Making a painting begs automatic questions about the nature of perception and the nature of our visual experiences. For a painter involved in the act of painting, it is the action itself which reveals the object and allows it to be fully investigated. The painter does not look at an object in order to paint it; he or she paints an object in order to look at it. Naturally, making the painting means asking questions about the appearance of things such as “What color? What shape? How are the shapes and colors in sympathy with each other? Which shapes and colors are appealing to my sensibilities or evoke some feeling?” And spending time looking at a painting is to relive with the painter those questions.
I began painting at Troy University in Troy, Alabama, where I was majoring in math and physics and had no thoughts for something as impractical as a career as an artist. I was really just enjoying myself initially, taking every drawing and painting class that I could. The art department was tiny at that time, but my teachers were artists themselves. Something about the way they engaged with life was inspiring and compelling. I think I felt, without fully understanding it, the possibilities of painting as its own sort of intellectual inquiry, as a way of asking questions about my surroundings and myself, of emotional organizing. It was extremely personal, and in that was its appeal.
My training thereafter was aimed at enabling the most objective investigation of the subject possible without a philosophical regard for the individualism of the painter. There is an important buried assumption there, of course, about that as a possibility to begin with, and again, as a desired end. But what I retain from this training and what remains especially appealing to me about this philosophy is the humility or honesty sought for with regard for the subject. In order to make the subject more available and more clearly revealed--in order to allow it to be itself, the painter, in a sense, tries to step aside. It is not philosophically ignoble to recognize, even while in the very attempt, the impossibility of achieving such objectivity. That is simply to recognize the inherent interest of the endeavor.
Thanks largely to the influence of painters around me in Philadelphia, this philosophy of painting has become woven for me now into a broader view of what is often called “perceptual painting”, a view which embraces the uncertainties and ambiguities of perception, observation, and realism, the elusive and personal nature of reality. What is particularly interesting to me is the way in which the drama is played out between the investigation, the subjectivity of the painter’s perspective, the expectations, and the surprising resolution. Every painting makes available the opportunity to play out this drama and to explore the many possible and complex answers to these questions.