Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Story of a Painting


On Wednesday, November 9, 2016, we all awoke to the reality that America had chosen for the most important and hardest job in the world a man who is utterly unqualified, who proudly doesn't read, who inherently hates government unless it can help his business prospects and channel his bigotry, who is erratic, narcissistic, sexually predacious, deeply Machiavellian, and dangerously impulsive.  We chose him over a woman.  The woman had the faults that come with being an establishment candidate.  But she was immensely qualified, intelligent, and stable.  We chose one of the worst public men in America over one of the most admired and prepared public women in America.  We did that.

I worked on this painting during the evening of election day and finished it on that awful Wednesday.  In terms of genre, it's simply one of my usual "bust portraits"--I'm working here on skin tone, on shading and shaping, following my usual love affair with light.

As I worked, I couldn't help feeling like my own despair, my own sadness and hurt over my country's rash choice-making, was working into the painting.  In the photo from which the painting arises, the model looks more sultry than sad.  In this portrait, I see my own shock and confusion.

And I almost never have painted a model's tattoos.  Here, I found that I could not not paint her Wonder Woman arm-band tattoo.  She is still Wonder Woman, underneath her clothes and in spite of a cruel repudiation.  She is still Wonder Woman.  I will still be here, the painting says to me: I will still be here, with the beauty and dignity of my body and with my fierce pride in it and in my own power.  Slumbering fierceness can awaken jagged energy.  

I love this painting.  It offers a new level of art for me.  I would call it a political commentary if that didn't sound so calculated.  It is a spontaneous message of hurt and defiance.

I would put my body on the barricades for this Wonder Woman and all Wonder People who demand justice and humanity from this world.

Monday, November 28, 2016

So Much Painting

I've gotten more painting done this fall than I ever have.  I don't really know how I've found the time--the term hasn't been any less hectic than previous terms have been.  Indeed, I would say this one has been especially challenging, with new duties that brought a steep learning curve.  But two impelling factors have kept me at the easel: 1) my first show is coming up, at our church; and 2) my dad's life is ending.

Grief does strange things to us all.  Tears are only the most obvious manifestation.  Amid the tears there come fear, anxiety, grouchitude, existential despair, and, for me, a need to do something to occupy my mind and hands.  So painting has really been there for me.

As I have written, I am torn about the show.  My best work consists of figures and portraits.  But this is a church.  I have seen art shows hung on the walls of our church for ten years, and often amid a variety of subjects you'll see a figure study, often a 10-minute life-drawing sketch.  Never have I seen anything like what I most like to do: realistic, detailed, loving studies of the human figure.  I myself don't think a lot of my work is appropriate.  Plus, I have the problem that my subjects are easily recognizable in the paintings, and part of my job is to protect their privacy.  So the upshot is that much of my work--and my best work--will not be able to hung in the show.

So I've turned my attention to non-figurative work, like more sea- and cloud-scapes from our Semester at Sea adventure.  Like these:



And a still life or two:


But my heart really still reverts to the work I love best.  I love this portrait of my friend Nancy.  Its celebration of light captures so much of what my painting is all about, to my eyes at any rate.


And this piece too: I loved sculpting this model's gorgeous figure in watercolor:


All of these pictures are incredibly poignant to me at present.  We come into the world and have the privilege of living in light, of being sculpted and shaped by light, of dancing with light.  We are jewels whose facets shine with each turn and gesture.  And each moment is inexpressibly perfect and beautiful.  

It is an incredible privilege to be given the gift of seeing these moments and seeking to know them through the artist's work.