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Posts Tagged ‘Haven’

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“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” 

 G.K. Chesterton

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This is a new painting from my upcoming solo show, Haven, at the Principle Gallery. It’s 12″ by 24″ on canvas and is titled Hope Rising.

There are a number of pieces from this show that lean towards darker and deeper hues than much of my other work.  Generally, when these colors have appeared in the past it was the result of being in what I perceived to be perilous times.

Such is the case with this work for it feels as though we live in a time of dragons.

But as Chesterton points out, the lesson to be gleaned from the fairy tales is that while we may live among dragons, they are not invincible. They are always defeated by forces of goodness and righteousness.

I get that feeling of hopefulness from this painting. It feels like a quiet moment when the fear brought on my the dark of night is alleviated by the reflected light of the moon that announces that there is a new day soon arriving.

The dragons can be held at bay and the darkness will only be a temporary condition if we hold tight to what is true and right.

The light of truth ultimately overcomes the false light offered by the dragon’s fire.

And that is not only in fairy tales.

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I felt deep within me that the highest point a man can attain is not Knowledge or Virtue or Goodness or Victory but something even greater, more heroic and more despairing: Sacred Awe!

Nikos Kazantzakis

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I was all set to write something this morning about stupidity. I noticed that a post I wrote a year ago, On Stupidity, has been getting a large number of views lately. It is about the danger of stupidity, about how even the very highly educated can be stupid, especially in highly charged times when they can fall prey to social and political movements. This coincided with recent thoughts I have been having about how we have devalued intelligence and reason in this nation in recent times, to a point of vilifying the cerebral and elevating moronic behavior.

I was deflated by the whole thing and decided I needed to focus on something other than that, something that dealt with something far more uplifting. I came across the words above from author Nikos Kazantzakis from his book Zorba the Greek. It’s part of a scene where the narrator, a young, bookish Greek man is asked by Zorba, a raw and raucous peasant, to explain the meaning of the stars and the universe that they are sitting beneath. The narrator tries unsuccessfully to put this idea of  Sacred Awe into a form that Zorba will understand. While he doesn’t understand the given explanation, Zorba does recognize the depth of the mystery that he senses in that night sky.

That brings me to this painting, a 36″ by 36″ canvas that I am calling Sacred Awe. It is part of my solo show, Haven, at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, opening June 1.

This piece has been hanging in the studio for several months now and I have spent a fair amount of time in the space of this painting. Like Zorba, it is a painting that begs for an answer to the mystery of the stars and the constellations that swirl above. Yet all that is given in response is a sense of awe and nothing more.

And nothing more is needed.

Sacred Awe elevates the mind, stimulates the senses and is the beginning of all art and poetry. In it we connect to a mystic continuum that sees us as small as particles of dust and as large as the great waves of light that pass through the vastness of space.

It is all and it is nothing.

There’s a great meditative  and mysterious quality in this painting, at least for me. It both pleases and puzzles me.

A fitting response to sacred awe.

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I have about two more weeks to get ready for my solo show, Haven, that opens on June 1 at the Principle Gallery so I have little time to spare at the moment. So excuse me for doing a little shorthand here by using an older painting (No Way Home from 2009) and a thought-provoking quote from the late historian Lewis Mumford.

This idea of endless becoming transforming into being intrigues me, making me wonder if the work I am doing has made that jump.

And how does one know?

That might be both my breakfast and lunch because I’ll be chewing on it for quite some time today.

Time to get to work.

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“A philosopher once asked, “Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?” Pointless, really…”Do the stars gaze back?” Now, that’s a question.” 

― Neil Gaiman, Stardust

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Above is a new painting that is going with me down to Alexandria for my show, Haven, at the Principle Gallery, opening June 1. I am calling this 20″ by 16″ canvas Stars and Satellites. It’s a continuation of a series of recent works that are primarily stark nightscapes with skies composed of shards of color in an almost stained-glass manner. At the junctures where shards meet are points of bright color— the light of the stars and the planets of the night sky.

I think I have written here about the meditative effect of painting these pieces, how there is a feeling of both intense concentration and non-thought that blocks out all other things. If the television is on or music is playing, I don’t really hear it. If delivery vans or cars come up my driveway, I am totally unaware even though they directly pass in front of the large windows before which I work.

It’s like I am in that space in that time, especially in the first stages of composing the picture. All is quiet and all that moves through my mind is the simple geometry of placing blocks of red oxide in a way that makes sense in that part of my brain that is scanning the whole of the composition. It’s one of my favorite parts of my process of painting, this state of being so mentally attached to the surface of the painting.

Another favorite part comes later as the painting evolves from its red oxide skeleton. This moment comes after layer after layer of color is added and the painting crosses a tipping point where it suddenly becomes a fully fleshed being, an entity with its own life force and its own voice.

That is a really gratifying moment, one that makes me think of Carl Sagan describing the Voyager space mission and how it would travel through time and space as a reminder of our existence as a people and a civilization long after our Sun had turned our planet into an ember, long after we had ceased to walk this earth.

And in a way many of those stars in the night sky serve that same purpose. Many are the final traces of light from stars that have been extinguished eons ago yet remind us of their existence.

This piece has, for me, a feeling of an interdependence between the moon, the stars and we here on earth. We each need the other in order to be seen, to serve as a reminder that we have existed in this universe, if only for short time.

Like John Lennon sang in Instant KarmaWell, we all shine on/Like the moon and the stars and the sun…

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Just a month out from my solo show, Haven, at the Principle Gallery. The work for the show as a whole is shaping up well and I am going through waves of elation and anxiety as I prepare. The elation comes in the way I feel the new work is finishing off and the anxiety in that I fear my judgement might be off base a bit, that what I am seeing and feeling in the work might not come across to others.

That I am working with my head in the clouds.

Fortunately– or unfortunately–that anxiety is not new to this show. I’ve had it in varying degrees for every single show I’ve done over the past two decades. This is my 19th solo exhibit at the Principle Gallery and my 52nd or 53rd solo show overall and I can’t remember ever feeling absolutely confident in how people would react to what I was doing. But so long as I have faith in my own reaction to the work, that I trust that I am experiencing real feeling from it, then I live a little easier with that anxiety, even though it never fully recedes.

The piece shown here is a new painting, 24″ by 12″ on canvas, that elicits the elation I described above. It checks every box for what I wanted from it. It has an equilibrium of fineness and roughness that appeals to me. There is a cleanness in its design that makes it feel solid and whole to my eye. It draws me in and lets me feel that I am the Red Tree here and it is a fulfilling experience.

It makes me feel good, to put it plainly.

Now, I must note that these are my reactions. You might look at it and feel nothing. That is no less valid a reaction than my own. But because I know what I am feeling is true and genuine for myself, the anxiety of showing it to someone who might not feel anything from it is lessened.

So, with that thought in mind, I must get back to work.

With my head in the clouds.

This painting is titled, of course, Head in the Clouds. I used the quote below from Thoreau just a week or two ago but it fits this piece and this blogpost so well I am using it again:

It is better to have your head in the clouds, and know where you are, if indeed you cannot get it above them, than to breathe the clearer atmosphere below them, and think that you are in paradise.

–Henry David Thoreau

In this case, I think I know where I am…

 

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By three methods we may learn
wisdom: First, by reflection,
which is the noblest; Second, by
imitation, which is easiest;
and Third, by experience,
which is the bitterest.

Confucius

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This is another new painting, a 10″ by 20″ canvas that I am calling A Time to Reflect.  This is also going to be part of my show, Haven, that opens June 1 at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria.

I had my first show at the Principle in 2000 with the Redtree show that turned out to be the formal beginning point for the image of that tree that has come to populate and define much of my work. Each subsequent year has seen some change, an addition of a new element or shade of color, that pushes the work in a slightly new direction.

For this, my 19th show at the Principle, I have made a conscious decision to have many pieces of this exhibit revert to more simplified forms, cutting away a lot of excess detail and focusing on pulling as much as I can from a sparse set of elements. To allow the color, the texture, the shapes and lines of the forms to speak clearly. Even on the recent geometric, broken sky pieces, the compositions are simply constructed which creates an abundance of space that allows the shapes and colors of the sky’s forms to carry the emotion of the painting.

This particular painting very much feels like it may have come from those earliest shows at the Principle Gallery with the addition of nearly twenty years of reflection. Hopefully, it displays the nobility of wisdom gained through reflection, as Confucius states in his words at the top.

I think you must experience all three methods to truly gain wisdom. You first learn through imitation. Then you learn even more from the failures that come with your first attempts to use this acquired knowledge. But after a time filled with many failures and a few triumphs, you come to a sort of peace with the world and are able to stop to look back with a new respect and gratitude for it all.

And in that moment of reflection, when you have shed the bitterness, recognized your shortcomings and gave thanks for your few positive attributes, maybe there is a certain nobility. And maybe then there is real wisdom.

I’m hoping to find out someday.

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