Friday, June 5, 2015

The blink of an eye


“One thing is clear; there is no progress in art.”
Willem DeKooning

Something washes over me when I pick up a piece of charcoal and draw. It’s primal; I feel the distant call of thousands and thousands of years of ancestry. Maybe it’s because charcoal comes from one of our first technologies: the harnessing of fire.

We make paintings and drawings to claim our existence in the world. This is most evident in cave paintings. They are a primeval psychological expression: of grappling with existence in a world vast, mysterious, and inexplicable. This work is not about taming the natural world, as is most later European art; these animals are not “tamed” for our use. This work is about survival; this is why they are so powerful.

For 35,000 years the aesthetics in these paintings were handed down from generation to generation; there is too much consistency in the work to prove otherwise. Think about that for a moment. These artists seemed not to care about “progress.” (Was progress even a notion they had?) I’ve heard people whine that nothing new has been done in the art world for decades. Decades? Compare that with 35,000 years!

We know about geological change taking place over eons. And yet, on the human scale, we think of 35,000 years as an eternity. We think of the paintings as ancient; yet the cave that has been painted upon is virtually unchanged. So when looking at cave paintings one is presented with the paradox of time: thousands of generations passing in the blink of an eye of Mother Earth.

Caves have no right angles. Did Paleolithic man know what a rectangle was? How often would he see a straight line? Perhaps the only time he witnessed a straight line was when looking out onto the ocean’s horizon. Or maybe he noticed the path of a falling object described a straight line. I look up from the rectangular screen of my laptop. I see the rectangle of the doorway into my kitchen; the rectangular windows letting light in. I inhabit a world of rectangles. Yet they are so ubiquitous I am unaware of them. At times I’ve wondered what an alien would see if they were to visit one of our museums. I think they would wonder why there are so many rectangles on the walls.

I was going to write that we’re prisoners of the rectangle. But something is giving me pause. When I look at a Mondrian a calm comes over me. I’m witnessing the sacredness of the horizontal and vertical line. These straight lines hint at the perfection of physics, or at least how we experience physics: the up and down force of gravity; the horizontal line of stasis and rest. The right angle is a symbol of the sacred union of the activity of gravity and the stasis of rest.

In cave painting we’re witnessing the mystery and wonder of the physical world. In Mondrian we’re witnessing the mystery of the laws that govern the physical world. The subject is irrelevant. What is relevant is the mystery. The awe. The incomprehension and the inexplicable.

The finite mind tries to grasp the infinite and is left peering into the paradox of existence.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Laughing at the word two

“Let the poet dream his dreams. Yet, the poet must look at the world; must enter into other men’s lives; must look at the earth and the sky; must examine the dust in the street; must walk through the world and his mirror.”
–William Baziotes

I have a tendency to get lost in the clouds and deny the reality of my corporeal existence. I have an inner committee that has been trying to convince me for years that if I just paint and meditate enough I will float away on a blissful spiritual ether. This committee informs me what I should and shouldn’t feel; that I shouldn’t be sad, angry, or jealous. Rather, I should always be happy, joyous, and free. By labeling one thing as “bad” and another as “good,” I’m codifying and separating. I don’t like to think of myself as a dualist. But this is clearly the case. I’m labeling the emotional world, physical world, and spiritual world as separate entities. I’m not thrilled with this unconscious tendency. 

As much as I would like to think I am, I’m not just a spirit-body composed of particles of love. Rather than ignore and separate myself from the more uncomfortable feeling states I have within, what would happen if I tried to acknowledge and witness them? I’m listening to the anger I have within. What does it have to tell me? What does this pervasive sadness I have been desperately running from have to tell me? What about fear? God forbid I look at envy or jealousy! And I’m not just limiting myself to “negative” emotions. What about joy and love?

Clearly, these feeling states are diverse and multifaceted. Yet I think of my psyche as one thing. There’s a unity here, and contained within it are my variegated feeling states. This isn’t just true of my psyche. Billions of cells arrange themselves to create my physical body (not bodies). And the physical body and emotional body are contained within the energetic makeup of the universe.

I don’t look at it as the many composing the whole. Rather, the one gives birth to the many. I came across this Rumi poem the other day:

When grapes turn 
to wine, they long for our ability to change.

When stars wheel
around the North Pole,
they are longing for our growing consciousness.

Wine got drunk with us,
not the other way.
The body developed out of us, not we from it.

We are bees,
and our body is a honeycomb.
We made
the body, cell by cell we made it.

My work has always been about transcendence and our energetic makeup. The symmetry in many of my pieces speaks to unity and oneness. But I am moving away from this with the new body of work I am currently making. I’m interested in putting the chaos, the hustle and bustle, the sights, sounds, and smells of the entire world in the panel. In other words, diversity has become my subject. And how the diverse in its entirety is a unity.

Laughing At The Word Two (after Hafiz)
22"x28", silk and encaustic on panel, 2015

Friday, January 2, 2015

In The Studio

Bryan Galatis recently shot a video of me discussing the thinking and process behind my work.





Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Some new paintings from an as of yet untitled series

Each painting is 24" x 20", silk and encaustic on panel.







Thursday, September 25, 2014

BAHS showing

British American Household Staffing along with The Rug Company hosted a showing of my work in the BAHS offices on Mercer Street. They did a wonderful job organizing it. Here are some photos of the space. I'm happy with how the paintings live in this elegant setting.




Monday, September 22, 2014

New works on paper

Here are a few pieces on paper I've made over the last month:






Monday, June 23, 2014

Two figure studies

After spending a few months painting abstracts, I've decided to return to the figure. Here are two new works on paper. The shapes in these pieces will most likely inform the next series of abstracts I make.