Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Decidedly Undecided

In my last post, Phillip Edson left a comment that my art didn’t seem to reflect the angst and such that I write about. In some ways I agree with him and in others ways I disagree so I decided to write about it. For quite a few weeks I have been writing this post in my head and obviously I haven’t gotten very far. I have been looking for a singular approach to it but haven’t found that starting place. My thoughts are many and scattered like the pencils and pastels on my drawing table. There is no order or reason to them. And so, like making art, I just have to pick up one and start. It will probably seem fragmented but I hope, eventually, to pull it all together into a cohesive whole.

Many times in the past I have paraphrased Picasso with the statement that every work an artist does is a self-portrait. The work that I do is a reflection of who and what I am, a snapshot of myself at that particular moment. That particular moment is also a reflection of all my accumulated experiences, good, bad, or indifferent, in life. However, we live in a 4 dimensional existence, length, width, height, and (forward moving) time. Because of this we can never see the whole completely at any given moment.

Imagine looking at a large piece of cut crystal. I can hold it in my hand and at any given moment I can see the top or the bottom, the front or the back. I can see a combination of the front, top, and a side. I can see many of the facets that form the total shape and give it the luster and sparkle it presents. What I cannot see is the whole crystal from all sides and angles at the same time even though it is clear and transparent. Yet, even though it has many sides and facets it is still one crystal that presents itself and reflects the light in many different ways.

I am like that cut crystal (or cut glass in my case). The art that I make is a reflection from one of those facets of my life.

Off On A Tangent

Facets are made because of our life experiences. Some we willingly accept or try to achieve while others are visited upon us. As always, it is not important what we have as what we do with it. As I have said before I have various mental illnesses and I was emotionally abused as a child. Big WHOOP! I am neither alone nor special but as a young man I felt that way and my art reflected those feelings. Like me, my paintings were dark and brooding. My paintings were dark and had a gritty quality to them. My self-imposed artistic hero was Jackson Pollack because of his hard living and self-destructive nature. The suffering soul was an image that appealed to me. I was looking for beauty in those places where most people avoided, the fringes where the discarded gravitated. I did find beauty but not in its classic definition.

Another Tangent

I don’t think that opposites are always what we think that they may be. For example, to me, the opposite of love is not hate. Love and hate are the same strong emotion focused on a person, an object, an idea, or whatever. Mirror opposites, those feelings that are diametrically opposed are really the same thing. For me, the opposite of love is indifference. If I can love you then I can hate you because they are the same strong emotion. If I don’t care about you then I neither love nor hate you, I am simply indifferent to you, i.e. you don’t exist. Love and hate are active while indifference is passive. Does this make sense?

So What Has This To Do With My Art?

In my artist statement I have a quote from the psychoanalyst and author, June Singer from her book, BOUNDARIES OF THE SOUL. She says, “Jung has wisely said that if you are able to observe a quality that is characteristic of a person, you may be quite certain that somewhere in that person the opposite is equally true.”

Being emotionally abused made me feel weak and vulnerable so I filled my work with strong color, shape, and composition. Bravado is just another expression of fear. If I’m “In your face” then maybe I can make you back off and keep from getting too close. If I took something complex and made it look easy and simple then I could screw with you if you tried to do it. I could also contradict conventional thinking. Because I felt so inferior it was a way to feel superior. I was/am expressing myself through the mirror opposite. Because of the angst I am looking for Elysium (or Valhalla, Nirvana, Heaven, The Ground of All Being, The Still Point, or whatever you wish to call it). It is like a long and dreary winter makes me focus more on and long for the spring and summer and the warmth and light that they bring. The landscapes also acknowledge that I like to stay hidden where I can watch and observe from the fringes. I don’t make it easy for others to get close to me by putting up obstacles and barriers and obstructed pathways. Yet the nudes speak to the exact opposite. With everything stripped away I am left completely exposed.

Over time I have no doubt that this will continue to change. The longer that I live, the more facets that will be carved into me. I realize that a lot of this might be as clear as mud. If you wish to question me, please do so. If you have questions about my thinking please ask me. For me, so much of this is thinking out loud.

The first piece is an oil on hardwood panel. It is a triptych that measures 48” X 77.5” and is titled “Tall Grass Pathway.” The next piece is an oil on prepared paper titled “Dark Woods 03” and measures 21.75” X 34”. Next is artist crayon on hardwood panel that measures 11” X 14” and is titled “Half Hidden Barn.” The nude is colored pencil on paper, measures 26” X 20.5”, and is titled “Bathtub Nude.”