The Influencers in my Studio

May 8, 2023

My work is highly rooted in and influenced by the Abstract Expressionist movement and the Color Field painters of the 60’s and 70’s. But I do not limit myself to just those two points in time. 

I have studied and explored nearly every art movement there ever was. During my tenure at Sotheby’s, I participated in a training program sponsored by the auction house to study the art and decorative styles dating as far back as the earliest known art producing civilizations and cultures through the present day. I can safely say I have looked at just about everything!

However, I  have a few deeply treasured friends that are with me at all times when I work in my studio. Artist’s like Mark Rothko and Richard Diebenkorn are enormously influential painters for me. I am captivated by and deeply respect their utter dedication to color and light — without light there is no color. I reference their language and vocabulary in their work, but it is the light that infuses their canvases that captivates and inspires me. 

There are easily traceable  connections from Diebenkorn back to Henri Matisse’s work that are also ever present with me as I paint and create.. I was recently in Paris and had the opportunity to revisit Matisse’s work, and to let his style, his use of light and color wash over me as I studied his many works on display at the Musee D’Orsay.

Willem de Kooning is another important influencer of my work. Sometimes lauded  as the “Father of Abstract Expressionism”,  his ability to paint energy and movement thrills me, and is something I strive to create in my paintings. I experience his paintings as explosive in their vibrancy and “speed” — in a way that defies the confines of two dimensional space.

I can’t talk about light without referencing the Impressionists; I welcome Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne as my most frequent visitors in the studio. Cézanne inspires me with his form and structure and Monet brings me his light and vibrancy. Monet, who built his canvases over time, utilized juxtaposition to create vibrancy and brushstroke to create movement. His canvases radiate light. 

A small section of Monet’s Water Lilies. The sunlight reflected on the water is brilliantly captured. The viewer knows exactly what is being conveyed. 

While my art is abstract, it is always my intention to bring the light through to the viewer.

I recently saw an exhibition in Paris comparing the work of Monet and another abstract expressionist, Joan Mitchell. Mitchell’s work to me seemed to build so beautifully on Monet; her work referencing nature without specifically depicting it in her compositions. Seeing how Monet influenced Mitchell, and how he also influences me; reflecting on the uniqueness of all 3 artists’ creations, brings to light the importance of influencers whose prior mastery helps artists evolve their work.

Some others come to visit from time to time. Of late I have been returning to the work of Pierre Bonnard. In my early formative years as a painter, I spent a good deal of time with him. Recently I have been turning again to study the light and form in his compositions. I know they hold something for me, and I am excited to see how they will influence what I paint.

When I say, I stand on the shoulders of those that have come before me, I mean it. I do. Not all art needs to refer to prior masters and periods. But I do believe that the art we revere or rebel against the most, has always been built on or responded to what has come before. The great works of today are built on the foundations of centuries of inquiry that have come before. Although it sometimes feels a bit crowded in my studio with all of these influencers clamoring for my head space, I absolutely feel like I stand in great company. I do my best to make my collaborative influencers feel my respect and gratitude for their presence in my creative work.

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