Max Moran in Dan’s Papers

Issue #28 – October 1, 2010


While we hate to label this week’s cover by Max Moran as a “signature” piece, we must admit that the subject of rain is a popular one for the artist, along with his portraits and landscapes. Yet there’s something more about Moran’s rain that goes beyond what we literally see. First, there’s the somewhat impressionistic style that evokes a haunting quality. Then there’s the composition itself, where either an image is given depth (applicable to the cover’s “Shelter From the Storm”) and / or an asymmetrical arrangement.

This last element is important in conveying the contradictory nature of Moran’s rain-filled settings. On one hand, rain can be comforting and soothing. Conversely, it can suggest an “off-balance” (asymmetrical) mood. Thus, his scenes feature people who find solace with each other (“Waiting for a Cab” and “Sharing”) or who are isolated and alone (“Jaywalkers”).

Q: The cover image is so arresting. It’s as if we, the viewers, are being drawn into the theatre along with the patrons.

A: I actually was there outside the Westhampton Performing Arts Center in the rain watching this so I was drawn in, too.

Q: What are the circumstances for your painting this image?

A: I was the first artist to be asked to exhibit at the Performing Arts Center. It was done before Katrina hit, but was actually exhibited three days before the hurricane. So the subject was appropriate.

Q: Why is rain a recurring theme for you? It’s such a universal symbol. I can remember rain scenes in the movies.

A: (laughing) Rain has been good to Max Moran. I did the first one in 1996. I was sipping coffee and watching people outside in the rain. It shows how climate has to do with the soul of the city; everyone is equal. In other words, people have no control over rain and have to deal with it on an equal footing.

Q: What or who particularly influenced you in art?

A: I grew up in Columbus, Ohio and went to the Columbus College of Art and Design. Eva Glimcher, Arne Glimcher’s aunt, insisted I go there and not Ohio State University. It was the best advice I ever had. Eva had a gallery in Columbus, and she would bring in artists who would never have been shown in Columbus, like Chuck Close and Andy Warhol.

Q: I lived in Columbus and remember Eva well. She introduced me to Louise Nevelson before I knew who she was, so I understand about her impact. How about other influences?

A: I learned about abstraction as a result of my college experience in the late 1970s, and I learned about Sargent and Bellows from the Columbus Museum. You find inspiration where you can.

Q: I think every experience you have had and everyplace you lived have impacted you. Where did you go from Columbus?

A: I went for a visit for four days to Martha’s Vineyard; I knew I would return, and I did. I lived there for eight years. It was fun to be there after being from Columbus. I did figurative paintings and landscape.

Q: Where else did you go?

A: Paris, where I drew portraits outside the Pompidou Center. And then a friend encouraged me to come to New York, and I got a show in SoHo in 1989. I would go back and forth between Martha’s Vineyard and New York. I lived in the East Village and met some very interesting people who said, “Why not move here?” I kept my place in Manhattan until 1995 and then came to Greenport. I found the place very authentic. So what if we have to put up with the tourists for three months?

Q: It’s apparent that you have a penchant for places; you move around a lot, as they say. But you also have passionate thoughts about many other things, like the relationship between science and art, for example.

A: Jackson Pollock was the best contemporary American artist. He had a friend: gravity. Pollock’s paintings predicted the smashing of the atom, like his “Autumn Rhythms,” done in 1950.

– Marion Wolberg Weiss

Many of Moran’s works are on view at the Jedediah Hawkins Inn at 400 S. Jamesport Ave. in Jamesport through Oct. 11, 2010. 631-722-2900

Moran will be giving a workshop on plein air painting (complete with a picnic) on Oct. 2. Call 631-591-2447 or e-mail

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