Interviewed by Andy Ward | January 2002 for Esquire Magazine
â€”Inspiration is highly overrated. If you sit around and wait for the clouds to part, it's not liable to ever happen. More often than not, work is salvation.
â€”Virtually everything I've ever done has been a product of-or has been influenced by-my learning disabilities. I don't recognize faces, and I don't remember names, either. But I have almost perfect photographic memory for things that are two-dimensional.
â€”The choice not to do something is almost always more interesting than the choice to do something.
â€”I wasn't a good student, I wasn't an athlete, and I think that helped focus me early in my life. I distinguished myself by being more intensely engaged and more intensely focused because I knew if I blew this artist thing, I'd be screwed.
â€”Get yourself in trouble. If you get yourself in trouble, you don't have the answers. And if you don't have the answers, your solution will more likely be personal because no one else's solutions will seem appropriate. You'll have to come up with your own.
â€”It's always wrong before it's right.
â€”A face is a road map of someone's life. Without any need to amplify that or draw attention to it, there's a great deal that's communicated about who this person is and what their life experiences have been.
â€”Being a critic is like being a meter maid. All you do is bring pain into people's lives.
â€”I'll tell you an interesting thing that's happened to me since I was paralyzed twelve years ago. I'm six foot three, and when walking around, I very seldom got approached by anybody. But being in a wheelchair has made me more accessible. I have people coming up to me on the street now. One of the great pleasures in that is the accessibility has made it possible for people to engage me in a different way. It's very moving to hear someone say my work has had some meaning for them.
â€”Painting is the frozen evidence of a performance.
â€”If you're by nature an optimistic person, which I am, that puts you in a lot better position to be lucky.
â€”My father died when I was eleven. That was a real tragedy, a horrible thing to happen when you're little. But one of the gifts in that experience was that I learned very early in life that you can get past something and you will be happy again. Losing my father was extremely important in accepting what happened to me later in life when I became a quadriplegic.
â€”It happened suddenly, a spontaneous event within my body. I just found myself all of a sudden paralyzed from the shoulders down. It's like a car accident, in a way. There's a sense of calm; time slows down. It's not scary in the way you imagine something like this is going to be scary.
â€”I'd rather not have these particular rocks in my shoes.
â€”After a few days in the hospital, I was thinking, Oh, gee-I was raised in a church, Protestant upbringing, which I'd rejected as an adult-I'm lying in the bed thinking, Hmmm, maybe I ought to pray. They always say there are no atheists in a foxhole, and I thought, Here I am in a pretty good-sized foxhole and I thought, Naahhh. I wouldn't respect any God who would listen to me after I rejected him
â€”If you're overwhelmed by the whole, break it down to pieces.
â€”An event like this, a catastrophic illness or whatever, it doesn't happen just to you, it happens to everyone around you. I sit in a wheelchair, but I look out at the world and it is unchanged. It looks the same as it always did. But people who love me look at me and they see a loved one in a wheelchair.
â€”I miss being alone. Being alone is not the same thing as loneliness.
â€”Painting is a lie. It's the most magic of all media, the most transcendent. It makes space where there is no space.
â€”My favorite painter of all time is Vermeer.
â€”Nuance and subtlety are where it's at. It's those little adjustments. You get something 99 percent of the way there, but it's that last 1 percent that really makes the difference.
â€”You don't have to have a dramatic story. It's all in the telling.
â€”I really miss the subway.
â€”When I was first in the hospital and things were really grim, someone said to me, "Oh, you'll be alright because you paint with your head and not with your hands." And at first that really pissed me off. I thought, Easy for you to say. But it was absolutely true. Once you know what art looks like, you're gonna find a way to make it again.
â€”Quadriplegics envy paraplegics. You think, Man, they've got it made.
â€”There's always somebody worse off than you are.
â€”Painting's been dead several times in my career already. And that's always the best time to start painting.
â€”Being self-involved and having the arrogance to think that you have something to say and somebody else should pay attention is a necessary component of an artist's life.
â€”I didn't get into art for therapy. I go to therapy for therapy.