Art, Art History and Design, School of



The Quick and The Dead

First Advisor

Aaron Holz

Second Advisor

Matthew Sontheimer

Date of this Version



My thesis exhibition “The Quick and The Dead” collects painted and drawn portraits of characters I know or have known, some dead now, some still living. It also touches on the myth of the rapture, that supposed day when the “last trump” will sound, calling “the quick and the dead” saved in Christ, to arise and be transported. Although I have been a confirmed agnostic for sixty years, the myth as presented to me as a child at The City-Wide Gospel Tabernacle remains palpable.

Examples of “The Dead” include a deceased squirrel looking skyward, for all the world as if it were awaiting the second coming, a portrait of my cousin, Shirley who revealed when I was fifty-three that I was adopted, and a series memorializing, the late David Richmond, poet, raconteur, career alcoholic and lamented friend, who died unexpectedly in 2015 an hour after I last saw him. A transitional piece is “White Van in the Negative Zone,” with another friend, Richard Imig, cast as an old man come with his white van to “take you home.”

In the case of “the living,” the portraits depict loved ones and friends, eccentrics all, who have survived adversity in one way or another. This started, not as a conscious choice but as a theme that evolved as the series developed, the survival aspect of their lives bringing them to the foreground of my memory.

My visual memories exist in layers that range freely from general to specific. This layering reveals some aspects of my subjects, while ignoring, or even misremembering others. Often, the misremembered details strike me as more accurate than those a photograph might present. My artistic practice parallels this process of remembrance.

The portraits I create are not photo-realistic. While I regularly start by using snap shots, most of my pieces are composites of several such images and eventually I put reference aside to rely on memory.

My work is underlain with black and gray marks in charcoal or ink. These remain visible in the final product, some clearly defined, others obscured by multiple transparent, brushed, stippled or wiped layers of acrylics, occasional oils, and always subject to more charcoal marks. My palette is kept simple: umbers, sienna’s, venetian red, black and a bit of pthalo blue, all overlaid with unbleached white. The paintings evolve the same way I tap into my memories: new perceptions of old friends layered and then re-layered, partially obscuring some perceptions that float ephemerally beneath the surface.

The gestalt of my work includes both narrative and theatrical elements. The subjects of my work sometimes seem to be “cast,” as if they were actors and I the playwright or director. They are intended to be perceived both as themselves and in a narrative role. Also, as the series for this show has progressed, the most recent works, such as “White Van in the Negative Zone” and “Rapture’ make reference to the superhero comics I once drew professionally.

I intend this collection to be seen as a montage, any narrative being created by juxtaposition of the various works. While the paintings may have a theatrical bent, I have avoided the more formal story arcs of my theatre and comic book work. Instead, I rely on the nature of the paint, the marks and my palette, to create a more open-ended interpretation.

I renew my acquaintances with my life and its inhabitants through my art and trust that my work leads viewers to an affinity with these characters and their implied narratives.

Advisors: Aaron Holz and Matthew Sontheimer

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