The following essay is what art academics refer to as an "intellectual trajectory." It is essentially an artist's history of their life as an artist, what they've gone through to get wherever they are, and where they see themselves headed.
This is mine:
As a child, I was mystified
by anyone who could draw. To create something out of nothing was to
me – in no small terms, a divine act.
When I was nine, an
uncle of mine pulled a tiger out of thin air and confined it
perfectly to paper. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.
When I asked him to do it again, he handed me the pencil, gave me a
pad of paper and left the room. That was how I was initiated.
I began collecting
books on the Baroque, Renaissance and Dutch masters hoping to better
understand and emulate their mastery over composition, form and
light. Content to me was irrelevant. For the first six years of my
life as an image maker, my primary focus was centered on the “how”
of art. I was mentored by painters, object makers, photographers and
draftsmen. I studied theory, application and technique, honing my
ability to see.
But as I got older, I
began to realize that there is a subtle difference between seeing and
SEEING. That is, what is perceived versus what is actual. There was
an unfortunately great deal of violence in my home. My mother hated
her life, resented my father and would often take out her
frustrations on me. Never flinching, never reacting, never giving
into her lunacy was my only defense. But outside the home, she was
the perfect mother of an enviable, hard working family and I was
helpless to convince people otherwise. There was my
perception, my mother's perception and the perception everyone
else seemed to have. I escaped into literature and music, gravitating
towards examples of one thing being taken as another all while
obsessively pouring myself into countless sketchbooks. For me, it was
about surviving. It was here where I found Salvador Dali and the way
he challenged a viewer's awareness by dancing in the periphery of an
accepted reality. In his biography, The Secret Life of
Salvador Dali, a point that was made that still
lingers with me is how he struggled with the knowledge that to his
parents, he was a replacement for his dead brother and namesake. His
work, therefore, presented a paradigm shift that gently ushered me
into the “why”of art.
years later, a fellow artist approached me during the reception
of our most recent group effort and gave me my
first ever critique. "It's not just about looking and copying
y'know, it's about feeling it too. Paul Cezanne said that." I
blinked at her. Then she handed me a book about the Impressionists,
smiled and crossed the room to go talk with the curator. I was never
the same. Drawing and painting had always been something I did to
cope with my life but once I began feeling it too, it quickly
became my life.
Since then, I have
devoted every waking moment to creating something out of nothing.
In college, I dove head
first into creative exploration developing the “how,” pushing the
“why” and ultimately seeking out the “what” of art. In those
critical years, I kept a quote from Picasso taped above my desk and
rewritten throughout my journals; “Learn the rules like a pro so
you can break them like an artist.” To that end, I spent much of my
time in the San Francisco MOMA conferring with Rothko and Davis and
Hopper, gleaning their wisdom. On the advice of my anatomy
instructor, I devoted two days a week for over a year examining and
sketching science lab cadavers at the medical school just so I could
have a more tactile understanding of the human form.
By the fourth year of my
compulsive practice and studies, I had reached a fever pitch. I
wasn't sleeping, I rarely ate. I did nothing but produce and work and
produce and drink and produce until one day, when I was twenty four –
graduation mere days away, I pulled a tiger out of thin air and
confined it perfectly to paper.
I used to wonder, when a
dog would chase after a car, what it would do if it actually caught
it? In hindsight, this was the beginning of my nervous breakdown. I
sought counsel, was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and Posttraumatic Stress disorder and spent the subsequent five years in and
out of hospitals and learning how to live life in perceptual
ambiguity. This was a dark, scary time filled with antidepressants,
blackouts and a medically induced creative block that utterly unmade
By the time the fog had
begun to lift, it was 2001. I was off my medication, attempting to
self-manage, and I had lost the ability to make art. The World Trade
Center was in ruins and I had lost the ability to make art. The
economy was losing altitude and spiraling into a nosedive and I had
lost the ability to make art. Across the country and at every turn
there existed only bedlam and I had lost the ability to make art.
Clearly, this was the perfect time for the prodigal son to
return home to New York and confront his estranged father.
If you're going down,
you might as well go down swinging.
Six excruciating months
later I learned that I had a brother and two sisters and that my
father's greatest regret was having children. So, I left. Uncertain
where to go or what to do next and unable to find an affordable place
to live, I drove to St. Mark's place, and purchased an old 38 special
from a guy who knew a guy. I had friends, so couches came easy and
when they didn't, I tagged some buildings. I wrote terrible poetry. I
wandered the streets thinking long and hard about my revolver and
whether or not tomorrow was worth the risk.
A year-to-the-day after
being home, I experienced a string of events that could only be
described as divine intervention. These events led to a tiny San
Francisco apartment with me surrounded by the entire contents of my
collective portfolio. I worked. I took long walks. I fasted. For
three weeks, I sifted through innumerable drawings and carefully
retraced my steps from my earliest memory right up to the moment when
I started to detox. Somewhere, amidst my life's work I decided that a
hard won life is a life worth living. That's when I began to paint
again. That's when I discovered the “what” of art. It was
September 23, 2003.
I'm not one for self
portraiture. Not in the literal sense, anyway. Mostly, my interests
center around social commentary. I present things that often get
overlooked. I introduce you to people that either amaze me or break
my heart. I speak clearly with intent and, as my Grandmother put it,
“cut the bullshit.” I strive to be articulate and succinct –
brief. People call it graphic. My work often has a narrative arc
because, in my opinion, life has a narrative arc. My voice is
loud, carried along the vibrations of color interactions and high
contrast, but it is also hand-crafted. I take raw pigments and make
my own paint. I take the time to construct the panels I work on with
the hope that they will out live me. In a disposable world, in this
short and fleeting life, longevity is my final stand. All these
elements are woven into a piece called “Myself.” In it, my back
is to the sunset. My posture is tired but stable as I stare at the
shadow cast before me. The sunset is my past. I face the uncertainty
of my future with resolve. My shadow is there to remind me how far
I've come and that ultimately, I am not alone.