Artist’s Statement
December 2006

Why paint flowers, especially now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, when they have been painted so often and so well by so many great artists in Europe and America from the 17th century onward, and by the Chinese and Japanese for centuries? They adorn the borders of Turkish, Persian and Indian miniatures as well as medieval European illuminated manuscripts. Just in the last 130 years alone, there have been extraordinary flower paintings made by Manet, Van Gogh, Redon, and Matisse all the way to O’Keefe, Warhol and Grandy Brody.

Quite conscious of these splendid predecessors, I began by trying to see the subject differently. I chose to focus on just one or two flowers, seen quite close up, often from above, placed on a notebook.

Paintings are very much like dreams: one does not really understand what the painting is about-- what it means-- at first, nor can one explain the urge or compulsion to do it. Little by little, possible meanings become clearer.

Color has always been my central interest and concern. Flowers are some of the most concentrated carriers of color on the planet. They are vessels and vehicles of color. But as I began to paint them, I was also watching them open, and I began to realize that they were teachers of openness. They open wider and wider until they collapse upon themselves or fall apart. They open to their death, which of course is just a transition to the next stage, the ripening of seeds. Not a bad lesson, especially for me, now just past fifty, and able to feel old age and death already present within me but not knowing yet how to face them with curiosity instead of fear.

As the series of paintings went into its second year, I began to place flowers in their small vases directly on images that I had in the studio: an arial photo of Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, another of Jupiter’s moon Io, a reproduction of a Milton Avery painting “The Source”, of couple of 17th century Indian miniatures, announcements from shows of Anselm Keifer and Grandy Brody. Some of the paintings that resulted are homages to these favorite artists. While doing them I savored the delicious juxtapositions of color and shape that were occurring, as well as the odd perspective that floats flower shapes above hills, rivers, moons, and a brown garden inhabited by the half-animals sent to guard Sita during her captivity, all of whom drowse there in the heat.