I place my subject in the center of the painting, like an icon. Iconic figures played a significant role in my childhood, one that directly relates to the concepts brought forth in my present work.
My dad raised me Catholic, and my devout Granny frequently gave us kids little white cards with images of Mary, Jesus, or the Saints. I was convinced these were delicate, special cards with subtle (or not so subtle) powers. Each person on the card represented an idea, and if I treated the card well and believed even nominally that the card should be taken seriously, maybe some the ideas would rub off on me. I thought praying to St. Christopher for protection couldn’t hurt, and Mary seemed so nice and calm I might be more like her if I put her card on my dresser. The saints that got shot full of arrows or hobbled around with ugly sores reminded me to be thankful for my lot, and to be brave when things went wrong. The cards held just one focus for your attention: the person in the middle. A few attributes described their message for the viewer, and that was all that mattered.
Another iconic image from my youth came from my mom’s spiritual instruction, quite distant in practice from Dad’s, but visually and conceptually similar. As an enthusiast of all things New Age (this was, after all, Colorado in the 60s and 70s) she experimented with many spiritual practices, but Tarot cards remained a favorite for decades. She was paid to do readings occasionally, and although I didn’t embrace her ideas with any more gusto than I did Catholicism, I had a healthy respect for both. Tarot cards usually have a figure or object in the center, and each represents a theme, if you will, that is interpreted by the reader. There were kings and queens and numbered cards, just like in a normal deck, many relating to different parts of life, such as money, relationships, and health. I won’t get into the specifics of Tarot reading. The important thing impressed upon me was that, much like the saint cards of Catholicism, the Tarot was not to be taken lightly. We were to handle the cards with care, and be respectful of what they meant and referred to. It took a while for me to loose my fear of the Death card or the Hangman, but Mom made it clear that the “negative” cards held just as much rebirth and light as the so-called happy ones.
Whatever their impact on me, the little cards I grew up with had images with strong associations. Their resemblance to my current work is recognizable, and I’m pleased that I had very different camps from which to draw influence.