Back in the seventies Picasso was not my favorite artist. The theme behind “Guernica”, for instance, and the reality it represented did not excite me.
I preferred the playfulness of Klee, the romanticism and glorious color of Chagall, the raw passion of Van Gogh, the exquisite beauty in the faces and figures of Michelangelo and his creative genius, the mysticism and poetry of Blake. The historical, mythological themes of Benjamin West (my great, great, etc. uncle and only known family artist), the soft gentleness of Renoir and Monet, and the color and passion of the German Impressionists resonate for me.
Around this time (the seventies), I became interested in abstract art, changed from the medium of oil paint to acrylic, and created my first collage.
The beauty of nature takes my breath away. I felt that nothing I could paint could match, equal, or surpass the living reality. However, the first abstract artist that I began to idolize was Piet Mondrian, who began with trees, then became more and more abstract, painting squares in bright and mostly primary colors, using black and white lines.
Trees symbolized three great passions of mine: the beauty of nature, the metamorphosis of the living object into books, and the creation of paper as a vehicle for painting and drawing. And so, I came to think of collage as Picasso's (and perhaps Braque's) greatest contribution to art, and closely related to his movement towards cubism.
What I appreciate today about Picasso is not necessarily the finished product, but the movement towards a new and original creation, the ideas that led to cubism and collage.
In collage, I do like the finished product, of course, but the most important aspect to me is the process. It is like a Zen meditation; it takes me to another space, another reality, that quite leaves the ordinary world behind. Making collages of paper on paper with paint was my attempt to carry that medium to another level, although I was making many other collages and paintings with the usual canvas at the same time.
Three years ago I was sitting in my studio, musing over a few blank canvases, thinking about doing away with the concept of predetermined boundaries. Next to the small canvases sat a small cardboard box. I began to tear it into pieces. I applied the pieces to a small canvas, but this time I continued until there was no canvas left showing. Then I began to paint and collage the "canvas" I had just created.
At that moment, the possibilities seemed endless and I was flooded with ideas. Eventually, the canvases disappeared, and I gave up other types of painting. Why? I think because this was satisfying my soul. It was enormous fun from the first tear of a cardboard box to the finished collage/painting. And it all began, really, from my love of Trees, Books, Paper, and Art.
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