State of Affairs

Throughout my career, I have created drawings in sets or series as multiple variations on a theme, usually a theme that explores some aspect of the human condition. A series might consist of as few as three or four drawings or evolve into a large series, as with The Plague Drawings and Studies in Sanguine, or they might be brief explorations of a contemporary issue, as with the Street People and Environmental Advocacy series, represented here.

Street People. I’ve been struck by the growing numbers of people living on the street. I don’t remember anything like this before. I don’t want to preach. I feel conflicted around the issue. As a subject, it’s not something I would have considered in the past. But the homeless are ubiquitous and emblematic of a bigger question facing us all, individually and collectively. I created these drawings not to draw likenesses or to draw comparisons—but to draw attention to a social concern that, far too often, we simply don’t want to see.

Environmental Advocacy. The drawings from this series were begun in the mid-1990s as symbolic narratives or visual allegories in response to the ever-growing threat to the natural environment through such events as chemical and oil spills, nuclear waste, and ozone depletion. For me, a dead bird can be a symbol for all of nature, just as one individual can symbolize all of humanity.

Angels and Demons. I recently celebrated my 80th birthday. I remember when I turned 50, it dawned on me that I probably had already lived more than half of my life. Now I am sure of it. The combination of age and the Covid pandemic got me thinking more about the end of life and death’s mystic apparitions, Angels and Demons.

The Plague Drawings emerged in the early 1990s as a response to the rapid spread of AIDS. The challenge for me as an artist was to create a visual allegory expressing both the seductive power of desire and the devastating consequences of this disease. A recurring theme throughout this work is the image of death’s embrace, which has many prototypes in the history of art. AIDS infuses this traditional imagery with a new and poignant relevance.

The drawings in this series are my attempt to visually converse about these invisible entities. They are also my act of resistance—my attempt to keep those angels and demons at bay—to keep laying down my marks in defiance, and to heed Dylan Thomas’s poetic advice:

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.