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Posts Tagged ‘Sensing the Unseen’

For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves…

Hermann Hesse, Trees: Reflections and Poems

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The painting at the top is titled The Spirit Tree and is part of my show, Sensing the Unseen, that opens tomorrow at the Kada Gallery. It is 11″ by 15″ on paper.

Trees have always held a firm spot in my heart as symbols of strength, wisdom and calm perseverance. My early memories of childhood often revolved around the black walnut trees in our yard and the hardwoods on the hill behind it. When I was among those trees I felt at home, safely in a realm that moved at pace that was beyond our own idea of time. Ageless.

Even now while the world teeters on the edges of chaos, walking among the trees is a source of great comfort, letting me know that as dire as it may seem this period of time is but a hiccup in the great continuum of the time of trees.

And that is how I look at this piece and the central tree. It stands strong and with an air of ageless wisdom, creating a band of light between the darkness of the earthly dwellings and that of the foreboding sky. As Hesse wrote above, like the most penetrating preacher.

That piece of writing at the top is from Hermann Hesse is from an essay in his book, Trees: Reflections and Poems. It’s a piece of writing that I adore and have posted here before. To read the longer version of this essay  click here.


Sensing the Unseen is now hanging at the Kada Gallery in Erie. The show opens with a reception tomorrow, Friday, December 1, running from 6-9 PM. I will be there to answer your questions or just shoot the breeze. I look forward to seeing and meeting you there.

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“How can it be that I’ve never seen that lofty sky before? Oh, how happy I am to have found it at last. Yes! It’s all vanity, it’s all an illusion, everything except that infinite sky. There is nothing, nothing – that’s all there is. But there isn’t even that. There’s nothing but stillness and peace. Thank God for that!”

Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

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There’s something about this new painting that has wonderful calming effect for me. I find it easy to ease myself into this piece for a few moments, leaving behind for that time all the worries and concerns that are eating at me.

When I was looking at this painting in the studio I felt like I was looking at an aquarium or a terrarium, something that was right there in front of me but separate from me, a world unto itself, a unique eco-system that exists only in that one place. But instead of seeing fish or reptiles or plants, this was a self-contained world of peaceful feeling- a placidarium.

So, that is the title– Placidarium— that I have chose for this 12″ by 12″ painting that will be part of my show at the Kada Gallery that opens this Friday. It’s a painting that I will be sad to see go – a working placidarium is hard thing to come by these days.

 

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But I believe above all that I wanted to build the palace of my memory, because my memory is my only homeland.

Anselm Kiefer

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I came across this quote from artist Anselm Kiefer and it immediately struck a chord with me.

There is always a nagging question running through my mind about the purpose of my painting, at least for myself. The why behind the what. And this brief quote seemed to capture some of what I have been thinking about that.

While I am attached to the area in which I live, a place that my family has been in for about two hundred years now, I have come to feel that the landscape in my paintings is my real homeland. It is a construct built from memories and imaginings, a place that feels real but allows for exaggeration and embellishment.

When I visit real places from my childhood, I only see them briefly as they really are in the present. Then they revert to the image drawn in my memory–my real and only homeland. The body of my work is in a way a palace of that memory, a residence for what I am, was or will ever be.

I call the painting shown here, The Palace of My Memory, of course. It is 12″ by 6″ on panel and is part of my show, Sensing the Unseen, that opens in Erie’s Kada Gallery next Friday, December 1. I am excited by this show and am looking forward to seeing it all together on the walls of the gallery. Hope you can make it.

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GC Myers- A Small SerenityWe are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back. And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy. If we are to die in a minute, why not die happily, laughing? 

― Swami SatchidanandaThe Yoga Sutras

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I call this new painting, A Small Serenity. It is a tidy 6″ by 12″ canvas that is part of my show, Sensing the Unseen, at the Kada Gallery which opens next Friday, December 1.

It’s a small and simple piece but it has a lovely feeling of tranquility in it, one that far exceeds its humble size. If anything, its dimensions enhance its sense of serene quietness.

And perhaps that is how a contagion of serenity begins, as a small seed within ourselves. A tiny feeling of peaceful tranquility that grows then bursts from us, radiating outward to infect those around us and hopefully through them to others.

And on and on and on.

The cynical part of me knows that such a plague of joy is improbable but looking at this little painting for a moment gives me the serenity to hope and ask,“Why not?” What harm could be done in being kind and calm or in wearing a smile? As the late Swami Satchidananda says above, a smile costs nothing.

So, let’s start this plague today. Shouldn’t we all feel free as birds?

 

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Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. 
Seneca

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Every beginning has an end. Every end is a new beginning.

Those are the thoughts that come to mind for me when I look at this new painting that I am calling Omega Tree which is part of my show, Sensing the Unseen that opens on December 1 at the Kada Gallery.

It’s a paradoxical feeling, one that is saddened by the ending of one thing yet also gladdened by the start of another. And I see that here as my eye moves upward from the bottom. There are bare purplish mounds that would normally support other trees in much of my work, something that hints of something missing. Something has happened that has taken away those other trees.

Going up through the picture, the ground is covered with snow. Wintry and cool, the end of the growing year and the precursor to the coming spring. And atop the highest mound stands a single tree that has persevered. It is an evergreen whose end has not yet come and it is a beginning to something new in this place.

And at the top is the moon/sun that seems to us endless. Yet we know that it also has an ending at some point well beyond our own. For now, it witnesses our new beginning in this place.

It’s an odd little piece, this 16″ by 8″ canvas. It feels like a warning of some kind of environmental catastrophe while simultaneously reminding us that we have a place in the cycle and rhythm of the universe. A cool foreboding of an end along with a warm greeting to a new beginning.

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“How fathomless the mystery of the Unseen is! We cannot plumb its depths with our feeble senses – with eyes which cannot see the infinitely small or the infinitely great, nor anything too close or too distant, such as the beings who live on a star or the creatures which live in a drop of water… with ears that deceive us by converting vibrations of the air into tones that we can hear, for they are sprites which miraculously change movement into sound, a metamorphosis which gives birth to harmonies which turn the silent agitation of nature into song… with our sense of smell, which is poorer than any dog’s… with our sense of taste, which is barely capable of detecting the age of a wine!

Ah! If we had other senses which would work other miracles for us, how many more things would we not discover around us!”

Guy de Maupassant, The Horla

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Yesterday I finished the painting above, a 12″ square canvas that is scheduled to head to the Kada Gallery in Erie for my show, Sensing the Unseen, that opens there on December 1. It’s a piece that feels faithful to the theme of the Kada show– that there are energies and forces swirling around us that are imperceptible to our senses. I’ve often felt that one of the purposes of art is to give these forces shape and form.

To make the unseen visible.

And I think this painting is a good example of that thought. Its simple forms, lack of detail and sparse narrative elements might seem an unlikely setting for the unveiling of  hidden forces.

Or maybe these things make it the perfect setting for doing such a thing. Distraction is stripped away. The whiteness of the moon at the horizon becomes a central point of focus. The lightness of the landscape (is that snow?) and the path push the eye further inward, past the windowless houses that seem to act as boundary markers between the known and the unknown. There is a created sense of depth and space that belies the tight dimensions of the picture plane. It all makes you feel as though there is something ponderous, something that begs to be known in that space.

Even the color creates a mysterious paradox. It feels cold with the whiteness of the snow and the moon (or is it a sun?) yet the underlying magenta makes it feel warm. It seems perilous and cold yet still feels warm and inviting. It pushes away and pulls in.

Or it’s just a simple little snowy landscape.

I chose its title, Mystery of the Unseen, from the paragraph at the top taken from a short story, The Horla, from the French master of the short story, Guy de Maupassant. It’s a horror story describing how an unseen alien force– an extraterrestrial– inhabits a man, controlling his mind with the intent of conquering humanity. It was the last story he wrote before being committed to a sanitarium, where he died.

I guess that’s the dark side of the unseen.

Hardly the feeling I experience in this painting.

 

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