Even broken in spirit as he is, no one can feel more deeply than he does the beauties of nature. The starry sky, the sea, and every sight afforded by these wonderful regions, seems still to have the power of elevating his soul from earth. Such a man has a double existence: he may suffer misery, and be overwhelmed by disappointments; yet, when he has retired into himself, he will be like a celestial spirit that has a halo around him, within whose circle no grief or folly ventures.
–Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
This is one of the new pieces I have been working on. I wasn’t sure I wanted to show it in this state, as it is unfinished, or even when it is finished. But as it progressed it began to grow on me and was meeting my expectations for what I wanted from it. So, I thought I would show it and talk a bit about this piece, a 12″ by 24″ canvas that I tentatively calling Frank the Icon.
The idea for this came about from my admiration of religious icon painting and something I read in the foreword of a David McCullough book I recently started reading. In it McCullough talked about history , while being documented in large and grand acts, often turns on the actions of ordinary people doing small but significant things that inspire or lead others to do those greater deeds. It made me wonder who these people were today whose everyday deeds would help rewrite our future history.
I thought it might be interesting to show ordinary figures painted in the style of an icon but in my own style of painting, And that how Frank came about. Early on, I was underwhelmed by this piece and could feel the effects of my recent absence from painting. But midway through it began to pull at me in a way painting sometimes does for me, urging me on with small hints at what might be ahead. It was an excitement I haven’t felt in a while and it felt very good indeed. I truly wanted to see what was coming.
There are many things I like about this piece. Even though I will admit to it being flawed ( as are most of my paintings) there is something in it that makes it alive for me, something that speaks to inner parts of me. It has a real presence here in the studio and it is easy to engage with him as I walk around and the gold halo seems to push his countenance forward even more.
Cheri came into the studio and after looking at it asked why I hadn’t painted bolts on his neck. She said he reminded her of the Frankenstein creature. I could see that as well and thinking about it made me realize that there was something to this idea of an icon with beings that were capable of beings both gods and monsters.
As are we all.
That’s where the quote from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein came in. It is compelling and fitting, this idea of a naive creature who suffers the suffering and misery of being a lone being in this world, finding comfort in experiencing anew the beauty of this world that we who know it so well often take for granted. It even speaks of the halo.
So, that is here I am with this piece. I am still up in the air as to where it will lead, if anywhere. Part of me wants to continue with a series of icons but part of me is hesitant. We shall see…