The role of art and the artist in our modern changing world is an issue that has preoccupied my thoughts for a number of years. With today's thrust toward digital multimedia, technology, and a more global economy, where does that leave the local artist dedicated to more traditional media in the visual arts? The role and place of art in our world have gone through several important cycles over the past few centuries--from being commissioned mainly by the wealthy, to being incorporated into everyday objects, to being ostracized and relegated to a small segment of the population, to being devalued and mass-produced. Where does art really belong? I feel that the best art in our society should be accessible to the average person, yet unique enough to be valued. If the artists of today do not reach out to the potential viewers of tomorrow, then I fear our value as a contributing community of society may be in jeopardy. Competing with mass-produced, imported "schlock" art and the copycat imitators charges a local original artist with a huge task--create something original, or perish. In addition, as a community the art world should band together to promote its local artists to preserve our artistic heritage before it is threatened to the point of extinction.
I believe that art should strive to connect with both the aesthetic and the intellect. I think anything can be a subject of art, even the everyday and ordinary. As an artist, I focus on depicting images in original and unique ways. In my recent "macro-landscapes," I want the viewer to focus on the color, the lines, the lighting, the composition, and not necessarily "the subject." My "Composition in Purple and Orange" may be based on an actual subject and it is not abstracted to the point of being unidentifiable, but what strikes most viewers first is the movement of the forms and the contrast of the color. In the same way, the "Composition in Grays" may force viewers to struggle to orient themselves with the subject and how it is portrayed. When viewers ask, "What is it?" after noticing the form, shape, light, and color in a painting, then I hope their imaginations are stimulated in a way that more strictly representational art is less able to do. As a teacher, I believe that true learning begins with wonder, and I apply a similar concept to my art. While I believe a work of art does not have to be "beautiful," I do think that art should engage the imagination in some way to depict the world in an original way--while drawing viewers into the artist's visionary world.
My series of "whimsical" animals embodies that viewpoint. The series began with "The Cosmic Cow," which soon led way to an inspiration for similar works. Years ago in Boone, I was struck by the personality of a cow in a field surrounded by the tourists on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It looked so out of place. When I painted it nearly a decade later from pictures I had taken, I wanted to capture this abandoned, yet jovial appearance. The green aura around the cow lent the piece's mystical title, and the series was born. Each of the whimsical animals are ones that I have actually "met" and photographed, from as far away as "Miami Lewie," an alley cat living in the Art Deco district of that city, and the egret I photographed with a telephoto lens in the Tomoka State Park near Ormond Beach, Florida. Imagine "The Neon Duck" looking up at the me to snatch bread from my hand at Country Park in Greensboro, and "The Psychic Gibbon" taking a break from her play to pose for a portrait at the Natural Science Center. "Cry Baby" is one of the my own cats who actually can roar/yawn like that. The most common reaction to one of my whimsical animals is a smile and sometimes even a laugh; I can't ask for much better reaction than that.
I have other whimsical animals in the works, but I'm also interested in creating more macro-landscapes. I am heavily inspired lately by the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods and seek ways to incorporate their simplicity and energy into my own work. I do not know what tomorrow holds for my artwork so I paint one day at a time.