Promethia is a painting that I created during the early stages of my career, and it remains one of my most striking artworks to date. It is a fusion of figurative art and modern architecture that captures the imagination and embodies a sense of hope, beauty, and progress that is as relevant today as it was when I first painted it.
There are two versions of Promethia, almost identical, one from 1981 and the other in 2013. The inspiration for the painting came from two sources: the construction site of the UCSC Library, where I used to ride my Stingray bike in the late 1960s, and my adventurous friend Jennifer Trainer. The library's futuristic design and the eucalyptus forest surrounding it made it look like an alien spaceship, and it sparked my vision of Promethia. Jennifer, a co-author of the book Nuclear Power: Both Sides, was a fascinating character who could flow from grunge to posh effortlessly. We shared an interest in Ayn Rand's philosophy, and she agreed to model for my first narrative work.
The painting depicts the rebirth of figurative art, specifically a sculpture in our contemporary world. Jennifer posed for the painting in a large stretch of desert east of Rancho Mirage, and I turned her posing into a painting of a female nude sculpture in the setting of the desert with the UCSD Library as a contemporary urban setting.
The central figure in the composition is the image of a marble sculpture of a young woman with a proud, self-confident posture and expression. Behind the sculpture is one of the library's ramps and a panoramic view of the desert landscape, the San Jacinto Mountains, and the cerulean blue Southern California sky. The bottom half of the library, an inverted pyramid shape, is prominent on the upper right side of the canvas.
To create a realistic scene, I blended three separate elements: the made-up sculpture, the desert, and the library. The texture of the bushes, highlights in the mountains, and building's cement layers added some painterly touch to the overall smooth surface.
The painting's combination of modern architecture and figurative art, with influences from Ancient Greek sculpture, modern architecture, and Salvador Dali's style, makes it a unique contemporary artwork. For me, figurative art and modern buildings are driven by making sense, while abstract art and boxy classical architecture are overly simplistic and lack imagination or reason.
The takeaway from the Promethia painting is pride in being, respect for the earth, and optimism for our future. It's a powerful reminder of our human potential for advancement and our responsibility to protect the environment. It's also a testament to the enduring value of figurative art and its relevance in our modern world.