My work is principally concerned with contemporary man’s mutable conception of Nature. Growing up on the rural Delmarva Peninsula, I became acquainted with the local flora and fauna at a young age. Whether working at field chores, hunting, fishing or simply playing, many of my experiences in the “natural” world were similar to those of Lewis Carroll’s Alice. Carroll’s premise, that “things get curiouser and curiouser,” guided me through many a childhood adventure; I anthropomorphized animals and cast them as key players in an epic production, of which I too was a part. The natural world was enchanted and, although by no means idyllic, ethical in an unsentimental way.
The Scientific Revolution, beginning in the 16th century, distinguished between storied or subjective meaning and hard facts. Over the next three hundred years, an increasingly educated populace abandoned enchantment, myth, and magic in favor of analysis and rigorous experimentation. So, too, did my love of Nature evolve into a fascination with biology and behavioral science. By degrees, however, I became aware of an unfortunate divide between the imagination and reason, particularly as related to natural history. The English poet and critic, John Ruskin, alluded to this schism when he wrote of “the broken harmonies of fact and fancy, thought and feeling, and truth and faith.” (1) Even as we seem to know an increasing number of facts about Nature, we comprehend less of it.
The current body of work is borne of these ideas and questions, but also responds to our contemporary cultural and political climate: extremism and philosophical relativism thrive today, symptomatic of an ailing faith in reason and idealism; the global populace is increasingly uncertain and insecure; we embrace hybrid cosmologies, mixing our traditional stories and religions with science, consumerism and imported narratives. I call this world-view hysterical transcendentalism. The animals and the hallucinatory landscapes depicted in my paintings are both specific – representations of a species and place – and metaphors for the human condition.