California Dreamin’, 2015 Oil on Linen 22 1/4 × 30 inches
California Dreamin’, 2015
Oil on Linen 22 1/4 × 30 inches

Before I went to grad school in California, I was living in New York City, working at the New Amsterdam Theater as a house manager, and thinking and painting towards my future. I had a prescient, memorable dream during this time that I was following a cool guy up a hill who was wearing jeans in a scene that looked just like this. Flash forward about twenty years later I had taken this picture and realized it was just like that image in my dream! This is of Andrew, my husband and partner of twenty three years, looking at a vista on Avocado Mesa, in Tenaja—in the Murrieta Hills of Riverside California, where we dream about someday having a home. We sometimes drive to this area just to take in the views, but are also comforted to go back to our humble cabin near the big box stores and civilization, still gorgeous in every way—but its great to dream!

I was asked around the time I did this painting to "cover" the haute-couture shows in Paris by Ingrid Sischy for her Interview. I think she wanted me to be a sketch artist for the magazine, creating drawings on the spot, but the models moved so fast, and there was so much to take in, that I ended up taking thousands of photos to get the right ones, and quickly made oil paintings for what turned out to be her last issue. Importantly, these were some of the first images I showed publicly based on my own photos, and they gave me confidence to continue to make work from my own imagery. I had been looking around the studio and was becoming more frustrated, as although I enjoyed how hopefully I was putting my own spin on appropriated imagery, and all the post-modern productive baggage that can be ascertained using pre-found photos as a child of the Pictures Generation, I realized I didn’t have autonomy over the image in the way I yearned to—I wanted to be able to be the sole creator of the image, and also to begin to make work from my own life even more. I love Manet, and think he is the beginning of a sort of Post Post-Modernism, a "have your cake and eat it too plan," where you can make work from your personal life that resonates politically and beyond the confines of the picture plane, work that has a critical context but also allows for warmth, beauty, and the painterly finesse of translating scenes of your own life through empathic, meditative rendering.

When I took this photo and saw the results, I yearned to paint it. I’m not a new-age "magical thinking" type person, however, now when I make art, I want to create images that give me optimism and hope, and that are a pleasant meditation to locate my thoughts. I do think if you are creating images of things you wish to happen in your own life, beyond magical thinking, it just simply sets the parameters of how you might think in order for good things to happen—as we are thinking our thoughts about the problems, issues, and ideas of our day in the analytical meditation a painting can posit, as you solve the formal problems of the image, and pieces fall into place, like dreaming, perhaps the problems of your day are also solved by metonymic association. When making this picture, although we still don’t have the property in Tenaja, it brought about the warmth and emotion of the initial dream I had thinking of my future husband, and also our current love for one another, and the dreams and hope that we share in our life. The personal is political, and hopefully this also resonates as a gay romantic love and relationship that two middle-aged men could share in the freedom of the Twenty First Century, that in a painterly manner, also harkens back to the Romantic era of art of silhouetted figures looking into landscapes of Casper David Friedrich, the Western Expansion (in a good way) of the Hudson River School, and more—doing a homosocial reading of these subjects, but more importantly, showing an everlasting yearning of Landscape Painting and its connection to romantic dreaming and the desire for achieving human potentials.