I began to pick up and draw small natural objects, making life-sized ďportraitsĒ of shells, leaves, feathers, and butterflies, done in the simplest technique I could manage. These were objects that anyone might find along the beach or roadside, stopping for a moment to look at their structure, sensing perhaps their past history, their life as an infinitesimally small but real part of a whole, their mortality. It seemed that there was something in the affinity and curiosity that I felt towards these bits of nature, that there was a power and a logic here which might be tapped, might be made manifest in my art if I could isolate the wonder and joy that I felt and make it evident.
I made some watercolors and then some oils on unstretched cloth, again using the simplest techniques of painting and composition that I could, placing the bits of flotsam on a neutral or textured shape within the confines of the substrate. Gradually, I realized that this shape, which I thought of as the area of visual tension radiated by the subject matter, could be the object itself. As media, I started using pieces of old plywood, cobbled together using simple woodworking and construction techniques. Cutting through the strata of plywood was like being on a geologic dig, discovering possibilities and things of interest at every level; in a sense, it became a landscape which I discovered and contoured. The little natural object was now depicted by carving the form negatively into the surface, then painting it.
The notion of a division between painting and sculpture now seemed a meaningless concept: some of the objects I was making had paint on them, which I made by mixing acrylic medium with various clays and soil, but principally each had a physical presence of its own. Symmetry, which I had used for a long time as an attention centering and focusing device, was reborn to me as biological symmetry -- a delicate, vital, dynamic principal whose negation is as telling as its use.
I went to France for the first time in the summer of 1977, principally to see prehistoric cave paintings. The cave painters have always been my esthetic heroes, as close to making art without ulterior motives as anyone we are likely to see. Revisiting the caves year after year for a period of over ten years kept my focus where I wanted it.
The beauty of very mundane materials and refuse have made the gutters of New York or a walk in the woods into a trip to my personal art supply store. Sometimes, when I have found a piece of bark or wood which seemed particularly important to me, I felt that I had to maintain its entirety -- which meant, according to my personal rules, that I could cut it apart and rearrange the pieces, but that, finally, all of it had to appear in the finished piece. Occasionally, this has even included the sawdust.
Recent work has gone from a thin, linear-form period which was almost like sketching in space to a heavy, blocky, rough approach which is centered around human form.
It all, finally, comes down to this -- it just feels good to work with my hands, to watch an entity grow and gain individual presence, even life, Phoenix-like, from a pile of debris. This mutation only seems to happen when I put aside my preconceptions and work in as direct and straightforward a way as possible: it feels then that Iíve fused my processes into a kind of synthesis with nature, and the result is a pantheistic high which Iíve never been able to experience any other way.