Although I grew up taking art lessons and enjoying drawing, the first time I fell in love with painting was senior year of high school, in the attic of my parents house. Pops gave me an old stretcher from his undergraduate days, around which I wrapped a bed sheet I think. I went at it with a bunch of old house paint and something about the challenge of making an image without relying on naturalism captured me almost instantly.
I continued to try my hand with no outside direction into my first year of college. Probably not surprisingly- given my affinity for implying space using isometric cubes- I started down my college path in architecture school. I soon tired because I felt I didn’t want clients telling me what to do (yeah, it sounds pretty childish to me now, too) and switched to fine art. I signed up for an intermediate level class on abstract painting second semester Sophomore year and quickly found out that our library had hundreds of monographs on artists who also worked in this vein (let’s be honest- many of us grew up knowing abstract painting was a “thing” but couldn’t name a single practitioner). I was drawn to the Abstract Expressionists first and sort of worked my way forward to what was happening while I was in undergrad (for me, it was mostly about the likes of Lydia Dona, Fabian Marcaccio, David Reed and Jonathan Lasker– the biggest survey of the era in which I was schooled was/is Conceptual Abstraction).
These were definitely the years when idealistic me became an Artist- the love of making was cemented as well as my predisposition to making what at the time I would have called serious work. I quickly went from small scale studies in my dorm room to 4’x8′ and sometimes larger. This was much to the chagrin of my professors who not only loathed the imposition on the limited amount of space in the undergrad studios but also my lack of interest in justifying my passion for painting within the simultaneously diffuse and constricting confines of doing post-modern linguistic acrobatics. The 90s weren’t a bad or great time to be making abstract painting- painters still got their fair share of Artforum covers– and I felt like being an outsider inside the little Art world which was outside the real world was just fine. Rebelling against the rebels and all that. I was still recovering from being raised MAGA so I’m sure that played into it.
Like all serious undergrads, I elected to try grad school too, of course. At one point while inserting footnotes on a paper about Rothko’s struggles to portray his Modern self for a seminar on self portraiture… I began to notice my lack of concern for re-stating the work of one group of academics to another who simply didn’t like my viewpoint, which at that moment seemed a poor choice of life path (why work towards spending my professional life around a caste of characters who, almost entirely, I found so boorish). I immediately left grad school prior to graduating and began making small op-art pieces based on my love of color field/op art practitioners and a Hannah Barbara pallet. I had some success with a couple of new galleries in the Houston market. Life happened, in the form of a first child and a move back home to North Carolina, at which point my energy and focus shifted to trying to find work in clean energy, my other professional passion. (insert a chunk of years where I spend almost no time trying to be an artist)
All the above is to say that I am and mostly have always been drawn to paintings that would be called non-objective, abstract, or formalist and I recognize that the idiom I wield is part of a tradition that grew out of Western painting (more thoughts on that here).