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Posts Tagged ‘Faces’

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Walt Whitman: Song of Myself, Part 51

 

The past and present wilt—I have fill’d them, emptied them.

And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.

Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?

Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,

(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)

Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.

Who has done his day’s work? who will soonest be through with his supper?

Who wishes to walk with me?

Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?

 

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The image shown on the right is another new painting, a 36″ by 18″ canvas that is part of a new group that has drawn a great deal of my attention lately in the studio. They are large groups of faces that are painted in an almost subconscious manner, with little if any forethought given as to how they relate to the surrounding faces. They emerge from dashes of paint and quickly rendered shapes that cause me to simply find human form in them.

It is very intuitive work. It reminds me very much of the process involved in painting the subterranean artifact layers in my Archaeology series. Just make a mark then transform it into something tangible, something possible.

I have known most of these faces for forty or fifty years. They have lived in me, have emerged periodically on bits of paper, on journal pages and in the margins of the newspaper. Some have shown themselves individually in some of my work through the years– the Exiles, Outlaws and Icons series for example.

But they all seem familiar to me. Some possess a pleasant and friendly aura and others much less so. Some are ugly and bitter in appearance. Some even seem evil and worry me a bit, causing me to ask if they are all just variations of my own self.

I don’t really know.

Part of me says yes. I was instantly reminded of the line from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself  (shown above):  Do I contradict myself?/Very well then I contradict myself,/(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Whitman’s grand poem had him speaking as the voice of the collective consciousness of mid-18th century America, a voice that encompassed all sorts of people and attitudes that make up the stewpot that is this country, then and now. As an artist, the hope is that your own work taps into that same vein, that it speaks to connects with the wider spectrum of people. So, in doing this, in attempting to access this collective multitude, to pull them all from your own inner self.  To do so, you have to find that part of yourself that is part of all of them.

Can it be hope and love? Fear and anger? Or just the emotion of being?

I don’t really know.

What I do know is that there is something in this work that seems right for the moment.  Seeing these groups of faces had me wondering how this had slipped by me for so long. It feels natural, like it should have been part of my work for some time now.

So how had I not did this before? I think the answer is that I needed to develop the skills and visual vocabulary to do these pieces in a way that used the faces in the most impactful way. If I had did this years ago, I think it would have been lacking the color, rhythm and forms needed to make them effective. Those are all things that have come from years and many tens pf thousands of hours in the studio. For me, these paintings are a great coupling of subject-these crude faces– and those elements– color, rhythm and form. I find myself attracted as much by the colors and shapes as I am by the individual faces.

I am considering calling this group Multitudes from the line from Uncle Walt. Or it might still be Masks from the for the appearance the faces have with their dark eyelessness.

I am still trying to figure this out so excuse this off the cuff writing. There are a lot of thoughts emerging and growing even as I write this so I reserve the right to change to contradict myself at some later point. Like Walt, if I contradict myself, so be it — I am large, I contain multitudes.

 

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I wish that I knew what I know now

When I was younger.

I wish that I knew what I know now

When I was stronger.

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You have probably heard the line above, uttered in the chorus of Faces‘ 1973 song Ooh La La by an aging grandfather to his young grandson, many times over the years as it’s been used in many movies and television shows and ads. It’s very atmospheric as Wes Anderson demonstrated to great effect in the final scene of his film Rushmore.

And if you have somehow missed it, you have definitely heard someone older spout those very same words.

The words make sense. I guess you would almost always want to relive the past with greater knowledge than you had at the time. It would definitely help avoid the stumbles and setbacks you experienced along the way. To have that wisdom beforehand might be a wonderful thing.

But maybe it’s the acquiring of this wisdom that matters, the experience of trying and failing multiple times. Maybe you need to experience that blind and unfounded optimism that sets you off on misguided missions doomed to fall short. Maybe you need to learn how to claw your way up from the fall to the bottom.

Maybe wisdom has to be hard earned before it can be fully appreciated.

Or maybe not. Maybe I am making excuses to rationalize away my own past stupidities and shortcomings. Maybe all those mistakes and missteps could have been avoided altogether with the wisdom I have now.

But would that wisdom have led me to this point where I am today?

I don’t think that can be known.

And today I am relatively content with my lot in life so I can happily abide with the choices, even the mistakes, I have made. What lttle wisdom I have gained over the years tells me I would be no happier on the safer, stabler path I might have chosen with foreknowledge.

Ooh la la…

So for this Sunday morning’s music interlude, here’s the song from Faces featuring Ronnie Wood on vocals. Give a listen and have yourself a great day with no regrets. Ooh la la…

 

 

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