THE BIRTHPLACE OF INFINITY
I was very young when I first learned to write numbers, and it was the number eight that I found the most compelling: it was the only integer that, visually, had neither beginning nor end. Entranced, I drew it often.
The symbol of infinity- a sideways figure eight- was equally pleasing. But my efforts to grasp the concept it represented both fascinated and frightened me. It seemed that there could be no end to numbers, since one could always add one to create a larger number. And how could space or time be finally and definitively enclosed, with nothing outside or beyond it?
This fascination with the infinite became a terrifying obsession when, while I was still a preschooler, my Godfather’s eighteen year old son died suddenly and tragically. Overwhelmed by the grief I witnessed around me, I was faced with the dilemma of understanding what it meant for a person to die. The impossibility of numbers, space, and time never ending, and of life ending suddenly and forever, collided in my dreams. I began having repetitive nightmares of drowning in a vast sea of numbers and letters, of being crushed by a grand piano, of being borne down upon by an enormous ocean liner that loomed above me. The world seemed infinitely large, and I felt infinitely small. Unfortunately for me, my parents were able neither to enlighten nor to comfort me concerning these too large concepts. As I started to doodle and draw, a lifelong pursuit it turns out, I would seek to create worlds inside of worlds inside of worlds.
My mother died in early February of this year, at age one hundred, and it is perhaps her passing that initiated a fury of infinity paintings that has continued since then. Compelled by the concept of infinite spaces, I have always loved, drawn and painted mandalas and other visual representations of the infinite, and the infinity symbol often appears in my art. Since my art is largely abstract, it is frequently a dilemma for me to decide when a painting is finished. There is always the possibility of adding yet another level of visual reality, of creating an even more complex or detailed painting. But at some point, I must decide that the work is done, that I feel satisfied with its finiteness. I sign and date it, and declare it finished, or I leave it unsigned and hope to return to it with renewed energy in the future.
My mother’s life, it turns out, was finite, and I feel relieved that her increasingly burdensome old age is finished. There were times when I imagined that it would go on forever. Perhaps it does. I cannot really believe that she is gone, or that any of us cease to exist.
The title of this show epitomizes for me the paradox of infinity that I experience both as a person and an artist. Infinity has no birth or death, no birthplace or final resting place. A painting, on the other hand, is finite. It has spatial dimensions, was painted at a particular time, with a particular color palette, with particular materials and methods. But a painting- even a “simple” painting, can sometimes suggest the infinite, or even suggest where infinity begins or ends.
The paintings in this series are united by this concept more than by a unifying technique, palette, or method. All were completed (whatever that means) in 2012. Some were begun in previous years, but I never considered them finished when they were first executed. Many, but not all of them, use the infinity symbol as a central visual motif. They all attempt to suggest some version of a space in which I can imagine that infinity is born.