Title: Expeting to Fly: Portrait of Neil Young
Material: oil on canvas
Sometimes when I’m writing a song I can feel there’s other things in me that are not me. That’s why I hesitate to edit my songs. If it’s something I have to think about and contrive, work at, it’s usually not that good. My best work just comes through me. A lot of times what comes through me is coming from somewhere else. – Neil Young
The proficient, prolific, precocious Neil Young began his musical career in the 1960s and has come to epitomize that decade’s lost incense. The loudest sound I’ve ever heard occurred when I was concussed by Neil Young and his band Crazy Horse in a small concrete bunker of a venue, from eight rows away. This painting began with that faraway look in Neil’s eyes when he takes leave of himself, turns all trebly and starts smearing a guitar solo around. It’s a beautiful mess, and I know he’s not there. He’s somewhere else. Down by the river, or lying in a burned-out basement, or someplace.
In this painting I resisted the cliché of depicting a guitar hero with abstract, slash and splash brush strokes that bring to mind what I imagine Leroy Neiman’s Calvin Kleins look like. Instead I apply the arcane auto-biographical and anthroposophical details and tendencies that Neil himself might use, including, here, a classic Americana decorative motif in the background (cube quilts, Whitehall glass &c.), in this case colored as Saskachawanian sky, old-time sepia and psychedelia. The various bird symbols derive from his life and art. The primitive bird imposed over the Woodstock dove is from an ancient petroglyph I saw near Jackson, Ohio.