A Gallery of Art
From a Contemporary American Artist

Artist's Statement

Photo by Sara Schwartz


The creation of art through painting has been the driving impulse of my life for as long as I can remember. Growing up in Chicago, I painted realistically because of the joy and delight I took in capturing the world I saw before me. In my late teens I had the good fortune of finding a mentor, the painter Bob Novak, who introduced me to the theories of Hans Hoffman and permanently altered my perception of painting. My early work was representational, the primary subjects being figures and landscapes. During a year in Europe my work became progressively more abstract. By the time I moved to New York I had abandoned representational painting altogether.

For much of my life I have made my day-to-day living as a musician and this has left a conscious and subconscious impact on the way I express myself visually. The music that I consider the most profound, most moving and most magical is polyphonic. Just as polyphony is several lines of music being played simultaneously, so what I describe as polyocular painting has several compositions existing within the same conception of space. The compositions are independent and interdependent. Each composition stands on its own but is organically related to the others. When perceived as a complete entity the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

There was an event in my life that inspired me to integrate the human figure with the discoveries I had made while working in a purely nonobjective style. This happened when, approached by a choreographer at one of my exhibition openings, I was asked to design costumes and background paintings for a program of modern dance. As I watched the dancers perform in and around my creations, I discovered a new direction for my painting. These dancers eventually became my models and their ability to express themselves physically added a new sense of drama to my work.

More recently I have been using other visual stimuli (wilted roses, bronze statuary) as a jumping-off point. The use of these subjects in a three- to five-part polyocular composition produces the visual equivalent of chamber music, the separate parts clashing and intertwining, rich in dynamics and emotion.

Whatever style I choose to work in, certain elements remain consistent. The nature of the universe is to grow outward from a center point, whether it's an atom, a plant, the human body or a solar system. This is the law of life and if a painting aspires to life then it too must be an evolving, revolving multi-dimensional poetic expression on its two-dimensional surface.

Color is what makes painting painting. The perception of color is one of the most ineffable experiences in the world. Despite the inadequacy of language to convey how color communicates there are a few things I can say about it. No individual color holds any particular emotional or psychological significance to me any more than does one note on the musical scale. The magic of emotional recognition comes in the relationships of different colors to each other. As to how I come up with these relationships all I can say is the colors are both instinctively and intellectually derived.

Thomas Mitz, New York City, 2006