Saturday, October 11, 2014

Entry - 10.11.14

“All methods are sacred if they are internally necessary.  All methods are sins if they are not justified by internal necessity.”
-          Wassily Kandinsky

Once towards the end of his life, I heard him make the following rejoinder to a journalist who seemed to be astonished by his crippled hands:
“With such hands, how do you paint?” the man asked, crudely.
“With my prick,” replied Renoir, really vulgar for once.
-          Jean Renoir (on his father, Pierre-Auguste Renoir)

“Remember that a painting – before being a war horse, a nude woman, or some anecdote – is essentially a flat surface covered with colors arranged in a certain order.”
-          Maurice Denis

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter.  Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.”
-          Andrew Wyeth

A few years ago, I was planning on starting up a website on which I would display my artwork.  I thought that it would be a good idea if, rather than just presenting screens of images, I included quotes that would help the viewer better understand what I was up to.  So, for a number of weeks, I would, as they occurred to me, jot down my thoughts concerning my work and process, which I later organized into a couple of sensible categories.  Nothing as spiritual as Kandinsky or as pithy as Renoir or as profound as Denis or as poetic as Wyeth – just informative explanations and observations.  Anyone who has read a few of my blog entries should know that, when it comes to writing about art, I try to present readily graspable concepts, to justify my assertions with comprehensible evidence, to avoid romanticizing.  I would say that it is my intention to write “plainly” about art and leave it to the individual viewer to furnish the mystery.  When I was finished, I had a couple of pages of material which addressed my development and production from my student days until the present.  Unfortunately, the website never came to fruition, and I completely forgot about my collection of quotes until about a week ago when I came across it while searching through my computer’s folders for another document.  After reading it through, I thought the material was presentable and determined that I would devote a blog entry to it, inclusive of a number of images relating to my words.  Recycling is a good thing.

Student Works:

“Early on, I was drawn to the work of Edvard Munch, James Ensor, Egon Schiele and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and soon developed an Expressionist style of portraiture, whereby I rapidly recorded my sitter’s features in broad, thick brushstrokes of pure tones.  My goal was to lay bare the hidden personalities of my models, exposing their eccentricities, ticks and anomalies.  I suppose my thinking was that by exploring these things in my models, I was ultimately critically examining the social milieu in which I had matured, in which I was at that time living.”

Wickham - Franziska Normann-Young (Acrylics) - 1980

Wickham - John Matthews (Oils) - 1981

Wickham - Lisa I (Oils) - 1981

“I feel privileged to have studied with a number of capable artists during my years of formal education: Howardena Pindell, Sam Gelber, Lee Bontecou, Philip Pearlstein and Allan D’Arcangelo, among others.  There was definitely no dominant stylistic approach stressed during my years of study.  Teaching methods ranged from strict technical instruction to the promotion of free-spirited, unrestrained personal exploration.”

Wickham - Pat Lohrs (Oils) - 1983

Wickham - Dichotomy (Oils) - 1983
“I finished Grad School about 25 years ago and, since then, have gotten very little feedback on my work.  Though I believe there are clear benefits to working independently, I miss the dialogue, the sense that there is an interest in my work.  It’s a bit like running a marathon without the crowds or finish line.  It’s all got to come from within.”

“My years of studying Art were some of the best in my life.  I didn’t realize at the time how fleeting this period of concentration on intellectual development within a supportive and attentive community would prove to be.”

Drawings, Watercolors and Prints:

“Especially during my undergraduate days, it was important to me that my drawings were immediate, that I committed to a line before my pencil even touched the paper.  Line was essential – the more emphatic, the better.  If left to my own devices, I used almost exclusively a 6B pencil, would never erase a line and eschewed nuanced shading.”

Wickham - Figure Drawing (Graphite) - 1980

Wickham - John Matthews (Conte Crayon) - 1980

Wickham - Self-Portrait (Graphite) - 1980

“Drawing was stressed throughout my college education but particularly during my undergraduate years.  Students were required to fill an entire sketchbook for each studio course every semester, so I always carried a pad and pencil with me everywhere I went.  It was a very demanding activity, especially when my schedule included several studio courses each requiring an independent sketchbook.  After several years of following this discipline, I developed into a fairly capable draftsman.”

Wickham - Sneakers (Graphite) - 1981c

Wickham - Hands (Graphite - Study for Oil Portrait) - 1985

Wickham - Pears (Graphite) - 1983

“Today I seldom draw except for making preparatory sketches for paintings.  These drawings have little or no artistic merit, serving solely as sources of information for other works.  When I recognize the quality of my earlier sketches, I regret having lost that hard-won virtuosity.”

“I studied printmaking at Stony Brook which, the coursework being focused on addressing technical issues with the goal of producing consistent, sizeable editions, didn’t inspire me creatively.  At the same time, I discovered the prints of Munch and the German Expressionists and was floored.  I found the work to be innovative, elemental, defiant and, most importantly, emotionally gripping.  Thus began my decades-long independent exploration of printmaking techniques, primarily linocuts and woodcuts.”

Wickham - Martin Kyle-Milward (Linoleum Cut) - 1997

Wickham - Terre Anne (Woodcut) - 1999

Wickham - Dawn Bodden (Woodcut) - 1998
“I was never comfortable with watercolors but a few years ago started experimenting with them because of their portability.  In the beginning, I would often take a ride in my car, see an interesting view and park on the roadside to spend an hour or two on a painting.  It was a great release for me to work on something immediate, something not so precious.  Over time, I naturally drifted back to the figure and hopefully brought to my paintings some of the looseness I had acquired from the early landscapes.  I’m still learning the technique.  I’m truly a novice.” 

Wickham - Unionvale (Watercolor) - 2007

Wickham - Richard (Watercolor) - 2008


“I tend to grasp things too tightly, to refuse idiotically to give up that with which I’m comfortable.  It was that way with my portrait work.  It had dried up long ago.  All the spontaneity had been sapped out of the process.  Yet I couldn’t give it up.”

“It’s a simple walk over a bridge.  Nothing momentous.  But when you get to the other side, you look back and recognize that you’ll never go back that way again.”

“Two realizations pushed me to make headway in my development.  First, I recognized that my early portraits were actually all self-portraits, in that I was seeking in my sitter indications of the very deficiencies and inhibitions that vexed me about myself.  Second, I understood that I did not hold faith in the kind of critical analysis I was engaged in, one that purported to pierce through façades and reveal a hidden truth.”

“I became obsessed with dualities and contradictions.  More than anything, I was interested in images that seemed to embody opposing energies: creation and destruction, birth and death and sex and violence.  It wasn’t until many years later that I discovered that there was an entire genre of art that addressed the Eros-Thanatos relationship, that Freud had been interested in similar pairings.”

Wickham - Untitled (Oils) - 1984
“I wanted to free myself from didactics and pedagogy, to present images that embodied the ambiguity and amorality which was inherent in my world.”

Wickham - The Beach (Triptych-Oils) - 1984
“I worked loosely and intuitively, experimenting with brushwork, mediums and grounds and employing the full range of techniques that I had mastered over years of study.”

“Abstraction was key to duality.  It permitted me to suggest activities and processes without branding them.”

Wickham - The Ladies of Paris (Oils) - 1985

Recent Paintings:
“Eventually I found that the abstractions had become mechanical, that the process of disguising or obscuring detail wasn’t as engaging”

“It didn’t happen overnight.  No, it was more like a stuttering, inconsistent transformation that literally took years.  But slowly my interest in the figure was rekindled.”

“In the early nineties, I spent a year or two addressing technical concerns, especially seeking to better understand how energetic brushwork and impasto surface layering related to illusionistic imagery.  In my explorations, I chose to restrict myself to painting small scale, frontal portrait heads.  This wasn’t wasted time.  In the end, I developed a more organic approach to painting in which technique was determined by immediate purpose.”

Wickham - Urs Diriwachter (Oils) - 1994

Wickham - Franz Amrhein (Oils) - 1995

“I didn’t walk away from the themes I was exploring in my abstract work.  I just addressed them in a different vocabulary.  Duality, contradiction and ambiguity continue to inspire much of my work.”

“I appreciated the boundaries, took pleasure in submitting to the discipline that working from the figure demanded.”

“My paintings often suggest a narrative that seeks an elusive resolution, that presents a drama that defies apprehension.  I sometimes call them incomplete myths or charged moments.”

Wickham - Ball and Cup (Oils) - 2000
“I am interested in themes of fragility and vulnerability because within them is an implied potential for significant and disastrous change.  On an emotional level, empathy seems unavoidable.  We cannot help but get sucked into the drama.  What’s happening here?  Where will this moment lead?”

Wickham - Winter II (Oils) - 2004

Wickham - The Edge of the Woods (Oils) - 1999
“The work has become more quiet and subtle lately, less suggestive and dramatic.  I’m more interested in nuance than before.  Perhaps this has occurred in response to my perception that artwork that is outrageous and explicit, regardless of quality or content, can find a ready reception in today’s market.  I want to avoid any path that seems too easy.”

“It is really absurd to be doing easel painting in 2011.  I recognize that, but I cannot give it up.  There’s something addictive about the intensely private dialogue I maintain with the medium.”

“I don’t need a committee to approve of my projects.  I don’t need to secure financing to make my concepts reality.  I don’t have to locate a site that will accommodate my creations.  I don’t require a work-crew to assist with construction.  I don’t have to consider critics or the marketplace.  I don’t even have a public to react to my work.”

I encourage all to comment here.  If you would prefer to comment privately, you can email me at

1 comment:

Cara Wood-Ginder said...

I thought that was really amazing to be able to remember your influences and put them down and have examples of your student work like that. Very interesting to read, and I thought it worked very well as a blog entry, good thing you saved your writing and thanks for posting it! Love your work and it's neat to read about your thinking. I love the post about the painting that Charlotte and Emma are in too! I tried to send you an email and it kept bouncing back.
Thank you!
Keep up the great work.