Creatively speaking, I haven’t decided where to go next. Understanding where I’ve already been, it seemed to me, would help. Pouring over my old work, I stumbled across a couple of photographs. Both were out of focus. Why had my camera refused to cooperate? In 1996, if you took a picture, you had to wait to get the film developed to view the results. By the time that I saw how blurry the prints were, the painting had disappeared. I can, however, remember more.
There was a different drawing underneath the troweled-on colors. It included a pair of figures, a dreary interior and a joyless setting outside of a window. The incomplete scene lived on the canvas where I didn’t touch it for months. Before I did, in fact, my first wife and I had moved. We rented a tiny place in Penryn, California. By the following year, the landlord had sold the house, the printing plant where I had been working twelve-hour-shifts had gone out of business and our marriage had ended. At some point amid the turmoil, I finished the piece without any hint of the penciled-in outline.
Had reality become so bleak that I needed a break? The abstraction that resulted was a kind of release. At the time, I was proud of my accomplishment. A televised auction to benefit the local PBS station seemed like the perfect platform to showcase what I had done. After waiting to watch the broadcaster get to my contribution, I was shocked; the studio lights struck the oil sheen of its surface to leave it aglow. None of the strokes were remotely visible. The phones having rung incessantly for other works of art were silent. My creation did better with the in-person bidding at a gallery (which is where I got two pictures before the new owner took it home).
More importantly, I had, as a painter, parted ways with the nude. The figure never starred in a full-scale composition of mine again (although it did, later, fill a sketchbook and emerge in a lot of fiction). Regardless of its rocky debut, the first example led to many more as if, freed of the heavy baggage of the body, I could have some fun: