Spring Mask Series, Parts 1 – 4, Four paintings, each 16 inches x 20 inches, oil on canvas, 2013.

Spring Mask Series, Parts 1 - 4, Four paintings, each 16 inches x 20 inches, oil on canvas, 2013.

This series of canvasses, called Spring Mask Series (parts 1 – 4) were the first works I started and completed at the new studio at Joy Street in Somerville, MA. It’s hard to describe how eager I was to start working, and I felt as though ideas were about to burst out of my brain – that’s how liberating it was to come to Joy Street. These masks are hybrids / co-habitations – are they faces, animals, masks alone? They seem to be all of those things or perhaps more. I wanted to explore different ways of portraying masks in motion in very similar palettes, but with very different moods. These works nearly leapt from my mind to the hand to the canvas. Inspiration was instantaneous.

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Stick Ball Player (homage to Ben Shahn) 18 inches x 24 inches, oil on canvas, 2012

Stick Ball Player (homage to Ben Shahn) 18 inches x 24 inches, oil on canvas, 2012

This piece was finished at my previous painting space in Watertown, but was first given a view to the world at Open Studios at Joy Street in Somerville in May of 2013. What began as a moody portrait, and a further exploration of the theme of masks soon evolved into the figure of a boy which seemed to embody the spirt of Ben Shahn’s incredible New York street scenes from his lithographs.

The Studio Mascot

The Studio Mascot

The studio has a mascot! This WWI fighter plane reproduction was a gift of my dear friend, novelist, and art history/ literature teacher James Wylie of New York City. James teaches at The Cooper Union (my alma mater), and it was he who introduced me to the wonders of the Ibo and Dan masks of Nigeria, and books like Frobenius’ African Genesis and poet Aimé Césaire, through his courses. He is extremely knowledgeable about the World Wars (as exemplified in his novel The Homestead Grays), and also collects trains and planes of the period, so this was a particularly great gift to have for the new space. The symbolic value is immense: As a plane takes flight, so will my imagination, with a desert below and stars above.

Studies from the Studio – Study for ‘Portrait of a Tree’, and an early gouache painting for a planned silkscreen print

Studies from the Studio - Study for 'Portrait of a Tree', and an early gouache painting for a planned silkscreen print

These are some rough drawings and gouache sketches that I’m working on for pieces for the Walden exhibit at Walden Pond in January. I’m particularly excited to see the study of the pine tree; my plan is to create at least 2 screen prints in Japanese woodblock style that reflect details of life at the pond.

“Sleepwalkers on Tokyo Street”, 36 inches x 48 inches, oil on canvas, 2013

This painting is a recent completed piece, continuing my interest in the human face and the mask. In this case, figures are emerging (or dissolving?) into a dream world, something that reminds me a bit of Odilion Redon’s portraits. These figures are becoming lost in the thoughts or dreams around them, to the point that plants are starting to sprout from around their bodies. Despite this, I felt that they are not isolated, but rather caught in the midst of a bustling city. There are contradictory forces at work here that I’m exploring. When is sleep not restful? Can we be stuck and in motion at the same time?

And this is what it was, how it has evolved (‘Portrait of a Tree’, much earlier version) May, 2013)

And this is what it was, how it has evolved ('Portrait of a Tree', much earlier version) May, 2013)

This is a much earlier state of the painting ‘Portrait of a Tree’, from sometime in May of 2013. At this point it was little more than a charcoal sketch on a stretched canvas with oil washes over it. People have told me in the past that I use oil much more like watercolor, which is intriguing to see in this context.