My First 40 Years
My Garbage Can 1985 oil on canvas 18x14” $3000
In graduate school, Paul Rahilly and George Nick recommended I do a few palette knife paintings (among other things) to improve my approach.
In the spring of 1985 I made a less than full-hearted attempt to get into the Massachusetts College of Art’s master of fine arts program. After all, I was showing at a Newbury Street gallery, Gallery NAGA, and they should know about me and want me to enter, right? So I tucked a few small paintings under my arm and showed up at the interview where George Nick and Barbara Grad asked where the big, ambitious landscapes were? I (arrogantly, in hindsight) proposed that they were too much trouble to bring and that they could see my skill from the small paintings I brought in. For that, I was (appropriately) put on a waiting list. Moral of the story, always put your best foot forward. I’ve tried to do that with this show.When good painter and friend Chawky Frenn, who had been accepted into Mass Art, opted to go to Temple’s Tyler School of Art MFA program, I was offered the opportunity to get into Mass Art. I jumped at the chance. I chose Paul Rahilly as my mentor because of his beautiful figure paintings and his lovely way of handling paint. I’d seen his work first when his painting of a nude with a servant and a still life was the star of the show at a Boston Arts Festival where art had been put in tents along the Esplanade. (This was the show where a disgruntled city employee put one of my friend Barney Rubinstein’s large paintings– poor Barney! – in the Charles River!) Paul and I became good friends during our time together, but I never quite got the knack of handling paint in his creative, painterly way. One of the first steps he suggested was to quit using so much medium and drawing with the brush so much… to PAINT with the paint instead of DRAW with the paint.
During one critique, George Nick argued with me that I didn’t understand values at all… (I had maintained that I did…) so to punctuate the point he began to poke me in the stomach saying, “You’re not mixing enough! You’re afraid to put oranges in your blues and yellows in your purples, and you’re not going toe to toe with what you’re really seeing!” He had gone from poking to pushing with his fist to gently but forcibly punching as I tightened my stomach in response – not hard, but vigorously to get the point across. I realized he meant it. George maintains he can’t remember ever doing that, but I can, and it made me try harder. After all, if George Nick cared enough to press home the point with me, I must have needed to hear it.
So Paul and George (and Janet Monafo, Paul’s wife) recommended I do palette knife paintings of simple objects. I did this garbage can in about 2 afternoons. To my surprise, one morning when I arrived at my studio, I noticed that the garbage can painting looked better against the wall than one of my more elaborate, more “sellable” cityscapes that I’d been showing… perhaps because it was more honest with what I saw. This observation was a step in the right direction toward improving my paintings.