The Struggle: In Icarus Transfigured, I described my creative process this way: “For him, perception was a barrier in his tumultuous work, though it was the female body, particularly, that stood between him and what lay beyond perception. As symbol or object it kept him shackled to the representational world of things: to the very realm that gave expression to all his anxieties and phobias. He could just endure to paint it flying apart at the seams.”
Toy Lies (oil) 1987. The reflective patchwork of the brilliant blue balloon is due to use of Rapid-Set. This is also the first occasion where I used Naples yellow, though principally as a scrubber color.
Rapid-Set Medium: Rapid-Set* medium was exactly what its name implied. It was a fast-setting oil medium. Given my thin application of paint in these days (prior to my development of a scumbling technique), my paints dried exceptionally fast, with the paint skin being both tacky and brittle. There was a great deal of drag on the brush, and not much time to blend. The feel was similar to the approach where viscous, undiluted stand oil is applied with a stiff bristle brush. This gave an encaustic look to my calcium carbonate oil-primed canvases, which is visible in these photo images. Acidic color further enhances this perception: i.e., Mediterranean earth tones intermingled with bright plastic colors.
I had little experience in pure “oil painting,” and consequently adopted Rapid-Set from instructor Robert Barnes, who was then experimenting with it. Barnes once complained that, when he took up a brush to use the stuff, he did not slow down for fear the brush would stick fast to the surface of his painting and he would be unable to remove it. Once I moved into an apartment, I abandoned the toxic medium for stand oil, and later returned to refined linseed oil to facilitate finer details.
In retrospect, I think my 1986 and 1987 works show, in their small way, the influence of Robert Barnes, who I regard to be one of the finest abstract-figurative painters of modern times.
(*I cannot find my old bottle of this discontinued painting medium; and I can find no reference to it with words searches on the Internet. I believe Liquitex made Rapid Set, but cannot be certain.)
Giddy Girls and Logic (oil) 1987. Cynicism replaces unfettered Romanticism.
When War Brides Wax Still-Life (oil) 1988. The color sensibility in Indiana University’s painting program was different that what I explored at The University of Memphis. It was a Mediterranean palette of Naples yellow, sienna, umber, and Venetian red. Greens were of a blue or teal tint. The color was essentially that of Northern Italy during the Quattrocento. I never fully adopted it, but there are hints of it.
Que Sais-je? (oil) 1988. Use of a limited palette, similar in approach to Giddy Girls and Logic and other works of this period. In the second photograph I stand next to Que Sais-je? at my BFA show opening.
The Table (oil) 1988: This is my last IU studio painting (summer 1988). It is unlikely that I used Rapid-Set for this canvas.
The Table (Study) 1988: An aged study found among random papers. On the flip side of this is the beginning of a draft letter to the Phyllis Kind Gallery in Chicago. It was the one gallery in the Midwest to which I aspired to gain entry, chiefly because its association with The Chicago Monster School (Harry Who? School). I received a positive letter from the gallery director, who unfortunately informed me that the gallery was relocating to New York.
Lay of The Land: Observation, assimilation, and transformation are operative words to describe my education. A Bachelor and Masters degree in art do not signify much more than additional opportunities to pursue these goals in other environments. It is criminal to think one needs an institution to be an accomplished artist or art instructor. I would know as much as I do now had I come by the same information differently.
Art is held in esteem by a good many folks, although, in the vicinity where I teach, several galleries are open daily to the public, and exhibitions rotate monthly. The art seen here is often quite good, and occasionally extraordinary; and yet, the number of people who pass through these galleries, apart from employees and students rushing to get to class, is shockingly few. This experience is repeated in every gallery in every city in America every day. Galleries may not be museums, but they may hold future treasures to be found in museums.
Another truism of art students is that they, like the indifferent public, too often express little to no interest in the work of their peers, or in the work of exhibitors in galleries they pass on the way to the classroom. The longer the student sticks to his or her work, the sooner they come to realize that there is much to be learned from other artists.
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