I thought I’d write you again. Your painting, Claire, is so different than mine and consequently with my insecurities about my painting I felt insignificant compared to you being much younger and not yet sure of myself as an artist. I also worried whether I also was a New York artist. I wasn’t sure whether decades of exhibiting in Manhattan was the determining factor. Did one have to live within the exact confines of New York City? I’ve wondered repeatedly whether Hoboken and Jersey City were excluded even though they were only five minutes from the Holland tunnel? I sometimes laugh at such thoughts, knowing the NY Metropolitan area as large, expanding across state lines and political divisions. I also felt lesser because you were part of the generation who matured with the Abstract Expressionists and had worked on the WPA. And you were also a divorced painter as I was. My paternal grandmother was still alive. Years later, I would worry about losing my close soul mates Stella and Miriam as they began to age. But in the early 1980s I was still settling into my New York life. Whereas you were firmly ensconced in Westbeth and in the June Kelly Gallery.
Your painterly narratives of outer space I still remember as poignantly capturing your fear of death while being humorous caricatures, belied by their serious tone. The painting, You ask, Am I Afraid? was on view during our last visit. I immediately grasped its meaning though you had not yet mentioned your ill-health to me. I knew you were contemplating your death. I felt so young. I felt alone.
Actually your work may be the only narrative based painting that I have been personally involved with, tending to shy away from narratives, forgetting them easily and only remembering the color, surface and gesture of the image rather than the story line. But I am not a formalist in spite of my immersion in abstraction. I love the crude and visceral much more than the refined and sophisticated and often equate an abundance of skill with a facile mindlessness. I’m interested in guts and soul. As I have said, I don’t render from life. Yet even though I had no interest in rendering myself, nonetheless I was not completely secure as an abstract painter. I had little facility. Was I insecure because I didn’t render? Could I be an abstract painter without any involvement with rendering for a lifetime? Yet in spite of these incessant questions about Eurocentric methods, looking at rendering made me feel completely disinterested. Instead I build up an image from surface and substance, color and mark, evoking existence, and emotion. I want to be able to look at the image time and time again. I want to suggest natural principle and look to the land, the sky, internal organs and biological forms.
As my first graduate school advisor you never mentioned that I may have to paint at all hours–on the weekends, arriving at the studio as early as 7:30 sometimes. I still work in the early morning hours. When I expanded the studio in 1995 so that I occupied the entire floor I began to paint at night. I did that for five years. I had lived for seven years in the state and knew what striving for recognition from Manhattan was like. I was searching for painting’s soul. I was searching for painting’s intellect. I was looking for painting’s emotions. My paintings mature after long periods of struggle and exasperation, inspiring in me awe and love. They are my children and they are a profound part of me. Just as your daughter is a part of your life. I didn’t have a daughter. Yet, I’m still working. I’m still working, although I am an under-known, still-emerging artist in the early years of old age. My hair is gray and my chin is no longer firm. I’m not yet a spirit or ghost though I sometimes feel like one. Childless, my art is my biology. Your words excerpted from your dreams are the biology of 20th century culture. They too are my sisters of choice. My own body of painting is my nuclear family and my extended family, my cousins and aunts, my children and grandchildren. My early works are ancestors, my great aunt or great great grandmother. Your layers of oil paint, Claire, are evocative striations of psychological time. Wry and also human. They are anxiety made concrete and material. Revealing and also palpitating.