Throughout my life, I would get subconscious visitors in the night while I slept. I would wake up in the middle of the night and there would be a human figure standing over my bed. The first time this happened, I was around 9 or 10 years old. I got very scared and pulled my blanket over my head. I was okay with it after the fact, and I don’t remember telling anyone about it. This painting is about one of those visits that happened more recently.
The visit that this painting is based on happened about a year ago. I woke up and there was a human figure who seemed pretty tall, and felt to me like a male standing over my bed. The figure was leaning on this sort of orange ledge, and although I could not make out the face, it felt to me that this figure was looking down at me as if to tell me there was something that I had to do. It seemed that the figure was expecting something from me. I realized all of this after I got scared and quickly swung my pillow at the figure and screamed out, “WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT?!”
I moved into my first art studio a couple of months later and after I had gotten all settled in, I started visualizing the figure that came to me that night and decided to paint it. This painting was a little difficult compared to my paintings before. I actually had to get used to being in a new studio, which was triple the size of the spaces that I was working in before. Plus, I used a different gesso than I normally use to prime the sheetrock before I put any pastel down, and it was very stiff and had an elephant skin-like texture. The pastel didn’t glide across the surface like the gesso I was used to. So I took my time with this painting. I actually didn’t like the painting for the majority of the time I worked on it, but now I love it.
I believe the figure that I woke up to, was a messenger or an angel, or it could have been my father. But whoever the figure was had an important message for me. The message was to bring forth the passion in my heart and to let this passion be the fire that fuels my creativity through my art. The whole middle of the painting represents fire. It derives from the orange ledge I had noticed the figure leaning on, as they glanced at me with a look which seemed to say, “What are you gonna do?” The figure was asking me how I wanted to create my life. That fire is my passion and creativity.
I am very grateful for this visit. I was able to figure out the message from the visit through the process of painting it, and the experience has let me know that I am doing what is true to me by following my heart and expressing myself through my art. It has moved me into my passion and my responsibility as an artist even more. Thank you.
The name of this piece comes from the chorus of the song “Savior” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. When I first heard the song about fifteen years ago, I thought of my father. As I sang along, I felt that I was singing the song to my father—letting him know that I still love him and that he was my favorite. Sadly, I lost my father to suicide in 1990 when I was 11 years old. I started creating these pastel paintings on sheetrock in November of 2014, when I was 35 years old. Shortly after I started doing these paintings, I started to have this vision of my father riding in my car with me. He would be sitting in the passenger seat of my car wearing the blue Irish hat and a blue down vest, which he would wear sometimes when he was alive. I felt that he was riding with me and helping me to move forward in my life. I would ask him to ride with me and he would. This is the vision that would become the painting, which I completed in November of 2016.On the right side of the painting, the viewer sees a profile of my father with the Irish hat on, which is my view of looking over at my father while he is riding with me in my car. When I was halfway through the right side, I started on the left side. I didn’t have any vision of how the left side would look at all. The colors came to me at that moment, and I just started going with the pastel. When I finished working on the left side, I stepped back and had a look at what I had just painted and said aloud to myself, “Holy Shit.” I saw this red-orange face staring back at the profile of my father and at that moment I realized that I was painting the parallel of me and my father. The right side was both me and my father, and the left side represented our creativity, our freedom. I got this surge of energy. We were headed right for our own creativity. I started seeing a poem after I noticed this, and I eventually wrote the poem on the back of the painting:
All that I can honestly
and humbly say is that
I GOT GUTS
And you are not coming
I am coming for you
What this means is, with my father’s help and my courage, I am learning to trust my true creativity, allowing me to move toward a life of freedom. My father wasn’t able to believe in himself and his creativity to lift himself out of a clouded mind and be free in his life. And although he tried, he just couldn’t do it anymore, so he felt that he had to leave. Since my father’s death, I have always felt a responsibility to create this life of freedom. Because I am free, my father is also free. This painting is evidence of my father being there for his son, and it is also evidence of another turn in my evolution as a human being. Thank you Dad.
Brown and peach sit on my diaphragm as I float above my crossing.
I just ask that as I make my way through the thick and supple shadows, that I cross into a fiery dance hall where passion balloons and thrives to symphonize both parties into dancers of passion, bringing them into not just a world of bliss and pleasure, but a world of freedom.
A world of light.
The flames of sexuality scream as the dancers move with a subtle beauty, letting passion be the name of the night.
The dancers embrace the passion with respect and honor and become fire.
The fire meets the sky, sending a split down the middle of its body, causing the fire to separate into two tails curling and falling away from each other only to spear their way back into each other, forming a momentary bridge just before hitting the ground.
The fire begins to cool and sighs out its deed of passion closing the ceremony with gray, blue, and black embers outlining the dancers into a sleep of truth.
Birth of a Superhero is my first pastel on sheetrock painting. I believe that I started the piece in late October of 2014 and finished it on December 1, 2014. I kept it a secret until it was finished. It was after a trip to Dia in Beacon, NY that September, and seeing the works of artists Sol Lewitt and Richard Serra that inspired me to create this first piece. I had always messed around with doing expressive drawings with pen or pencil on paper, but nothing close to this big or as colorful and powerful. I didn’t know that I was an artist.
Richard Serra’s massive corten steel sculptures just engulfed me. The oxidation on the steel which I found out isn’t rust and actually serves as a protection for the steel, creates this beautiful earthy color that made me feel warm and calm, along with the beautiful abstract shape that the steel was torqued into. It was something that I had never felt before. Then, as I stood in front of Sol Lewitt’s wall drawings, I could feel my heart say, “I want to do this.” So on my way home, I started feeling out my own way of creating something. Something big. I could feel the wall that Sol Lewitt’s drawings were on, but the chances of me having a wall to draw on were slim to none, so I thought of bringing a piece of a wall home with me. Sheetrock! The idea to use pastel came to me right away. I have two pastel drawings that my father did while he was still alive hanging in my living room, so maybe that’s where I got the idea to use pastel. The idea of using pastel on sheetrock felt natural to me, even though I had never taken a pastel to a wall or a piece of sheetrock before. So the following week I picked up an 8’ x 4’ piece of ½ inch sheetrock and some oil and soft pastels. I don’t remember if I started the piece the same day, but I leaned the sheetrock horizontally up against my living room wall and started on the top left hand corner with the oil pastel. It didn’t take too long for me to realize that I didn’t like the oil pastel and grabbed up a soft pastel. Much better. You can see how it looks a little different in the top left hand corner of the painting where I started with the oil pastel compared to the rest of the painting. I even thought about cutting that corner out. I left it. No big deal. I had no image of how this was going to look. I just knew that I wanted to express something. And as I worked on it, little by little I saw these colors and images coming out that blew me away. I knew that I had something. Then I would turn around and say to myself “what the fuck are you doing?” But I kept going. I just let the pastel move wherever I wanted it to move. I put a line or a curve here and then connected it with a line or a curve over there. And the colors just came to me. Or I would look at the pastels I had and simply say, “ooh, this color might work.” That is pretty much how I still create these pieces.
I didn’t name the painting Birth of a Superhero right away. The name didn’t come to me until a year later. The shapes and colors felt like the energy of a superhero, but I was also inspired by the superhero archetype and it’s parallels with my own artistic journey. This beautiful and powerful creative force had suddenly burst out of me which I had always slightly felt was there all along, but I couldn’t find the courage to release it. I felt like I was reborn. I had finally stepped into my creativity and the ability to express the language of my heart. It took me a long time to find that creativity in my heart, and now I feel that I am doing my best to honor and respect that creativity by expressing it beautifully through my artwork.