Before I became a painter I was a Broadway producer. When I produced Broadway shows I was betting on other people’s talents. My fate was not in my own hands. It was in the hands of the critic of The New York Times and the director who was usually quite mad. And I had to pay him anyway. When I paint I am creating something with my own hands, my own mind, my own imagination. And if the painting gets a bad review it’s still there. It doesn’t disappear like the show. And best of all I don’t have to worry about making mistakes.
A few years ago I did a painting from a photograph I had taken of some women bathing in the Ganges. I painted for several hours. When I stopped I was horrified. The women’s heads were too big. Their arms and legs looked like tree trunks. Everything was distorted! I threw the painting out with the garbage. The next morning the painting was still there. The super of the building said there was a garbage strike. I had to bring the painting back into my studio.
That day a member of London’s Royal Academy came to visit. After looking at my paintings he said, “I want to exhibit your paintings in London, and we’ll have that one there, the one with the wet paint leaning against the wall. What’s it called?” “Uh, Indian Bathers.”
A critic reviewed my London exhibition and wrote, “Mr. Black’s inspirational approach works when design combines with color intensity in ‘Indian Bathers’ where the overall pattern of figures strongly suggests the exotic generosity of Hindu temple carving.” The painting was sold to the vice-president of Lloyds of London who hung it in his home next to a Picasso.
When I painted Indian Bathers it was a magical experience. The painting was telling me what to do. I threw the painting away because it did not live up to my expectations. I did not realize I had painted what I was feeling. Painting is a magical experience for me because I am not in control of what is happening. There is something truly miraculous about it.
24 x 30"