Tangier, Morocco, at the northernmost tip of Africa at the intersection of the Mediterranean and Atlantic, just miles from the coasts of Gibraltar and Spain, is thought to be among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The city, long a magnet for artists and writers, was propelled into modern Western imaginations by the paintings of Delacroix and Matisse and more recently by the expatriate writers of the 50's and '60's: Bowles, Genet, and Burroughs among others.
We stayed at a house in the Casbah, Tangier's ancient citadel whose crenelated ramparts overlook the sea and sprawling port city that stretches down the coast. I'd been anticipating the trip for years, mainly because I knew that Matisse had been transformed by two visits there at the urging of his artist friend Marquet and Gertru
de Stein. It was in Tangier where Matisse produced a body of work that went beyond Fauvism into new imaginative territory that continues to inspire artists, in particular, the late Richard Diebenkorn, whose work, in turn, has been an influence on my own painting.
Following Matisse's footsteps, I plunged into drawing and painting every day for the two weeks I was there, profoundly inspired by the beauty of the city and its people. The result was forty-five drawings and paintings, many of which were on view at my studio this autumn. I was transfixed by the Mediterranean light, the colorful of the walls of the medina, the patterns of tiles, textiles, the planes of architecture — it was unlike anywhere I had ever been; it seemed there was a painting everywhere I looked.
As our hostess, a Tangerine, explained, "There's no absolute sense of time here. It is, like reality, ambiguous, subject to the constant ebb and flow of translated languages and multiple cultures." After just a few days, I felt enveloped by an exhilarating feeling of timelessness; what I sensed was more of a continuum — from the dusty Berber shepherd in the souk, dressed and doing exactly as he has for thousands of years, to the gleaming Mercedes factory and housing developments, mostly unfinished, empty shells of buildings massed across outskirts of the city for miles, the somber calls to prayer over megaphones on minarets; although it was clearly present-day Tangier, there was a feeling that it had all been going on forever.