I did not go to art school and I am not a formally trained artist.
but i have had great teachers all my life, starting with my parents.
here's a brief tour of my life so far.
1962 painting at 5
My mother did go to art school: the Boston Museum School and had a long career as a teacher; my father was an architect who both practiced and taught and eventually became president of Boston Architectural College. They would set out the art materials and let us kids play. I didn’t aspire to be an artist; I thought I would build skyscrapers (perhaps with wooden blocks) or drive a locomotive.
1973 filmmaking AT 16
Here I am in my dorm room at Philips Exeter Academy with my trusty Bolex Super 8 camera. I had started making films a couple of years earlier, but really began to understand and experiment with film for the first time here thanks to an influential teacher and mentor, Rod Marriott. Motivated by Marriott, Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and a new-found interest in computers, I made a film about a programmer who falls asleep and is buried under a mountain of computer punch-tape by his vengeful mainframe. This is an early instance of featuring physical data in my artwork.
I went to MIT to become an engineer and instead studied History of Science at Harvard. My home at MIT was the graduate Film Department, then run by cinéma vérité pioneer Ricky Leacock. Before receiving my diploma I was hired to make a film for Exeter’s Bicentennial, then by Jerry Weisner, MIT’s president, to raise money for what became the Media Lab, and then by the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. I couldn’t believe people would pay me to have so much fun; so when I graduated in 1979, I was a filmmaker.
1980 - 1995 image presentations
For 15 years I was president of Image Presentations in Boston, a company that made films, videos and multi-media presentations, as well as direct mail, annual reports and brochures. On the corporate side we worked for Aetna Insurance, Fidelity Investments, Gillette, IBM, Parker Brothers, Polaroid, Sheraton Hotels, and many others. We also produced admissions and fundraising campaigns for about 100 schools and colleges including Carleton College, Harvard University, New York University, The American School in Japan and Williams College.
By the mid-nineties, I had made a lot of films but not a lot of money and was burning out. I was interested in learning more about money and investing, so I left Image Presentation and filmmaking behind to see what else was out there.
1996 - 2013 the hedge fund years
In 1996 friends introduced me to Bernie Rice, the first trader to bring a hand-held computer to the floor of the Chicago Options Exchange. He made me a director of his company, The Arbitrage Group, and it turned out to be one of the world’s first High-Frequency-Trading firms. We grew from three people on one exchange to over 120 people on four exchanges in three years and then sold the company to an international market-making firm. In 1999 I became a founding partner in AlphaSimplex Group with Andrew Lo, the Charles E., and Susan T. Harris Professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. After significant growth I sold my share of AlphaSimplex in 2007 to a multi-billion-dollar money management firm. In 2001 I co-founded Black Mesa Capital in Santa Fe, NM with David DeMers. We grew substantially and then I sold my shares back to Dave in 2009. Meanwhile I had become a managing partner with David Dahlberg and Scott Simon at True North Partners in New York in 2005. From 2005 until 2013 we outperformed the S&P 500 with no correlation to that Index and a maximum drawdown of 1.3% (including 2008), making True North one of the best performing funds in the world. I sold my shares to my partner and retired from the industry in 2013. Over 17 years I helped build several substantial firms, raised about $4 billion, and learned a lot about finance. I made many friends and had many great teachers. But something happened in 2007 that got me thinking in a new direction.
July 2007 something happens
In July 2007, my wife Kate and I spent a week in Paris to celebrate her birthday. One afternoon we stopped into L’Orangerie, the home of Monet’s wondrous Water Lily paintings and stayed until the doors were closing. As I said to Kate at the time, “I feel like a dried-out sponge that just dipped an edge into a deep pool of water.” I suddenly realized how much I missed creative processes and felt an overwhelming urge to know how Monet had made these paintings.
2007 - 2013 a new obsession
I began drawing. Whenever I travelled—to Santa Fe or New York where I had offices, to Europe or the Caribbean—I always carried art materials. By 2009 I was working in pastels and then, sometime in 2010, I began painting in oils, always driven by a desire to know how painters I admired had achieved their effects. I made paintings that imitated the genres and techniques of Rembrandt, Turner, Monet, Church, Inness, Sorolla, Sargent, Rothko, Diebenkorn, Wolf Kahn and others. Without any academic influences, with no pressure to develop a “style,” and no intention of selling my work, I enjoyed remarkable freedom to mix-and-match traditional techniques and invent new ones. Certainly I made some bad canvases, but they were valuable risks, and I just painted over them until I got somewhere I judged interesting.
2014 - present datascapes
In 2014 I made a series of paintings based on abstractions of data depictions I had been collecting on my computer. I liked the results but they seemed to demand more dimensionality, a release from the restrictive surface of the canvas. How to realize the sculptural potential of my Datascapes? I discovered the mill that has been used by Jeff Koons, Kiki Smith and other artists. I learned CAD, CAM and how to paint with a spray gun. Starting in 2015 I finally produced the pieces you see on the Gallery Page.
I am sharing my work with others for the first time because 1) they are commissionable to represent virtually any data concept, in any size, and in any colors; 2) they represent an entirely new way of using technology to make art and I have only begun to scratch the surface; 3) they are expensive to make on spec and I would like to make more of them for others.