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Posts Tagged ‘New Painting’

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There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.

-Anais Nin

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I see in the new painting above, Illumination, a moment when all the fragments of that mosaic, as mentioned in the words of Anais Nin, come together. That moment when we are no longer seeing only individuals pieces of the mosaic, those bits and pieces of acquired information and observations we gather over a lifetime. That moment when we suddenly see those gathered bits as a complete image of a greater truth in all its wholeness.

That moment which reveals the why of the universe after a lifetime of showing us only the whats.

Does such a moment ever come to us, do we ever receive true illumination?

I certainly don’t have that answer.

I am still in the process of gathering bits of the mosaic as I see it. Some days, the various pieces I’ve put together seem to show a glimpse of a pattern of the image of a greater whole. Those are inspiring and hopeful days.

But often, I can’t find that same pattern on the next day. Those days have less hope and have me questioning whether all these mosaic pieces ever come together to create a fuller image. Is there a purpose to this all?

Again, I can’t say. But I’ve got too many mosaic pieces before me now to not want to keep moving forward. Too many to not keep trying to assemble them in the hopes of receiving some sort of illumination that gives me the peace that comes with understanding.

And that may be the purpose of art– gathered bits of a mosaic that allows us to see a greater whole and gain some vestige of understanding.

Hmmm. Sounds good right now. Ask me in 15 minutes and I may see it in a different light. But for this moment, I feel hopeful in simply looking at this painting.

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“Our civilization is flinging itself to pieces. Stand back from the centrifuge.” 

Ray BradburyFahrenheit 451

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I have completed a number of paintings in my Multitudes (or Masks or Faces or whatever the hell I am going to call them) series in the past couple of months and I still can’t quite put my finger on what they truly are or what purpose they serve for myself. As I’ve said, many of these faces have lived with me for most of my life.

They are absolutely familiar. Maybe even going to the base of the word, they seem like family.

The overall effect from these pieces for myself is not a stirring of one single emotion. They are a compendium of feelings. Some are benign and some are very kind faces. Some are worried and fearful. Some seem lost in thought and some just seem lost. Some are angry and some even contain a bit of menace and hatred.

The massing of them tends to balance the emotions for me.

This seems less so in the piece shown above, an 18″ by 18″ canvas that I originally called The March. It’s a piece that I find very appealing in so many ways, especially in the glow its colors produce in any kind of light. The colors, especially the orange/red of the flags, seem to pop off the surface and at a glimpse it seems almost festive. Maybe a celebratory parade?

But the more I look, the more it frightens me, seemingly capturing some innate dread of mine. I see in it a reflection of some of the craziness that is in great abundance around the world at this juncture in time. Waking this morning to hear of the 49 people slain by a white supremacist as they worshipped in their mosques in New Zealand only reinforces this sense of dread and looking at this piece, I see in it the willingness of people to join in, to sacrifice self and sense to become part of a mass movement to march under a banner that divides more than it unites.

The joy and snap of the banners that I first saw in this painting have become something else. They now represent a emboldened expression of feelings and beliefs that is sanctioned by the crowd. Most had been rightfully restrained in shame for decades and centuries but have now been unleashed. They now seem to me like banners of ignorance and stupidity, of racial hatred and blind allegiance to dead ideals.

It was never intended to be so. I just painted it as it came to me, delighting in the colors and forms as they came together. It came easily and freely, giving me great pleasure and joy as I painted it.

But now when I look at the faces and bodies with their uniform shade of color, I see a parade of old white men marching to protect that which they see as their god given sense of entitlement. Even the poorest among this crowd believes that the earth is their’s alone, that they reign supreme over all races and species. In it I see this crowd as believing this is their last ditch effort to maintain this imagined supremacy. That now is the time to take this world back.

And in the world outside this painting, I sense the same. It is a worrisome and dangerous time. We must be vigilant against this parade of fools. And after writing this this morning, maybe that is what the title should be.

Parade of Fools– that will be its title, after all.

Funny how the perception of a piece can change with time and circumstance.

 

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Daylight Savings Time! Woke up late this morning so I am hustling around trying to get to a piece on the easel that has been gnawing at me overnight. I just realized yesterday that in all the time I’ve been doing his blog and sharing some of my favorite music I hadn’t played  any Jimmy Reed, the late great bluesman. Going to rectify that today. I came across his albums when I was teen and some of his songs from the 50’s and early 60’s remain among my faves including Big Boss Man (You ain’t so big/ You just tall That’s all), Baby What You Want Me to Do ( You got me runnin’/ You got me hidin’), Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby, and the song I’m sharing below, Bright Lights Big City.

Thought the painting above might fit. It’s fairly new and is one that I am still taking in mentally. There’s a lot going on and I thought the idea of being taken in by the movement and bright lights of the big city as one approaches it was a nice complement to the song.

Take a listen, give a look and have a good day.

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There are in every man, always, two simultaneous allegiances, one to God, the other to Satan. Invocation of God, or Spirituality, is a desire to climb higher; that of Satan, or animality, is delight in descent.

–Charles Baudelaire

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The words above from the poet Baudelaire sum up the paradox of our existence, at least in the way it seems to me. We are creatures forever torn between opposing forces.

Good and evil. Love and hate. Desire and indifference. The physical and the spiritual.

It’s something that I try to represent in much of my work in terms of contrasts of dark and light. The warmth and coolness of colors. High and low tones.

Showing the contrast of the light of hope alongside the darkness of despair.

This newer piece, an 18″ by 24″ canvas, seems to follow Baudelaire’s words quite literally. Titled The Calling Out, the Red Tree here seems to have climbed to the loftiest point to appeal to a higher source as represented by the light emanating from the sun. There is a great, enveloping warmth in this painting but  for me, it is the underlying darkness that makes this piece effectively come alive.

Even the sun has a darker tone than the light it emits. This unnatural sun gives the piece an almost ominous feel but it is that same contrasting light coming from it that brings a redeeming sense of hope to the painting. It lives firmly between the darkness and light much like man according to Baudleaire’s words.

And that is where I want my work to live: Seeking the light but ever aware of its own darkness.

That, of course, is just how I see it. You might well see it in different terms and that is, as always, as it should be.

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“The muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited.”

Stephen KingBag of Bones

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Finished this piece up a week or so back. The final product was never imagined beforehand. It was intended to be a canvas filled with faces but somewhere along the line something changed. Maybe, like the Stephen King words above, it was the uninvited act of a ghostly muse that caused this painting to form.

Who knows?

I do know that when I stepped back feeling that I was done, the whole of it surprised me very much. Mainly because it very much attracted me and raised so many questions, both about what the painting was and where it fit in my body of work.

I could even say it perplexed me. Part of me felt that it wasn’t even my painting, that it belonged to someone else’s mind. It was so unlike my other work that I wondered if this simply a one off event, something that pops up, maybe with the help of some vaporous muse, and never comes around again, or if it was a new direction that had pushed its way into my consciousness.

I can’t say but it sure keeps me looking its way.

It has some size at 24″ high by 30″ wide which gives it even more oomph in the room. I know that in a studio that is filled with new work, it dominates my eye every time I turn its way. There is a confectionary quality to it that passes on a delight of sorts to myself as I look at it. But it also has an ominous feel that makes me wonder where this ship is going and from where it came.

It feels as though there is a lot of mystery here, questions that will never be answered.

It’s been a struggle trying to pin down a title for this piece. I am leaning towards Ghost Ship. Thinking of a boat floating aimlessly on the sea that is empty but for the host of spirits of past travelers that hang on, their stories waiting to be told. Sounds right to me at the moment.

All in all, it pleases and perplexes. I am glad to have it with me for the next few months so that I can better consider its meaning for myself. It might be one of those pieces that is meant only for me.

Who knows?

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Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.

Charles MacKay,

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

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I am still in the midst of a frenzy of faces.

I call this group of work, like the newer painting above, a 20″ by 20″ canvas, Masks or Multitudes. This particular piece is still untitled although I am seeing it as The Crowd for the moment.

Still not sure what the meaning is behind these pieces.

Maybe there is no meaning. Maybe they are just familiar shapes and it is a matter of color and form that is attracting me.

Maybe attracting is the wrong word because it is not really attraction that has me painting them. A better word might be compelling. I feel compelled to paint these at this time.

Why is another thing altogether.

On one hand, I see it in the terms of Walt Whitman‘s voice in Song of Myself, as I wrote here recently– I am large, I contain multitudes. In this rationale, the faces are part of me, individual pieces of a whole. It makes sense as I have been seeing these faces all my life. They seem part of me.

Maybe that is what these paintings are.

But then sometimes I see something different in them and think that they are quite something else. Something less benign. Something more strange.

Strange because I have become more and more averse to crowds, especially the collective behavior of crowds. While I try to subscribe to Will Rogers‘ mantra of I never met a man I didn’t like, I find myself leery of crowds. I would change Roger’s line a bit, to something more like I never met a crowd I liked with one caveat–I only feel somewhat comfortable with crowds at my gallery talks or openings. I don’t fear and sort of understand the common denominator of those groups.

But mob thought in general worries and alarms me. It seems too easy for one to be swept up in the frenzy of a mob, to sacrifice aspects of yourself for a collective aspect that might not normally be seen in you when you as an individual.

That might even apply to the overall intelligence of a crowd. You would think the level of intelligence would rise with the inclusion of more minds but actually it seems to lower to compensate for the common denominator. As the late writer Terry Pratchett put it:  The intelligence of that creature known as a crowd is the square root of the number of people in it.

As a result the crowd is subject to manipulation, to being led astray from what the individual knows is right when they really consider it in solitude. It becomes easy to believe things that might otherwise seem ridiculous or outrageous.

We have plenty of examples of that in our current state of affairs here in the USA.

Sometimes I see this work in that way, as representing the mob. But then again when  look deeper and see the faces individually, they seem less threatening and more along the lines of Whitman’s thought.

I just don’t know. That they compel me might be all I can say with any certainty. I find myself being both uneasy and comforted by this work. And there’s something to be said for that paradox and contrast. They are important aspects of art, the part that imparts meaning.

Hope that is what I am looking at.

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The masses do not see the Sirens. They do not hear songs in the air. Blind, deaf, stooping, they pull at their oars in the hold of the earth. But the more select, the captains, harken to a Siren within them… and royally squander their lives with her.

–Nikos Kazantzakis

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I am still working on the Multitudes paintings with their masses of eyeless faces. It’s work that is consuming, acting as a siren of sorts, drawing me to it and keeping me from moving on to other things. It is much like author Nikos Kazantzakis describes above.

It reminds me also of a newer painting shown at the top that was finished just before jumping into the Multitudes pieces. It is a 24″ by 18″ canvas that I am titling Call of the Siren. It incorporates the Red Tree and the Red Roofs along with a band of color at the bottom that represents the sea.

This bottom section has a pattern that seen with the vertical piers of the dock creates a pattern that feels Greek to me. It wasn’t intended and I can’t say if this pattern, as I see it, is really Greek in origin. But it feels that way to me and perhaps brings the thought of the Sirens of Greek mythology to mind when I look at this piece.

Another thing I note in this painting is the the massed buildings of the town seem to form a fence It is another barrier, beyond the sea journey that brought them here, that must be overcome for those who are called by the Sirens. And once one has made it over wide waters and through treacherous cities, there is still a hill to be climbed.

The Sirens never makes things easy.

I know this to be true– I’ve royally squandered much of my life chasing their song.

 

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