On My Visiting Ed's Studio

Ed has taken on each of his studios with a willful determination to make something which is exclusively his and containing all he needs to feel himself in the space. He has resembled a Bowerbird bringing amulets and colored glass to its twig bower where it then performs the ritual display it is genetically destined to complete. The studios were filled with books, chains of beads, Buddhas, art of fellow artists, postcards of Paris and the Dalai Lama–everything converging and verging toward the chaotic. They were generative of, and responding to, a need to create something meaningful and beautiful, a driving force that he has lived with for as long as I have known him.

Ed has made good work in his studios but has not always been satisfied with its reception. Nor, I believe, was he able to accept the notion that, although making art was a profoundly complex and absorbing process, it could never be a completely transformational act. In the end, he was left on his own to regard and know himself more completely and to find greater self-acceptance and understanding.

Ed closed down his last studio several months ago. His decision involved a couple of things, including his desire to spend more time writing. When he was offered a show, he decided to find another studio. I went to see the space and his new work recently. It is in a bustling building on West 26th Street with elevators filled by young people with a keen awareness of how they look to others, but seemingly oblivious to the gray haired, preoccupied man in paint-covered shorts and shoes, carrying multiple book bags, who gets on and off at the 13th floor.

The new studio seems to suit Ed well, particularly at this stage in his lifelong journey as an artist. It is smaller, simpler, a rectangular footprint with a straightforward dimension of 14' x 40'. No water source, no sink. A raised floor to protect the underfloor from the mass of paint that collects from his method of pouring paint on his canvases.

Ed has brought only three objects to this new studio–a sculpture he himself made of a Santos enclosed in an old bird cage, a wonderful old stone Buddha head and a not-so-good seated Buddha I had given him years ago.

Intentionally or not, Ed has created a space in which he can see himself in a clearer light, less encumbered by some of the complexities that besieged him in the past, perhaps less intensely driven, but certainly more aware of his specific limitations and increasingly in touch with what is important to him.

His current work reflects something similar: singular images with a profound silence, weighty, but not burdened, informed by a more confident sense of what knowledge is worth conveying. These paintings seem to be more easily accessible than those he has previously made. Dillon has said that they are chilling. I think they are more appropriately described as still, with a beauty that reflects a forceful simplicity and an increased sense of stasis. Each work evokes a sensibility that is deeply layered and reaches far into Ed’s lived life. He has learned to speak in a language that he has sought in the past, but which has at times evaded him. Its meaning is amplified by its reference to The Aeneid and the remarkable poetry of Susan Stewart.

Sometimes Ed himself becomes a visitor to his studio. When he leaves new paintings to dry and for the colors to emerge, he must engage with what he finds on his return two or three days later. At times, what he discovers is different than what he left or what he intended. Sometimes he finds it very disappointing.

There is no knowing what Ed may look for in the future, or whether he’ll turn to writing and leave painting behind. But for the moment, this work seems very important and true to Ed. It reflects his having stopped for a moment in time, looked forward and back, and in painting from the perspective of his 75 years and an extraordinarily inquisitive mind, he has found something quite moving and beautiful.

– Victoria Shaw