I’m sitting at the terminal gate in the early morning, overlooking the runway at the JFK airport. I rolled up a painting on a cardboard tube from Home Depot, slipped that tube inside another cardboard tube, and checked the whole tube into baggage as my luggage. I’m heading to London. Though my announcement is sudden, the trip’s been a while coming. I’ve been very eager to enter the most prestigious portrait competition in the world, the BP Portrait Competition, of the National Gallery in London. Shipping the painting was more expensive than bringing the painting in person, and so, here I yam.
But there’s more to my trip. There’s a certain disillusionment with the gallery scene in New York City. The New York art market, by and large, has an indefatigable appetite for a four level cake. First, sultry images of languid Delilahs reclining nude on suggestive white bed sheets. Second is the edgy, the shocking, the ironic, brazen faced jolt, created by people who define themselves by what they are not, rather than by what they are. Third is the ironic. Michael Gormley said to me “Irony is safe- if I’m joking, and you’re sophisticated enough to laugh at my joke, and if art is a joke, in fact if life is a joke, then we are all safe- we’ve eliminated the risk of sincerity, of commitment.” And lastly, fourth, the plein airlandscape.
By no means do I mean to say that my criticisms are altogether representative of the New York scene. The most beautiful, sincere painting I’ve seen in the past year was at the Century Club, by the artist Daniel Bennet Schwartz. I became a painter in order to speak about life. The full spectrum of life, from the beautiful trust in the eyes of my infant son, to the leather hands of the illegal immigrant. Studying with Charles Cecil, I was constantly reminded of the human spirit in painting. In painting, in sculpture, I came to see the human spirit, made in the image of God.
After Charles Cecil Studios, most of my artist friends returned to London. Among this group are some of my favorite painters working today. A number of them have done incredibly well for themselves- some joined galleries, some opened painting schools, some opened painting studios, some painting portrait commissions, some sculpting vast marble reliefs for cathedrals, some have painted the Queen of England. My dialogue with these painters was so true, a dialogue I’ve really missed. And so, to London I go!