Thematic Variations

It is one of the great lessons from the art of the past: the first response to a picture idea – the same could be said of a piece of music or a story – may not reveal its essence. One need only look at Monet’s impressive output of water lilies, or Morandi’s tireless efforts to capture the mystery of bottles, or Picasso’s insatiable curiosity with Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass to see that the first solution is not always the strongest. Beethoven fashioned no fewer than three variations of the overture to his Leonora, and Tolstoy was making changes with War and Peace as it went to press. I think of a variation in much the same way that I consider an artichoke; the outer, tough leaves have to be peeled away in order to reveal the delicious heart.

Click on an image for a larger view.

Neglected Houses, 1994

(Private Collection)

“They stood silently, reverently, before the now neglected house, remembering with fondness the years spent within its comforting walls…in a time long ago.”

My Father, 2008

(Private Collection)

“The first time my father saw my works on exhibition, he moved cautiously from picture to picture, as if afraid they might begin speaking in unknown tongues.”

Serendipity, 2003

(Private Collection)

Wedding Portrait, 2007

(Private Collection)

“June 23, 1936: On a day not unlike today, they took their vows under these same towering pines; listening, as always, to the soft whispers that came from the river.”

Morning in the Mind of Edgar Allen Poe, 2007

(Private Collection)

Counter Point, 2008

(Private Collection)

“When I was eleven I heard the mockingbird cry.”

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