuys: “the silence of Marcel Duchamp is overrated.” David Hammons once said something to the tune of “all artists working today are children of Duchamp,” and while you can see this is largely true, especially in examples of appropriation and conceptual art in galleries and museums today, I think its fantastic that you can now also see work that has more to do with Picasso than Duchamp, more Freud than Marx. Or maybe--as in Duchamp’s final masterpiece, Étant donnés-an interesting hybrid of both! I believe in the “have your cake and eat it too” plan of art, like the best of punk, that allows for emotions, beauty, and the transcendent while at the same time being self-aware, smart, and critical about itself and the world in which the work operates.

zed, iconic landscapes, and as you think “this is like staring at the ocean at night” or some other incredible sublime memory of landscape, the edges begin to fluctuate and WOOSH you are transported into a world of emotion and feeling. His work really DOES do this—but its ideological—you have to TOLD to do this for the most part—many common browsers of museums— and I remember overhearing someone actually say this during a Rothko retrospective—may think he came up with a good design and repeatedly repeated himself until he killed himself.” Of course, there is MUCH more to it than that—I’m a HUGE Rothko fan, he really is one of my favorites—but you have to be taught about this, and then it may happen, unfortunately its not so universal as he might have liked his work to be. But Warhol also lacks the depth and the passion, emotion, and transcendent qualities a Rothko may have, and trades it in for its relatability, its relationship to the outside world beyond itself, and how, however significant the aesthetic qualities of a Warhol are, aren’t necessarily images you would want to stare into for hours on end in a “Warhol Chapel” feeling transported into a sublime state that makes you question life and existence. I like the “have your cake and eat it too plan” and want to make work that has the cultural relatability of Warhol, but the depth and emotion and feeling of someone like a Rothko, and again, going back to someone like Manet is key, or early artists who used photography to create some of the first “all over imagery” like Bonnard, Vuillard, or Derain, given the nature of looking at a photo makes every element have an equal weight of aesthetic importance, or someone like Hopper, very important to me here and in general. In his famous New York Movie, from 1939, Hopper eschews painting the most important aspect of why most people go to the movies—to see the film, and instead focuses on an usherette, lost in her own thoughts at the margins of the movie house, his own Manet’s barmaid. I love the Broadway theaters, and before grad school, worked as house manager at the New Amsterdam Theater, right at the genesis of when they were transforming 42nd street from a sleezy porn row into what it is now (not much better—some may say worse!), when it was just a converted back from being a movie theater into a play house. It was still a bit decrepit, with glory holes in the bathrooms and more, but still held onto some of its grand dam grandeur. And if you dim the lights you could be transported into different times, as you can in the theater in general (my husband and I still routinely go to movies like Hopper and his wife Jo did, and I’ve been equally inspired by movies in all my work). It was fun trying to transport this scene to create my own Rothko in the golden ratio/rule of thirds compositional structure of the painting—in the optical blacks above I wanted it to bliss out into an unconscious other world, and in micromanaged moments turn into figurative abstraction. I thought there was a cool doubling/mirroring of the figures—the men’s bald heads with Molinas—tangentially to one like the Buddha statues that have many heads coming out of one, as Molina the actor channeling the lines that may or may not have been quotes from Rothko through the voice of the playwright acting as an avatar for the ideas and ideology the play was espousing while criticizing. And of course, no one is paying attention. I’m proud that I got to be an extra for my friend Ira Silverberg’s movie “Love is Strange,” starring Molina and John Lithgow as aging gay men who get married. I got to meet Molina and exclaim that I’ve painted him “twice” (actually only his prosthetic Doc Ock arms in a Spiderman vs. Doc Ock), but showed him an image of this work and I think, as someone who has played many artists, he appreciated it.

My friend gave us a wonderful present, and bought us two tickets to the incredible play by John Logan entitled Red, about Rothko when he was painting the infamous Seagram murals, with Alfred Molina as Rothko and Eddie Redmayne as his fictional assistant Ken. As the audience was initially coming in to take their seats, Molina was in his characters chair, smoking a cigarette and contemplating his paintings. I thought it was hilarious and poignant that instead of watching Molina as Rothko and taking in the pretty excellent emulations of his work and the scene in general, the audience was actively ignoring him, reading their Playbills, chatting with one another, and generally jostling as I took this picture. I think the secret to Post post Modernity, or the very genesis of it (if form and content in painting, and works that relate the larger world in a critical fashion hasn’t always been the key to great art of any time, if this is part of what “post-modernity” can mean) is Manet, who painted the world of his time, his place, of his friends and lovers, but did so with a very smart, critical eye and mind, and let his subject matter become a talisman for his own painterly finesse and emotions to be projected onto the subject matter. This was a terrific play, that had as its apotheosis, Rothko storming back to his studio after going to an opening of Warhol’s, complaining about the banality of Warhol’s subject manner, and entirely rejecting everything that Warhol could represent. His young assistant comes back at him, telling him that Warhol was way more relevant to his time than Rothko was, and that Rothko’s addiction to sublime tragedy, and abstraction, was over. In my mind, seeing the play in our contemporary time, it synthesized what was now aged about both modernity and post-modernity, if this is what Pop was, and if Post-modernism wasn’t merely an extension of Modernism, or if we aren’t in an extension of modernity today. Rothko is allegorical, if you believe someone like Craig Owens—if you step back from his work, like in this play, his work was about a depressed Jewish man who committed suicide. But also Rothko himself would listen to tragic opera to be moved by and into his painting, and thought of them, I believe, to be their own movements with narrative intention, and would reject ultimately what Greenberg and Rosenberg might say about them. Still, I always “teach” people how to look at a Rothko in the way he wanted you to—to stand in front of the center of them so the edges extend beyond your peripheral vision, to stare into the center of them, to find a point you can focus on, and while staring, to think of a vision or a memory that you have experienced in your own life. They are like essential




Whale Ascending, 2007-8 oil on linen 46 x 34 inches

Gone with the Schwinn, 2007 oil on linen 36 x 24 inches Collection of Dan and Jane Slavin

I created this work as part of my “Good Leaders, Endangered Species, Ships at Sea” series—during the time for the national elections I thought we needed Good Leaders, because they were like Endangered Species in a world that was like a Ship at Sea. I think everyone can hopefully agree that we need endangered species not to be so endangered in our world, and if we can all agree that these animals, in general, are beautiful, sentient creatures that deserve to live in an unsoiled environment, that can be a common meeting ground that we can all converge to figure out ways that we can help to sustain the world and all the flora and faun upon it for us and future generations of the world. I love whales, and the idea of whales being these incredibly intelligent, conversing entities that are living in the world with us almost like underwater intelligent alien beings of their own watery kingdom. I went to grad school at UC Irvine in Orange County, and lived in Laguna Beach, which was beautiful, but also becoming polluted, and the art scene they were very proud of, becoming a little—while I don’t want to be hierarchal about art and taste—cheesy. One of the kings of populist art in Southern California is Robert Wyland, who has famously painted whales on murals, canvas, and other surfaces, and has his own series of galleries, t-shirts, and more. Not to say anything bad about Wyland—I think he has his own true mission in art, and I really believe in “art for the people,” and while being perhaps truly about acknowledging animals within our marine worlds in order to save them, I felt my mission in creating art with animals was to NOT make cheesy art. How could I bring something intrinsically artful to a whale image? I chose one from the NY Picture Library that seemed unusual and to really strike me—something personal about it (as I grew up in Colorado, far from the ocean and Alaska, but the mountains in the background reminded me of this), and the incredible gesture of this Humpback Whale brought out his sentient agency, while creating a surrealism in the water and his wondrous body. I wanted to create a feeling of movement in how I micromanaged the aesthetic movements, and love painting water, as it becomes so abstract, my “left brain” can’t synthesize what it “should” look like, and becomes a complicated microcosmic map to project my feelings and inner mind upon, hoping it will break into otherworldly worlds. I grew up with National Geographic’s WORLD magazine for kids, and will always remember listening to a floppy record that came in the magazine one month, of Robert Redford narrating whale songs, and I would listen to its otherworldly voices and be transported, like I did while painting this image that I hope pays homage to their sublime mystery.

I grew up with the Muppets, they were my iconic avatars in understanding the nature of the world. Jim Hensen was obviously a genius, and I think the best kind of artist in that he used his art to make the world a better place (and had no worries in getting the work out there and also being successful). Kermit the Frog was also Hensen’s avatar, the Muppet that he felt the closest to, who spoke for him. Sometimes artists can be fairly inarticulate when it comes to speaking, but are able to create their work, their own “Frankenstein Monsters” that walk and talk and speak for them, and Kermit was like this for Henson. Puppeteering is very close to cartooning and other kinds of artmaking, in that puppets (or lines on a page in comics) aren’t alive, but in the case of Kermit, pieces of felt (and ping pong balls originally for the eyes!) that have Henson’s hand up the “butt” of the puppet who animates it and makes it come alive. Art is about alchemy, and the spirit of Henson is what created the persona of Kermit—while the character lives on, and is portrayed by a new puppeteer post Henson’s death, isn’t quite the same as when Henson was breathing life into him. However, I am interested in how characters (and great art in general) has a life beyond their creators—I do think that Kermit has a life of his own that extends beyond Henson and even the Muppets, now Disney owned, in the minds of people throughout the world that identify and relate to this iconic character, and feel they know him and is a friend in their imaginations. 

When the Muppet Movie first came out in 1979, it blew my (and most children’s!) mind to see Kermit in this famous scene riding a bike, in a full body shot, without Henson’s, or anyone’s hand controlling the puppet, nor strings or any other perceivable devices—it was as if Kermit truly was his own being, alive and well, and able to ride a bike to fame and stardom (this was just after where Dom DeLuise, portraying a agent, finds Kermit singing in the swamp and encourages him to go to Hollywood to become a star to make “millions of people happy.” Just after this scene, Kermit is almost run over by a steamroller, controlled by “Doc Hopper” who subsequently wants Kermit to subjugate him to be a mascot for his fast food chain for fried frogs legs. Kermit’s line, after he magically appears on the top of the steamroller says ..”.if frogs couldn’t hop, I would be gone with the Schwinn.” This is funny, but also symbolic of his character and the Muppets in general: although Henson was wildly successful, he never “sold out” in that he used his characters and his talents to entertain children of all ages, whilst at the same time gently portraying a fuzzy hippy ideology of cooperation, empathy and compassion, that particularly affected my generation in the primary mode of the Muppets creation on Sesame Street, and as we grew older, the Muppet Show and the Muppet Movies (and all their spin-offs), and continue to enchant generations, despite our post-analog, ADHD world of videogames, CGI, irony, and quick editing. 

This is from an image in the Muppet


Movie Book, which I also owned and cherished (along with all the commercially available Muppet puppets—I could do all the voices!—and soundtracks, books, etc.) As I love Monet and the work of the other impressionists, who as Modernists were also able to bring out their perception of reality and to use landscape as a map onto which to project their unconscious, as I painted this I listened to the Muppet soundtracks, movies, and shows, allowing myself to regress to this more innocent time in the hope to infuse into the painting my emotions and feelings of my younger self. I also, in a post-post modern way, think that paintings CAN be windows onto other worlds, to the unconscious, and want to use the painting, just like the phenomena of seeing Kermit as his own agent, without any strings or hands controlling him, to make a painting that has a life of its own, with a character that seems alive in a world of nature, where the human created being, in a good Frankenstein Monster kind of way, is as alive as the environment surrounding him (which also breaks into unconsciously realized other worlds of my subconscious). A friend during this time told me that I should “peddle as fast and as hard as I can” to get where I want in my life and career by the time I was 50, and I also, from my mature adult perspective, was meditating on this, with Kermit as my avatar that I was suturing into, wanting to appreciate all that life has given me, to work as hard as I can, like Kermit (and Henson) did, in the hope and aspiration to make my own life and career even better, so I can have my art make the world a better place (without selling out!), before I, like the bike and Henson himself, was “Gone with the Schwinn.”

Around this time Ingrid Sischy asked me, then the editor of Interview magazine to “cover” the Haute Couture shows in Paris. I still have no clear idea of why she asked me, but am forever grateful because truly was an experience that changed my life and career. I think she wanted me to be a sort of sketch artist, like in the olden times, and I was able to go back stage and have carte-blanche at all the shows, and sit in the front or go back stage with and beyond the paparazzi. I never liked the idea of “Art and Fashion” and thought it was an egregious notion—that fashion was timely and art should be timeless, and that in this time of the ‘90’s, it seemed that some collectors would buy a painting like they would an expensive coat—and “throw it out” once it seemed the fashion had faded. In my research of the top designers, however, I realized that of course many of them were true artists—if art was about how a culture might perceive itself in order for that culture to change, the best of fashion has historically done this, and if images were about in part transporting you to other worlds and dreams, more people were able to be transported looking at the images in Vogue that would have access to Artforum. So happily I engaged in this seductive world for a few days, and found that the models moved so fast there was absolutely no way I could merely sketch them, so instead took many many pictures in which to paint them later. Ultimately, it was the genesis of something I had always wanted (and albeit had started in a minor way) to do—create paintings from my own images. I had an epiphany looking around my studio, realizing, as a child of the “Pictures Generation” that I wasn’t the source artist of most my images—that most of them were appropriations of pre-existing material—that while hopefully I was able to put my “spin” on them and make them my own, that I didn’t have complete autonomy over the image, something I began to yearn for. Taking the images for Interview, and being a “camera bug” for many years before, I realized that perhaps I had a good eye, and for sure, I really felt a deep connection to images that came from my own camera (and were in higher definition printed then from high res images on my good Epson printer), which gave me more information to cull from.

Inspiration. Of course Monet is amazing, beyond blue-haired old lady art and posters on freshman co-ed’s walls, he really knew how to paint, helped to create an art movement that changed the world, and also had, along with his mentor Manet, a lot of politics in his pictures, from the Steam Engines remarking about the industrial age to the personal politics of his life in Paris and the Simulacrum of his paradise he created for himself in Giverny and his paintings of optical space that created new realities, through light and his cateracts. I do think that painting can give new light to preconceived notions of landscapes and space, and make new realities out of oil that are real—in the mind of both the artist and the viewer. Like Kermit exists beyond Jim Henson’s hand, the world of Monet’s water lilies is alive in the worlds consciousness, and when you view his earlier paintings, his perceived reality becomes your own and you aretransported into the romantic space of his perceived world that becomes alive in your imagination—and strange worlds also exist in his tempered strokes that, like Cézanne’s interior negative space of rocks and foliage, give us an insight also into dream worlds beyond the painters consciousness that seem palpable and alive.

Da Vinci and many of the Old Masters would say that if you want to do something “new,” turn to Nature. Nature has elements in it that you can see afresh—I definitely believe in the old adage that you can’t make things up better than they already exist in space. Kant would discuss how his notion of Beauty was something that was able to emulate nature. Instead of painting the natural world of the circus of Fashion, post my assignment (which turned out great and was published in what turned out to be the Ingrid Sischy’s last issue), I turned to my world of nature. Andrew and I have his grandfather’s wondrous old cabin from the ‘50’s in the middle of nowhere—Riverside California, in the desert, now near big box stores and trailers with retirees and crystal meth labs, where we love to retreat, but sometimes yearn for more secluded areas where you really feel the old world of California. Nearby our unincorporated town of Meadowbrook, near Lake Elsinore, off the 15 and past cul de sac suburbia’s is Tenaja, in Murrieta. It looks like Bonanza up there, with rolling meadows and natural parks of Oak trees, far from the burbs and strip malls, and more like what California must have been when people first settled there. We sometimes dream of buying land there to one day build a home, and actually extensively became obsessed with this, although not knowing how we would really afford it. This is an image of a plot of land in the middle of this nowhere, one we deemed Two Oaks (Castles in the Sky). It is on a terrace of land that you have to go up a steep, turning road, part of the property—there is no gas or electric—you would have to bring it up there—and the road is just a dirt road—which we would also have to pave to make practicable. After we were to do


Two Oaks (Castles in the Sky), 2008 oil on linen 22 x 30 inches Collection of James Hyman and Leslie Weisberg


all this, in addition to buying the land itself, we would have to build a house. One day we would LOVE to afford to do this, but for now, and back in ’08, it is still just a dream, but I thought it would be great to literally paint our dream, and live there in my imagination, embracing the nature and all it had to offer about California and that part of nature, but also project upon it our deep romantic feelings for the place, the area (where Andrew’s family all live nearby), and our love for the land, for each other, and our future together.

a 1300 square foot space for $1300 a month on 46th st, between 5th and 6th avenues—a no man’s land a night, and during the day, squalor with businessmen and tourists. It was a strange place—construction workers would ask us “why do you want to live here, this isn’t Africa” looking at holes in the ceiling, but we had a vision. However, the vision was thwarted—one of the first days we moved in, something fell on our poodle puppy when we were moving stuff for the floor people, and killed her. We came back from the vet with blood on our clothes, devastated, when two evil, dead looking men invited us into their apartment downstairs. Showing us this red, velveteen wallpaper they asked us which we liked best, and asked us “what we did for a living.” They were clearly mobsters, but not the cool kind you see in movies—they looked like they would, and probably did, kill people, and they were opening a bordello underneath our apartment.


I’m pro-PC, pro-sex worker in theory, but these tired, haggard looking women would appear every night up our stairway, and there would be loud, demonic disco music playing all night. Andrew fell into a deep depression, and I was having a Holden Caulfield “mendacity” moment with the artworld—I didn’t want to make work that was merely about expressing myself to this seemingly very rarified audience, and wanted to be more like my heroes, the poet Arthur Rimbaud, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and the rest. So I pulled myself out of the artworld, taking all my work out of all the galleries, and with Andrew’s encouragement, we packed our bags and moved to California, where we had to wait a summer for the poor woman and their children to leave our new place—they hadn’t paid rent in months and Andrew’s mom, who sold us the cabin, which was her settlement in a divorce from Andrew’s delinquent dad. She was a truant landlord, and hadn’t been there in a very long time—this family had literally thrown garbage out their window and were living in over nine tons of it—old diapers, swing sets, cans and tires that Andrew and I cleaned out, planted trees, painted and repaired the home while I worked as a teacher at my UC Irvine, my old grad school. It truly became a beautiful place that we transformed, and the spirit of Andrew’s grandfather was felt, in addition to the spirit of the nature of the place, which we cultivated, and raised chickens and ducks from hatchlings, and got another German Shepherd, Rachel, to be a companion to our dog Julian, and we felt transported. I began painting “en plein air,” like my Impressionist heroes—the content of the work I felt was that we were two gay men, living together in a rural nowhere California, forging our lives together and our future, while not quite “off grid,” in the boonies of sorts. This painting was created in the apotheosis of this time, where, like Monet in a blighted Giverny, I was using the landscape to project my thoughts and feelings onto the place, really as a meditation for myself, something the Iconscapes painted in Gotham hadn’t achieved— with Nature as my backdrop, I was able to reach blissful other realms, where in this work I see unconsciously derived figures ascending into a heaven, with our dogs and chickens in the foreground. I love this painting and while I enjoy now living in NYC and visiting our even more beautiful cabin often, this work will always represent an ideal and a vision that I will continue always to strive for and hopefully someday reach.

What Julian Sees, 1999 oil on canvas 24 x 20 inches Collection of Sir Fraser and Lady Morrison, New York

In 1999 we had given everything we knew up to move to Andrew’s grandfather’s broken down cabin Riverside California, in the middle of a desert that had long been the home of many poor man’s castles—nestled throughout the unincorporated neighborhood of Meadowbrook were eclectic small homes with little plots of land that had ostriches, goats, horses, crystal meth labs, ZZ Top characters that would give you looming looks. We had been doing well in New York City—sort of. I had my solo debut at Jay Gorney Modern Art, then a prominent gallery in Soho on street level when Soho was hot and Jay had a hot gallery. My teacher Lari Pittman and UCI confidant Cathy Opie showed there (she humbly worked the cage when I was in grad school before she soon became famous) and I showed newly devised, roughly-hewn figurative paintings next to “figurative abstract” paintings I deemed Iconscapes, as I am a son of psychoanalyst and have a long standing penchant for the unconscious, and wanted to project this onto my figurative works, having them break into abstraction, and my abstract works come together as unconsciously derived figures, like living dreams. This became a notorious show, hopefully ahead of its time, as collectors, who were engulfed with the Art and Fashion era of art—where most painting had to look like photos— and those who knew my work knew me for tightly and smartly rendered drawings and paintings that had appropriated styles to conjure post modern antecedents embedded into narratives. But artists, especially painters, loved it, totally “got” what I was doing—there were Marsden Hartley, Soutine, and Nicholas De Stael shows uptown, for some collectors, this didn’t translate downtown, where especially early in ones career, you can be judged more about how accurately you can portray something in your rendering to look “real,” or like a photo, that how one can veer away from this and show you the good stuff of emotion, painterliness, and abstraction projected into figurative forms and outwardly content like most of the best of art history. In any event, I actually had done fairly well for myself, making a name however notorious, and had begun to show in some other honored galleries such as Luhring Augustine and Mary Boone. We had moved from our tiny squalor on Christopher Street to

After a year of living there we realized how truly romantic, but utopic, it was—if the people at Walmart knew what we were about theywould probably club us, and if I was wired to “do this,” be a fine artist, I better get on with it and realize that wonderful beauty that can be the artworld and its people—and came back to New York with my tale between my legs, the prodigal son. Ultimately I’m glad we moved there to create a foundation for ourselves, it is our getaway and hopefully our future, and our heart and soul resides in this incredible place which hopefully is also in this painting.



wheel, have them instinctively choose different bands of color/ texture, with the ultimate goal of having the work go “whoopeewoopie-woo” or for it to have this energy of movement, push and pull, moving back and forth. It’s a terrific exercise for them to employ different affects of color theory in a concrete, fun way, and its amazing the personalities that individuate each of their works, that are always different in emotive tone and texture and palate—super constructive in having them not only learn about color and materials, but a simple, direct way for them to express who they are in works. 

This large Iconscape was one of the last that I had created—I was able to show these in major group shows, including Luhring Augustine, Matthew Marks, Pat Hearn, and in my shows at Jay Gorney, however, as I had become known as the “circle painting guy” in part, they began to feel a bit like production, and I always want to keep my work vital and pertinent. But this one I really wanted to fly, to be intense, and when we had it in our home, Andrew insisted I turn it around, as he couldn’t handle how vibrant it was, something I felt must have been the success of the painting. After my Iconscapes were somewhat misunderstood, but also appreciated by the inner art world and by other artists, it was vindicating that the good people at Knoedler gave me a project room show of these works from the 90’s in 2011, and a wonderful couple bought this painting. Long after being stored in our cabin in California, and brought it to their penthouse directly across from the Whitney! Like a beacon, I feel that it was calling the Whitney to it, or visa-versa, and it was incredible to have it finally travel across the street to the installation. I am inspired every day by Picasso’s Guernica, and serendipitously, feel that the entire install resembles Guernica a bit, and like his lightbulb (of God?) in that composition, I feel that this is like a giant light, god’s eye, or mandala (traveling up from the Dalai Lama at Radio City Music Hall beneath it, becoming manifest and in the real space of the room?), and the heart, or light, of the installation of the composition.

Untitled (Large Iconscape), 1997 oil on linen 50 x 60 inches Collection of Sir Fraser and Lady Morrison, New York

When I had my breakout show “Pinocchio the Big Fag,” my thesis show from UC Irvine that had traveled to Rick Jacobsen’s seminal Kiki Gallery in San Francisco, the Drawing Center in New York, and finally Richard Telles Gallery in Los Angeles, I had appropriated different styles to create a salon of drawings that were like different plates from children’s books, as if my version of Pinocchio had existed along with the history of the original. From there, I really began, in a Post-Modern conceit, to appropriate styles to harbor the good baggage of how style can carry content, and so on, and had become somewhat known for having an agile hand, and tight rendering control. But during this time of the early 90’s, I was reading the first of the John Richardson Picasso biographies, and realized if Picasso wanted to create a still-life one day, he would do this, the next day if he wanted to do a portrait, he would create one, the next day a synthetic cubist image, he would paint this. Picasso said (I’m paraphrasing) “if you draw a circle without the aid of a compass, the imperfection is your style” and also “if you copy the Old Masters, how it’s not like the Old Masters is what is “you” about it..”. When my husband Andrew got into grad school in New York, I drove our old Daihatsu back to the city from LA, and I was listening to Brian Wilson’s Beach Boy’s, and I realized in his genius, Wilson was able to fuse the words/lyrics of his songs with the music to become one. When I arrived in NYC, I really felt that I wanted to get the “batteries that were operating the engine” of my different styles, to be able to get to the core, the emotive truth, of what those images was about. Why was I art directing myself in all these appropriations, instead of, if it was possible, to aestheticize pure feeling? I felt in a post Post Modern world, paintings COULD be windows onto other worlds, that paintings COULD be emotional, and have a “life of their own.” Instead of Jasper John’s targets, amazing Duchampian moves in painting for their time, but also subdued graphic images that were about their own objecthood than portals into space, could I make a work that had it’s own internal energy? Inspired somewhat by Van Gogh’s lights and stars, and even just the notion that supposedly “crazy people” drew and painted circles (in addition to Louise Bourgeois insomnia drawings) I started to create circle paintings and drawings (and other automatic renderings from my unconscious that I deem “Iconscapes”), that I wanted to have vacillate back and forth, like the “batteries were included” and that the painting would have a life of its own. I love Op Art, as I think when we are perceiving those illusions, although of course the painting itself isn’t moving (unless its kinetic!) when we become conscious of our own minds doing the work of the visceral sensation the work induces, it can create the sublime moment of self awareness and self objectification. I also still teach in drawing and painting foundation classes the “circle drawing/painting” where I have students put down a dot of color, and from that, after learning color theory and the color

Act Three C1

The Dalai Lama Teaching the Diamond Cutter Sutra and Seventy Verses on Emptiness at Radio City Music Hall Oct 14, 2007, 2008
 oil on linen
 50 x 66 inches Collection of Dana Schutz and Ryan Johnson

From appropriating imagery to paint from, inspired by Post Modernism and the Pictures Generation, to appropriating film stills (inspired in part by Roland Barthes’ great text “the Third Meaning”), to appropriating from historical photos, I realized that the more I was able to get to the source of the image, to draw from it the emotive and atmospheric weight of the image, the more “real” the image was, the more rich incredible things I was able to perceive, feel, and paint from the image. 

Although I’m


not religious, per se, I’m a pretty spiritual person, and if there is one religion that makes sense to me, it would be Buddhism. A lot of my fellow Semiotics friends from Brown have become Buddhists! If part of Semiotics was about the power of language, how “language is the software that programs the hard drive of your brain and consciousness to perceive the world,” Buddhism is the ancient ideology of this—everything exists in the word that you see, but perhaps not in the way that you perceive it. I remember in a Semiotics class at Brown, I asked my professor Michael Silverman in a moment of nihilistic defeat, “if everything adds up to zero, what’s the point of it?” and Michael retorted “Well, it’s pretty interesting to talk about!.” Buddhism for me gives a deep spiritual component to all this...

I’ve seen the Dalai Lama speak on a number of occasions, and while he always starts out “cute” and “sounding like Yoda,” very quickly he gets very deep and complex into philosophy, and it’s almost impossible to keep writing notes and you have to give in and just listen very thoughtfully and carefully. By the third day of this teaching, few people had come back, and the feeling was very woozy and transcendent: it felt as if we were all on a giant spaceship taking off into another dimension, especially at this point where the Dalai Lama was deep into chanting prayer. If you believe Tibetan Buddhism, he is the reincarnation of the Chenrezig Buddha in the thangka painting behind him, and in fact, the whole scene started resembling the painting, with the video screens on either side of him like the small Buddhas on clouds on either side, and the architecture of the hall like a giant mandala, and the lens flares (I like to paint all the aspects of the photo as if they were real!) like floating mandalas throughout the scene. I really wanted to capture the transcendent, ecstatic experience of being there, which was truly transformative, and listened to audio books of the Dalai Lama while painting this, along with many cd’s of Tibetan Buddhist prayers. 

A Buddhist would say that a chair isn’t necessarily a chair, it’s “pieces of wood bolted together, etc., and if you stand on it, it’s a ladder!” and I use this analogy when teaching students about drawing and painting things “as they really are” to objectify what you are perceiving in a manner beyond language—when you are delineating negative space to perceive positive space you are literally reading “between the lines” and thinking “outside the box” of perceived ways of looking at things and learned language, which can really obstruct how you create visions of “reality.” When painting this, the interdependence of the elements really came across to me, in the micromanaging of positive and negative shapes, forms, color, etc. and it was a lengthy, but amazing experience that I hope gives the work a life of its own and emulates the experience. Fun fact, Richard Gere is the gentleman with the white hair and dark suit to the right of His Holiness, and at one point, the Tibetan institute contacted me about using the image, but never followed through! I hope that His Holiness might have seen this image (or the other images I have created of him and of the Karmapa!) and would have approved!


Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., 2006 oil on linen 26 ½ x 22 inches Collection of Darryl and Alan Reichbart

Originally created for a show entitled “Kings and Queens,” I painted this image in homage to a woman who, despite her humble origins, changed the world by in 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, refusing to obey the bus driver’s order that she give up her seat in the colored section of the bus to a white passenger after the white section was filled. Although she wasn’t the only person during this time to resist segregation, NAACP organizers thought she was the best candidate for seeing through a court challenge after her subsequent arrest for civil disobedience. As an international icon of resistance to racial segregation, she worked with Dr. King, who was a new minister in the area, to gain international support for the civil rights movement. For me growing up learning about the movement and civil rights, Rosa Parks was a very warm and compassionate “motherly” figure that helped me and so many others understand, even by just images of her and her smile, the incredible need for all people to treat each other with respect and equality. While I also loved Martin Luther King, he was more at a regal, patriarchal, and “great leader” remove---while of course I respected and admired him, Rosa Parks for me was a direct and immediate persona to cathect to as a child would a mother or female figure, and help me to emotionally understand what had happened and how far we still needed (and need) to progress for equality. Through different stages of my life, from traveling through Montgomery and visiting the sites of the movement in college, to now (after painting many images towards this subject matter), I continue to learn (while painting this and similar subjects, I listen to audio books about the civil rights movement and more) and understand the complexities and struggles of this time that continue to permeate to this day. In the installation of “My American Dream” these two figures help to forge the countries ideology of where my husband and I can be married and happily live and be accepted as a couple, and where hopefully we all can be free to be who we are and live the lives that we want to without fear of subjugation and hate. I love Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King and their legacy, and hope this painting does some justice as an homage to them, my feelings and sentiments towards who they were, and acts as a historical painting to remind all of their importance in addition to their humanness.

Inspiration. Edward Hopper and his wife used to go to the movies every day, and he was inspired for his work to create images that were like film stills, in addition to embracing the architecture of classic New York buildings and interiors, that have also inspired me so much.

Inspiration. In the museum in Brussels, they have this knockout little painting study of Rubens painting studies of a Moor, whom he also painted later as a portrait, which was really an edifying surprise to see there, or a person of color (who is not in a servile position) in any Western museum. I love the dignified approach to his subject, who seems like a real person that you could know, painted with a warmth and style that supercedes his larger commissioned and cooler work. I also very much love the Velázquez painting at the Met of Juan de Pareja, who was at the time his slave of Moorish descent, who was an assistant


in his workshop. Velazquez painted this to impress his Italian colleagues to get commissions, and de Pareja has such a proud, dignified demeanor, you could see why others would be convinced by the work to have their portraits painted. De Pareja was a great artist in his own right, and Velázquez freed him, and had him display his own work when the King came by the studio, and de Pareja had a career in his own right. It’s one of a kind in this section of the Met, and I always take my students to view and to discuss it. I don’t want to make the same mistakes of most of art history, that deny the agency of people of color, and want to paint the people that inspired me and my world equally, disregard less of gender, race, creed, or color. I hope to bring a warmth but also respect to all my subjects.

listened to audio books about Eleanor, the Roosevelt’s, her and her husband’s legacy and JFK’s, and learned much about the foundation of our contemporary view of woman’s rights and how they were helped along by her, and how much of our current times had been productively created by these great Americans.



Young Gregory Peck, 2005 oil on linen 20 x 24 inches Collection of Shelley Kaminer Fine Art, New York

Gregory Peck has always been a hero of mine, and I created this work for a show called Heroes, that was in Brussels around the time of my 40 th birthday, where I wanted to assemble the heroes of primarily American culture to show the world at large what was great about these people gathered together to serve as models. I grew up with Peck on TV in the many heroic roles he played, obviously and especially that of Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. Even though, with the recent release of the Harper Lee “sequel” reveals the character to be perhaps less than stellar, the Atticus of the film that Peck inhabited was the bastion of integrity in his small town of Maycomb Alabama, defending a black man in a very racist 1930’s, and to treat people fairly, turn the other cheek, and to stand for what you believe. Certainly watching this film when it was repeated on television growing up had a huge affect on me, and seeing Peck in roles like in the Yearling and more gave me models, beyond those of my own great father and family and community, what it was like to be a “gentleman” and a positive idea of masculinity in the world. I was particularly attracted, to, to this particular image, as it seems that Peck is wearing a flannel shirt, in an environment that synaesthetically reminded me of the Colorado I grew up in—you could almost smell the fresh clean mountain air that was crisp enough to make you wear the humble and warm flannel shirt. I’m a big believer in Joseph Campbell, who, to paraphrase, mentioned that “an artist’s job is to tell stories for a culture to understand itself in order for that culture to progress” and Peck chose roles throughout his career, beyond Atticus, in particular because he thought they were proper role models in great material—of course he played some “baddies” too for range, but he is a consummate performer and man—outspoken against the blacklisting that happened in Hollywood during the McCarthy era, against the Vietnam war, and used his power of integrity to back the Democratic and liberal issues of his and our time fearlessly. He was a great artist because of all this, perhaps putting his work in his life and his life in his work made his acting even better and our world better as much as an artist can be of some influence. And he was always handsome!

Eleanor Roosevelt and JFK (The Raft at Tilsit), 2006 oil on linen 28 x 28 inches Collection of the Ann and Mel Schaffer Family I created this painting for the show Kings & Queens as I realized that many of my works would “employ” famous personas for their positive historical baggage and weight, but when I painted someone who truly had a major impact on the culture, the feelings it conjured within me were powerful and I learned something while painting, in addition to creating something of a history painting that not just recorded a moment, but hopefully brought a life to the moment full of feeling and energy. I’m a big believer in bringing more Strong Female Protagonists to my work and to art and art history in general, and am consistently inspired to paint women in these roles, although of course I could always do even more. Eleanor Roosevelt has always been an incredible figure to me—not only was she own of the most powerful first ladies, but it’s quite possible she was a lesbian, or at least bisexual, and long after her husband was gone she continued to be a force in America. She was so instrumental, in her columns that she wrote and in her personal as a public figure, that when JFK was running for President, he had to get her approval in order to win, although she had been backing Adlai Stevenson. Kennedy went to her cottage Val-Kill, and brought along his assistants as he “didn’t want to be alone on the raft at Tisit,” referring the a historic meeting between a great Russian and Prussian who met on this river between Germany and Russia, post-Napoleon in about 1823 where they proceeded to divide up Europe and destroy Poland. The meeting, a tuna fish casserole lunch, proved to be very successful, and at the end, JFK had her support (along with a lot of motherly advice) and he went on of course to win the presidency. Part of the challenge of working from black and white photos is to invent the color, which I did here, inspired, too, by my own memories of our cabin home in California, and the warm feeling that the image generated in me, full of hope and aspirations, the legacy of one great leader passing the baton to the next, with something that looks like a Matisse painting in the background! As usual, I



in San Francisco. Even though we wore primarily shorts and t-shirts on this very hot drive without air-conditioning, I packed this “costume” to take with us with the explicit idea to take this image for my yearbook photo—a madras sport coat and purple shirt, the khaki pants, and topsiders—the ultimate “preppy outfit” to go with my hair sprayed helmet hair! The preppy look was at its peak during this time, and truly this was my good summer outfit, but it was fittingly ironic to pose “as a GQ model” on a trip to see the Dead in California on the rocks of the Bay Area. I thought I was playing a role, but looking back on it, I was playing myself, because I was a preppy kid who also enjoyed this kind of music and SOME of the lifestyle that went with it (honestly, Tim’s hippy brother in Basalt and the way he lived sort of freaked me out—and I made a mandate I would never go completely in that direction).

Me in ’83, 2010 oil on linen 30 x 22 inches Collection of Angie and Drew Nadler

I’m glad now, many years later, that the Grateful Dead has become such a recognized institution, and that the music is almost universally accepted to be incredible, ground breaking, and important, and that not all fans of the band are seen as dropouts or hippies or losers—that you can have your cake and eat it too, and enjoy great art, liberal ideas and attitudes, and also be successful and help to sway the mainstream to having progressive attitudes and ideologies that make the world a better place for everyone, and also acknowledge a space for the transcendent, for the philosophical, for cutting edge and creative visionaries. While painting this it was fun to listen to the music of my youth, of course the Dead but many of the other bands in this great era of new wave, punk, and other pop music that is now seen as one of the pinnacles of pop music creativity. I love Cézanne, and how he is able to get lost in projecting his unconscious into the landscape, especially in the rocks in one of the paintings in particular I cherish at the Met., and it was fun to get lost in the rocks here—the fusion band jazzlike style of the Dead helps to promote transcendent attitudes in musical language that go beyond representation, which hopefully is what is happening. In analog photography, processed I am sure by a local Fotomat; the sepia toned colors of the original image invoke their own kind of synaesthetic nostalgia.

This is a painting of a photo I had asked a friend of mine to take, in the Bay area, I believe off the coast in Ocean Beach, San Francisco near the Cliff House. I was a Junior at my big public (over 3,000 kids!) high school in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado—Cherry Creek High School (the same school that was used as a location for the Matt Dillon kids-take-over-theschool film Over the Edge!). I wanted to create a senior portrait for the yearbook that was unique, and had planned this “film shoot” in advance. Our school was pretty conservative—we had very few people of color for a big public school, and many of the students were Young Republicans and so on… I had been a young Dead Head, however, which quickly segued into being a young closeted Punk Rocker, New Waver, and what have you—but I always kept the transgressive elements under wraps to a degree—also I had the very strong notion I was gay, and kept this in the closet most of all, even to myself, not wanting to acknowledge, in this conservative environment and (looking back upon it) time. Although I was outspoken as a “super lefty liberal,” I couldn’t go there—yet. I was president of the high school radio (KCRK—“Colorado’s Most Progressive High School Radio” was our slogan!), the art editor of the acclaimed paper The Union Street Journal—where I was also the campus cartoonist, and I enjoyed other extracurricular activities such as forensics, and more, skiing on the weekend with my friends, and enjoying life on all sides—hanging out with the punks, the “freaks,” and the “popular kids” including some of the “jocks”! It was all good to me—I was even elected Prom King! In any event, when people took photos of me I always had fun “posing as a GQ model” which I did tongue-in-cheek, knowing it was a pose that covered up much and had to do pointedly to surface, but also to ideas of what we would call performativity. Consciously or unselfconsciously I realized that I was playing a role, but at the same time, knew that what I was “playing” was actually who I was, that there is little divide between the two.

In the end, I ended up creating a more conceptual work for my yearbook that has stayed with me that I also recreated for this exhibition, however, this image is close to my heart. Like Diane Arbus, who always clicked an extra image or two after the one she publicly designated to her sitter as being the “one,” the one after this, when you model is more off-guard tends to be the best, as they are truly themselves, which is hopefully what is happening here— where I’m truly myself, a preppy punk rock deadhead, climbing off the rocks, not knowing that 27 years later I would come into my own even more painting the picture of what I was projecting: that all my worlds would converge as one in my future, and hoping it would come true.

C6 I had journeyed with my friend Tim Peters, a fellow Dead Head whom I met one summer when we were both going to France on a high-school organized long trip where you stayed with a family in a small town, and traveled through much of the country, exploring and learning more of the language and customs. The first day we met, at another school in preparation for the trip, we both mentioned that we were glad we were coming back in time to see the Grateful Dead at Red Rocks—a historically amazing place to see any band but especially this one, and became friends. Like many Dead Heads, Tim had an older sibling that introduced the band’s music to him (I was into the band initially through another friend who had an older sister when I was in middle school), and we thought, the summer after our trip to France, that we would rode trip to Ventura California to see them, and on the way, visit Tim’s other siblings at Basalt, near Aspen, and up the road from Ventura

Baby and I on 46th Street in ’99, 2012 oil on linen 22 x 30 inches Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus


This painting is from a photo that my partner (now husband) Andrew took of me when we lived for a short time on 46th street between 5th and 6th avenues, holding our Yorkshire Terrier Baby. I’m wearing a turtleneck shirt that I got as a result for posing for the artist Jack Pierson for a Matsuda Interview magazine campaign, and behind me is a Brown University cap (where I went to college), underneath this a Pinocchio “calendar”/ hanging piece (that my friend Michael Kovnat brought back to me from Italy, significant as my breakthrough show was called “Pinocchio the Big Fag”), and importantly, behind me are paintings I was doing at the time, from our roof and window in this haunted apartment (hence the open door to the closet, like the infamous Ralph Gibson surreal photo on the Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures inner sleeve!). As I have written elsewhere, this was a strange time in our life, a difficult period that looking back is still hard to deal with, but seems more romantic now as we were young. I painted it on the occasion of the dog Baby’s passing, as she was a sweet dog that we bequeathed to Andrew’s grandmother, who cherished her, and Baby ruled the household that Andrew’s mom and sister lived in with the grandmother for most of her life! When Andrew’s grandmother was failing, and in the hospital, there is a great story that she woke up one night crying out for “baby!” “Baby”! The nurses all thought she was confused for her own real life baby daughters of her past, as she was suffering from Alzheimer’s. Little did they know she was actually crying out for her little dog she loved so much and who kept her grounded and conscious during the last years of her life.

less micromanaged, but in the same manner that Baby’s hair is breaking into its own abstraction I would like to think these paintings also did at the time and if you look at them again now. I do think you can have both—and some of the greatest painters allowed their subconscious drive their brush as much as their consciousness, and in micromanaged moments of most of the old masters through the modernists, as they were able to exceed the representational aspects of what they were painting and had their unconscious be able to bring life and ineffable subliminal aspects into the piece, hopefully you can have your cake and eat it too with oil painting. If oil painting was first created to make things look more “real” in the plastic properties of the paint, couldn’t this do the same for dreams and uncanny illuminations from your imagination? Painting this work and repainting the old works behind me, I still see figures and forms that unconsciously were projected into the paintings in the background, and as much as I would like to think this serves a legend, or key to the map of my biography, also within my artistic career it serves to show in the present state of my work (or at least from 2012) I’m still painting the world around me, and with a 0/3 teeny tiny brush, allowing my unconscious to spill forth renderings from both my critical mind and my imagination. This was a deep time for us, and I hope a deep painting is the result of it, filled with the now romantic hubris of this era (we soon “retired,” pulling all my work out of the art world and moving to the middle of the desert in California—before I moved back a year later—but more about this in other paintings), but also the bittersweet sentiment of having lost a dog gaining another, Baby who really was our baby for us and Andrew’s family, and for her recent loss in 2012 after being a great dog for so many for a healthy lifetime.

At the time of the photo, we had moved from our tiny apartment on Christopher Street to a huge 1300 square foot apartment that cost only 1300 hundred dollars a month—but actually ended up costing much more than this. The first days we were moving in, after much reconstruction of this place that had been abandoned and was in a sad state, something fell on our poodle puppy and killed her. If this wasn’t tragic enough, when we came back from the vet, literally with blood on our clothes, evil, dead-eyed men beckoned us into the apartment below us, asking what kind of sickly, red-velveteen wallpaper we preferred, as they were mobsters who were opening up a bordello. Andrew, after I told them I was an artist and teacher, mentioned to them after they asked us what we did that he worked at the John Jay School of Criminal Justice, which was true (he was teaching English, as part of his graduate school). When we asked them what they did, they grunted, “ah, travel!?!” indicating that they weren’t too happy with us living there, either. It was horrible, as haggard looking women when slump up the stairs each night, and demonic disco music played as god knows what was happening downstairs. On the roof, where I would retreat to do these “en pleine air” paintings, there was a tombstone that said “Raphael” on it! Andrew fell into a deep depression, and I was having a disillusioned time with the artworld. I had my NYC solo debut at Jay Gorney with a show that was notorious for exhibiting roughly hewn paintings (after I had broken out with super tight post-modern renderings) of figurative and abstract works hung side by side, wanting to show how my unconscious was leaking out of the figurative works based on what the subject matter conjured within me, and the abstract works culminated into figurative elements, like in a dream. Painters and other artists really “got” the show, which I would like to think was ahead of its time, but some of the collectors and artworld didn’t quite yet—and although I was doing basically well—showing also in blue chip venues such as Mary Boone and Luhring Augustine, in the hubris of my youth I didn’t appreciate all I had, and romantically felt that I hadn’t wanted to speak to such a rarified audience, but to the “people”!? In these paintings, which still look good to me all these years later, I had begun to synaesthize what I was about, as they were representational works that broke into abstraction, more expressionistic that what I do today and


Clipper Ship “Comet,” 2007-8 oil on linen 26 x 38 inches

This is an appropriation from a Currier and Ives Print of the same title, of one of the fastest ships of their time that went through a terrible storm and famously survived, to become one of the most famous ships in the world. This originally was in a show called “Good Leaders, Endangered Species, Ships at Sea,” because, on the ebb of the W era, I felt like we needed Good Leaders, because they were like an Endangered Species, in a World that was like a Ship lost at Sea. Luckily Obama became President, and I felt we were a little less lost at that point, but at the time, the ship seemed like America, strong and powerful, but without a great captain to guide us through the impending doom of the economic recession, and our discursive relationships with the other powers of the world that threatened us. But like this ship that made it, I felt that America would make it, and will continue to be one of the great countries of our moment and of history. Also maritime pictures are I think so popular as they are about freedom, of the boat becoming a proxy for the person who is looking at it, and it takes you on a journey to another


place. One of my favorite paintings is the sailboat picture behind the couch at the beginning of the Simpsons, and I feel that it emulates that if you feel like your are stuck in the cul-de-sac suburbia of your Springfield, like the Simpsons, who might look at that painting as a symbol of freedom and escape, that looking at art can also be a talisman for transcendent journeys. After I painted this I was astonished to see that ironically, this image also makes an appearance in a horror movie staring John Cusak and Samuel L. Jackson called 1408 in a hotel room that becomes haunted in a surreal way, and they show the sailboat painting in the room changed to this—like the stretched paintings by Disney animator Mac Davis in the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland! But the original Currier and Ives print I believe was about the hope for America to survive all storms like the power of the boat, and allegorically for me, if the boat could be like a person, that we can survive the trials of our life and come out the stronger for them, and perhaps still win at the end of the day! It was also interesting to make a painted image from a print, bringing out the colors of what could be a two-dimensional printed image into a three dimensional oil painted plastic world, that also hopefully carries with it the depth and dimension of myself, as I painted fervently through the work to help my own self into a better world of a more exalted plane through the act of painting it.

Store and the building—a real New York story! Bottino’s was already down the street, but on the north side of the block there was a Cuban restaurant, a check cashing store, and numbers guys standing outside preying on the people living in the HUD housing just up the block. The check cashing place and Cuban restaurant are long gone, the numbers guys have moved around the corner, but Nicole Kidman lives down the block, and Kate Hudson’s daughter goes to the exclusive Avenues private school that used to be a warehouse on the block across from us, and the Highline and all the fancy residence apartment complexes have made many of the smaller galleries move back to the LES, Harlem, and elsewhere. As I type this, the area around the corner of this painting is currently changing, with huge skyscrapers and big box stores opening in buildings being built right now, a new subway is opening, and we’re hoping we’ll be able to stay in our little humble abode! Looking from this corner, however, it still looks somewhat the same five years later—as Port Authority, not likely to move anywhere is in the foreground, and many of the same buildings, albeit with newer ones in the background still stand. But this is also still a slightly, for the moment, sleazy area—abandoned somewhat at night, just blocks away from Times Square but very much its destitute old world self—while not a place one might want to hang out, it still feels to me what it must have felt like in the 70’s or before, when the city was broke and punk rock and great art was happening because perhaps of this. While painting, I listened to the entire (albeit abridged!) Dante’s Divine Comedy as I felt it perfect for the subject matter. Port Authority and still that section of 42nd street and area couldn’t get much closer to one of the nine circles of hell—a real Inferno, and in the thirties, this section of west Manhattan feels a bit like Purgatory, and of course, on the highest level of skyscrapers and sky—and the beams of light they are projecting, seem like a bountiful, enviable Paradise. Painting from digital photos, printed on my good Epson printer, I’m able to get a lot of detail from the pixels, but with digital imagery, it seems different than analogue when capturing the all-overness of it, and also how it is able to capture light with a lens flare like quality. It had been a rainy night, and drops had fallen on my lens, making some of the droplets you see her, and the light filtered through the dewy-night made the lights feel even in the photo like those stars and lanterns in a Van Gogh painting, with emanata spiriting away in all directions from a light source. When painting from contemporary technology such as this I hope it contemporizes my work—these affects wouldn’t have appeared in other photobased works of the past, a Vuillard, for instance. But working from photos post-Richter, I want to, instead of painting the surface of the photo, penetrate the surface, and move inside of it, creating windows onto other worlds within the plastic space of the oil paint, thinking my thoughts and having hopefully my unconscious also projected into the image. Hence, I like to paint all the affects of photography as if they are “real,” micromanaging as much as I can with a tiny brush, really looking deep inside the nuances of the image to pull out as much information as I can, painting faithful to the image, and trusting it, to make optical space that might otherwise be unknown to us, using the affects as talisman to reach my inner mind. Looking at the lens flares, whilst at the same time listening to Dante, they seemed almost like halos, the bright lights like angels, and sometimes in the negative spaces, a kind of dream like world that could resemble a heaven or hell depending on your mood—there is stuff in there and although I know they are perhaps just merely technical distortions of the lens mixed with water, its fun to try to paint the head of pin of light to “see” all the angels dancing on the periphery of it, or the buildings “opening up” to reveal other unconscious dream like worlds. I hope that this allegorically represents New York as its own “city of lights” of illuminate and other dynamic, creative people that inhabit it, but loving the Symbolists and Impressionists, and of course Manet, who


38th and 10th, 2010 oil on linen 40 x 72 inches Collection of Robert Crabb

In this painting I was inspired directly from the T.J. Clark book The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers who discussed how Manet and impressionists he inspired sought not to depict the Paris of the new gentrified city that we still enjoy as tourists, but the real Paris, that of the sidelines, the deserted streets, of the people who had been shunned away, the true city underneath the sheen of the newly devised city—embracing the working class and people that were denied agency and the places they inhabited. I love New York City for all that it has to offer, but like the Paris of Manet’s time, it has quickly become even more gentrified than when I first moved here in the late ‘80’s, where it is difficult for the poor and small businesses to maintain residence here. Although I embrace change and many of the new “improvements,” still also embrace the grit an memory of the Gotham I knew and loved growing up, romanticizing the bohemian zeal of the old New York, and the ageless quality behind the current gilding. We moved to Chelsea when it was on the brink of significant change—on the corner of 25th and 10 th, just down the street from where this image was taken. There was a post-it note on the Pizza Store saying “apartment available—call Louis” with his number—I called him, whose real name was Mohammed, and he was one of the Egyptian brothers that owned the Pizza


painted his real life surroundings with such a critical eye and voice, but also letting his emotions and MEMORY lead the way, is a wonderful model for making works that are content rich but also hopefully compelling formal enough to conjure real feelings in the viewer.

personal to a work, that it was part of a pre-existing order of an artistic language that was understood to be a part of a power system, a chain of events projected onto objects and art making were language was like a software system inserted into our hardware of our brains. That the artist didn’t necessarily have autonomy, couldn’t make something “original” or that had an authentic voice. I believe that everything does come through something, and of course, we understand things via the way we are taught to understand them and through the filters of what we already know, but if you know De Kooning, and you see a De Kooning scrawl on a napkin, you can TELL that it’s a De Kooning—there is a “signature” to how he makes a gesture, and the nuance of his line (in addition to his subject matter that can be consistent).


So upon arriving to New York, I started doing a lot of automatic drawing and painting, trying my best to eschew preordained styles, known ways of doing things, all that I had learned of copying the masters and styles and genres. What if I could make an image that had its own kinetic energy onto itself? That had a “life of its own”? I know that batteries derive their own energy by having coils of wire wrapped again and again over a core element, what if I could do this with images, creating something that could undulate via the form and light, color and texture of wrapping it into a circle, without an aid of a compass, again and again so it would have a life of its own? This began a whole series of these gestures. Coming from comics, and teaching them to, I love, teach, and cite the book Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud often. In it, he discusses the “power of the icon” where he mentions the power of the “happy face” or simplified, essentialized structure of an iconic face is its relatability. This is true for three reasons of human phenomena: the first is that we see faces in things as human being animals as a sort of survival skill—we need to see our mothers face to recognize her as Mom, when feeling thwarted, if you look someone directly in the face you can “stare them down.” The second is that we have a good idea of what other people look like, but a very fuzzy notion of what we ourselves look like—after we brush our teeth looking in the mirror in the morning we forget what we actually look like and might as well be a brain in a jar! The third is that we also animate inanimate objects—McCloud discusses when you use a crutch, it becomes a third leg, when you are driving a car, you become one with the car—when someone hits the car, you don’t say “someone hit my car!” you say “someone hit me”! So when you see a circle, or an iconic form that could be a face, first you may recognize, even in your inner mind, that it could be a face. Because you don’t know what other people look like, but you know what you yourself look like, it could be YOU. Because we tend to animate inanimate objects, perhaps once your relate to it as your face, you can BECOME that face, in an act of transcendence when you then FEEL the aesthetic way and world of that iconic face and inhabit that world.

Circle Iconscape, 1998 oil on linen 19 x 24 inches

In the late nineties, I had begun to show these circle “iconscapes” at Jay Gorney, Luhring Augustine, and other prominent galleries downtown. I had begun my career creating comic like images of tightly rendered drawings appropriating different styles and gestures for their historical baggage and weight to bring that content to my narratives. However, I had an epiphany when driving across country to come back to New York City after living for a year in Los Angeles upon graduating with my MFA at UC Irvine. Andrew, my partner (now husband!) had just gotten into graduate school in NYC, and I was driving our humble Daihatsu, loaded to the brim with our belongings, and listening to my favorite music, including Pet Sounds by Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. I had been successfully exhibiting, but had become tired of appropriating different styles to create my work, and had been reading the first of the John Richardson biographies of Picasso, where I was excited to read about how Picasso would change styles and genres not to quote something of the past, but merely when the mood would strike him, famously upon going with a new girlfriend, but more than this, to investigate everything there could be gained by seeking new territory and keeping himself engaged and interested. I thought “why am I art directing myself ” to create images? Why not just make something because I feel like it? And what was the through line that was consistent throughout the work—what was the “me” about it that you could tell I did it (as I was convinced there was, beyond mere conceptual conceits). Picasso said that if you draw a circle without the aid of a compass, its imperfection is what is “you” about it—and if you copy the Old Masters, how it isn’t like the Old Master you are copying is what is “you” about it. Thinking about this, but moreover, being moved by the music I was hearing made me change gears. Brian Wilson, when he is singing the song “You Still Believe in Me” goes into a reverie when he sings the line “I want to cry” holding the word cry, and making it lilt, as if he sounding like someone really crying—where the word itself becomes a sound that connotes an emotion that becomes the thing he is writing about—the signifier becomes the signified without any breach of the two in a melded semiotic sign. How could I make a work that isn’t an appropriation of another thing that actually IS thing it is supposed to be, where the signature of the work—my hand, came through without being part of another genre, to be a thing in itself? With a post-modern “death of the author” the art world I grew up in didn’t acknowledge that there was something

When Chinese monks did their screens and scrolls, they wanted to become, suture (or mask into, McCloud would say) the iconic image that they were drawing the figure as, to be transported in a act of maw, a sublime state, into the more complex world of nature they were also drawing in order to feel that nature, and wanted their viewer to have a similar experience. When you are meditating to a Tibetan thangka painting, you are supposed to concentrate on the very iconic figure of the Buddha within the painting, becoming them, and transporting yourself into their world in order to understand and to feel what that cosmology is all about to become more Buddha-like in your own state of being. When a cartoonist is drawing a figure, they often suture into the figure they are drawing, becoming them, relating their thoughts and feelings into the figure in a meditation—when they are drawing a figure that is smiling, they find themselves smiling and


so on. This is something that I teach every day when I’m teaching comics at the School of Visual Arts, and why so many of my students have an effective life in the meditation of what they are doing creating works for others to suture into in the published work they create for the world.

California, Andrew’s mom, who was a truant landlord of this place she won in a divorce settlement from Andrew’s deadbeat dad, hadn’t successfully been able to get the current tenants out—a single mother and her two children, who hadn’t paid rent in months, and who had literally thrown over nine tons of their garbage all around the property in years living there. It was sad, but this was a feral family in a blighted area that was the epicenter of the recession a few years later. Surrounded by trailer homes with retirees and crystal meth labs, it is also the home of some poor man’s castles, who raise ostriches, peacocks, and goats, in addition to undercover marijuana growing facilities and more. Andrew’s grandfather had the place since the ‘50’s, when it was quite beautiful and remote, a village of similar homes that were weekend getaways for the working class. Andrew and his family would pack their groceries and drive in on the weekends, and he had many fond memories of his childhood visiting the monkeys that were being raised by a kind family next door, and having wonderful adventures with his siblings and cousins with their pater familias grandfather and clan, and it was always his hope to live there as an adult, so in many ways it was our escape from New York and entrance into Andrew’s dream.

I was hoping that, with these circle paintings, and now in the micromanaged moments that often time subliminal faces and eyes, etc., appear in my work, that it allows the viewer in a similar fashion to “suture in.” Maybe in this circle painting they see an “eye” or “face” subconsciously, and focus on the center. As they do, as their inner minds struggle to locate themselves into one “face” or “head” or another, the image begins to vacillate in the viewers mind. As it does, they become compelled to suture in, feeling the ineffable emotions the palate evokes, the energy of the texture of the lines, and whatever narrative they might project onto this experience and the aesthetics of the image. I think in some sci-fi scenario, if we were able to project our dreams and see what they looked like, our dreams might be of “smiley faces” or simple forms like this—our imaginations can’t make up things better than they appear in space, and so our unconscious might think in symbols—and then we project meaning onto that form—“oh, that’s grandpa!” when we think after about what we “saw” in our dream. I think this is the power of comics and iconic images—it is an intrinsic language of our inner minds and thoughts—why sometimes a Disney cartoon can reach us in a manner that a more realistic, subjectively rendered CGI character can’t –that the icon speaks to both our conscious and unconscious at the same time. This is the power of most of Picasso’s “cartoons” as he was painting psychological iconic figures, and something I was trying to bring to the table and explore with these images.

There was a lot of work to be done, however. Once the mother found a job, she was able to move, and we moved in, removing all the garbage—diapers, cans, tires, and other garbage amongst half buried swing sets, an old bus---and the son had a habit of burying all kinds of broken toys and silverware, etc., in the once beautiful landscape. We repaired broken windows and walls, repainted the place and the sturdied the roof and more, much of the work done with our own hands. I was able to get teaching at UC Irvine, where I had gone to graduate school, and we planted many trees, literally and figuratively. I began to paint en pleine air, and like Monet and my other heroes, tried to converge the works I had been creating—both abstract and figurative, into one, using the map of the vision of our place, which became quite beautiful and recovered, as a way to project my memories and feelings, while also trying to harness the complicated matter of all there was to see into painting. It was bucolic and nice, but also we realized that this was a rural, conservative area, the heart of Amendment 8 and other homophobic and otherwise conservative peoples. Andrew, who is Latino and part Native American and I don’t look like brothers, and when we went to restaurants at night, literally all would stop talking and stare. I realized that if the people at Walmart knew what we were about, they would club us or worse, and the limitations of the area culturally speaking began to unnerve me—all screens would show the same film of Deuce Bigelow, and there wasn’t much to do at night or for cultural edification, unless you wanted to drive into Los Angeles, a few hours away. We did and do love it though, but I realized that if I was “wired to do this”—to create fine art and have a career; I needed to go back to New York and begin to have a career again. The artworld wasn’t perfect, sure, but most people involved in fine art really have a passion for what it is they believe in and work for, and although it was a rarified world, it wasn’t just about “rich white people,” it was about bringing up ideas aesthetically, on the highest level, in galleries that were free for all to see and to ponder, at museums that the public could hopefully visit and feel they had access to, and that I really enjoyed not just the process of creating art, but also to exhibit and express myself visually via my work to a larger public. So I came back to NYC, got my teaching back at SVA and NYU, and began the long, slow process of trying to put myself back on the map I had so intensely, in the hubris of my romantic youth, took myself off. This took years—over seven years of humbly working in our tiny place, teaching at some points at my peak of thirteen classes a week at various schools, and inviting people in to see my work with the hope that I would get a second chance. Eventually this happened, and I haven’t looked back since, and ultimately


K and A Ranch, Meadowbrook, CA, 2010 oil on linen 36 x 48 inches Collection of Richard Greenberg, New York

In 1999 we had to opportunity to purchase my husband Andrew’s grandfather’s cabin in the unincorporated township of Meadowbrook, CA, near Lake Elsinore in Riverside California. We had a tumultuous year in New York, where our puppy had died, the mob was running a bordello underneath us (that the cops were in on), and Andrew fell into a deep depression. I had my NYC debut at Jay Gorney with roughly hewn abstract next to figurative works that was beloved by artists but misunderstood by some of the art going public, and although I was still doing well in the art world, decided, as I was becoming disillusioned with the rarified world of fine art, that I would officially “retire” from the art world, pull all my work out of the galleries, and like my heroes Arthur Rimbaud, Cézanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin, move with Andrew, saving him from his Gotham despair and paint in the provinces in our blighted Giverny. When we got to


am glad we did most of what we did—I certainly am glad we got the cabin, which continues to be our “fortress of solitude” that we escape to whenever we can, and we have the long term goal of moving there eventually where I grow my beard really long and have it be once again my blighted Giverny.

Meissonier’s of their time who received accolades because they could make things look “real,” but not much more than that, seem like hacks to our contemporary eyes). In this work, I tried my best to make it look “real,” but also open my eyes to all that I was perceiving and thinking about. I thought about all the history I had with this special place, how we were able to alchemize it from a heap into something incredibly beautiful for us, and how it really represented our lives together, our souls onto one, and a place of healing, love and spirit. I found listening to Roxy Music was perfect for rendering by, as they are so perfect in their stylization, their form carries with it an incredible amount of feeling and passion with precision of their instruments and sound. Especially Avalon, one of their last great records, seemed perfect as this is Andrew and I’s Avalon. For me, my favorite passages are those that fall into abstraction, the flower beds to the left of the palm trees especially conjure into dream like flights of fancy, as the elements are so small my unconscious would take over. I loved painting this picture, which really reminds me of all we feel about the place, and hopefully transcend from a Thomas Cole-like details to something more like Monet or a more three dimensional Cézanne. If you would turn the camera to the left or to the right you might see something more of the blight I mentioned, but if you look towards this direction, or over the blight, you will see the amazing wonderland that is our home.

For now, I have my time there when I paint, and the many pictures of our place that I have created from photos, such as this one, perhaps one of the best cabin pictures I have painted, entitled after the name we bequeathed it—“K and A Ranch.” The neat thing about working from contemporary technology is in a high resolution image, there is an amazing amount of detail the camera and the printer capture, and unlike the impressionists, or even the artists like Bonnard and Vuillard that used photography as a source for their imagery, there is a lot of information to riff on. Da Vinci and many of the old masters have said if you want to do something new, “turn to nature” as it can give us more visual information that our mind can make up on its own, and its not dependent on any art historical or otherwise language when you are creating work from it. I think one’s style comes about from using reference and painting something “the best way you can.” Van Gogh was of course inspired by Dutch art, Japanese woodblock prints, the impressionists and more, but at the end of the day, at the end of his life, he was just painting the land the best way he could because it rose up within him those emotions and thoughts as he was projecting onto the landscape. I think the secret of the sublime is “micromanaging to the macromanged whole” and in my old age, have begun regarding not just Van Gogh and the Impressionists but the Old Masters, who were able, in their fine rendering of things be able to recognize and cognitize each element of what they saw—for Da Vinci, he was able to paint every Golden Ratio of every leaf in every tree in every landscape and touch upon how all elements worked with and against one another to create and exciting harmony of Nature. Kant would mention that his ideal of beauty was to recreate nature, but the sublime would be something, if an artist could even approach it, the overwhelming feeling of nature—something in contemporary terms you “couldn’t put a frame around.” I think when we are little, we feel these sublime moments in nature as we recognize how everything is alive and working together and against each other in a way we don’t have the necessary capabilities to filter out and focus on what is most important. For Van Gogh, in his wicker-like weave of his sinewy forms coalescing with one another I think he activates this feeling once again, for Da Vinci he also does this, but in a much more subtle matter in his sfumato. With many of these painters, like Da Vinci says, you can’t help but “paint yourself ” into the picture. As you are thinking your thoughts, in the obsessive way one can paint, your conscious mind is rendering what it sees, but your unconscious mind is also wielding the brush, and the result is you paint your inner mind as well as your critical consciousness. In Cézannes, there is something I always call a “Cézanne hole” in the middle of most of his works—where it seems more recessed in the optical space where his head must have been positioned, and you can make out unconsciously realized teeth, beard, eyes, moustaches and more—his inner mind projected onto the landscape. In Van Goghs, look for his visage hidden in the cypress trees and the rocks, and you can make out his own subliminal, unconsciously realized profile embedded into the picture. The great painters usually exceed in their rendering what it is that they are painting—there is something “extra” in the mix, that gives the work life, emotion, that makes it transcendent beyond the subject matter, and time, and that is the very thing that gives them their qualities that we now recognize them for today (and for some of them, the “excesses” of their rendering, how it didn’t look “right” or like a photo, is the very thing the public of their time might have rejected them for in their day—whereas the hack artist, or the


Radiant Landscape (with Andrew and the Dogs), 2011 oil on linen 26 x 26 inches Collection of Carole Server and Oliver Frankel

I love the Beatles, as I feel they were the first “post Modern band” in that they always spoke through avatars—they weren’t the Beatles, they were “Sgt. Pepper.” They weren’t depressed; it was Eleanor Rigby, and so on. But I also love John and Yoko, post the Beatles, as they wrote songs and music about themselves, and the words and lyrics were so potent that they resonated beyond them themselves, and other people could relate to their story and have it become theirs. In many ways, I feel they were the first post post modern band because of this. I also love Manet, as he would paint about himself and his life, but the personal was political, and he was able to create biographical portraits that extended beyond himself and brought a painterly, warm, emotional politic to the world through his imagery. “The Death of the Author” by Roland Barthes was particularly influential when I was Semiotics major in the 80’s at Brown, but after the death of Barthes, I feel the author is still important—that it never really goes away when we interpret the works of Van Gogh or Manet or any of the great genius Old Masters. After creating many images from appropriation after many years, I wanted the autonomy of creating work where I owned the authorship of the entirety of the image, painting from my own photos rather than images culled from other sources that I was using for my avatar-


like inspiration. I feel that when you paint from your life, the love hopefully comes through, which is an emotion that perhaps comes through the brush along with the conscious control better than any other tool or medium in art. This is an image from our cabin home, in Meadowbrook, California, where we have planted many producing trees in the midst of the cacti and other foliage planted by Andrew’s grandparents that lived there long ago. This is a scene from when the sun I believe is starting to go down from the day, and my husband is walking down the hill above our humble cabin along with our two poodles Michelangelo and Rosa, and the lens flare is captured in my camera lens, but I want to paint through it like a Turner with his radiant landscapes showing that Nature rules over all, and the buoyancy of the greens of the landscape emulate the best of Van Gogh, when he also embraces his love of nature and the harmony of the world.

rendering and then, in that activated surface, looking at the work after the fact. Now that she is gone, I’m tremendously glad I as able to paint this while she was still alive, and that I’ll always have this to remember her by.


Michelangelo, 2012 oil on linen 15 x 12 inches


This is a picture of our little dog Michelangelo, who is a toy poodle who was about two at the time I took this image to paint him by. I love this dog, who was a great companion to our older poodle Rosa, who has now passed away and was like a mom to him. We had mourned the loss of our Julian, a German Shepherd who had passed away from old age for about a year, before we could adopt another pet. I searched high and low for a place that wasn’t a puppy farm or some other egregious animal breeder, and came upon the gay couple who raised poodles not as breeders, but as a life-long hobby to show dogs and to have as pets from the president of the New Jersey Poodle Association who found out about us and told us of her friends. They had this little guy who was too little to show—he now is about only five pounds, and immediately we agreed to adopt him. After having a big dog in New York City we vowed “never again” for their sake, and Michelangelo is the perfect size for us and urban living—and loves it when we take him to the cabin where he can run around (under watchful eyes of his parents, who are on the constant lookout for Eagles and Owls and other creatures). He is a bit of a “type A personality” as he is quick to judge, react, bark, etc., but he is one of the most loving dogs of all time and covers you with kisses and loves nothing more to sit in your lap. He is my constant companion, and is usually my “artists assistant” as most of my paintings are created with his companionship, sitting in his place in my lap or the pocket of my sweatshirt as I paint. He is named of course after my favorite artist, which is funny and ironic as he is just a small silver guy, but really he is regal and has much of a canine genius intelligence that if he were human, would be very Michelangelo-esque! I love Van Gogh, and his grassy fields, which may have been on my mind while painting this (and his high, sometimes non-existent horizon lines, inspired by Japanese woodblock prints), but really it is more like visual emanata—the short staccato notes of brushstrokes emanate his personality, which is also like this. I have painted many dogs in my lifetime—I think they can be serious subject matter, and transcend the ages, and also anthropomorphized beasts that we can relate to in their animation, a la Snoopy. I had a painting of an angry poodle on display as part of the permanent collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for several years, and he was like an avatar of the Angry Young Gay Man I was in those years (in part). I’ve mellowed somewhat with age, and although Michelangelo and this portrait of him really is about this individual pooch, I also think it is part of a subtle identity politics gesture to hopefully paint more regal

Rosa, 2012 oil on linen 14 x 10 inches

This is a picture of our beloved dog Rosa (who we named after the great artist who also painted animals and was a strong female protagonist of art history, Rosa Bonheur), at our cabin home with roses in the background. She was a wonderful apricot poodle, who we loved and adored, who we first got as a companion to our German Shepherd Julian in 2000, and lived fourteen years since she recently passed away last summer, sadly. We had another dog, Love, who died as a puppy tragically, which sent us into a deep depression, and lead to us leaving New York and the art world in 1999. Rosa was from the same breeder—the only one in Dog Fancy who listed her name and number and wasn’t a puppy farm, and Rosa was smart and sweet, a little reserved, but loving and wonderful. We loved giving her hugs and kisses and earning her respect and trust, and she was a constant companion. I painted this while she was still alive but older. She had suffered through the loss of Julian, who died of old age and was like a husband to her, and we had adopted little Michelangelo after some months of mourning, who was like a tenacious son for her, so at this point in her life she was a grand dame who had seen much of the world, but still had energy and was a cool, mellow dog. It was hard for her to look in the camera, but I got this photo of her and wanting to remember her at this point in her life, and the beauty of the cabin surrounding her, painted this image. I think, as I get older, some of the best pictures are like the old trope of it doesn’t matter what the subject matter is, it is what it conjures within the artist to make a work that has a life of its own, and some of my favorite works by painters are those they have done of their pets, which are like special children for pet owners in the know. If you can bring your love to your work like your pet, perhaps you can really have something, and its fun to paint the fur in the directional flow that it falls, it almost is like petting them in real life as your are


than merely cute paintings of my poodles, who while not strictly adherent to gay identity politics, can be a “code” of sorts when you see an adult man with one in the street (although of course there are many straight men who adore poodles, too!). This isn’t why I painted him, or any of my dogs, but would like to think in the public display of my pets that the personal is political, and like Manet, by painting my life I’m also painting my politics— all are fused into one, and the subject matter brings warmth and personal emotion to something (perhaps like to my more impersonal—of sorts—painting at LACMA) that otherwise would serve merely as a politic.

(although we love and appreciate New York, too!). I really enjoy getting lost in foliage and rocks when painting from high density photos---there is so much information that it is impossible to capture it all, but I try with my tiny brush, but also allow my imagination to fill in the gaps. I love Cézanne, and in particular, this one painting at the Met that has great rocks in it that you can tell he was thinking his thoughts when painting it as they bliss out into unconscious worlds, and this painting has one of the landscapes great rocks, that I allowed myself to do the same with in the hope it would transport my vision. Also with Cézanne, as I’ve written elsewhere, you can see what I call “Cézanne Holes” where his head must have been when he painted, as the optical space recedes back, and you can make out his facial features subliminally placed in the foliage. For me this is happening, a bit more like Van Gogh, everywhere in the image, in much of the trees, and foliage, etc., it breaks into iconic abstraction. Da Vinci would say we paint ourselves when we make portraits—I think he meant that often times a lesser artist will paint a portrait that looks more like themselves than their sitter—but I also think we paint our “brains” when we make art—sometimes abstract paintings literally look like brains, or here, lost in the foliage, there is a lot of unconsciously realized other worlds that are taking flight within the parameters of the areas, I was thinking my thoughts and memories while painting. This is one of the more surreal cabin paintings I have created—perhaps inspired by the somewhat surreal, slightly melancholic afternoon atmosphere of a cool winter day—the moon is out, and Andrew is looking at me, with coffee in hand, as our dogs Rosa and Michelangelo are having a wonderful time prancing around and chasing one another. Sometimes at the cabin we feel blissfully lost in another world of our companionship and well being in a place of our spirit and soul, and I like to think this painting is the essence of this dream like reality.


Cabin Essence, 2011 oil on linen 48 x 36 inches

I originally created this work to go along with my painting of Times Square and Empire from a Train for the Armory Art fair, where only the Times Square painting went on display, as to not overwhelm the booth, and then later at a show at Shaheen Modern and Contemporary called “Art Life and Fashion” and still later, as the “chapters” of My American Dream continued, at the New York Nada Fair booth, where this painting had pride of place in the initial formal incarnation of the show that would ultimately become this cosmology. Named after the famous and moving Brian Wilson/Beach Boys song, this painting captures the essence of our cabin home in Riverside California. Once Andrew’s grandfathers weekend retreat—a workingman’s vacation home, it is now a beautiful oasis in an otherwise somewhat hidden section of an unincorporated town of Meadowbrook, with the suburbs encroaching us on either side, but still our Fortress of Solitude that we like to escape to whenever we can, hopefully one day we can retire and I grow my beard really long and it could be like my blighted Giverny. The house above ours captured in this picture has aluminum foil in its windows, and is the site of a only slightly hidden pot farm, to the left of this image you would see a house where our friend Ellen lives with her husband, both retirees who look out for our place, if you pan over to the right the home that used to be a wonderous place that Andrew would go with his sisters and cousins to see the pet monkeys they raised there turned into a junk yard of sorts where they used to strip cars, but now thankfully have left, although still not refurbished as it should be. But truly there is beauty if you look above and beyond this, and our home in particular is incredibly lush for its desert surroundings, where we have planted many trees, cultivated the cactus garden that Andrew’s grandfather once originally planted, and is really where our spirit resides—what in many ways I work towards one day moving to—Picasso said you have to be rich to live like a poor man, and we would love to one day afford to move there permanently (although we are getting close—we built a pool where I stood to take this picture!). Until then I paint from my photos with yearning for the place we love


Movin’ Right Along, 2014 oil on linen 36 x 24 inches Collection of Thomas Alexander

In 2007 I created a painting of Kermit the Frog, from an image of him magically (as you could see his full body, without any strings or hands) riding a bike—a film still from the first Muppet Movie. The Kermit painting wasn’t exhibited until the Whitney Biennial in the spring of 2014, in my installation entitled “My American Dream,” where it symbolized for me the very idea of what had occurred in the movie—where Kermit was bicycling to Hollywood from his swamp to “make it big,” and for me vicariously as he was an avatar I identified with and I have kept pressing on trying to be the best person and artist I could be in my work and my life. The image was picked up by the New York Times in their preview piece that they ran the week before the Biennial opened, and people seemed to really enjoy it, including my friend, who commissioned me to create another for his


partner for his birthday, as he is a huge fan of both Kermit and the painting. I had so much fun recreating the image, with even more detail and nuance than before (hopefully we grow as artists and painters, although hopefully each stage is good).

Charles Shultz created Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and friends, I feel it was a good-natured healthy schizophrenia—Charlie Brown was Shultz’s “wishy washy” side, Snoopy his “joie de vivre,” Lucy his divorced wife, if you believe his recent biography! As he was sitting at his drawing table the characters would talk to each other, taking on a life of their own, a bit like the tiny people in the vitrines of the mad scientist in the Bride of Frankenstein. When making a painting, whether it is a Rothko, which were coloristic machines to transport people into synaesthetic other worlds of feeling, or the figurative narrative worlds of Goya and more, artists throughout time have used the vehicle of oil paint, first created to make things more “real” than other medium, to make their own dreams come alive and feel real and palatable through the ages, something that hopefully I can comment on in this work where hopefully Kermit has a life of his own as I micromanage to the minute detail trying to detail all aspects of his nature, and my memories and thoughts projected onto him, making him come alive thinking of Henson and my own childhood.

The wonderful thing about the Kermit on the bike image was that he really seemed, in this moment, to have a life of his own, beyond his creator. Kermit continues to enthrall children of all ages despite the fact that Henson has died, and the Muppets are owned by Disney, and so on. I do think that characters (and hopefully paintings!) can have a life of their own that evolve—like Frankenstein monsters, great characters live on the imagination of their fans, and as different people work with them, they also develop the characters who can morph and change as the eons progress (just think of ancient mythical characters, Punch and Judy, or characters from operas and Shakespearian plays, and Superman and other cartoon characters that grow with the ages). While painting this work this time, I listened to the unabridged audiobook Henson biography, which was excellent, in addition to the music of 1979 (when the film came out, and to spark memories of my childhood when I first saw the movie), and many sketches and music from the Muppet show, and most movingly, the broadcast of Henson’s funeral. There are many amazing things about Jim Henson, who truly was an American genius showman and businessman, but most striking for me is that he came from a Quaker family, and though not religious himself, he had quirky notions of spirituality that manifest in his work. He believed in other dimensions, where the characters in Fraggle Rock and the Labyrinth aren’t merely flights of fancy for him, or at least unconsciously. I love going to nature to do something new, as the Old Masters always advised, and its terrific to get lost in the foliage of any image one might conjure from reality, which truly can be stranger than fiction. I don’t believe in fairies, but I do believe in the other worlds that great artists such as Victorian illustrator Arthur Rackham could create in his knotty pines and elves that inspired Brian Fround, the famous more contemporary artist who created the Faeries books and was a collaborator with Henson on the art direction of the Dark Crystal and Labyrinth and more, and really enjoyed getting lost in the foliage here where all sorts of faces and forms emerged in the positive and negative space of the sepia-tinged image in the old Muppet Movie book this was appropriated from (and the same book I would look at for hours on end when it was published soon after the movie came out). They seem more alive in some ways than Kermit, who if you look very closely, does have strings to help hold him up—something I found when truly scrutinizing the image in blown up form. Henson, in some of his later projects and in interviews with his Muppets literally in hand, would have fun teasing his creations to let them know they were merely puppets—he would tell Rowlf the dog this, for instance, in interviews, who would be incredulous until he looked down to see Henson’s arm manipulating him. I feel that Henson had an almost Buddhist like sense of self, knowing that the spirit is something perhaps more than the flesh, or at a constant debate at least of are we more our minds or our bodies, a combination thereof, or separate. Where does consciousness come from, and what happens when you objectify yourself? A puppeteer is much like a cartoonist or fine artist—we are all about alchemy, breathing life into in animate objects. From Edger Bergin and Charlie McCarthy to Henson and Kermit, more than merely throwing one’s voice, you are projecting your imagination into another non-living being to make it have a life of its own in your mind and in others, alchemizing a doll to make it seem alive. While not an occult occupation and not voodoo, there is some strange magic in all of this, and one wonders where it stems from to make a character that truly has a life beyond its maker. When

The great thing about Henson too is that he didn’t compromise for his art, and he was incredibly successful bringing his own art spirit to the world. I’m a big believer in Joseph Campbell, where I have written elsewhere believed that an “artists job is to tell stories for a culture to understand itself in order for the culture to progress” and Henson DEFINITELY did this in all of his work! I feel so privileged to be a part of the Muppet age, and it DEFINITELY had a super strong impact on my life and career. I grew up watching the Sesame Street, and then graduated to the Muppet Show, which I watched religiously, every Sunday-- it was on after mowing the lawn and after Siskel and Ebert. I was the exact right age for the movies when they came out, and collected the puppets, the records, and much of the Muppet paraphernalia. Their kind, gentle (and sometimes not so gentle!) humor and spirit still hold up today—for even an ADHD generation growing up with fast paced edits and video games, the old Muppet humor and videos still are capable of enchanting children of all ages, and I sometimes still put on a video, film, or skit on Youtube and watch and it warms my day. Even at its silliest, or most grotesque, when monsters are eating one another or blowing each other up, there is still a empathy and compassion the characters have for one another, and a mystery and wondrous haunted quality of making three dimensional other worlds palatable and believable. The humor and stories are done with intelligence and knowing, and aren’t just at all about making a buck, but rather wildly entertaining you to want to see more—like any great art they seduce you into looking, while compelling you, with their allegorical intent on bringing their fuzzy and hairy great ideological energy, to make you think about loving compassion and how it can make the world a better place. I love that Henson was so wildly successful, and had little of the demons that plagued others like Disney—he wasn’t ultimately quite as “successful” as Walt, but there was very little compromise in his life, and he brought his amazing sense and yearning for innovation and creative imagination to everything he did—he was a visionary that had a major impact upon his audience, and as we all sutured into his iconic characters, especially Kermit, his avatar, we learned something in the process.



(although she doesn’t have any real significant talent besides her charisma), and nothing will stand in her way—she is very feminine but can also deliver a mean Karate Chop when feeling threatened, insulted, or thwarted, and is forever in love with Kermit, who is the object of both her affection and her intensity. She also is one of the most well-rounded, three dimensional, and “deep” characters of the Muppets, and although I didn’t realize it growing up as a gay kid in Colorado, a likely avatar for me to breath empathy through and as an icon in which I could identify with unconsciously as to what I would fight to become—a hopefully generally happy and successful artist and man who happens to be gay (and married to my husband, etc.). Although I don’t completely identify with the character today (I hope that I have true talent, and also am not quite as feminine or violent as she), I do identify with her tenacity and willingness to work hard to achieve dreams.

Mona Moi (from the Kermitage Collection), 2015 oil on linen 30 x 24 inches Collection of Robert and Julie Taubman

The wonderful thing about the Kermit on the bike image was that he really seemed, in this moment, to have a life of his own, beyond his creator. Kermit and Miss Piggy continue to enthrall children of all ages despite the fact that Henson has died, Frank Oz no longer continues to perform her, and the Muppets are owned by Disney, and so on. I do think that characters (and hopefully paintings!) can have a life of their own that evolve—like Frankenstein monsters, great characters live on the imagination of their fans, and as different people work with them, they also develop the characters who can morph and change as the eons progress (just think of ancient mythical characters, Punch and Judy, or characters from operas and Shakespearian plays, and Superman and other cartoon characters that grow with the ages). I grew up with this image of Miss Piggy as the Mona Lisa, and always loved it and it stuck with me. In the context of the book, which was a collaboration between the editor Harry Beard, the photographer John Barrett, their art directors and designers, that were building on the legacy of Jim Henson and Frank Oz, the Muppet designer Kermit Love, and so on, the image already was a collective group appropriating of course the original da Vinci painting in the context of a book of Piggy as an avid collector in a dream like fantasy of famous masterpieces with she and the Muppets all in starring roles.

Mona Moi is an image of the Muppet Miss Piggy as the Mona Lisa, appropriated from the book Miss Piggy’s Treasury of Art Masterpieces from the Kermitage Collection, that was published in 1984. I grew up loving the Muppets, and as a child of that generation (Sesame Street premiered in 1969 when I was four, and the Muppet Show came into being—with Miss Piggy in 1976, when I was ten) I was the perfect age and was fully immersed in that world. I lived through these characters, at least when I was religiously watching the programs, and had all of them as puppets (along with many more) that I would play with often, trying to bring the same life into them as did their famous creators, and performing skits and puppet shows both for myself and with others that would inform how I would draw comics then and paint and create my fine art cosmologies now. In 2007 I created a painting of Kermit the Frog, from an image of him magically (as you could see his full body, without any strings or hands) riding a bike—a film still from the first Muppet Movie, and had always wanted to create this image of Miss Piggy next, but got sidetracked (I was worried about it being an appropriation, perhaps “too easy,” and also my friend Dana Schutz had just painted her version of the Mona Lisa after I had this idea, so I thought it might be better to wait). The Kermit painting wasn’t exhibited until the Whitney Biennial in the spring of 2014, in my installation entitled “My American Dream,” where it symbolized for me the very idea of what had occurred in the movie—where Kermit was bicycling to Hollywood from his swamp to “make it big,” and for me vicariously as he was an avatar I identified with and I have kept pressing on trying to be the best person and artist I could be in my work and my life. The image was picked up by the New York Times in their preview piece that they ran the week before the Biennial opened, and people seemed to really enjoy it, including an artist friend of mine, who commissioned me to create another for his partner for his partner’s birthday, as he is a huge fan of both Kermit and the painting. I had so much fun recreating the image, with even more detail and nuance than before (hopefully we grow as artists and painters, although hopefully each stage is good), that I felt compelled to finally create the companion piece for my forthcoming large cosmology version of My American Dream, to be exhibited at Marlborough Chelsea in Manhattan in the fall of 2015.

I also grew up influenced by the Picture Generation, and ideas building on Duchamp and notions of the readymade and appropriation. Of course, one of the most famous, and seminal Duchamp works is his 1919 work, the infamous L.H.O.O.Q , Mona Lisa with moustache.

To me, this is one of the “Plymouth Rock’s” of appropriation (although Eugene Bataille did his version of her smoking a pipe in 1883)—the simple maneuver of bastardizing a postcard by adding a moustache and a slur (in French, pronouncing the letters sound like “Elle a chaud au cul”—“She is hot in the ass”), do much to turn around Rock’s” of appropriation (although Eugene Bataille did his version of her smoking a pipe in 1883)—the simple maneuver of bastardizing a postcard by adding a moustache and a slur (in French, pronouncing the letters sound like “Elle a chaud au cul”—“She is hot in the ass”), do much to turn around the original da Vinci image, and make it his own, whilst also updating the painting for his (and our!) time. He of course is defying her gender, which subsequently has been rumored to be a self portrait perhaps of da Vinci (who said “every painter paints himself ”) and undermining the hierarchy of painting in general, reflecting how it has been then and now reproduced for the masses in ad infinitum—and of course, like any of his readymades, it becomes a (not unique, as he made many copies himself of the work) artwork of his authorship, once his own “spin” has been put on the image. Many artist subsequently havealso played with the Mona Lisa (and of course it has also been brought to the masses in all numbers of ways via reproduction, and is a major example of how

Miss Piggy in particular holds great significance to me growing up and now. Frank Oz, the famous Muppeteer who was Jim Henson’s “right hand man” made her famous (in 1996 TV Guide ranked her number 23 on its 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time list), and for him, the conceptual hook for her personality was a “Truck driver wanting to be a woman.” She is like a drag queen in some respects, who is convinced she is destined for stardom


art changes via reproduction in Walter Benjamin’s canonical text “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” However, one of the other influential examples for me is Warhol’s use of the Mona Lisa, in several different works he created in his lifetime. Like many of his icons, he silk-screened her multiple times on the same canvas, in different paintings in different eras of his life. However, although the original da Vinci “essence” in my mind still comes through, of course these works also remark about her reproducibility, and how she, like many works of art, have been broadcast in different vehicles in modern times, and so on, more than what the inner nature, or “aura” or quasispiritual qualities might be held in the original masterpiece.
In contemporary times, I feel that what artists who paint in oil paint with brushes can bring to the table is this “essence,” as ineffable (and perhaps subjective!) as this notion might be. After almost a century after Duchamp created his version (and over a century in the case of Bataille), perhaps what can’t be reproduced can have some credo, and emotions—feeling, synaesthetics, what can’t be put into language—can also be pertinent and carry much weight (and hopefully not too much baggage)! Post Warhol, post Richter, I think when painting from photos the job of the artist is to penetrate the photo, to bring out what they might feel about the work, in the same manner as the first painters to use photos as source materials might have done. I always think that if you could have the emotions and ineffability of Rembrandt in a painting, but also have a work relate to the culture that surrounds it like Warhol, perhaps you can have something that is “new.”


View from Empire, 2013 oil on linen 52 x 70 inches Private Collection

I always wanted to make an image of New York City from space, but in lieu of this, I went to the top of a building I painted many times, Empire State, and went to the top level, stood on a podium holding a column as high as I could, and holding my arm stretched took this picture in which I painted this. One of secrets of achieving the sublime in painting is micro-managing moments for the macro-managed whole, and I tried here to equate that overwhelming feeling of feeling a being a small part of something big, what it feels like to be a barnacle on the boat of one of he greatest cities in our great country as it floats into the future. Loving Manet, Modernism, and the Old Masters, I hope to imbue in my painterly interpretations a synaesthetic aura that transcends my source imagery, to bring about an experience upon him as he is painting and ultimately his viewers, thoughts, feelings, memories, and dream worlds that have an uncanny, sublime evocation. Part of the chapter shown in 2014 of My American Dream at Derek Eller, I wanted ultimately the image just the story of the artist, and his dreams, hopes , and aspirations, but of the American psyche at the beginning of the 21 century, staying afloat and in power despite its struggles, looking forward towards a paradise of equality, understanding, and love.

With Mona Moi, like a method actor, or indeed like Frank Oz who originally performed the character, I tried to “get inside” her spirit, to drive the form and the content to have a life of its own by relating her and the image to my own life, and my own cultural references. I listened to music from the time when I first watched and became enthralled by her, to try to channel those feelings into the painting. I also listened to music of great divas of pop culture—from Barbra Streisand to Beyoncé--to try to channel their energy and messages into the work. And not quite like a drag-queen, I ruminated on everything that had been going on inmy life that related to painting, to use it as a meditation to express myself, but by way of the remove of iconic allegory. I’m hoping the result might be something that doesn’t read as ironic as Duchamp or Warhol, but a sincere attempt to bring emotions and feelings to a character as I “performed” painting her. I also think the trick for making an image like this is to ultimately make it a “Great Painting,” so the formal nuances and the ineffability succeed in resonating long after the initial “ joke” is perceived—more of a “hah hah OH” than a gag cartoon, and I hope I brought in my many hours and weeks of creating the work something substantial. And of course, I hope to make something that stands apart and is “better” than the initial image. So, unlike the pre-Photoshop backdrop in the photo, which seemed like an inexpensive blow-up of the background placed behind the doll, I referred back to the original da Vinci, and really enjoyed going through the nooks and crannies of the uncanny world of medieval Florence, or the world of dream-like imagination that inspired the fantastic cosmology behind her. Ultimately I wanted to create a work that was also iconic for what it is a feel I do in many of my paintings, make a work that, despite being derived from a photo, in this case an appropriation, that feels alive, ineffable, mysterious, and beyond hopefully the cultural and political references, a painting that will hopefully transcend my hand, mind, and time and speak in her own mysterious way to all.

I’m hoping in that this work breaks down into little Broadway Boogie-woogies in the fractions of each moment, that each window can represent an idea of an individual in the giant world of the entire cosmology, each like the barnacle on the beast of the whale that could be New York City in our turbulent times.


View from our Chelsea Window, 2012 oil on linen 36 x 24 inches Collection of Lois Plehn, New York

On July 4th, 2012, we layed in bed and watched the fireworks


outside our window, which has an American flag as a window dressing. It was scary, as it looked like a war, but profound thinking that war is was what helped to create the foundation of our country. Here it also seemed like a dragon or a UFO, both thrilling and ominous, much like Sandy, which unbeknownst to us was soon to arrive.


C19 Plastic Ono Band/Peace, 2003 oil on panel, diptych 16 x 16 inches each This diptych originally appeared in my Hamlet 1999 show, but also reappeared in my Good Leaders, Endangered Species show at Broadway Windows in 2010. Originally Lennon was like Hamlet’s fathers Ghost, seeking redemption and guiding Hamlet, but always too this was an image of two great artists, and the cover (and inside image of Lennon’s fingers configuring the Peace Sign) of one of my favorite albums of all time. Of course John was always a great artist, but I feel that Yoko really taught him what art was about, and post Beatles, they were making a kind of Post Post Modernism together, singing about their own lives with such passion and musical beauty and fervency, that it caused us all to care and relate our own stories onto theirs. Like Manet, who painted those around him with such intelligence and formal finesse that his personal story was political, but had room for beauty and painterly trancendence, in this album, and all subsequent to it, John and Yoko made music of their lives that we all could relate to and love. Yoko of course was a great artist in her own right before she met John, and I love her work that has such openness and optimisum that although it is highly conceptual, many can be moved and think and feel about the ideas she projects so poetically. And of course the Beatles changed culture, no small feat, but did so with the power of Love that helped to drive the music and make it relevant today. All of this extended throughout their careers, but in this album, which is so personal, I find it evocative and moving on every level, and it has taught me how to make work from my own life and hopefully make it relevant as much as any master painter. I love that the Bed In for Peace is one of the best performance pieces to be remembered for generations (and which gave us the “Give Peace a Chance” anthem), and their “War is Over (if you want it)” is one of the great conceptual pieces of all time. I’ve always kept this diptych around me to remind me of what is important for its feng-shui great energy. Their relationship was so pioneering being of mixed race and equal power (and how they defended their relationship and partnership to the world was so moving) and it also reminds me of how to be a great husband to my husband Andrew Madrid, the love of my life.

Night Cabin, 2011 oil on linen 48 x 36 inches Collection of Judith and Lawrence Howard

When we are at our cabin, in the middle of nowhere in Riverside, California, sometimes we really feel that we are at a ship at sea, alone together in a great, romantic way, something that I hope I was able to capture in this painting from a photo I took. I love Van Gogh, and his paintings of his yellow house, and feel that its serendipitous that we should also live in a yellow humble abode, this cabin that Andrew’s grandfather built the adobe extension of, that we adorn with Christmas lights to let people know we are there and to light our way during the night. Meadowbrook, and unincorporated township between Lake Elisnore and Perris is filled with poor man’s castles such as our own (Andrew’s family has been there since the ‘50’s), and although the neighboring city was the epicenter of the recent housing crisis for California, and a four lane highway has been built over our small two lane road, and when Andrew was growing up and visiting there you had to bring in your own groceries as there was nothing nearby and now there are all the big box stores, it is still our fortress of solitude and we feel at peace. The palm trees are more beautiful than they are depicted in Apocalypse Now, and yet there is that edge, as we are a gay married couple in a conservative environment, with guys with ZZ Top beards growing marijuana above us, a junkyard filled with cars in front of us, and meth addicts clumbering down the road to visit the ex con grandson of the retiree who lives across the street, but its home for us, and hopefully the content here is how we can hopefully forge our future in the world of nature and personal history despite this, and find the great joy in nature and with each other as we continue our journey, coming to our cabin as an escape from New York City, as a place of contemplation, relaxation, and healthy restoration as we forge into the future. Inspiration. I have always enjoyed Friedrich’s work, and recommend it often to students, as its full of mystery and gothic German Romantic charm. The Two Men Contemplating the Moon paintings, of which the Met had a small but remarkable show of when they acquired this version, was inspiring. I perceived the homoerotic subtext of the work, where the intimacy of the men seems romantically portrayed, as they are safe to be together in the twilight, the knotty tree seems phallic and erect, one of them is Friedrich himself with his colleague, as they contemplate and commune with nature, a sublime moment.




Edna Ferber and James Dean, 2007 oil on linen 28 x 24 inches

Fassbinder and Warhol on the Set of Querelle, 2006 oil on linen 52 x 36 inches

Edna Ferber was an American novelist, short story writer, playwright, and great matriarch of the Algonquin Round Table. Importantly for this painting, she was the wrote the 1952 novel Giant, which was the basis for the great movie of the same title of 1958, directed by George Stevens, and starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Dennis Hopper, and James Dean, pictured here talking with the Grande Dame. Most of Ferber’s output starred Strong Female Protagonists speaking out for the marginalized and oppressed, and Giant was no exception, with Liz Taylor in one of her great roles, defending the Latino community of Hudson’s Ranch (one with whom their son played by Hopper marries), and holding off the advances of Dean’s character Jett Rink, a local handyman whom works for the patriarch Hudson plays, Jordan “Bick” Benedict. It strikes me that this great film, based on this amazing book, was so ahead of its time for feminisms and gender/identity politics (especially when you consider that both Hudson and Dean were gay in real life), and they were written by this sharp wit Ferber, who never married.

As a son of a psychoanalyst, I do believe we have turn over the rocks and see all the writhing worms in order to get over them-hence my love for Fassbinder. I think of “Post post-modern” as just a time differentiation, as it’s 2015, long after whenever “post-modernism” was an “ism.” But personally I also think it can be the “have your cake and eat it too, plan” where you can make work that is “smart,” self-knowing, in how it can be contextualized and relevant in a larger cultural and historical atmosphere (if this was what Post Modernism was about) but also have room for the ineffable, beauty, emotions, feelings, etc., and formally complex within the hegemony of the picture plane, or mise-en-scene in cinematic terms. Fassbinder and Pasolini really inspired me in college for doing all these things (although maybe they were working in Post Modern times, technically? Ugh, what does it matter...). I was drawing, as they say, since I could hold a pencil, and I was always the “cartoon guy” on campus, since grade school the primary person creating illustrations and comics for school publications through Brown University, where I went as an undergrad, and did the daily comic strip. I was a Studio Art and also Semiotics major at Brown, where I first began to paint and also involve myself in theater, performing in plays and writing and directing them, all the while studying the ideas and language philosophy surrounding French theory and semiotics. I also love visionary fiction, poetry, and film (at the time classes on Fassbinder and Pasolini were incredibly impactful, as they addressed theory/philosophy, psychoanalysis, Marx/Freud, in emotional narrative context), which I put into my work as an artist, playwright, and cartoonist. When I got out of Brown, I came to NYC to be a “New Yorker Cartoonist,” thinking that would pay my way to write and to paint, not knowing at the time that it took years, just like as a fine artist, to break into the magazine. While I was dropping off ten cartoons a week, I had jobs at an art magazine as an editorial assistant, and later, at a major blue chip gallery uptown. Before, having grown up in Colorado and not having access to great fine art galleries or museums, I didn’t realize you can “do this” as a career (I still think an “art career” is oxymoronic--that being in artists is about thinking like one and hopefully creating things, and if you can exhibit or sell work this is just icing on the cake), but that art, like a cartoon, was about bringing up ideas aesthetically. I realized that creating fine art wasn’t just about making people laugh, but deeper thoughts perhaps, and while I knew I didn’t have it in me to be a theoretician, and having created images longer than writing plays, I thought I would go to grad school to pursue the high goal of becoming whatever it might be to be a “fine artist.”

When they met on the set of Giant, Ferber mentioned that “James Dean was a genius, I don’t think there’s another actor in the world who could have portrayed Jett as well as he did. But like most geniuses, Dean suffered from success poisoning.” When they met she supposedly said to Dean just this—“you remind me of myself, Jimmy, You’re a genius, but you suffer from success poisoning.” Unfortunately, she was right—soon after his last day of shooting, Dead took off in his new Porsche to go to a race, and was driving fast when a truck, who didn’t see his small silver car racing in the California desert, broadsided him sending him hurtling to his death. I loved my grandmother on my father’s side, Carolyn Mayerson, who was a bit of a dragon lady, who drank too much and chain smoked, and was a cantankerous mean lady when she wanted to be, which unfortunately was often. But she loved me, and loved art, too, and took my sister and I to museums, and encouraged us to draw new pictures for her and my grandpa which they would hang in their kitchen to eat their cereal by—her encouragement, and great knowledge of art, writing (she taught English at one time, too), and music was one of the reasons I became an artist, beyond my own parents loving encouragement and environment they created for me. Although she was edgy, I did respect her, and remember fondly our conversations, although she died when I was still young. It is partly this that I’m thinking about when I’m painting this picture, speaking through their avatars, although of course I love Dean, too, and this is about the friendship of these two great characters that strove to be heard and have great careers despite their normally marginalized status, and succeeded to great degrees to have massive impacts on the world.

Saving my pennies from my earnings in New York, I went to live with my best friend and his girlfriend in Colorado, where he was living at his mother’s home (who at the time was divorced and


not living there). Serendipitously for the Biennial, his girlfriend was Lisa Anne Auerbach, my Biennial roommate! We all were making work to apply for grad school in Southern California, where the best schools were, and where Mike Kelley and friends were shaking things up in the early 90’s. Having seen his work of the stuffed animals on the blankets at Metro Pictures had a huge effect on me--I realized that what he was doing was different than many of the post-Duchamp practices at the time. He was finding the ready-mades of the plushies and the blankets, like Duchamp, and putting them in a gallery and calling it “art,” but more than this, like Fassbinder in some ways, there were narratives with the “characters” and how they were placed in their arrangements, and there was also emotion in the patina frays of the animals, and a certain empathic nostalgia generated by relating to these iconic forms. I thought it was a breakthrough, or at least for me, I had an epiphany of a Post Post Modernism, where you could “have your cake and eat it too” and make work, like Duchamp, that related to the world outside the art object, that was “about something” that could be political and/or about the viewer “waking up” to their perceptions of things, ideologies, and different perspectives. But, like Modernism, you could also simultaneously make work that was about the ineffable, about feeling and emotion, the hegemony of the formal aspects of a piece, that could be a meditation that transcended language, perhaps even evoking the Kantian sublime.

And of course, Fassbinder and Warhol are “old queens” but powerful artists with integrity in their own right. If you could marry the cultural relativity of Warhol, with the intellect and psychological and political ideology and use of melodrama and narrative (and avant garde sensibilities of both) you could really have something—influenced by these two giants, I try.


Lincoln Remembers, 2001 oil on linen, diptych 36 x 29 inches each Collection of Ross Bleckner

After painting though works involving people like Keanu Reeves “portraying Hamlet” I realized more and more that it was significant that I was doing these portraits, which ultimately were about bringing about the inner personality of the person I was portraying as much as what they stood for. Maybe Keanu Reeves was a bad actor! And wouldn’t it be more significant to paint someone who really had an effect on culture, someone like James Dean, who was one of the first people to give a voice to a youth generation, inspiring Elvis to be Elvis, and John Lennon to be John Lennon, giving birth to Rock and Roll? I love Warhol, but think he might have had Aspergers, as although he was obviously a genius, like people who have ASD, wasn’t emotional, and would “flatten out” his icons in silkscreens, building on Duchamp in paintings that eschewed the painterly notions of mood, texture, and expression. Could you bring emotions and a painterly touch like Rembrandt to a culturally relevant icon like Dean? Would this be something “new”?
 In this work, I wanted to marry these two (or three, if you count the actor Brad Davis, one of the first Hollywood actors to die of AIDS related causes) great artists, who were meeting on the set of a film that had a huge impact on my life Querelle, based on the incredible writer Jean Genet’s seminal book. I remember first seeing the coming attraction of Querelle at the Denver downtown art movie house The Ogden, and it excitedly me greatly—it was obviously “gay” but in a masculine, aesthetically super charged and intensely sexual way. I never had the guts to see it in person in this closeted time in my repressed Colorado suburban environment, but like punk rock, it gave me a clue to a broader world that existed in culture and art beyond my own gated community. When I finally saw it in the Kaja Silverman-taught class at Brown, it sent me to the moon, and I watched it repeatedly after this, significantly when I was playing a hustler in a school play, and was trying to “get into the character” inspired by the film and Brad Davis’ performance. Even for Fassbinder officianos it’s the Fassbinder film that uncool to like, and I could never quite understand why. Like David Lynch’s Dune (another cult classic!) it is its own complete atmospheric world, like a Gene Kelley musical, hermetic onto itself, with dance-like moves all sexually choreographed and staged, and a strange rhythm in its voice and pacing. I love suturing into its world, and more that Tom of Finland and the like, taught me, inspired by Genet, that you can be “masculine” and gay, unlike most of the feminitized flamboyance of gays depicted in popular culture until this time.

One of the earliest works in this show, I originally created this for the Hamlet 1999 series, where Lincoln was Hamlet’s father’s Ghost, coming back to have Hamlet seek his revenge, and to also give him the advice of an old sage, like in a Joseph Campbell “Heroes’ Journey.” Originally I created this when I first came back to New York after exiling myself from the Art World. We had moved to Andrew’s grandfather’s cabin in Riverside, California, and Lincoln’s cabin home reminds me exactly of our place when regarded from a certain view in its blighted neighborhood. I painted this when Andrew was still back in California, and NYU where I taught gave me a small studio in which to paint, and I would go there from my tiny one-room apartment to create work and hope and dream of finding a place for us once again. Lincoln was one of the greatest heroes of all time, rumored to be gay or at least have gay affairs, and when you look at the old photos of him he still seems to be alive and speaking through the ancient image. I was in a melancholic mood when I painted this, but in hopeful spirits, hoping that moving there (and moving myself out of the art world) hadn’t been a mistake, and hoping that Andrew and I could be back together, missing him as I was painting alone in Gotham wishing I could be back with him in our secluded cabin utopic home.


Sunrise over Elsinore, 2011 oil on linen 48 x 48 inches Collection of Joseph A. Arezone, Cleveland


In 1999, Andrew and I were living in midtown, on 46th between 5th and 6th avenues in a real “no man’s land,” where only tourists resided at night, and during the day businessmen populated the area. Although there were holes in the ceiling (the contractors would say “why do you want to live here, it’s not Africa!”) our apartment was 1300 square feet for 1300 dollars, and we thought it was a real deal after living in a tiny bohemian apt. on Christopher street for years with the bathtub in the kitchen. But on the first day after moving in, we were moving furniture for the floor people, and something fell on our poodle puppy, killing her. We were shocked and devastated, to say the least, and when we came back from the vet., with blood on our clothes, these horrible men on the floor below us beckoned us into their apt. showing us strange velour wallpaper, asking us which kind we liked—it was red velveteen wallpaper, and the men were mobsters who were opening a real bordello underneath us. Andrew told them frankly that he was teaching at the John Jay School of Criminal Justice—when we asked them what they did, they exclaimed “uh, TRAVEL?!.” From then on, during the night, they would play demonic disco music, and haggard looking woman would come in, and Andrew fell into a deep depression, as did I, having a “mendacity” moment of the artworld. Although I was doing well for the time, I felt a Holden Caulfield-like romantic disattachment to the audience of fine art—was I doing all this work just to appeal to “white rich people” and so on, and when we had the opportunity to purchase Andrew’s grandfather’s cabin, in the middle of nowhere in Riverside California, I withdrew all my work from the galleries, thinking I was going to “retire” (like Rimbaud!) at age 30 from the artworld, and like my heroes Van Gogh and Cézanne, paint in the provinces for myself. After removing nine tons of garbage from our new place, in Perris California, surrounded by trailers of retirees and crystal meth labs, and living for a year teaching and painting, I realized that if the people at the WalMart knew what we were about we would probably be clubbed, and being in blight (this is near the epicenter of what became the center of the housing crises in California) wasn’t all of what it was cracked up to be. I came back with my tail between my legs to New York, and forged a place for Andrew and I to live again, and slowly began my prodigal son journey back into the artworld. 

Now we love the cabin, which has become our “fortress of solitude” when we can escape there to get a breather from being in the center of everywhere living in New York. Hopefully we can have the best of both worlds! We have planted over 200 producing trees on a drip system, and although our place is quite modest, really a shack on a hill, we love it, and although the surrounding area is not much to speak of—there is a highway in place of the 2 lane road that was once there leading up to it, and all the big box stores nearby, it is still secluded enough and once you get used to it, can really be quite beautiful. I still have a romantic notion of living in the middle of nowhere—we are in an unincorporated area called Meadowbrook, between Lake Elisnore (named after Hamlet!) and Perris (home of all terrain vehicles, a large train museum, and parachuting and hot air balloons, along with an impoverished suburbia), and the poor man’s castles surrounding us, with plots of land with families of goats and people who have ostriches). The meth labs are still there, but the retirees are friendly, and nature overwhelms all. I hope that the content of my cabin pictures is just this—two gay men who are married trying to live their domestic life in a cabin on the margins, with the beauty of the landscape transcending the politics. I love Turner, and hope that the light of the painting emulates the symbolism of everything it can mean, including the spirit of nature. I also still love Van Gogh and Cézanne, and hope that the nature of the landscape is complex enough that while I’m in the meditation of painting, my unconscious can project onto the map of form, light, and distance, and in micromanaged moments, like the trees of Van Gogh and the rocks of Cézanne,

dream worlds can emerge that bring an inner life the surreal joy we find in our escape there, a place that Andrew spent his whole life going to, and what I’m hoping in the future will be our blighted Giverny, where I can grow out my beard real long and paint like Monet the environment and world of our life together.


Large Iconscape, 2012 oil on linen 30 x 36 inches

When Pollock was creating his drip works, he was dripping automatic psycho-sexual imagery and faces, but then layering over and over in his lattice work so the initial imagery would be obscured. I want to bring up that subconscious and have your mind vacillate like it does a Pollock when, by our instinctive nature, we see to find the faces in the painting. After painting longer and harder, and mostly painting representational works, obsessing with minutia with a tiny brush, I hope that I am now able to render the unconscious with better acuity and skill, bringing out dream worlds and surrealities from the inside of my mind into another dimension.


American Eagle, 2012 oil on linen 40 x 30 inches

This is of a plaster statuette perched on the roof of an abandoned Eagles Lodge, next to Mings, Andrew’s favorite American “chopsuey” Chinese restaurant in Huntington Beach, CA. If he and his talons seem fierce, it’s perhaps because I painted him before and through Sandy and its aftermath, holding strong to the solace of the painting, as I created it by candlelight the night the hurricane hit, by windowlight in the day and days that followed. I hope this is like America today: although we have had our struggles recently, hopefully we are holding on, bracing ourselves for the future and remaining strong.



After I took the photo of Andrew which is next to this picture in the Whitney installation, I handed the camera to him and he took this picture of me, standing in front of a reproduction of a portrait of Proust (the original hangs in the Musee D’Orsay). This was an incredible (but small one bedroom) room above the restaurant at the Ritz, where Proust supposedly had his meals brought up to him in his private soirees. Like Proust, and his famous Madeline’s, all the images I paint from are talismans to memories and the feelings that they conjure, that, also like Proust, I string together in non-linear narratives of my installations. So truly he is one of my heroes—it goes without saying that he was also queer and “queerified” the notions of what narrative could mean, in addition to speaking allegorically about the politics and society of his times, as I would also like to do. Although I don’t think of myself as a “dandy,” think there is something transcendent about the ability of the “Bricoleur” to walk through culture as an active bystander, being able to have the artistic sense of remove to really comment upon and “see” the world as perhaps it “really is.” While painting this (as I have done with previous portraits of Proust) I listened to an (abridged— but still over 60 cds!) of an audiobook of Remembrance of Things Past and tried my best to concentrate upon it and really concentrate on the nuance of form and light and color, and it was surprisingly relatively easy to paint, although it seemed as if the ghost of Proust was speaking into my ear, both from the painting and the reflection in the painting! I always enjoy painting aspects of photography as if they were real, and the light in the photo, and the red in my irises seemed to get through to the idea that I was painting as if looking in a mirror at my inner self. When you see people looking in mirrors in movies it usually has something to do with self-reflexivity, and in painting this, like any self portrait that hopefully is good, I was painting also aware of my self, and my past, and what notions constitute the self as self-instituting, and how, like they say in Buddhism, this is impossible, that interdependence, the balancing of identities based on memories, environment, our interactions within the world, so richly brought out in narratives such as Proust’s life work, can create a sublime feeling of the objectification of oneself as merely a being within the world.

Andrew in the Proust Room on Our 40th Birthdays, 2010 oil on linen 22 x 30 inches Collection of Daniel Alberman

This is from when Andrew and I had our 40th birthday blowout, when I had a show in Brussels that we used as an occasion to also travel to Amsterdam and to Paris, where we stayed in the Proust Room at the Ritz for a wondrous couple of days. This really was our dream come true, one of the highlights of our life, and we were so happy and loving being in this posh setting (that we are still paying for!) but exuberant in the moment that we could somehow be there at that moment in our lives. The tapestry behind Andrew I believe is Alexander the Great, and we felt as if we conquered the world to be able to be there and to be together, rich to be able to do this in the golden light of our birthdays which are only four days apart. I loved reliving this moment in the painting of this—brought back so many great memories of not only this specific time, but our life’s journey that brought us together, and also loved micromanaging the many moments in the complex tapestry, that also seemed allegorical for our story. Andrew is getting undressed after one of the best dinners of our life (at Taillevent, which we are also still paying for!) and if you notice he is wearing a cheap Tintin watch we got in Amsterdam, of the iconic European boy reporter that we both grew up reading, and like him on his travels, having the adventure of our lives at this moment and in our relationship together from the past and into the future!

Inspiration. I love the Chardin self portrait from the Louvre, and the painterly way he uses pastel in micro-managed ways like I now try to paint... And he seems in this an effete dandy, whilst at the same time masculine and strong, and one of the best painters of domestic (and symbolically political) life, and looked specifically at this portrait while painting this work.

Inspiration. I have always been inspired by Vuillard, Bonnard, and Derain and company, who were some of the first “all over” artists before Pollock as they used photos as their source imagery, and painstakingly gave every micro managed moment the same kind of TLC and attention, where everything was important, for sublime affect, something I was thinking of when creating this painting.



Our Wedding, July 22, 2008, Meadbrook, CA, 2010 oil on linen 24 x 32 inches

Me in the Proust Room for Our 40th Birthdays, 2010 oil on linen 22 x 30 inches Collection of Irena Hochman Fine Art Ltd

My husband and I were married the first Sunday we could in California at our cabin home in Riverside CA. We first met when I was a graduate student at UC Irvine and Andrew was an


undergraduate, studying comparative literature. He had taken time off, and we were the same age, and I was organizing the first Orange County LGBTQ film festival, and he was part of the LGBTQ group on campus, and friends with many of my Comp Lit friends, and we instantly hit it off. We met at initially at the Boom Boom Room, a seriously quaint gay bar in Laguna Beach where I had moved with my old college friend Tom Albrecht who was in grad school at UCI also for Comp Lit. His gay friend Rafi Simon and I joked about how we were living in the only gay section of Orange County—kind of a stretch, as this was a very conservative world, even for a beach town—and we never did anything “gay,” so the first night we went to the local bar, the “Boom,” I met Andrew. This place at the time had Archie Andrew cut outs on the wall, netting with fake starfish in it, and a tiny dance floor with an ancient queen dancing to disco with napkins, and in walks this gorgeous guy that kind of looked like Keanu Reeves but really had a look and charm all of his own, and it was, as they say, love at first site. He knew Rafi, and I couldn’t believe that we were instantly talking about everything, about art, life, music, romance. He left too soon, but I was invited to a party that karmically he was at too that same evening, and I’ll always remember sitting on the Laguna porch overlooking the ocean, and seeing the world in a new way as he and I talked into the night, more about art, life and culture. He loved the movie Impromptu, with the characters George Sands, Chopin, and Delacroix all hanging out at a collectors mansion, and mentioned he wanted to be George Sands laying under a Chopin’s piano, and I was all too obliged to be an artist in his constellation (he is an artist, too)! Fast-forward 23 years later we are still together and very much still in love!


Julian & Rosa, 2011 oil on linen 30 x 22 inches

Julian was our German Shepherd who lived about 14 years, and Rosa his constant companion—a sort of wife—who also, while outlasting Julian, just recently died last year at about age 14. We loved these dogs so much; truly they were like our children. We got Julian when we were living in midtown at a dangerous, deserted loft above gangsters that were running a bordello that the cops were in on. He was for protection, but Andrew had also grown up with shepherds and loved them, and I always wanted one too. Julian never took to the city much, but loved being inside nesting with us like another roommate, and he and Rosa slept in our bed and shared most of our waking moments with us as family. He was smart and kind—never chewed through a toy, and the blissful time we lived in the California desert we raised chickens and ducks from chicks and ducklings, and Julian never harmed any of them—it was one of those pictures where the little chicks would jump and rest on his head. In fact, for a short couple of years we had adopted an aged cockatiel a friend’s friend found outside their window, and it would ride on the back of Julian shrieking “Julieeeen! Julieeeen!” and Julian kept his cool.

When gay marriage, something we never thought we would see in our lifetime, became real in California, we jumped at the opportunity to get hitched—we knew that a window could be closing (and temporarily, it did!) so we arranged to be our cabin that weekend and become a married couple, finally. We originally thought we would have a mellow courthouse legal signing of the documents, but our parents begged us to make something more formal, which we gladly obliged. We invited just our immediate family, and my best friend Dan Knapp got the certification to marry us. We pledged to love each other through eternity, and I would like to think the ceiling bliss’s out into something like this—the abstract Iconscape that I had showed at Mary Boone seems to be swirling in agreement, as we bend to kiss one another with Dan smiling and our family taking pictures, this is from one of them. It was 120 degrees that day, and my family bought little Wal-Mart hand fans everyone was using—we made it as quick as possible and then quickly retreated to the air-conditioning of the only “fancy” restaurant nearby—an Italian place called Raviolis where we had a sevencourse tasting menu that was delicious and lasted for hours in the cool AC air. It was something we will remember forever—also at the courthouse, when we signed the document, it meant so much to me—knowing the power of language, and the language of the law, to have our relationship recognized by the state (and now the country) was so moving to me I broke down in tears. But the “real” marriage of course was in front of friends and family, and I never felt a more loving world than that of this super warm wonderful summer afternoon.

In the movie Rembrandt, with Charles Laugh ton—who really looked like Rembrandt—loses his beloved wife Saskia, when it is time for her funeral, he is painting a portrait of her, and his friend rushes in and exclaims “Rembrandt, why aren’t you at Saskia’s funeral!” and he shouts back “Go Away! I’m trying to paint her while I still remember her!” This painting is a momento mori—Julian had just passed away, and I was mourning his loss by painting him while I still remembered every aspect of him, petting him through each stroke of my paint and thinking deeply about our companionship (and my love for our apricot poodle, Rosa too, who adored him). This painting isn’t for sale, but when art world people come to my studio, many times way more than any canny postmodern “smart” art that I may have on my wall they turn to this and ask and love after it. I sometimes really do believe at the end of the day painting what you love, the old trope, is really true and important. Sometimes the image is really just a talisman to bring out what is best and most emotional in you, and as you are transcribing with your brush, something truly special comes out.



Brussels, and we had a 40 th birthday blowout that was one of the most excellent times of our lives we have ever enjoyed. We went to Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, and London, and stayed in incredible hotels and had out of this world food, but the most amazing moment was going to the Van Gogh Museum, where in the same place was a Rembrandt/Caravaggio show that was to die for. It was like one of those Sunday Titans of Rock, where our favorite heavy hitters all were under one roof. Much of the Rijksmuseum was closed for reconstruction, and they had some of their masterpieces, but many of the greatest hits of Rembrandt and Caravaggio were there alongside the very classic wealth of Van Goghs at that fabulous museum. Really, we went again and again, soaking it in, and not only was it edifying, it changed my life and my artistic career. I realized that the Old Masters had the same verve and vitality as Van Gogh and my favorite of the Impressionists. Instead, however, of just relying on when the muse left them after one or two goes at a canvas, both Rembrandt and Caravaggio went back in again and again, weaving their paint into a chiaroscuro, but also bringing out a layered warmth and ineffable emotion with each dense layer and skin they put down giving each canvas a life of its own. I had been spending more time on each canvas, wanting to get it right and not trusting on my first or second instincts like I had in the past, and was appreciating the results of this, but they proved to be a great lesson for me. We had bought expensive luggage for this trip too, and I realized, while not art in any sense, the luggage was expensive as it had been made by master craftsmen who made these wonderful pieces with their own kind of TLC, it was obvious that the bags were created in good time and with much care. I felt that if I was to make art, something that I couldn’t even afford, that I should take as much care as possible to go back into the work and not rely on first or second impressions, that going back into a work isn’t going to kill it, but rather have it “cook” longer to become, most of the time, even better—if you start out with a good image that all your noodling can make it great, especially if you can keep in the moment of the meditation, and focus greatly on what it means to you while your are generating something that you are aesthetically considering while allowing your thoughts and feelings to come through. In many ways this image is of a perfect moment, we couldn’t have been happier, and I was trying to convey my love for Amsterdam, my love for Andrew, my love for this world of culture and everything in it for as long as I could with my brush to remember it, and its lessons, forever.

Andrew and the Pups in the Pool, 2011 oil on linen 30 x 22 inches

The personal is political, and I’m learning this the more that I paint through my life. I love Manet, who painted his world in such a smart manner that although many of his images are of his life and his friends, the way he set up his images feels both natural and conceptual, realizing the little moments can be loaded with such meaning that the painterly can come out in a considered, intelligent way that relates not just to one’s personal life and environment, but could also behold universal conceits and ideas. In any event, this is my husband Andrew, at our new pool that we bought for ourselves for our 45th birthday, at our extremely humble cabin in Riverside county, his working Latino grandfather’s place that he always wanted to live in, where he always wanted to have a pool. I finally caved in, and although we are still paying for it, we love it, as there is 120 degree heat and we spend our summer days that we are there down by the pool and have had some of the happiest, “perfect” moments of our later years there. And on top of Andrew are our two dogs, Rosa, who just recently passed away (the apricot poodle) and Michelangelo, the little grey guy who is very much in our lives and the apple of our eye. I’m holding onto the raft with my hand that has the marriage ring on it, connecting to my husband who has his foot on mine—we make a strange, one bodied creature with many armatures in the process. Behind Andrew is the beautiful place we call home, and I guess the Tex of the raft represents the country for me. While sequestered away in our NYC apartment we often yearn for the great outdoors of our California humble utopia, and painting through the image I can think about the perfect moment of our life, feeling the love for my own nuclear family, which hopefully has gender identity politics embedded into a scene that is the most perfectly natural I can think of.



Andrew and Obama, 2011 oil on linen 12 x 16 inches Collection of Thomas Frontini, Cleveland

Andrew in Amsterdam (on the way to the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum), 2011 oil on linen 30 x 22 inches

I was asked by Ingrid Sischy in 2008 to “cover” the HauteCouture shows in Paris, for what turned out to be her last issue of Interview Magazine. I was honored (and surprised!) for this

For our 40 th birthdays, I had a serendipitously had a show in


to be undeniable. In The Matrix, one of the great films of the 90’s, the Wachowiski siblings (who also have their degree of pulpy greatness) turned Baudrillard on its head and made him culturally relevant. In this great false consciousness narrative, we wake up to find that we have been just mere cogs in a postcapitalist regime, sedated by machines to do their bidding, human batteries who mere purpose is to service the corporate commodity rule of robots. Keanu awakens as Neo, brought on by Morpheus, to save the vestiges of humanity, and like a steam punk William Blake, to bring them to a New Jerusalem. Keanu in this role was perfect—his stiffness appropriate to the Keanu School of Acting—maybe in this case like a living Buddha who kicks ass when he has to. I also love and teach Japanese Anime and Manga, and since the decline of their Emperor in WWII, they have been at a loss of a Patriarch and what it means to be a Man, John-Wayne style, striving instead perhaps, at least in the best of anime and manga, to be bishonen, beautiful men who get in touch with their embedded gender codes of femininity, and visa-versa for the women, who strap on masculine codes with kick-ass allure. Its no wonder that Lana Wachowiski became trans, as the gender bending of even a hyper action film happens as easily as a telepath considering the reality of a spoon, which bends at their will. In any event, this is the great scene where Keanu as Neo is positioned exactly right in front of Art Decoesque glory emanata, as he recognizes the bullets, rendered in my case like the surface of Monet’s lily pads in the foreground, considers whether or not the bullets or even the attack is even real, and in so doing, allowing the bullets in his mind to be arrested in motion and fall to the ground before he turns on his heels to fly across the world and help to save the world. I teach comics at SVA and the power of icons and allegory, can be edutaining in pulp narratives that are divorced from religion and extreme ideology, but still carry truths in their pulpy assertion of their own intrinsic mythos. The Matrix hit a deep note in me when it most mattered, and still is one of my favorite films, where I really gave it my all to create an icon painting of an iconic character—he might not be a real Buddha or Savior, but he is more real and palatable to most for our time, more relatable and savvy to what was happening at the end of the 20 th Century and the beginning of the 21st.

great “assignment,” and was able to convince the magazine to allow me to bring (although we paid for our own extra expenses!) Andrew Madrid, my husband, as my “assistant” (although really he came along for just emotional support, and “the ride of a lifetime”!). This was during the time of the Democratic debates for President, and also right on the cusp of the economic crises that we were just feeling the beginnings of the permutations of. Ironically, Andrew and I were living on our credit cards, but being hoisted into this amazing bubble of wealth and fantastic prosperity, despite our own bohemian economic situation. After coming back from these amazing shows of fashion and pomp and circumstance, we would retreat back to this fancy hotel (along with the other working class glamorous models who flew coach back home and lived cheaply after they took off their extreme dresses), and were grounded by watching the debates and the issues that they brought up. It was fantastic to watch Obama, who I was and am for, his intellectual honesty and humanness, in these debates, especially at the time, as he cut through the pomposity of the world that we were in Paris, and told it “like it was.” I painted this retroactively after he already became President, remembering all this, during a time that Andrew was extremely sick, and part of my emotional motivation was caring for him through painting, while he was at my side in bed sleeping, whilst also thinking about the bigger picture, grateful for our environment of our world of our apartment in New York and our life together, but also the bigger issues of the current state of politics, and surviving through the ensuing time of economic crises, hoping that Obama and his team could help to drag us out of economic depression, and for the act of painting to give us some catharsis during a time where Andrew was feeling bad and I was doing my best to help him (and myself) through our current situation. Of course, I love Van Gogh, and the paintings of his room, and felt that hopefully this work could also emulate the ultimate love for this room and the hope and aspirations that ultimately it could symbolize; that I hope is brought out in the painting.



Neo, 2003 oil on linen 14 x 34 inches Collection of Lois Plehn, New York Andrew Smelling the Flowers in the Proust Room, 2009 oil on linen 12 x 16 inches Collection of Rosalie and Steven Litt, Cleveland

This is an early painting really from the Hamlet 1999 series that preceded this one, but I couldn’t help putting it in as it always has put a smile on my face, and more than this, truly has been a protector of sorts for my world and me. I love Keanu Reeves, and have employed him in my star system since I began showing my art in graduate school. He is the consummate Gen X Masculine Dude, who is able to be a man without being a dick, who is a gentleman but can show his strength when it counts, could hypothetically be any sexuality, any ethnicity, but a post-slacker man who may or may not be a great actor, but has been around for so many years and has made so many countless iconic films with great directors that to some degree he has earned his star

I had a show in Brussels during the time of our 40th birthdays, and we had a “40th Birthday Blowout” (that we are still paying for!) by traveling also to Amsterdam and Paris, where we stayed for a magical couple of days in the Proust Room of the Ritz Hotel. Proust would have his dinners supposedly in this small room above the restaurant, where he would also meet guests and hold soirees. We were enchanted by the place and its history, and Proust has long been important to us in his life and


literature (I have created paintings of him and other works from this time, also in the Whitney installation). Proust’s famous Madeline’s were talismans back to synaesthetic memories that he so eloquently and geniusly wrote about in his experimental, non-linear narrative (that I hope the installation emulates), and his spirit seemed very alive in the context of the room itself. They had beautiful flowers in this elegantly appointed small single (but luxurious) room, and we spent much time there, ordering in Spaghetti Bolognese (that we shared) for our meals, etc. In our Ritz bathrobes, we chillaxed in luxury, and literally stopped and smelt the flowers, appreciating our life and feeling deep gratitude to what brought us to this point of our 40th birthdays. 

I painted this work a couple of years later, when Andrew was extremely ill, trying to remember this high point in our life, and also painting this for my love for my husband, after being together for over twenty years. I also wanted to paint this for him, when he was able to get out of bed, so he could remember happy times in the hope that it would make him feel better. Sometimes the eloquencey of pithy epiphanies can be really true—stopping and smelling the roses of life is so important, and I choose paintings to meditate upon the subjects, like Proust’s Madeline’s, which are most important for me, and in many cases, make me feel good while painting them. Sometimes I think what you bring to the subject matter might be as important as the subject matter itself, especially true in painting, where thoughts and feelings unconsciously slip out as your brush is trying to consciously control the image. I’m hoping my love for Andrew and our life together is infused in this self reflexive moment—usually in movies when you have a scene with a mirror it is about self contemplation—and of course the mirror here emulates Andrew in his action, it’s also me looking into the mirror of our world together and everything that it means to me. Andrew is an artist, too, and we both love Van Gogh and Gauguin—narcissistically I think sometimes we could be reincarnations of this homosocial couple, and here hopefully the symbolic associations of color, etc., come out in this portrait of my husband, who I think looks a bit like a much more handsome version of Paul Gauguin!

retirees surround us, but we love it and get up every morning to watch the sun rise. This “Jewish Bride” is called Husbands as we married there the first Sunday we could in CA before the window came down. Luckily the country and the world is getting smarter and love prevails as we just celebrated our 21 anniversary together. Of course, this is also from a “selfie” (that I first had published on Facebook when I joined!), and I hope that another contemporary context of the painting is that it is obviously a response of me wanting to penetrate to the photo to bring out the emotions and timeless feeling from it, as when we were married we pledged to love each other through eternity.


My Family, 2013 oil on linen 56 x 70 inches Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Gift of Lois Plehn

Finally, one of the last images in the installation (if you are looking left to right) there is this picture of my family, looking towards the painting of me and Andrew--my future for this 4 year old version of myself--and like Bedknobs and Broomsticks, the whole scene of the installation. Like in Pinocchio, who becomes a real boy after discovering his love for others and his family, I created this for my Dad on his 80th Birthday, to celebrate he and my mom’s love for me and my sister in this picture they gave us for Christmas a couple of years ago, in a photo taken by Deborah Wolf, my cousin, in the fall of 1970. She was living with us at the time, and our great grandmother, who loved TV, gave us a new color television as couldn’t stand our old black and white one. My father had made my sister a flat dollhouse that she didn’t use anymore, so he flipped it over and put a piece of carpet over it to make a TV stand for it, and directed Deborah to take this photo of us, “testing” our new TV for the first time. While painting, I listen to music to get my head into the picture that I’m creating, and for this I listened to much of my parent’s old record collection (on cd!), and realized that when I was painting to West Side Story and The Sound of Music, it worked the best, so I think we must have been watching one of these two movies! I love Gustav Klimt, and how he used design elements partly inspired by East Asian miniatures to carry the synaesthetic, emotive life of the figures they embrace, and hope that the love that my family feels for one another, both then and now is captured by the bedspread. My mom is tickling my sister to get her to laugh, as I’m contemplating the tv as I do when I paint, and subconsciously think I painted my Dad emphasizing his pointing to his ring as truly this painting is about family, and the nostalgic moment we used to have as a country, where television was a gathering place for the family, a new hearth, where we all shared moments together. In the uber installation of the cosmology, I hope we are also watching the other paintings


Husbands (Andrew and I), 2012 oil on linen 36 x 48 inches Collection of Jay Farina and Michael Lighty I love the painting The Jewish Bride by Rembrandt, one of my favorite paintings of all time in how he was able to capture the love and exaltation in a tender moment in oil paint, in a formal language that transcends any written word. This is Andrew and I at our cabin home hideaway, in Lake Elsinore, Riverside CA. This is our fortress of solitude where we escape to when we can and where I want to retire and grow out my beard and paint like Monet in a bathetic Giverny. Perris with “e” is our mailing address, and trailers with crystal meth labs and


in the show, how other families (like Martin Luther King’s playing piano), scenes, and events help to forge the country where my husband and I can also be a family, and all of us happy and loving looking into the future of our lives.

younger version of Obama, as both Obama and Clinton invoked Dr. King repeatedly in their remarks, and how generationally we’ve grown as a country because in part of King, his passion, and extraordinary work and sacrifice to even consider a black man (and a woman for that matter!) as President, much less elect him into office (now twice!). The full quote is “Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.” Although the edited version of this was subsequently chiseled in (and now edited off) the King memorial in D.C., I thought at the time I created this work, that King’s legacy extended through his family generationally, and now to the world, where hopefully we are all “Drum Majors for righteousness,” learning in part from the lessons of Dr. King, his family and all their great work.


Inspiration. Jacob Lawrence broke out into the artworld at the young age of 23, when he gained national recognition of his 60 panel Migration Series, which, like the images in the installation, were a narrative series of paintings. Way before Basquiat, he was one of the first African American artists to help open the window for people of color to be acknowledged by the art establishment, becoming the most celebrated African-American painter in the country. I’ve really admired his style of “dynamic cubism” to bring out the inner essence of feeling and atmosphere in his figurative narrative allegories that were both political and beautiful, emotional and culturally resonant. He also created series of images that were not necessarily linear, hanging works salon-style to create a cosmology depicting the struggle for agency and freedom of great American people of color.

Drum Majors (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Family), 2008 oil on linen 40 x 30 inches Collection of Buffy and Stephen Levy, Chicago

Martin Luther King Jr. and his family are presented playing the piano in the painting “Drum Majors” to represent not just the scene transpiring but the symbol of how King wanted to be remembered in his last famous speech and the current generation of leaders who invoke him and Coretta Scott King as their models. This picture was originally included in my exhibition at LIGHTBOX gallery in Los Angeles in 2008 called “Good Leaders, Endangered Species, Ships at Sea Pt. 1,” because, at the time, when the political campaigns and debates had already begun for the next American President, I felt that good leaders were like an “endangered species” in a world that was like a “ship at sea.” I have always been moved and inspired by Dr. King and the civil rights movement in general, and being born in 1966 have my own childhood affiliation with the memory of him (and the assignation and aftermath) on television and the media, and hope do whatever I can as an artist, teacher, and human being to contribute my efforts for equality and the recognition of the agency of all peoples in my life, which includes the fine art world of galleries and museums. I love Dr. King and everything he stood for, and wanted to pay homage and respect with this painting (one of several I have created around Dr. King, including his appearance also in this exhibition in the background of the portrait of Rosa Parks). 

While looking for another image of him, I stumbled across the photo I created this from in an old Life Magazine, and although it was small (and black and white) I was struck by not just the obvious joy and togetherness it represented of his family, but also how wonderfully symbolic it seemed, with the parents “teaching” the children how to play, and the mirror in the background reflecting into “our space” to invoke the viewer’s position within the paradigm of the picture. Although the painting veers from photographic representation, I hope how its not like the photo is what is “me” about it, inspired while creating this listening to King’s speeches, audiobooks about him and the movement (especially “Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference” by David J. Garrow), and music he liked and listened to in his lifetime. The wallpaper, while painting this work, seemed to come alive, and I was aware of the angelic-like way King’s presence still works upon our world. The debates between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were also playing out during the working process of painting this, and afterward, I was struck how, especially in the depiction of Dr. King’s son, my picture almost seemed like a


The Little Princess, 2008 oil on linen 36 x 48 inches Collection of Lois Plehn, New York

This painting was from the first installment of the series “Good Leaders, Endangered Species, Ships at Sea,” an installation juxtaposing in a deliberate sequence to create a poetic allegory of images, oil paintings of iconic figures from popular and political cultural history are exhibited along with images of animals that are truly endangered in our fragile ecology, next to pictures of vessels striving to overcome seemingly insurmountable storms, symbolizing an optimistic outlook that we can healthily triumph through the chaotic crises of our time. In this work, Shirley Temple makes an appearance from the film The Little Princess as she dreams herself to be a benevolent leader as her character in the film makes a valiant struggle to overcome hardship. One of my husband’s and now my favorite films, Shirley Temple plays a character whose wealthy father leaves her a private school, only for her to lose everything when


they believe the father, who went off to fight in a war, dies. She is then made to become a servant for the mean girls in the school, who treat her with contempt. Shirley Temple—being Shirley Temple—doesn’t make a fuss about their treatment of her, only wishes for the future, befriending the other servant girl at the school, and making constant visits to the Vet hospital to find her returning missing father, who she refuses to believe is dead. There is a terrific dream sequence, that this film still comes from, where she, playing a queen, protects the kind adults who protect and support her by admonishing the cruel school matron that subjugates her in real life, and is encouraged by the young couple’s love for one another—they save themselves by giving each other the kiss that the witchy matron accuses them of stealing. Shirley as queen then witnesses herself self-actualize, when she watches her doppelganger be the star of a little ballet. She wakes up to the benevolent mysterious neighbors gift of a warm breakfast and new clothes for she and her friend, which gives her the encouragement to continue to pursue her dreams, finding her father by the end of the film and getting to meet the Queen!

really gained its notoriety from being broadcast every year from the ‘50’s onwards. Generations of people have been raised now by this movie, in that they are absorbed as young people while watching this narrative, and it affects their ideology, in addition to becoming part of their dreams and nightmares. Many believe the movie is an allegory for Capitalism, and while this is probably true, I like to think about it more benignly as being about finding yourself, your inner strength, standing up for what is right, and coming into your own. I have created many images of Judy Garland, at first in my questioning about how many older gay men love her, while many younger gay men are terrified of her. Like many reporters, I became a member of the cult I was investigating, and now love Judy Garland. She was one of the greatest entertainers of the Twentieth Century, and like Elvis, brought real emotion and life into her songs and into her acting. She was a strong-willed woman, and I believe part of her appeal is that she always fought for her agency in a patriarchal culture that strove to take it away in their exploitation of her as a talent and as a woman. But Judy always fought back, and succeeded in having many comebacks in her career. The weekend she died tragically, finally succumbing to the pressures around her, the Stonewall bar in NYC was raided by the Police. The gay men there, beset by grief from the death of their idol, decided to rage against this oppressive force in the Stonewall Rebellion that gave birth to the LGBT civil rights movement.

I love Shirley Temple, who in her real life was one of the most famous, wealthiest actors of her time as a child star, giving the nation and world hope through her bright spirit during the time of the depression, and later in life, becoming a benevolent Republican stateswoman, and one of the first celebrities to come out as having Breast Cancer, announcing it to the world and popularizing the idea to check and help cure the disease. She was a “Good Leader” in both her life and her art, and a model for many. Warhol always idolized her, and I’m surprised he didn’t make more images of her (if any?), and it was inspiring for me to paint her during our own recession, and she inspired hope in me as much as any audience member in her heyday.

In this scene in the film, Judy later told a story how Victor Fleming, the director of the sequence, was yelling at the men, hammy vaudeville actors, to allow for her to have room in the scene. I think there is that pressure here, as she fights, like she did in real life, for her rightful place. These male characters all have a different idea of masculinity than the more aggressive, John Wayne-like character of the time. While the Cowardly Lion is commonly seen to be “gay,” the Tin Man and the Scarecrow also have “something missing,” which gives them an alternate, or more sensitive male gender identity, which also might be appealing to a progressive audience. Despite the hassles that Judy Garland put up with as a teenager during the time she made the film, from her family, and from MGM (a studio that made her eat only chicken broth because they told her she was “fat”; Louis B. Mayer called her “ugly,” she was kept on “pep pills” or the speed she became addicted to later in life by the studio to keep her in overproduction, etc.), she carries the movie, and is truly its star and its driving force. The song “Over the Rainbow,” became a performative symbol of her life, and despite her tragedy of never quite getting there, her talents gave the world wonderful entertainment, and helped politically, to change world culture.


The Wizard of Oz Quintet, 2006 oil on linen 48 x 80 inches Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

I think of this as a “history painting,” and ultimately want to paint through the iconography image to bring out the real moment of these actors on a soundstage creating a movie that will change the world. I at first listened to Chopin music, for its harmonious mathematical logic, because of the many colors that fit together so well in the photo of a perfect movie. I then would play the film over and over in the background while I was painting, along with the many DVD extras. Most of all, I listened to the 4 ½ hours of outtakes and recordings of the music of the film as I painted, and would wake up in the morning with the songs running through my head. I wanted to fully immerse myself into the world of the Wizard of Oz as I painted it, allowing my conscious and subconscious to “leak through” in the forms and colors to give the work an internal energy and life of its own.

This is a picture from the scene in the film The Wizard of Oz after Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man find the Cowardly lion and accept him into part of their group to find the Wizard. This was a painting from my exhibition “Kings & Queens,” and was part of a larger, non-linear narrative invoking the Last Judgment. In the show, I was trying to depict positive models of Kings and Queens in a time when so many people are abusing their power in negative, monarchal, ways. The Wizard of Oz is one of the most viewed and beloved films of all time, and has truly affected the world consciousness. This was a “miracle film,” it should have never survived being made (it had many troubles before and during production, including having three directors, etc.), but had a “life of its own” and seemingly willed itself into being. It was successful upon release in 1939, but



emotional space to think of the formal aspects more, and how they related to art (Charlie Brown is almost like a Picasso figure, who painted mostly “cartoons”), and cultural history. I like the new version as much as the first, ultimately they are still about Alicia, but also our relationship not just with her, but evolving after her passing both emotionally and for me, as an artist since that time. Like how early Snoopy looked a lot different from later renditions of Snoopy, my work had grown as I had, the images look different, but hopefully both are good.

After Peanuts: Pictures to Color (Homage to Alicia, 2005), 2012 oil on linen 38 x 28 inches Collection of Lora Berson Hersh


The artist Joe Bradley curated me into a show at Gavin Brown’s a couple of years ago. He had seen a painting I had created in 2005 entitled Peanuts: Pictures to Color (and homage to Alicia) and wanted to put it in the show. This was a very special painting, as it was for my husband Andrew in memory of his best friend Alicia, who had died due to HIV related causes. Like us, she loved all things Snoopy, and had given me this coloring book (the painting was an appropriation of the cover) the last time I had seen her, and I painted this just after she died. This wasn’t a painting we wanted to sell, and I thought that perhaps I would create a new version to have on the wall in the gallery as they wanted salable. works and I thought it would be interesting to revisit.

America, 2010 oil on linen 44 x 70 inches

I painted this for my show “My Modern Life” originally at Derek Eller in New York, which was an important show as a “chapter” or “book” for My American Dream as most of the works were from my own photos, with the exception of this one, which was from Google Earth. Although its not in this incarnation of My American Dream, I wanted to include it here as its one of my favorite images of this cosmology that I hope to be able to have in future renditions of this exhibition. I had a dream that I would paint a painting of an America without borders without a map, and waking up, realized that Jasper Johns had a similar dream in which he went about painting a map of America that, like his flag, wasn’t a picture of a map, but was kind of its own map. After Johns and after Richter, I think the job of the artist working from imagery is to be able to penetrate the image once again, to make an illusory image that could contain emotion and feeling as much as it could relate to things outside of itself, and in a way, I could create this work that would be a Landscape Painting that would be contemporary, just from the technology in which it was derived. Trying to search for an appropriate image (in my dream instead of borders it was more like a puzzle?) I found that Google Earth really served best, and chose a time and a day that was symbolic, and printed the image as high res as possible, to get every nook and cranny recorded by the pastiche satellite imagery. During this time, tragically my 14 year old German Shepherd Julian died, and while I was painting this hopeful optimistic image, I was also mourning the loss of my dear and beloved dog. The only thing that kept me from crying was to play Mozart’s Magic Flute over and over, which somehow gave me hope, through its own narrative power about music changing attitude and lives, as I hoped the painting would do formally through the push and pull of the plastic space. Unconsciously I love how this painting has surreal elements to its intricacies, and Lake Michigan became a sort of doppelganger for the leg and paw of my Julian, whose spirit I hoped to reach through my meditation and love for my country.

When I make works, like a method actor, I really try to get into the “head” of the person and/or scene that I’m painting, to try bring emotion and life to the work--I listen to relevant music and audiobooks about the scene I’m depicting, and very much meditative on my thoughts while working. For the first version, of course I was thinking of our great friend Alicia, and was mournful of her passing, and really was thinking of her, and our relationship to her, and having these emotions and feelings suture into the iconography of the characters in the painting. The second version, created seven years later, was about Alicia still--the patina of the cover of this old coloring book seemed like a melancholic fragment of memory of our still powerful feelings for her, but also it was about moving on, continuing as these great characters have after the death of their creator Charles Schulz. I listened to his recent comprehensive biography, and was thinking also very much of him and his great legacy, and also formally the idea of “masking” that I get from Scott McCloud and his book Understanding Comics, where we relate to cartoon characters as avatars, and like in a RPG video game, “become” them and “mask” into the world of their journey. I was interested in the painterly aspects of the background, and going into that space, that reveals itself to be an illusion with the tromp l’oeil aspects of the painting. The cover itself had become more frayed and stained, and I recorded this, including some of the information on it that I didn’t have the patience or desire to have in the original. As a painter, as I’ve grown older, I like to micro-manage more, feeling that my subconscious can still “spill out” into the painting to give it life, but also trying to record as accurately as possible what I see in a photo, with the deviation of how it’s “not like” the photo being what is “me” about it still, with less self-consciousness about leaving expressive moods of style. I also have more patience in my meditation of painting, and can break through forms and find their more minute moments to bring out their volume, etc., and in this case of appropriation, painting the printed aspects of color and ink as if they were real things in the world of the image. I also had time and the



ideas of politics to subjugate and partition different groups and different peoples. I do feel that the earth is a living thing, like a giant whale in space and we are merely barnacles clinging to its surface—if we could all learn to respect one another and the planet that we are living on hopefully we can all come together an make the world a better place where we can all survive happily and healthfully into the future!

C42 North America from Space, 2012 oil on linen 26 x 46 inches Private Collection

I had a dream of painting North America, but that it looked like a puzzle, and realized, after waking up, that Jasper Johns had painted his flag painting from a dream, and although it’s a super smart painting that helped to bring modernism into postmodernity, that it was an idea that was simply generated from his instinctive, dream self, and that you should always follow your dreams when making art—as you subconscious can be as smart as your conscious self. I realized, after doing research looking for an America that was like my dream image, that Google Earth was the best source for this, and created the painting. After doing this, and feeling success with the work, I also realized that unlike Johns, who in a Duchamp-way found a “readymade” with his map, and painted the borders and stenciled names of the states in an ab-ex-y way, perhaps making a wry commentary on ab ex and landscape painting, in a knowing, tongue-and-cheek manner that also was allegorically expressive of how we map over reality with language and/or how any means of expression— the “freedom” of the ab ex painters was merely just that—a language. Although my initial painting was pixilated, I wanted it to be about the nation without borders, the real landscape captured by satellite photos. I had also painted pictures of the earth—the first picture of the earth—taking analogue, by a human astronaut, and while enjoying this and the effect of looking at this kind of image, it seemed dated, and more seemed possible to bring about the notion of painting a landscape, but unlike in times of the past when we were restricted by what we could experience “en plein air” or by photography. For the initial installation of My American Dream, which I feel is a giant, comic like composition, where each painting acts like a single panel in a comic, juxtaposed with another to created a content and timerich sequence, I wanted the camera to “pan out” as it were, from my own personal life, and like an epic that has micro-managed “personal narratives” within macro-managed panoramas of world events, wanted to bring in our country and the planet that its on to emulate the global aspects of what “My American Dream” could be about. So I went back to Google Earth, but this time, panned out farther, and chose the day I was doing this, and the time, so it would be as if I stood outside in space and painted the scene of our world floating in space, and did this on my husband Andrew and I’s anniversary day of Feb. 22, 2012, when we were celebrating our 20th anniversary of being together! It was fun painting all the micromanaged moments in the work, and remembered the feeling of watching the opening scenes of “The Big Blue Marble” that showed the Earth as it really was, generating a sublime feeling even as a youngster (that we were really all like “hamsters running around on this rock we call Earth, and we think we know what we know--but how much do we really know about everything?!”). When it comes to gender identitypolitics, certainly it becomes true that we are all merely animals that use language and the proceeding ideological

First Men on the Moon, 2012 oil on linen 28 x 36 inches Collection of Avo Samuelian and Hector Manuel Gonzalez

I am one to believe we actually of course did go to the moon, and being someone who was born in 1966 grew up with space as my final frontier in my aspirations of what could be possible in our life and in our dreams. Films and pictures of our journey in space have always compelled me—they are inherently sublime, and its amazing to me to think about journeying into space—all the astronauts always comment how small and insignificant our own world is by comparison, and how one can easily see a world without borders, where the battling of nations seem so insignificant in the big picture of the universe and its significance in the unthinkable enormity of the galaxy within galaxies. When my husband Andrew and I are at our cabin home in Riverside California, far away from civilization of New York as we know it, and transported into a different, quiet land, I feel as if we are two astronauts on the moon, forging our own territory as we plant each tree, beautifying our beatific parcel, something it reminds me of here as they are absurdly planting a flag claiming that space of the desolate moon for America. Of course Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were deservedly heroes, and some of my first dim memories are of the live broadcast of this historic even on TV. I love this as a JFK national mandate—it seems so visionary, and something our current climate wouldn’t tolerate-it would be amazing to have our Presidents mandate that we need to send someone to Mars in our lifetime and return them safely to Earth. I also love anything science fiction, and Andrew and I are the first to see any movie about ships flying through space. It was fun and intense negotiating all the micromanaged space in this truly uncanny photo of space, and astronauts have claimed before to see or feel otherworldly beings observe them as they promenade in unknown galactic territory. To help get into the mood while painting this, I played a lot of Miles Davis, especially the stranger and darker works from the late 60’s and 70’s, that get otherworldly. Space is an amazing place to be but I wouldn’t want to be there forever, and glad I have the companionship of my husband to get me through the strangeness of this life.



are this word that has so many negative connotations that seem so different from how they originally identified (and felt) about themselves. Thankfully, our world has much progressed since even the early ‘90’s, with cultural and political revolutions, the ability of people to survive with HIV, and with shows like Glee and more, super positive LGBT characters live in our entertainment culture that have inspired a younger generation— and the world in general—to have a much more positive respect for people of all persuasions—but of course some of these issues naggingly persist. In the current incarnation of this painting in this installation of My American Dream, I hope that it has a much more positive feeling—that this is a boy, and iconic avatar personally for myself—looking into the future of his life with the knowing that it will all turn out wonderfully in the end, that he will be able to get married, be happy with his husband and with his family in an America that has grown and matured, thanks to history of cultural revolutions that have proceeded and persist, to make a world that people can live with empathy and compassion and respect for one another and the world. Like the boat across from him in the installation, which could be his toy boat but in that image one of the strongest, fastest ships in America that survived horrible storms, that despite the anguish he might be currently feeling, that he could ultimately, romantically survive into a 21 century America that is a better place.

Blue boy (Ty cashe), 1991 oil and wax on wood 30 x 30 inches

This is the first painting I created in graduate school, at the University of California, Irvine, in the early ‘90’s. Based on a drawing I had created the summer before coming to school, while I was living in a basement in Brooklyn, it is of Ty Cashe, a barely-known porn star, who was in one of the first gay porn magazines I have ever bought (and seen!) in college. Narcissistically, I thought it looked a bit like me from when I was younger, and we were about the same age, so he was like an avatar that existed in a non-subjugated world where it was perfectly okay to be gay and to act out on your desires. Engraved in the wax of the surface of the painting, however, I used a nail and a stencil to painstakingly write “Suddenly it occurred to me this is my life to me to me” over and over again.

Ty Cashe evidently DID survive the age of HIV related deaths, and is still around somewhere in the Bay Area, and it was incredibly moving and vindicating that, after 14 years, hopefully this painting still holds up, that my 47 year old self carried this picture I created when I was just 25 years old through the lobby of the Whitney Museum to hang on the wall the installation that wasn’t just a non-linear narrative entitled “My American Dream” but actually performing this—that when I painted the picture I hoped to be in the Whitney Biennial, and this was my dream come true.

At the time, being a Semiotics major at Brown, I was deeply invested in the idea of language being like the software that operates the notions (and ideologies) of how we perceive the world in the hard drive of our brains. Homosexuality didn’t exist before the late 1800’s when a Belgium scientist “discovered” that word—of course there have been same sex relationships since the beginning of human kind and nature, but not since we had that word would we have the specific subjugations that come about using the power and ideas generated from the specificity of language mapping over the reality of how things exist within the world.

Inspiration. I read the famous book by Robert Henri “The Art Spirit” when I was in college, and it always stuck with me as being true—the warmth and human emotion and trying to capture the “spirit” of the subject was a driving force for me, even when in Graduate School as a child of the Pictures Generation school of appropriation. If I could appropriate images, painting from photography (in this case, also not objectifying the subject in the way that I was taught Degas would—he was already objectified in the film and photos of porn), I could project my feelings of empathy and relate to the subject, and also hope that I could capture his spirit in doing so, that ultimately would give the work a “life of its own” beyond any intended meaning on my behalf.

Many of my Semiotics friends became Buddhists, in that Buddhism is the ancient philosophy that, much like Semiotics, shows that we and the world exists, but perhaps not in the manner that we perceive it, and I remember asking one of my Semiotics professors at Brown, in a nihilistic moment, that if “it all adds up to zero” what was the point, and he retorted that “well, it’s interesting to talk about”! Most great art I believe exposes the play between signifier and signified in the semiotic sign, and hear I was really trying to express how beings like the boy in the image exist within the world, but suddenly, when they find out their Lacanian place within the Symbolic Order, all sorts of ideological ideas can come upon them.


I had always been attracted to other males, but felt “different” than the gay people I saw portrayed in television (such as John Ritter in Three’s Company, although he was supposed to be a straight character performing as a gay one!), and didn’t want to be the “fag” that was beat up on the playground. In the original incarnation that this work appeared, it was alongside other portraits of three other pornstars/hustlers, against the different elements (fire, water, earth), with texts from a play I had written (I come from a playwriting/theater/comics background) and a video, in a show entitled “Not.” I was interested in how many teens that commit suicide did (and perhaps sill do) so when they find out they are lesbian or gay—when they find out they

That’s All Folks!, 2004
 oil on linen 26 x 36 inches Collection of Ann Craven


always revered it in that there are many planes of seeing that are being projected. The “flag” in my mind is the form on the bottom, receding into space and also doubling in front of it, with what looks to be a firey ball or some form of substance hovering above it, looking as if it will fall in a reflecting pool of the flag that could be submerging into a lower dimension. There is also a hole of plastic liminal space in the upper third of the painting, with painterly fields oscillating in front of this it. In my mind, there has always been two unconsciously created faces, one, to the left 1st third of the image that looks like a blue and red portrait, and then the yellow silhouetted image surrounded by red in the top third, seemingly looking at the scene, or falling as it becomes the fiery ball in the reflecting pool or dimensional pit. What this all means is up in the air---all of it was created from my inner mind as I paint, and I’m projecting onto it, but it always was my goal to make dreams real and palatable, to bring them from my inner mind into the outer world. This is one of the most successful of these works, where I hope to bring out dream space and time, without illustrating it like Dali, but creating a more renaissance like plastic space, more volumetric and colorful, that Gorky, with a contemporary verve that is all of my time and experience of this turbulent period of my life.

I grew up addicted to Warner Brothers cartoons, and was glued to my television most Saturday mornings watching the fun violent antics of Bugs and friends, and respected the visionary power of the animators and their ideas that went beyond mere jokes to sometimes otherworldly territory and allegorically revealing the lighter, but also the darker, aspects of life. I related to their anthropomorphized subjects, and Bugs Bunny in some ways was the first empowered “gay” character, who would easily and proudly slip into drag, hung out a lot with his male friends without ever having a girlfriend, and would only seek revenge when first trod upon. In any event, I also loved the end and beginning credits, with the spirals would roll out, and sometimes even Porky Pig would exclaim “Th…th….the the… THAT’S ALL FOLKS!.” Originally the “ending” of my long narrative Hamlet 1999, I couldn’t help but also appropriate it for the “ending” of this narrative of My American Dream, or at the very least, the end of the “third act.” To me, when I paint my “cartoon paintings” I try to physicalize the aesthetic aspects of the typeface and fonts, and to try to “get underneath” all the aspects of the cell painting and backgrounds, to try to bring something painterly and new to the appropriation, and unlike Warhol and Lichtenstein, who sometimes further “flattened the image” try to use the ability of oil paint to make the push and pull happen, and the plasticity of the oil paint to make the forms even more three dimensional. Here, I’m hoping that the negative space of the interior hole become whole, or spherical, three dimensional, like a planet, and the concentric rings like waves of a bomb going off—I see it as like a planet blowing up, hopefully not ours, but something like initialization, ironized by the cursive “That’s all Folks” font—its Revelations, with a Warner Brothers twist, like some crazy nightmare. I felt this and had nightmares like many of the kids of my generation growing up from the sixties, and in my despair in the height of the George W. years painted this image. I feel much better about our country and world over a decade later, but still there is the edge of the world coming to the brink of chaos, and I think apocalypse is a healthy fear to have so we do everything in our power not to come to the not so happy end…


Jesus Iconscape, 1997 oil on canvas 36 x 36 inches


This is one of my most favorite paintings I have ever created and a seminal work that I have with me since I first painted it. We were living on 87 Christopher Street in a tiny apartment with the bathtub in the kitchen, and I talked my super into letting me use the basement furnace room as a studio. It was meager, but romantic. In this time in my ‘20’s, I was spiritual searching (really, a lifelong pursuit), and growing up with a non-religious Jewish Father and Southern Baptist Mother I was a religious mutt, and my way into Catholicism and Christianity was Jesus Christ Superstar, the musical. I was sincerely listening to this great music (the movie soundtrack music), painting this image from the cd cover, kind of like Woody Allen looking into the winky-dink of Jesus in Annie Hall, wondering what it all means, but wanting to believe. This was from a picture of Palm Sunday from the CD booklet, and I wasn’t sure if I liked the initial rendering I created. But then, I allowed myself to “go for it,” listening to the music, allowing for automatic painting to become abstracted, (as I was hoping my figurative work was becoming), allowing its ecstatic ecstasy to come through. In the end, unconscious figures immerged—I think of a floating bunny form showing Christ a bird—and then discovered the Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch and the symbolism of Christs’ Passion. I also see a sheep on the right hand side, many figures, and the whole composition on the right seems like a profile. The work gives me hope and acts as a talisman of good energy and all that I strive for in my painting.


Flag Iconscape, 1997 oil on linen 42 x 36 inches

In the late ‘90’s I had been painting and exhibiting these Iconscapes, where I hoped by painting my inner mind by instinct it would result in both abstract and figurative imagery that would break down figurative works into an abstract world of my unconscious, and bring together figurative elements from my subconscious without illustrating them. This particular painting came years of drawing and painting these, and I have



on this wall at part of my reconstruction of a Last Judgment, inspired by Michelangelo, and is placed in the same section as his “Resurrection of the Dead” at the Sistine Chapel.


The Vision of St. John: The Opening of the Fifth Seal (After El Greco), 2008 oil on linen 72 x 62 inches Collection of Alain Noirhomme The Phantom, 2002 oil on linen 30 x 36 inches Collection of Dana Schutz and Ryan Johnson

I’m a huge El Greco fan, as are many modernists and great artists in time. I love how his work breaks into abstraction, allowing his subconscious to leak through, and how, in the way that his figures look like they got lost in Photoshop and couldn’t find their way out, bring out the passion of what it was that he was thinking about, making him popular in the time he was creating works, as he was hired by the particular sect of Catholicism that wanted to transmute his passion for Christ to their world. El Greco comes from the Byzantine tradition of icon painting, where they truly felt they were channeling the entities they were painting, which was able to communicate through the paintings to the faithful. This particular painting was created for a hospital—from Revelations, it’s the section where those who died in Christ’s name arise again to heaven at the end of the world when a hole is ripped through another dimension. It was to give the residents of the hospital hope, and the main figure I believe was touching the hand of God, a section that had been cropped off in time in the original, but I feel I found here by following the strokes in the original. This was a painting that inspired many great artists—famously it was owned during Picasso by one of his collector friends and kept behind a curtain, and Picasso would go to study it. His Demoiselles D’Avignon is directly inspired by it—the figures in that work are not only emulate Iberian and African masks and styles, but by the figures in the center of this painting, originally patterned after wax figurines in El Greco’s studio. Jackson Pollack had also been directly inspired by it, copying at the Met how the undulating folds created an all-over type pattern.

I used to have a nightmare of a giant skull man walking down stairs when I was a small child, and when I finally saw Phantom of the Opera as an adult, there is the famous color sequence where the Phantom, in his Red Death costume, comes down the stairs in the Masque of the Red Death costume for the Masquerade Ball scene, and I realized that this must have been something I had seen as a kid which entered into my subconscious. I’m a big believer when you are doing any kind of dream art to think about the dream why you are executing it as then sometimes it opens up “portholes” in your unconscious, and you start remembering other aspects of the dream which can be illuminating and also infuse your work with a synaesthetic other life. Also, when working with nightmare imagery, by making work about it you objectify it, you “own it.” Being a son of a psychoanalyst, I believe it gives you a method in which to understand what it was that plagued you in the first place. I’m also a big fan of Goya, who in his figurative narrative work was able to create allegories that have stood the test of time, and also create atmospheres that you really can feel and are palatable, that get under your skin better than any horror movie as they use both form and content to reach an inner mythos that could be intrinsic in all of humanity, through the power of the plasticity of oil paint to make not only things, people, and scenes concretized and realized within the picture plane, but also thoughts and feelings (and of course in his prints and drawings his inky blacks and scratchy sketching also lends towards emotive melancholic tones). In fact, it was seeing his Black Paintings at the Prado when I was in high school that made me want to create fine art, and to even see a relationship between the “danse macabre” of his imagery and my own fascination with monsters and science fiction growing up.

Many secrets are in El Greco’s work, I think by a man who really so believed in the subject matter of what he was creating that unconsciously, in all the folds and undulations, his subconscious simultaneously transplanted figures, faces, and forms while his conscious mind rendered what it critically wanted— something I try to do in my own work. I have copied many of his masterpieces, but always wanted to climb the mountain of this one. To do it, I listened to the entire old and new testaments (unabridged) on audiobook while I worked, which was a pretty trippy experience. I learned much, and was surprised, never reading the entire Bible before, how much of it I already knew, through the storytelling of culture and all the inferences of it in many aspects of our world and how it has helped (or hurt!) to shape it. James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader was the narrator for the New Testament, but the scariest thing was Revelations itself, which gave me VIVID memorable nightmares (which I suppose was its intention). There is quite a history with this painting in general, and it was amazing to explore it, finding so much hidden faces and ideas literally hiding in the folds for all the world to see and discover. This painting is located

In this earlier work of this show—this was really part of the Hamlet 1999 series—and in that context, I was thinking of the Phantom as representing George W. Bush as he was leading us into war, or in a more universal context, the Shakespearian Claudius, a dubious leader, and his followers all too happy to lead to a world of destruction. Picasso said a painter paints to unload themselves, and I did that here using the subject matter to think about my anxieties towards this scene as a youngster, and how real it still seemed to be in maturity, where darkness and death can lure around any corner, and in the negative space, and cracks and folds of conscious representation of my painterly brush. The sleep of reason produces monsters, and so it is when bringing up imagery when thinking about your thoughts, allowing your


unconscious seep through your paint along with your conscious control. Here, he represents, in my evocation of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment, a devil, or THE devil, leading the damned to a dower inferno.



Iconscape (Police), 1995 oil on linen 15 ⅞ x 12 inches Collection of Lois Plehn, New York

This is one of the first of a series of “Iconscapes” that I still continue to create today. In 1994, when we were living in Echo Park just after both being at UC Irvine, Andrew had just gotten into graduate school at the CUNY Graduate Center. On the road trip from CA to NYC, I was driving our Daihatsu loaded up with luggage, listening to the Beach Boys, and in particular Pet Sounds. I had previously had a solo show in Los Angeles, where I had seven different narratives, in seven different styles, to create an uber-narrative called “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell!” after Blake. I was creating, thinking in Post-Modern scenarios, about how style relates to content, and speaking in other formal languages for their baggage they carry to convey ideas, etc. But when I was creating this show, I was also reading the first of the John Richardson Picasso biographies, and I was inspired how simply if Picasso painted a still-life, if he wanted to paint a stilllife. If he wanted to paint a portrait, he would paint a portrait. He vacillated from different stylistic languages that while relating to other art histories transcended them via Picasso’s idiosyncratic vision, with ease. Why was I art directing myself? Why, like in previous works for my last show, would I draw Rimbaud as the Comte de Lautremont’s character Maldoror, in the style of Rodin as signed by Verlaine? How could I simply draw and paint what I felt, “naturally,” culling form from my unconscious in addition to my conscious mind in such a manner that would also hopefully have relevant content?

When in Brian Wilson’s great song “You Still Believe in Me,” when he sings “I wanna cryyyy...,” and continues expanding the word in his emotional singing, the sound of the word also becomes the sound of a real woeful crying, and the signifier and signified become one. I’ve always wanted to do this in my painting and drawing, fuse emotion and form with content—I think the Great Masters achieve this, indeed it is what makes them become great—when you look at a Rembrandt, the synaesthetic emotions you experience are created by the form of the painting of the work, which together, along with the viewers conscious interpretation of the meaning of the allegory combine to create a moving, visceral and cerebral journey. 

I began upon arriving in New York to create many automatic drawings and paintings, allowing myself to “let my hair down” and not think too consciously about what I was creating, or what style it was in. Picasso said something like (I’m paraphrasing here) if you draw a circle without an aid of a compass, its imperfection is your style” and “if you copy the Old Masters, how it’s not like the Old Masters is what is YOU about it,” and I believe this is true. There is something very tangible about the “signature” of an artist—if you know De Kooning, when you see a De Kooning scrawl on a napkin you know it’s a De Kooning. When Buddhists think about the “I,” they think about whether the “I is being of the mind or the body—if you hit your hand with a hammer, and say “I can’t believe I did that, who is the “I” you are talking about? When someone kills your avatar

Westworld, 2004 oil on linen 22 x 30 inches Collection of Steve DiBenedetto and Michelle Segre This earlier work was originally from the Hamlet 1999 series, but I thought it prudent to put it here, in my invocation of the Last Judgment, to be both representative of the Damned, but also of resurrection, as the mask of the face is leading towards the Opening of the Fifth Seal and resurrection. Of course this is Yul Brynner’s android character, with his face off and the working parts revealed at the end. In Hamlet 1999 he was employed as a Claudius type character—a malevolent patriarch, with the man—or machine, in the technocratic sci-fi version I created, behind the malevolent technocratic corporate commodity culture. Here, I thought of him as one of the damned, like one of the heads floating in a pool of blood in Dante’s inferno, or in a more uplifting idea, the spirit of someone rising above the negative patriarchal machine, hopefully in a moment of ascension. What for me I love about this painting ultimately is that in thinking of my thoughts (and in this case, my nightmares) in the act of painting, in the micromanaged moments where my left brain has difficulty ascertaining the elements in the blurry photo of this special affects moment, it necessitates the flights of fancy that occur within the head itself. Da Vinci always says you “paint yourself ” however I truly think we sometimes paint our brain—and/or the thoughts, dreams, and visions within your cognitive mind. I always, in my Iconscapes, want to describe them, using instinct, but stop short of illustrating what I might see in instinctive moves—sometimes when painting representationally, you have enough visual clues for your mind to map upon the colors, forms, and space you see—here it really seems like a dream world of forms and figures and space within that section of the painting, doing gosh knows what, the more I stare into it, the more figures I see. I hope the corporeal frame of representation sets up the imaginary theater of the dream space inside of the mind, where the real action occurs, perhaps here a spirit of this being as it prepares to hopefully ascend to higher territory in every way.


when playing a videogame, you say “someone just killed me” but who is the “me” you are talking about? When making a picture, thinking your thoughts, hopefully how it’s not like the photo or scene you may be looking at is what is “you” about it. And when you paint abstraction from the mind, perhaps how it exceeds ideas of abstraction in art history, how perhaps it doesn’t relate to things you may consciously know, is what is “you” about this essentialized image that one may relate to in a close, emotional and experiential way. 

In any event, I bought inexpensive linen (but good quality) prestretched canvases, and I tried not to be too precious. I had also been keeping sketchbooks, encouraging myself to be as active and free with them as possible, and this image emerged. We were living on the corner of Kent and Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in the early 90’s, which had already become somewhat gentrified, but was still remote, with crack vials and prostitutes on the sidewalk (it later became a cool indy art gallery venue Secret Project Robot, where my NYU students held shows via my classes, along with the basement venue Monster Island—the building was subsequently demolished and now is a Whole Foods!). We felt isolated and literally cold, it was a difficult transition period, both in my life and work, and I think this image appeared more as “Police Robot Man” in my sketchbook than a word, and I wanted to keep that spirit alive when I created this image, in one stop probably, that became one of my favorite works of all time that I have created, as hopefully it conflates the word with the image and the feeling to make a small painting that has a big impact. I gave it to Andrew for one of his birthdays, and it was also shown at the Knoedler Gallery (by the GOOD people there!) at one of their last project room shows before they closed—I was happy to be vindicated by the oldest gallery in New York, originally a gallery that was a satellite of the Paris gallery of Theo (and Vincent!) Van Gogh.

I of course am so glad that Stuart Comer also appreciated this work, and I’ve placed it here to hopefully exclaim the sentiment that perhaps the Buddy (Robot Gorilla) might be feeling, seeing (in the painting next to it) King Kong at the base of the World Trade Center (an allegorical painting for the horrible events I witnessed), and a soul of a person that perhaps could be carried aloft, like one of the dead by the angel in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment.

so to speak. This is of the Eighties gay porn star Lance, from an issue of JOCK magazine, the first gay porn mag I ever purchased (along with a Rolling Stone and Wall St. Journal, in which to hide it, on a trip to NYC at a local magazine stand!). I was in college, at a time before the internet and even the accessibility of video, in the Eighties, when to go to a gay movie house at my age seemed egregious and very scary, and it was the first time I had access to seeing any material of non-subjugated, “sissy archetypes” of stereotyped gays in a homophobic culture. And of course the first time I was able to enjoy seeing men objectified in a similar manner as women were in men’s magazines, created for a gay male audience. Lance in particular was a standout, and represented an ideal at the time, and I looked at these pictures more than many others in my life, but hadn’t for years when I painted this diptych, which represents the actual layout of the spread in the magazine. At Brown, we would discuss the politics of painting, of people like Degas who would “cannibalize” his female subjects, by having them pose in torqued, painful positions (I always think of Bettie Page bondage photos when I see them—just imagine little bits of rope tying their feet and/or hands together and you’ll see what I mean), usually posed from the back, where they can’t see Degas painting, as he consumes their flesh by painting them in their pain as he paints their representation on canvas for all to enjoy. I’m exaggerating, but maybe only a little, as the guy was also an anti-Semite and so on—Toulouse Lautrec by contrast, although he is painting prostitutes, seems to really respect and have high regard for his subjects. They may be sex workers (as Degas’ dancers in their day also sometimes were), but lounging around, conversing and thinking—their heads and gestures are more important sometimes than their T and their A. So in any event, I didn’t want to replicate the misdeeds of art history by objecting people when I first started seriously painting during and after college, but coming out as a gay man, and being of a certain testosterone fueled age, and truly thinking about the power of agency in identity politics of the utopic space of porn—seemingly, romantically, one of the few liminal places where a gay man could literally celebrate and “perform” what it intrinsically means to be of this sexuality, without fear of judgment or subjugation. I began painting and drawing porn stars from these magazines, especially Lance (and a few of his costars) as they were meaningful to me. They didn’t seem to be forced or be having a bad time, in fact, they had smiles on their faces, seemingly relaxed and happy to do their job that was perhaps as much about pleasure (and friendship, if you believe that Leo in Leo and Lance, his most famous movie, was his real-life boyfriend) and sharing their pleasure as anything else. In their films and photos, it seemed you could see their faces, and hypothetically get a sense of who they were as people, who happened to take their clothes off---more naked, as John Berger might say, than the objectified “nude.” I also thought I was reacting to art history, where much of modernity was created by painter fellows who got inspiration for their avant-garde antics from bordellos—not to forget the most famous painting that changed art history is Les Demoiselles d’Avignon was, among other things, about five prostitutes. What if a gay man painting men instead of women? It was fun to go back, although elegiac, as Lance did die of complications due to AIDS, as many of his cohorts did, performing too unsafe sex in an ignorant age as men were dying all around them without knowing exactly why. And nostalgic too for my youth, as I listened to music of that time as I was painting, romantically my favorite then and now the Smiths, who so lyrically and movingly married form and content, words and music to sing of pathos and real life hope, dreams, and fears through the incredible binary of beautiful music. I love to micromanage more as I get older, but enjoyed channeling the joie de vivre spirit of earlier years, loosening up here as I painted, but not without the spirit of Lance and his friends perhaps

Inspiration. I have long been inspired by Marsden Hartley’s “abstractions,” some of the first of their kind in America, inspired by Modernism in Europe but also Native American art, that synthesized symbiology and language in coded images (to speak for his love of a German soldier, among other loaded paintings)


Lance, 2013 oil on linen, diptych 20 x 12 inches each

Andrew my husband asked me to create these works, as he felt at one point that I needed to “lighten up and let my hair down,”


permeating the foliage surrounding him. Although he is placed low in the Last Judgment sequence on the wall, I would like to think of course he ascends, and is up there with James Dean in a Tree and enjoying himself all the more in his non corporeal existence.

character who protects those who trust in him from eternal harm. It was a fun painting to do—ultimately, painting can be all about alchemy, and I hope that I was able to bring this world (and the liminal spaces in the rocks and wings) to life in a similar manner as O’Brien was able, in his own micromanaging of making slow, specific, and controlled gestures, his animations to an audience that would be forever moved by his moving images.



Temptation on the Mount (King Kong and Fay Wray battle the Giant Taradactyle), 2006 oil on linen 46 x 58 inches

Madonna and Child (After Duccio), 2008 oil on panel 11 x 8 ¼ inches Collection of Brett and Karen Shaheen, Cleveland

This originally was from Kings & Queens, where I wanted to present images of people and scenes that truly had a positive impact, that showed, during those turbulent times, what good models could be for a world, in a slightly elegiac mood as if they could be the Seraphim Angels in heaven. Of course King Kong wasn’t necessarily “all good” but as an anti-hero of sorts, he was an amazing creature that you had empathy for, largely due to his animator, the amazing Willis O’Brien, one the first stop-motion animators that helped to invent the method by way special effects were done in movies, then and still today. A burly man and ex would-be wrestler, I really feel that he was able to make his “sculptures”—his dolls and puppets that sometimes he himself would create—by empathizing himself with those puppets, infusing in him, as any great artists of emotional and narrative depth, with his thoughts and feelings, memories and allegorical relationship to all of his magical characters. He himself looked a bit like Kong, and I feel probably never “got the girl,” and he used his wrestling know-how to create the famous battle between Kong and the dinosaurs, more importantly, his character was able to emote his feelings towards Fay Wray, and make you care about the monster, his compassion for her, but not the angry humanity that ripped him from this world to enslave him and exhibit him—take his agency and have it reified into Capital, which has its obvious allegorical power to mean so many things. With that slippery slope in mind, here I’m equating via the title to the masterpiece by Duccio at the Frick, one of my favorite paintings of all time, that is suggested by this scene, where Christ is casting out Satan, rejecting him and his offer of “all the kingdoms of the world” if Christ will worship him, as he stands in a symbolically miniaturized Siena. Although I didn’t set out to reinvent this incredible work by way of the pulpy Kong, as I was transmuting the black and white image from one of the scenes that most haunted me as a youth, a similar palate occurred, and I couldn’t help thinking that the Pterodactyl was an evil character who was out to get Fay Wray (or specifically in this image the doll O’Brien created to depict her character!). The world of Kong and Skull Island was inspired by Gustave Doré, who was most known for his illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy, and it seems to me that they are elevated above an Inferno—hopefully Kong could also be like Virgil guiding the Ann Darrow character to more civilized haunts, protecting her from evil and casting out those who might harm her. Or she could be like an angel who is in admiration of this messiah-like

This is obviously an appropriation, or “copy” of the incredible Duccio painting at the Met—one of the great masterpieces of the world, that is our “Mona Lisa.” Amazing things sometimes come in small packages—and this fantastic painting has really moved me every time I see it—there are so many secrets in it that give it its lifelike verve, that I feel that if Ben Stiller were to be a guard in a movie about the Met, this would be a painting that would be talking to him, or hovering in the air with giant gleams of light melting Nazi’s if it were to encounter Indiana Jones! In all seriousness, this is a whopper of a work that I tried to surmount for my Good Leaders, Endangered Species, Ships at Sea Pt. 2 show, at the climatic end that I wanted to end like it does here, in my meta-narrative where they are placed, near where they would be on Michelangelo’s wall of the Last Judgment. This painting, which took forever to “complete” is done exactly to scale to the original work, including the frame, which in real life has the holes in it due to the burning candles that would be in front of the painting for worshipers who prayed to the original. I couldn’t, of course “beat” the original—Picasso said if you copy the Old Masters, how its “not like” the Old Master you are copying is what is “you” about it, and perhaps its not in anyway being an exact replica is what is me about this one. There is a whole world in the folds just in the cloth the Christ child is holding and Mary’s head, that peering into it, and many of the other folds and wrinkles was a bedazzling sight and befuddling to try to render even with the teeny-tiniest of brushes. Of course one of the reasons this painting is so famous is that it helped to usher us from the iconic age of Medieval Times to the Renaissance, due to the “real” warmth and emotion the Christ child is showing Mary (and visa-versa). I fear that my work might have some life, but I’m not sure it is of the mother/ child variety, perhaps more inspired by the slightly miniature adult feel of the baby in the Duccio—much better than most pre-Renaissance works, but Christ was a wizened entity and the supernatural spiritual aspects I think are the ones that I ended up emphasizing, as the painting itself seemed to be otherworldly. She is pointing at the precipice—another part Duccio invention was perspective, and she is pointing to letters that are rendered in the front of this—I’ve asked scholars their meaning, but no one


yet has been able to tell me for certain, another strange mystery to this blazen alchemized work of incredible transcendence that I could only hope to learn from.

This is a work that is a quote from the fantastic El Greco painting in the Lehman section of the Met. I would go there on lonely afternoons, and enjoy all the works, but also sometimes would have a “moment” with this painting which seems so alive, with his eyes so emblazoned with devotion, and the weight of the cross both heavy and light in his arms. I wanted to try to learn from the master, and also channel my own energies into this work, learning from the Master. It seems to me that El Greco, coming from the Byzantine painting tradition that really felt that the entities they were painting were being channeled and that you could converse with them in the meditation of the prayer of paint, that he was so engulfed and overwhelmed with feeling that he could project these same passions into his figures to make them so animated. I was going through much when I painted this, and although I’m not religious per se, I’m a spiritual person, and did my best to purge myself of feelings for all that this image could represent while I painted it, to feel as comforted as I do when sitting on the sofas of Lehman wing, taking in this work, looking into his eyes looking up to Heaven.


Model for the Crucifix (After Michelangelo), 2008 oil on panel 16 ½ x 14 ¾ inches

D12 One of the things I love about Michelangelo is his embracement for both the sacred and the profane, which I think is happening here in one of his earliest known works attributed to Michelangelo, as it closes resembles his attributed wooden crucifix that resides at the Santa Maria del Santo Spirito in Florence. I have done a few renderings of the other, trying to learn from the Master and also all the could be imparted by painting after this famous sculpture, and in this case also with the conceit that I could bring color to a black and white image of this fairly monochromatic sculpture, made out of Polychrome wood. After his mentor and patron Lorenzo de Medici died, Michelangelo was a guest at the Santa Maria convent when he was just seventeen, and could make anatomical studies of the corpses coming from their hospital, which inspired it seems both sculptures, as they are startling real, and anatomically correct, being “naked.” Of course in our day we would say that Michelangelo was gay, as he had well-known relationships with other men, and as much as he may be creating a sacred image here, he also was in admiration of the nude male body, although obviously made with great care and taste and in accordance to the story of Christ and how he was bare in the original story. I thought in the image as if the background was fire or holy light, to which he hovers above with holy Stigmata in this painting which I also hope I could, following in the footsteps of the Master, help to breath new life.

Thomas Eakins Coming Out, 2009 oil on linen 18 x 12 inches

Thomas Eakins was one of the greatest American figurative painters, one of the greatest American painters, period. He also was one of the first to use photography for his source material, and as I paint from photos, I find a great affiliation with him and his work. He probably was also gay, as he never married, and although he painted women incredibly, he painted men with certain warmth that seems peculiar to this gender in his work. He also notoriously had (as what perhaps was part in the free spirit of his bohemia) no problem with nudity, and in fact was firedfrom his teaching job as he infamously would go on outings with his students where they all ran around naked posing for each other and taking pictures—ostensibly for art, but also, truly, in a non-sexual manner. One thing about Eakins I don’t want to emulate is his repression—there is a certain tight-lipped quality about his work that gives it sometimes its energy—or expulsion, when you look at the insertion of instruments into the gaping wound of the man in the Gross Clinic (!??) and it seems that there is a certain freedom in his actual, really good photos of him and his friends and students frolicking in the forest. I wanted to help him along a little bit with this painting, based on a photo of Eakins himself. As always with my more contemporary work, I start with a grid, and try to work it all over, building it at the same time, but sometimes the figure comes out more first. In this case, my husband Andrew saw it and begged me to stop, as I captured a certain something that he worried I would lose if I kept going. I obeyed his wishes, as I liked it too, and felt it was a bit of a metaphor as, if Eakins was gay, maybe in our age he could come out, as he is of the grid in this painting, and into a better place like the heavenly world of this Last Judgment wall.


Christ Embracing the Cross after El Greco (Detail from Hamlet 1999), 2002 oil on linen 22 x 16 inches Collection of Bill Arning and Mark McCray, Houston



image in my more contemporary, micromanaged way, wanting to infuse the work with a more subtle approach that hopefully creates an even more complex and rich depiction of this famous persona. In my more mature, sympathetic view, instead of the unbridled anxious take on the monster, I have taken a more heroic approach on a character that has outlasted the ages. Much like the character in Mary Shelly’s masterpiece and the great James Whale films, the monster refuses to die, and lives on in our world and imagination as a depiction of the ultimate abject being who doesn’t fit into a symbolic order, yet maintains his agency as a person of conflict, poetry, and power. Wanting to go back to the original, more sentient, intelligent and articulate creation of Dr. Frankenstein, I listened to the original Shelly text while painting, and also music that inspired feelings of how I relate to the character—of punk rock, Kurt Cobain, but ultimately John Lennon, who like the non-violent aspects of the monster, was a person who the public helped to create, and who was a highly intelligent being making music that lasted about his relationship to others and the world. I also reflected back to the original films, and how Whale and Boris Karloff were able to create empathy for the character—for Whale, as a personal allegorical metaphor for what it was like for him to be a gay man during his time, and as a British officer who was detained in a POW camp during World War One. Despite the obvious tragic side of the monster, the character has achieved iconic status in our culture for many who feel “other” to their contemporary times, and ultimately he becomes a sort of hero for many. Like in the lyrics for the hymn “Amazing Grace,” by the once slave trader-turnedclergyman John Newton, Frankenstein (as the monster has simply become known) is a character that has transcended his monstrousness and has become a symbol of redemption.

Last Judgment Resurrection, 2009 oil on linen 28 x 26 inches

This wall that the painting resides on is a direct inspiration of one of my favorite works, Michelangelo’s famous Last Judgment at the Sistine Chapel, and this is a direct quote from that fresco, to scale, placed basically in the same place it would be in the original composition. My husband Andrew was very ill at the time I created this painting, which I always wanted to do anyway, but I felt it especially apropos to do it during this period, as I was nursing him to health and when he was sleeping, wishing him the very best by meditating to this painting. Michelangelo was equally great at painting as he was sculpture—some of his anatomy is wonky, but he makes it work, and by following his strokes (or in his chisel marks in his sculpture) you can really learn something. While his folds and wrinkles don’t necessarily go into other worlds like El Greco or Duccio, there is a warmth, a synesthesia that happens in the corporeal attitude of his forms, lines, and gestures. They aren’t as wacky as some of those others, and perhaps, in their sobriety, the better for it, yet there is a true transcendent quality to his figures, that seem so alive, while at the same time he is able to embrace his desires, the profane in addition to the sacred, in how he renders his figures, despite whatever gender that purport to be, they are sensual, though not eroticized, even in this figure (and his accompanying spooning angel!) as he is being levitated to resurrection. Andrew thank goodness got better, and it was edifying and cathartic to infuse my passion for him and his good health through the act of making this painting.


Love Triumphant (James Dean in a Tree), 2006 oil on linen 68 x 45 inches


I had a show in Brussels during the time of my 40th birthday, and as a result, Andrew and I (he is my same age) had a “40th Birthday Blowout” and stayed in Amsterdam and Paris, in addition to Brussels. At the Van Gogh Museum at the time, there was a Rembrandt/Caravaggio show, and it was like one of those Sundays Titans of Rock concerts, because all our favorites were under one roof! “Love Triumphant” is inspired by one of the great Caravaggio paintings that was exhibited there, in addition to the notion, looking at these great Old Masters, that they would always micro-manage to the macro-managed whole, much like Van Gogh but tighter, where the unconscious would still spill into the picture plane much like the looser Van Gogh’s would— and in a sublime way. The surfaces of all these masters are so activated by their wicker-like weave of painterly like strokes that it would make the scene come alive—much like when you are a child, and when you are outside, everything is alive as you are taking things in for the first time without having the language of understanding that helps to subdue the consciousness into

Frankenstein (Amazing Grace), 2015
 oil on linen
 30 x 26 inches

This painting is a revisit of an earlier work of mine from 1997, where I also depicted a portrait of Frankenstein’s monster, from my breakout NYC exhibition at Jay Gorney Modern Art. In this painting, created 18 years later, instead of imitating my earlier, more gestural and expressionist style, I instead painted the


not seeing how things and yourself exist in the air and in the world. When I first saw the Caravaggio painting in Germany when I was first out of college, it was funny as their were bluehaired old ladies lovingly admiring what I saw was an extremely subversive painting—this naughtily cherub-like angel was exposing his rectum in the first (and perhaps the only) painting I’ve every seen that had a male figure show this body part!
The source image for this painting was from a notorious photo that circulated in gay publications in the ‘70’s that was reputably of James Dean in a tree, showing all. James Dean was gay, or at least “Hollywood Bisexual,” and its been well documented how he was sugar-daddied into Hollywood, and had many gay intimate relationships, and was very free and open with his attitude and body—there is little reason NOT to believe this is James Dean! He also changed culture in that he was the first to give a voice to a youth generation, post-Judy and Mickey “putting on a show,” and inspired Elvis to be Elvis and John Lennon to be John Lennon. He wanted to be on the Mount Olympus of culture, to be on top with Michelangelo and Picasso in terms of how they thought anew and made art that made a world think differently, and the three films he made before he died at the age of 24, did just that, leaving a legacy that still endures and inspires to this day. I feel that if there is a heaven, he is there, and I hope in the installation that is inspired by Michelangelo’s Last Judgment, here he is like a Seraphim angel, close to God, with the trees and branches and leaves acting like wings, looking down upon us from his heavenly point of view (after crashing in the car painting and being resurrected in the Gusher painting below him). In the first Biennial I ever saw in 1987 there were outrageously queer paintings by McDermott and McGough, and I was so inspired by these as a still coming-out-of-the-closet gay youth, and I felt so vindicated and “saved” by these works, and coveted secretly the images in the catalog, secreting it away from my parents to look at the images in the privacy of my room, feeling a sense of community and worth through the images. I hope that by having this painting in the show, I can also inspire young people today to not feel shame for their bodies, and also feel the exalted love for self and agency that I feel James Dean is expressing in this picture, one of the highlights of how his personality helped to shape the world and make it a better place today.

This is a painting of Andrew and I as we are luxuriating at our beautiful cabin home in Riverside California—the cabin of his grandfathers where he always wanted to live as a child growing up—in our pool that we built for ourselves for our 45th birthdays—another youthful dream come true. I love the idea of the “perfect moment” and certainly I love my husband—we’ve been together for 23 years and going strong, and sometimes I like to paint perfect moments as it’s the head space of the meditation of where I want to be at most times in my life. I think the personal is political and emulate Manet, who painted his world with a critical, smart eye and in so doing, with strategy and aplomb, was able to make painterly works that were full of feeling, but also content towards his attitudes to the politics of his society and ideology of his time. I hope the content here is of two gay men, middle aged and married, but with an energy that hopefully has been sustained from their youth and love for one another, in their little utopia of the home they cultivated out of a blighted area in the middle of a beautiful nowhere. We sometimes feel the spirit of his grandfather there, and in the blessed-out rays of the sun, and the resulting lens flare, I hope if he is around, he would approve, residing in the light that the camera was able to capture. Hopefully too this is a contemporizing gesture—I like to paint through the photos I take with high res images and printers, and really see everything there is to offer with the information, but also able, in my meditation, to be able to have my unconscious seep out into my brush in micro-managed moments where I can’t ascertain for certain elements, which then become abstract, or unconsciously surreal, in moments of water, foliage of trees and the flora or our environment, that are hopefully all brimming to life and goodness in this heavenly moment that I wish could last forever—our little heaven on Earth.


Inspiration. Another inspiration for this work is the portrait of John Perreault, by the great Alice Neel. He was a curator, looking for paintings for a figurative painting show he was organizing, and Neel convinced him to pose for him “in flagrante” for her. Although she didn’t get curated into his show, the amazing portrait gets the last laugh for Neel, who makes one of the most vulnerable, tender and raw paintings of a man I have seen.

Jackie, 2007 oil on linen 40 x 30 inches Collection of Brett and Karen Shaheen, Cleveland


Say what you will about JFK, and hopefully its mostly good things, but Jackie was a tremendous first lady. Kennedy I think was a great President, and symbolic for so much, but some people have their issues. I can’t imagine what you might want to say that would be negative about Jackie, who assumed her First Ladyship with perhaps not the same staunch power of Eleanor Roosevelt, but with a feminine power all her own. I like everything she stood for, and for her incredible finesse, protocol, and sense of fashion. When JFK died, she was the one who symbolically carried the weight for the country mourning—and instead of depicting her crying in her pillbox hat as Warhol did (although I did paint this as an emotional, expressionist moment also in the show), for this heavenly wall I thought it would be appropriate to place this painting, originally to serve as a model of a great American in the show Friends and Family at Brett Shaheen in Cleveland, next to the Madonna and Christ, as a non-religious portrait hopefully breathing life into this icon, in heaven as

Heaven, 2014 oil on linen 36 x 42 inches Collection of Carole Server and Oliver Frankel


it seems she already is, standing in front of this screen which hopefully also comes alive in the hegemony of the painting. I love that she loved culture and historic places and things—it is because of her and her campaigning in part the Grand Central Station still stands, and that the Temple of Dendur graces the Met. She is one of our great first ladies, and never will be eclipsed (although Eleanor and Michelle Obama are definitely in her constellation!).

We lived for years in a small place on Prince between Sullivan and Thompson in Soho, and at the church between these blocks on Houston, they always put up a Nativity scene around the holidays, and I used to always stop and reflect upon it when I walked my shepherd Julian around the block, when I took this picture. The amazing things about icons and religious artwork are that they are able to fuse the relatability of an iconic image—one’s ability to “suture into” an essentialized image (like the smiley face that Scott McCloud discusses in his great Understanding Comics), with spirituality. In Buddhist thangka paintings, it is with the motivation for the devoted to transcend into the Buddha entity to become part of the cosmology you are meditating about in order to become more Buddha like in your existence. For Catholicism and Christianity, I feel that while you might not “become” the persona you are praying to, you can project such feeling its as if the icon becomes alive and responds to you—certainly in Byzantine times this was part of the point, but even now I wonder how people react to religious art when it is about something beyond aesthetics and its used performatively in prayer. This was a hard time in our lives when I created it, although we had much to be thankful for, and the beatific beauty of this scene sent me. Although I may not be religious, I feel polymorphously spiritual, and try to honor and respect all that I’m rendering, especially with religious iconography I feel I could always learn more, and you never know…. Joseph Campbell, whom I do believe in as a thinker and scholar, discussed how their were similar stories that are ubiquitous around the world, which has a spiritual component—why do peoples everywhere have a version of a messiah myth that correlates in so many ways? While painting this, I feel that the humble beauty of the statuary really reflected the message, and the strangeness of this sentient baby given birth to by a virgin, here as loving as can be for this strange holy being was warm and intense at the same time. The Christ statue was actually stolen later—I wonder if they coveted it as much as I, feeling compelled if not to capture it, to render it in paint, along with Mary. I placed this where it is on the Last Judgment “Finale” wall in this installation as it emulates where she is on Michelangelo’s wall—hopefully it contemporizes it where it came from, and remains significant to me especially as its one of the first “major” paintings I created from my own photo.


Blue James Dean, 2003 oil on linen 12 x 9 inches Collection of Ross Bleckner

This little Dean reflects my interest in this great actor who came to a tragic end after his short career that helped to change the world, but it also is a reflection and homage to Warhol, who was able to project certain melancholia through his Blue Jackie’s. Although he was pointedly one of the least emotional of artists, just by making his work a particular hue it sometimes did create a low buzz of feeling, and these works of his, created just after JFK’s assignation, perhaps have an emotion that one might have felt just looking at the image reproduced in the newspaper. Dean was also the star of the silver screen, and although his three movies were in color, he first emerged in the golden era of television as a disaffected youth in teleplays written by greats like Rod Serling and Clifford Odets. And of course he appeared black and white in the many movie magazines, and had a canny sense of publicity luring photographers to take the many photos of him in his few years in the spotlight, of which this was an appropriation from. Its wonderful to be able to paint such an emotive actor, who was really channeling things in his Monty inspired Method, and it stirs up emotions in me reflecting upon his image, the mood of my mind mostly driving this image that remains a favorite despite the brevity of its execution, like his short life cut short but leaving such an impression.



Michelangelo Jesus, 2002 oil on linen
 20 ¼ x 20 inches Collection of Dan Nadel

Michelangelo Jesus is a work also from the Hamlet period, when I was working in a tiny space in our tiny apartment in Soho, living with Andrew and also our German Shepherd Julian and poodle puppy Rosa. I was hoping to transcend our environment at that time by painting my way through it for salvation. My father’s Jewish and my mother’s Southern Baptist so I grew

Madonna and Child, 2004 oil on linen 48 x 36 inches Collection of Jacob Kassay


up a religious mutt—I don’t think I’m religious (although I have an affinity to all and respect all), but do consider myself spiritual, with my ultimate spirituality coming through in my experience with art. I love Michelangelo for his embracement for both the sacred and the profane, and of course he was a powerful homosexual artist in his time that changed culture. As an artist he is unsurpassed, his sculptures and painting truly bring about an experience of the sublime, and I feel I have so much to learn from him. If you could take the cultural relevance of a Warhol (or even of Michelangelo of his day) and mix it with the formal amazing attributes of Michelangelo (and his transcendent feeling) you would really have something amazing. This was a painting from a photo of one of Michelangelo’s first known sculptures—a wooden crucifix that is in Florence. I love the mood and melancholy of Christ’s face in this, and tried to capture it by painting the image. I also love El Greco and Byzantine Icon painting, and one of the reasons those pictures seem so alive is that those painters really believed they were alive while painting them, and that they (and the believers who followed them by praying to the icon) were actually communicating, channeling the characters that were portrayed. Although I don’t necessarily consider myself religious, I was getting the most I could out of painting this picture, playing relevant music (my relationship to Catholicism was originally Jesus Christ Superstar, and I’m sure I was playing this while painting), and hoping through the act of painting, which really is a sort of meditative prayer, that I would gain salvation. We kept this picture close to us wherever we have lived—like many Catholic people who have a photo of the same sculpture in their environments, it projects positive energy for us, and contains so much of what I believe to be the power of art.

spiritual and sexy, and it was great to get up close and personal and see just how wonderfully painted it was—but also how thin but serrated the plaster was on the fresco, and trying to dive into how Michelangelo was able to paint in emulation of how he chiseled. It was also great to get eye to eye with the center of this master in more ways than one, and learn from all.


Red (Spanish) Jesus, 2004
 oil on linen
 48 x 36 inches

I taught fine art at NYU for many years, and one of my best experiences was being able to chaperone a group of their best, dean’s list students on a trip through Andalusia, Spain, where we saw many delights in an area of Europe that still many tourists don’t travel. We were in Ronda, as one of our first stops, and I hadn’t ever really encountered the incredible religious wooden statues they have all around in churches and cathedrals throughout that area. There existed this statue at a church there that was so lifelike it really moved me—it was designed and carved I’m sure for this effect, as it really seemed to be watching and communicating something when you stared into its eyes. I had glanced at it in passing, but it stuck with me, the experience being really stirring that I had to go back to take a photo of it before our group left to go to another town. I ran to the church, which luckily was still open, and in my rush took this shaky shot, before running back to the bus where the students and teachers were waiting in the bus. When I got back to NYC I created this painting, one of the first created from my own photos, and it has always moved me, I see new things in it, in the backgrounds and foreground, and depending on where I am in life it means different things to me. In some ways its great that religious art sometimes doesn’t sell, and we have always had this painting by our side as a sort of protector and good energy device—it has also appeared in the background of other paintings, significantly in a portrait of my dog Julian (and my recently passed Rosa!) that I painted right after he died—hopefully he is being watched and cared for wherever he is, along now with his constant companion Rosa, and I love that this painting could be a talisman for that thought and more.


Last Judgment, 2006 oil on linen 16 x 12 ½ inches Collection of Nina and Andrew Gaspar

This is a quote from one of my most favorite paintings of all time, Michelangelo’s Last Judgment wall in the Sistine Chapel. This is done exactly to scale, and placed here on the wall about compositionally it would be in Michelangelo’s famous work. I originally painted him for my Kings and Queens show, where I wanted to create great models and scenes for people to follow, in an elegiac narrative that permeates this installation as one of its “chapters.” In this show for me it was if all the peoples existed in circulation of this Christ, like Seraphim angels in Dante’s Paradise. The amazing thing about the Michelangelo original is that he is beautiful, but powerful and strong as Christ should be, but sensitive and rich with live feeling. The wonderful thing about copying the Masters is learning from their strokes and intuition, and having done many renditions after Michelangelo I’ve learned much. I love that he was about the sacred and profane almost simultaneously, as this image, which is both




Hamlet, 2001 oil on canvas 18 x 16 inches

Eyesight to the Blind, 2003 oil on linen 22 x 18 inches Collection of Mark Rosman, Washington, D.C.

This was based on an old black and white film still of Lawrence Olivier in his great film version of Hamlet. I love the text by Roland Barthes entitled the “Third Meaning” when he looks at “reading” film stills of Eisenstein movies, most notably Ivan the Terrible. The first meaning for Barthes is literally what is happening in the scene, how you would describe it, the second meaning is what it symbolically probably (“obviously”) means for the director, the “third meaning,” what for him he also calls the “vertical reading” is what the viewer brings to the still that perhaps wasn’t intended for the artist. This could be feelings, moods, synaesthetic memories, relationships between the image and the viewer’s own life. When I’m painting from film stills like these, or any photos, I am playing music or audiobooks that mean something to the content of the image, thinking about my thoughts, relating to the image the way a method actor relates to a character by projecting my own life onto the subject, and letting the person portrayed (if their is a person) be an avatar for myself. Picasso said if you paint copies of the Old Masters, how it’s not like the Old Masters is what is “you” about it. When painting this picture of Olivier (who was also gay, or at least “Hollywood bisexual,” FYI, in addition to being one of the world’s great actors), I was thinking of my recent travails but also the character of Hamlet reacting to his world (our cabin home in Riverside is also in Lake Elsinore, named after Hamlet’s hamlet), and my reacting to the world of Bush and his new administration, and patriarchy in general. At this time in my career I would paint until the mood or muse would leave me and then leave the painting along—there is a lot of fervent unconscious rendering in the negative space that gives this painting its internal energy. Perhaps this was my melancholic mood of the period that resulted in the emotional tone this palate projects, hopefully ultimately a positive romantic feeling of what it is to be a critically thinking, hopefully romantically optimistic artist or character in our world then and today. I’m proud that my long-ago former TA at the Museum School Ridley Howard once appropriated this image, and inserted it into a painting he created of his artist wife Holly Coulis flipping an egg, cooking in the nude!

One of my favorite artists, as I’ve written about many times before, is El Greco, who comes from the Byzantine tradition of Icon painting, where artists and worshipers felt they were truly channeling the entities in which they were painting and praying towards, and you can feel the spiritual magic when you look at an El Greco. Instead of being exiled for not making their representational imagery to look “real,” like many of the Old Masters, El Greco was actually championed by the religious sect that commissioned many of his paintings as he was able to promote the passion of the subject matter that was really felt by him as he painted, which truly channeled an amazing energy to all works that he created. One of my favorite paintings by him is Christ Healing the Blind at the Met, where He is touching a man and giving him site, and in response, or because of his great devotion. I always think the secret of the painting is that subliminally, there is a third eye above the brow of this figure, one that I would think was unintentional, unconsciously painted by El Greco but give the verve and unconscious content to the work that people could pick up on, even if they don’t see it (and seldom do, as I’ve pointed this out to many students on my many tours there with them). But there is a lot of unconscious action that occurs in the drapes and folds of El Greco, where the negative and positive space are Tetris-like shapes that interlock together, forming all kinds of forms and figures that were projected into the space of the picture plane by his fervent passion. It’s fun and edifying to paint after him and paint your own unconscious rifts—Picasso said if you paint after the old masters how its not like the old masters is what is “you” about it, and in the expressionistic zeal of this work I go into my own flights of fancy that sustain me as I had continued to look at this work, as it lived with us always on our wall for over a decade, giving us hope. Being an artist is about seeing, and seeing anew, and religious or not, one has to believe in some inner spirit in order to have the agency of vision that things exist but perhaps not in the manner we understand they exist, and there is a great beyond worth exploring in art and ideas, and this work is a constant reminder of that important struggle, and the urgency to continue making work—and to teach.



comic heroes alongside Siegel and Shuster and the pioneers of American comics. I have taught comics at the School of Visual Arts for over 18 years and am their “Cartooning Coordinator,” and have a deep penchant for the plurality of the medium, and its ability to reach and influence a far greater audience than the fine art world, and cartoons ability to create iconic characters that their audience can “suture into” the avatars of, and transcend into the world (to paraphrase Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics”). I found myself relating to this character as I painted, not just in the hopeful heroics of what he represents, but also, how his mythos is of an alienated character trying to assimilate and make good his host world. I also love Surrealism, and how the unconscious can spill into the conscious world while painting, and thought of Tanguy, Gorky, in addition to science fictions of other realities as the drops and backgrounds seem to reveal other worlds.

Superman, 2014 oil on linen 50 x 64 inches Collection of Lora Berson Hersh

Hopefully, in the narrative depicted in the installation, Superman represents the icon of what I and other children aspire to be, the visual conduit being the boots he wears and the boots I am wearing in my picture as a child, and a representation of hope of the values of, in a good way of personal agency and liberation, of the “American Way.”

Superman is a painting based on the very first animated cartoon based on the famous character created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster, first appearing in the 1938 June issue of “Action Comics,” an immediate success with the public. Produced by Max and Dave Fleisher’s Fleischer Studios and directed by Dave Fleisher, released September 26, 1941, the cartoon was the most expensive and lavish cartoon shorts produced up until this time, and remains one of the pinnacles of American animation, and one of the primary reasons for Superman’s popularity beyond children and the comic books is the subsequent series of cartoon shorts invented the idea that Superman could fly and the famous phrases of “Look, up in the sky!” and “Faster than a speeding bullet!.” The Fleishers, already busy with their Popeye, Betty Boop, and other cartoons (including the feature length Gulliver’s Travels), and fearing the work of making a “realistic” short for the first time, didn’t want to take the job when Paramount, who owned the rights to the animation, asked them, so they gave an egregious bid of $100,000 to create the first film. When Paramount came back with a $50,000 offer, they couldn’t refuse. The Fleisher’s in their early years were the East Coast rivals to Disney, and were innovative in some of the first uses of Rotoscoping (tracing over live action to create realistic moment, etc.) and the use of the “Stereoptical Camera” or “Setback,” an apparatus which used three-dimensional miniature sets built to the scale of the animation artwork, with the cartoon cels placed in front of the set for three dimensional effects). This was also one of the first cartoon shorts to use extensive, rich shading, volume, and atmosphere to create expressionistic moods and effects. I grew up watching these cartoons on television, and were always amazed and highly influenced by them, not just for their incredible aesthetics and storytelling (this first short was nominated for an Oscar, and the series actually had previews shown in theaters for the shorts, which were incredibly popular in their time), but also for the iconic character of Superman, like many people, wanting to emulate his incredible good nature and need to help others and the world, a pop-culture messiah (that famously is a Moses/Jewish assimilation story). When painting the work, I was amazed at the incredible details. This is from the opening theme scene of Superman appearing after a dazzling explosion, and I still can’t figure out how they created it (a multi-plane camera? With paint splatters reversed, so when the paint dissipates, Superman is revealed behind the paint dots?), and found myself realizing the human that was rotoscoped behind the cel-painted image, and “seeing” the reflections of the camera apparatus and even the eyes of the animators, reflected also in the glass on top of the cel painting. I listened to the old Superman serials while painting the work, audiobooks on the history of Superman, and the Pulitzer prize winning book “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” by Michael Chabon, an historical fiction of two Jewish young men creating their own


Blue Jesus, 1997 oil on canvas 60 x 40 inches

This is of the actor Jeffrey Hunter, from the 1961 movie King of Kings, but really it is just a talisman to the “real thing” a painting of Christ who in this instance resembles this person, but hopefully is so much more. Back in this time, we were going through a lot—Andrew and I lived on Christopher Street in the West Village in a tiny apartment with the bathtub in the kitchen, and fortunately I had a studio in the East Village on 8th between 1st and Avenue A, past Tompkins Square park, where I made this painting. I was going through a blue period, as I was feeling blue, and working with black and white imagery that suggested it (the earlier Frankenstein painting in the exhibition is from this same period, as a sort of Lazarus or abject person seeking redemption). This was a hopeful image for me, and I was first exploring making figurative work that broke into abstraction, and abstract works that came together in figurative ways, and I liked how it seams that the corporeal body of Christ seems also to break into a spiritual one—or Holy Ghost, if you will… Like my hero Michelangelo, I hope it is both sacred and profane, that it is a handsome picture of Him, but also a sincere and spiritual one. Although I’m not religious per se, I’m always holding my hand of the flame of different spiritualities, trying to gleam the truth and energy from each I explore, and I was definitely in the need and desire to seek whilst making this work. I’ll never forget the great comments I got walking this painting back home across town—when the UPS guys tell you it’s a good painting,


its hopeful you got a good one! Jay wanted to put it above the stairs in my Jay Gorney solo show debut, however Andrew and I freaked out that it might misguide people about the rest of the show, or somehow make people read it in a wrong way. We lived with this work for years and years in our bedroom in our cabin home in California, and it always meant so much to us and the real feng-shui of our lives, and I’m so glad to finally be able to exhibit its good energy to the world.

I found all these photos in a thrift store in Lake Elsinore, California from a portfolio of a Hungarian-born actor named Janos Prohaska, who worked as a costume actor in the 60’s and 70’s. He was “Dancing Bear” (although maybe not the official one) on the Captain Kangaroo show, in addition to being various apes, monkeys, aliens, mummies, and a sasquatch for movies and television. This is from one of these photos. As I’m thinking this show as being allegorical in some ways for the “Last Judgment” I was thinking of the Captain as Archangel Michael and the bear representing humanity trying to get into heaven. “Gold” on his book represents Mammon to me, as in “No man can serve two masters... Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6:24. The Captain is hopefully letting him in, especially since the painting seems to be running out and dancing bear is shuffling his feet, hoping that the Captain will let him through before he looses his footing and spills out into nothingness.


I was also teaching precollege kids comics during the time I painted this, and listened to the entirety of the latest Harry Potter book on cd while actually creating the image, so I would feel that the fantasy world the kids engage in, and the herorelevance of Captain Kangaroo, and how he helped to give generations of children their agency is also hopefully embedded in the piece... (2005)

Miles Davis/Bitches Brew, 2008 oil on linen 22 ¼ x 30 inches Collection of Robert Richburg, New York

D29 This work was included in a show curated by my friend Joe Bradley entitled “Peanut Gallery” at the Journal Gallery in Brooklyn in 2008. The is the inside gatefold image of the great Bitches Brew Miles Davis record, one of my most favorite albums of all time by one of my favorite artists. In the same manner that Davis is able to wrangle jazz, rock, and general transcendence into this wonderful, wild, yet astute and smart music, I hope that I can transcend genre and figure with my own work, that I hope ultimately breaks into a sort of abstraction, which I hope is sort of happening here in his hair and body, a transcendent soul that helps to end the narrative in this contextual construct of the Finale (Last Judgment) wall, where Blue Jesus looks up to Miles, who although looking devilish, is well placed in Heaven. He is rumored that he was bisexual in his real life, and perhaps died of an AIDS-related illness. Whether this is true or not, I love that, like Picasso, he was able to change his work and style throughout his life, always pushing himself to be the best and never repetitive, that he challenged himself and his audience with his sublime music that helped to change music, and fought his whole life for his agency and right to be the artist and man he wanted to be and won.

Bal’I Ha’I, 2006 oil on linen 32 x 70 inches

This is from a scene in one of the David Attenborough nature series, of Humpback whales in the southern oceans of the Antarctic, who “fish” there for krill, a shrimp-like crustacean that exists in abundance, and the many birds all the other wildlife that this incredible event attracts. So many of the whales somehow know to go to this area, and work together to form net-like rings of bubbles that gather the krill in the center in which they come up the middle of to feast. I had wanted to do a painting of a real utopia, but was thinking of creating a painting of Bal’I Ha’I, from the film music South Pacific, of a mysterious island of paradise, and realized that real utopias do exist on Earth. Whales are such mysterious creatures that we still don’t know much about (although I’m a firm believer that they are sentient creatures that have a high degree of sophistication and would communicate with us more if they could), and scenes like this for me reach the sublime of nature, that we don’t know so much about this world and all of whom we share it with, and we are such narcissistic creatures we forget we are small part of the cosmology of living things in our world and our universe. I placed this work in a heavenly realm on the Last Judgment wall as I feel it truly is a heaven—perhaps we become reincarnated as whales or dolphins when we pass—maybe those who are doomed are the krill! But in all seriousness, heaven is on earth, beauty is everywhere on our planet, and I hope that we


Captain Kangaroo and the Dancing Bear, 2005 oil on linen 52 x 42 inches Collection of Cynthia and Eddie Greenwald, Los Angeles


can survive as a species cultivating life on our planet instead of destroying it, getting smart about how to be our Earth’s caretaker for all those who benefit from it, most of all ourselves and future generations who rely on what we do now for their future—for us and all of our mother earth’s inhabitants. I hope like my other works this breaks into an abstraction, specifically allegorical for this one as we are like the fish in the sea—there are many of us and we need to cohabite with one another, respecting each other and our differences, and be together in our lives on our globe in order fur us to survive positively into the future. I do believe that art can change things for the better, and in my old age I would rather paint utopias than dystopias, as I want to live in the place I’m rendering to be in that meditation of my moments, in order to create works that will hopefully inspire others in their ponderings while looking at it—I think if we can all agree we need whales to be alive and roam free in our waters, along with other animals endangered or not to be alive on our planet, then that starts the even bigger conversation how we can do this all together in a karmic spirit of community and cooperation, commiseration of empathy and compassion for all.


The White House, The Rebel, and The Chimp, 2005 oil on linen 68 x 52 inches Collection of Derek Eller Gallery, New York

Again, I’m a super-lefty liberal, and this I feel is a comment on our current administration, and by allegorical relation, patriarchy (symbolized by the house-and the “man” behind the curtain-the chimp) in general. This is from a scene almost taken completely out of the film, where a gang, dropping his “groceries,” harasses a man and running away, observed by a drunken Dean in character. The actual film opens up with what happens next: during the title sequence Dean drops to his knees to get closer to the mechanical monkey, emulating the stupid way he bangs his cymbals, and “putting him to bed” by placing the toy chimp on his back and covering it with the paper to his right that had wrapped the lily’s to his left. This is a clean symbolic allegory for me: “Rebel Without a Cause” is W. and Iraq, and Dean is making fun of the chimp in front of a nightmarish White House and the bourgeois suburban culture it is a part of... Ultimately, this movie is so great (and Dean in it) because it has come to symbolize in the most iconic way the adolescent-like hopefulness of the power to rise above patriarchal oppression and ignorance. (2005)


Artist Resume


Keith Mayerson Born May 18, 1966

Education B.A., Brown University (Semiotics and Studio Art), 1984-88.5 M.F.A., University of California, Irvine, 1991-1993 Solo Exhibitions 2015 “My American Dream,” Marlborough Chelsea, New York, NY “Iconscapes,” Freddy Gallery, Baltimore, MD 2014 “My American Dream: Frontiersman,“ David Shelton Gallery, Houston, TX “My American Dream (Prologue),” Derek Eller Gallery, New York, NY 
 2013 “My American Dream,” Derek Eller Gallery, New York, NY 2012 “My American Dream,” Solo Booth for Derek Eller Gallery, NADA NYC Art Fair, New York 2011 “Life, Art & Fashion,” Shaheen Modern & Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OH “Iconscapes: 1995-1999,” Knoedler Gallery, New York, NY 2010 “My Modern Life,” Derek Eller Gallery, New York, NY “Good Leaders, Endangered Species,” Broadway Windows, 10 th and Broadway (NYU), New York, NY 2009 “Souvenirs,” The Bakery - Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam, The Netherlands “Both Sides Now: A Selection of Drawings 1992-2009,” Paul Kasmin Gallery (project room), New York, NY 2008 “Good Leaders, Endangered Species, Ships At Sea, Part II,” Derek Eller Gallery, New York, NY “Good Leaders, Endangered Species, Ships At Sea,” Kim Light / Lightbox, Los Angeles, CA 2007 “Friends & Family,” Shaheen Modern & Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OH 2006 “Kings & Queens,” Derek Eller Gallery, New York, NY “Heroes,” Gallery Alain Noirhomme, Brussels, Belgium 2005 “Rebel Angels at the End of the World,” QED Gallery, Los Angeles, CA 2004 “Hamlet 1999,” Derek Eller Gallery, New York, NY 2003 “Hamlet 1999, Pt. 3,” Derek Eller Gallery, New York, NY 2000 “Illuminations,” The Fifth International, New York, NY 546

1997 “Paintings and Drawings,” Jay Gorney Modern Art, New York, NY 1995 “Monty’s Dream: The Sleeper in the Valley,” Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles, CA 1994 “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell!” Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles, CA 1993 “Pinocchio the Big Fag,” Kiki Gallery, San Francisco, CA Group Exhibitions 2015 “America is Hard to See,” Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY “EAGLES II,” Galeria Marlborough Madrid, Madrid, Spain 2014 “The Great Figure,” The Journal Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
“Keith Mayerson and Peter Saul,” Robert Blumenthal Gallery, New York, NY
“Don’t Look Now,” Zach Feuer Gallery, New York, NY, curated by Jesse Greenberg and MacGregor Harp/247365 Gallery
“Inaugural Exhibition,” Sarah Gavlak Gallery, Los Angeles, CA 
“Parallel Myths,” David Shelton Gallery, Houston, TX
“This One’s Optimistic,: New Britain Museum of Art, New Britain, CT, curated by Cary Smith
“2014 Whitney Biennial,” Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY

“Jew York,” Zach Feuer Gallery, New York, NY
“All F@*#ing Summer,” Gavlak Gallery, Palm Beach, FL 2012 “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” curated by Ilan Cohen with Quan Bao, SecondGuest, New York, NY and Ana Cristea Gallery, New York “All I Want is a Picture of You,” Angles Gallery, Los Angeles, CA “Group Shoe,” curated by Joe Bradley, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York, NY “Its Always Summer on the Inside,” curated by Dan McCarthy, Anton Kern Gallery, New York, NY “B-OUT,” curated by Scott Hug, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY “The End,” curated by Michael Buhler-Rose and John Connelly, Vogt Gallery, New York, NY 2011 “Keith Mayerson: Horror Hospital Unplugged, Dominic McGill: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds,” Derek Eller Gallery, New York, NY “8 Americans” (Organizer. Hilary Berseth, Joe Bradley, Jacob Cassay, Ann Craven, Francesca DiMattio, Wade Guyton, Keith Mayerson, Dana Schutz), September 2011, Maruani & Noirhomme Gallery, Brussels, Belgium “Joni,” Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts, New York, NY “Put Up or Shut Up,” New York Academy of Art, New York, NY 2010 “Ink Plots: The Tradition of the Graphic Novel at SVA,” Visual Arts Gallery, New York, NY “The Pencil Show,” Foxy Production, New York, NY “Keith Mayerson, Kent Henricksen,” Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn, NY (forthcoming) “Wall to Wall,” Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Los Angeles, CA “The Boneyard,” Kim Light/Lightbox, Los Angeles, CA 2009 “The Never-Ending Story: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Obsession,” curated by Laura Hoptman, Royal/T, Culver City, CA “Out of Order,” curated by Scott Hug, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY “Naked,” Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NY “The Tree,” James Cohan Gallery, Shanghai, China “New Acquisitions,” Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH “Figuratively Seeing,” Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, MA 2008 “Peanut Gallery,” curated by Joe Bradley, The Journal Gallery, Brooklyn, NY “THINGS BEHIND THE SUN,” PHIL, Los Angeles, CA “Summer Group Exhibition, “ Derek Eller Gallery, New York, NY 547

“Friends and Family,” Anton Kern Gallery, New York, NY “Kiki: The Proof Is In the Pudding,” Ratio 3, San Francisco, CA “The Guys We Would Fuck,” curated by Nayland Blake, Monya Rowe Gallery, New York, NY “History Keeps Me Awake at Night: A Geneaology of Wojnarowicz,” PPOW Gallery, New York, NY “Artist as Publisher,” The Center For Book Arts, New York “ambivalent figuration; people,” Samson Projects, Boston, MA “a new high in getting low II,” John Connelly Presents, New York, NY 2007 “Genesis I’m Sorry, ”Greene Naftali Gallery, New York, NY “Joe Bradley, Ann Craven, Dana Frankfort, Keith Mayerson,” Zach Feuer Gallery, New York, NY 2006 “Likeness (Portraits from All Angles),” Geoffrey Young Gallery, Great Barrington, MA “Summer Group Exhibition,” Derek Eller Gallery, New York, NY “How I Finally Accepted Fate,” curated by Jason Murison, EFA Gallery, New York, NY “This Name of This Show is Not GAY ART NOW,” curated by Jack Pierson, Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NY “Salon,” Greene Naftali, New York, NY “Inaugural Group Exhibition,” Derek Eller Gallery, New York, NY 2005 “The Most Splendid Apocalypse,” curated by Jason Murison, PPOW Gallery, New York, NY “This Hard, Gem-Like Flame,” curated by Joseph R. Wolin, Angstrom Gallery, Dallas, TX “On Paper: Drawings from the 1960’s to the Present,” Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Los Angeles, CA 2004 “Under the Sun,” Greener Pastures Contemporary Art, Toronto, Ontario “Rimbaud,” curated by Max Henry, I-20, New York, NY “The Sublime is (Still) Now,” curated by Joseph R. Wolin, Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York, NY “Let the Bullshit Run a Marathon,” curated by Nate Lowman, Nicole Klagsbrun, New York, NY 2003 “K48,” Deitch Projects Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY “Hothouse; Contemporary Floras,” curated by Mary Jo Vath, Gallery of Art & Science, New York, NY “You,” curated by Lisa Kirk, Royal Modern, New York, NY “A New New York Scene--K48 Teenage Rebel: The Bedroom Show,” Gallerie du Jour at Agnes B., Paris, France FIAC art fair, curated by Scott Hug, Paris, France “Magazin (K48: Do Not Provoke Us),” Marres, Maastricht, Holland “Now Playing,” D’Amelio Terras Gallery, New York. NY “Drawings,” Derek Eller Gallery, New York, NY 2002 “Kool Kult,” k48, Scope Art Fair, New York “25th Anniversary Selections Exhibition,” The Drawing Center, New York, NY “Landscape,” Derek Eller Gallery, New York, NY 2001 “Refiguring Painting,” Los Angeles County Museum “Group Exhibition,” American Fine Art at P.H.A.G., New York, NY 2000 “Recent Acquisitions,” Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles, CA “Fore and Aft,” Acme., Los Angeles, CA 1999 “The Stroke,” curated by Ross Bleckner, Exit Art, New York, NY “Young New York Painters,” curated by Ross Bleckner, Baldwin Gallery, Aspen, CO 1998 “Inaugral Show,” curated by Jennifer Bornstein and Chevis Clem, The Fifth International, New York, NY “he swam down, away,” curated by Tony Payne, Audiello Fine Art, Inc., New York, NY “Painting: Now and Forever,” Pat Hearn and Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, NY “Codex USA: Works on Paper by American Artists,” Entwistle Gallery, London, UK 548

“I Love New York,” Edinburgh International Art Festival, Edinburgh College, Edinburgh, Scotland “Bathroom,” curated by Wayne Koestenbaum, Thomas Healy Gallery, New York, NY “View 3,” curated by Klaus Kertess, Mary Boone Gallery, New York, NY “Francis Alys, Keith Mayerson, Franklin Preston, Hiroshi Sugito,” Audiello Fine Art Inc., New York, NY “More,” curated by Tony Payne, XL Gallery, New York, NY 1997 “Paintings and Sculpture,” Luhring Augustine, New York, NY “Three Painters,” curated by Jack Pierson, Musee d’art contemporain de Bordeaux, France 1996 “The Name of the Place,” curated by Laurie Simmons, Casey Caplin Gallery, New York, NY “Young, Dumb, and Fun,“ curated by David Pagel, University of Las Vegas, Nevada “The Incredible Power of Cheap Sentiment,” curated by Bill Arning, White Columns, New York, NY “Annual Summer Watercolor Exhibition,” curated by Tom Woodruff, P.P.O.W., New York, NY 1995 “Degenerative Art Show,” The Lab, San Francisco, CA “The Moderns,” curated by Tony Payne, Feature Gallery, New York, NY “Faggots,” curated by Bill Arning, Rojes Foundation, University of Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina “Stretch Out & Wait,” Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles, CA 1994 “Stonewall 25,” curated by Bill Arning, White Columns, New York, NY “Dave’s Not Here Show,” Three Day Weekend, Los Angeles, CA “Red Rover,” Three Day Weekend, Los Angeles, CA “Tiny Shoes,” New Langton Arts, San Francisco, CA “Selections Spring ‘94,” The Drawing Center, New York, NY (brochure) “Playfield,” curated by Randy Summers, Rio Hondo College, Wittier, CA 1993 “Sick Joke,” Kiki Gallery, San Francisco, CA “Steve Crique, Keith Mayerson, Tyler Stallings,” Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles, CA Bibliography 2015 Maika Pollack, “Keith Mayerson,” Interview, November 2015, pgs. 32-33. Andrew Russeth, “The Whitney Opens With a Winner,” ARTnews, April 23. Scott Indrisek, “The Whitney, Chapter by Chapter: How to See 100-Plus Years of Art in One Day,” Blouin, April 23. Regina Mogilevskaya, “Preview: America Is Hard to See at the Whitney,” Blouin, April 23. Michael Bilsborough, “Course of Empire,” SVA Continuing Education Blog, April 23. Paddy Johnson, “At the Whitney: Industry, Advertising, and Death Makes America Hard to See,” Art F City, April 27. Jeffrey Brown, “Whitney Museum opens more space for risk-taking artists,” PBS News Hour, April 30. Dash Shaw, “Go Burn Brightly,” American Book Review, Volume 36, Number 2, January/February 2015, pg. 4. David Shelton, “David Shelton Reports from the Dallas Arts Fair,” PaperCity, April 17. Steven LItt, “Dealer Tire CEO Scott Mueller steps out of anonymity as donor of $20M to Cleveland Museum of Art’s capital campaign,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 5. “Keith Mayerson at Freddy,” Contemporary Art Daily, January 29 th (online) Allie Lin, “Iconscapes at Freddy, Flowers at Franklin Street,” Post Office Arts journal (online), January 25. 2014 Keith Mayerson, “Spruh!,” Andy Warhol’s Interview (commissioned assignment, German Edition), November, pp. 242-43. Keith Mayerson, “Ode to Andy” (commissioned assignment), Interview, October, pp. 118-19. Andrew Russeth, “10 things to Do in New York’s Art World Before July 14,” New York Observer’s Gallerist, July 8, 2014 (online) Keith Mayerson, “Dreamtime,”, July 7, 2014 (artist article and image) Kevin McGarry, “The Gallery Queen of Palm Beach Takes L.A.,” T Magazine Blog, June 27 Gailanagomez, “Whitney Biennial 2014: A Review in Three Parts-Pt. 2,” ChiCritics: Art through the lens of Chicago, May 13. (Image and lengthier content) *Installation image, Artforum Reviews opening section, Artforum, May 2014, pp. 308-309. *Helen Molesworth, “Whitney Biennial: Whitney Museum of Art,” Artforum, May 2014, pp. 310-311 Barbara Pollack, “2014 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum,” ARTnews, May 2014, pgs. 90-91 (content) 549

Paul Clinton/Catherine Lord, “Queer Time and Place,” FRIEZE no. 163, May 2014, pg. 187 “Hybrid Vehicles,” Dan Halm, Visual Arts Journal, Spring 2014, pg. 4 (image and content) *Erin Leland, “Keith Mayerson Talks with Erin Leland,” Bad At Sports Contemporary Art Talk, May 9 (interview, content and images) Whitney Biennial 2014 Part II, Keith Mayerson, Contemporary Art Daily, May 8 (images) Journalist, “Whitney Biennial 2014, Part II,” Elite Journalist, May 7 (images) *Anita M. Harris, “Docent/psychoanalyst helps decipher Whitney Biennial 2014 offerings,” New Cambridge Observer, May 4 (images and lengthier content) Simmy Swinder, “Showing: Whitney Biennial 2014,” Arrested Motion, May 2 (images) *Whitney Kimball, The Whitney Biennial on Charlie Rose: Art is Hazy, Nebulous, Art F City, April 29 Leonardo Homes, “The Whitney Biennial: No American American,” Artishock, (South America), April 18 Choire Sicha, “On Being An “Irritant To The Institution” At the Whitney Biennial, The Awl, March 25 (image and content) “Whitney Biennial, New York, “ artDas Kunstmagazin, March 22 (Germany, image and content) *Christian Viveros-Fauné, “Why This Year’s Whitney Biennial Should Be Seen Through a (Slightly) Rose-Colored Lens: Proceed with Optimism,” the Village Voice, March 19 (content) “Collectors Q & A: Tomasz Nazarko,” Exhibitions A, March (online, content) Glenwood, “The Whitney Biennial 2013-A Little Rough Around the Edges,” Manhattan Living, March 19 (image) Burnna Radaelli, “Whitney Museum Presents a Broad and Diverse Crop of American Art,” Bamboo, March 17 (Portuguese Art site, image) John Hutt, “A Gay Ol’ Tour of the Whitney Biennial,” OUT, March 14 (image and content) Michael Bilsborough, “American Art, American Dream,” SVA Continuing Education Blog, March 14 (image and interview) Lori Zimmer, “End of an Era: The Last Whitney Biennial at the Breuer Building,” March 12 (image and content) “2014 Whitney Biennial 10 Artist,” Art, March 11 (China, image and content) Artsy (lead image for Biennial) *Jerry Saltz, “Sapphires in the Mud: There’s a smart show buried in this big bland Whitney Biennial,” New York Magazine, March 10, pg. 131 (content) *Kristen Boatright, Guest Curators Talk 2014 Whitney Biennial, Blouin, March 10 (video) *Bill Powers, “The Whitney Biennial 2014 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York,” purpleDIARY, March 10 (image) “Art Review: Whitney Biennial, ADAA, Review,” Artlyst, March 9 (content) Colleen M. O’Connor, “The 2014 Whitney Biennial Struggles for Breath,” fictive sister, March 9 (content) Gisla, “Whitney Museum Biennial 2014,” Taxi Amarelo, Nova York, March 8 (image) *Kevin McGarry, “Art Matters: The Whitney Biennial’s Last Upper East Side Hurrah,” The New York Times TMagazine blog, March 7 (image) *John DeFore, “Whitney 2014 Biennial: Five Hot Artists to Watch,” The Hollywood Reporter, March 7 (image and interview) *Kevin McGarry, “Whitney Biennial 2014,” Art Agenda, March 7 (image and content) *David Matorin, “Spring/Break Art Show Brings A Focus on the Personal,” Art F City, March 7 (image and content) “The 2014 Whitney Biennial Starts Today,” INHALE, March 7 (image) Susan Yung, “The Biennial’s Uptown Salvo,” Ephemeralist, March 7 (content) D. Creahan, “New York-the Whitney Biennial Through May 25th, 2014,” March 7 (content) Joo Sarang Lee, “Festival of Art in New York is now, ‘plop’” Korea Daily, March 7 (image and content) James Kalm, “2014 Whitney Biennial, Part II,” March 7 (video) *Howard Halle, “Review: 2014 Whitney Biennial,” TimeOut New York, Thursday, March 6 (lead image) *Andrew Russeth, “The 2014 Whitney Biennial Disappoints, with Misfires, Omissions, Only Glimmers of Greatness,” NY Observer’s Gallerist, March 6 (content) * “Your Guide to the Artists of the 2014 Whitney Biennial,” Huffington Post, March 6 (image and interview) Soojin Chang, “Preview: 2014 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art,” Hi Fructose, March 6 Katy Diamond Hamer, “First Impressions: the 2014 Whitney Biennial, NY,” Eyes Towards the Dove, March 6 *Hrag Vartanian, “Whitney Biennial 2014: Stuart Comer on the Third Floor,” Hyperallergic, March 5 (image and content) Bianca Ozeri, “The 2014 Whitney Biennial,” The Wild Magazine, March 5, (image and content) *Scott Indrisek, “103 Reasons to Visit the 2014 Whitney Biennial,” Blackbook, March 4 (image and content) *Steven Zevitas, “Must See Painting Shows: March 2014,” Huffington Post, March 4 (image and content) Travis Jeppesen, “Rethinking the Language of Art: The Whitney Biennial 2014 Beyond Discourse,” ArtMag by Deutsche Bank, March 4 (content) Eva Komarek, “A Farewell to Upper East Trio,” Die, March 2 (Germany, content) “Whitney Biennial 2014,” Fluoro, March 1 (image) Michael Wilson, “Spotlight: Keith Mayerson,” New American Painting #111, April 2014, pgs. 8-12 (lengthy article and images) *Carol Vogel, “State of Our Art, According to the Whitney: A Guide to the 2014 Whitney Museum Biennial,” New York Times, Feb. 28, 2014, pg. C21 (image and lengthier content)


2013 Zevitas, Steven, “14 Painters (+2) to Watch in 2014, Huffington Post (online), Dec. 20 Zevitas, Steven, “14 Painters (+2) to Watch in 2014, New American Paintings (online), Dec. 19 Russeth, Andrew. “The Year in, and Beyond, the Galleries,” The New York Observer, “Gallerist,” (online blog), Dec. 19 Kirsch, Corinna and Whitney Kimball, “The Definitive NADA Slideshow and Commentary, “ Art F City, (art blog), Dec. 6 Smith, Roberta, “Last Chance: Keith Mayerson, My American Dream,” New York Times, Friday, May 24, pg. C18 Hamer, Katy, “My American Dream,” Keith Mayerson @ Derek Eller, NY, Eyes Towards the Dove (online), Monday, May 20 Bilsborough, Michael, “Northern Lights,” (My American Dream exhibition review), SVA Continuing Education Blog, May 8 McGarry, Kevin, “Sketch Troup,” V Magazine, vol. 83, Summer, 2013, pg. 38 Chang, Stella, “My American Dream Exhibition,” Rambling Masterpiece (online), May. 2012 Penn, Asher, “Keith Mayerson” (Interview), SEX Magazine #2 Kazakina, Katya, “Martha Graham Sets, Older Artists in Westbeth Flooding,”, Nov. 3 Russeth, Andrew, “Chelsea Galleries Begin Recovery Work,” Gallerist, NY Nov. 1 ”We Went to NADA,” Art Fag City, May 8 Belasco, Daniel, “Suturing In: Anne Frank as Conceptual Model for Visual Art,” Anne Frank Unbound: Media/Imagination/ Memory, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Jeffrey Shandler, eds. Indiana University Press ”Slideshow, Art from NADA 2012,” Blouin Artinfo, May 8 Herman, Sasha, “NADA New York 2012 Preview,” NY, April 30 Miller, Michael H., Rozalia Jovanowitz, Andrew Rosseth “Gallerist’s Frieze Week in Pictures,” NY, May 7 D’Agostino, Paul, “Big Art Fairs Swarm NYC This Weekend,” The L Magazine “Something for NADA,” Art + Auction, May “Interview with Dan McCarthy” (commissioned catalog interview), “Dan McCarthy,” Suzanne Tarasieve Gallery, Paris 2011 “Portrait of Kevin Kelly,” (commissioned artwork), The Journal, Winter 1999 Bilsborough, Michael, “Unplugged, Rebooted,” School of Visual Arts Continuing Education Blog Kimball, Whitney, “Horror Hospital Unplugged at Derek Eller Gallery,” Art Fag, October 24 Price, Ada, “Pioneering Graphic Novel, “Horror Hospital Unplugged,” Back in Print, Publishers Weekly, October 11 Fitzpatrick, Colin “Horror Hospital Unplugged,” (book review), Lambda, August 22 Butler, Blake, “Dennis Cooper & Keith Mayerson’s Horror Hospital Unplugged,” HTML, July 28 Litt, Steven, “Keith Mayerson paintings in wonderful exhibit at Cleveland’s Shaheen gallery,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 20 Frank, Alex, “Studio Visit: Keith Mayerson,” The FADER.COM, July 7 Frank, Alex, “Dead Again,,” The FADER, June/July, pg. 74 “Keith Mayerson Discusses ‘Iconscapes 1995-1999,” School of Visual Arts Briefs, Summer Hart, Tom, “Why We Love Keith Mayerson,” Seriously Comics, Summer Hartinger, Bruce “Horror Hospital Unplugged,” (book review),, June 27 “Short List,” The New Yorker, May 16 Wei, Tingting, “Interview with Keith Mayerson,” WhiteHot Magazine, May Wollen, Joseph, “Joni Mitchell,” TimeOut NY, January 28 2010 Smith, Roberta, “Keith Mayerson: My Modern Life,” The New York Times, November 12 Russeth, Andrew “Keith Mayerson, My Modern Life,” Painters, Nov. 4 “The View Master,” The New York, Oct. 26 Finch, Charlie, “Eleventh Avenue Ramble,” Magazine, October 25 Saltz, Jerry, “Ask an Art Critic,”, and NYMagazine, “Vulture,” Oct. 18 Wollen, Joe. “Neo-Integrity: Comics Edition,” Time Out New York, August 10 Le Hay, Benjamin-Emile, “Artists Nate Lowman and Keith Mayerson Take a Long, Hard Look at Humanity,” Black Book Art Review, August 17 Phillips, Brad, “Keith Mayerson,” (interview), Hunter and Cook 06, Summer Saltz, Jerry, “Remembrances of Louise Bourgois’s Salons,” New York, June 3 “Neo-Integrity at MoCCA,” Publisher’s Weekly The Beat, March 31 2009 Sokol, Brett, “36 Hours in Cleveland,” The New York Times, September 20 “Bang for your Buck,” Art + Auction, July-August Heller, Fran, “Art Museum’s New East Wing is a Celebration of Firsts,” Cleveland Jewish News, Friday, July 3 Litt, Steven, “Cleveland Museum of Art Displays New Acquisitions in East Wing,” The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, OH Time Out Amsterdam (image and listing), June 551

Cotter, Holland. “Peanut Gallery,” The New York Times, Art Review, Jan 29 2008 “Keith Mayerson,” The New Yorker, Galleries - Chelsea, November 10 “History Keeps Me Awake At Night,” The New Yorker, Galleries - Chelsea, August 4 Cotter, Holland. “History Keeps Me Awake At Night,” The New York Times, July 25 Vogel, Traci. “Time in a Bottle,” San Francisco Weekly, July 9-15, Vol. 27, No. 24 Greenfield, Beth. “Body of Influence.” Time Out New York, Issue 667, Jul 10-16 Keith Mayerson, “How Haute It Is,” Interview, April, p. 130-133 (commissioned assignment) Rosenberg, Karen. “A New High in Getting Low,” The New York Times, Mar 7 2007 “Joe Bradley / Ann Craven / Dana Frankfort / Keith Mayerson,” The New Yorker, Galleries - Chelsea, August 20 Cotter, Holland. “When the Curator Is Also an Artist, Go Ahead, Expect Surprises,” The New York Times, August 9 2006 White, Roger, “Keith Mayerson Kings and Queens,” The Brooklyn Rail, Dec 05/Jan 07, Artseen p. 44 Gelber, Eric. “James Reilly and Keith Mayerson,”, December Wolin, Joseph R., “Keith Mayerson,” Time Out New York, Nov 23-29, p. 99 Gelber, Eric. “Of Groups - and Individuals,” The New York Sun, Nov 16 2005 Knight, Christopher. “Fresh, original voices in L.A.: A deceptive look at a mythic figures,” Los Angeles Times, October 28 Ammirati, Dominic. “Keith Mayerson,” Artforum, February. p. 175 2004 Smith, Roberta. “Keith Mayerson,” The New York Times, December 24 Speers Mears, Emily. “Keith Mayerson,”, December 13 Smith, Roberta. “Rimbaud,” The New York Times, July 30, p. E35 Levin, Kim. “Rimbuad,” The Village Voice, July 28 Johnson, Ken. “The Sublime is (Still) Now,” The New York Times, June 11 Walker, Kelley. “Top Ten,” Artforum, April Cohen, Michael. “Keith Mayerson,” artUS, April - May 2003 Cotter, Holland. “Keith Mayerson,” The New York Times, December 12 Mmirati, Domenick. “Critic’s Pick: You,”, October 2002 Kannenberg Jr., Gene. “Read All (or Some) About It,” X-Tra, Vol. 3, No. 3, Spring The Comics Journal, Issue No.242, April, p. 68-69 “Landscape,” Time Out New York, Reviews, February 21, Issue No. 334 Sehorn, Jason, and Keith Mayerson. “Why I Didn’t Rush the End Zone,” (art project), Interview, February, p. 40 2000 Mayerson, Keith. “Icons and Iconography in Technocratic Culture,” Xtra, Vol 3, p. 23-29 1998 Herbert, Martin. “Codex USA,” (Review), Time Out, London, page 51 Rimanelli, David. “Painting Now and Forever,” Listings, The New Yorker, June-July Duncan, Michael. “Keith Mayerson at Jay Gorney,” Art in America, Reviews, June, p. 107 Johnson, Ken. “View Three,” The New York Times, Reviews, May 1, p. E43 Drenner, Craig. “View Three,“ NY Arts Magazine, May, p. 29 Mayerson, Keith. “Guest Room With a View,” Paper, May, p. 49 (illus.) James, Merlin. “New York: Recent Painting,” Burlington Magazine, London, February, p. 65-67 Still, Torri. “Filling the Canvas,” Brown Alumni Monthly, January/February, p. 38-43 1997 Schwendener, Martha. “Keith Mayerson,” Time Out New York, Nov. 20-27, p. 47 Mayerson, Keith. “Self Portrait,” The New Yorker, Nov. 10, p. 28 (illus.) Arning, Bill. “Keith Mayerson,” Bomb, November 552

”Keith Mayerson,” (Interview), Dangerous Drawings, Juno Books, New York Featured Artist, Honcho, November, p.66-67 Carter, Holland. ““The Name of the Place,” The New York Times, Reviews, February 24 Tom, Karen. “Horror Hospital Unplugged,” Cover, Volume 11, Number 5, p. 59 Hainley, Bruce. “Horror Hospital Unplugged,” Index, May, pg. 79 Marston, Jayson. ““Horror Hospital Unplugged,” Drummer, August, vol. 208, p. 49-50 “Horror Hospital Unplugged,” Library Journal, April 1 “Horror Hospital Unplugged,” Attitude, London, March, p. 22 “Cult Fiction,” Gay Times, London, February, p. 69 “Horror Hospital Unplugged,” Bay Area Gaurdian, Literature Section, February 1996 Knight, Christopher. ”Review,” Los Angeles Times, April 10, Section F, p. 6 Pagel, David. “Keith Mayerson,” Art Issues, September/October, p. 40 Cooper, Dennis, and Keith Mayerson. Horror Hospital Unplugged, Juno Books, NY “PW’s Best Books,” Publisher’s Weekly, November 4, P. 57 “Horror Hospital Unplugged,” Publisher’s Weekly, September 23, p. 71 Rimanelli, David. ‘The Young and the Feckless: Keith Mayerson’s comic rock novel,” OUT, October, p. 66 “A Brilliant Chick Parody,” OUT, August 1995 Greene, David A. “Review,” ART & TEXT, January, p. 71 FRAMEWORK, Volume 7, issue 3, p. 23-26 (illus.) Red Hot + Bothered: The Indie Rock Guide to Dating, Volumes 1 (pp. 11, 21) & Volume 2 (Back Cover) (illustrations), magazine produced by the Red Hot Organization, included with album compilations Michel, Deborah. “The Himbos are Coming! The Himbos are Coming!” BUZZ, April, p. 59 1994 Relyea, Lane. “Openings: Keith Mayerson,” Artforum, April 1994, p. 92 Helfland, Glen. “Sympathy For the Devil,” San Francisco Weekly, April 6, 1994, Vol. XII, no. 6, p. 19. Duncan, Michael. “LA Rising,” Art in America, December, p. 72 Myers, Terry R. “On View: Los Angeles,” New Art Examiner, December, p. 36 Pagel, David. “Art Review: Convention Unites with Gay Fantasy,” Los Angeles Times, October 6, p. F4 Mayerson, Keith. “Family Value Cartoons,” Faultline, May, p. 39-43 Saltz, Jerry, “L.A. Rising,” Art & Auction, April, page 88 Atkins, Robert. “Queer For You,” Village Voice, June 28 Bonnetti, David. “Gallery Watch: Give ‘em that ‘ol tired religion,” San Francisco Examiner, April 15, p. D10 Cotter, Holland. “The Joys of Childhood Reexamined,” The New York Times, March 25, p. C30 1993 Bonnetti, David. “A Queer Way To Look At Pinocchio,” San Francisco Examiner, Friday, November, p. E10 Helfland, Glen. “Art,” San Francisco Weekly, November 17, p. 15 Provenzano, Jim. “Pinocchio Queerified,” Bay Area Reporter, vol. XXIII, November 18, section II 1990 Snook, Raven. “Cameo’s: K. Mayerson’s “A Child Is Being Beaten,” The Village Voice, August 7, p. 100 Published Essays, Articles, and Commissions 2014 Keith Mayerson, “Spruh!,” Andy Warhol’s Interview (commissioned assignment, German Edition), November, pp. 242-43. Keith Mayerson, “Ode to Andy” (commissioned assignment), Interview, October, pp. 118-19. “Dreamtime,”, July 2 “The NeoIntegrity Manifesto—My American Dream,” Whitney Biennial Catalog, Whitney Museum of American Art 2013 Keith Mayerson, “Letter written on a plane to and fro Columbus,” (My American Dream catalog essay), Derek Eller Gallery, New York 2012 “Interview with Dan McCarthy,” Dan McCarthy (catalog interview), Suzanne Tarasieve Gallery, Paris


2011 “NeoIntegrity: Comics Edition,” (interview with Keith Mayerson, curator, conducted by Peter Halley) Keith Mayerson, “Kevin Kelly,” (commissioned assignment), The Journal 2009 “The Artist’s Artists: Keith Mayerson, Stevie Wonder, Gershin Prize for Popular Song (the White House, Washington DC)” Artforum, December 2009 (best of the year capsule review) 2008 “Jane Freillicher: Recent Paintings,,” Tibor De Nagy Gallery, NY (catalogue essay) “Kathe Burkhart: The Liz Taylor Series: The First 25 Years, 1982-2007,” Modern Painters, March 2008, (book review) “How Haute It Is,” Interview, April, p. 130-133 (commissioned assignment) 2007 “Annie Lennox,” Interview, Oct. 2007, pg. 155 (commissioned assignment) 2006 “Keith Mayerson on Randy Wray,” BOMB, Spring 2006, Number 95, pgs. 46-47. 2005 Lisa Kirk and Keith Mayerson, “Wake the Sleepers,” ArtUS, May-June, pgs. 16-18 2002 Sehorn, Jason, and Keith Mayerson. “Why I Didn’t Rush the End Zone,” (commissioned assignment), Interview, February, p. 40 2000 “Icons & Iconography in Technocratic Culture: The Sleeping Painting,” Xtra, Spring, Vol. 3, Issue 3, pgs. 23-28. Artist’s Books 1996 Horror Hospital Unplugged, (with Dennis Cooper) JunoBooks/RESearch Publications, New York, N.Y. (republished 2011 by Harper Perennial) 1993-94 A Patriarchy’s Nightmare 1993 Pinocchio The Big Fag K Trying Not to Be A Dick Artist’s Videos 2012 “8 Americans” (interview series with Hilary Berseth, Joe Bradley, Jacob Cassay, Ann Craven, Francesca DiMattio, Wade Guyton, Keith Mayerson, Dana Schutz) 2011 Portrait of Anne Frank 1999 Limp Biscuit 1996 -present A Portrait of Two Artists as Young Men 1995 The Best of Keanu 1994 Trees in the Forest 554

1993 Get the Knife 1992 Why Do You Keep Doing This to Yourself Plays/Screenplays 1999 A Child is Being Beaten 1995 Nowhere Fast 1993 Pinocchio the Big Fag 1991 Fags 1988-89 A Child is Being Beaten, BACA DOWNTOWN, New York, NY directed by David Savran and Ron Clark, July-August 1989 THE BOX, Trinity Repertory Company, Providence, RI, March 1989, as a part of “Graduate Play Festival,” Directed by David Savran and Ron Clark, Leeds Theater and Brown’s Production Workshop. Spring 1988. TYGER, (Set design only), Leeds Theater, Brown University, Fall 1987 Melonboy (also director and set designer) Production Workshop, Brown University, March, 1988 Curated Exhibitions 2011 “8 Americans” (Hilary Berseth, Joe Bradley, Jacob Cassay, Ann Craven, Francesca DiMattio, Wade Guyton, Keith Mayerson, Dana Schutz), September 2011, Alain Noirhomme Gallery, Brussels 2010 “NeoIntegrity: Comics Edition,” Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, New York, NY 2007 “NeoIntegrity,” Derek Eller Gallery, New York, NY Panels 2014 “Making the Invisible, Visible: Willem van Genk’s Mapping of Modern Life,” moderated by Dan Mazur, also featuring Ans van Berkum, Dr. Valerie Rousseau, Patrick Allegaert, Ben Katchor. American Folk Art Museum, New York City, October 8. “Strong Female Protagonists,” Shelly Bond, Alitha Martinez, Diane Noomin, Raina Telegemeir, moderated and organized by Keith Mayerson, part of the Society of Illustrators/MoCCA Comics Week, School of Visual Arts, April 1 2013 “Painting Expanded Symposium,” California College of the Arts, April 13 (Participating artists include Mary Heilmann, Keith Mayerson, Keltie Ferris, Meleko Mogkosi, Dushko Petrovich, Lecia Dole Recio, Amy Bessone, Tom LaDuke. Mary Weatherford, Vincent Fecteau) 2010 “A Conversation with Gary Panter and Peter Saul, moderated by Keith Mayerson,” Thursday, August 19, Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art, New York “Dash Shaw and Keith Mayerson in Conversation,” Tuesday, May 25, Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art, New York


Public Collections Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY Los Angeles Country Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA The Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Boards 2007-2011 Board of Trustees, Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art, NY Visiting Artist Lectures/Critiques “Breakfast With the Director (Adam Weinberg),” Whitney Museum of American Art; “Teacher Exchange Workshop,” Whitney Museum; Columbus Museum of Art; Columbia (three times); Yale (twice); Bennington College; American University; University of Tennessee; Tyler School of Art, Temple University Philadelphia; the Museum School in Boston (as part of their “Four Painters Program”); School of Visual Arts MFA (many times); Boston College (three times); Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)




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