Rembrandt’s The Painter in His Studio, while providing a self-portrait of the great painter, wordlessly conveys a description of the creative process itself. The viewer is deprived access to the artist’s work-in-progress and Rembrandt delivers the lesson. We are invited to speculate, not only on the subject of the artist’s painting, but also on the artist’s role as a conduit and filter for ideas and concepts, facts and visions. The physical painting is a portrait. What I find more compelling, however, is the promise of the painting Rembrandt conceals from us. The Painter in His Studio has always held meaning for me as the artist’s comment on the synergy between subject and artist—between the viewer and the viewed. “Studio” serves as a metaphor for what I see as the process and –just as importantly—the promise of a painted work.
As a 20th, and now, 21st century American artist, I continue to be inspired by Rembrandt’s example from the 17th century Europe. Though my world-view is informed by the massive cultural and artistic changes that have taken place since he lived, and our painting styles are radically different, my starting premise as a painter is this: the painter, usually working alone and/or in collaboration, looks out at the world, filtering and processing references and ideas to transform paint and canvas into a lively discussion without words.
I am not interested in painting that is cynical about painting, or painting that is merely an exercise in craft without idea.
After almost forty years, my pleasure at my good fortune to be involved in the art’s great history has not diminished. The touch, the smell and the substance of paint are mingled with the possibilities of fact, fantasy, philosophy, illusion, with the unique interaction between concepts and images.
For me the most exciting painting is the painting I haven’t yet made, those problems I haven’t yet solved. Making paintings is a difficult proposition and I know that one really never learns how to paint. For me, each painting is a mistake asking a question that points toward the possibility of the next painting. What I want for my paintings is that painting on the other side of Rembrandt’s easel, the one that has not been revealed. After almost four centuries his painting still asks questions about painting and the future of painting. The painting unseen, I want that!