Some of the first shapes I started drawing and painting were circles. As a beginning painter, I like many others, tried painting still lives with fruit. Sure, a lemon isn’t a round circle, it is an oblong, but it was close. So were apples and oranges. The line began and ended at the same place, anywhere on the arch of the form. What was fascinating and challenging was the magic of creating volume with color. I struggled mightily, and still do, but never really learned the trick(s). Maybe you have to go to art school to do that?
After a time, I opted for two dimensional painting. My fascination with circles, however, did not end. They became flat, sometimes round or misshapen. I began to be interested in how our economic system used visual forms to represent itself (See Select Series/Economics). I got hooked on pie charts. They were cut in pieces that swirled endlessly round and round. I loved drawing lines that looked like spokes. Often I had the lines exceed the circle’s diameter. It felt like an act of rebellion against the limitations of the form I so admired. The pie charts became mandalas, forms of energy that travel outside of time and space. We humans, limited by time, were its victims, tossed hither and thither by the circle’s self-generating power. “Supply-Demand-Supply-Demand,” these were the market forces that provide the fodder that feeds the cycles that control and victimize our lives.
Some years later, I began making drawings and etchings for Traces of Sepharad. My reading of some of the proverbs insisted, again, on the circle. Proverbs often stress never ending cycles: life and death; reward and punishment; good and bad. One proverb in particular allowed me to use the circle: " What grows in the garden is what the gardener sows." A person is trapped in the cycle of reward and punishment, a cycle in which he/she participates by virtue of his choices but cannot control in terms of its outcome.
While working on TOS, I had a conversation with T.A.Perry, a Biblical and Sephardic scholar, and a contributor to the book. During our conversation about the nature of proverbs, Tony said,
“the most fulfilling moments in life are circular, not linear.” He said that tying loose ends from the past to the present, and so on, gIve one’s life a sense of fulfillment, unity, purpose and cohesion—in contrast with endlessly moving forward to here to there and yet somewhere again. His comments made me reconsider my own life. In the process, I realized my book, 31/2 years in the making was, on a deep unconscious level, an effort to connect and pay homage to my nameless unknown ancestors.
In 2009, I went on a trip to The Netherlands. Walking the streets of Amsterdam, I was smitten by the stacks of bicycles parked on the streets. Wheel on wheel, spoke alongside spoke, the complexity and repetition of circles and lines was captivating. I was particularly attracted to distressed bicycles, without wheels, disfigured and twisted by cars, rusted and seatless. Abandoned, they were homeless outcasts chained to poles or racks on sidewalks and at intersections. These orphans told a story of loss. Their story was of shattered cycles, misshapen objects of what was meant to be a perfect order. King Lear?
When I returned home, I started to improvise drawings based upon the bicycles I saw. I became obsessed with finding their true meanings. I drew them in all different poses, positions, impressing one on another. The bicycle frames became arms, legs, necks and heads. The images became symbols for thoughts I had been thinking about for years. I took the drawings and made them into prints. For a year and a half, I had no idea what many of the images meant but I knew I felt engaged and that was most important.