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Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing.

 

Georgia O’Keeffe
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I am going to make it short and sweet today. The painting at the top is Music in Pink and Blue II from Georgia O’Keeffe. I had a calendar page with this image tacked to the wall of my old studio up in the woods for about ten years. The color and rhythm of it made it a favorite of mine. More importantly, O’Keeffe’s ability to make her unknown known resonated with me. It also made evident that revelation, the willingness to expose one’s totality including weaknesses and unknowns, was indeed the important thing in making one’s art.
It’s a nice reminder for this and every morning.
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What I am looking for… is an immobile movement, something which would be the equivalent of what is called the eloquence of silence, or what St. John of the Cross, I think it was, described with the term ‘mute music’.

–Joan Miro

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There is much to do this morning but there’s always a time to squeeze in a little Joan Miro.

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Marc Chagall Sun of ParisWhen I am finishing a picture I hold some God-made object up to it–a rock, a flower, the branch of a tree or my hand– as a kind of final test. If the painting stands up beside a thing man cannot make, the painting is authentic. If there’s a clash between the two, it is bad art.

–Marc Chagall

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I have only mentioned Marc Chagall  here once over the 6+ years I have been doing this blog and I very seldom list him as one of my influences or even one of my favorite artists. But somehow he always seems to be sitting prominently there at the end of the day, both as a favorite and an influence.

One way in which his influence takes  form is in the way in which he created a unique visual vocabulary of symbolism within his work. His soaring people, his goats and horses and angels all seem at once mythic yet vaguely reminiscent of our own dreams, part of each of us but hidden deeply within.

They are mysterious but familiar.

marc-chagall-fishermans-family-1968And that’s a quality– mysterious and familiar– that I sought for my own symbols: the Red Chair, the Red Tree and the anonymous houses, for examples. That need to paint familiar objects that could take on other aspects of meaning very much came from Chagall’s paintings.

He also exerted his influence in the way in which he painted, distinct and as free-flowing as a signature. It was very much what I would call his native voice. Not affected or trying to adhere to any standards, just coming off his brush freely and naturally.

An organic expression of himself.  And that is something I have sought since I first began painting– my own native voice, one in which I painted as easily and without thought as I would write my signature.

So to read how Chagall judged his work for authenticity makes me consider how I validate my own work. It’s not that different. I use the term a sense of rightness to describe what I am seeking in the work which is the same sense one gets when you pick up a stone and consider it. Worn through the ages, untouched for the most part by man, it is precisely what it is. It’s form and feel are natural and organic. There is just an inherent rightness to it. I hope for that same sense when I look at my work and I am sure that it is not far from the feeling Chagall sought when he compared his own work to a rock or a flower or his own hand.

Marc Chagall Song of Songs

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For the mystic what is how. For the craftsman how is what. For the artist what and how are one.

–William McElcheran, Canadian Sculptor 1927-1999

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This morning I came across the quote above from the great Canadian sculptor William McElcheran that I featured here a few years back. Its wordplay and meaning both still ring a bell for me, even though I am not sure of McElcheran’s definitions of what and how. I have searched several times trying to find the origin of this quote to see the context in which it was first said but it seems to simply stand alone.

And I guess that’s okay because it says a lot and is complete in its meaning, at least in the way I perceive it.

I guess I fall in the artist category here. I am definitely searching for the what in my work regardless of the how that is required to get there. I will gladly alter my how to get to the what. My how is not based on tradition, is not absolute in any way and changes as needed. Yet, it is still crucial that it remains my how because if I feel that if I defer to another how exclusively it ceases to be my how and fails to express my individual voice.

It is when the how and the what merge that I feel most satisfied in my work.

Now, if you can follow that– and I am not really sure that I can myself– you must obviously fall into the mystic category.

I used the painting at the top, Spirit of Silence, which is part of my current Principle Gallery show, because it feels to me like it falls in that area where the how and what come together. It is a simply built painting where the how of it seems to roll perfectly into the what that it conveys. I immediately thought of this piece when I read the words at the top earlier.

 

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While I recognize the necessity for a basis of observed reality… true art lies in a reality that is felt.

–Odilon Redon
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Love this quote from the French artist Odilon Redon (1840-1916). His work certainly reflected this thought, most generally having deep emotional tones.
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I first came across his work in the form of a book of his drawings. I thought that was his dominant form of expression until I began to look deeper into his paintings. The boldness, purity and harmonies of his colors struck me. The colors alone carried the emotional weight of many of his paintings, seemingly allowing the viewer to sense its tone and message in a single glimpse. Longer observation is rewarded as one better sees the subtlety in Redon’s expression.
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I am definitely a fan of Odilon Redon and,  even though our styles and methods greatly differ, try to carry that idea of felt reality into my own work. Here’s a video that gives a nice overview of his paintings.
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i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

 
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?


(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened) 

 e e cummings 

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I struggled coming up with a title for this painting. It is a piece that really resonates with me and I wanted to have a title for it that captured what I was seeing in it. At first, I wanted the title to point out what I perceived to be the richness of the land and its colors. At first, I called it The New Cornucopia but it just didn’t sit right. There was more to what I was seeing in the painting than that particular title captured.

I went seeking for something that better expressed what I saw in it and came across a poem that I had read long ago from the late poet e e cummings. Shown above, i thank you God for most this amazing is more prayer of thanks than poem with an emphasis on seeing the yes in all things surrounding us. It has a lovely transcendental feel to it that, for me, jibed with what I was seeing in this painting.

This poem was originally included in cummings’ 1950 collection of poems, Xaipe.  That title intrigued me. It wasn’t anything I had seen before and I wanted to know how it might connect to the poem above. I found that it is a Greek word, pronounced zape, and translates as rejoice or be happy.

That was perfect for what I was sensing in this painting- the joy in just being alive and recognizing, with the opened eyes of my eyes, the wonder of the natural world around us. The yes of everything.

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“Touch your inner space, which is nothingness, as silent and empty as the sky; it is your inner sky. Once you settle down in your inner sky, you have come home, and a great maturity arises in your actions, in your behavior. Then whatever you do has grace in it. Then whatever you do is a poetry in itself. You live poetry; your walking becomes dancing, your silence becomes music.”

~Osho

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