I love the desert! Where I live, we’re actually having a winter this year. We even had a white Christmas! It was exquisite and brought a quiet calm with it. New snow is predicted! We have had enough snow to make desert rats shudder in fear that “climate change” may be drastic. I go to my portfolio album to reassure myself with my hot images of desert land. Maybe I’ll even put some orange pigments on my palette in the studio and put the brush to paper reminding myself of hot days among my favorite cliffs and try to be a better sport about winter.
God’s warm spirit resides in my spirit, there’s actually no place I can go to avoid God’s spirit, or be out of his sight. If I climb to the sky, he’s there! If I go underground, he’s there! Even if I fly on the wings of the morning to the far western horizon, he’d find me there in a minute- he’s already there waiting. (adapted from Psalm 139: 7-10)
When I teach a painting class, I often challenge painters to think about painting the shapes which occur between objects. In the art world, we call it “painting the negative.” That is “emphasize the positive shapes by painting in the spaces between them.” For beginning painters it is often a difficult concept to grasp; however, when the aha moment occurs a leap of skill and understanding enriches the painting surface immediately. One is never the same after he “gets it.” The artist begins to see how a composition is woven together by developing the relationships between the positive and the negative. Matisse put it this way, “I don’t paint things. I paint only the difference between things.” Truly, it is a metaphor for a deeper understanding of life events. As we see differences, appreciate them, accept them, and acknowledge their value, life’s journey develops a confident trust in the positive, supported by the “spaces between.”
(watermedia/collage, 12X12X2 inches)
The shapes of the dark spaces between the shapes of the leaves and stems supports and establishes the brilliance of “Geranium Joy” in a similar way that rest, quietness, retreat and contemplation support and establish life’s joys.
I paint not by sight,
but by faith.
Faith gives you sight.
(collage, 10X10X2 inches)
“I like to have the maximum lack of control
so things can happen
that I can’t think of.”
I’ve written about this quote before, emphasizing how it is that “thinking,” (rational logic) can get in the way during creative pursuits. Recently I’ve had a deeper revelation about this quote. It is a spiritual lesson in letting go of control and trusting the ONE TRUE CREATOR to make things happen in my life, including my relationships, my prayers, my devotional practices, my giving, my studies. That is not to exclude my creative expressions in paint, paper and varied embellishments. I want to have “lack of control” even the “maximum lack of control” but just imagine what could happen! ! ! Chaos? or…more meaningful events, experiences, paintings, collages than I could possibly THINK of? Things can happen that my tiny finite mind cannot think of!
Could Rauschenberg have thought about the spiritual implications of this statement? Could he have thought, as I do, that all activities and thoughts have spiritual content? Or is this deeper spiritual revelation that has come through his words something that has happened that he couldn’t have thought of?
I savored these astonishing autumnal aspens on the property of the Fechin House in Taos, NM, home for a period of time in the twentieth century to artist Nicolai Fechin, a fabulous painter who came here from Russia. The house and studio have many of his creative appointments, carvings and some of his paintings and drawings. It is open-to-the-public, a delightful inspiration.
I’ve been tripping nearby; I’ve always claimed, “New Mexico is God’s country.” Many of our nation’s finest painters came here early in the twentieth century. The light, the hues, the textures, the vistas, the spirit they found here is still here and it is still inspiring some awesome expressions. The grace of the Almighty, fully evident around me where I live, poignantly touches me with freshness when I’m tripping.I have just returned from a quick jaunt around a portion of this state known for the artists it has both bred and attracted from afar. Saturated and brimming over with inspiration from the textures I’ve encountered, I’m eager to return to the studio and surround myself and my panels with compositional elements which sometimes speak softly into my spirit, and sometimes raucously make demands about their plans to be part of my expressions.
Those elements (color, texture, shape, line) woo me into a love affair that sometimes pushes and pulls, but often soothes, comforts and multiplies life-giving meaning. My personal windows are open, welcoming “God’s country” to abide in my spirit and to brush it’s inimitable marks on my compositions.
“One eye looks within, the other eye looks without.”
Window in the Duomo in Orvieto, Italy.
The panes in this equisite window are very thin slices of alabaster. They allow a sacred glow into the sanctuary of the Duomo.
“The artist must train not only his eye, but also his soul.”
My recent concentration in the studio has been a consideration of what I’m choosing to call “Looking in, Looking out.” Robert Genn recently wrote in one of his twice weekly “letters” that his life as an artist is something akin to the monastic life. He wrote: “Art reaffirms life and is in harmony with many universal principles. Perhaps the studio is even greater than the nunnery or the monastery….To be in touch with creativity on a daily, even hourly, basis may just happen to edge you closer to divinity. If our universe is indeed a creation, then perhaps we need to be on that wavelength. Pushing paint is a high calling. To do it well you need humility. You need to walk the walk. You need a well-regulated, simple life so that you might become both servant and student.”
Being the introspective type, I’ve encountered much of that “monastic life:” solitude, soul searching, and simplicity in my cluttered studio, but lately I’m feeling the need to look out also. If the greatest commandment is to love God, and the second is to love others (Mark 12:30-31), my question is, am I loving others when I work in the studio alone? Am I “looking out” enough? Creating images is a task I consider to be an act of love and worship. It is indeed a high calling. But the personal touching of “others” is calling me. I’m choosing windows and maybe doors as metaphors for “looking in and looking out.” As I physically and spiritually “look,” I’m also metaphorically attempting it with paint and paper and glue and a variety of other embellishments.
San Gemini Window
“Above all, be patient. One looks, looks long,
and the world comes in.”( Joseph Campbell)
Spoleto Duomo: Rose Window
I’m looking long, prayerfully and meditatively, both inwardly and outwardly and I’m seeing more.
Window Series: Three Graces
New pieces from the Window Series may be seen on the PAINTINGS page and also on the COLLAGE page of this website.
watermedia/collage, 8×8 inches
Invitations into the wilderness, sift then lift the souls of recipients. Where shadows of relic life mimic fresher markings, the guest’s search for significance maps a challenging path. The resolute continue to delve through historic layers of rocky resistance. Rugged enduring TRUTH is surely there.
(watermedia/collage on a cradled panel, 10X8X2)
Hidden waters seep through crevices
and between stones,
whispering fertile messages to scrawny roots.
Channels of wet life
creep into trunks and branches
persuading tentative yellow/orange/green leaves
to flash and dance
across the stage of rough burned ridges.
watermedia/collage, 8×8 inches
Often brooding hot azure skies reluctantly relinquish
their colors to dominant orange hues
overtaking the realm.
A dynamic argument on the horizon
gives way to restless evening darkness
ending the day’s cycle.
Prayers of holy invocation
My mind is a busy place; careening, searching, considering, grasping, hoping. Much gets collected, sorted, held, dismissed, treasured. When my mind comes to center, Truth, accompanied by quietness, confidence resides. Recently, with more time in the studio, and more time to ponder, I’m recognizing a freshness. Somehow images of nests and eggs and sometimes birds have moved continually to the forefront and demanded my ongoing attention. In my studio bathroom, hangs a beautiful calligraphic image with something of a “nest/cradle symbol” superimposed:
“All Things Are Symbolic” by Bob Phillips
Nests are safe refuges; soft gentle interiors cradle newness. Spiny, thick exteriors extend protection, and threaten intruders. My eyes have opened in search of nests to undergird my hopes of expressing what is happening with me. Taking note in backyards, and in my travels through the desert,I have encountered exquisite nests:
“There’s absolutely nothing that cannot be inspiration for creating art.”…………Dorothy Lorentzen
There’s no lack of inspiration! What I want to express visually may not compress into words……..something along the lines of RENEWAL, NEWNESS, FRESH GRACE, HOPE ANEW……. Even when words won’t do, it helps me to try them out. They clarify direction for me.
“The Artist must train not only his eye, but also his soul”
I’ve posted a few of my new Nest Series images on my website; the Paintings page.