Can you see it? In my drawing (above), can you see the bit of dishonesty under the table? There are five table legs, and they make no sense. It works for me. This means I am accepting the visual ideas I once believed "dishonest" to be "honest." The painter Seymour Leichman pointed to this acceptance as the preeminence of the honesty of drawing over the honesty of mirroring visual reality (I was Seymour's apprentice for four years). Seymour demonstrated this truth using Leonardo da Vinci's cartoon, The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist (~1506-1508). Seymour asked, "Look at the legs of Mary and Anne, which legs belong to which woman? It doesn't matter! It's the drawing that matters!" Although it seems clear to me now (whose leg is whose), the doubt Seymour placed in my mind insured a lasting lesson. And so it is, I increasingly shed visual truth for the reality I am inventing as I draw. This transition is striking to me because it portends big changes. I am frightened and excited. Frightened, as this marks a beginning of self-inflicted whippings; there is going to be some hurt a-coming because I am required to give up that which I have constructed as truths for the actual truths submerged in my intuition, genuine truths born of things seen, and known, but hidden out of fear. Truth can be cruel while one transitions from the arm chair easiness of observation to the effort of manufacturing visual honesty on paper and canvas.
When I'm talking cyclone I'm talking throwing it all up in the air and seeing where it all lands. Some of the debris will be thrown so far afield as not to be recoverable. I hope the stuff that passes from sight is not important (but that too must be questioned). This is the essence of the problem. Even that which is lost from view may be important. No solution can be perfectly authentic. Suspicion and doubt is a fundamental part of the process. Constructing trustworthy images is impossible. Perception is so complicated as not to be logically discerned, so trust in intuition is required. This is frightful. Intuition is formed within the mess that is the cyclone, so it is, itself, messy. Entangled fragments are useless. Perceiving truth requires unravelling. Billions of lengths of string have become intertwined. There is no good way to discern the true strength of any one piece. The whole ball is overwhelming. Some strings, when unraveled, are weak, useless, unable to hold weight. So, one by one, I choose a length to set down. I will follow these notions. Some will be true and strong; these I will recognize and use. Many others I will discard. This process will take a lot of time.
Sometimes I feel like a little kid whose performing for the whole world. Naïve I may be, and naïve my work may appear. I am not the first person to do this: I think of Pablo Picasso's early work (prior to 1907 Picasso's work appears young and naïve). Picasso's early work was solid and emotive, but nothing new or revolutionary. Through the year 1906 Picasso practiced his craft, but it was in 1907 that it suddenly transitioned, became original, and authentically Picasso. There is a parallel here, between Picasso and me. As example, I show a couple of Picasso's works, the first Mendigos Junto Al Mar, 1903, the second Friendship, 1908. Just five years separate these works, and wow, what a dramatic change it is! I am in the midst of a similarly dramatic transition. I am three years into my five years of change.
I feel jumpy and anxious. This is a good thing, though annoying. One minor example is my mislabeling the date on yesterday's drawing. The mislabel is just a sign, only a hint that I am restless and unsettled. I am not paying close attention to extraneous details, such as the date, which is merely an announcement, and has nothing to do with the quality of the work of art. However, I am paying closer attention, more than ever before, while in the process of making art. My work is changing in its process, and consequently its qualities have changed as well. The art-making process totally takes me over, and when doing it I am nowhere except within the effort to get it right. On the surface this seems the way it should always have been, and should always be. It is not so long ago that I questioned the validity of my activity while in the process of that activity. You can find this concern in earlier blog posts.
Toothpicks may be one result of the growth of trees, but toothpicks are mere details, details that are thrown away. The substance, the real stuff, are the trees themselves. I am trying to construct the substantiality of great trees, like Redwoods. I want my art to stand straight and tall, look good, but also demand the emotional attention of its viewers. A majestic tree stands out in the forest. I have to measure the significance of my art while alone, but you, the viewer, are most important. This is all about communication, human to human, and not about picking detritus out of teeth.
...but a question of integrity, breaking down preconceptions, finding reality through shock and awe. Is it possible? I have no choice but to try.
I am never alone when making art. If personal existence is like being a large loaf of bread, then art-making is merely the crust, the surface of a large volume of facts, information, and feelings. There is definitely much more inside than outside. I do not want my art to be superficial. I always feel it could be so much more definitive than that which I am able to express of my knowledge, my insight, and my emotions. This constant failure to be fully demonstrative propels me and shepherds me. I am pushed by my need to express more; to deliver myself from the illustrative and the suggestive. I want to walk off the fields of mere sustenance and surrender the real goods. I want to capitulate to the shepherd of my dreams.
Take a quick look at the drawings posted today. It does not take me to tell you the research that is happening in my studio. Yesterday's first drawing (above) is quite different from yesterday's second drawing (below). What will be will be!
Perfect reproduction of a drawing is not achievable (duh!). Both reproductions do not do their originals full justice, but surprisingly the one above (03·15·2013), the more sophisticated of the two, comes off closer to its original. More importantly, these drawings exhibit an openness to self-discovery and the natural impulse that drives my art-making. The language found in these drawings is an indication to me that I have a real possibility of finding my true voice. Wow, the wonder of it all!
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