Q: I especially enjoy your “Black Paintings” series. You mention being influenced by the story of how Miles Davis developed cool jazz, making this work uniquely American all around. How did you use jazz history in this series?
A: In 2007 I finished the Domestic Threats series and was blocked, certain that a strong body of work was behind me. But what would come next?
The idea for the Black Paintings began when I attended a jazz history course at Lincoln Center and learned how Miles Davis developed cool jazz from bebop. In bebop the notes were played hard and fast as musicians showcased their musical virtuosity. Cool jazz was a much more relaxed style with fewer notes being played. In other words, the music was pared down to its essentials. Similarly, the Black Paintings evolved from dense, intricate compositions into paintings that depicted only the essential elements. As the series evolved, what was left out became more important, resulting in more demands being placed on the viewer.
Eventually, after much reflection, I had an epiphany and my painful creative block ended. “Between,” with drastically simplified imagery, was the first in a new series called Black Paintings. I like to think this series includes work that is richer and more profound than the previous Domestic Threats.
Comments are welcome!
A: Maybe, but that’s something for the viewer to judge. I never specify exactly what my work is about for a couple of reasons: my thinking about the meaning of my work constantly evolves, plus I wouldn’t want to cut off other people’s interpretations. Everything is equally valid. I heard Annie Leibovitz interviewed some time ago on the radio. She said that after 40 years as a photographer, everything just gets richer. It doesn’t get easier, it just gets richer. I’ve been a painter for 27 years, a photographer for 11, and I agree completely. Creating this work is an endlessly fascinating intellectual journey. I realize that I am only one voice in a vast art world, but I hope that through the ongoing series of questions and answers on my blog, I am conveying some sense of how artists work and think.
Comments are welcome!