120 x 66 inches | oil finger painting on canvas (4 panels)
Four separate canvases form this polyptych composition spanning ten feet. Chrysanthemum blossoms jostle in the foreground. Adder’s tongue ferns sprout from mossy branches. Hardy little juniper trees assert themselves on distant mountain peaks. The mist draping the mountains is cool and heavy. Don’t miss the smoldering young embers growing up into flames on the right panel.
Swimming out of deep and restless clouds a whiskered dragon monitors the early fire. The eyebrowed dragon with a neon plumage is curious, enormous, smiling and mischievous. If you reached out to touch the finger painted scales of this dragon, a mosaic of rainbow pebbles would bump under your fingertips.
Many people don’t even see the dragon at first; it’s surprising how something so big can sneak up on you. In fact, this dragon snuck up on me—twice. After I saw it the first time, I had to train my painting skills for years to catch it again.
The truth of the matter is the first week I was in Taiwan I had a vision or a hallucination. It was 2009, and I’d just found an apartment to live in, gotten the keys (a magical moment), and stepped out onto the roof terrace. Traditional Chinese music was coming from the restaurant downstairs as I looked up to see a perfect dragon in the sky made out of clouds. I saw every detail exactly: wrinkles and whiskers, toenails, nostrils, everything…it was a supernatural moment, an anomaly. And I was all alone—no one to share it with. I just stood there thinking No it can’t be happening. In a few moments it became unrecognizable and morph into an unremarkable cloud. But I know what I saw and I’ll never forget it. That year was when my whole artistic career was sparked, and that apartment was where I would soon discover finger painting.
I had wanted to paint a dragon in the sky since that special afternoon, but knew I didn’t have the skills to pull it off. Last year, I was color prepping some canvases with scribbles of base paint and thinking of the multi-paneled Chinese folding screens I had recently studied at the Met. Suddenly, in the random marks of paint, I saw the mountains, the foreground, the clouds, the dragon. This was the second time he visited me, and this time I caught him.