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Posts Tagged ‘Ray Bradbury’

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“Life” is of course a misnomer, since viruses, lacking the ability to eat or respire, are officially dead, which is in itself intriguing, showing as it does that the habit of predation can be taken up by clusters of molecules that are in no way alive.”

― Barbara Ehrenreich, Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth about Everything

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It’s interesting how things reveal themselves to you in different ways.

The painting above, The March, was painted about a year ago and was part of my Multitudes series. It’s a piece that always made me uneasy and even a little frightened. There was something ominous in the massed figures and the way they were marching forward.

It was not a parade of celebration.

No, it had a purpose and intent that felt to me like it was skewing toward the darker side of our nature. It was like it portrayed some evil force marching towards us. In fact, when I wrote about this piece last March, I used a line from the Ray Bradbury book, Fahrenheit 451, as the introductory quote: “Our civilization is flinging itself to pieces. Stand back from the centrifuge.

And looking at this piece this morning, I stand by those initial feelings but they seem even stronger and more prescient given the march of the Covid-19 virus around the globe. I look at this painting now and see the faces and green coats as personifications of infection. There is a zombie-like pallor to the faces, the color of death. And as author Barbara Ehrenreich points out in the quote at the top, viruses are not truly living organisms. They are undead predators waiting for a host to further their march.

So, this painting has become more focused and narrowly defined for me personally. It’s like it has been waiting for the proper moment to reveal itself and its meaning. It doesn’t make me feel any better but at least I know what I see in it now.

It’s a scary time, these late winter days in March. There are certainly rough times ahead, both from the virus and the hardships created by it that we are going to face. I would like to say that I have confidence in those people who we have entrusted to lead us through times like this. But we are led by a person who lacks all empathy and is only concerned with his own situation. He has greatly weakened the agencies needed to face these situations, slashing budgets and even dismantling the Pandemic Response team back in 2018. He has filled his administration with inept and corrupt political lackeys, not with capable professionals in their fields who would dispassionately respond to crises like this. They would act with the public’s best interests foremost in their mind, without having to first worry about offending the childish sensibilities of the egomaniac in charge.

We are not confronting this with what we would consider an A Team leading us.

I am worried. Worried for my family and friends, Worried for my nation. Worried for this world.

And as the month of March slogs forward, the viral march moves on, as well, with an orange faced idiot in a red hat acting as the drum major.

Be well, my friends. Good luck to us all.

 

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“…that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain.”

–Ray Bradbury, The October Country

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Every so often you come across something from your distant past that has long passed from memory.  It could be a book, a song, a photo or some small insignificant memento, something once cherished but now tucked away in the piling up of time. Coming across such a thing after so many years illuminates how much that thing meant to you. In some cases, being able to look back at the years allows  you to see that it actually influenced your way of thinking and, therefore, your life.

That’s how I felt this morning when I came across the short prologue, shown here at the top, to the 1955 book of short stories from Ray Bradbury, The October Country. I probably read this book last in the late 1970’s at a time when I devoured most of Bradbury’s books. They were all great and interesting reads and Bradbury had a poetic nature to go with his active imagination, one that sometimes found feelings of isolation and fear at the edges of the mundane.

I don’t know how I reacted when I read the words above forty years ago but reading them now, I felt like he was describing me. Or at least, describing the occupants of the world I depict in my paintings, those folks who, by extension, are built from parts of myself.

They are definitely the autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts.

Lingering in twilight, tucked in dark niches inside, facing away from the sun.

The painting at the top, Dark Eye of Quiet, is a new painting that is part of my current show at the West End Gallery. When I read Bradbury’s prologue to The October Country, I could see in this piece how his words, perhaps unbeknownst to me, had stayed with and filtered through me over the time. It’s a painting that aptly illustrates this point, from its title to the doorless and windowless houses that reside in shadow, seeming to be avoid the gaze of the dark sun. It has the wistful isolation of a Bradbury story.

I went through a stack of old paperbacks in a closet and dug out my dog-eared copy of the The October Country. Leafing through it, I saw a few titles in the list of contents that I had circles eons ago. I don’t remember doing this, of course, but I obviously saw something in it that made me do this. One was titled The Wind and turning the pages to that story I was greeted by a black and white illustration for the story from artist Joe Mugnaini.

I didn’t recognize or remember it but even so, it had a familiarity that made me smile.

I found an image of it online and am sharing it here. Maybe it was not only Bradbury’s words that influenced me forty some years back?

The mind works in weird and wonderful ways, eh?

 

 

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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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We are at a crucial time in this country and, maybe as well, the world as a whole. I think even those who refuse to pay attention are beginning to see that something very wrong has taken place and there is an effort to find the truth behind it. If this situation were a painting, it began with an underpainting of a scene based on lies. But each new day brings more and more strokes and color in the form of facts and truths that expose the underlying falsehood, the illegitimacy of the scene painted for us two plus years ago.

With each day, the final painting is becoming clearer and clearer.

I could go on but that would most likely be overkill. Too pedantic and preachy.

Instead, I thought I would share some of my favorite quotes– I do love a good quote— dealing with lies and liars. A page of lies. Actually, not lies but about lies. As a liar myself, I can attest to the veracity of most of these but you would have to take my word for that. And, believe me (the liar’s favorite phrase, by the way), you don’t want to do that.

Though I think these are all pertinent, the most applicable to the current situation might be the last from Ray Bradbury‘s dystopian classic Fahrenheit 451. Most people will not be told, will not dare to extrapolate into the future. They only see the present moment and even then, it is seen with a subjective sort of vision, the kind that only sees and knows what is in its immediate reach. But once the fallout from this hits them, they will ask how this could have possibly happened, even though they themselves enabled it with their lack of attention.

The Albert Camus quote is also a favorite. The projection of self by the liar is most illuminating.

But don’t trust me, take a look for yourself.

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This morning, I am taking the advice below from Ray Bradbury and simply doing things.I can tell you from my own experience that his words ring true. All too may times I have started a painting based on an idea, some novel concept that was I believed to be well thought out. Those paintings are usually the ones that die on the easel. The best work, the stuff that seems to have its life force, comes outside of thought. So, my thinking goes on a hiatus starting now. Here’s a replay of a post from several years back on the subject.
ray-bradbury-on-creativity-famous-quotes

I came across this quote from famed sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury on a post on the  TwistedSifter site that featured quotes on creativity. This struck close to the bone for me as I have proudly not thought for years now. I have long maintained that thinking usually inhibits my work, making it less fluid and rhythmic.

It’s a hard thing to get across because just in the process of doing anything there is a certain amount of thought required, with preliminary ideas and decisions to be made. I think that the lack of thought I am talking about, as I also believe Bradbury refers, is once the process of creating begins. At that point you have to try to free yourself of the conscious and let intuition and reaction take over, those qualities that operate on an instantaneous emotional level.

I can tell instantly when I have let my conscious push its way into my work and have over-thought the whole thing. There’s a clunkiness and dullness in every aspect of it. No flow. No rhythm. No brightness or lightness. Emotionally vacant and awkward. Bradbury’s  choice in using the term self-conscious is perfect because I have often been self-conscious in my life and that same uncomfortable awkwardness that comes in those instances translates well to what I see in this over-thought work.

So what’s the answer? How do you let go of thought, to be less self-conscious?

I think Bradbury hits the nail on the head– you must simply do things. This means trusting your subconscious to find a way through, to give the controls over to instinct.

And how do you do that? I can’t speak for others but for myself it’s a matter of staying in my routine. Painting every day even when it feels like a struggle. Loading a brush with paint and making a mark even when I have no idea at hand. Just doing things and not waiting for inspiration.

You don’t wait for inspiration– you create it.

So, stop thinking right  now and just start doing things.

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Ideas excite me, and as soon as I get excited, the adrenaline gets going and the next thing I know I’m borrowing energy from the ideas themselves.

Ray Bradbury

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Yesterday I wrote briefly about the Aboriginal art of Australia, work that really stirs me up in a lot of ways. As I was looking at the Aboriginal paintings while writing the blog, different ideas for my own work were running through my mind. There was a rhythm and a pattern that kept biting at me and by the time I got to my own painting I had a sense of what I was hoping to see, as far as forms. The color would evolve as the painting moved along through the process.

Using a 12″ by 36″ piece of masonite prepped with gesso and a layer of black paint, I began and moved quickly.  Like late author Ray Bradbury said in the quote above, the idea was creating its own energy and I was feeding off it. At these times, the painting is absolutely effortless.  As the painting is finally all blocked in,  begin to see the final finished version come to form in my mind.

Layer after layer of color are applied quickly, each layer slightly altering the overall feeling of the piece and moving it by steps closer to what I am now seeing concretely in my mind. After a final pass through, I stop and feel satisfied.  That’s what you are seeing at the top of the page.  I am satisfied in the moment but am still spending time taking it.

Sometimes when I paint like this, the energy from the actual act of painting hangs with me for a while.  I have learned that I need to give these pieces a little more time so that I can see them without the influence of the energy created in the process.  Sometimes after a bit I might see that some colors need to be deepened or brightened in order to move the energy in the painting.

Looking at the piece now I can see the synthesis from the work I was looking at yesterday morning into the finished piece above. I took in the shapes, colors, rhythms, and patterns of that work and tried to translate it into my own visual voice without imitating or copying it in any way.  It is more about appropriating the energy and rhythm of that work.

Now without the context of yesterday’s blog, you might look at this piece and simply see my work.  But artists are, at their core, synthesizers that constantly take in information and imagery and sounds and movements then shape them into a unique form that fits the vision they have for the world. This is one very basic and direct example of that synthesization of influence.

So, gotta run– there’s some synthesizing to be done!

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Ray BradburyYou can’t think a story — you can’t think, “I shall do a story to improve mankind.” It’s nonsense! All the great stories, all the really worthwhile plays, are emotional experiences. If you have to ask yourself whether you love a girl, or whether you love a boy, forget it — you don’t! A story is the same way — you either feel a story and need to write it, or you’d better not write it.

Ray Bradbury

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I grew up reading Ray Bradbury stories–The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine and so on.  They were categorized as science fiction but they were really just stories of great humanity in different settings and times.  Every time I read a quote from Ray Bradbury  or read an interview, I like him more and more, if only for that same humanity that runs through his books.

A case in point is found in a short bit of an interview that he gave in 1972 during a drive with two students, Lisa Potts and Chad Coates, who had picked him up at his home in LA and were taking him to deliver a lecture at their college in Orange County.  This part of the interview is animated by Blank on Blank, which produces great animations of  rare found interviews from notable people.  Check out their site.

The quote at the top is from this interview and I think pretty much applies to the emotional experiencing of any creative work.  I have heard people say after looking at a piece of art that they don’t know anything about art, which to me implies that they don’t like it but don’t know whether they should say so because they might somehow be wrong in doing so.  But you often know instantly whether something hits or misses your emotional buttons, whether or not you say it aloud.  You have to learn to trust your own reaction.

But enough said, take a gander at the short film with Ray Bradbury.

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