By the time I visited the Bernheim Aboretum and Research Forest in Kentucky, I had researched the site online and secured a copy of a hefty 2010 book documenting the history and scope of its remarkable project. My contemplation in advance of an artist’s residency there focused on the idea of the cultivated landscape in light of what’s wild: the arboretum and the forest. Much of the work that grew from that time was in response to this double frame as I proceeded with my intuitive collecting of images: the photographing of birds and the different bodies of water; the landscapes, both domesticated and wild; images gathered as the raw material I would use in the studio to construct the finished works that such an opportunity engendered. For instance, I had spent an afternoon photographing birds from behind a glass wall at Bernheim’s Education Center and brought back many examples as raw files to further consider. In the studio, I added flat planes of primary colors to some of my bird images after reading about Ellsworth Kelly’s experience as a young man, birding in rural New Jersey and discovering ideas about form and color that he would bring to his mature work as an artist. Blue Jays Looking at Blue turned out to be a direct response to learning about Kelly’s experience and applying it to mine; Seeing Red soon followed. When I added a yellow bird to the mix, I realized that another American Modernist, Barnett Newman, was also in the studio with me, recalling his Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue, with a single yellow zip in front of the goldfinch to shift the read of its image with a layer that would animate this bird once more.
A more extended note was struck when I printed a large flattened version of the Bernheim forest and mounted it to my studio wall. It was still early enough in the summer so that each evening the setting sun would enter my apartment windows on the 29th floor and reach across the far east wall where the image hung. It was there that I watched the Philadelphia sun slowly move across the Kentucky forest and photographed this remarkable confluence of time and light that was happening on my studio wall.