On a studio tour in 2005 in the small town of Warren, RI, I chanced upon a small shoe-making shop. The heavy, oily, cast-iron machines standing like totems around the perimeter of the room fascinated me. I decided to use the machine imagery to begin this series of oils. Although the shoemaking machines were my starting point, these paintings are not about making shoes. The machine imagery became the vehicle which brought together many things I had been thinking about and looking at in the last few years: the tight structure and symbolism of 13th century medieval paintings; Lee Bontecou’s retrospective; the British war artists; and images of fragile and broken aircraft found in a 1915 WWI scrapbook from the Ukraine. Somehow all these elements are used to express my reaction to my feelings of the inevitability of religion, war, greed and ambition and how they are playing out in the world today.
In casting about for an explanation of what drew me to use the shoemaking imagery, I came upon the story, written in 1597 by Thomas Deloney, of shoemaker St. Hugh who was hung in 300 AD for his Christian beliefs. I realized I was a journeyman like the others, taking the “bones” of the shoemaker and repurposing them as my own tools.
I investigated the machines in dozens of studies, using charcoal, oil pastel, crayon, collage and acrylic. I arranged some in groups of three as triptychs and introduced the WWI photographs, both as subjects and as rice paper prints of the photos affixed to the surface of the canvas. Others machines I approached singly as icons or portraits. When planning the composition and color I looked closely at the medieval work.
An exhibition of this series can be seen at the S&G Project Gallery, from July 14 – August 24 2018.
- Artscope Staff,