Saturday, November 08, 2008

Truth, Reality, and Literalism: Part Two

This painting by the Surrealist artist, Rene Magritte, intrigues me. It is a wonderful play on words but more importantly it causes the viewer to question his or herself. The title, which is painted on the canvas, is “Leci n’est pas une pipe” which translates to “This is not a pipe.” The viewer looks at it and says, “Of course it’s a pipe, I can see that, it’s very obvious.” What the viewer misses is the truly obvious that this is a painting. It may be a painting of a pipe but still it is a painting. What we actually see and what we perceive may be completely different. This is always the problem with beginning art students and why they have difficulty in what they are drawing. Most often they are drawing what they think they see, because they are not looking carefully, rather than what is actually there. Also because the logical side, which uses language the student substitutes, dominates our brains a symbol of what is there rather than what is actually there.

However there is more to it than that. How we perceive something is determined by the filter of our own personal history and even our personalities. The theologian and scholar, John Dominick Crossan, teaches that you can have four people standing together, all witnessing the same event at the same time and each of them will come away with a different perception and memory of the event. Does this mean that one interpretation is better than another or that very simply they are just different? Because something is real or meaningful to you does that mean it has to be that way to me? Being obsessive I can play with this idea for a long time. Regretfully, society is usually a little uneasy with those of us who think and act a little differently. Maybe that’s why I find it so much fun.

About 15 years ago I belonged to a co-op gallery in this area. We were putting on an exhibit with the nude human form as the theme. First of all because the nude is a beautiful subject but also because this is a conservative area and we knew it would generate some interest. Good or bad we didn’t especially care as long as we got people to react. Included in my work were some nude self-portraits. At the opening my wife asked me if I was troubled by the fact that people, complete strangers, were going to see me nude. I had to remind her that I was fully dressed and had no intention of taking my clothes off at the gallery. I had to remind her that there is a difference between the real flesh and blood me and a piece of paper hung on the wall. The viewers were not looking at me but looking at a drawing. Even though the drawing and I are both real we are not interchangeable. My wife and I, side by side at the same event each perceived the reality differently and that’s just fine with me.


There are many blogs that I used to visit on a regular basis. I haven’t visited them very much lately. Where we live there is no high speed internet or cable. Satellite service is too expense so I use my cell phone to access the web. As long as I am just viewing text it is fine. When I visit sites that have a lot of visuals and images my service stalls and locks up. I hope to resolve that soon and then I will be able to start visiting again.

I haven’t written much lately because I am going through some changes and adjustments. My doctor and I have been playing with my meds to find a better balance. The meds were helping somewhat with the OCD but there was a persistent depression and sense of anxiety. The meds for the ADD weren’t that effective so I went off of them to help save money. There were additional meds that could’ve helped with the depression and anxiety but are not available as generics so being on a fixed income and helping to support our grandson the cost became prohibitive. We finally went back to an old drug that had worked well in the past (Prozac) and increased the dosage. It has helped the OCD and the depression and put me on an even keel but at a cost. My world has become more bland. It feels like I am wearing a suit made of heavy inch thick felt that weighs me down and insulates me. I have to struggle to overcome my own inertia. I go into my studio and wonder why I even bothered to open the door. I remember reading about the painter, Edvard Munch who suffered from mental illness and was hospitalized on several occasions. His doctor offered him a treatment that would greatly help. Munch turned it down because it would affect his creativity. I think about this story a lot while trying to figure out what to do with myself. On the positive side I have better focus for reading. I am currently reading a volume of essays by the theologian, ethicist, and political analyst, Reinhold Neibhur, who was an influence on Barack Obama.

The images included here are a copy of the Magritte painting, “Leci n’est pas une pipe” and I do not know the dimensions but it is oil on canvas. The next is a self-portrait titled, “From My Point Of View.” It is graphite on paper and measures 10.5” X 13.5”. This drawing is about 30 years old and was included in the exhibit I mentioned above. The next is just one of my landscapes that reflect somewhat inaccessible areas. It is titled “Four Birch Trees” and is oil on prepared paper and measures 21.5” X 33”. The next is from my Nudist Series and is titled “Treading Water #2” and is colored pencil on paper measuring 33” X 21.5”. The last 2 are from a series that I’ve been working on based on torsos of average everyday people. They are done with artist crayon over tempera on paper and each one measures 19.75” X 12.75”.