A brief personal history —
The weave of my love for drawing and my exposure to culture began in my teens. Geraldine Turner, my high-school art teacher, recognizing that my academic studies were not a priority for me, enrolled me in life drawing classes at Scripps College and Pomona College, Claremont, California. Geraldine Turner was a graduate student at the Claremont Graduate University. She opened a door for me, and I am eternally grateful to her.
Faculty at Scripps and Pomona furthered my knowledge of a larger world. I saw every exhibition curated by Walter Hopps at the Pasadena Art Museum, every new show at Ferus Gallery and Dwan Gallery. In another extracurricular drawing class at the Los Angeles Art Center School, my favorite painter John Altoon would visit and draw with us. Richard Diebebkorn’s grandmother, Nellie Fryer, gave me the top floor of her barn to use as a painting studio. During the sixties the Southern California contemporary art world was small and personal.
In 1964, I moved to San Francisco to attend the San Francisco Art Institute where new possibilities for art making were presented to me. Kathan Brown, Manuel Neri, Wally Hedrick and Bruce Conner became important teachers. James Reineking had the most lasting impact on my work. Bruce Nauman was given one of his first teaching jobs at SFAI, His insights, even then, were intriguing. Thanks to a board member who had access to the stacks at the de Young Museum, I did the bulk of my art history work with the Avery Brundage Collection of Asian Art in the de Young.
After a year at SFAI my art making youth hit an abrupt and shattering reality. As a part-time student, due to the necessity to work in order to pay tuition, I was classified as 1-A by the US Department of Defense draft board. The Vietnam war was raging. I was ‘called up’. After serving two years in the US Navy, including eleven months of combat duty in Vietnam, I received an honorable discharge and the GI Bill. I returned to SFAI, built a foundry/studio in a corrugated steel shack on the west side of Berkeley and resumed full immersion into my art making.
In 1970 I took a job as an assistant to the American ceramicist, Peter Voulkos, who had begun to make monumental bronze pieces. I was raised by an adoptive father, a master machinist who taught me metal fabrication at an early age. The assistantship with Voulkos was a fit. During my two-year tenure with Voulkos, I was privileged to enjoy visits to my studio by contemporary curators and gallerists from both coasts. Here are two career consequences of those studio visits:
1973, first solo museum exhibition, San Francisco Museum of Contemporary Art, director Henry Hopkins.
1975, inclusion in the Whitney Biennial, curators Marcia Tucker and James Monte.
About my studio practice —
The continuing contexts for my work are: a 1971 vivid and telepathic encounter with unidentified extraterrestrial life that physically manifested as a sequence of lights in a night sky and as an enormous luminous disc at close range; a private invitation and subsequent attendance in late summer, 1976, to the Snake Dance at Hotevilla-Bacavi, Hopi, Arizona; my profound experience in 2007 sitting knee to knee with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama for forty-five minutes; and my ongoing appreciation for the work of others.
I consider each of the above experiences to be a generous gift of The Divine. Each event constitutes an occurrence of transmission. Julian Lucas writes in his article, “Structure and Flow”, The New Yorker, January 18, 2021, about the artist El Anatsui, “To most, his work is simply beautiful, with transcendent aspirations.” I like to think my work embodies these same characteristics.
In 2015 David Chickey, founder and senior designer at Radius Books, Santa Fe, asked to publish a book on my work from 1969 through 2017. I questioned him on the fact that I allow my work to meander, thinking my work would appear as a scattershot of disparate indulgences. He assured me that within my nearly fifty years of continual art making, there is a clear thread.
About the meandering, in and out of bodies of work. Some bodies of work reside in the transcendental. Temple Entrance/Offering Box, Cedar Pole, Pewter Cup, Smoke Sutra and the 1969 Hydrogen and Nitrogen, for example. Others are postcards really, snapshots from road trips. The body of work titled Ranchland documents utility structures on vast sections of grazing land in Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. The body of work Transport reveals my fondness for steel railcars and a visual romance associated with the American western landscape. Metro North, an ongoing body of work, dives deep into my emotional world. I have immediate genetic roots in New York and Connecticut. When I am east, I stay in Hastings-on-Hudson in Westchester County. I ride the Metro North Harmon/Croton line regularly, to and from the city. The landscape outside both sides of the train is rich and informs much of my work. The river and the bridges are breathtaking, but I also love the gritty side, the underbelly of Yonkers and the Bronx. The trash, the abandoned furniture, appliances and automobiles, the grit and the mundane can be quite beautiful. My Metro North work also combines both my curiosity about my genealogy as well as my interest in New England history. Regarding work referencing deep space, I am not an astronomer but I can easily lose sense of time staring at a night sky. No doubt this pleasure has some connection to my earlier UFO experience. The night sky is in much of my work, such as Foucault’s Physics. These works are not made in increments of isolated time. Rather the construction of one body of work will often simultaneously overlap with another. In 2006 I built a body of work referencing the still life paintings of the American painter Morris Graves, 1910-2001. Having exhausted my references to his beautiful paintings, I continue to construct my own still life pieces, making molds from my collection of bottles and jars and cutting steel flowers that depict flowers growing in my garden, columbine, crocus, sunflowers among many others.
I often install my own photographs in my exhibitions as points of reference. Sharing source material with the viewer opens and deepens dialogue.
I have taught as adjunct professor over the years. Though I retired several years ago, I continue to serve as Visiting Artist and juror at Anderson Ranch Art Center, Aspen/Snowmass, CO.
Finally, I work steadily, daily, and exhibit regularly.