Andrew and I is based on our respective Mom’s favorite childhood pictures of my husband and myself, taken about age 4. We’ve been together for 23 years now, and born just 4 days apart from one another, so romantically we seemed destined to be with one another, and its always struck me how these images easily go together, with Andrew standing on a "stairway to heaven" looking in my direction, with me on a "flying carpet." Although Andrew is Latino/Native American and is a brunette, as a child he was a towhead, although uncannily, we still wear similar clothes. Andrew had jackets just like this one now (although not the shorts!), and we both have t-neck white sweaters, and I still love wearing boots (I grew up in Colorado, hence the boots in my picture). Andrew’s photo was hand-colored, mine was black and white, and it was interesting to interpret the colors in the images while painting – it was interesting that the backgrounds happened to turn out blue and pink. While working, as I always do, I try to get into the "heads" of my portraits, listening to music that is meaningful to my subject matter, listening to audiobooks and so on. It was fun to listen to the late 60’s/early 70’s music of our youth (including Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin for Andrew, the American Graffiti soundtrack, Cat Stevens, the Who and Steve Martin comedy albums for me, amongst many many others). For children’s portraits, I think that Goya is one of the best. I’ve always loved his portrait of the boy in red with the magpie and cats (Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuniga), and strived to create something here that was just as uncanny and alive, with more than just merely a pleasant picture of whimsical youth and more of a portrait that is impacted with ineffable feelings of our life experience that hopefully gives the work itself a life of its own.
Superman is a painting appropriated from the very first comic strip that Siegel & Shuster created, from Jerry Siegel’s writing and Joe Shuster’s art. I grew up loving Superman, and like many iconic avatars that children suture into, he helped to form a non-religious model of what it takes to be a good person, and was inspired by the comics to create my narratives today. Superman of course is an assimilation story, and Siegel & Shuster, like most of the early American comic creators, were Jewish, and Superman was a vehicle for them not just to entertain the masses, but also to allegorically speak about their own plight to be great Americans. I painted this during the Bush/Kerry debates, and unconsciously felt afterwards that he resembles a bit Kerry, who I was for during this time to help to save America. I feel that post-Warhol, instead of just appropriating comics in a Duchampian mode, it is my job to bring emotion to the image for what it projects from me, and how, as like a method-actor, I try to step into the shoes of the characters I’m portraying, can help to bring them to life. Superman feels pensive to me, like I felt about New York, post 9-11, during this time, and I hope that the repeated lines of the arms and hands indicates movement and feeling. Bringing color naturally to the appropriated image of a patinaed newspaper image, Superman also feels to me a bringing an old world, black and white world to help save the more colorful 21-century. Also unconsciously, as I painted, the letters in his name seem to emphasize the letters S PERM AN and I like this, as it perhaps satirizes gently the perhaps aware of the Patriarchal undertones of the image (along with the phallic building behind him), while still hopefully carrying the warm feelings I have for this great character that still as important today as when he was first created.
This is a painting of Andrew and I as we are luxuriating at our beautiful cabin home in Riverside California—the cabin of his grandfathers where he always wanted to live as a child growing up—in our pool that we built for ourselves for our 45th birthdays—another youthful dream come true. I love the idea of the "perfect moment" and certainly I love my husband—we’ve been together for 23 years and going strong, and sometimes I like to paint perfect moments as it’s the head space of the meditation of where I want to be at most times in my life. I think the personal is political and emulate Manet, who painted his world with a critical, smart eye and in so doing, with strategy and aplomb, was able to make painterly works that were full of feeling, but also content towards his attitudes to the politics of his society and ideology of his time. I hope the content here is of two gay men, middle aged and married, but with an energy that hopefully has been sustained from their youth and love for one another, in their little utopia of the home they cultivated out of a blighted area in the middle of a beautiful nowhere. We sometimes feel the spirit of his grandfather there, and in the blessed-out rays of the sun, and the resulting lens flare, I hope if he is around, he would approve, residing in the light that the camera was able to capture. Hopefully too this is a contemporizing gesture—I like to paint through the photos I take with high res images and printers, and really see everything there is to offer with the information, but also able, in my meditation, to be able to have my unconscious seep out into my brush in micro-managed moments where I can’t ascertain for certain elements, which then become abstract, or unconsciously surreal, in moments of water, foliage of trees and the flora or our environment, that are hopefully all brimming to life and goodness in this heavenly moment that I wish could last forever—our little heaven on Earth.