I started off as a figurative painter because that was what I knew – the visualization of the physical world. Somehow – and I don’t remember exactly where or when – I saw beyond this world. I saw with my mind and all my senses began to form pictures in my mind’s eye (or at least that is the best way I can describe it). It was like listening to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings and registering the deep melancholy the minor chords summon, bringing moments of sadness from all of human history, pulling from the memory within the molecules that make up my person; all aligned and releasing their data because the sounds of that tune are calling them.
I used to paint people but I began to see past them, in what I can only assume Leonardo da Vinci was experiencing when he painted, and is so apparent in his first portrait, “Ginevra de Benci.” The left side of her face has been pulled slightly forward as if he wants us to see more than what this world can offer from our fixed perspective, giving us a glimpse toward his future that came to full fruition with Picasso’s synthetic cubism, which tied into Einstein’s theories of relativity, all making up a visual and conceptual tapestry of time and space. Leonardo places one reality in front of another: both existed only in his mind before manifesting onto a wooden panel. Where is that landscape from? Sure, we recognize elements of
the landscape in the form of trees, a pond, or the sky, but was it a real place? It is now because he made it so. But it also serves as a prop – a backdrop for his sitter. There is something else happening in this picture, something that lets me in on his secret; his inner vision which is manifesting in the painting: he saw things few see – he saw through this world and into another, as the space between them shimmered like a hallucinatory moment that exists between what we know and what we think we know. When an artist sees that and is still able to breathe, let alone paint or compose or dance or sing, then the world bares witness to this elusive thing we call art.
I make images of things that don’t really exist – which is usually referred to as art. I don’t deny that label because I don’t have another word for it. Time and the idea of time are becoming less important to me. Maybe, it is because daily life is becoming faster and the rate at which we receive information is happening so fast that we are living moment to moment, with each moment superseding the last. But, somewhere within that swirling chaos of information is stillness where, as T. S. Eliot wrote, “At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is.”
And that stillness is in Leonardo’s Ginevra de Benci, who, for the past year or so, I have danced with every day in my studio when I pick up my brushes and smear paint onto the canvas. Who could ask for a better partner?