“Above all put love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:14
“As every divided kingdom falls, so every mind divided between many studies confounds and saps itself.” – Leonardo DaVinci
It took me 15 years to understand what my art really is – a statement against divisiveness and a plea for unity. There are many problematic areas in contemporary society that deserve attention, but to me, the extreme state of divisiveness in which humanity finds itself in the 21st century is among the greatest causes for concern. With every fiber of my being, I am against divisions – whether based on skin color, nationality, gender, social class, political views, religious views, or something else. Unity is an expression of love, while division is the root of hate and violence. Unity is power, while division is weakness. With humanity divided against itself, we can never achieve anything significant in terms of changing the other problems so prevalent within contemporary society.
My work approaches the issue of unity and division in several subtle ways. In early paintings, the unity of nature and humanity was shown through complex abstract images, where the “big picture” was composed of many smaller pictures or elements, each apparently independent, yet together forming a more meaningful whole. For example, birds, fish, leaves, and flowers would form the face of a person. I was trying to say that humanity depends on nature. Nature is important, and we can’t survive without it.
I also express the concept of unity and inclusiveness through color. Some have described my work as using all colors of the rainbow. I do this to make a statement of harmony – my colors exist together on a canvas without creating disharmony. But you can’t just take any color out of the tube, place it next to some other color and expect a harmonious result. Any color can work with any other color, but the colors need to be fine-tuned, modified to harmonize with their surroundings. In the same way, to survive as humanity, each of us needs to be fine-tuned and to take others into account.
In my portraits, I have gradually strived to eliminate notions of race or color, by sometimes using bright colors not associated with any race to paint for skin and hair. I use color to communicate emotion, not to define race. Also, I have often painted halos around my characters to indicate the inherent divinity that is possible to the human being. This was even before I came back to my Orthodox Christian roots and began to study the theories behind Byzantine iconography.
At one point, I removed humans from my pictures, replacing them with cats. Thus, I disposed of the notion of gender and class. Cats of different colors eating at the same table became expressions of the harmonious relations of different races and genders.
I do not take sides on certain political issues in my paintings, nor do I paint anything that is ultimately divisive. My aim is to create art capable of speaking to people of all cultures, ages, and social classes. I am strongly opposed to art that requires a written explanation to be appreciated (art that means nothing to the viewer until an explanation is read). In contrast, successful visual art must penetrate the soul immediately upon being seen.
I paint because I love, and ultimately, I paint what I love.