My Gallery Talk on “Metaphysical Greece”

Given at the College of Southern Nevada Department of Fine Arts, Art Space Gallery on Thursday, October 6th, 2022.
This was followed by a Q & A session.
Thank you, thanks to all of you who’ve come this evening. It’s great to see you.

Thanks to The College Of Southern Nevada Art Department, thanks to Jeff Fulmer for being so gracious and kind, and of course to Suzanne Acosta, a formidable and powerful artist, who I am honored to call my friend, and who I must profoundly thank because none of this would have been possible without her, without her guidance and friendship. So Suzanne, thank you so much.

I’d like to quickly say,  I’d like to dedicate this exhibit to two other powerful women, my wife Stacy and daughter Kassandra. They are both the embodiment of inspiration.
So, Thank you.

I’d like to read you a few quotes:

“All men desire to know.
An indication of this is the delight we take in our senses, for even apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves; and above all others, the sense of SIGHT. For not only with a view to action, but even when we are not going to do anything, we prefer SIGHT to almost everything else. The reason is that this, most of all the senses, makes us KNOW, and brings to light many differences between things.”

– Aristotle, Paragraph I, Book I, Metaphysics

And another:

“The light of Greece opened my eyes, penetrated my pores, extended to my whole being. I went back to the world having found the true center and the true meaning of cosmic rotation.”

“In the dazzling sunlight, a detail stands out in hair-raising exactitude such as one sees in the paintings of the very great or insane. EVERYTHING is delineated, sculptured, etched…You see everything in its uniqueness – a man sitting on a road under a tree…Whatever you look at, YOU SEE AS IF FOR THE FIRST TIME.”

– Henry Miller, The Colossus of Maroussi

And one more:

“Whoever has seen Greece will carry forever in his heart the remembrance of a miracle of light. No blinding glare, no blazing colors, but an all-pervading, luminous brightness which bathes the foreground in a delicate glow,  yet makes the furthest distances clearly visible.”

– Walter F. Howe,  “The Homeric Gods”

I don’t remember when I first picked up a pencil or crayon, but I do know that I was drawing before I could talk.

The idea of holding a pencil and copying what I saw in front of me seemed so second nature, that I thought everyone did it. I also quickly realized that not only could I convincingly draw the world around me – or so I thought – that is – copy the world that I saw with my eyes, I could also draw what I saw with my mind’s eye. Imaginary places, objects, things, and beings. I could create whole worlds. There was no limit. Such was the miracle of drawing.

Years later when I began to study Architecture, my understanding of drawing shifted. I was taught to look at it as a tool. An instrument. The act of drawing was a process and a mechanism used to understand, to comprehend, and to design.

By looking at something and drawing it – in that sequence – the Architect embarks on a road to knowledge and understanding. Countless sketchbooks filled by thousands of Architects over the last few centuries are evidence of this. By drawing, the Architect, using pencil lines sparingly and deliberately, both copies and simultaneously analyzes the form and structure, the underlying logic, the assembly, the composition, and thus the Architect simultaneously learns about the object or subject, he or she is looking at. Every line means something, and one pencil line following another on the page, runs parallel to a process in the mind as one thought of understanding leads to another. This way of drawing results in a repository of knowledge that will be culled from and applied later, when the Architect is tasked with creating the design of a NEW building. At least that’s how it was taught to me.

Architects are almost immediately taught drawing conventions which in essence, are the building blocks of a visual language, established in a two-dimensional paper world, in order to create and render in a three-dimensional reality.

Plans, Sections, Elevations, and of course Perspective drawings, become second nature to the Architect. None of them can ever really represent reality, in fact they don’t. They’re all mathematical constructs and abstractions, mere representations and hopeful “approximations” of reality. But combined, these drawing techniques and constructs help to establish certain parameters which will BECOME reality.

My earliest and most profound memory of Greece occurred when I was a child, perhaps 7 or 8 years old, maybe younger, standing near the front stoop of my grandparent’s house, which was located in an old quarter of Athens.

I turned and looked up a street. The one-point perspective of the low, stuccoed walls of the houses on that street, and then, beyond the other house blocks, beyond the TV antennas above them and the orthogonal concrete rooftops of taller newer buildings – the vista turned gently upwards towards the hill in the center of the city known as the Acropolis. And as my eye travelled along this curved, bow-like, line of sight, it was led directly to a view of, what I was to learn much later was, the Northeast corner of the Parthenon.

Perhaps I’d seen or noticed it before, it wasn’t my first visit to Athens. But this particular moment was revelatory. As Miller’s quote said, I felt as if I was “SEEING it for the first time”. It was almost shocking. I was looking at a luminous form at once familiar and alien, a fragment, mysterious, detached from the city below, almost floating above it.

The weathered Pentelic marble (and its unique molecular structure) glowing by the simultaneous absorption and reflection of the Greek sun’s divine rays, the light giving this form a brilliant, almost supernatural, metaphysical quality. I knew what I was looking at was man made and very old, yet very alive, and steeped with profound meaning. I realized something had been revealed to me. I had SEEN something because of that light.

I carried that powerful memory with me, in the years that followed – in the years I was trained and after, practiced as an Architect. In those years I also read the philosophy and history of Antiquity. I learned an exhaustive amount of information about the origins of the Acropolis complex, its construction and it’s history. And throughout all of that time, I just kept thinking back to that initial, visceral, transformative moment, enabled by the divine Greek light, that I came to realize occurs only when one truly “SEES”. When one’s eyes are finally opened.

I’ve gone back to Greece many times since I was a child. It’s my spiritual and intellectual home. It is a place, and yet it feels like a third parent to me, having taught me over the decades, to receive the wondrous, the ancient, the honest, the beautiful, the truthful, the sacred and the profane, the profound, the metaphysical. And thus, it is where I always return in my quest for that way of “SEEING”.

Recently my understanding of drawing has shifted once again. Despite advanced computer technologies, and rendering programs now readily available to architects and designers the world over, which can turn night into day and day into night, I still hold a strong belief in what the act of drawing can reveal.

I realized I needed to master a technical expertise, in which the act of drawing again could become second nature to me, as it did when I was a child. I went back, and I UNTAUGHT myself how to draw in the sparing, economic and abstract lines of an Architect. I went back and retrained myself with seemingly long forgotten principals of drawing rooted in optical theory prior to the turn of the 20th century. Broadly speaking, that period of academic tradition in Art before Art became a mode of individual artistic expression. These learned techniques finally gave me an ability not only to draw what I saw, but what I should see according to principle, according to belief. This was a powerful idea for me. Yes, a methodology – really a philosophy – of applied drawing principles as tools in themselves. Applicable at every scale, in every circumstance, and at every level of observation. Such a simple idea and yet so effective. Armed with these tools, I believed I would be lead to SEEING with a capital “S”, and taken back to that moment half a century ago in Athens when I “SAW” for the first time.

These drawings behind me are the result. You might call them “realistic”, or “representational” – copies or facsimiles of reality. But my hope is that as you look a little closer, you’ll see that these drawings are a search for revelation. The subject is Greece – the Greece of Antiquity and of Myth, of Mystery, of both ephemeral and timeless beauty, but also the Greece of today – the utilitarian, the worn, the very old. And all illuminated under that miraculous divine light. And in this context, I see these drawings as attempts at documenting a broader hyper-reality, a reality beyond our visible spectrum, beyond the physical manifestation. A metaphysical essence and realm that one knows is there, that one believes is there, that one senses is there, but a realm and essence that may not necessarily be revealed with mere physical vision and abstract documentation.

It is that reality which you believe exists around a corner, or over a hill, or under the earth, or beyond the clouds, or even a temporal reality backwards or forwards in time and from NOW.

I sense it, I know it’s there. I believe it’s there. I’ve caught glimpses of it, and I want to see it again. And with every drawing, always of the subject that I feel radiates this hyper-reality, this metaphysical essence – illuminated by Greece’s Divine light – a gift from the gods – I feel I am getting ever closer.

The act of drawing for me is once again proving to be miraculous. What I see with my eyes and my mind’s eye are now starting to fuse into one thing. I am SEEING, and the longer I look, and the more I draw, the more that is revealed to me.

Thank you.