— Ralph Waldo Emerson
I think I understand what Emerson is getting at with these words. I know that when I look around I often see juxtapositions of natural elements– trees and stone and water and sky– which move me in ways that I can never fully explain. Some fill me with inspiration. Some with a sense of wonder and great calmness. Peaceful unity with the world. And, with some, a sense of foreboding, a dread of the inevitable valleys that accompany all peaks. Even those scenes which make me feel as being “in the moment” resonate because they have some underlying connection to a deeper strand of thought or being.
I think it’s this sense of this symbology that fills in some of the gaps in my work, that gives it a little more depth than the surface offers. I know that it is this greater sense of being that I am trying to capture in my work, hoping that perhaps others who feel this same type of innate symbolism in the natural world somehow sense it and connect with it.
I think this newer piece, High Sign (6″ by 10″ on paper), is a good example of this. It is a simple scene but, for me, is filled with symbolism. Some is obvious and some subtle. The tree and it’s position on the mound against the graded sky is obvious as is the road that winds through. Less obvious are the upward pointing arrows of the houses’ peaks and the light and shadows of their walls.
The odd thing is that it’s not something I think about when I am painting the piece. It’s all about achieving a sense of rightness in each move in the painting. Each move is step forward and if I can maintain that feeling of rightness throughout the process, generally the painting will have this added depth, this layer of symbolism. It comes of its own accord, naturally. And I guess that the way it should be.