|The bird without feet flies to the tree without branches|
I have been painting in layers for so long now I can hardly remember how it all started. Ironic, actually, because to me layers are all about time and memory, our experiences and how they sometimes fade, brighten, change, recede, collapse and even disappear under the weight of time, new experiences and sometimes even the strength of our own will.
The beginning stages of this painting consist of a mixture, a paste made of equal parts determination and chance. I chose the drawings that I cut and paste based on my recent studies of nature, tying them together with past drawings with themes of individuality, strength, power and freedom. Not knowing yet where all that would take me I added some pages from Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” on the theme of space travel and nuclear fusion with a vintage map of the Southern US, focused on New Orleans.
Like most of my paintings, I was thinking about relationships, both the connections and the tension between the world of nature and the world of humankind. In this case I was most concerned with energy. Our willful energy and it’s effect on the earth and on nature is one theme arising, but also the energy of our hopes and dreams that lies under the surface, the subtle forces we impose on events without even knowing. Sometimes the outcome is not what was planned, but it IS the the sum of the parts that went into it.
While I was cutting and pasting I accidentally cut the feet off of one of the birds and decided to glue them down as separate pieces in different places, not connected as they were previously. That evening Dale and I watched a film called “Pariah,” (recommend it, by the way) and the main character in the movie, a teenager struggling with issues of identity and belonging, writes a poem, one of the lines going something like this… “the bird without feet always flies to the tree without branches.” I’m probably not quoting verbatim, but you get the idea.
This little bit of serendipity fueled a newer and more complex meaning in the painting for me, how movement can be a restless never-ending quest for a landing that does and cannot exist. I spend a lot of time marveling at the spontaneous eruption of movement when I’m painting, and this movement is crucial to the overall content in the painting. That is, the moment keeps you IN the painting, while it also keeps you from staying in one place.
The preliminary stages: drawings and vintage book pages
Halfway through this painting I am discovering the meaning inherent in it from the beginning while simultaneously defining the meaning by the marks I make as a result of those discoveries. Ah, a parallel universe, working through the processes of life itself in a creative act. Few things, in my mind, are as rewarding. I layer in order to cover, uncover, highlight, remember, obscure. All the same things I do with thoughts, actions, words… but how I love to do it with paint.
Some areas are raw, even becoming more raw as the painting progresses. Some areas are detailed, specific, ordered. Some fall into chaos. All is somewhat controlled, but never completely. There are patterns that arise and patterns that fall away. There are synapses and there is punctuation. It is constantly in flux, to the point that I can only arbitrarily, or maybe intuitively, impose an ending at some point, out of necessity. But through it all meaning evolves.
Fot this particular painting the meaning is poignant. The bird without feet is autobiographical, while the relationship between nature and nuclear physics is based on observation of the world. The result is an inquiry into the process of finding ones place in this world of natural laws and the laws of man. And this inquiry is fascinating enough to me to get me into that studio again tomorrow for another day of work, another glorious day of painting.