Finkler said he then went to a school for deaf children, a camp for deaf children and had a wonderful speech therapist. But, he never learned to sign, using American Sign Language.

“My mother would not permit it,” Finkler said. “She insisted I learn to lip read and speak like other children. She was very determined about that.”

Finkler said he was always interested in art, even as a child, but studied biochemistry in college. He attended Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., a Quaker school that he said was one of the best in the country for the sciences.

Then, he discovered Cezanne.

“Cezanne has a way of getting to the essence, the inner sense, of a thing,” he said, explaining the artist’s use of color and position of the brush strokes capture the push and pull, the tension, of his work. The 19th century Impressionist continues to inspire him, along with Rembrandt, and the German Expressionists, such as Hans Hoffman, he said.

He changed his major to English and art, a dynamism that continues to fascinate him as he explores how literature and art fit together. He said he continues his intellectual pursuits, reading and investigating philosophy, history, and religion as a way to understand civilization. “I’m involved in a continuing thinking process,” he said.

Still, Finkler has not abandoned the sciences, where physics continues to have a major influence on his work, he said, pointing to a large painting, “Study of a Molecule,” that pulsed with vibrant color, dominated by geometric forms.

“I mix physics with color, geometry with pigment,” he said. When the formulas on the blackboard became paintings, “My studio became my laboratory.” With his signature laugh, he explained that he started with the backbone of a chicken and then used the cube as a fundamental form of essence.

Whose influence? Picasso, of course.

Like most artists, however, finances are the inescapable bump to reality. Finkler said he earned his living, as did his father — and now his son, Justin Wood, who has relocated to the area — as a house painter.

But, his humorous drawings, which he calls “cartoons,” produced over a lifetime for personal amusement, were a recent breakthrough into the publishing world. He said his sister, Irene, who visits every summer, saw the drawings and determined they would be published.

Finkler now has a Web site,, and a book in hand. The drawings display every manner of women’s hair styles imaginable — some impossible to fit through a door, some looking absolutely dangerous, others demanding gallons of hair product to stand upright, all hilarious.

Because of his deafness, “I was very withdrawn as a child,” he said. Then, as he gained confidence in his language skills, he learned to develop a sense of humor.

“We have to laugh at ourselves,” Finkler said. “People are comical to me, so I keep drawing them.”

He has books and books of other drawings of cars, machine parts, robots, hats, rocks and scads of other topics. He said he has about 4,000 people drawings and cartoons, only a fraction of which ended up in “Hair Dos and Don’ts.”

“I have fun creating cartoons that reflect the human condition,” he said, grabbing a blank notebook and beginning to draw a cartoon of a man and woman, traveling in a car, who are not speaking to each other.

“See,” he said, as the drawing flowed from his pen. “I’m giving them separate bubbles in the car. And, two separate entrances, so they don’t have to look at each other as they get out of the car.”

Finkler is so pleased at the success of his first book that he’s getting another ready with drawings that he calls his “state of mind” cartoons about the human predicament. A glimpse at the drawings show they again will bring smiles of recognition. 


The Sun City Sun     March 16, 2010

Brother-sister duo creates coiffure commentary

Marion Jones

Irene Reed, a Sun City Hilton Head resident shows off the artistic abilities of her brother, Joe Finkler, especially-now that the two have collaborated on a book of his sketches.

"Hair Dos and Don'ts" is a hilarious illustration of women's coiffures, and the Paris runways have nothing on
Finkler's flashy tongue-in cheek drawings. There is the "Come Fiy with Me" hot air balloon style, the "Head Strong" muscle-woman perm and the towering ''Bird Brain."

He has thousands of sketches in his portfolios and many more in his
head.  That is, after all, how he communicated when he was a child, Reed said.

Finkler was born deaf and never spoke a word until he was 8, about the tlme a certain Dr. Benjamin Spock helped guide the therapy of his speech.

"Now he can talk and you would never know he's deaf."  Reed said.

Finkler's website shows the diver­sity of his talents and his drive to try art everywhere in the United States.  He has exhibited in Taos, N.M., and collected found art to portray the lighter side of humanity.

Although house painting
- a trade his father passed on to him - has paid the bills, it has not stopped Finkler from studying the great artists from the Renaissance to modem schools. He has put his own touch to abstracts, pen-and-ink drawings and characters that would fit in the pages of The New Yorker magazine.

The little book is the first of what both hope will be many more publi­cations.  It's the perfect gift for hairstyl­ists, people who need hairstylists, and people who spend a lot of time with their hairstylists. 

Saugerties Times - February 15, 2010 

Artist brings unique perspective to book of cartoons on women's hair
Shantel Parris Riley

It's not very often you meet, someone like Joe Finkler, A li
felong artist, he's a man whose work and life reflect a generation, yet he lives in a three-dimensional world of his own. His publication of a new book of illustrations, Hair" Dos and Don'ts, afforded the oppor­tunity to get to know the man behind the cartoons.

Upon walking into Finkler's in-home art studio on West Saugerties Road, there is the immediate sense that math and science play an important role in his art.  Thousands of tiny, colorful squares and geometrical shapes lined the wal1s paintings large and small, seeming to hint at a mathematical language not readily decipherable. 

He explained that he had always been fascinated by science and physics.  '''The parallelogram is the key to understanding perspective," he said, motioning to a particular group of paintings on the wall, created in cubist style and bold colors. 

In contrast to these colorful canvases his new book is full with dozens of black and white illustrations of women with wild hair updos, bouffants, afros — with captions reading "wired for fun" and "gone with the wind." 

"When I was living in Florida, I couldn't believe how much money was spent in hair salons," he said. "I find it very interesting women's obsession with appearance." 

In its, clean and sleek black and white layout, the book seemed to be a total departure from the abstract pieces on the walls of the studio, which were bursting with colorful, psychedelic designs."  

Finkler spoke about his artistic influences, impres­sionist painters like Monet and Cezanne, who he said had an uncanny ability to balance harmony and tension - and Philip Guston, his abstract impressionist hero, who lived in Woodstock in the latter part of his life. 

"You can't go any further than that," he said, gushing with reverence.

Other influences on his work include existentialist phi­losophers like Karl Popper, Jean-Paul Sartreand Bertrand Russell, and writers like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, he was able to study with the unique perspec­tive of a person shut out from the petty sounds of the society around him. 

It is perhaps in this regard that Finkler's perspective is most influenced.  Finkler has been 95 percent deaf since age one, though it wasn't discov­ered until he was six years old. When he was about three, his mother took him to see a young doctor where the family lived in Manhattan - none other than famous writer and pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock.

"I peed on-him," Finkler said.  The young doctor, who was only in his early 30s at the time, couldn't figure out what was the matter with the boy, who was thought, at the time to be mentally-challenged.  After his disability was revealed, he was given an I.Q. test, on which he scored above average, and was sent to a school for the deaf on the East Side. There he met a teacher who, he said, "saved his life."

"She made learning fun," he said. I had to learn to pronounce every letter of the alphabet."

It wouldn't be until the age of twelve that his words would be understood by others. During this time, he developed his non-verbal communication skills through art, some of which he remembers decorating the win­dows of his school, along Fifth Avenue.

The family moved to Monticello in the '50s, where Finkler drew cartoons and did layout for his high school newspaper. Then he attended Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana where he doubled majored in art and English.

Finkler's life grew to reflect the changing times around him. From 1967 to 1969 he dove headfirst into the counter culture of Haight-Ashbury.  He spent two years on the road, "dropped out" as he called it, followed by a move. back to Manhattan; Monticello, and then Florida, until 1984,when he moved to Woodstock and setup an art studio on Lower Byrdcliffe.

"I've painted almost every day since then" he said.

Finkler started to make a living as a house painter, and though he found comfort in being part of an artistic community, it was not all a bed of roses.  In the winter of 1997, he found himself homeless and without a place to make or store his art.  A story was published about it on the front page of the Woodstock Times.  Later, Finkler was able to purchase his home on West Saugerties Road, where paintings, sketches, ink washes and watercolors now fill every nook and cranny.

Over the years, Finkler delved into the study of Shamanism and Buddhism, which, he said helped him to, let go of his ego, allowing him to release himself from an attachment to material success.  This has led to greater enjoyment in making art, he said, not just for its own sake, but to make fun, and to help answer questions - some trivial and some not.

Referring to one of his larger-than-life paintings, with a center that seemed to fold in on itself, he posed a question that he often tries to address.  "How does the creation of  physicality occur? " he asked. "It just doesn't happen by itself."

Indeed, the prolific artist, now in his 70s, is working
on a book set of illustrations including  A Book for Heads, Do You Know Your Own Mind? Aspects of the Mind - a humorous series on human psychology - and Robots, the Mechanical State of Being.  Finkler will also be showing his work at an art opening   in April at Back Stage Studios in Kingston, NY.