For many years I have been perfecting new ways to make landscape paintings. Landscapes have been a quintessentially American topic in fine art since the Hudson River School painters began innovating beyond their European predecessors and created their pictorial investigations of wilderness and its subsequent development in the New World.
During my undergraduate years at Stanford, interdepartmentally majoring in environmental design, I began expanding the conceptions of these artists who had shown the primal nature of the wild places across North America and their inevitable development. In the process these Nineteenth Century landscape painters investigated romantic and sublime notions experientially possible in the continental landscape. The Twentieth Century modernists who followed showed me that science and technology could also be utilized to push painting even further. By the time I was in graduate school at San Francisco State University, I was developing my map space paintings. I realized that science, specifically satellite technology, had made possible the means to analyze and depict vast landscapes, and that by using these then new kinds of scientific images, I could develop the next evolution of landscape painting.
I began making my landscapes by transcribing combinations of satellite images, aerial photographs, and maps, simultaneously including my own on-the-ground observations and experience. For many years my art making could be described as a photo-realist practice coupled with an expressionistic paint handling that was conceived to show the world in flux.
My many years of experimenting slowly revealed the nature of my materials and what kind of direct, expressive, gestural marks and fields could be produced by oil paints and liquid enamels applied to rigid panels. I discovered ways to manipulate paint as a material that was analogous to the substance of the earth itself. Piling it up, and then sanding it down. Smashing it around with tools and combs and then letting liquid enamels deform and dissolve the thick oil paint. I made chains of mountains using painting knives to lift paint, creating impasto structures that I shaped like miniature bas-relief. I also learned how to harness gravity by pouring with enamel paints that pooled to create fractal edges. I let the paint morph and move on its own, which created traces of movement, details impossible to brush. I have developed this vocabulary to make images of swirling currents, volatile shore lines and tectonically shifting mountains, making visible the slow but constant changes of the earth creating itself.
Recently I have been experimenting with pouring too much paint. Too much paint wrinkles when it dries, creating suggestions of tectonic deformation. A rising sea level can be envisioned by pouring excessive liquid enamel that literally floods inland. During these recent years of painting I have reflected on the benefit from the almost four decades of producing large numbers of paintings using projected source images. I did not learn my visual vocabulary by looking at still-lifes, or observing models, or even looking across the land at a traditional landscape scene. My vision developed from seeing and depicting the world in a map perspective. As I model and pour my landscapes, seeing into the future of global warming and contemplating the geologic past, I am utilizing my own painting language.