I started this series of portraits of family and friends in 2009. I don’t know why I started,
but I think they had been in my mind for a long time. They are a departure from my usual subjects – power plants and smoke stacks and fire hydrants – but I think they share some of the same monumental feeling.
One of my favorite subjects is power plants in New England. I was born in Providence, and I have been looking at the Narragansett Electric plant there all my life. A few years ago, on a visit to Providence, I took time to make some sketches. That started the process that led to numerous paintings of power plants in Providence, South Boston, and Cambridge. For me these buildings are full of power and beauty and romance.
I have been a rower for many years, and have often thought of trying to paint what I see from the boat. A couple of years ago I took a throwaway camera with me in the boat one morning and waited for the light to hit the deck of the shell just the way I wanted. Later I gave the other four people in the boat cameras and asked them to shoot the photos that became the source material for a series of paintings of oars. What fascinates me most about these scenes is the weapon-like quality of the oars. I think it’s no coincidence that oars are often referred to as “blades,” and that oars of the type in these paintings are called “hatchets.”
The visual world we can see right around us is incredibly rich. You
just need to look. There are dramatic patterns everywhere ... bright green lawn with swaths of dark green shadow, the patchwork of a brick sidewalk, sunlight across the front of a building. There is always something new to see
I started looking at fire hydrants forty years ago, looking for good subjects to test out a new camera. I like hydrants because they are colorful, sculptural, monumental, anthropomorphic, muscular, masculine.