Growing up near water, I learned to swim at an early age including on family vacations in Maine. Water is one of the four Classical Elements believed to be the material basis of the physical world. It is the one that most shapes my practice and the materials with which I work.
Working in video in the early-mid 80s I explored single channel narrative and multi-channel installation. My tool-chest included one of Nam June Paik’s video synthesizers that resided at MITs Center for Advanced Visual Studies. The primitive and wacky contraption generated imagery from electronic waveforms.
Video was my primary medium when I moved to Japan to teach. While there I also began to study Shodō (Japanese calligraphy). JVC was generous with equipment and provided studio editing time in Tokyo. Meanwhile, the rural landscape and farmland surrounding my home in Tochigi Prefecture led to my discovery of a different kind of lens that was in the landscape; the reflective, at times mirror-like, surfaces of the flooded rice fields. Using the surface of water as a substitute lens-like intermediary, this new way of seeing drew my attention away from the camera, initiating my move towards painting.
I have had a studio on the Hudson River in Greene County for almost thirty years. Water continues to be the most vital element and the subject of my video installations and paintings. I work on-site using the surface of the river not only as a gigantic watery lens, but as a type of aquatic synthesizer replete with its own physical waveforms. Like both, a lens and synthesizer, the shifting river’s surface collects and assimilates activity from the sky above; the movements of clouds, fog, foliage, planes in flight, and on the Hudson, barges transporting crude oil and hazardous waste.
Although my paintings and video appear abstract, offering neither views nor realistic representation, the authority of perception is tangible. Paint and electronic signals have intrinsic fluid characteristics. Water and oil paint share physical properties of viscosity. Exploring paint as a mimetic medium, I use its physicality to perform in ways similar to my subject. A river’s surface may simultaneously be transparent and reflective; edges of shapes are in a constant flux; and the locus of color and illumination are indeterminate. Such ambiguity can be mesmerizing and can render what is known to be equivocal. Mediated observation introduces uncertain perspective and can create collisions, magnifying attributes by imposing distance, both perceptual and psychological.
In recent years, I have noticed an inverse relationship between my paintings and work in video. My paintings collapse hours of observation into ostensibly still surfaces while my video is largely composed from still images. The dynamic between the two media is revelatory.