"String Theory #6: Cedar Waxwings"
12 x 16" Acrylic on Cradled Board2014
How to buy
When I was growing up in California, Cedar Waxwings were a rare but regular visitor to the garden. I would only see them perhaps two or three times a year, always in late winter or early spring. They seemed to almost always appear suddenly and mysteriously in fairly large flocks, usually in the early morning fog where they were perch, ghostly and beautiful, in the bare branches of deciduous trees and then vanish just as magically as the fog burned off. A few times I saw them actively engaged in feeding of pyracantha or elderberries. But they always impressed me with their subtle coloration, elegant silhouettes, and hard black masks. I especially enjoyed coming up with a color palette for the background of this piece, one that captured the predominantly mauve, grey, and brown of the birds, but also allowed for the more strident- but sparing- shots of yellow and red to shine through.
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.