I started working with old master paintings after seeing Flemish artist, Peter Paul Rubens' "Massacre of the Innocents" in the National Gallery in London several years ago. From across the room, I saw it as a beautiful abstraction and decided to paint it that way. The work I was doing at the time was monochromatic and silent, but the drama, movement and colors of "Massacre of the Innocents" inspired me to leave that work behind and move in a direction that felt more congruent with my life. After doing variations of Rubens, I moved on to Nicolas Poussin, Raphael, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo. I began mixing them all together - different paintings, artists and time periods – abstracting and reconstructing their compositions with recognizable fragments from the past.
In the winter of 2009, I was at the Jentel Residency in Banner, Wyoming. The landscape was very stark with the most noticeable changes being the wildlife - animal tracks, scavenging birds, animal carcasses, and eagles, deer, cows, dogs. My new environment recalled the animals and hounds in paintings like Rubens’ “Flagellation of Christ” and Tiepolo’s “The Finding of Moses” and inspired me to move in a new direction. I began researching works that incorporated animals – boar hunts, lion hunts, stag hunts and dog fights. In doing this I discovered Frans Snyders, who was frequently employed by Rubens to paint the animals, fruit and still life in his own paintings. Having similar dynamic compositions as Rubens yet with more dramatic subject matter, I became excited to pursue this new path. I created twelve oil-on- paper pieces that back in New York became studies for larger paintings.
Paintings and their References
In “Detour” and “Obliquity” I have taken dogs from Snyders’ boar hunts and stag hunts and placed them in an ideal setting, subtracting the victim. In “The Blue Rudy” I have sourced drawings by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, focusing on the complicated gestures of humans and animals. As with other paintings that include dogs and humans, the hounds remind me of a dysfunctional Greek chorus – commenting on the actions of the human figures without offering an explanation. My most recent work is moving away from narrative elements toward a greater abstraction. “Copulative Magnum” takes its cue from Baroque tapestries, with a more all over composition and a concentration on the drama of movement.
In all my paintings, the process begins with the discovery of an image and an abstract idea of what I want to do with it. I begin making collages and then create an oil-on-paper study or work directly on canvas. I often move images around as the painting starts to form. The process is then one of brushing on oil paint and erasing it with a rag, the erasing creating as much of a sculptural effect as the brushstroke.