Sunday, July 13, 2014


One of the painter's favorite themes
a post-coital variation of the tableaux
of the artist  and the model ,done by moonlight
 the properties of the studio
dishevelled  by goatish sex.

Light emanates from the figure
  of the Beloved, asleep and quite at peace.
She does not stir except to fall
  further into a deep circle of calm
  which sheds a light in the room,
  who murmurs a name from afar
in some bright field
  she moves in in her dream.

The strangest land of snow
   however has captured him
who stays awake inside the thought
  that time is not continuous
  but a vast palace with trapdoors
  and secret apartments
in which he comes and goes,
  and loses her again
forewarned by happiness
  and this same scene
revisited time after time from then

His own phantom there
  keeps vigil; he is vaguely aware
  of entering through a door
  from the future:
this would account for
the strength of the  cliche
  of the sleeper shedding light
 and the dark watcher.

( illustration from Picasso's Vollard Suite/1936)

Monday, May 19, 2014


Far from Palantine Hill
   where eventually it will be re-instated,
this statue of Apollo for the present
  lies prone in Hermippos' workshop.
Derricks and a broad-wheeled cart
  drawn by six horses were required to haul it,
it  was a feat of engineering.
 to tilt it onto its straw bed
Now the surgery can begin
  after prayers that no hidden vein in the marble
    will cause a fracture
   at the incision around the neck.
Then, if skill and calculation
   are rewarded with luck,
  the ponderous head will fall,
to be replaced by another:
 the portrait bust , already prepared, of Gaius
affectionately known as Caligula.
To whom the senate accords divine  status
    by an unanimous vote,
offering this statue as tribute
in  the hope of a new Parnassus.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


One of my on-going preoccupations is how to  make an image--or images which are visual equivalents to
musical counterpoint.  Obviously, there is no actual equivalent. Even musical notion is in some sense a metaphor for what is heard. Never-the-less, it stimulates me to attempt a visual metaphor for a fugue from THE ART OF THE FUGUE, as it did for painters as different as Braque and Klee before me. 

My paintings on layers of aluminum screen were conceived with this in mind. They also were simultaneously enquiries into the means  of depicting of motion.. Much, much later, it occurred to me that I might "transistorize" this problem in a different way on paper. Hence these drawings.  

 They began as pictograms on grids.  This would be layer one. Over these larger figures were drawn. This would be layer two. The addition of color --mostly on the grid pictograms but occasionally over as another
composition entirely--would act as the third contrapuntal " line". In many cases the "pictograms" in the "grids" are reversed or altered in some significant way.
 A grid will consist of eighty eight to a hundred pictograms.  The second layer of larger pictograms will
range from thirty two to forty images.The viewer therefore will be seeing the former through the latter, the grid images through the larger. It creates a kind of idioretinal shimmer.
In some cases I have done four layers of drawing images, of which this is one.
Or  used color "kaleidoscopically", to imply a fourth layer, as here.

This, and the drawing below, attempt to impose a "chordal" structure over the first and second series of pictographic images. 

I must add that these are studies for much larger outdoor pieces.  Also, that--in addition to western counterpoint, they also reflect my interest in polychrome Islamic prayer niches, and Oscar Niemeyer's. quasi Aztec quasi Mayan mosaics in Brasilia. But a work of art does not come from one place, but many, and may be said to be a matter of convergence as much as of essence. Or so I  think today. 
(these drawings were done in the summer of  2012)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


What I wondered was how your flower
  might be recognized among the others
   in Elysium towards the gates of Dis.
The light was pale,
    compounding dawn and twilight,
a haze made immaterial
    the hillside banked with myrtle and oxalis.
A stream ran there,
  thin tributary to Lethe
  forbidden to the living to drink.
I knew I'd never find you if I tarried
   but searched the windless banks beside the stream.
There, at a meander,
  grew a leafless tree and beside it
the rosebush half submerged in bramble.
Such a sense of hindrance
  under the heavy sunlight slowed my progress
  that I wondered if I'd ever reach my goal.
Do not pluck me
   said the rose upon the rosebush
  What you see is not a guidepost  for the living
  but a memory awaiting  a second death
Let me put my root downwards  into Lethe
  in Elysium towards the gates of Dis.
A wind began to blow.
  I watched as the last petals
   fell away; some scattered downstream.
Euridice is not retrieved to daylight, and Isaac
    is sacrificed time and again.

Monday, May 5, 2014


 These studies were done before the "Baroque Mirror" and the "Black Window" on order to see  test the compositional use of lace. I was very  enamored with flat black versus gloss white, so I saturated masonite with black gesso, and sprayed white gloss enamel through lace upon it; then I painted over this again. In the first I used an emerald green sign painter's enamel.
In the second, I retouched the image with gloss black enamel.

 In the third , I sprayed gloss black over gloss white.
The final study employed a calligraphic brush stroke in brilliant blue enamel over gloss white and gloss black. 
I was aiming  for the effect of an after-image, or a photographic negative, or a ghost.(1994)

Thursday, May 1, 2014


What I hoped to achieve with these small pieces was an
infinite shimmer between "letters of the alphabet" and the "text", much as calligraphy and pattern blur together in an Islamic Mirhab, or Prayer Niche. . Originally, I wanted to make these into a scroll  from left to right but it occurred to me that a similar effect might be done from up to down, as is done on this page. Most of these were done in the winter of 2009--2010, but I tossed out more now and then. At one time I went through a Kufic calligraphy derived period, at another something quasi-Aztec. They were begun as a divertissement and then I became fascinating with the notion that no two  pictograms or any page of drawings might be the same.
(I would like to obliterate the margins which blogger puts between these images, so that one drawing might blend into another but alas this can not be done)

  Originally, they were meant as a kind of  memory of the dance floor at the Paradise Garage, and the use of pictograms as a  nod to the late Keith Haring, who I often saw there. There was also a sense of biding adieu to the "lovers of the dance floor"--those charged semi-encounters with perfect strangers known and not known.There was also that sense of the variety of humanity, the belief that each human note has a purpose in the larger whole--it would come over me often in the subway, of all places.

  I also recall a moment in the midst of a bicycle marathon involving ten thousand people which I participated in--the cyclists suddenly seemed synathestically  identified  for me as  the  G major Brandenburg concerto, in a celestial/terrestial dance with God.. Consequently, each pictogram was done as a prayer for all sentient beings.( I am not at all sure of the efficacy of such prayers except to say that is is harder to lose one's temper in traffic  while repeating them than not,and that this may be little but it is something ) 

Mainly,however, I wished to give the oriflammes, sylphs, and salamanders which appear in my earlier drawings a rest. The upshot  is that the pictograms underwent a number of permutations, of which these are  among the earliest types. They were however preceded by a large group of drawings using pictograms on grids. 
There are twenty individual drawings  on this page. The actual size of each drawing is 6" x 8 "/ there are between 300 and 350 pictograms per page, which means there are
6,000 pictograms on this page by the most conservative estimate; I have done not quite two hundred of these drawings.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


I would like to record accurately for once a view I see every day.
It is the tree-shaded lawn leading to what is too large to be called
a pond and too small to be called a lake, where my grandpa watered
his cows when this land was part of a farm thirty years past.
 Now across the field which borders us on three sides is a development,
shady and not at all raw, for which I am glad. A hedgerow follows
the length of the gravel road leading to the house which my father
and brothers built almost as a jeux d'esprit on the concrete
foundations of an old barn.  The house is peculiar, improvised,
homely and large, but pretty,too, I find, driving down the long
road to it, surrounded as it is with mimosas, crepe myrtles,
and great oaks, nestled in a concavity of a slope at the edge
of a field, with a remnant half acre of of woods at one edge
 next to the pond, itself surrounded by old maples

 But this is not the scene that I wish to depict. It is the
view from the house across the lawn with its oaks to the
pond surrounded by maples and an occasional white birch
that I am trying to see. I am seated on my couch in
my studio in the upper floor of the house.  Just below
my window is the upper floor studio variation of this view but my
back is turned to it to test my memory on something nearby.
What interferes is the composite image of days and nights.

My ideal "platonic" view is not of this hour--it is
barely afternoon--but at dusk, at a time during sunset and
its aftermath, on one of those days which occur each season
when the ordinary merges without transition into the
spectacular, when pure cerulean meets moulten gold
and then is subsumed in a thousand slow shades.

There is a Rubens which depicts the sun at dawn seen through
the fretwork of a forest in which the sun is a stroke of
raw titanium white. I get the opposite  each night, the sun
rolling under a forest which seems to store a residue of
light in coral pink and gold streaked umber. The pond,
furthermore, reflects light long after the source is gone, as if
the vestigial light has learned the secret of a half-life or
a life hereafter.

The shadows of the oaks are emerald becoming cobalt blue,
then a black which is a distillation of the green, a kind
of lacquer. But where the rural streetlight shines,
 cast through shadowed leaves, the lawn is chartreuse,
almost phosphorescent, as if the yellows on a palette
have been incompletely mixed  with blue and have not
become what they would.

Each blade of grass bristles with this artificial
nocturnal color. They are almost too pointedly
detailed  in contrast with the blue black of the

The pond, meanwhile, has tried on every scale of the
opal. The sunset has illumined in flemish detail first one
patch then another of the woods, as if they are being scanned
and developed before one's eyes to then emerge  en masse
with the silhouettes of trunks, branches, leaves, dark  but
still distinct.

If it is July or August, then the intolerable torpor of a long
hot afternoon begins to subside, or better still, to gather
into a storm. The fireflies are out,electrical, and flash out
intermittently, now and again in sequence, so it seems,
or more rarely in unison .The leaves begin to stir and the
oaks to sway. The sky is sullen, and darkens with
a look unlike nightfall, more like wrath. A rogue wind
rises and spirals, clockwise or counterclockwise, it
doesn't matter.  It is meant to agitate the roses,
as if to say, the vegetative life is not enough, there
is anarchy to be had.The exaltation of a mob smashing
windows .

It is then the first bolt of lightning flashes, and the scene
is printed in negative for a second, and again in intervals
impossible to predict, as the thunder roils , or cracks
so viscerally it might be the nearest tree executed
via electrocution, too close for comfort.

I am on a swing, who likes the moment when the rain falls
like a vertical curtain, and if I am struck dead this would be
just, even characteristic. But this does not occur though
the downpour is as fierce a force as one could ask for,
dispersing lassitude in a sudden flood which enlivens the

How long this lasts is variable, but gradually  a
 diminuendo effect occurs as the storm passes over
or vents itself. We are still streaked with lightning, true,
but  with  wisps of lightning  compared with the Jovian
bolts that began.

I know that it is done when the bullfrogs surface.
A serenade for bassoons in the new cool. The
fish are also curious. An adventurous flop into
midair and out can be heard, perhaps to measure
the wider breadth, the  one or two inches the down
pour has added to the pond.

As for me, I can not say why but I am more aware
after such a storm of the surrounding life, the turtles in
the slime,  the snake in the grass, the tribe of
rabbits reconnoitering the vegetable garden,
alas, fenced in. I can feel the mice in the field where
hay is grown, and the surveillance of the owl,
which is keen.  I am aware, also, of trucks on
 the highway,and the road, and of the little town asleep,
and another hundred little towns asleep on the road.
Of houses with porches with rocking chairs on them,
and family graveyards in a corner of a field,
of rural churches, and service stations closed for
the night lit by a neon sign, and of travellers in
bus stations sleeping on a hard wooden bench or drinking
a cup of bad coffee as they wait for the bus
to Knoxville, or Memphis, or  far beyond.

(from a journal of 1997)

Thursday, April 17, 2014


 The Year Zero was done in 2007 as a study for  the set of the crucifixion section of a
performance of the Bach Johannes Passion. It is based on photographs of the ossuaries
of the remains of those dead at the hands of the Khymer Rouge. In one of the photographs that
I worked from, there are three small children looking over a fence into the pen
where these bones lie. I have sometimes wondered what they thought..
 The choice of such subject matter was prompted by the New Testament description of
Cavalry as a "gehenna" or Hell, the place of the crucifixion being described as  shaped
like a skull. (And, indeed, the vernacular Phillips translation describes it as "Skull Hill").
On a deeper level, I wanted to interrogate my own relationship to atrocity.
 In my youth, I had  broached near anorexia over the course of my twenty-fourth and twenty fifth years ,
trying to comes to terms with my  incomprehension of the Nazi death camps. My sense of ethical incongruity
was severe enough that I gradually started starving myself, and indeed starvation became a kind of addiction, with addiction's downward  pull to oblivion. The Well Tempered Clavier of Bach was one of the things that aroused  me from this  state, and years later I felt that I might  brave my questions again in Bach's trusted company.

It was a perilous enterprise, I now see in retrospect. The painting is done of four different layers of screening, 
with  the skulls  on the horizon started first, the skulls in the more remote mid ground added to them, the skulls in the forward mid ground added to them, and the skulls on the foreground added to them. In brief, I found myself orchestrating a sea of skulls. 

What was distressing was how each skull  on inspection became a missing personality, whose life had  come to a foul end.  

What was different from the horror of my youth was the horror of adulthood, or a growing sense of complicity with these terrible deeds. I have never murdered anyone in actuality, but often  in my heart. Somehow, though this is impossible to demonstrate, I feel sure that this is my part in  abetting

Certainly, this came home to me while painting this painting, and I wept often doing it, which is unusual for me.

The intense migrainous sensation of doing it is also something I recall, though this now seems serio-comical.
Throughout the process   my  cranial-fissures were felt keenly, like tectonic plates migrating grindingly apart.
And when, in a moment of discovering a way of rendering the skulls more rounded---an instance of technique losing its relationship to the subject matter--I plunged my brush into the paint can of vermillion, and accidentally cracked   the brush- handle. 
This jolted me from my moment of aesthetic pleasure, and I recalled how the first  photographic documentarians of Auschwitz found themselves composing shots to distance themselves from the "subject matter".

I am entirely unconvinced, for that reason, that one might  claim that  art can act as testimony to atrocity. The instances
where it is an expression of vehement indignation seem to me to be almost an unintentional disclaimer on the part of the artist,as if to say,  in this I am an innocent.And as an innocent, I accuse you. But to speak of myself alone, I am not an innocent in my heart , and this knowledge extends  the questions I  may put to history or another people to the questions I  must put to my own heart. In the matter of atrocity, I must also stand among the accused  if I wish to change myself. Sorrow is another matter. And in sorrow and contrition, I  may find  some connection with humanity.
(The Year Zero; 2007)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Periodically,fate--or some distorted reflection of Providence-- serves up a mansion to me.
It is always huge, and I am always welcomed as a honored guest.  This should make me
'happy, but whether the mansion is owned by a Baroness, or Sufis, or a Hollywood
producer with some connection to "revolutionaries" or Cyber-punks, it is always
'inhabited by zanies.

If deja vu is merely the body's recollection of a certain texture--say, a sidewalk--
or a rhythm--such as the rhythm of sitting shotgun in an automobile up a bend
of the  road at a certain grade, one might naturally wonder, even so, for
the mansion is always located up a certain bend in the road at a certain grade as
the previous mansions. There is always the green velvet presence of  Italian
cyprus and blue firs en route. The gateway--approached at the twilight hour--
the door--tudor or medieval--and the mansion only appears after a period
of voluntary solitude, the soul's necessity.

That it represents twin wishes--the desire for the magic circle, the temptation
of a group identity--has grown increasingly apparent.  I remember "the Winter
Palace", the Baronesses' spread in Santa Fe, the Sheikh's American digs..
mullioned and bevelled, the carpets thick.There is, despite marked differences
in the locales a certain note of the salon, something fin de sciele
and trop Lalique about each of them. But perhaps this reflects nothing
more than a taste for the etiolated among rich intellectuals.

And this may be why they like me.


Thursday, April 10, 2014


In 1996-7, I did a number of geometrical paintings on two mirrors facing each other at forty-five degree

These were meant to be studies, but as is my weird wont, they got deeper than my initial
intentions.  The very first of these is this black piece. It is primitive--I "drew" with tape,
 then painted, then painted on top of the painting. It was meant to be a corner piece, and
it seems to take a piece out of the room and put it somewhere else.

The later paintings in this series were painted first with a brilliant yellow or orange undercoat, which can be seen  when light hits the mirrors at a certain angle; it gives them a peculiar glow. I did about twenty one of these over a summer, but they proved mortal beyond belief, and only ten have survived ntact-- a gale detached a door in a storage unit, destroying a number of them. Viewing the wreckage I had the sense of a clean hollow at my center--but there is nothing to do but pick up the pieces, and sigh to the night, and wake with a new resolve at dawn.