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St. Michael's Church, and Rectory,, 424 West 34th St., formerly an Irish immigrant neighborhood had a growing Spanish speaking community.   My studio occupied  a large space located on the fifth floor with the 3 dormers. My space, facing North, included the center dormer and the one to the left. Housekeeper, oil on canvas, 1960.  St. Michael's clergy & staff were Irish. My painting was  intended as  social commentary on the ethnic  transformation at San Miguel on the "West Side".

New York, 1960-1962 
In 1960  the monastery sent  me to NY to pursue specialized studies in both art history and studio practice.  The monastery had an arrangement in mid-town Manhattan with St. Michael's  Parish  located on West 34th Street between 9th & 10th Avenue.  In exchange for residence at Saint Michael’s I was assigned part time pastoral duties. During this period I  pursued studies at NYU, Columbia and Pratt Institute. In my NY years I maintained a modest studio in an unoccupied room on the top floor of the St Michael Rectory located opposite the entrance to the Hudson Tunnel a few blocks from Penn Station.  This was the Manhattan neighborhood of the West Side Story and this Parish was adapting to its growing Spanish speaking community.

The shock of this move from the peaceful solitude of the monastery in Western Pennsylvania wore off as I adapted to the sound and tempo of city life. The painting below was painted shortly after I  had set up my NY studio.
 

Monk on West 34th St., 1960
4 ft by 4 ft, oil on canvas.

Living as a monk on west 34th Street, unlike the monastery,  included the  rush hour with crowds of people. The tall buildings and the sign with a "Y" recalls the YMCA on 34th Street as well as a question "why".  This, and other paintings during my first year there, display the influence of Ben Shahn whose work appealed to me for its social consciousness.

Within 4 to 6 months  my approach would shift to experimentation with visual  form   informed by both constructivist traditions and Abstract Expressionists whom I came to know personally.. I was especially influenced by the Journal "It Is", edited by Philip Pavia, and the documents of modern art series edited by Robert Motherwell.

Harpers Bazaar, August, 1962, " Young Americans & the well mixed party", pp.88-89.

Feature profiles myself, left of centerfold facing right and conversing with John Chamberlain (with mustache) whose junk sculptures demonstrated the power of an informed use of refuse.  Andy Warhol, farther right, back to back with Chamberlain, was emerging then as a major innovator of what would become known as "pop art". Warhol attended Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh during the period when I was at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
 

With the help of advisors and friends I established contact with older New York  abstract expressionists as well as younger artists involved with emerging op, pop, neo-dada, and minimalist trends. Helen Farr Sloan,  wife of the late John Sloan,  met regularly with me and became my  mentor on the earlier generation of New York painters. Stephen Joy, the Martha Jackson Gallery curator, who mounted the 1959 "found object" show, knew many of the emerging artists in New York,  and became a lifelong friend.. Studio visits and meetings with artists as diverse as Barney Newman, Fritz Eichenberg, Ad Reinhard, and George Brecht  led me to become familiar with  the struggles these  artists experienced as they wrestled with their art.  I  learned that many searched for spiritual fulfillment through their art in a manner similar to that of the monks in their spiritual quest.  From these experiences I came to feel a kinship with cutting edge arts movements and found myself challenging  many of my own assumptions about my life and my pursuit as an artist..
 

Sunrise on West 34th St1962,  c. 30" by 42" oil on canvas
 
Untitled #4, 1961,  c.16" by 36" 
gesso and acrylic on woo
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 Untitled #2, 1961, c.16" by 36" 
gesso and acrylic on wood

 

Untitled #1, 1961, 24" by 36"
gesso and acrylic on wood. 

Above:  In New York I began working with wood panels with a gesso base. Using thin washes of acrylic rubbed over the surface I was able to achieve the effects of floating forms that would become an integral part of my New City series. These forms emerged from the influence of Mark Rothko.  At the same time I experimented with hundreds of drawings using spontaneous pen and brush strokes. Eventually automatic drawing would be integrated in my New City paintiongs.

Below: My New York period also included other work that related more directly to my monastic interests.
 

 

<< Crucifix: clay, wood, acrylic
14" by 14"

This work was made in January of 1962 while I was still in residence at St Michael's on West 34th Street.

 

Within another year my work began to consciously incorporate visual ideas that from both constructivist and expressionist art of the early 20th Century.

This crucifix embodied the ideas that would  inform  my art  in the 1960's. It represents my spiritual journey at St. Vincent, a journey that deeply informed the course of my life. Currently it is located in my Minneapolis home.


WINTER 1960-61.  PRATT GRAPHIC ART CENTER, MANHATTAN

Although the New York experience led me to new perspectives on art & spirituality,  I did not entirely abandon my earlier work. When I had the opportunity to work with Fritz Eichenburg and Andy Stasik  at Pratt Institute's new Graphic Art Center in Manhattan, I undertook a series of etchings on the Stations of the Cross.  There I learned of the post WWII revival of printmaking and the work of Hayter in Paris who had influenced the revival in New York.
 


First: Jesus is Condemned

Third: Jesus Falls the First Time

Fourth: Jesus meets his mother.

Eighth: Jesus meets women of Jerusalem

Above:  Etchings for the "Stations of the Cross", 1960/61, 17.5" by 22.5", plates are 12" by 17.5"  The images show the influence of George Roualt whose work was well known to me.  The series was never completed. These  images were scanned  from proofs & prints that I had kept. I intended to complete  the series and pull an edition when  I returned to the monastery.

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