Flag, 2010 Oil on linen 36 × 48 inches
Flag, 2010
Oil on linen 36 × 48 inches

I live on the corner of 25th and 10th in Chelsea, Manhattan, and was walking my German Shepherd Julian late one night after I got one of my first cellphones with a good camera, and took this picture of the flag waving in the wind on top of a storage facility, now the fancy private school Avenues. It was only after I finished the painting and it was being exhibited that a friend of mine recognized, or thought it could be the flag created by the artist Frank Benson, someone I never met, and in the distortion of the image, had no idea that it was an artwork created to enhance the feeling of movement. In fact, this was the reason I wanted to paint the image, to create a feeling of movement in a still image, in my case, an oil painting of (as I recognized later) an artistic appropriation that became its own appropriation—and for me, a ultimately a reaction to create a work thinking about Jasper Johns. I think the idea of appropriation is taking something that pre-exists and put your own spin on it, changing the thing in the process. When Johns was creating his flags, being inspired by Duchamp, he took a pre-existing design and by painting it in encaustic and paint and newspaper making it into something new, creating a painting that wasn’t, famously, a picture of a flag, but that WAS a flag. As I have mentioned, I think my job, working from photos post-Johns, post-Warhol, and even post-Richter is, instead of painting merely the surface, is to penetrate the picture plane and move through the image, to make a "window onto another world," after obviously recognizing the parameters of the picture, knowing its an object that exists in space and within a material world of capital, etc. In teaching comics in addition to fine art, I teach how to make images that have a feeling of moving in space, of changing form to emphasize movement and emotion within the viewer. I think still images can do this, and create sensations, via form and light and color, that generate synaesthetic responses from the viewer. When painting from a photo, I like to paint all the distortions, the blurriness, the out of focus elements, the lens flares and so on—I think it acknowledges that I’m painting from contemporary technological processes, which contemporizes the image, and also it creates amazing talisman that allow me to subconsciously build on abstractions and hopefully turn them into something else. In this image, even thought I had a little help with the initial flag design, the flag WAS incredibly moving in the wild wind at the time I took this shaky and out of focus photo that I made the picture from, being pulled by my shepherd, who was hurrying to get back to the warmth of my apartment, at a time of uncertainty when we were still in thralls of the most recent recession. Ultimately I wanted to create an image of how I felt about America at that moment, that it was still standing strong in a world that was threatening it and it was threatening others, and like the flag in the Star Spangled Banner, still standing, but in the abstract nature of how it was out of focus and undulating, creating its own surreal optical worlds in the process. Hopefully it’s subconsciously and unconsciously derived surreal distortion of a distorted photo of a distorted flag in a manner of thinking of appropriation of an appropriation of an appropriation of an appropriation (?!) and making something "real" and moving in an emotional way. John’s famous quote is "take and object. Do something to it. Do something else to it" which is what I hope I’ve done here.