The Blue Paintings
The series of blue paintings were sort of a surprise to me. I had made a group of cityscape paintings several decades ago, featuring tall buildings at night. They had in common the title “Sleeping City,” but with illuminated windows in all the buildings and a suggestion of activity at street level, they were anything but sleeping. They also had in common a star-studded night sky, phthalo blue-black at the zenith, fading smoothly and evenly to a lighter turquoise blue tint at the nadir. I haven’t added any new images to that series, but the sky became a thing onto itself. I made four small paintings that featured various shapes and images floating as it were, on that luscious, blue background. The objects, painted in rather bright colors, virtually jumped off the surface. But I didn’t have any other ideas of how I wanted to proceed and where I wanted to take them, so I put them down to concentrate on other ideas.
I came across these paintings from time to time, but still had no direction I wanted to take them. But when my father passed away, these were the paintings I turned to. For whatever reason, I don’t really understand why, I wanted to work on these blue paintings. Each day I would go to the studio and work on a painting or two. At the end of the day, I would convince myself that these would be the last and I would work on something different the following day. But the next morning, I would come in and start a new blue painting. This went on for weeks and weeks. I really never kept a running count , but I must have completed 50 or so of these blue paintings in all sizes-- the smallest ones were 6 by 9 inches, the largest one measured 5 by 8 feet. Then, one day I came into the studio and knew they were done. I haven’t felt a need to make any more since then.
There was nothing I had planned or was striving for or attempting to capture in these paintings; I wasn’t consciously thinking about my father, or death, or afterlife, but all those concepts seemed to be related to these paintings-- I felt they were connected in some way. I’m not particularily religious, but I started to associate a spirituality with them. When a chance visitor to the studio asked me, out of the blue so to speak, whether I was ‘praying’ through these paintings, I was stunned. It was a question that left me without response- maybe some of the spirituality I felt was being communicated. As time goes on, there are a few other associations I’m beginning to understand about them. I’ve come to think that the rich blue background and the various bits and pieces of color represent a sort of primordial soup, a rich, lush aggregation of parts floating in the ether, in the process of either coming together into a new and different form, or a form breaking down to its basic elements. But all of this is a guess at best-- I fall short of explaining or understanding them any better than that. More than anything else I’ve ever done, they were automatic in a way and practically painted themselves.