Brian Rutenberg in his New York studio Humidity made me a painter. I was raised in the mind numbing heat of the South Carolina Lowcountry, much of what I know about painting came from sitting next to ancient rivers like the Santee and by feeling warm pluff mud squirt between my toes as I ambled from one vantage point to another, desperate to contain the view in obdurate oil paint. Those direct experiences taught me how to discover a place and craft it simultaneously. As a child of the coast I fell in love with oysters from an early age. At low tide their shells, delicate as pastries, cupped shallow puddles of saltwater and pale mud. I’d lie on my stomach closely examining their color, just a breath of itself, and imagine swimming around in their palm sized oceans. Decades later I realized that this was not the daydreaming of a child but the mechanics of how a painter sees the world. Scale and logic go away to be replaced by a new reality which is bright and capricious. There isn’t a color color more beautiful than that of an oyster shell. Well, maybe that of a glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut. In spring my mother would place clear bowls of pink camellia blossoms floating in water on our bedside tables. I’d watch them drift and spin for hours as my eyelids grew heavy. Southern children are taught to drink in the wondrous details of the local landscape; a flower isn’t just a flower but Blue Water Hyssop or Southern Marsh Canna, birds are Black Bellied Whistling Ducks or Red Footed Boobies, barbecue sauce is light tomato, heavy tomato, mustard, or vinegar. Poetry lives in details and the artist’s job is to intensify them. A painter should limit their job description as narrowly as possible; I’m not an artist, not a painter, not even a landscape painter, but a Southern landscape painter who has lived and worked in New York City for the past 28 years. That’s my superpower under the sun. The narrower the job description the broader the umbrella under which I can work. What exactly am I trying to accomplish as a Southern landscape painter? To experience transcendence one must know their origins. Where do you come from? What place stacked your bones into the shape of you? I’ve never needed a position because I have a place. This new body of work is titled Camellia because my paintings always begin and end in the local. All of the content is on the tip of the brush because there isn’t room there for anything else.
Cover Detail: VANISH 2015 Oil on Linen 46 x 58 inches