artist statement












“Only by entertaining multiple and mutually limiting points of view, building up a composite picture, can we approach the real richness of the world”. Niels Bohr- Quote tacked on my studio wall for the last 25 years.

Art is the primary motive of my life. Since childhood I have loved to see how people describe their sense of the world and themselves in it, and have been unable to resist describing and reflecting upon on my own experience.

Early in my life as an artist I decided that I would work two or three days a week to earn a living and devote the rest of my time to making the art that energized and inspired me regardless of commercial or art-world concerns. This decision has profoundly influenced who I am as an artist and a person.

Over the last thirty years I have poured my life into this work. Intuition, inspiration, and my relentless curiosity about and desire to understand the world around me have been my guides in this effort to describe reality - as I understand it to exist. Reality, I am convinced, cannot be found in one view or style but rather in the overlap of diverse points of view.

Because I pursue the ideas that contain the most energy for me and have varied interests and passions, I have built a broad range of skills, techniques and visual languages that combine many methods and artistic references. These diverse approaches to making art can be mixed in a single work, using mechanical framing techniques, or shown together with other pieces to create a composite picture of reality, rather then a cohesive vision of the world. In this way I hope to build tension between works and create a synergistic effect from the group of objects in a show.

Most of the paint I use I make myself by combining a wax medium (Dorlands) with an alkyd medium for oil (Dan Smith) and dry pigments. By doing this I create a heavy, sturdy paint that combines easily with standard oil paint. I use linseed oil for thinning and when a very liquid paint is needed.

In certain instances I create burnt plate oil (boiled and reduced linseed oil) for mixing into my paint. This makes it sticky and viscous like warm taffy or boiled sugar.

The following is a description of my process as an artist, the motivations, values, concerns and thoughts that go into creating my work and living my life, from artistic inspiration, to a theory of reality, and a proposal for a new direction for our society. It is an attempt to express verbally what I express visually in my artwork.

Art, Nature, and Human Beings

1. a quick and ready insight
2. a: immediate apprehension or cognition b: knowledge or conviction gained by intuition c: the power or facility of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference

The only real valuable thing is intuition.
Albert Einstein

1. arousing to a particular emotion or action
2. a sudden intuition as part of solving a problem
3. arousal of the mind to special unusual activity or creativity
4. the act of inhaling: the drawing in of air (or other gases) as in breathing
5. (theology) a special influence of a divinity on the minds of human beings

Intuition and inspiration are the guiding forces of my life and work. I am always reaching for the idea with the most energy inside of it, while trying to recognize and reject the interferences of fear and ego. On this path I must trust the destination without knowing its shape or feel. Intuition and inspiration have proven my most reliable allies towards my expression and understanding of truth and reality.

My inspiration has required me to dedicate myself to making artwork that expresses the sacred nature of the earth and the conflicted and paradoxical relationship we humans have with it and each other. I have poured my time, talents, and resources into making this work as emotionally, visually, and spiritually honest as possible. This has required me to balance intuition and inspiration with intellect, knowledge, and craft while staying deeply engaged in the world around me, and my own responses to it. Meeting these challenges remains a fresh and potent involvement that colors and informs every aspect of my life.

The natural world is my greatest inspiration and love. It is for me, clearly divine and alive in all its aspects. I paint landscapes from memory and imagination in order to express a more personal and also iconographic sense of the sublimely sacred world that surrounds us. Light and shadow, tree and cloud are metaphorically and concretely honest on a very profound level. A winter wren giving me a sideways curious look in the woods, the awesome magnificence of the sky, and the miracle of dappled sunlight on a single maple leaf glowing on a planet filled with miracles provide an abiding example of how - and why - to live. I am convinced that the careful observation and immersion into this world of growing living things contains the solutions to our personal and global dilemmas as human beings.

My love for and appreciation of my fellow human beings and our remarkable achievements: temples and cathedrals, scientific explorations, philosophical and spiritual thought, the sublime artistic expressions of individuals, as well as the daily wonder of my personal relationships, inspire, encourage, and goad me to a greater effort towards creating the most sincere and fully realized work that I can achieve. Naturally, beside this sense of the wonder of humanity I am influenced by our extreme folly. I spend a fair amount of time trying to understand political realities and incorporate them into my work. Clearly much of human history and today's activities are repetitions of wrong-headed, death-centered, fear-guided behavior based on misinformation, prejudice, willful blindness, and short-term self-interest. It is also clear that our time of finite-resource-based prosperity is nearly over, and we will need to change our way of living in the world. The extreme destructiveness of modern weapons, their wide spread availability combined with the spiraling cyclic nature of violence prove to me that only peaceful solutions will be effective in answer the dilemmas we face in this new century. These solutions will require a profoundly different relationship to the earth. Science is one door into this new relationship, however art must provide the vision and inspiration.

Fitting this esoteric and all consuming passion into the world of commerce and markets has been fairly secondary to my life goals. I am not particularly materially ambitious and find material goals and career considerations more of a distraction than an inspiration. I have seen how marketing artwork can have a corrosive effect on artists' creative lives and so have preferred to keep my living independent of art sales.

Reality and Morality

Reality is immense and apparently infinitely complex, whereas the scope of human consciousness is small and has evolved to enable us to see the food or the threat in the landscape before us. This allows us to concentrate on safety and sustenance but requires us to narrow our focus and ignore most of the information in any situation. Or, from a religious point of view God's consciousness is immense and we can only grasp a tiny fraction of it. We have done a great deal given our limitations (or perhaps because of them); however even the most expansive sense of unity with God, or scientific understanding is necessarily a very limited point of view. Therefore all human world-views, all the religions, faiths, philosophies, economic theories, and scientific perspectives are so incomplete that they are essentially incorrect if we are trying to explain the total scope of reality with them. All world-views are tools made to suit certain human purposes. Which means we can choose the right tool for the job at hand. Currently the job at hand appears to be the survival of our species and many of our fellow species here on this marvelous planet we are privileged enough to live on. (see Survival in the twenty-first century below)

Quantum mechanics1, Vedanta2 (Yogi philosophy), Buddhist, Christian, and many other religious and philosophical traditions lead us to the truth that the physical boundaries of things are more of an illusion than a fixed reality. Science tells us that we do in fact constantly lose and gain matter and energy from our bodies, so what was star is now foot, and what was foot is now grass, and that: in star, foot, and grass there is much more empty space then solid matter. I believe this is supported in religious thought - the Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna's3 (2nd century A.D.) theory of emptiness, or Christ's statement in the Gospel Of Thomas that "The kingdom of heaven is inside you and all around you"4, or the Hindu Yogi (Vedanta) philosophy of Maya, and Monism all point to this view of reality. The Biophysicist Candace Pert5 describes biological existence as "more like a flickering flame than a solid" - no fixed boundaries and deeply interacting with its surroundings.

 1. Identity and Individuality in Quantum Theory
 2. Vedanta
 3.Narganjuna (pdf)
 4. Verses 3 and 113
The Gospel of Thomas
 5. Candace Pert

If this then is true it seems to me to lead inevitably to the conclusion that all of existence is actually one thing. If there is a constant interchange of energy and matter between things, then it follows that all things are in fact the same thing. And if there are no fixed boundaries to things then there is no clear differentiation between things, so all of reality is one thing. And because there is life in the things around us and these things are constantly in flux with the things around us we do not define as alive, then the notions of alive and dead are meaningless. Is sunlight alive? We would say no but sunlight is in fact one of the sources of life so how can it be dead? I choose to think of everything as alive because I see myself as alive but in fact there would be no distinction between the two states if reality is one single thing. This all appears to me to follow logically and reasonably and be supported by much of human thought and experimentation. However we do run into a problem with this when we bump our head, or skin our knee it sure seems solid and bounded. No matter how deeply one believes in quantum reality6 one does need to know the difference between a grizzly bear and a glass of water if we wish to survive as a biological organism. This of course is where Newton comes in, and the apparent paradoxical conflict between quantum physics and Newtonian physics that is the most pressing challenge for physicists of our time.

 6. Quantum Reality

Continuing on with the previous line of thought - before we bumped heads with Newton and persistent perceived causal reality - if all things are one thing and all states are interchangeable what then of morality? Clearly if everything is part of everything else there can be no moral distinction. I suggest that morality arises from our biology, which is largely driven by the preservation of the species, and most prevalently this concern with preservation extends only to our particular group or tribe. So in the Old Testament it was fine to wipe out the Canaanites because the Israelites were given their land by Yahweh. There seems to be a great deal of evidence of tribal people seeing themselves as "the people" and everyone else as not "the people" making it completely acceptable to do things to them that one would not do to members of ones own group. Cannibalism, slavery, segregation, the wiping out of indigenous people by invaders, have all been sanctioned by the prevailing religion of the time and place. Human morality seems to extend to our individual sense of interdependence on others. Who or what we see ourselves as dependent on for survival gets included in our moral order, who or what we do not feel dependent on for survival (or are seen as in competition with for survival) does not get included. So if we see ourselves as tribally connected to a whale or an old growth tree we tend to extend to them our sense of morality and believe they have a right to exist and will add to and enhance our own survival. Naturally this sense of morality is extended differently among different cultures and traditions. So here in the US the majority of us see ourselves as interconnected with Europe and tend not to exploit and dehumanize them except where tribal loyalties get confused (i.e. we are more connected to the British than the Germans because we see them as tribally closer.). Africans, South Americans, Middle Easterners, Asians and equatorial people in general are seen as other, and our sense of morality towards them is much less than it is towards someone who is perceived as in our group. (As a current example President Bush can say with out blinking or any apparent moral compunction that the war in Iraq has killed 30,000 Iraqi civilians and go on to eulogize the deaths of 2000 Americans with very little notice from the public, because he is expressing an unspoken orthodoxy that our tribal members are more valuable than someone else's tribal members. His often stated Christian convictions do not apparently conflict with his sense of tribal superiority.)

A strong present day sub-distinction of tribal identity is economic class. We see playing out in US politics a deep concern for the welfare of the wealthiest among us who are able to buy an audience with the legislature and almost no concern for the people who are least able to be heard, the poor and middle class. (Again, the Bush administration has consistently given tax breaks and economic advantages to the wealthiest among us and taken them from the poorest.) Government officials tend in general to be from the wealthy class and so they promote the welfare of those they most strongly identify as tribal members, with the expressed reason being that the wealthiest are best able to help the society as a whole. Whereas the poor or even middle classes are seen as more likely to drain resources from society rather than enhance them. The fact that this goes on with very little challenge from the broader public points to our cultural morality rather than a factual analysis of cost benefits. Of course none of this is particular to our time; these are very common traits in governments and human organization of all kinds extending through human history and across global geography. Morality then seems to be based on self-preservation and tribal affiliation, rather then divine justice or a religious code.


"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science."
Albert Einstein

If the universe is one being then there is no outside of ourselves to be inspired by. However biologically we live with the nearly constant perception of our own individuality inside of a bounded fixed reality. Where could inspiration come from and what could be its function?

For me it is like a mugging. It sneaks up and overpowers me with an idea or direction and injects me with so much specific project related energy that it is difficult for me to do other things while I am in its thrall. This sense of inspiration coming from outside of oneself appears to be fairly consistent; whether it comes from one's ancestors, the muses or certain aspects of the material world around us it appears to come to us from somewhere else. The poet Pablo Neruda7 expressed it like this:

"And it was at that age...Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me". ….

 7. Pablo Neruda

Inspiration fills a spot that was previously empty, it sneaks in while we sleep and leaves its small gift - its seeds of possibilities fall from nowhere and take root, leaving me - the gardener - to choose to tend them or let them die.

Early sacred texts are not helpful on the subject of the mystery of the primary inspiration, or where ideas come from. The Bible's first line: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" gives us no clue as to where the idea came from. In the ancient Hindu text the Vishnu Purana - the book where creation is first expounded on - we find a little bit more information as to the nature of primary inspiration: "He, that Brahma, was all things; comprehending in his own nature the indiscrete and discrete". This implies that creation starts when one recognizes distinctions in themselves. But again there is no information as to where this recognition comes from. Clearly there was no recognition of distinction and then there was a recognition. In fact I can find no early text dealing with this essential mystery. So I will leave the question of where and how inspiration comes as a mystery.

The other interesting question about inspiration is - why.

Science now tells us that the cells of our body communicate with one another using chemical messages, peptides like dopamine8 . These chemical messages are essentially the mechanics of emotion and they appear to be used as a subtle and expressive language that enables our cells to communicate with one another9 . If language is being used then there has to be intelligence (the capacity to acquire and apply knowledge) involved and some sort of cellular self-awareness. The yogis have said for some 6000 years that our cells have intelligence and a type of individuality. Could it be - given the universe is one being, and we know intelligence exists from the organism level to a cellular one - that intelligence is a condition or force of the universe and expression is the inevitable result of intelligence? So, art is one layer of communication by which the universe communicates with itself.

 8. Cells say the darndest things
 9. Approaching A Theory of Emotion

If the universe is one being which contains consciousness with in it - as the fact of our own consciousness would seem to argue - then to some extent the universe has discrete parts or sets of consciousness - as our own experience would suggest also. Of course the common interpretation of this is that we perceive a separation of ourselves from universal consciousness but in fact we are caught inside of our own biological limitations that don't allow us to experience universal consciousness all the time - presumably because that consciousness would be distracting and dangerous to our biological selves. My theory is that consciousness is contained in discrete packages throughout all of reality and that these packages or individuals have a sense of self-awareness that only moderately extends out from their individual consciousness (imagination, inspiration, intuition) and communication is used to create wholeness or integration. Taking our bodies cellular model as an example of this: our cells require boundaries as a means of meeting both the needs of maintaining the existence of the entire body while dealing with the constantly changing nature of our physical reality; addressing these two aspects requires cells to communicate for the purpose of connecting and maintaining biological integrity while the mind - or what we think of as our selves - is not required to speak the cellular language nor be consciously aware of its existence. So, perhaps the inspiration to communicate comes about as a means of maintaining wholeness in a dynamically changing universe.


Survival in the twenty-first century

All worldviews are tools that have evolved in cultures to suit certain societal purposes. Because they define reality they must then shape our perception of it. This implies that we have choice in our worldview. Shouldn't we then choose a view of reality that will be consistent with our perceptions of life as it actually exists around us and will sustain and enhance that life in the future? The worldview presented above is one that is consistent with broad areas of human thought, perception, and scientific study, and inherently understands that all worldviews are necessarily incomplete at describing reality, so it allows room to adapt to new information as it becomes known.

By describing reality as one being with constantly interchanging parts we are describing existence itself as sacred, alive, and possessing intelligence, if in fact any of these criteria are met in any of its parts. Which then means we should show respect and thoughtfulness when interacting with any aspect of the world around us. And, if this universal being is made up of discrete packets of consciousness that use communication as a way of maintaining wholeness in the face of a constant rearrangement of its parts, then refining and adapting our communication skills as individuals and as groups of individuals is our best available way to create wholeness. A sense of wholeness or integrity with ones surroundings is desirable because it fosters the recognition that interdependence is the basis for biological life. This view should help us to realize that a conversation that describes ones needs and expectations is more useful in creating wholeness than say, a nuclear weapon or a shotgun, and that all of the existence that we are surrounded by is as sacred and alive as we ourselves are. The survival of the fittest capitalist economy that is the backbone of our civilized worldview presently, has us pitted in deadly competition with our environment and each other. Our strong emphasis on the self-interest of the individual rather then the whole society creates a short-sided view of the world (one life-span), which leads to class competition, patriotism, xenophobia, genocide, and the mass extinction of a broad range of the life around us. It is possible to update our worldview to one that recognizes our nationalistic struggles, prejudices, and attempts to gain power over others through violence - both economic and warfare related - are unimportant and counter productive to our long range survivability and our sense of the integrity of reality.

I think we actually have a pretty good understanding of what this world-view requires of us:

When a few people are billions of times more wealthy than the rest of the population they tend to build elaborate systems to protect their wealth, typically using psychological systems of self-protection and propaganda, and physical systems such as armies and weapons. Much of our conflicts could be resolved if instead of fabulously enriching a few people by extracting finite resources with the labor of the poor we worked with sustainable technologies to empower all people. Solar power is one of the best examples of a potentially sustainable source of energy that could provide all the people of the earth with electricity where it is needed. We have roofing and siding materials that collect solar energy (recently a process has been invented which doubles the efficiency of solar cells making them much more practical for widespread use). If we combine the electricity produced this way inside of a fuel cell with ambient Co2 from the air, we can safely produce methanol and efficiently store the energy released by the sun. Methanol can be run in our existing internal combustion engines with little or no conversion necessary and because it draws co2 from the atmosphere itself it is green-house-gas-neutral. This would effectively create a far more efficient bottom-up energy economy instead of the extremely wasteful top-down one we presently have. Our only real security can come from this type of bottom-up equalitarian and sustainable technologies.

We are absolutely dependent on living soil and healthy water. Chemical farming and meat-intensive diets kill healthy soil and pollute both our fresh water and the oceans. I believe we will have to change our food growing practices back to the more labor-intensive organic farming of our recent past. All of our able bodies would be much better off if we worked a few hours a week farming and our children and young adults would be much healthier if it was understood that they would spend time working to grow healthy food.

We need to change our focus in transportation from the tyranny of the individual automobile to mass transit systems. We are eating millions of square miles of the earth with our need to drive our private cars to every corner of it, while poisoning the air and dangerously warming our planet. Walking and riding bicycles would be a much healthier way to connect with transit systems, and would require much less land devoted to it.

We will need to move towards a society that respects everyone's basic human rights to a decent home, healthy food, clean energy, the freedom to say what they want, an honest education, quality health care and a reasonable occupation. The key to overpopulation is equal rights for woman around the world. Wherever woman's rights have been expanded, populations have started dropping. These goals can only be met away from the ever-expanding demands of the profit-today-regardless-of-the-consequences-for-the-future capitalist model. We need to work for sustainable horizontal economies instead of the myth of ever expanding ones. All-for-the-few-capitalism and true democracy are not indivisible.

Finally and preeminently we need to look at history and the present away from the blinders of nationalism, religion, racial prejudice and any believe system that so colors our thinking that we approach the world completely defensively and renders us incapable of taking in factual information that may contradict our beliefs so we can realistically access our problems as they present themselves.


My Art

All of the above is background for what I consider and am intuitively driven to in the creation of my artwork. My thoughts studies and inspirations all form a feedback system that cycles into my work and back out into the world.

To those of you that have stuck with this embarrassingly long narrative thank you. I hope you feel your time has been spent well. Please feel free to email me with comments.