The City as Inspiration







After a divorce in 1979, I began trying to rebuild my world. I was attending the School of Fine Arts at the University of Houston. Watching the city boom around me as I traveled back and forth to classes each day, I was infected with the spirit of growth, reverence for architectural prowess, and renewed faith in the accomplishments of man that seemed so pervasive in the early 1980s. Those were the days of "Houston Proud" bumper stickers, economic boom, towering cranes on every horizon, Ronald Reagan, "Star Wars," space shuttles, and baby-boomers entering their fathers' worlds with a new appreciation for the work ethic. It was the shift from rebellion and "anti-establishment" to love and awe towards that which we had taken for granted and even disdained while growing up: Father, civilization, mankind.

Living beside the freeway gave me a wealth of subject matter in my own backyard. I stopped short of setting up my easel on the median and began to take mostly black-and-white photographs of my environment. I used these for information while painting in the studio. I began to see everything around me in terms of paint: The reflections were scumbled onto Greenway Plaza, the shadow lines under the spaghetti bowls and loops of freeways were racing the traffic above, cement slabs were tabulae rasae. Everything in the bright light of day, where one could see for miles, was good. The city subjects spoke to me, driving me to try rendering their magnificence. This outer world grew in tandem with my inner world as I found new love and obtained my degree.

Just as every day has its night, so every boom has its bust, and every inflation has its depression. Even though the world view of these city paintings is one of sunlight and growth, the portent is there for its reversal: streets are virtually empty, construction sights are often abandoned, the shadows are deep. The form is there but not its creator. By 1985-1986 the boom was over: OPEC was falling apart; loyalty to the company was being rewarded with downsizing, reorganization, and buy-outs; the Challenger had exploded. In short, Icarus's wings were melting. By the time I painted Camelot on Old Katy Road and The Ivory Tower (rice dryers) that site was abandoned, and American Rice Industries on Studewood was soon to follow. During this period my cityscapes became somewhat more reasoned and formal, and I began painting in watercolor again.

Since that time I have raised a child in the rural retreat of Wimberley. Here my environment still plays a big part in my art. The truth is that these and all my paintings are representations of the course of my development as an individual. Whether it be city places, country places, indoor spaces, or inward places, my art is a reflection of my life and psyche.