It has been almost twenty years since I saw your fine one person show at the Hirschl and Adler gallery on Madison Avenue in the spring of 1988. I’m not sure where the catalogue is but I’m searching for it today. I loved the idiosyncrasy and diminutive nature of the imagery. I thought that it was egoless. Being insecure, I identified with its lack of ambition and actually thought it was female. You weren’t making an indelible stamp–your imagery was so frail, so fragile. It wasn’t forgettable in spite of its unprepossessing quality. They were quiet visual treasures.
I am quite close with a painter whose works are related to yours, Mr. Bess. Barbara Klein. Barbara is in her early sixties and lives just outside of Princeton. She is very New York identified. We met when we were both artists working at the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton. We worked in the Fine Art department under the direction of the late Zoltan Buki during the days when the arts were given dominance there. She paints unassuming abstract visual symbols and is a fine painter. But Barbara doesn’t put forth her work very much and I thought that she would be ecstatic to have your ghost visit her studio in her home. Ghosts visit my studio daily. They fill the space, questioning my moves, affirming my vision. Prodding me to develop the painting without fear or anxiety. Barbara has told me of her respect for your painting. She was recently working at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts as a resident artist. Her second visit. This year she is an artist in lower Manhattan at the Marie Sharpe Walsh foundation studios.
My husband and I have two of her paintings in our home and they hold their own with William Hawkins and Bessie Harvey, as well as my own. My work is much larger than Barbara’s five inch squares. It is hard for me to work small because I like big brushes and I create with the sweep of my arm. But I find profundity in her small painting. They pleasure me with their small aesthetic persona. They do not overwhelm like an heroic canvas. They like yours are poignant and personal.
What was it like to work against the grain–did you disdain the monumentality of Abstract Expressionism? Did you find it over wrought and tired? Your paintings are intimate, like pages of a diary or a visual haiku. So are hers. You two share an approach. Barbara’s imagery is inspired by logos and symbols used in daily life such as cleaning instructions on clothing labels. However her surface contradicts the ironic tone of her chosen symbols. For it is traditional serious color and rich with the history of its making. It is not clean as the depicted cipher and the color is nearly mud. The palette is not full ranging. These paintings speak with a small persistence, weighing in against the giants of art history. They speak of the seemingly insignificant. Just as Buddhists believe in the sacred spirituality of all of life, the small painting is as soulful and profound as a monumental work. Thank you.