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Traditions are lovely things- to create traditions, that is, not to live off of them… the great shapers do not search for their form in the fogs of the past.

–Franz Marc

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Franz Marc- The Yellow Cow 1911

Franz Marc- The Yellow Cow 1911

I chose today’s quote from German painter Franz Marc because he was an influence for me early on.  Not so much in the style or subject matter that he employed but simply in the fact that he created work that stood out and was identifiable as his from across a gallery space.  This is basically what he is pointing towards in this aphorism–to not toil in the fields planted by earlier artists but to carve out your own space and work it in the way that suits and  best expresses you.

Franz Marc- Large Blue Horses

Franz Marc- Large Blue Horses

He is not downplaying the influences of the past.  Early in his career  Marc copied the works of other artists from before and contemporary to him, using it as a way in which to find an avenue of expression that meshed with his vision.  He did not want to remain a replicator but wanted instead to be a creator.  And that was the attraction for me.

There was safety and security in remaining in this symbolic field with others but it would often be as an anonymous member of a larger group, your furrow always directly compared to the furrow of those alongside you, your harvest compared to their’s.

Breaking away and heading out was risky.   You had to believe that in taking this leap of faith that you would be able to work your little spot in your own way away from others and produce a harvest that is uniquely appetizing to others in some manner.   But you might end up toiling in barren soil, creating crops that appealed to no one but yourself.  It was scary to think that your field might never expand but you were at least nourishing yourself.

This was the type of thinking that drove my work early on, fueled by looking at the work of Marc and others who veered from the traditions of the past in their times.

Unfortunately, Franz Marc only worked his fields for a relatively short time, dying in WW I at the Battle of Verdun.  He was 36 years old.  But his crop still lives on, surviving being labeled as degenerate art in the 1930’s by Hitler and the Nazi regime.

It is unique and his own tradition.

Franz Marc- The Waterfall 1912

Franz Marc- The Waterfall 1912

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