When I awoke in the middle of the night, as I wrote in the last post, I had a piece in my mind that I really wanted to start on. It was simply a causeway running out to a piece of land, an almost-island. That was all I had in mind. I held no details on the island itself or even how the causeway would look, just an idea of a strip running outward.
This is the piece that emerged, a 16″ by 20″ canvas that I call Not Quite an Island. The title is based, of course, on the famed piece of writing from John Donne that begins with No man is an island and ends with Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee. It’s often portrayed as a poem but it’s part of a sermon, Meditation XVII, from a book of his sermons titled Devotions upon Emergent Occasions. Donne was writing on the interconnected nature of the world, how one man’s suffering was the suffering of all men, that the death of any man somehow diminishes the whole of mankind.
I saw this piece as being about the impossibility of ever truly detaching oneself from the outer world. As hard as we might desire to seek isolation from the world, we always remain connected by virtue of our own humanity. And the causeway here represents that connection to me, a lifeline to the larger outer world with the path that runs along it up to the Red Tree almost serving as a root nerve connected to the larger spinal cord of the world. To cut off that nerve, that connection, is to lose all feeling.
It’s a simple painting but the simplicity of it actually reinforces the message, in that the image makes a striking and easy first impression. There’s a meditative quality here, an easy flow and harmony to this piece that brings my eye back to it again and again. It’s actually just as I hoped it would be when I got out of bed at 3 AM a few days ago, filled with anxiety. In its way, it has alleviated that angst. For the moment.
As it should…