Rothko, “Red”, and Writing

“I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom…The fact that people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I can communicate those basic human emotions…” Mark Rothko 

Rothko, one of the most eminent of the American abstract expressionist artists who redefined modern art after World War II, set an exacting standard for himself and by implication for the rest of us who consider ourselves to be artists whatever our medium might be.

Recently I went to see a production of the Tony Award-winning play “Red” that explores the tortured artistic genius as he struggles during the late 1950s with a prestigious commission for the Seagram Building in New York City. Rothko argues for the spiritual value of art and maintains throughout the play—aggressively and vociferously—that the role of artists is the pursuit of truth through their art.

My memoir, “August Farewell”, seems to have met Rothko’s criteria according to the consistently impassioned feedback that I have received from readers.

The jury is yet to pronounce on my most recent writing venture, a novel entitled “Searching for Gilead”. As my first attempt at writing fiction, I can tell you that I have a paint can full of insecurities about it.

Ironically, with the memoir I wasn’t trying to write for anyone else. My heart was broken (still is) and the book just poured out of me. I followed up with the novel where I was grappling with complicated personal and global issues, trying to think them through by means of creating characters, dialogue, and plot. This time I was intentionally writing something that I hoped would speak not only to me but also to others. Whether I succeeded or not is yet to be determined.

The play “Red” leaves open the question of whether, in fact, Rothko believed that he was able to live up to his own standards. His suicide in 1970 suggests one possible answer.

* * *

Information on my memoir “August Farewell” and my novel “Searching for Gilead” is available on my website at

Both books can be ordered through your local bookseller or through on-line retailers such as,,,,


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

One response to “Rothko, “Red”, and Writing

  1. In December 2009 I saw the play Red when Alfred Molina played Rothko in the Donmar theatre. Very potent indeed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s