G. Daniel Massad | American Still Life Painter

In 1989, I abandoned the tabletop and its implied domestic interior for a less easily definable architectural support – a broken wall, a ledge, a carefully piled heap of brick or stone suggesting at times a stage, an altar, a flight of stairs. The darkness surrounding the support also became ambiguous. Not noticeably or jarringly. Viewers continued to peer hard at the black and ask me only technical questions: "Is it pastel or paper?" Puzzled, I’ve often asked in response, "What does the black represent – if anything – to you?" Deep space, they always say, never a flat background. "It’s infinite," one student told me, gesturing with wide open arms. "It’s behind the frame, it goes on forever." "Is it night?" I ask. Not exactly, it’s too dark for night. "And where does the light come from?" One answer: it’s in the objects. Another answer: it comes from you. But usually the pictures themselves do not seem to raise those questions in the minds of most viewers. Nor in my mind. For me, the darkness – except for its formal properties – is all metaphor: it suggests the odds against which every human achievement can be seen as a victory; it stands for the dark night of the soul that spiritual illumination requires; it is everything hidden from us, before birth and after death; it is , as Robert Frost put it, "…the background in hugeness and confusion shading away from where we stand into black and utter chaos… we were born to it, born used to it, and have practical reasons for wanting it there."
-G. Daniel Massad