“This is why alchemy exists,” the boy said. “So that everyone will search for his treasure, find it, and then want to be better than he was in his former life. Lead will play its role until the world has no further need for lead; and then lead will have to turn itself into gold.
That’s what alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.”
— Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
I am currently getting ready for my final solo show of the year, this one at the Kada Gallery in Erie, PA, opening November 16th. I am calling this show Alchemy, from the ancient and mysterious practice ( I use the word practice to describe it because I am not sure how to categorize it as it is not really a science as we know it) that is defined by its stated goals of turning base metals into gold or silver and creating an elixir that would give man’s life great longevity, possibly immortality. Most of us likely think of it in terms of some wild-eyed scientist trying to find a way to transform lead into gold.
But at the heart of alchemy is the simple concept of the transformation of something ordinary into something more than it initially appears to be. That really strikes home for me. I have often written of sometimes feeling surprised when I finish a piece, as though the end result, the sum of my painting, is often far more than what I have to personally offer in terms of talent or knowledge. Like there is a force beyond me that is arranging these simple elements of this work into something that transcends the ordinariness of the subject or materials or the creator. This feeling has remained a mystery to me for almost twenty years, driving me to write here in hopes of stumbling across words that would adequately describe this transformation of simple paint and paper into something that I sometimes barely recognize as being my own creation, so marked is the difference between the truth of the resulting work and my own truth.
Even as I write this, I can see that my words are inadequate to describe this vaporous process. So I will stop here but will attempt to better capture the mystery of this in the next several weeks in this blog.
The painting at the top is the title piece, Alchemy, for the upcoming show. It is 18″ by 48″ on canvas. I wanted the painting that carried this title to have the things that I think make up this curious transformation– simplicity and symmetry and depth. I think this painting captures these elements and even as I painted it, it started a transformation that continually surprised me. I sit now writing this and this painting sits on an easel in my studio and I am still surprised, even after all of these years, at what has emerged.
It must be alchemy…