Thursday, September 06, 2007

Layered intent

Desert Cat has a burning question:
In the specific way that you employ these mandalas in your paintings, what do they represent? (I'm ruminating on that "Meditation" one in particular at the moment, but there seems to be a common theme to their use in many of your recent paintings.)
DC, for me the mandalas work on a number of levels simultaneously; each of these levels comes into play in each painting, and they are all equally important. In no particular order, they are:

1) A meditation practice, in and of themselves, in the process of drawing them. I am opening myself up to receive guidance about how to work, while working within the same stringent form.

2) A metaphor for an underlying holistic order, independent of space and time--what Bohm calls 'the implicate order'--which determines how the physical universe unfolds. Since mandalas are circular and symmetrical, they work rather like cut-paper snowflakes--one gesture can simultaneously create form in many different physical and temporal locations.

3) Chakras.

4) Celestial bodies.

5) Organic growth patterns.

Sometimes the lines of force both within and without the mandalas represent kinetic trajectories as well--orbits, currents and gravity.

Thus, these paintings can be read simultaneously as landscapes, mindscapes, microscapes, and metascapes.

And it is quite late, and you can perhaps tell that I just got in from Opening Night in Chelsea. The powers of deconstruction are upon me...

After the Fact

Anonymous has a question, which Chris doesn't think I should answer. But being basically self-absorbed, and thrilled with the attention, I will answer it anyway:
I'm not an art person. I know nothing. I have neither the vocabulary nor the sensibility to discuss it. If anything, I like nice old historical portraits of individuals, where one knows just what one is seeing and whether it looks pleasing or ill. But 'Heart' affects me unlike anything I've ever seen before. How odd and bewitching! Please explain it to me if you can, what this painting is supposed to represent and elicit.
Well, Anon, please take all of the following with a huge handful of salt, because this painting (and just about all of the good ones) was created intuitively, without attempting to literally depict anything, either an object or an idea. Each new painting is a function of everything that went before, both a sum total of my experience with painting, and of life experience, and ideas floating loosely around in my mind.

With that said--it was based on a mandala I drew last year:

which is one of my favorites, being particularly baroque and organic. The painting, instead of just being a bigger, colored version of it, is a bit like being hit in the face. At least, that's how I feel when I stand in front of it.

Compositionally, it's a pretty simple assembly of three more or less circular forms, one ornate, one small, one dark and messy. Colorwise, it's also very simple, with the whites over gold and rose giving it a feeling of glowing from within; however, the broken sections of deeper rose in the mandala have the feeling of cuts or wounds.

The color of the small circle specifically gives me a tight feeling over the solar plexus; I didn't analyze it much farther than that.

Take the rest of this as metaphor, if you like; or don't take it at all.

Yoga philosophy postulates that our bodies have seven vortices, called chakras, at major nerve plexuses--root, genital, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye, and crown. Each chakra, when functioning properly, takes in information from the world around us and processes it, helping to build our world-view and sense of place in the world. However, most of us have 'blocks' in some of our chakras, which mean that we are 1) not taking in information through them, 2) projecting information out through them that we then read as coming from outside, or 3) defending against the miasma of clogged energy brought about by past traumas and fears.

This painting is not a literal illustration of a blocked heart chakra, the way Alex Grey might paint it, but rather an attempt to convey the feeling of having such a block; the muddiness obscuring something which you can intuit is whole, intricate and symmetrical, but which you cannot completely access.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

To Be Continued

I can hear you out there, thinking, "Well, Brooklyn, is this it? Are you headed for the Blog Graveyard? Have you completely morphed into that irritating Lady caricature, and lost touch with that moody, acerbic Inner Self we have become somewhat pruriently attached to?"

Well, perhaps.

'Desert,' oil on linen, 48"x 36", 2007

The truth is, I have been: 1) dating somebody really great, who, instead of distracting me from my work with all sorts of useless drama, actually helps me focus; and 2) actually focussing.

'Ring,' oil on linen, 36"x 48", 2007.

Usually, I work on one painting at a time, and turn as many of the others toward the wall as possible, so that I am not distracted by them, nor am I painting 'relatively,' but focussing my whole attention on the one in front of me. The idea, for me, is to make certain that every painting stands on its own terms, as powerfully as possible. A few weeks ago I got out all the newest ones I'd done, eight or ten of them, and looked at them all together. And I realized that I was grossly overworking them.

They weren't terrible, but the word that came to mind was turgid. I was trying to pack my Whole Entire Essence into every one of them; I couldn't just put something down and leave it alone. Chris Rywalt visited about that time, and confirmed what I was thinking. He said, "you're not using your lines. Let your hands speak for themselves."

'Heart,' 48"x 36", oil on linen, 2007.

So, I decided to Let Go. Let go of trying to state my entire agenda with each painting, and just try one thing; one odd thing, one new thing, one gesture, one concept. Make paintings as postulates, not definitive statements.

'Current,' 36"x 48", oil on linen, 2007.

Within a few weeks, I had burned through all my available supplies, and reordered. I also took a few failed canvases off the stretchers, turned them over and painted on the back; when those failed, too, I stripped the stretchers again and recycled them. Lucio Pozo, one of my only good teachers, once told me, "Painters have to have an attitude."

'Meditation,' 48"x 36", oil on linen, 2007.

I also realized something else, which oddly helped me come to terms with certain perennial 'career issues,' which have paralyzed me in the past.

We've discussed, ad nauseam, the politics of the Art World. We know all the horrendous odds against getting one of the fifty grants or residencies you've applied for in the last ten years. We've discussed institutional sexism, ageism, cronyism, yadda yadda. But after getting into a rather high-pitched argument last week with a gentleman who turned out to be an art critic, I decided that for me, personally, there's something else going on.

Because my work is emphatically, overtly, primarily spiritual, both in process and content. 'Spiritual' is my 'schtick.' And 'spiritual,' in the Art World, whether it is religious or not, is not only not in style, not trendy, not P.C., but it renders you virtually invisible. It triggers an instantaneous dismissal which occurs below the level of conscious thought. Few art critics, dealers, curators or collectors will go so far as to say, like this fellow did, "I'm not interested in this 'spiritualism' junk." It just doesn't even register.

Having spent plenty of years among the self-styled Intellectual Elite, I am fairly certain that I know where this is coming from. It is a reaction against the perceived hegemony of Christian conservatism, the bigotry which frequently accompanies it, and the anti-scientific literalism of Bible Belt evangelists. The fact that this is a shallow, simplistic, unexamined dismissal of something that is not only integral to the society, culture and psychological makeup of the vast majority of human beings, but which at its root is the most anti-bigotry, pro peace-and-integration philosophy in existence, is never addressed. Spirituality is the ultimate taboo. When I mention it among a group of hip, progressive, cutting-edge radicals, the social effect is precisely the same as if I had mentioned mutual masturbation among transsexual lesbians at a Junior League meeting in South Texas.

'Bridge,' 36"x 48", oil on linen, 2007.

Strangely enough, this realization helped my state of mind immensely. This is probably because I'm emphatically a 'J' on the Meyers-Briggs personality scale; as long as I know what's going on, I'm okay. It is the paranoid feeling of, "You know, I feel like I'm invisible, but that's crazy, there's no reason I should be invisible, I'm confident and smart and articulate, I'm polite, I listen--why would people ignore me? They can't all be spiteful jerks!" that completely confounds me.

So what this means to me, right now, is that I have to make three times the noise and ten times the high-quality work in order to get the same amount of attention that a mediocre artist who pushes all the right P.C. buttons gets. What it means is that I have to work my butt off with no expectations.

'Singularity,' 16"x 12", oil on linen, 2007.

What this doesn't mean is that I will tweak my agenda to accomodate the prevalant cultural gestalt. Being a 'spiritual' artist is not only my vocation, for which I have jettisoned everything approaching security and social approval, but I sincerely believe that grounding in the transcendent is the only way to resolve the myriad miseries and conflicts of this world. I pursue and explore the path toward inner peace in the hope of extending it outward.

I was working on this one until twelve-thirty last night; it's not done yet, but I'm pretty thrilled with it so far.

'Blue Orchid,' 48"x 36", oil on linen, in progress, 2007.

For the young who want to

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don't have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want MFA's,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else's mannerisms,

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving that you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you're certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

--Marge Pearcy