|I paint the city, choosing scenes that are informed by my belief that there is beauty to be found in many places that aren’t normally thought of as having aesthetic value. Abandoned buildings, rusting viaducts, overgrown vacant lots and trash-filled alleys present their own authentic face to the world – we just don’t usually see them as places worth paying much attention to. Our eye skips over them as we flash by in our cars or trains.
I had been painting overpasses and alleys for several years when I came across the work of British-born, Yale-educated artist Rackstraw Downes. In his insistence on finding aesthetic value in the most mundane scenes, his sensitivity to the precise placement of line and form, and his willingness to de-glamourize the art of landscape painting, I felt a kindred spirit. I had been struggling for some time to articulate just why I was attracted to painting the particular scenes that I did. As I read his essays and interviews I found many commonalities, and came to a deeper understanding of my own interests and motivations.
I am not interested in idealizing or glorifying what I see, just in capturing the essence. I believe that the world around us does not need to be idealized – that there is beauty in the unadorned honesty of crumbling concrete, rusting metal, peeling paint and scaling brick. There is a Japanese aesthetic called “sabi,” which is about the beauty inherent in the old, the decaying, the weathered – for example, a wooden barn door from which most of the paint has peeled This philosophy encourages me to strip my art of sentimentality, “prettiness,” or the “grandeur” of the traditional landscape, while still conveying the unique mood of every scene – the evanescence of a point in time and place.