|Creative, inquisitive, intelligent, a true independent spirit, R.W. Firestone brings to his art the same qualities that have made him a leading author and theoretician in psychological research and a world-class sailor. His strong sense of design, color and composition combined with his unique understanding of human nature has allowed him to create a large and eclectic body of work of unusual depth and sensitivity.
R.W. Firestone was born in Brooklyn in 1930, the son of a doctor and a fashion designer. His mother's career in fashion was an early important, influence on his developing artistic sensibilities. Firestone was raised in the rich melting pot of New York's metropolitan area but his home in Brooklyn was near the ocean. The sound of the freighter's foghorns late at night kindled a lifelong love of the sea and a search for adventure and personal development. The themes of the city and the sea, separately and together, are visited frequently in Firestone's work.
His desire to understand himself and people in his life led him to study psychology. His need for a creative outlet led him to painting. Firestone's postgraduate work was spent studying schizophrenia and working with patients in the extreme's of emotional suffering. It was at this time, while in Berkeley in the 50's, that he created his first major body of work - a series of remarkably original oils depicting patients, friends and associates, as well as scenes from his many travels. These "expressionistic" paintings, steeped in traditional discipline and technique, highlight his striking sense of composition and color and evoke strong emotions and feelings.
His portraits in particular reveal his burgeoning insights into the "real" human being behind the facade. In "Schizophrenic," one senses the pain and alienation behind the cool demeanor in the seemingly relaxed smoking man, his fiery emotions ready to burst out of the rich blue background.
In "Blue Sea," another oil from this productive period, Firestone again reveals his surprisingly mature compositional style. This seascape, with its warm red sun settling into the calm, deep blue sea is slightly foreboding as if a storm is gathering force unseen outside the frame of the canvas.
In the early '60's, Firestone moved to Los Angeles to begin private practice. Amidst the sprawling megalopolis and near the sea, he completed a series of highly original black and white city and seascapes. These tempera paintings, done in an almost formal graphic style, create a remarkable sense of movement and life.
In "Bay City," he captures the dynamic interaction of the architecture of city and untamed turbulence of the sea. In "Three City Scenes," a triptych, one senses the swirling chaos beneath man's attempt to superimpose his own order over nature.
Firestone's more recent work has utilized advanced digital techniques to both re-imagine his earlier works and to formulate highly original photo mosaic portraits and digital collages. The use of these new techniques has allowed Firestone to bring together various, and sometimes dissimilar elements, to create powerful imagery. An excellent example of the merger of these elements can be seen in "Self Portrait with Artist's 10 Children", a photo mosaic in which a picture of the artist is overlaid with images of his 10 children.
In "Bay City Blue," his earlier black and white work is redone in blue and gray, simulating the effect of light streaming through the fog. Likewise, the original black and white "Three City Scenes" (shown above), with the addition of rainbow hues, becomes a dance of light and dark as the colors whirl and flow through each section of the new triptych "Colorful Cities."
Beautiful, and vaguely disquieting, "The Many Faces of Mother" is a particularly compelling work from this new collection. It is also another example of how Firestone uses his art to express complex psychological dynamics. By juxtaposing multiple variations of a woman's picture with different colors, shading and light, Firestone depicts the many faces and attributes of a beautiful woman. She appears in turn proud, inviting, cold, and ambivalent, the artist subtly evoking a young son's feelings of love, fear and fascination as he watches his mother's constantly shifting and changing moods.
Firestone's professional and personal experiences, international travels and sailing adventures continue to powerfully influence his art. Always prolific, the creative application of advanced technology to his traditional artistic techniques and experience has made him even more productive. His work can be found in numerous private and corporate collections throughout the U.S.