What are the last three emojis you used?
I have no idea. I will say, though, that the martini emoji is my favorite (I’m a martini drinker), but I use it only when appropriate and meaningful!
Who do you see as your contemporaries? Whose art is yours in conversation with? If there aren’t any other artists whose work you see your own in, are there structures, places, or other notable influences on you?
[In addition to my friends in Ab8,] there are a few painters in New York that have become friends and whose work resonates with me: Sarah Walker, Gordon Moore, and Erick Johnson. And my friend and former colleague, Ken Tisa, is always an inspiration for me just as he was for my students who took his “Personal Narrative” class.
With regard to other influences, my paintings are very much about my visual world. They are the product of a process that I call indirect observation. Things that I notice in my travels—structures, shapes, relationships—are internalized and find their way into the work, often emerging in unexpected ways. There is a feedback loop between my studio and this visual world: I notice things that look like what I’ve painted and I tend to paint things that look like what I notice. And, no surprise, Baltimore is the center of my visual world. The careful viewer will see many Formstone-like moments in my paintings.
Do you believe in astrology, and if so what insights can your sign give our readers into your personality and mindset?
I’m not sure that I believe in it exactly, but having said that, I’m a Virgo and exhibit many of the traits associated with that sign; I tend to be logical, practical, systematic, and meticulous. And, like most Virgos, perfectionism is both a driving force and Achilles heel. I should also add that I’m the son of a Virgo and, given my German genes, I come by these traits thanks to nature and nurture.
Who are your art or career heroes and what do you look to them for? Do you have anyone whose work you’ve always admired or whose career you’d like to emulate or just someone you think would be a cool person to have coffee with? Why were/are they the coolest?
Tom Noskowski, who passed away in 2019, is one of my favorite painters. I never got to meet him, although a few of my former students studied with him at Rutgers. Not only was he a great (and influential) painter, he was renowned for his intelligence, generosity, and humility. The way he talked about art and life was as brilliant as it was down-to-earth. He could also be very funny in a wry and understated way.
What have you learned the hard way?
I think that pretty much everything of value to me I learned the hard way, which is to say that I learned by doing. Someone can tell you how to do something and even demonstrate it, but you have to go through the process, fail, try again, and repeat until it becomes natural and you don’t have to think about it. With regard to my music, I’ve never taken a formal lesson. I play fiddle, guitar, and banjo and learned each one by listening, watching, and playing with people a step or two ahead of me.
What would your teenage self think of you today?
Holy shit! You/I did it!