Hal Schlotzhauer was one of my painting professors in undergraduate school. He was born In New York and arrived in Montana from the Bay Area where he grew up. He was handsome, tan, friendly and soft-spoken. I think he had been a surfer, too. His large paintings and drawings were aggressive and full of action. They were bright, complex, crowded and spacial. They were loaded and appeared completely abstract at first glance, but the longer and deeper you looked, the more figurative they became. He casually told me once that "there's no difference between abstraction and representation. It's only a matter of how the elements are assembled and how they relate to each other that shifts a piece one way or the other."
One Friday afternoon during Spring quarter, I met with him in the empty painting studio where I had set up a few canvasses. I sat on the base of a wooden easel leg and he sat next to me on a hard-backed chair. I don't remember exactly how long we sat there before either of us said anything, but It felt like at least five minutes. I began to get nervous and started to feel pretty certain that he must really hate them and was just searching for a gentle way to tell me. He finally said, "how's your love life?" I was taken back a bit and eventually responded with "what love life?" "That makes sense," he said. I felt totally exposed and confused. They weren't figurative, or sexual, and didn't feel erotic to me in any way. Those notions weren't what I thought I was thinking about while I was working on them, but once he said it and I tried to look through that lens, I think I kind of saw what he meant. It wasn't about literal figures, or symbols; it was about what he was feeling in front of them. Nothing more was said about my lack of a love life and we continued talking about other art-making things, as if nothing had shifted.
© C. Davidson