What it means to be an American has been a core question in my life and work. I lived my first 10 years of life in Philadelphia, not far from Independence Hall in an Eastern European melting pot neighborhood. I began my art education in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, which greatly influenced my thinking about the content of my work. The school in many subtle ways encourages students to consider becoming painters of America.
A teacher and my mentor at the academy, Morris Blackburn, encouraged me to make prints. He obtained a scholarship for me to maintain the graphic studio through the week and set up the studio for his once a week class on printmaking. He taught the principles of printmaking, including the techniques of etching, engraving, lithography and woodcuts. While I attended the Academy I worked as a staff commercial artist at night at a local newspaper, where I drew countless TV sets, refrigerators, cars, furniture, jewelry, etc. These were the days before clip art was so widespread. The combination of this printmaking and newspaper design influenced my work to become more graphic.
The focus of my work has always been to depict something about the American experience, no matter how ordinary, and to say it in an aesthetic manner. The enjoyment of color, composition and consideration of tactile surfaces all need to marry with the content. That being said, I sometimes will create a piece for its pictorial qualities in and of itself, sometimes for the technical challenge a visual idea may pose. Elements of the way things sound and smell are also meaningful to me. Visual images should bring about the "at onceness" experience that we all know and understand in an instance.
Our country is quite new compared to many other cultures in the world, and as a young country I think we are still trying to find an American visual language. Or at least that's where I find myself in my work. American artists such as Edward Hopper, George Bellows, Gustave Baumann, Reginald Marsh the Ashcan school painters, just to name a few, all seem to talk to me. They have me shown some ways. I hope my exploration leads me to find a unique way, my own voice, that connects with a message. This connection is important to me because I believe that it's pointless not to communicate with a viewing audience. Connection can and should happen in many ways. It is where the artist and viewer find common ground -- when the art connects.
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