Monday, February 12, 2007

Love and Marriage

The past few weeks have been both hectic and stressful. The weather has been horrible. Our youngest daughter was rear ended while going to the store. She was hit by a large SUV who was driving faster than visibility permitted. She’s okay but the car needs repairs. Dealing with insurance companies are always such a hassle. Then my computer has been having numerous problems. The other week the hard drive started to make noises that hard drives just should not make. I finally bit the bullet and got a new computer. A very nice Dell laptop. I also had to get a portable hard drive since the CD burner on the desktop died and get a new printer. The old printer died about 3 months ago. Having new toys is nice but such a hassle loading software, transferring files, and all that good stuff. Plus the new computer has VISTA, which has numerous issues of its own.

The hardest thing, though, was having to put down one of our dogs. Her name was Hope and she was a Sheltie mix. We took her in about 14 months ago from the Humane Society. My wife volunteers there and we decided to foster her because she was unadoptable due to age and medical problems. My daughters and I saw months ago what my wife would only now admit to, the quality of her life was gone and everyday was a struggle for her. Like all of our other pets, she will be missed.

So, on with my art journey. I stayed in my SF loft for about 2 years. I had the opportunity to move to NYC so I jumped on it. I figured that at least once in a lifetime every artist had to make his or her trip to (art) Mecca. So, I went and paid homage and bowed down before the great gray temples of the art gods. I went beyond intellectual, in my art, and started to become more cerebral. I saw a lot of art. Some I liked, most I thought was bad. Too many artists seemed to be making art for the critics and the art intelligentsia. Some seemed to spend more time working on their reputations rather than their art. The art scene was very political and I am not good at politics. In fact, I suck at it. After 3 years of being chewed up and spit out by that city, I decided that I had had enough and headed back to California.

I spent the next several years mucking around with various things. Artistically I was not very productive. I spent too much time drinking, chasing women, and making excuses for why I wasn’t productive. It was a very dark and depressing period for me. I started to re-explore spirituality to try to make sense out of everything that I was dealing with. I did a lot of reading, from the early church fathers through contemporary writers and theologians. One of my favorite authors was a Trappist monk, Thomas Merton. His work had such an impact on me I eventually ended up living in a Catholic monastery (I was raised and lived for many years as a Roman Catholic). After awhile I discovered that these guys were more neurotic than me and that celibacy thing was really becoming an issue for me. About a year and a half after leaving the monastery, I got married.

I remember back to reading a book about the American sculptor, David Smith. In the book he expresses that the best sculptures of the 1950’s never got made because the artists were too busy just trying to put food on the table, to support their families. I think that any artist who is married and raising a family knows what this is like. Between working a full time job and dealing with kids, there is never enough time let alone money for materials. It becomes easy to get frustrated and just give up. However, I am a stubborn S.O.B. who doesn’t like to be told I can’t do something so I dug in my heels.

Creativity seems to be a balance of the inner needs of expression and the external limitations that life has handed me. I spent too many years being frustrated by focusing on what I could not do rather than adjusting to what I was capable of doing right then and there. Large paintings were going to be a thing of the past. I did not have the time or money to work that way any longer. Everything had to be scaled down including the amount of time I could spend painting.

I continued to work abstractly and was looking to focus on a specific theme or direction. As a young artist I wanted to make important statements but never felt that I had anything important to say. Now, after many years of spiritual studies and meditation I wanted to try to paint some of those thoughts and ideas. To create a visual prayer book. I remembered reading about the Rothko chapel in Texas and it struck a chord in me. I have never been to the chapel but remember the depth of spirituality I always felt when I saw his work. It just seemed right to merge two of the loves and passions of my life, art and spirituality. These paintings draw from my understanding of silent prayer and meditation. They are influenced from the writings of Thomas Merton, Pierre Tielhard de Chardin, St. John of the Cross, Julianna of Norwich, the early desert fathers, and numerous Zen masters and mystics.

The first image is our beloved dog, Hope, who gave us much joy. The other images are all oil on prepared paper. They were all done sometime in the 1980’s. They are from a series based on silent prayer and the journey from dark to light. They all measure 17” X 15”.