It’s hard to believe that when 2020 began I was still painting planets paintings and the Higg(ins) Boson series and imagining how I would put those works out there in the world. I had just finished a very successful show at the Bethlehem House Gallery and was looking forward to a year of commissions, gallery shows, a new President, and the Olympics. Things seemed so innocent then. Actually someone reminded me the other day that Trump was actually impeached this last year and I swore that it happened in 2019 or the year before. As I reflect on this last year and all the hardships that unfolded I’m am continually thankful that I had my art, and that the Banana Factory Art Center stayed open to the artists. I’m so happy and appreciative that the staff and administrators worked so diligently to keep the space clean and open because I can not imagine how I would have gotten through 2020 without my studio.
As I said before the year started out with me finishing up the “Friends are My Solar System” series. That long unexpected batch of paintings were initially like an albatrosses around my neck because they were so unwieldy. The planets paintings eventually became my favorite pieces by the end of the series. Especially the final two works of Pluto and the Earth which I think were the best put together pieces of the set.
After I finished my journey into space I did a couple landscape and seascape series. “Sea of Japan” was a set of 4 works that retraced a near death “Sea Day” visit to, well the Sea of Japan back in 2001. It ostensibly also celebrated the photography of Horoshi Sugimoto whose images served as inspiration for the works. I also earlier in the year finished a set of 6 landscape works entitled Maxatawny Stitzer, honoring my friend Marc Stitzer, who I had visited that early winter in 2019.
As the pandemic swung into full gear I decided that my studio would become my one refuge out doors, especially in March and April when lockdowns were everywhere. I took the time I received from work and did several series nearly at once. I did the 2020 rendition of Puppet Pal Friends, this one called “Puppet Pal Friends Hold Fast to Hard Dreams”. And I completed the first chapter 4 paintings of my Gnostic Confessions series.
As the pandemic worsened by the late spring and social justice protests starting up all over the country due to police shootings and other raciest violence in Georgia, Kentucky and in Kenosha Wisconsin my thoughts went to how I could address both issues in my art. I completed “Kenny’s Carpetbaggers Lament” as a response to the Kenosha protests and began work on “Adela’s Bouquet” to give me a respite from the heavy political subject matter of my BLM response works.
By late summer I managed to finish all my large works and added one more, a large mural at Hindle Power in Easton, Pa that came about at the perfect time for me financially. I’m forever thankful to Bill Hindle and Darrell George for making that opportunity possible.
During the fall I worked on a response piece to the George Floyd murder along the same lines as my Kenosha inspired piece from earlier in the fall. Malik’s B-Boy Blues was perhaps my most direct comment about the disposable nature and violent overly sexualized depiction of black male bodies that I’ve ever made. It further opened the door to a new process of art-making for me with the use of cedar-shingles to build intentionally raw and rough-hewed surfaces.
I finished off the year finally completing the Adela’s Bouquet paintings, and working on a new commission for a regional hospital. Both of these projects brings me up to today. As the new year begins I’m working on the latest cedar-shingle response works and two sets of commission, the before mentioned hospital work and a duo of landscapes. All of these project I hope to finish by mid spring leading I hope to new discoveries I can take with me when I go to the Vermont Studio Center in May.
When I began the year I was obsessed with Khruagbin, that smooth jazzy instrumental group. My friend Tyrone turned me on to the group. They released a new record in 2020 — which I loved and probably played a thousand times. As the year ended I lost a little of my music inspiration, but I did manage to discover a new group the other day called Ray BLK. Here are two YouTube videos of songs I loved from both groups “First Class” by Khruagbin and “5050” by RayBLK
It’s been a little while since I’ve done anything substantive in the studio having just recently completed my move to my new digs just this last week. It’s strange being in a new space and I’m still trying to feel out the energy in the room. I have plenty to keep me busy once I do get going though, a couple drawing series, my Trayvon Martin inspired cedar-shingle works, and two commissions. I expect to begin actually working on something this week and will surly discover something interesting to blog about, maybe something about coming back to creativity after a pause. Until then do be well and stay safe.