The future turned out different than I expected. Many of the same artists who were famous in the 1960's are still famous ,still selling and exhibiting though they are quite dead. Dead doesn't seem to stop one's career in visual arts indeed it maybe easier without the artist around to say things and do things that may upset the clients. Years ago a typical tombstone advertisement in an art magazine would note the artists represented who were deceased, it might say Estate of so and so now however dead artists are just marketed without notice of this change of status . Picasso who died in 1973 is still hugely famous sucking up lots of sales and doing lots of shows despite being dead for 40 years. So the competition we face for sales is with the living and the dead. Many of the artist who came to our attention in the 1960's are dying, but that doesn't seem to affect their careers and sales. Look at Francis Bacon getting huge sums for his work even years after passing. Now one could say it's a good thing, which it is for those who own the artist's work but still it does draw attention to the odd sort of immortality that success gives an artist thanks to commercial success. I enjoy Francis Bacon's painting alright and I can understand why it is so beloved but it also has it's detractors, it's a bit sick and it just isn't exactly what I look for in terms of my personal sensibility. Then again it's something so processed by time by criticism that it's hard to see it with fresh eyes like I did as a 17 year old art student the first time I saw Bacon's paintings in a big expansive survey in the early 1960's. Then it seemed more alarming, all that empty linen all that dry brush and all those smeary faces. And when you see it in a big museum you can't help but buy into the idea that this is it, this is the real deal.
But you have to find your own way as an artist, influence is the main driver in youth, your work often looks like someone else's work and that can be uncomfortable. I remember leaving my final graduate crit with the visiting artist Peter Saul and his advice to me was don't get too interested in other artist's work. And that advice stuck eventually though it took me a while to get out from under Saul's influence. As much his energy as his art. He was a very inspiring cat in 1968. His criticisms were very direct and made you question the premises you were acting upon. After leaving California and returning to the Midwest I began to examine my art more in terms of intensity and impact rather that some sort of Post Clem Greenburgian formalist ideas. For a long while I just let it out let it flow and the results were very unusual and very young. What I learned though was what Saul meant by personal was really the central way we find our own voice. It took me a while but I found myself in the midst of my own personal experiences my desires my fears etc, Over time I developed a more personal style based on being true to my own experiences (which had been rather unusual and intense) . The first manefestation of my personal style was making things that were contradictory with comic style and formal inquiries that both obsessed me equally. These paintings were oddly inspired by Jackson Pollock's overall paintings and the grotesque images I thought of as caricatures. Lots of repetition lots of color and trying to make over all paintings without centers of interest or making any part of the painting more important than another. I did that for several years with some success but also pushing back at the formal device as I became interested in mysticism and symbolism. Of course the work was misread then but that didn't matter as much as following the crumbs on the floor of the forest of my unconscious. My madness was injected into the process as if I'd cure myself through painting. When my coherence returned I came to realize that my art was my life and my sanity however it might appear to the outside to me it was the way out of my illness.
It took me a long time to accept my work as my own, I had lost my mind and I found my way back through various inquiries and processes. Most significant was I became less outer directed and more accepting of myself and my art. I became who I was which took me to my more distressing works. I tried to picture the struggle I was engaged with in relationships and struggles with ideas that were dominating the arts as I aged. Whatever becomes of my art it has certain properties that will give it life chief among these is color. Color and image have been my obsessions. Color is the great unifier, it brings all the work together over 50 years of my practice.