I have always been fascinated by the abstract quality or “secondary” image that emerges when I look beneath the surface of a subject. I consider a painting most successful when viewers are struck by a strong visual aesthetic — such as shape or color — before they recognize the subject.
One of my visual instincts is to seek out simplified shapes. A composition based on simple shapes is processed by a different part of the mind than a composition with great amounts of detail. That’s the part of the viewer’s mind I want to touch. I prefer not to do all the “work” for the viewer. Through subtlety, simplicity, and abstraction, I can turn over more of the visual processing to them.
Harmony is also core instinct for me. If I don’t believe — and feel — that all the colors in the painting are unified through a common color-light, then I will not consider the painting entirely successful. At first glance this unified color often appears to be achieved with a narrow range of colors; yet, closer inspection reveals subtle temperature and hue shifts within the core color, which add variation and complexity to the color tapestry.
My most recent series, Azure and Asphalt, explores these abstract and deeply atmospheric aesthetics in the urban setting — the patterns and colors formed on the illuminated streets and rooftops at sunset. In these works I must strike a delicate balance between simplification and detail: I have to include enough visual cues to make it clear to the viewer that it is an urban landscape, but few enough that it doesn’t distract from my primary interest, which is the light and atmosphere.
In 2014’s Acceptance series I applied my contemporary aesthetic to subjects of historical significance. In Apparition a cathedral-like structure is silhouetted against a glowing fog. It is the collapsed façade of the World Trade Center. By portraying events with an outward beauty that belies their disturbing content, I set up a contradiction in the viewer’s mind that asks them to reconcile these two opposites. “It’s beauty to ease the horror, and horror to make the beauty unsettling.” (SeattleMet).
Viewers often cite a serene or spiritual quality in my work. “If you really carry around the serene center these painting seem to come from, you are a lucky man,” said one painter. I don’t make a deliberate effort to instill “spirit” into the paintings, but I recognize that it must also be a reflection of some aspect of my interior life. I think that the sense of serenity is also a perceptual response, formed by the viewer, in response to the combination of atmospheric effects, a unified light, and simplified shapes.