What are the major themes you pursue in your work?
The major themes I pursue in my work are of the human condition, mortality, and the resilience of optimism. I use metaphors associated with these themes. My titles let the viewer know what my mindset is in connection with the compositions, and I do not strive for realism in my work. For example, my work The Human Briar represents the trials we go through both from the outside world and those we create from within ourselves. The Surrealists, such as Magritte, Dali, De Chirico, and Tanguy made a strong impression on me as a young artist. Their works enabled them to define their unique imaginations in worlds of their own creation. Their skill in rendering scenes and objects that were often nonexistent in reality was for me the beginning of my own road in art, which is also primarily derived from my dreams, waking or sleeping.
Most surrealists today mimic these great forerunners, but I attempt a new and fresh approach to this category of art. As a fourteen year old I was actually one of 5 finalists (shown on TV) in a national competition judged by Salvador Dali for young surrealists; the Mona Lisa was the theme. I used the medium of color pencils. I started painting after that, but ironically I am now back to using color pencils. This experience affected me so strongly that it led me to continue with imaginative work. Coincidentally my wife also met Dali in her youth while traveling with a circus in Spain.
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
I don’t remember any really helpful advice — maybe that only 3% of artists actually make it. You have to be truly passionate and faithful to be able to overcome the many obstacles that stand in your way, and have the strength to continue to believe in yourself. There were many artists in the School of Visual Arts, New York, that were very skilled in drawing realistically, but they had no ideas for original work — they just drew their relations and friends. Our teachers criticized that, and this was what separated me from the other student artists, as I had already developed my imagination, and just needed to work on how to express and develop my ideas.
Prefer to work with music or in silence?
Listening to music is very important to me, as I am a musician myself. My mind thinks compositionally not only in art but in music as well. I spend long hours working on my art, and I could not do this in silence. I have very eclectic tastes and I enjoy music from various time periods and genres. I like songs with strong melodies. Compilations on my iPod include music from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and other bands from my early years, to classical pieces such as Debussy, Satie and jazz by Oregon, Coltrane and Hancock, to contemporary bands such as The Shins, Avi Buffalo, or The Magnetic Zeros. I love the new music of today that can be heard on university public radio stations. Stations like KCSU (Cal State Northridge), and KCRW (Santa Monica College) have been my lifeline to the best alternative rock and other current trends in music.
If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
I would have one of my own works: Under the Shadow of Mortality, Requiem, or The Human Briar, as I feel that these three are of my most successful works to date.
Who are your favorite writers?
I have many favorite writers. These day I listen to audio books, as I don’t have the time to actually read. I like Woody Allen, John Lennon, Ayn Rand, Arthur C. Clarke and Michael Crichton to name a few. I like science fiction and imagining future worlds; this influenced some sculptures I created a few years ago based on ideas that came to me of how the human race may develop hundreds of years in the future. I also like autobiographies; I read Bill Wyman’s recently, which gave me a new insight into the rock scene of the 1960s and 70s.