I thought I’d continue to tell you about Miriam Beerman and myself. A few months ago I received a package of Miriam’s slides and reviews in the mail from Miriam’s son, Bill Jaffe. He asked for my commentary on the package. I was surprised to see that the slides were so unorganized and were not even in chronological order. I called Miriam immediately and offered to organize her slides for her in return for one of her artist books. During the weeks of organization, Miriam confided to me that she has never organized her slides and has never kept a slide of each painting in a master notebook as I do. I found her lack of organization to be astounding. I found it relaxing to make stacks of identical slides pulling from an array of slide sheets taken from her table piled high with partially filled slide sheets; boxes of slides, some empty and some never even opened, and loose slides scattered all around, in her big home in Upper Montclair with a verdant back yard, so different from my small apartment in Jersey City. It was peaceful to take a day off weekly and use my mind differently.
During these several weeks of organization, Miriam and I discussed our philosophies about painting and what we were struggling with that week. Being childless, I believe that art provides profound spiritual and psychological nourishment in as important a way as family and religion, unlike those artists with children and grandchildren as well as a body of work. I deeply love my painting for it interprets my passions and my love of existence. Painting feeds my souls and intellect, giving me purpose and identity in this difficult world today. Yet we did not only speak of visual philosophy. I also discussed my insecurities about my place in the art world causing Miriam to giggle, something I had never heard her do in the 20 odd years I had known her and I was glad that my own dilemmas about wearing black and looking like a New Yorker provided her with some relief from her own preoccupation with evil.
I feel a calm awe when looking at my own work yet I am surprised that I am actually able to create strong and bold works feeling generally incompetent while painting. It shouldn’t be a constant surprise that I am a strong painter, after more than two decades of working in Greater New York. But even Miriam, 30 years my elder, tells me that she thinks that a completed painting is weak or stupid when it is not. It is obvious to me that she is insecure and unable to clearly see the work in front of her. I don’t know why some days I am able to transmit with power and emotion, while also choosing the perfect color for my strong existential marks.
My paintings are metaphors for biological states and organic impulses and the abutting fabric panels are metaphors for culture and society. They are autobiographical. The sometimes crass, sometimes tasteful juxtapositions are rooted in my daily life of area streets and peoples. Thank you Soutine for listening.