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Posts Tagged ‘Antoine de Saint-Exupery’

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But I know that nothing which truly concerns man is calculable, weighable, measurable. True distance is not the concern of the eye; it is granted only to the spirit.

–Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Airman’s Odyssey

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I stumbled across the line’s above in a beautiful passage from a book, Airman’s Odyssey, from Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  He was an author/poet best known for his classic The Little Prince as well as a pioneering aviator. He died in 1944, while flying for the Free French Air Force in World War II.

In this passage de Saint-Exupery writes about how flying at high altitudes, landmarks on the ground become mere dots and all sense of distance fades away, is lost. He describes how in his blindness to those places, those dots lost in the distance, his thirst for feelings and sensations attached to those dots grows.

Those barely visible dots become much like smells and sounds and other sensations that reawaken memories and new tracks of thought in the imagination. It is in this vast expanse of nothingness that he realizes that everything that we seek is not to be found by moving across wide physical distances but by simply  spanning the distances within ourselves.

As I said, it’s a beautiful passage and it goes well beyond what I describe here. But for my purposes I am focusing on this part of the passage, that we often seek things in the distance that we desire when what we really need has already crossed all distances and, in fact, dwells within us.

We always see the dots in the distance and can easily attach great and better things to those dots. But while doing so, we often overlook the fact that we have those same things at hand right now.

We so often desire what we already have.

The recent isolation brought on by the pandemic here has created a sense of distance in many of us. That’s understandable. It has kept us away from many people, places and events, those things that have normally made up our day to day lives. But they now are dots to us and we long to cross that distance to return to that time and place.

For many, this desire to cross that distance has been consuming. But for some, looking inward has diminished that desire and they have found that they can find what they need where they are in the moment. The dot is just a dot now.

I think this idea that we have what we need, that we are equipped to survive and even thrive despite the distances imposed upon us, might be the theme for my upcoming solo show that opens on July 17 at the West End Gallery. The show is titled From a Distance as is the painting here at the top, a 30″ by 48″ canvas.

I can easily see this theme play out in this painting. Wherever we are, in any time and situation, we have the ability to find forms of beauty within and around ourselves. That is an important thing to remember, especially when we find ourselves staring at those dots in the distance.

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If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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Only have a minute before I head out to Penn Yan to lead a two day painting workshop. I am a hesitant teacher, not really ever wanting to teach for a number of reasons. It’s hard work, for one thing. I never feel qualified to teach, for another. There are plenty more. But I have done this for the past five years now because of the folks that come and what they claim they get out of it. It can be fun and it’s always gratifying to see them complete a real painting, one beyond they expected from themselves.

But the quote above  from the author from the The Little Prince  reminds me that what I should be imparting goes beyond technical instruction and copying forms. I should be trying to get them to recognize their deepest emotions or strongest reactions and putting them in the paint.

Make them long for the endless immensity of the sea…

Well, got to run. Hopefully, that task is within my reach.

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And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
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This is a new painting, 18″ by 24″ on panel, that is the title piece for my upcoming show, Sensing the Unseen, at the Kada Gallery that opens December 1. I think it’s a fitting painting to share it’s name with the show.

I have long held the belief that art is about revelation, about making the invisible visible.

Creating the intangibles such as hope and wonder. Or awe or a sense of belonging or of self-empowerment or so many other feelings and emotions. Revealing these unseen intangibles is what art can and should do.

It’s a lofty and often evasive goal. The harder one tries specifically to do just that, to create these intangibles, the further one moves from that goal.

In my experience, it only happens when you can release yourself into the work, letting your mind focus on each element in each moment. Finding the rhythm and voice, one individual moment at a time. One stroke, one line, leads to the next and if you allow yourself to follow the guidance being given by what is in front of you, slowly the gap between the visible and the invisible closes, that gap suddenly filled with an emotion, a feeling that gives voice to the work.

This particular painting fits into that idea for me, filling me with the wonder I get from a full moon’s light on a snow covered landscape. The way the light is cast on the reflective snow creates a sense of something new in the familiar. The scene you’ve witnessed day after day takes on a different feel, filled with a paradoxical sense of mystery and revelation that comes from new shadows and new light.

You can almost sense the quiet as all sound is hushed and absorbed by the snow. It’s a quiet that reminds you of the stillness that you imagine your ancestors knew well in earlier times when there were fewer people and machines. And from that quiet a feeling of peacefulness and security arises to accompany that initial sense of wonder.

And suddenly the simple arrangement of paint and lines and shapes becomes something more. Complete and a thing unto itself. The intangible made tangible.

And that in itself becomes a wonder to me…

 

 

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Night, the beloved. Night, when words fade and things come alive. When the destructive analysis of day is done, and all that is truly important becomes whole and sound again. When man reassembles his fragmentary self and grows with the calm of a tree.
–Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 

This is a new painting, Nightheart, that is headed west to my friends at the Just Looking Gallery in San Luis Obispo.  It’s about 11″ by 34″ in size and has a most cam and contemplative aura around it.  This morning, when I came across the words above from  Antoine de Saint-Exupery , the French author of The Little Prince and a real man of action as well, I immediately thought of this painting.

When man reassembles his fragmentary self and grows with the calm of a tree.   That line may say more about what I want for and see in  my work  than anything  I have ever said myself.  In fact, reading his words right now leaves me speechless.  And calm, like that tree.

I will simply let that line above stand on its own alongside this painting.

Please take a moment  to click on the link above and read a bit on the life of Antoine de Saint-Exupery.   A full but short life…

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