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THE UNSEEN STORY
In January 2018, I saw an article in The New York Times featuring the drawings of Santiago Ramon y Cajal. The drawings astounded me. They showed neurons of the brain, and they were absolutely beautiful. Cajal is reputed to be the father of neuroscience. He was also an artist.
Several months later I was offered the opportunity to do a series of commissioned paintings about mental health and the brain—paintings that explored how the anatomy of the brain and mental health, emotions, illness, and states of mind are connected. The anatomy of the brain is like the “unseen story” that features prominently in all our lives.
I immediately thought back to Cajal’s drawings and knew I wanted to use them as my starting point. Above are the paintings I created, featuring images of young people in various states of mind, from pure innocent joy to distrust, melancholy, grief, anger. The backgrounds feature renderings of brain anatomy based on Santiago Ramon y Cajal's drawings—Purkinje neurons, astrocytes of the hippocampus, pyramidal neurons of the cerebral cortex. Cajal called the pyramidal neuron “the noble and enigmatic cell of thought.”
Mental health issues plague so many of us every day. I hope these works will spark constructive conversation.
UNDERGROUND SCRIPT, CONFIGURATION
Clients in Charlotte, NC needed artwork for their living room and expressed interest in Passage, my series of geometric abstract paintings. They needed something approximately five feet wide. Since I did not have anything the proper size, we discussed hanging more than one piece. I created several mock ups using a photo of their living room with digital images of two works hung as a pair or three hung in a series. The mock ups allowed them to see precisely what each painting looked like in their room. They particularly liked Underground Script (Above right, 30 by 40 inches, Acrylic on panel), and we decided I would paint a companion piece to hang with it. I created Configuration, above left. using the same color scheme, shifting the shapes and patterns to complement the other painting, creating a dynamic, harmonious pair.
AND NO BIRDS SING
I was commissioned to create a painting based on the book Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson. Carson's book revealed the extensive environmental damage caused by the misuse of chemical pesticides which were so widely utilized in the 1950's throughout the U.S. and beyond. Her pivotal book led to a ban on DDT, a reversal in the government's pesticide policy, and ultimately to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. It is widely considered to be among the greatest science books of all time.
My painting features a portrait of Carson, as well as images of some of the birds often killed by the chemicals (the American robin and brown thrasher), as well as chemical symbols of DDT and dieldrin, elm leaves, a Japanese beetle, and lines from a Keats poem that appear at the opening of the book, "The sedge is wither'd from the lake, And no birds sing."
BOO HOO ALBUM COVER PORTRAIT
I was recently commissioned to do a portrait of German singer / songwriter Bernhard Karakoulakis, aka Boo Hoo, for his latest album cover. Bernhard has played his sweet, melancholy music for growing audiences in Germany, Europe and the US. He requested that the work be based on a portrait I had done years ago, taking as inspiration Gilbert Stuart’s unfinished portraits of George and Martha Washington. Bernhard had some great ideas about what images to feature, including his guitar, a glass of water, and the cloud shirt he is wearing in the portrait. Since the piece was for a CD cover, I used colored pencil in addition to acrylic paint, allowing for a great amount of detail at a small scale. The album is called Lushly. Here is a link to Bernhard’s beautiful, melodic music.
Above are Celtic Love Knot and Crossroads, two works created for reproduction into cards in honor of Irish-American heritage and St Patrick's Day, commissioned by Irish-American Crossroads, an annual literary, musical, and cultural event in San Francisco, CA. In 2016, the festival will take place from March 4 through April 3 at various venues in the Bay Area. Boxes of these cards will be sold at the festival and local stores that honor Irish culture. For more information, please email me or visit their website.
PORTRAIT OF JOHN
PORTRAITS IN THE STYLE OF
A Richmond couple commissioned portraits of themselves for their historic Virginia home. I chose to paint the portraits in the style of Gilbert Stuart's unfinished portraits of George and Martha Washington. Incorporated into each piece are elements referencing their interests, occupations, and the university where they met.
These six landscape paintings were commissioned by a large financial organization for their office overlooking the James River. They are based on smaller paintings the client chose. Each piece measures 40 by 50 inches. The commission was handled by Page Bond Gallery, Richmond, VA.
A New York client needed a painting for his large office in Rockefeller Plaza. Complete creative freedom was granted. I incorporated several elements into the work based on what I knew of him—he loved to fly fish, spent some time in southern Africa on safari, and worked in the music industry. Photos were taken in the office for color palette reference. Circles in the piece refer to the rug in his office, which had concentric circle patterns. I based the painting on an earlier piece in which the client had expressed interest, shown below.
A New York couple wanted a painting to adorn the front of their Sub-Zero refrigerator. They chose from 6 or 7 sketched ideas, and the banana on black prevailed. The painting was done on 1/8 inch masonite and installed onto the front of the refrigerator in place of a cabinet front.
SEA GRASS IV
A Richmond interior designer commissioned the sea grass painting above based on the two works below. The clients wanted a similar work with a cooler color palette and a horizontal format, incorporating the circles and the beach scene. The commission was handled by Page Bond Gallery, Richmond, VA.
This piece was commissioned by a client who wanted a painting created from an old, faded photograph of his home town in Chile.