"String Theory #4: Vermilion Flycatchers"
11 x 14"
Acrylic on Cradled Board2011
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Among the most striking birds common to my new Tucson, Arizona home turf is the stunning Vermilion Flycatcher. Whether encountered in the deep green shade of old mesquite tress or in a parched and sun-soaked meadow, their luminous red plumage looks almost surreally beautiful and out of place. The females, though less immediately eye-catching, are just as gorgeous, with their more subtle greys, browns, and whites, set off by an underbelly ranging from pale peach, to watermelon pink, to a near tangerine orange. I am fortunate to encounter them almost daily when I am out walking our dogs. I am quite certain, however, that I will never grow complacent about seeing them, and I am equally confident there are more vermilion flycatcher paintings in my future.
Last year I started “String Theory,” a new series of paintings that sinks its roots years back in my study of art history in college. I have always been fascinated with minimalism, and among my favorites historical examples are Piet Mondrian and Barnett Newman. Both artists brilliantly illustrate the simple but undeniable power of spatial and color harmonies, and the almost magical ability of just a few lines to create mood and meaning.
The contrast between illusionistic imagery and flat decorative treatments has been at the conceptual core of my work for nearly twenty years, owing largely to my study of modern art, so it should come as no surprise that an image of birds essentially flying into a Barnett Newman painting came into my head like a thunderbolt. Simply by virtue of their proximity to more descriptive elements like the birds, otherwise completely flat areas of color become alive and animate in three-dimensional space. The title of the series is not only a humorous play on words and reference to the fact that the avian subjects are, quite obviously, interacting with “strings” or stripes; it also alludes to the manner in which these contextual clues require a re-envisioning of the surrounding space, much as String Theory has (for its proponents anyway) changed our understanding of the cosmological landscape and how its component parts interact. Of course, the concept evolved well past this initial point of inspiration to become something entirely new and very much my own. These pieces suggest the dislocation of birds from their natural environments and their adaptiveness to the urban and suburban habitats we have made. These colorful stripes are not meant to “describe” anything as mundane as a fence posts, branches, or bird feeders; rather they become their own non-objective environments, beautiful, evocative, and otherworldly.