“Babel,” Acrylic on canvas. 48”x36

“Train,” Acrylic on panel, 40”x30”

“Tower," Acrylic on panel. 40”x30”

“Tower Ex-Voto,” Wood & paint. 31”x18”

In 1942, my father, Max, and his brother, Karl, were interned in Westerbork transit camp in the Netherlands. From there, they were transported to Theresienstadt concentration camp, then to Aushwitz. In the war’s closing days, they were moved to Buchenwald. We are grateful for their survival.

Karl Hess noted, “Much has been written, more said, but those who experienced the most are no longer alive.”

“Stacks,” Acrylic on canvas, 48”x36”

“Racks," Acrylic on panel, 40"x30”

“Skylight,” Acrylic on panel, 24”x18”

“Vault,” Acrylic on panel, 24”x18”

“Planks,” Linocut, 22”x30”

“Étant Donnés,” Wood & paint, 8”x8”


The question I set out to address with this work is: can there be an absolutely representational picture which addresses the mainly formal and expressive concerns which traditionally comprise an abstract picture? As an artist, I have been chiefly occupied with representational art, but there have been times that I’ve wished I could indulge my desire to occasionally practice non-objective painting without sidelining my main line of work.
Depictions of wood, I decided, would be an appropriate vehicle for this art challenge. While the lumber forms create an avenue for constructing compositions, the wood grain provides an opportunity for contained expressionistic gestures. Wood — planks, boards, timbers, etc. — should be the only element existing in these works.
As work progressed, and paintings got underway, I became aware that there was more going on than simply compositions of horizontals, verticals, and diagonals. I was depicting the studio ceilings, the industrial spaces, the raw materials that partially make up the stuff of an artists’ life. And I began to think more about this material I was representing — once-living things extinguished and pressed into a second life of utilitarian service. Examined in this light, the pictures began to take on aspects of the human journey. We are a plank among planks, looking toward the sky and questioning the limitations of the material existence, journeying in a boat, ending in a vault. And the question: can there be any sort of second life for us beyond this tangible world? If so, hopefully, something a bit richer than the afterlife of a tree.