The Neon Cowboy
From the beginning of my career, I wrote and painted with equal commitment, though my writing had been more successful. My main writing goal was capturing the small-town Texas culture that I was born into, which included an essay I wrote for a book called Literary Austin, a profile on the Broken Spoke honky-tonk where I discovered what I called the “neon cowboy.” Here within the bright honky-tonks and inauthentic country discos I found a means of exploring both this cultural facet of the urban cowboy scene and my own long-time interest in color and light. I watched the faux cowboys and cowgirls move through or sit or dance within distinct pockets of cool red shade or hot blue shadow. And in the darkest places there were always those glowing shards of color, like bits from a kaleidoscope, only suggesting what was there. I wanted to suggest as much as I wanted to apprehend. Although I realized I was, in part, encapsulating a moment in Texas history, even at times commenting upon it, that lure was always accompanied with my passion to capture a moment “within” color and light. It wasn’t just the painting itself I loved; it was the painting of the painting.
A second phase of my interest in color and light was with abstract forms, though I resist the word abstract. Abstract, with its association of chaotic randomness, complete lack of intentionality, with no reference to anything recognizable was too clichéd and not quite accurate in my case since all my abstractions held a purpose: How could I illustrate (or, more accurately, “express”) the fire-stealer Prometheus solely with color and light? Or Ares? Or Aphrodite? What would a just-blooming cactus bed look like if it were translated into just color and light? Could I write a “haiku” poem in color, light, and texture? Could I create a landscape of optical illusions? Could I bring the cosmos to earth? Color, then, became what Andre Derain called “charges of dynamite.” The result was my charging of pigment to create the phenomenon of just-beginning light and color. After all, all light begins with ignition and explosion. I wanted to get as close to that moment as possible.