I’ve been going through some early work recently; pulling it from my shed and saving what is savable and throwing out what is too far gone. It’s given me some pause to think back about my early influences and practices.
I’ve been blessed over the years to get a lot of good press and early on I had a show,”Rites of Passage” that was reviewed in the February 1985 issue of Art in America. The review was not as favorable as I had hoped at the time. It made a point of saying I was all over the place with my influences. I fussed to my father who used it as a teaching moment. “Did they spell your name right?” my father asked me. “Well yeah”…….. I responded. “You mean you got your first review in Art in America at 27…..some people wait a life time to get a review in Art in America. Put it on your resume and in six months no one will care what the review said, but they will remember you got reviewed in a major publication.” my father countered.
One of the many lessons my father taught me.
Looking back on that early Art in America review I can now say that the art critic was spot on in her critique of my work. I was wearing my early influences on my sleeve.
I grew up in a house full of paintings, prints, drawings, Pre-columbian, African, and New Guinea sculptures and baskets and all these things have had a profound influence on me. Besides that, my father was the noted curator of installation for the Dallas Museum of Art which had strong collections in Pre-columbian and African. I was immersed in art from an early age and where a lot of my peers were citing this contemporary artist or some famous modern artist as an art influence I was citing early and ethnic cultures whose artist remained largely unknown.
Another profound influence was a trip I took with our family to Rome, Florence, Venice and Paris in my junior year of high school.
There I saw Giotto and a lot of renaissance art that greatly influenced me despite my high school arrogance that did it’s best to shut out my father going on about the historical significance of this time period. Thank goodness for visual osmosis.
Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, Giotto’s frescoes greatly influence my early narrative work. I loved that Giotto’s pieces were like people on a stage and even though my pieces were staged in the great out doors…..all of the figures were usually crowding the foreground like you often see in Giotto’s work.
My early paintings told a story and they usually involved a group of people who were often outside and on a road to somewhere.
Here is a piece by Masaccio, “The Holy Trinity,” that directly influenced my piece the “Assumption of the Dreamer.”
When my father took us to go see Bernini’s Apollo and Daphine,” he spoke of the technical prowess of Bernini and how sensual it was.” Son look how Bernini was able to carve the marble to look like flesh when it’s being pressed into.” No one wants to hear their father speak of something being sensual. I just rolled my eyes.
I truely thought Bernini’s piece was tacky and overwrought and I asked when we were going to get to see some modern art. My parents threw me a bone and took me to the Modern Art Museum in Paris where I saw Brancusi’s reconstructed studio.
It took me a long time to understand that Bernini’s piece in all it’s mythological underpinnings was a direct influence on my piece called “The Allegory Tree.”
It’s always interesting to look back to consider where you come from and what brings you forth to where you are now. These early narrative works are that for me.
Over the years I have honed down my work. I don’t think too often now of my early influences…….at this point I just try to follow my intuitition and create work that interest me. But that being said, I’ve been enjoying looking back recently.