Narrative paintings suggest a story or pose a mystery for the viewer to untangle.
Things I find ridiculous, or beautiful, or charming, or mystifying. Things that tickle my fancy, piss me off or scare the hell out of me. Sometimes I work from photos, mostly mine, not always. Or from memories, lessons learned or not; sometimes my imagination takes control, inventing and arranging real and surreal images. I just need to put these stories into pictures—into paint. Painting stories is a fun, sensual, and emotional experience. My hope is that you, the viewer, experience the joy, emotion, and sensuality I felt painting them.
As a child I was fascinated by African masks. I saw them in the Field Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago, where I took summer classes during grade school and high school. I also collected jazz and blues music. No one had to tell me, “black is beautiful”. That was obvious. It’s not surprising then that I eventually felt the need to express my appreciation for Afro-culture artistically. The mystery and beauty of African masks made them an excellent vehicle for that exploration. In African culture the mask, in ritual practice, serves the wearer and the community. It is used to celebrate life’s transitions, to heal, and to offer gratitude to the spirits. It connects the people with the spirit world, with the unseen but profoundly felt power that touches all life. During the ritual the mask wearer becomes the entity represented by the mask—a transcendent and transubstantitive experience for the wearer and the group. Did the spirit of the masks inhabit me as I selected and painted them? I don’t know. But their visual impact and the feeling they emanate determined my choices. I pulled eleven from over 150 images collected during museum visits and on-line research. For me, painting each mask was an artistic challenge that stimulated new creative directions in composition, color and brushwork. I hope you enjoy the singular mystery of each of these African masks. Painting these masks was a deep, sensual, and emotional experience. My hope is that you, the viewer, experience the joy, emotion, and sensuality I felt painting them.