My favorite painting of all time is Rembrandt's "Danae." I am drawn to the glow of her body, the gesture of her hand reaching towards the light, her facial expression of love, and the theme of light. Many of my major paintings are variations on art historical visual themes that I interpret in my own way, giving new twists to their themes based on my philosophy of life and art.
In my version of "Danae," she dominates the canvas while sitting off to the right of center. The setting takes place in my Idyllwild studio, which gives her a modern and natural update to the legend. I contrast her feminine, flowing, and rounded forms with vertical phallic shapes made of plastic poles, wood strips, tubular folds of material, pencils, and brushes that balance the composition in the upper left. Behind her is a still-life of my art supplies, including a small artist's wood maquette posed in exuberant joy, acting like an omniscient narrator. She is lit by two sources of light, a major and minor, coming from right angles. This was a new lighting approach for me. The major light source backlights her, giving her bright highlighted stripes running along the upper contours of her arms and right leg and giving highlights to her face. The minor light coming from our left gives the other parts of her body a soft glow.
After starting to paint her, I fully developed my new approach to color theory, notably tested through my "Wave Series" of pastel drawings. I had a choice to follow through on my original color scheme for the painting or repaint it to reflect my developments in color. I opted for the latter, which added considerable time to finishing the painting. Interestingly, that fresh reworking mirrored Rembrandt's reworking of his "Danae." Rembrandt originally finished her in 1636, but then reworked her face, hands, and arms, finishing her around 1643, some seven years later. Stylistically, Rembrandt's earlier style had a lot of ornate details, which can be seen in fabrics and elaborate gold bedposts, while her face and especially her right hand have Rembrandt's more subtle and glowing later style.
One of the highlights from many of my wonderful art experiences was when Jeanette Campbell came to visit my studio to model. We had one project in mind for the "Lady of the Lake," but while she was on a break from posing, she was sitting comfortably, glowing emotionally and literally by two light sources. I stopped that moment in time because it was so visually stunning, and we added that pose to a second painting project, "Danae."
The early legend of "Danae" was that Zeus visited her as gold coins arriving from above, making her out to be a prostitute. Rembrandt updated the legend by turning the gold coins into golden light. The new depiction of "Danae" was that she responded to Zeus's light, conveying a genuine feeling of love. In my version, her body is glowing as if she is the light source, not Zeus, which changes the legend further in that she is a glowing being in her own right.
Few people understand the enormous challenge of painting variations and adding new twists technically and humanistically on legendary themes in art history, such as I have done with "Icarus," "Promethia," "Venus," "Olympia," and now "Danae." The challenge invites comparisons with the greatest artists of all time, and I believe I am doing pretty damn good.
My "Danae" is a portrayal of a self-assured and confident woman, radiating a powerful and attractive energy that draws admirers towards her. She is depicted as independent and happy in her own skin, embodying the concept of Eudaemonia, a beautiful moment of experience that is complete in itself. This painting represents a variation on the central theme of my major works, which focuses on capturing the essence of moments of pure joy and fulfillment.