An often asked question is, “What is creativity?” A superficial definition might be “to relate two or more things that were not previously related.” But this does not really explain the heart of the matter. A creative work of art is the product of a drive to create something tangible which rises out of the artist’s unique perceptions of the world. To do this, the creator must be willing to know himself. Rembrandt once wrote, “Always remember, in your quest for an understanding of mankind you will find it necessary to begin with self-searching.” In the creative process there are three basic elements: (1) the person; (2) the process; (3) the product. True style in art means that the product is a true reflection of the person. The Florentine reformer Savanarola once said “Every painter’s work bears the stamp of his thoughts” and, in a way, a man’s work is a portrait of himself – the product is a mind observed.
An artist cannot deny what he or she is. Thomas Wolfe might say you can’t go home again, but in reality we can never leave home – we take it with us wherever we go. Only when we develop the courage to create and to face what we are, can we truly begin to express ourselves creatively.
The artist, Ben Shahn, once commented that great art is not merely stimulated or inspired by life, but rather is compelled by life. Good art helps restore man to himself in his true meaning. Unfortunately, in much modern art, the artist has forsaken man at the moment of his greatest need to identify himself. Great art has always accepted responsibility; it has not deserted the human race.
With these two ideas in mind: (1) that an artist cannot deny what he is, and (2) that art should accept responsibility, I have tried to put together a body of work that reflects these concepts.
I choose to work in religious ideas for two reasons. First, that is what I am. Man’s relationship to God and how this has been portrayed through the ages is of primary importance to me. My work is not meant to necessarily stimulate the faith of others, although it may. Rather, I desire to give free expression to my own faith. I believe an artist whose primary goal is to use art as a tract is not a sincere artist, although he may be a sincere believer. I believe I have inherited the spirit of the Middle Ages. The finest of these artists did not seek to create a religious art. It was their nature, or perhaps, their way of looking at things, their way of feeling, of loving. Religion and life were one for them, and faith was their reason for living.
The second reason I work with religious themes is for the sake of the continuity of tradition. Most art has been religious, whether we are looking at an Egyptian pyramid or a Greek Zeus. Up until the 1700’s, 90% of art dealt with religious themes. Only since the Age of Reason has secular art begun to win out. In the 20th century there are precious few who work from a religious view. I don’t believe man has changed in his inner needs. We all look for a reason to live, for something to believe in. A philosopher once said, “In every man there is a God shaped void.” It is that void that I choose to speak to. In a seemingly hopeless world, there is still hope.
The artists who have had the greatest influence on me have been Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Matthias Grunewald and Ben Shahn. The periods that fascinate me most are the Northern Renaissance, Coptic Art from Northern Africa and the Middle Ages. The hidden symbolism, the naïve style, subtle formalism, and intense faith captivate me. In my work I have tried to capture the essence of these periods, yet present them in contemporary format.
I choose to work in three separate venues - vase related forms, archeological fragments that are free-standing, and bas-relief sculptures for the wall. Most of the vases are made using high-fired stoneware whereas the wall sculptures are primarily pit-fired and painted with acrylics using a dry-brush technique. What unifies the work are the themes, which all deal with Biblical ideas. These are often portrayed using a narrative storytelling style. Many of the works are somewhat autobiographical in nature, reflecting my personal musings and encounters in my pursuit of God. Hopefully, these will transcend private experience and will touch something deep in the spirit of those that encounter my work. I believe that “things of the Spirit are discerned by the spirit,” and it is to the “spiritual” man that I address my efforts.
In recent years I feel that the role of my art is changing. I believe that the purpose of my art is to be ministerial, to bring healing and hope into a world that desperately needs both. My prayer is that God will touch all those who “pass by” and take the time to engage in the art and that a blessing will come with the encounter.