Back in much younger days, I used to pal around occasionally in LA and New York with Fred Schneider from the B-52s. The very first day we met, Fred asked me if I’d like to go to Margo Levin’s gallery to see an exhibit on collage. The longtime grande dame of Los Angeles art galleries, Margo Levin was always known for putting on extraordinary, often groundbreaking shows that would challenge every one of your senses. As things turned out, this would be no exception.
As Fred and I walked through the gallery doors, we were immediately assaulted by intense, bright, red paint that was covering everything
in the gallery that was formerly standard gallery white. Hanging salon style, there were collages by fifty artists, both living and not so living. Sounding more like an Upper West Side law firm, Rauschenberg, Ruscha and Rosenquist seemed to be the intended stars of the show. For me, however, it was the first time my eyes came across the work of Kurt Schwitters and I was immediately dumbstruck and mesmerized. Wonderfully imperfect, raw and seemingly authentic in his every move, I kept staring at his creamy off-beiges and pale, washed-out yellows of ephemera, all bathing together as if it was all always
meant to be bathing together.
Around this very same time, I began to learn about Wabi Sabi, the Japanese aesthetic built upon an appreciation of beautiful imperfection. Schwitters work was that and more—and for someone like myself who kept his bedroom way too clean and spotless as a seven year old, Wabi Sabi was a revelation. No doubt this was also why I had always felt such an extraordinary gravitational pull towards folk and outsider art as well--art that so clearly had evidence of the imperfect human touch.
In "East of Eden", one of Steinbeck's minor, yet wiser characters says, "Now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good." Wabi Sabi allows for that possibilty.
Always looking for ways to visually embrace this asthetic, I recently began experimenting with trees painted on a variety of bumpy, textured fabrics that help support all kinds of lovely imperfection. Like my father, I have an obsession with the iconic, sculptural beauty of trees that I can date back to a brief stint I did in Tuscany as part of my studies.
As a very last minute thought for the American Illustration competition (with an emphasis on ‘very’), I threw in a jpeg of one of these tree ‘experiments’. I was happily surprised that Mark Heflin and his judges decided to include this painting for the selected images for the 2012 American Illustration book.