Compost and Mulch
I used to have coffee with a musician that I know. As we were chatting I brought up an idea that he had talked about months earlier. He told me that he was fascinated with my thinking process. At times he didn’t think that I was really listening or cared about what he was saying but then months later I would bring up the idea. Only it had been reframed to my way of thinking. I told him that a lot of my thinking is a real digestive process. The analogy that I used was a compost pile. I take all of these bits and pieces and scraps of thought and through them all together. In the dark and dank recesses of my mind, like in a compost heap, they decay, break down, and reform into something new. Something that is of me. My wife says that it is more like a manure pile since I’m so full of it. The other analogy I used was brewing beer. All the ingredients get mixed together, brewed, and then the concoction is left to sit and ferment. Only once the fermenting process has taken place is the beer ready for consumption. For better or worse this is the way my mind functions.
So, I was looking at a comment left by Lesly Finn on a previous post. She said, “These two paintings seem to come from your struggles.... the dense trees are the problems and worries, then the colours in the background are the plans and hopes beckoning you onwards.” This gave me pause. She was so accurate, so right. For the next week I did what I do best, I obsessed over this thought. It went everywhere with me. It went on my walks, to the store, and into my studio. I turned it over and over and looked at it from every angle. Then I was reading a blog posting titled, This Land Is Their Land, on June 28th from the author, Barbara Ehrenreich. In it she says, “I need to see vast expanses of water, 360 degree horizons, and mountains piercing the sky—at least for a week or two of the year. According to evolutionary psychologist Nancy Etcoff, we all do, and the need is hard-wired into us. “People like to be on a hill, where they can see a landscape. And they like somewhere to go where they can not be seen themselves,” told Harvard Magazine earlier this year. “That’s a place desirable to a predator who wants to avoid becoming prey.” We also like to be able to see water (for drinking), low-canopy trees (for shade), and animals (whose presence signals that the place is habitable). This also struck a chord in me. So, Barbara gets tossed into the compost pile with Lesly, throw in some ideas from the analyst, Carl Jung, which says that within every person exists their opposite. Give all of this a few good turns and the fermentation begins.
These ideas have all come together. My world has recently been turned upside down. Out of that has come some new problems, some new struggles. In one sense I am looking for a way out of that thicket and underbrush. I am looking to get out of all the tangles and into the clearing. At the same time there is a sense of comfort and safety in being there. The trees, brush, and thicket surround me and protect me. This is a place where I cannot be seen. I know that this is a lot of my emotional baggage surfacing.
I also know that as comfortable and secure that this place is, I don’t want to stay there forever and yet I don’t want to leave it behind, at least not right now. What I think I want is to make assorted pathways in and out of this space. I want the ability to move back and forth as needed. There is a nice sense of have someplace to be so that I can learn whatever it is that I am supposed to and to be able to do a little more experimenting away from the view of others. Okay, I think that I’m sounding sappy here so enough, at least for now.
Tomorrow I head down to the nudist resort to do an art fair. It is only a 2-hour drive so it won’t be too bad. The weather is expected to be pretty nice. Temperatures in the low 80’s and mostly sunny. Hopefully it will draw a good crowd. Hopefully the crowd will be in the mood to spend money. The two pieces here are new things that I have been playing with. The first one is oil on prepared paper and is titled “In The Thick of It.” With this one I went back and used some techniques from my abstract color field painter days. The paint was thinned a lot. The first layers were scrubbed on randomly using cheap brushes. I would then start spattering the paint randomly, let it dry, spatter another layer, and so on. The final touches were done with a brush. The second one is oil on panel and it is untitled currently. The main areas were blocked in loosely with thin washes in several layers. I then started going back into it with small brushes and mixing the paint with a medium called, Dorland’s Wax Medium. Depending on how it is used it can give an effect similar to encaustics. I mixed it in a 1:1 ratio with the paint so the color would be translucent as I built up the layers. I have included close ups of each to show the textures.