Born to a cultural heritage of suffering, I was warned at an early age that I should be an Artist (with a capital A) only if I absolutely must, only if there was no other alternative for me. Art was a commitment, a calling, a vocation in the religious sense.
I had a longing to make something intensely, even painfully beautiful. So I took up the challenge with a great deal of excitement, an excitement which has not waned over the years. The technical aspects of learning my art/craft were not where the suffering lay, since I was born with talent. And there was the whole incredible, fabulous world of art at my fingertips, since I grew up at the Art Institute of Chicago and was fortunate enough to have an art history teacher who presented the history of art not only in its awesome beauty, but also with every kind of social meaning. I still remember her vividly – her name was Kathleen Blackshear.
Throughout years of painting, drawing and printmaking, I have become very aware that what I struggle with are the contradictions: the fleeting opposed to the materially permanent, the animal and the transcendent, the lean and the fat, the mean and the generous, the decorative versus the austere and the erotic opposed to the modest. Life is full of these contradictions, which I try to resolve in my painting. What it means to be poor and rich at the same time, simultaneously loving and hating, being both tired and alert, fearful and courageous – resolving these contradictions is where the struggling and suffering come in. But then, if I do manage to resolve some of these contradictions, there is the reward of great enjoyment and empowerment.
A great many painters have come to my assistance: Giotto, Vermeer, Velasquez, Turner, Goya, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Manet, Whistler, Sargent, Chase, Munch, early Ensor, Schiele, Klimt, Corot and – in my own time – Fritz Scholder, Elmer Bischoff and Alice Neel.
These are painters who, like me, wrestled with art’s complexities and contradictions. Through it all I have developed my own voice, my own poetry.