Four x Four Artist Statement
Santa Cruz Art League
Santa Cruz, CA
August 3, 1993
My first memory of seeing painting, stained glass and sculpture statuary of religious imagery was in churches while growing up in Los Angeles. Later as an undergraduate at UCLA I took a leave and went to live in Madrid for over a year. There I developed an understanding of the Spanish Colonial Baroque which has had an impact on my painting. I also painted to scale a copy of Hieronymous Bosch’s “Temptation of St. Anthony” from the original at the Prado Museum.
Further influences on my work came from my cultural heritage rooted in Baja California. Dona Maria Leree, my grandmother, moved from Malege to San Ignacio as a young girl. My mother Rebecca was born in San Ignacio. The town is dominated by the Mission of San Ignacio de Kadakamen which was situated on higher ground above a large seasonal riverbed cultivated with a million date palms. The Mission was established in 1738 as part of a network of missions of the Spanish empire. About twice a year I visit my studio there which overlooks the town on a piece of land my mother left me. Back in the early sixties I painted the Four Evangelists in the Mission. The paintings are after El Greco. When the new highway was inaugurated by President Echeverria in 1969 he had one of the paintings taken to Mexico City presumably for authentication; it was returned to San Ignacio some time later.
During the late sixties when I lived in La Paz I became more aware of Indian cultures. I worked for three years establishing a Regional Art Center with Daniel Zenteno, a potter descended from the Zapotecs. Through Daniel’s pottery forms I learned of the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs and through visits to Mexico and its pre-columbian sites I gained a basic understanding of indigenous cultures of Mexico. Through the seventies I kept looking at myself for some evidence of some indigenous blood. I looked at my skin, my hands and feet. Was my 4’10” grandmother part Indian? Where did my features come from? As well I had these green eyes of a European ancestor. A jump ship off the Cabos? Pirates? I mused. In 1976 I painted a mural in the Palomar Arcade (17″x40″x8″) entitled “Birth, Death and Regeneration” which was the work in which I best synthesized the Spanish and Indian cultures. This mural was unfortunately destroyed in 1979.
In 1979 I received a commission to create a tile mural for Plazita de Dolores in Los Angeles commemorating the populist revolutionary movement led by Father Miguel Hildalgo in 1810. Hildalgo is represented in front of the Church of Dolores on the morning when he assembled the beginnings of his raging army. Under the aegis of the Virgin of Guadalupe he followed a mercurial career as a revolutionary leader of an essentially Indian army before being shot by a firing squad in 1812. This mural, painted with oxides and glazes and fired on one foot square tiles was also an opportunity to deal with figure composition.
I would like to draw your attention to the painting “Another Last Supper”. In the process of painting I found that many questions, trials and reflections took place within me. First of all it’s a painting, an allegory of the creative act of transformation of one thing to another, it is about illusion to the point of deception (in the case of Judas). There was also the experience of trust between the sitter and painter. Many of my friends came to sit. Their figures were modeled by professionals, as surrogates for friends I had in mind as apostles, but who did not model either because they did not have time, they were too big for the painting or could not hold still for the required time. There are lots of elbows knocking the space around. Lots of consideration of intensities of light and limited range of color. Lots of moments of special significance. I leave it to the viewer to come upon them in their own time, not being one to give away all my secrets. Often I felt empty and wanted to quit, putting the painting face to the wall. Yet I am glad when I return to it and bring it to a new level of resolution. I have always felt an enrichment of the spirit through the practice of painting and I am happy on this occasion of this exhibition to share these works with you.