On La Brea #3, 2003
Oil on canvas
45 x 38 inches
On Sepulveda Blvd. 2001
Oil on canvas
14" x 12"
graphite on paper, some with gouache, watercolor or silverpoint
113/4 x 10 1/4 in.
Signed on verso
Not long after the birth of my second daughter, while on a trip to Michigan with my family, I experienced an overwhelming sensation of the power of nature. Having grown up in Los Angeles, most of my experiences of nature from a very early age had been mediated and acculturated. The landscape in upstate Michigan, though much of it controlled by paper mills, nonetheless provoked a very different feeling. On the flight back to Los Angeles I made drawings of the landscape of middle America below. I was fascinated visually by the geometric shapes of the ordered farms and carved up landscape, juxtaposed with the seemingly undividable lines of the mountain ranges, bodies of water or areas of land that appeared to have been left unmanaged. Without any particular goal in mind, I made drawings in my sketchbook of these juxtapositions of the organic and the man-made, following the contour of forms as we moved through the sky at 600 miles per hour.
Returning to Los Angeles, I tried to capture in my paintings something of the feeling of nature. I began simply, thinking, “nature is big and green, so I will make a big green painting”. I was unsatisfied but kept pushing; there seemed as if there were something to be made which took into account my recent experiences of the natural world. More and more I began to notice ‘nature’ that was right in front of me. Painting with no particular goal in mind, a tree form, really just bush at first, emerged. It was a kind of a generic tree, a symbol of a tree.
Visually, the trees on the streets of Los Angeles began to capture my attention. The moments of inspiration, which in the past had occurred around the visual field of the man made landscape (street signs, building facades), more and more occurred with trees. Thee trees seemed to pull my vision, magnet-like, while I drove down the street. They did not appear to be part of the “landscape’, but spoke of something else. They were part of it, but strangely divorced at the same time, as if their form bore witness to their surroundings – but they themselves were in exile; disconnected and autonomous. They appeared to me as ‘portraits’– witnesses –revealing a history of human engagement.