Celebrator 1974. Oil on canvas 50" x 60"


Celebrator was inspired by the then-waning "counterculture" era. Woodstock, Haight/Ashbury, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and other elements of the time were receding into the collective past, though oriental religions, psychedelic drugs and Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf were still "in". Ennui and "internal exile" within oneself had begun surfacing.

The theme of decadence is seen in the absence of the celebrator himself from the picture.

The composition places an emphasis on symmetry. I had been influenced by a visit to Japan, where I'd met a Japanese art student from the same college I had attended 15 years earlier. We'd been introduced by a visiting Kenyan artist, there on behalf of his government. The art student used meticulously balanced and measured symmetry over the entire pictorial surface of her drawings. I was impressed by her mirror-like composition.

In Celebrator I tried to create an internal interaction of mirror images by the interplay of identical forms, one "positive", one "negative". This was employed to connote an undercurrent of ‚ÄĚkarma" or metempsychosis. I had originally planned to duplicate the background environment of the basement room within the portrait inside the painting, obtaining the echoing effect of self-reflection. The idea was discarded because of fear of overcrowding the composition, which might obscure my thematic contention.

In the picture, the artillery shells (from the battleship Maine, property of Mr. Robert Riker, Long Island, NY), reflect the fall of the Vietnam War into history, while the Celebrator, himself a self-absorbed image, sits surrounded by glittering objects in a bleak basement room, dimly lit by a single candle.

The actual dim lighting of the painting is at least partly a result of working under intense lighting, which consisted of five floodlights and four fluorescent tubes. Consequently, it is best viewed under strong light.

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