Innovation Ecosystem

The bend in the river as metaphor, muse and recurring motif

A conversation with artist Stephen Hannock on light, loss, collaboration, story telling and convergence

Photo by Richard Asinof

The artist Stephen Hannock in his studio in North Adams, Mass., in front of one his large natural landscapes.

Photo of book jacket by Richard Asinof

A photo of the book jacket to the 2009 book, Stephen Hannock, published in 2009 by Hudson Hill Press, a collection of Hannock's artwork, an image from the painting, "The Oxbow: After Church, After Cole, Flooded [Flooded River for the Matriarchs, E. and A. Mongan], Green Light, 2000.

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By Richard Asinof
Posted 6/11/18
A conversation with artist Stephen Hannock, a dialogue that began 42 years ago, explores the way that the concept of landscape has evolved for the artist who is now the only living artist whose painting is on display in the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Hannock’s most recent work, part of an ongoing collaboration with Sting, tells the story of Newcastle and the course of an empire. His repeated motif is of the oxbow, with the story written onto the canvas.
In a world consumed by sound bites, often manipulated to divide us, how do we tell stories and have conversations that bring together collaborations of artists, scientists, writers and musicians, as a way of engaging and connecting with communities? Is there a way for Narragansett Bay to be portrayed in a similar fashion to the way that Hannock has embraced the Oxbow on the Connecticut River, telling the story of Rhode Island? Would Brown University or RISD be willing to host a show by Hannock? How does STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics – become a larger part of the story around economic development?
What resonates in the interview with Stephen Hannock are three things: the way in which the natural world such as a river oxbow becomes the stage for story telling in the post-industrial world; the importance of collaboration that crosses the boundaries and silos of academic privilege, and the power of serendipity – you can call it synchronicity if you want – the ways in which connectedness, conversation and convergence can redefine and strengthen communities. And, of course, the American roots music of improvisation and convergence, jazz.
No reality show can create the stage for the kind of honest dialogue around loss, change, and the human drama beyond the course of empire. More than anything else, the landscapes of Hannock, despite the deep personal losses he has suffered in his own life, provide a sense of hope that the human endeavor of story telling will be preserved.
One more thought: the cultural collisions that occurred in Western Massachusetts in the 1970s celebrated the kind of world-class innovation ecosystem that Providence seeks to embrace, if it is willing to look beyond the advertising signs and invest in building communities, not edifices.


WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – Be patient; to set the stage, it will take some time for the scene to develop, much like watching the opening unfold in an Alfred Hitchcock movie, or watching flooded river currents flow through an oxbow.

The conversation had first begun in the summer of 1976, in an old abandoned factory building on Clarke Street in Northampton, Mass., in which the wood and brick structure served as a living quarters and studio for artist Stephen Hannock.

Hannock was one of many young painters in an emerging artistic community in Western Massachusetts, including Gregory Gillespie, Fran Gillespie, Scott Prior, Nan Vonnegut, and Randall Diehl, among others. [I was an aspiring writer and reporter who, in lean times, had supported myself by working as a cook, living in Montague Center.]

Hannock was then working on large-scale phosphorescent acrylic fantasy landscapes, some of which were 20 feet wide by 8 feet deep, painted in the dark, to be exhibited under black light and accompanied by music composed by Andrew Shannon, in a collaborative effort known as The Horizon Company.

Hannock had played goalie on the ice hockey team at Bowdoin College, then took a year off from hockey to study art as part of the 12-college exchange program at Smith College, and, in turn, became an apprentice with artist Leonard Baskin.

As recounted in a story I had written in 1976, the nature of the relationship between Baskin and Hannock evolved: Hannock was enrolled in a graphics class where Baskin would sit in front of the class receiving students’ artwork like a Buddha receiving gifts, always making the same acerbic comment, “You must learn how to draw.”

Bored with the class, Hannock stopped going on a regular basis, preferring to work on sculpture in an adjoining room. Baskin had to pass through this room to get to class, and he began to take notice of Hannock’s work. One thing led to another, and by the spring of that year, Baskin asked Hannock to accompany him to his studio on Deer Island, Maine. Hannock ended up working as Baskin’s apprentice for two years.

[“Working with Baskin was the best art school you can imagine, going one on one with a guy who was arguably one of the half-dozen great artists of the time,” Hannock said, in a 2012 interview with Joyce Marcel.] Hannock graduated in 1976 with a B.A. from Hampshire College, based in part on his work at Bowdoin and Smith colleges.

In those days, Hannock often used a Frisbee as his palette, reflective of the fact that he was one of the stars of the Ultimate Frisbee team at Hampshire College, which had lost in the intercollegiate championships to Rutgers in the spring of 1976, held in Amherst, Mass.

What intrigued ConvergenceRI was Hannock’s experiments with the layers of glaze employed to soften the phosphorescent acrylics, and the differences in experiencing the artistic canvas where the light was not reflective but light-emitting, changing the perception of seeing.

[That summer ConvergenceRI had traveled to Boston with photographer Robert Blake in an attempt to sell the story to Boston Magazine and The Boston Globe Magazine, but neither publication was interested, despite the fact that The Horizon Company had scheduled an outdoor exhibition on the Esplanade later than summer.]

[One of the first documentaries of the fledgling Florentine Films, including cinematographer Buddy Squires and Ken Burns, of “Civil War” documentary fame, was a film about Hannock’s phosphorescent artwork.]

Fast forward
Forty-two years later, Hannock is still working in a studio in a rehabbed factory building, this one in North Adams, Mass., just up the road from Mass MoCA. His studio is covered with images from four decades of work, from wood block prints of jazz artists to plans for a new stained glass Hannock is creating for a church in Southampton on Long Island, N.Y., and the original working sketch for his Northern City Renaissance paintings of Newcastle, done as part of a working collaboration with Sting.

Hannock is currently the only living artist with his paintings on display in the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. His work has focused on a series of landscapes, polished acrylic and oil on canvas, depicting the oxbow on the Connecticut River as it flows past Northampton, integrating photographs and handwritten stories into the paintings, creating a recurring luminescence that mirrors his belief that “art is an adventure in seeing short-lived light,” as he explained it to Mark C. Taylor, in what has become Hannock’s enduring landscape of self-portraiture.

Hannock won an Academy Award for his paintings of heaven that served as the backdrop in the Robin Williams’ 1998 feature film, “What Dreams May Come,” of a man determined to find his wife in the afterlife so that they can share eternity together.

The movie in some ways presaged Hannock’s own life, in which his wife, Bridget, succumbed to an inoperable brain tumor in 2004, a condition that she had learned about from a call from her doctor on Sept. 11, 2011, as the planes were striking the World Trade Center. Hannock’s portrait of her, incorporating daguerrotypes done by artist Chuck Close of Hannock and his then pregnant wife, entitled “Heroic Woman,” is part of his evolution in self-portraiture.

Our conversation in 2018 in the former factory in North Adams preceded Hannock’s planned travel to London, where he will debut his most recent paintings as part of an ongoing collaboration with Sting, which began in 1985, when Sting, colorblind, saw colors for the first time in a phosphorescent canvas by Hannock.

Much of Hannock’s current work includes story telling, with written narratives interwoven into the landscapes, with the recurrent image of the oxbow as a kind of visual motif of the constancy of flowing water where flooding waters in spring had changed the course of the Connecticut River’s bending curve, creating an oxbow.

As part of his preparation for the artwork, Hannock would often immerse himself in the Connecticut River at eye level, to experience the sensation of water merging with sky as the horizon.

In naming his oxbow series of paintings, Hannock has paid homage to his mentors and colleagues: The Oxbow, After Church, Flooded, 1979-1994 [Flooded river for the Matriarchs, E. and A. Mongan], 1994, is on display at the Smith College Museum of Art.

Similarly, The Oxbow: After Church, After Cole, [Flooded River for Fran], 1998, is on display at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, in memory of Frances Cohen Gillespie, an artist from Western Massachusetts.

The Oxbow, After Church After Cole, Flooded [Flooded River for the Matriarchs E. and A. Mongan, Green Light, 2000, is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, in the American Wing, as part of the exhibition, "Thomas Cole's Journey, Atlantic Crossings." The painting was chosen to be one of 500 paintings included in the Masterpiece Paintings book by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, out of some 2 million objects.

The confluence
What was surprising – or perhaps not surprising – was the way in which we could easily pick up the conversation, much like a familiar jazz riff, a call-and-response of questions, ideas, melodies and convergence in the key of life.

Here is the ConvergenceRI interview with artist Stephen Hannock, which continues a conversation begun 42 years ago in a former factory building, a continuing confluence of ideas swirling in the river flow, exploring a fascination with the ways of seeing.

ConvergenceRI: Here we are again, in another factory building…
HANNOCK:
Another old mill from a post-industrial New England town that is bouncing back on the wings of culture.

ConvergenceRI: Could you talk about the ways your thinking about landscapes has evolved? Particularly, as you’ve grown in the collaboration with story telling with Sting, and your interest with Alfred Hitchcock, in the way his cinematic works created entrances into scenes?
HANNOCK:
That’s a good question. I’m shocked. A good question coming out of Richard? Geez. Let’s stop the presses.

You know, what happened, happened really slowly. And, it took me until last year to figure out what was going on.

Going back to the early days, when I was working with Leonard Baskin, [much of my graphic work] was very flat, static, two-dimensional.

The subject matter [for many of my wood block prints] were these jazz musicians. Marion Brown was like a mentor to me.

He was there, all these musicians, Max Roach, Archie Shepp, they all congregated to the five-college area [Amherst, Smith, Mt. Holyoke, Hampshire and the University of Massachusetts], Anthony Davis. All these guys came through there.

Rick Jeffrey, a close buddy of mine from Bowdoin, produced a number of jazz concerts, and I did all of his graphic work from that.

So, here I was with Baskin, who was doing dead guys, flat dead guys. I was doing these jazz musicians, and they loved it. [Among Hannock’s work were wood cuts of Art Blakey, Marion Brown and Duke Ellington.]

I loved the arena, I loved the idea, and I loved the music. Also, to be able to do work that would be up there with no competition.

We’d put up these three-quarter, life-sized prints of woodcuts at UMass and they’d last about 15 minutes.

ConvergenceRI: They’d disappear?
HANNOCK:
Yeah. It would take us all day to print a couple of them. We’d get six or seven done, and they’d be gone, [ripped off the walls.]

At the same time, I was doing those phosphorescent pieces. The idea was painting a place [that was a fantasy] was really intriguing, how to make up this imaginary place, to paint it, with a medium whose contrast ratio was the most extreme available.

Seventy-millimeter film is like 75-to-1, the ratio you can get between the darkest and brightest colors.

But my stuff was way more than that. Even though the brightest pigment was that bright, the dark, the black in the dark, is as dark as you can get.

The end result was an incredible, three-dimensional effect, without the necessity of parallex – you didn’t need your two eyes to focus on things in order to get this three-dimensional [effect].

What it did for me was to create a situation where your place was really convincing, it was really easy to sell that this place existed.

One of the characteristics of my work was that I had no foreground. I liked the idea where you break that two-dimensional plane to get into [three-dimensional] space. By not having any foreground, you are in the piece. You could sell that as a place that really existed.

Imagine a picture window that is 20 feet by 8 feet: what I did was to replace the reflective light coming through the glass with emitted light.

ConvergenceRI: When I first wrote about your work, I talked about how remarkable it was, because our brains are used to interpreting the ways we see from reflective or refractive light, and we’re not used to seeing light-emitting canvases. One became both a participant in and an observer of the landscape.
Jumping around a bit in the narrative, you won an Oscar for your background scenery for the Robin Williams’ movie, “What Dreams May Come,” which seems much like a direct outgrowth of your work on these fantasy landscapes. Could you talk about that?
HANNOCK:
It is so funny you say that, because nobody in the movie got that, the idea. In the movie, when Robin’s character dies and goes to heaven, he winds up in this heaven, in this place, in three-dimensional wet paint. He travels through three-dimensional wet paint until his confidence  allows the place to exist in real form.

The director [Vincent Ward], he saw my work; his background was fine arts, but he couldn’t paint. And he told me, if he could paint, he would want to be able to paint like me.

And I was listed as talent, right behind Robin.

Mike Peyser, [the producer of “Desperately Seeking Susan” and “Ruthless People,” among other films, and a fellow Hampshire student], told me: “Make sure you get single card billing.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Just insist on that,” he told me.

Well, fast forward until two months ago, and James Turrell, the great light artist who’s got nine installations at MassMoCA now, he did some flyovers for Star Wars. We were all at dinner one night a couple of months ago, and Joe Thompson, who runs MassMoCA, had no idea that both us had done backgrounds in the movies.

You guys never cease to catch me off guard, Thompson told us.

Turrell is telling us about what he had done [for Star Wars], and he goes: “But no one ever gave me credit for any of that stuff.”

So, I told him I knew a guy who had insisted that I get single card billing, resulting in the whole screen being black except for your name [when the credits are run].

Granted, what I had dropped the ball on was I wasn’t a member of the union, so they had to put union members in front of everybody, so you had to wait for 15 minutes of credits to go by, but it’s there.

ConvergenceRI: This morning, traveling here through Western Massachusetts, it was much like traveling in a dreamscape, before the megalopolis existed [with the Holyoke Range serving as the last barrier]. The first haying was being done in a number of fields, the seeds from locust trees were fluttering everywhere, it was a sense of life when a slower pace existed, something that appears to resonate as part of your landscape series of the Oxbow. Is that accurate?
HANNOCK:
To complete the synopsis of what this whole landscape necessity became for me, it was the fascination of creating something that was totally convincing, but painting this place, over time, that the inspiration to bring these ideas to life shifted from painting a place to setting a stage.

By setting the stage, you got to dictate the mood, with which the stories that you wanted to tell could be absorbed. It started for me with a few of the 19th century American painters, but it also started with Cole; he was the cornerstone of the first American art movement.

But what many people don’t understand, he was a Brit. He came over here, he just didn’t grow there.

These 19th century painters were essentially the National Geographic photographers of their time. And the Europeans gave them the name of the Hudson River School, which is a total slur.

These artists were painting Ipswich and New Bedford in Massachusetts, Newport in Rhode Island, the Rocky Mountains. Church went to the Pacific Northwest to try and paint this tree that was like 50 times taller than anything they’d see in Europe.

And, of course, they’d paint the seasons.

The European painters would look at these painted scenes, and they’d say, they’re fake; yeah, right, red leaves, sure.

Ironically, these guys were painting stuff exactly the way they saw it.

Thomas Moran, when he went to Yellowstone, he was painting those colors exactly the way he saw those geysers and the terraced hot springs, they had all those colors in them, the iron oxides were just psychedelic colors, nobody picked up on that for a while.

From there, you go to the pre-Raphaelite painters, who were obsessed with painting nature, they were moving away from the Impressionists, who were being looser with their paint.

Of course, that was the movement that everyone flocked to, in Paris. But these pre-Raphaelites in England, they were trying to be true to nature.

But what I responded to in their work was not the fact they were painting true to nature, but the fact that they were literally setting their stage.

These guys were 19, 20 years old, they were the punks, they were the punk rockers of that era, and they were making TV shows. They would go out into the woods and paint this scene for five months, and then they would bring [the painting] back into their studios, and then paint the models into the scene.

Sometimes, they would write all the way around the frame, different passages from Shakespeare. They were making a TV show.

ConvergenceRI: Story telling is probably the most human endeavor; it is what makes us human, it allows us to share what’s gone before us with what will happen after we are gone. You were talking earlier about Alfred Hitchcock and the way he set up his scenes, cinematically.
HANNOCK:
It’s rather curious that you are asking the question, that basically defines my show that’s about to open in London in a couple of week. The title of the show is “The Oxbow: From Thomas Cole to Alfred Hitchcock.”

And, basically, it takes us from the first American art movement to the pre-Raphaelites, who are setting these stages, to Alfred Hitchcock and David Lean, another 20th century British filmmaker who would use these remarkable establishing shots. In Hollywood, they go [a Bronx cheer] and they move on.

Hitchcock had scenes in “North by Northwest” that were 30 seconds long, that sit there, and you know where you are. He takes you right into this thing, setting the stage, and the story starts.

You mentioned [in our earlier conversation before the interview began] that the challenge, for you as a TV scriptwriter, was coming up with these neat scenes and then stitching them together.

I don’t have that pressure; I can just paint a scene, and that is where the mystery for me continues. The viewer can take the scene and run with it, anyway they want. I don’t have to stitch those together.

And as you are aware, I set these vistas. I set the stage for these stories with these moods.

Starting in 1994, I literally started writing the story through the painting. I switched from painting in the dark and the dynamics of that severe contrast ratio, with literally writing throughout the painting.

But it is done in a way that the viewers can discover it [by themselves]; it’s written through the cornfields.

And, it emerged out of a challenge. Thomas Cole, who made the Oxbow famous, where we where living, never lived there.

I was living there for 17 years, and since I had no foreground, unlike Cole, I couldn’t sit there at my easel. That’s when the text started coming in there, as an extension of these palette sets.

ConvergenceRI: Have ever read Charles Dickens?
HANNOCK:
Not recently

ConvergenceRI: When Dickens was writing, or for that matter, Thomas Hardy, they would often set up these careful scenes, where everything progresses very slowly, as if you are a pedestrian traveling along the road and witnessing the same occurrences, absorbing everything that is happening along that road, before you get to the point of contact, setting up the stage for the scene.

In my art form, in writing, it is always important to set up the scene, to bring people in, so they can watch the story unfold, creating a tension around wondering what will happen next.
HANNOCK:
Do you know the movie that Clint Eastwood did a few years ago, called “The Hereafter?” It starts with a woman who died in that tsunami in Thailand, but she comes back to life. And, the parallel story is that Matt Damon’s character has had a brain injury and is clairvoyant.

The more things get intense for him, the only escape he has into Dickens, he has this obsession with Dickens, where he listens to recordings of Dickens’ books, and then he goes to England to meet Derek Jacobi, who is the voice for all of Dickens’ books on tape.

I want to start reading Dickens again.

ConvergenceRI: You have had this ongoing collaboration with Sting, which is, perhaps reflective of the collaborative nature of your work with music. One constant, it seems, over the last four decades, is the way that musical collaboration has been an integral part of your story telling.
HANNOCK:
That’s interesting; I haven’t thought about it in that way before.
What happened was that in the early 1980s, I had just moved to New York City, and I had a show of my glow-in-the-dark pieces. I did a show with Anthony Davis at the Green Street Café, it was a jazz club upstairs. Anthony was on the faculty at Yale, his dad was the head of the African American Department at Yale, and he and I always got along very well.

He would give piano recitals at my glow-in-the-dark shows.

Richard Frankel, who went to Hampshire College, wound up being the first graphic designer for MTV. [He is currently the Global Creative Director at Spotify.]

And, Richard got to know Sting through MTV.

And, as it turns out, all the men in Sting’s family, his brother, his sister’s kids, the males, are all color blind.

Sting was over visiting Richard in LA, and Richard had the smaller study for an eight-foot moody phosphorescent piece I had done, based on a photograph that Richard had sent me from Monserrat, when he was working on Sting’s first solo album.

There was this weird tree out the window, Richard took a picture of it to me, and it was just what I was looking for to complete the work [for my upcoming show].

As a thank you, I sent Richard this smaller study, a three-foot painting that glowed in the dark.

So, Sting was visiting Richard, and he sees what is essentially the first painting that he has ever been able to see the colors in.

And Richard goes, “Oh yeah, you think this is good? There’s an eight-foot version of this showing in New York right now.”

And Sting replies: “Well, I’ve got to have it.”

ConvergencRI: What happened next?
HANNOCK:
Sting can see admitted light when he’s on stage, with the colors. But in a painting, when the surface pigment receives a wash of reflective light, and kicks back that light which isn’t absorbed, it doesn’t register for him.

So Sting comes to my show, my first show in New York, which was downstairs from a Korean whorehouse on 17th Street.

At the opening, we had a preview, and Andy Rooney came, when he was working for 60 Minutes, and he ended up at the whorehouse by mistake. He hit the wrong button, and the madam ended up bringing him back down; Rooney was all red in the face.

Sting was there with Trudy, who had just given birth to Jake [whose now got kids of his own].

Sting writes out a check for $8,000, $9,000 on the spot, and tells me: “Listen, you’ve got to come out to LA and install it.”

We just clicked. The fact that I was a painter and not a musician, because there was not competition, helped.

Now, in 2018, Sting and Trudy own more work in the all the media that I work in than in any other private or public collection. [Sting and Trudy Styler recently received honorary degrees from Brown University at the 2018 commencement.]

ConvergenceRI: Can you describe a little bit more about the collaboration and why is it so important to you as an artist? As I am sitting here talking with you, it is remarkable that we can pick up the conversation that we began 40 years ago. I think about the ways that our sense of communities have changed, how difficult it can be to engage with each other, to find that point of convergence.
HANNOCK:
What I will mention first is an overwhelming frustration that I have with just what you mentioned. Because, it’s really easy to hit buttons with sound bites, and get people to fly to the edges.

This is, of course, what we see Trump using, just masterfully. I should say, the Russians are using it masterfully, because they divided everybody, not just into two halves, or two extremes.

Going back to the cultural side of that, the real potential for adventure is to communicate within a community; fascinating ideas cannot possibly be achieved or mapped with sound bites.

ConvergenceRI: Can you talk a bit more about your collaboration with Sting?
HANNOCK:
We had a fascination about what each of us were doing at the time we met. He was really nervous about leaving the Police, but he really had to do this.

It was like, when they asked Bob Dylan, after he [allegedly] retired, and then he came back to play music: Why did you decide to come out of retirement? And he said: I am hearing music in my head that I’m just not hearing anywhere else.

We would just kind of play off this collaboration for years. But then, at the end of the 1990s, his hometown of Newcastle, the everyman of post-industrial cities, on steroids, won a lottery to build a new performance arts complex.

Newcastle had made all of the ships for 30 percent of the planet; they had delivered much of the coal. But then the entire ship building industry shut down, there were a million people out of work in northern England.

Now, slowly, the post-industrial city of Newcastle was bouncing back on the wings of cultural activity.

The folks asked Sting to sing at the ribbon cutting at the completion, which was going to be in 2004.

Sting asked me: Do you think there’s a painting here?

I responded: I’m sure we can come up with something.

The more research I did, I learned that the Romans had picked up these chunks of coal on the beach. The coalmines in Newcastle, the tunnels didn’t go down, the way that we are used to seeing them in West Virginia, they went out, three miles under the sea.

The use of coal became obsolete when the ship industry closed, not the coal.

I learned about these painters, they would get off their shifts in the coalmines, grab their paints, and paint their brethren underground. They were self-taught; they became known as the pitmen painters.

I didn’t know anything about this, and Sting didn’t much about them, either. He grew up literally on a shipyard; at the end of his street, on Gerald Street, there was a shipyard.

One of the first stories he told me was how he and his mates would be playing football on the streets, what Americans call soccer, and as the days would go by, these giant walls of steel would be built for the ships, and they would block out the light of day.

He has a great lyric from his song, “The Last Ship”: As a mountain of steel makes its way to the sea and the last ship sails.

And the line: the roar of the chains and the cracking of timbers/the noise at the end of the world in your ears.

The album he made was succinctly autobiographical, and in many ways, the painting he asked me to do for the ribbon cutting reflected that concept.

That set us off on a journey that became this Northern City Renaissance series, telling the stories about Newcastle. But in the most recent paintings, I have done four or five, it has taken on a whole other [dimension], not just about Newcastle, but the stories about the United Kingdom, basically, the course of empire.

ConvergenceRI: Anything else you would like to talk about?
HANNOCK:
You haven’t missed anything. You go right to heart with your questions.

DAVID: [a friend of Hannock’s sitting in on the interview]: What about the Ophelia paintings?

HANNOCK: The Ophelia story is basically the story of my wife, Bridget, and her trials, a critical side story in my life. The Shakespearian story of the character paralleled, uncannily, the story of my wife.

Not so much her passing, but her suffering a stroke, that left her incapacitated. The story of the discovery of her ailment [an inoperable brain tumor] you can’t make up. We are literally watching the planes fly into the World Trade Center towers 20 blocks south of our apartment. The phone rings, and it’s the doctor telling her she’s got a brain tumor.

“Honey, we have to get to a neurologist immediately,” she said. So we took our little baby and went to the hospitals, only to find all the doctors throughout the city were at emergency rooms, waiting for the patients that were never to arrive.

But the story I tell in my work, in different permutations, is working with an image of her, taken from images when she and I modeled for Chuck Close’s Adam and Eve series.

In the Ophelia pieces, I’ve embraced the images of these pre-Raphaelites, [such as John Everett Millais]. I have actually painted a little stretch of the Hogsmill River, where Millais painted for five months, and then went back to his study and put his model for Ophelia into this [image].

The oxbow has become sort of a metaphor of a stage for me. That’s just another link to the episodes of my stories. I recreated the Hogsmill river, I turned it into a little Oxbow, and there are a whole series of permutations with every show that I do.

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