Art chose me: My father was a photographer. My mother painted.They were both Turtle Islanders by descent. I lived in Hawaii until the age of five where I became very aware of light. When I was six we moved back to the mainland, I’d go up and down the street trying to sell my small paintings. By high school, I was full-scale artist selling my pieces at the shopping malls and sharing an art studio with David Lynch and Jack Fisk. My work is now in over 45 permanent museum collections and many prestigious private collections.
I spent millions of hours in museums copying the great artists in Washington DC. The security guards at the National Gallery voted me “the artist who could best do Rembrandt”. Artists in the National Gallery, like Rembrandt were benchmarks for me. Part of the reason I came to Washington was because it was the most important city in the world; By 1966 Philip Ritterbush asked me to illustrate his book The Art of Organic Form and my painting “Orchid” hung in the Smithsonian exhibit with 50 other major artist. My drawings were very much a part of my art and in 1970 won first purchase prize for the National Drawing Society in New York’s competition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Michael Fried was the judge that year for the mid atlantic region and De Kooning won for New England.
Much of my work would be considered Minimalist and Conceptual but it would be hard to categorize my many different styles. My focus on classical art traditions of still life, color, and portraiture. In the 60’s, my still life studies of oranges were done as a meditation on form and color, but they were also my tributes to the Mexican migrant workers making less than $1.00 a day selling oranges on the highway.
Developing drawing styles and subject matter based on historical forms of art and architecture, it seems like I am immersed in the past but the opposite is true. My paintings of American heroes such as George Washington, Lincoln, and JFK are stand-ins for much more. These American heroes I once looked up to, but the more I read, the more they all seemed to have more than a little blood on their hands.
I lived in modern art history. Exhibiting with the original Washington Color School artists and second generation color field painter Sam Gilliam. I argued about art with Julian Schnable, Herbert and Dorothy Vogel. I studied and painted for Tom Downing. Collaborated with Gene Davis by painting all 50 Popsicle paintings in 9 days as a performance piece to mark the end of the Washington Color School in 1969. I partied with Rivers, Rauschenberg at their studio and was introduced to Warhol by my girlfriend at Pratt Institute. Also I have had the privilege to work with the very distinguished director James Harithas. Curated and helped to foster the underground art movement with the likes of Ron English and Shepard Fairey.
After Warhol, who produced a shorthand version of art, you didn’t have to worry about composition or any of the basics. In the beginning, most artists considered Warhol an illustrator. But influential critics turned his work into a super intellectual comment on the ’60s and ’70s. That’s what can happen to art. Like Warhol said, “If it sells, it’s art.” The art market has turned into the stock market.
The scene today is totally different. But most people who will go for my work aren’t even been born yet. If was the same for Van Gogh and a lot of other great artists. There’s a great tradition that goes back to Titian and Giovanni Bellini. It’s a torch that gets passed. I don’t think I’ll make it to that level, but I try to keep the artistic torch going. It’s my compulsion. Some people get into Jesus and go to church. My church is art; it’s a sacred trust. I’m competing with the ages now, not with the artists of the moment.