Remembering Frank Lobdell by Steve Schlichtenmyer

Frank was an intense and amazing painter. I will never forget the day he invited his graduate painters to his studio at Todd shipyards in San Francisco. He planned a painting demonstration for us and I had no idea what to expect. His studio was spartan, cot in the corner, paints neatly lined up. This was no Jackson Pollock. His method of painting, while abstract, was thoughtful and deliberate, as though everything depended on getting it right. Frank was a living example of Sartre's dictum that our acts define us, that "in life, a man commits himself, draws his own portrait, and there is nothing but that portrait".

He painted slowly…first a field of green, then a swirling form… then he scraped off the swirling form and painted it a bit lower on the canvas, a slightly different hue this time. He continued…on the right a vertical blue band. Each application of paint necessitated another elsewhere on the canvas. If a single color or shape was out of place, the entire composition might collapse. Over an hour went by as we watched.

At the end, he got out his palette knife, a strong one with metal rivets in the handle, and scraped down the painting. Unbelievable. The globs of paint dropped onto the newspapers he had neatly layed out beneath the canvas prior to painting. Why, we asked. He told us that the day's painting session had moved him forward…that was all that mattered…moving forward from one's present position. RIP Frank.

The Silence of Images by Steve Schlichtenmyer

Jouster, 2015, Collage, 15 x 12 in.

I am completely liberated from figuration, free to invent the subtle and sensual visual dramas I love, with color and scale as my primary subjects. Whether made of paint, paper or photographs, I seek out tactile fragments of color that seem to have a raw poetry about them. I then combine these through a complex process of chance and deliberate choice until the image resonates. Each image is an analog of nature, but not literal representation of it.

The essence of my imagery is silence. I do not wish to illustrate the objective world or to comment on social issues. For me, this distracts from the visual power of the form by opening up an unrelated verbal dialogue in the viewer's mind. Visual meaning is conveyed more powerfully and directly with images than with words. 

Meaning emerges silently while the viewer experiences the image…similar to enjoying an inspiring passage of music or eating something delicious. The best way to understand and find meaning in my work is to avoid seeking explanation and to just experience it. More than anything, I wish for the viewer to partake in the same heightened and authentic moment I had when the image came to life. 

An image must do something, and what it does best, I believe, is to hang on the wall and assert its silence.