Empire, 2010 Oil on linen 64 × 48 inches
Empire, 2010
Oil on linen 64 × 48 inches

I love the Empire State Building, and have taken many pictures and made many paintings of this iconic structure that to me stands for the power of an old New York that still holds hopefully strong for the city and the nation. For this work, I wanted to make an "ultimate" Empire painting, and chose the top edifice with its tower, projecting an "RKO Radio Pictures" type radiance into the optical black of the sky. The top of the building was to serve as a Zeppelin landing, and as ridiculous as this sounds in our contemporary times, this art-deco way of thinking, with all of its optimism projected into its architecture is something that just sends me—it’s a living history where a building that has always stood for so much continues to have relevance today. When it was first built during the Great Depression, it only took about a year for it to be built which seems incredible, and Mohawk Indians were some of the great pioneer skyscraper builders unafraid of heights who were some of its construction heroes. When it first opened, however, it wasn’t so popular, and it was King Kong that really made it iconic for the world, which is amazing to me that it was branded by a giant fictional gorilla into being. It does stand for power—and being inspired by more than just a pencil, a very phallic skyscraper that doesn’t lose its serious agency because of it. I would like that post 9-11, post recent recession, we are still a nation holding strong, and long after the Twin Towers, and not-so iconic One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building still holds strong. I always liked the Carl Andre stack of bricks in the window of the Judd Foundation downtown, however, called "Manifest Destiny" with the brand "Empire" stamped into the bricks, and like that leaning tower, also wanted to evoke that the power of the Empire building might be a nostalgic one, too, one that may not be so immortal, and that we should be careful. I’m also thinking of the 24 hour Warhol movie "Empire," and to make something of this scale as if it were a painting lasting longer than the projected image of that film, and also Monet’s Rouen Cathedrals, as I was taking images each day of the building to post on Facebook and to see the different attitudes it could project through different locations and times. Ultimately, however, it is a prayer for hope and optimism in the New York where I’m always happy and grateful to see it standing tall each day and time I see it and smile. It is our Duomo as a landmark, but also stands for peace, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—a brother to our Lady Liberty.