Saturday, February 3, 2024


. hit me with a flower


All five completed panels so far (there will be 9 altogether). Click to enlarge!!!



Please refer to my previous post for information on what inspired the dome and what my aims are here. Nota bene: I balked at saying “my aims” …I feel like the aims of the dome belong to the dome, not me.  But yeah.


Here’s short, silent video of the project.  I don’t know how to film things well, so please forgive the production values. Things I would have put in the soundtrack if I had been motivated to do one:

1.     The Lou Reed song “Vicious”

2.     The wooden dome structure is a mock-up.  The final dome will be NICER! 

3.     In the video you will notice there are two vertical wooden beans flanking the dome—they are my easel and have nothing whatsoever to do with dome.  Ignore them. 

    4. Ultimately, there will be glass in the dome part of the dome.


Nature isn’t Natural Any More
How many times have you heard an artist say they are inspired by nature?  I’ll bet it’s a lot.  Well, I’m not.  I am inspired by a lack of nature.  I live in the city, and I like it. A lot. Plus, I have never had a car.  That means I don’t get out into nature hardly ever.  Maybe a handful of times per year and I am even including Heinz!  I have experienced actual wildness...exactly never.

To say the dome is inspired by nature would be to ignore that to arrive at nature I have to physically travel.  My ideas of nature are 100% cultural constructs.  We tend to think of nature as plants, animals, wilderness, the stuff that we are in the process of destroying…all true enough.  But for the most part we carry on our lives in entirely human manipulated environments.  Even a garden is a human creation and while it contains elements of “nature”, they have been highly manipulated.

That’s why biophilia as a principle makes me a little crazy.  Its nature alright—but not the parts with E.coli, cockroaches, flesh eating bacteria and storms that send tree branches into your property.   


Biophilia is actually a human fantasy about benign nature.  If one is putting forth the idea that the desire for biophilic spaces in our office buildings somehow proves humans crave nature, then I would question how natural is it when it has been tamed and sanitized? How natural is it when we, the same people who are engaged elsewhere in deforestation etc, still insist upon domination?  It would be a poor idea to  suggest biophilia as a strategy to promote green policies.  

...Which is why my dome has plenty of ants, beetles, snakes and one rotting opossum. Also, I am hoping the flowers seem to have consciousness....  I don't want my imaginary nature to be claiming to be a representation of anything natural outside my own brain.




Deep Context

Once upon a time I was mining a vein of inspiration that lasted about 20 plus years.  Broadly speaking I would describe that work as “writhing women with highly decorative backgrounds.”...or something like that.

"Murder and Child" 1993

If you know my work, I probably don’t need to explain that. During this once upon a time, it was common for people, usually male non-arts people, to advise me to do something more palatable. Like flowers. Ya know?  So I could sell more?  For those people I say, well it turns out there’s a market for writhing women. So there. Or maybe it was the decorative background, and they were all able to ignore the writhing woman, front and center.


Creative journeys aren’t static, and I would say the seeds of my shift in subject matter have been present since “Tiny Eva”, 1993. Or even earlier pieces such as “Cast”  from 1986 or “Primavera” from 1985.  Those are the first post-graduation works I made.

"Primavera" 1985
"Cast", 1987                             "Tiny Eva", 1993,

  What I want to call attention to is the decorative, usually floral, background which was purely support material for the figure at first but slowly, over the course of over 25 years assumed more and more prominence until it took over the entire image and the figure was squeezed out.


Why did this happen?  So many reasons!

1.  I just plain got bored of figures.

2.  I no longer needed to create human proxies for myself. They “why” here is very personal. Let’s just say, I gotten over myself.

3. And this is a far distant third as it really isn’t a reason for me at all, but I shall mention it: it’s not a good time to do figures.  In fact, it’s almost never a good time to do figures (unless the king is paying you).  In a nutshell, if you make a convincing figure, you are in the valley of the uncanny and/or stealing souls and if you make a crappy figure, well, you made a crappy figure.  Uh oh on all accounts.  As many times in human history can attest, when it comes to representing human being, there is NO WAY not to upset someone unless you do nothing but self-portraits (and then you just look self-indulgent.)

But if I was still inspired by figures I would still make them and damn the torpedoes.



So why did flowers and birds take over…should I just cop to losing my edginess?

I am thinking about the song “Vicious” by Lou Reed. Which, the internet tells me “…is a cautionary tale about the dangers of loving someone who is deeply flawed.”  Hey wait!  Isn’t everybody deeply flawed?  Moving on…

Apparently, I am stuck at line one. “Vicious. You hit me with a flower. You do it every hour. Oh, baby, you're so vicious.”


How does one imbue that tamest of tame subjects, flowers, with something edgy?  I was always suspicious of flower painting.  It always seemed such an anodyne.  Like the kind of hobby someone seriously invested in avoiding the truth about their own dark side might do.  I could see the most devious, cruel and sadistic minds might want to do flower paintings.  I learned to be deeply suspicious of them.  But I always liked a few.  No, not Georgia O’Keeffe.  God knows I tried to like them, but I just can’t. They are just plain stingy.

I do love the flowers of Martin Johnson Heade, Joseph Stella, and Inka Essenhigh.  All three make mystical flowers.  Flowers as  grand and complex characters, not just props.  This is what I am trying to do.

They all manage to make flowers into something to be reckoned with, not something pleasing and simple.  And not just sexy.  Sexy flowers are good, but in the end, I need love.  These artists flowers respect me the next morning. They love me and since I am myself vicious and deeply flawed, I savor their impact.  That’s where I am trying to go in the dome.


1 comment:

Elizabeth Barsham said...

Thank you so much for writing this; you have expressed so much I have never managed to put into words. Please add me to what I imagine is a long, long list of people overwhelmed by your artistic vision and skills. Unlike you, I live up-close-and-personal with nature. My art is an attempt to create from the complexity around me a world where I understand what is going on