2013 was a year of many dimensions. So much was lost. So much was gained. And so much changed. Every emotion hit a peak. Every emotion hit a valley. While travelling all those miles of road along the way, something inside me made my spine stay rigid, my head stay straight, and my vision stay clear. I was forging against the resistance I faced with a sense of self-respect--and through it--creating art. It was not until I unravelled all the paintings on January 1st, 2014 at my new residence in Bushwick, Brooklyn that I realized how much I loved every piece I had created this past year. These paintings are my meditation, and because of this, I feel they are truly magical. I struggled with the decision as to whether to disclose the intimate stories and details that accompany each individual painting. As deeply personal as each painting is, I have decided to add their stories. I am grateful for every experience I have had in the past year. I am also grateful for every person who has entered my life, and for those who have exited it. Most of all, I continue to be grateful to be able to embrace my artwork each and every day. It is my magic. It is my definition. It is my Lifeboat.
In May 2013, I began creating this piece in my friend Maxine Chapman's West Ashley, South Carolina living room. After Maxine would come home from where she worked at a tea shop, we would drink beer and talk about life until the early hours of the morning. There, we would share similar stories of adventures and love. This particular work is dedicated to Maxine Chapman, as well as Danny Desimoni and Jenny Murphy...with gratitude and love.
Hamburg was painted in the basement of my Aunt's house during Fall 2013. This location holds a special place in my heart as it is a property that has been owned by the DeGraw family since 1948. It is the place where my mother, her brothers and her sisters spent their childhoods--a place with tangible energy. I think its energy flowed out into visibility in this piece.
Painted on June 3rd, 2013. All of the money that I had in the world was stolen. My bank account was emptied. Visa did not step up; my bank would not back me; and the NYPD did not seem to care. All was lost because the thief had gotten the security code to my debit card. I ended up taking matters into my own hands and tracking the thief down to an apartment. Suffice it to say that I did what I needed to do to get my money back. I walked away with every single penny that was stolen from me. Don't let anyone take advantage of you.
I met a woman. She said she loved this painting. We had awkward sex. I ended up having to sleep on the church stoop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that night. As much as I liked this woman, I felt like I was regressing into some sort of self-sabotage. I was on a mission to accomplish everything I had set out to do for the last two years. So I left her behind and kept moving forward. And, as I mentioned above, the sex was awkward.
As artists, we have two choices: work at our craft--creating the path to our lives' meaning--or work for someone else, building their dreams. The latter is the easy way out because we can work for a paycheck and some sort of security. At the same time, these people are the ones who are fighting depression, self-sabotage and drug addiction because they are not willing to express themselves through their craft. The pharmaceutical companies love these people due to their lack of ability to follow their dreams. A little over a year ago, I decided I could no longer be disrespectful to myself and I walked away from my job one saturday after my boss took the last jab at my self esteem. Shortly thereafter my Love left because she did not agree with my path, my aggressive decision, or what she thought was a lack of character. I cannot blame her, she is very successful at traversing that corporate world--she makes a great living. I, however, have to stay true to my values, my self respect, and grasp my strength. The only way I have been able to overcome all resistance is to stay true to myself; to believe and to work for my muse.
This is a small-scale painting in comparison to the rest. I was told by a woman for whom I had a great deal of admiration that if I wanted to make a living as an artist, I would have to paint on a smaller scale, and she recommended that I paint still life. She told me that no one wants art from an "Artist" that can be just as easily be created by an amateur. Her view was that painting in an abstract manner was amateurish. So I took her advice and cut off a small piece of canvas, called myself an "Artist" and threw some paint on it like an amateur because that's my style.
Ever since he was a puppy, it has been suggested that my dog Gunner has a dominance issue. Many hours have been spent trying to "break" him. I have come to learn that he doesn't have an issue. He has what I call Complete Love: the highest level of self-respect I have ever seen. The key to being happy in life comes from respecting oneself and defining one's boundaries. Amour-propre.