What gives you inspiration or motivates you to create art?
Sunlight, shadows, birds, trees, human beings, coffee, music, beauty, ugliness, color, intentionally looking.
Tell us about your first art show or first painting you sold. How did it make you feel?
I was in Jr. High School and did a painting on plywood with oil paints I probably borrowed serendipitously from my oldest brother. It was a painting of light emanating from the center of a dark colorful field. A next door neighbor, a few years older than me purchased it. I need to contact him and see if he still has it. I suspect that he does. How did it make me feel? I do not recall it made a big impact. I worked after school at the A & P grocery store and had money in my pocket and being a teenager I am sure my life was filled with ideas about how to spend my time.
Tell us what you’re are working on now?
Currently I am working in my sketch books. The themes vary a great deal, that is why I like sketchbooks, I have unlimited freedom to do whatever I like. Currently my larger paintings are on wood panels and I am using thick gesso to create a very modeled surface, in my mind, like fresco. I am drawing into the gesso surface with dark pencils and making grey washes with the graphite and wet gesso.
Were you born in Mississippi ? How does living in Mississippi influence your art?
I was born in Jackson at the old Baptist Hospital on North State Street. The culture in Mississippi has had to find creative ways to deal with the history we have inherited. Our history includes slavery, the Civil War, Jim Crow, the civil rights movement, economic periods of growth and bust. Making sense of these disparate elements creates a dynamic tension that underpins the unique creative spirit of Mississippi. Just being here is a major influence in my art.
Who is your favorite artist, art role model, and/or mentor?
I am a student of painting and fine art. I collect monographs on artist’s I have not heard of or are not that well known. I like aspects about each one of the artist I have studied. I suppose my favorites would be Vincent Van Gogh, Lucian Freud, the paintings of Giacometti, Magritte, Gilbertus (a twelfth century stone carver gothic cathedral). My role model would be Walter Anderson and mentor would be Hans Gottfried von Stockhausen.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Don’t be afraid to fail.
What music do you listen to while painting or creating?
Carmina Burana would be my favorite music composition. I am a very eclectic listener. I listen to podcasts. My favorites are On Being, Design Matters, and New Yorker Poetry Podcast. I have most of the Oxford American Magazine annual music CD music compilations. These collections embody the diversity and history of music in the south. My favorite musician is Ezra Brown, a Mississippi jazz musician that plays the saxophone.
How do you describe your style? What themes do you pursue?
I believe in the idea of direct drawing. There is a moment during the act of creation that you lose the sense of time. When I am in contact with creativity at this level I believe that truth can come into being. It is a meditation and each mark of the pencil, each stroke of the brush, is at that moment perfect. Themes in my work? Man in nature, the man made geometric form interacting with all that is natural.
What do you hope others see in your work?
My painting is much about putting marks down to make a record of an idea and a creative impulse. I would hope that this is captured in my painting. If the viewer can go away with a renewed sense of what is possible and that something new has taken place they can be a part of. I have succeeded beyond my dreams and expectations.
What is your favorite piece of art that you have created?
They are all my children! I cannot choose one above another. I love each one.
Is there any particular location that gives you inspiration, or that you prefer to create your art? Tell us about your studio.
I need to have a studio in which to work my best. This has been the case over my career. Whenever I have gotten a work place set up with good light and my materials well organized it is then that I can be the most productive. Within the last year I have finally gotten my home and studio both in the same place. I have a door that leads to a small garden. Gardening is very much a part of my creative life. I have been working for many years to put all these different elements in place for the last big push. Adjacent to my studio is my living room that can function as a gallery. I anticipate having exhibitions of my work in my home. This will be the ideal for me. I will be able to share with others the creative environment where the work takes place. In our time artists are shaman, doctors of the spirit. We can create work that feeds the needs of society to have new insights and looks at reality. This is a lofty goal, but if one does not have a dream and a belief larger than themselves they are lost.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
An artist has to be an educator and has to be productive.
What artwork do you have on your walls?
I like to look at my own work during its creation, and live with it. Vincent Van Gogh would put the paintings he did during the day up in chairs around his dinner table and look at them. I do much the same. I like to live with the pieces during the process. In my home I have art work from a few of my friends BeBe Wolfe, David Lambert, Ron Lindsey, Constance Pierce, Mildred Wolfe, Walter Anderson, Harold Young, my father the photographer….
What do you love most about being an artist?
What artist’s work or piece of work would you possess if you could have your choice of any piece of art in the world?
Pablo Picasso’s “Woman in White”. There was an exhibition of Picasso’s work a few years ago “Black and White” that I was fortunate enough to see. This painting was in the show and it captures all the beauty and mystery that an artist can achieve on a flat surface with paint materials.
Where is the most interesting place you have traveled or lived, and why?
Over the last twenty years I have studied the art of writing Icons with the Andrejev family and the Prosopon School of Iconography. These workshops take place at St. Mary of the Pines Retreat Center in Chatawa, Mississippi. The retreat center is a money making enterprise as an adjunct to a retirement home for the order of the School Sisters of Norte Dame. St. Mary of the Pines for a century was a girl’s boarding school that the families of New Orleans sent their daughters in order to keep them innocent and out of any possible harm from the ways and wiles of the Mardi Gras city. I attended week long workshops to study the tradition of writing icons in the traditional egg tempera method espoused by Vladislav Andrejev and his son Dimitri. Because the Orthodox Church considers the Icon a part of their liturgy an icon is not painted like “profane” art but written like copying scripture. I was able to focus on the task at hand, the purpose of capturing natural painting materials on a gessoed wooden board in such a way as to create a likeness of saints, Mary, Jesus, and events and images emblematic of their lives. The retreat center is in the original church building and overlooks a small pond on acres and acres of pine forest. I learned the value of discernment while focused on the task of creating an artistic image.
Do you attend art festivals, exhibitions ?
Each year my company Pearl River Glass Studio attends the Chimneyville Crafts Festival in December and have been going to the Ridgeland Arts Festival in the spring.
Do you have a particular memory with a customer/collector that stands apart?
In my day job I design and make stained glass windows and kiln formed art glass. I had a patron purchase a small stained glass window I made as an exhibition panel. She paid for it out of her monthly household budget, like lay a way. This was before the modern era where it is so easy to take a snap shot with your phone and send the image to a printer. Over time the image in her mind became what she wanted the art to look like not what it did look like. So the grand day came to get the work of art and she was disappointed it did not look like what her mind’s eye had seen during the previous year. It has been so long I have forgotten how it was resolved, but because I remember this scenario I am sure it was not completely copasetic.
Anything you would like to add that we didn’t ask?
I have known Louise Hooker for a few years. I am very grateful that she has taken an interest in my work. To be honest, I do not paint and create for the art market. I paint and create because I need too. The results are very personal and biographical. Louise has recognized something in my work that she responds to in a positive way. She has let me feel that I am not a lion crying in the wilderness. Thank you Louise!