Friday, March 25, 2011

Stained Glass and Painting

When I began painting I wanted to copy some of my idols like Richard Diebenkorn and Ben Shahn, but the problem was that their styles were very different. Diebenkorn's figurative work emphasized shape, while Shahn's (in many cases) line. How to reconcile these two opposite elements and make them work together in a compelling way has always been something of an artistic goal of mine.

A real breakthrough happened for me when I began dealing in stained glass restoration. Representing a large studio out of the midwest, I roamed the churches of the Baltimore-Washington region studying and cataloging the beautiful windows. It finally occurred to me that these windows had in themselves exactly what I was trying to do in my art. The lead lines combined with the shape of the glass to make a gorgeous work of art.

To some extent my work - especially my later cityscapes in oils - approximates this. The messiness of stained glass - the visual clutter, and the effort that such clutter requires of the viewer - all of that is something that I like and try to bring into my work lately.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Some Thoughts on the Evolution of My Work: Subject Matter

I began painting simply what was around me... my environment. While in college, living in the country, I painted landscapes. Upon moving to the city after graduation I began painting cityscapes. Coming from a devout Christian home, and trying to be one myself, I had a certain interest in painting religious scenes, but never did anything with it until St. Mary's.

My first religious painting was a large oil painting of the Annunciation, which I painted while in seminary. It was a reasonably successful work and I ended up selling it some years later. I dabbled with religious works while in seminary doing some that were good, and some that were not so good. The reason I started painting religious works was simply because I was in seminary and I thought I should give it a try.

After the seminary I went back to painting secular work, probably because of the bad taste seminary and the church left in my mouth... perhaps also because I was not so pleased with the few religious pieces I tried. It wasn't until ordination that I went back to exploring religious themes - icons.

Icons were something that I always wanted to try, and since I had to give up my art studio when I got married, I needed something I could do in our apartment that did not have the bad fumes associated with oil paints. So it was partly for utilitarian reasons that I started doing them. But also because I still wanted to explore Christian art. Particularly I wanted a way to aesthetically combine the two great interest of my life: art and religion.

Icons helped me learn to enjoy painting religious works for their own sake. Even if were not a priest or in the ordained ministry I would still paint them as well as other religious works, because now I appreciate them for what they are themselves, and as a way to meditate on and involve myself in the great stories and themes of the Christian faith.