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Posts Tagged ‘Poetry’

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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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“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

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This morning, I am finally coming to the end of preparations for my show at the Principle Gallery that opens a week from today, next Friday, June 1. Finishing touches this morning and loading for delivery later in the day. This point in the process generally brings a sense of relief even though there still is much ahead before I can fully relax.

I have had a few chances to finally look at this group of work as a whole and can say that I am truly excited to see it hanging in the gallery. I may have buried myself more in this body of work than any group in quite some time, maybe as a way of seeking sanctuary from the problems of the outer world. Perhaps the title of this show, Haven, was self-fulfilling.

I didn’t concern myself with trying to meet the expectations of others, didn’t worry about including work that might be directed towards anyone besides myself. I concentrated only on color and form and textures and mood. The colors are deep and dark. The forms have an organic simplicity. The textures create their own narratives beneath the picture plane. All of this comes together to create a sense of mood within these paintings that I think may be more consistent and palpable than any show of mine in some time.

In short, I think it’s a very strong show.

The painting at the top, Light and Wisdom, is one painting from the show. I think this piece, a 16″ by 20″ canvas, is emblematic of this show’s feel and look, possessing all of the qualities I listed above.

I love the lines below it from T.S. Eliot, feeling that they express so well what I see in this painting. Life often feels like a constant search for some vague object– knowledge, wisdom, love, experience, etc.– that will make us somehow whole. Yet, as is often the case, we only reach wholeness within ourselves, in that place where the journey began. Maybe that is why I chose this painting for this bit of verse from Eliot– it has a sense of wholeness that has been ultimately fulfilled by realizing that the answer was in itself.

The answer, it seems, is always at hand.

 

 

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SOWING LIGHTNING

Seize
Bolts of lightning from the sky
And plant them in fields of life.

They will grow like tender sprouts of fire.
Charge somber thoughts
With unexpected flash,
You, my lightning in the soil! 

― Visar Zhiti, The Condemned Apple: Selected Poetry

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This is a newer painting that I’ve been looking at for a while now here in the studio. With its many lightning bolts, it’s obviously different from most of my work even though most of it falls in line with the body of my work.

Most of my considerations have to do with whether I feel there is more to be done on this piece. That’s not uncommon when a new element is added. It takes time for me to accept this new thing being interjected into my quiet little world.

I guess that can be said for most new things.

I can see where a lot of people who know my work might have mixed feelings about this piece that seems so much like an anomaly. It has a feeling of an electrical shock in it, shiny and sharp and harsh. If you’ve ever been zapped by a strong jolt of electricity, you know what I mean.

I know that feeling.

But for now, I continue to consider this painting. It may change in some way before it ever sees the outer world again.

Or may be not. For now, I am calling it Sowing Lightning after the poem at the top from the Albanian poet Visar Zhiti. The idea of lightning planting itself in the earth with each strike is an intriguing one.

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I Am Not Alone

The night, it is deserted
from the mountains to the sea.
But I, the one who rocks you,
I am not alone!

The sky, it is deserted
for the moon falls to the sea.
But I, the one who holds you,
I am not alone !

The world, it is deserted.
All flesh is sad you see.
But I, the one who hugs you,
I am not alone!

Gabriela Mistral

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Another new piece that just came off the easel, this one a 24″ by 24″ canvas. I think I am going to call this painting Never Alone.

I’ve written about the focused, almost mesmerized, feeling that comes over me when I have been at work on this recent work and this painting was no different. It just pulled me in from the beginning and held me captive. Even when I would stop working on it, I was constantly looking back at it, trying to absorb it as though it were some sort of balm.

And maybe that is just what it is for myself. A soothing balm.

I came across the poem above a number of years ago from the great Chilean poetess and Nobel Prize winner, Gabriela Mistral, and shared it on the blog back in 2010. I wrote then that I felt this poem perfectly paired with a painting I had done at that time. I think the same holds true here.

As I wrote in 2010:  The sense of being alone yet not lonely is an important element in the way I look at my work and one that I sometimes struggle with for fear that it may alienate some who see being alone as only loneliness and not solitude. An important distinction and one that is often misunderstood. 

But we who relish our solitary time understand.

Well, I have some solitary time right now to further absorb my balm.

 

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Woke up late this morning, at least by my standards. I bolted awake directly coming out one of those weird dreams that seem like something out of a dystopian novel like 1984 or Brave New World.

Or taken from any recent newspaper.

I wanted to go back to sleep just to try again, maybe come out this sleep with something better. Second times a charm, you know.

But I couldn’t so I headed over to the studio for my morning rituals. But that feeling from my dreams lingered, like a foreboding prophetic omen that is always at the edge of my thoughts and my vision.

I have a floater in my right eye that sometimes, when I am looking straight ahead, will dart across the far right periphery of my field of vision. It’s been there a while now but I often still finding myself jerking my head reflexively to see what is there. Of course, there is never anything there yet its continued presence gives me an unsettling feeling as though something could be there when I look the next time.

Uncomfortable dream or terrible omen? I’m rooting for uncomfortable dream but who knows what our subconscious is up to these days.  So much of the info, the indicators, the patterns it selects to process from the outside world enter without our knowledge.

It all reminds me of the image at the top, a painting from back in 1996 or thereabouts. I can’t locate a slide of this piece but came across an old photocopy yesterday and was really taken with it. It’s called Strange Victory II designed as a kind of companion to Strange Victory which was an early painting that I showed here and was based on a favorite poem of mine with that title from Sara Teasdale.

There is a lot that I like in this painting– the subtlety of the colors, the textures and the contrast of the figure and the tree against the backdrop. It is so simply constructed but has a fullness that is often elusive to me as an artist.

I think it’s a great companion piece for this week’s Sunday Morning Music. This week I chose Don’t Give Up, the Peter Gabriel song from back in the 1980’s. This version is from Willie Nelson accompanied by Sinead O’Connor, from his 1996 album, Across the Borderline. I think it’s a first rate cover of the song and I can envision the image of this painting when I listen to it.

Take a listen and have good day and better dreams.

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The poet Robert Frost wrote a wonderful preface to the 1939 edition of his collected poems. It was titled The Figure a Poem Makes and it described how he viewed his process of unveiling the true nature of his work. Reading it, I was struck by the similarities between his work as a poet and how I view my work as painter.

For example, the following paragraph-I have highlighted individual lines that jumped out at me. I probably could have highlighted them all:

It should be of the pleasure of a poem itself to tell how it can. The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom. The figure is the same as for love. No one can really hold that the ecstasy should be static and stand still in one place. It begins in delight, it inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life–not necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on, but in a momentary stay against confusion. It has denouement. It has an outcome that though unforeseen was predestined from the first image of the original mood-and indeed from the very mood. It is but a trick poem and no poem at all if the best of it was thought of first and saved for the last. It finds its own name as it goes and discovers the best waiting for it in some final phrase at once wise and sad-the happy-sad blend of the drinking song.

A painting often begin in delight. A certain tone of color, the way a line bends, the manner in which a brushstroke reveals the paint or in how the contrast of light and dark excites the eye.  The delights pull you in and keep you engaged and it is not until you have finished that you are able to understand the sum of these elements, to detect the wisdom, the meaning, behind it all. It is only then that you know what you have uncovered and how it should be named.

The work itself, if left to its own means, knows what it is and will tell you.

Then there is this gem of a paragraph:

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. For me the initial delight is in the surprise of remembering something I didn’t know I knew. I am in a place, in a situation, as if I had materialized from cloud or risen out of the ground. There is a glad recognition of the long lost and the rest follows. Step by step the wonder of unexpected supply keeps growing. The impressions most useful to my purpose seem always those I was unaware of and so made no note of at the time when taken, and the conclusion is come to that like giants we are always hurling experience ahead of us to pave the future with against the day when we may want to strike a line of purpose across it for somewhere. The line will have the more charm for not being mechanically straight. We enjoy the straight crookedness of a good walking stick.

I have often spoke of the need to be have my emotions near the surface when I work, to always need to feel excited and surprised by what I am working on. To recognize things I never knew as being part of me. If I am not moved by the thing I am working on at any given time, how can I expect others to be moved by it? This paragraph speaks clearly to my experience as an artist.

Then there is the final sentences of the essay:

Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting. A poem may be worked over once it is in being, but may not be worried into being. Its most precious quality will remain its having run itself and carried away the poet with it. Read it a hundred times: it will forever keep its freshness as a petal keeps its fragrance. It can never lose its sense of a meaning that once unfolded by surprise as it went.

My translation of this, as a painter, is that the work must be free to move and grow of its own volition. It tells you where it wants to go and, if you don’t constrain it and try to push it to a place where it was not intended to go, will reveal its truth to you. If you can do that, it remain always fresh, always in the present and always filled the excitement and surprise that it contained in that burst when it was created.

I don’t want to bore you too much. It’s a great essay and is a valuable read for anyone who makes art in any form. You can see ( and download) the whole book, The Collected Poems of Robert Frost, with this essay in full by clicking here.

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I first read the poem The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats over forty years back and it left a mark. Cut and scarred me. Its first verse still resonates in my mind, especially that last line– the best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity. It just reeks of the current political bog in which we are mired.

After putting the final touches on the piece above, a 12″ by 36″ canvas, I began examining the painting, trying to discern what it held for me. Immediately, the image from Yeats’ poem came to mind of a world in disarray,  spinning out of control in dark chaotic clouds and rising tide that overtakes and drowns all hopes.

But instead of Yeats’ forewarning that the center ( or centre, as is in his Irish version) cannot hold, I saw the Red Tree standing strong and resolute against the troubles swirling around it.  It holds tight to its core, not allowing the madness surrounding it to overtake it or alter those values of goodness that it holds dearly as definitions of its own humanity. It will die before it will succumb to becoming part of the blood-dimmed tide, as Yeats put it.

I am calling this painting The Center Holds.

I think this is a strong piece although I am not sure the photo above captures everything in it, its depth and contours. It’s coming with me to the West End Gallery for my Gallery Talk there next Saturday, August 5. Stop by and check it out for yourself.

Meanwhile, here’s Yeats’ The Second Coming:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer; 
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; 
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, 
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned; 
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.                                                                                                                                                                               .
Surely some revelation is at hand; 
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi 
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.   
The darkness drops again; but now I know   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep 
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? 

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