This mural was the ambitious work of youth. Never shying away from a challenge, I started what would become a very large project in a small cabin in the White Mountains of Arizona. Cramped in a one room log cabin with my dog, Chicory, I embarked on a multiple paneled watercolor that exceeded the dimensions of my make shift studio.
In retrospect, I believe that it was inspired by the towering Ponderosa pines that surrounded us at the base of Mt. Baldy in the tiny town of Grier, (population 53 with me). I was hiking with Chicory and kept noticing these piles of odd confetti-like pieces of bark fragments piling up and around every tree trunk. We sat down to catch our breath and started sifting through all these jig-saw shaped bark scales. Each one was different in the millions as I ran my hands through the rust red amoeba shapes. I was so intrigued that when I got home I started to doodle on a pad what I was playing with earlier. Little did I know at the time that the largest work of my career was just being born.
The first panel took the rectangular proportion of a microscope slide. What if I arranged four of these 3.5” x 7” units in modulated pools of brilliant watercolors; my shapes arranged and overlapping like so many paramecium. Each rectangle would blend one way and the next the other way in what I call “force vectors”. Each unit of four would form a larger unit of four, as my “bugs” got ordered into hierarchies of organisms. The random microbes were writhing into order as my microscopic vision took on the macroscopic overview. Four upon four upon four as I climbed out of my Primal Soup. Order was taking hold until I committed myself all the way sixteen foot entirety. Four two foot panels would make one four by eight foot panel. Four of those would make the entire sixteen by eight foot mural.
On the first day of this ambitious undertaking I completed one sixteenth of one sixteenth of my proposed painting! I knew I would never see it in its entirety where I was currently working, but in my mind’s eye it would be awesome, and that vision kept me going for the next year as I refined my objectives. Each panel would represent one of the four seasons as the palette would change with the seasons. I started with winter and as the thing grew panel by panel, I was setting my sights on some larger digs.
“Ordering Primal Soup” was started in 1979, and was completed in 1980. It would hang in Cooper Union’s art school for two years before it was disassembled and sold off in pieces over time. No one at the time had such a huge wall. But at least I got it out of my system and to this day have a clean record of finishing what I start.