In 1977 a big change occurred when my mother was diagnosed as having cancer. I stopped teaching art at Yale University and moved back to Akron to take care of her. Organic forms took over my drawings as I became preoccupied with questions of life and death. I didnít stop using decision systems--that method is so general it can accommodate any metaphor or inspiration, be it musical, quantum-mechanical, psychological, biological or cosmological. What did change was what I thought about while drawing: the emotional content increased, which affected both the look of my work and what I got out of doing it. Healing became as important as learning. The best examples of this are the large delicate drawing Life, made about 2 years after my mother died, and Nova, which helped me recover (more or less) from a failed love affair in 1984.
Life is similar to several small drawings done when my motherís cancer was discovered. It is a bush that buds and branches until a bud is touched by another branch, which stops it from propagating. The important thing about Life is that the growth is self-regulating and goes on long enough that the buds lose their orientation: the most recent generations donít remember their origin.
I worked on Nova intermittently for over 3 years, starting with no plan, no image, no metaphor. It became a prolonged meditation on my relationships with other people. It was the most intensely involving and NECESSARY drawing I had ever done - so much so that soon after finishing it, I quit drawing for 9 years.
I had always tried to treat every drawing as if it were the last I would ever do. Itís like treating every word you speak as the last you will ever speak: you think very carefully about what to say. In fact I had previously stopped drawing for weeks and months at a time; I resumed whenever I thought the next drawing would be better than the last one. After Nova I just couldnít go back to decision games and exercises... but I also couldnít top Nova. So I quit.
I started again after getting married and our first child was born. An idea came for a drawing more profound than Nova, and it has stayed. But I donít yet have the vocabulary, knowledge or confidence to attempt it. Nonetheless, it started me drawing again, and my recent work is a series of preparatory steps toward that future project.
I am more than a little surprised that I was able to resume drawing after so long a lapse--not just resume, but go beyond what I had done in the 1970s and 80s. Itís as if the pause was a matter of days rather than years, refreshing rather than a loss of momentum. I just hope that I live long enough to do the drawing that motivated me to start again.
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