Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up? Your family?
I was born and raised in Granite Quarry, a very small town near Salisbury, in the heart of the piedmont region of North Carolina. My parents and an older brother provided a very supportive life for me. Go Tar Heels!
How would you say your background influenced your career? And at what age did you become curious about art?
My Father loved the outdoors, music, and gardening. My Mother is an avid reader. From early on, I drew constantly. I remember always feeling the magic of being in the ocean or the mountains, and wanting to make my own version of those experiences. My maternal grandfather was a stonecutter in the quarry. My paternal grandfather was a blacksmith for Southern Railroad. I suppose some of their ability for making objects, and crafting out form came down through the gene pool. As well, both were Renaissance men: making their own tools, planting and harvesting many vegetables and fruits, and making wine.
What inspires you, and how do you stay inspired? How has this shaped your artistic philosophy?
It ALL seeps in, but, particularly, the written word is important for my inspiration: poetry, novels, religious history, anthropology, cosmology, biology, and art history are all areas where I may find grist for the mill. A question which is always present for me: how does the world fit together from its many parts, and what drives our need to know and create and seek the spiritual.
What artist(s) has (have) had the biggest influence on your work?
I greatly admire these poets: TS Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Kenneth Rexroth, and Walt Whitman. Eliot’s major work, Four Quartets, has been the main foundation for me for many years, because of his exploration of the spiritual in humankind, from the primitive sense of the Other, on through to highly developed rituals and sacraments. Wallace’s use of colorful language and his supreme imagination have all been intriguing. Rexroth’s concern with integrating many religious belief systems, throughout eras and geographies, has been inspiring. With his exploration of the animal desires in us all, Whitman has always opened my eyes to our place in the natural world.
Brice Marden, James Bishop, Willem deKooning, Paul Klee and Kurt Schwitters are visual artists of great importance for me. I admire Marden for his integrity and purposefulness and ability to evoke deep emotions within a rigorous, minimalist aesthetic. Bishop’s sense of improvisation, and his confident acceptance of the accidental are both powerful strategies I admire. DeKooning’s versatility and sheer energy are almost beyond belief. Plus, his supreme dedication to the craft of painting always amazes. With his ability to create profound visual statements within a small format, Klee demands my continual respect. As well, his highly sophisticated visual language (in the guise of primitive markings) is a wonder. I go to Schwitters for his pursuit of the collage sensibility.
What is your artistic philosophy?
Authentic expression presenting itself as an inevitable presence: that is the artistic goal for me. And a well-crafted surface is mandatory.
The painter Robert Ryman states it beautifully:
The one quality I look for and I think is in all good painting, is that it has to look as if no struggle was involved. It has to look as if it was the most natural thing – it just happened and you don’t have to think about how it happened. It has to look very easy even though it wasn’t.
What do you need around you when you are working in your studio?
I enjoy an orderly and clean environment. I work to music of all kinds, but lately, jazz, and the more free form expressions of Eric Dolphy, Dave Holland, Ornette Coleman, McCoy Tyner, and Charles Mingus, to name a few. Acoustic guitarist Michael Hedges, with his primal groove and unbelievable dynamic range, always inspires. PJ Harvey’s raw emotion and artistry are examples of urgency. I paint by natural light during the day, and never work at night. I enjoy taking walks through our woods and meadow, as this exposes me to textures and lights and natural sounds. Lately, I have been using my computer to continually run through images and texts and ideas from all over. This “universal brain” we now have is astounding.
What do you most enjoy doing when you are not painting?
I enjoy cooking, fine dining, gardening, reading, hiking, spending meaningful time with my wife and three children, listening to music, running, tennis, and biking.
What is your favorite traveling experience?
Our honeymoon trip to Alaska was life changing. We flew into Anchorage, rented a car and drove over 2500 miles through awe inspiring terrain: huge expanses of tundra, soaring mountain ranges, rushing snow melt fed rivers, and mammoth slow creeping glaziers. Another adventure up the coast of California to Humboldt State Park and the largest Redwood trees on earth was truly reality altering. The gigantic scale and otherworldly quiet within the groves made for a primal exhilaration. Frequent trips to the southwestern mountains of North Carolina always reacquaint me with the ancient cycles and the frightening indifference of the natural world.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
I would enjoy being a chef or landscaper. Chefs are perhaps the truest artists we have, as they create beauty which arouses and satisfies all the senses. Landscaping provides the joy of witnessing first hand, and in focus, the shifting seasons and growth rhythms.