I began painting abstractly as a means of expanding my work's capacity to express the symbolic language recognizable to our souls which I believe the natural world provides. The majority are created with sponges and paint spreaders and involve a dense layering of paint that is scraped away to reveal both background and image.
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Green Radiance sold
Despite all our efforts to overpower each other through war, technology or culture, nothing satisfies the human hunger to understand what it means to be alive in this beautiful world. And because we have lost our connection to the natural radiance embedded in all life, we can't understand why we feel so lost and disconnected from ourselves, each other and the Real World of landscape. Green is the color of living things and of the heart center. Gold and white iridescence is the presence of spirit by whatever name it is known. It's all there, right now washing over us, but visible only to the eyes of the heart. Can you see it? Do you want to?
“There's a lightness in things. Only we move forever burdened,
pressing ourselves into everything, obsessed by weight.
How strange and devouring our ways must seem
to those for whom life is enough.'
Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus
This painting is a series of carefully scraped layers of acrylic paint....probably 25 or more, laid down in different places and then allowed to set slightly before being scraped away to reveal part of the base coat of gold and deep brown. I find this process especially compelling as an artist because it symbolizes for me the same process I feel we must go through to know ourselves and the world. There is more to everything we see and experience and it is up to us to peel down, scrape away our preconceived notions so we may see more clearly and deeply into life.
Do you see the man with his back to us? What about the leaping horses and the dolphins?
DRIFTING IN THE GREEN
“I don't often get the chance any longer
to go out alone in the green canoe
and,lying in the bottom of the boat,
just drift where the breeze takes me,
down to the other end of the lake
or into some cover without my knowing
because I can't see anything over
the gunwales but sky as I lie there,
feeling the ribs of the boat as my own,
this floating pod with a body inside it...
also a mind, that drifts among cloud
and the sounds that carry over water--
a flutter of birdsong, a screen door
slamming shut—as well as the usual stuff
that clutters it, but slowed down, opened up,
like the fluff of milkweed tugged
from its husk and floating over the lake,
to be mistaken for mayflies at dusk
by feeding trout, or be carried away
to a place where the seed might sprout.“
--Jeffrey Harrison,"Green canoe" from Feeding the Fire
When was the last time you were completely idle? Not just quiet, but completely open to stillness with your mind as well as your body, The wheels of worry out of gear from whirling? What would it take for you to let go of striving and let yourself down into the flow of something larger? Resting, floating, drifting inside yourself and out?
Fishing in the Keep of Silence
There is a hush now while the hills rise up
and God is going to sleep. He trusts the ship of Heaven to take over and proceed beautifully as he lies dreaming in the lap of the world. He knows the owls will guard the sweetness of the soul in their massive keep of silence, looking out with eyes open or closed over the length of Tomales Bay that the egrets conform to, whitely broad in flight, white and slim in stand. God, who thinks about poetry all the time, breathes happily as He repeats to Himself: there are fish in the net, lots of fish this time in the net of the heart.--Linda Gregg
One or Two Things
One or two things are all you need
to travel over the blue pond, over the deep
roughage of the trees and through the stiff
flowers of lightning--some deep
memory of pleasure, some cutting
knowledge of pain. -Mary Oliver
This painting emerged out of an intense period working with what I call scraping. Layers of paint are applied, allowed to partially set and then removed by scraping away various portions of the overall canvas. At the time I was reading Helen Luke's wonderful book Old Age in which she talks about the opportunity we have to take our suffering and carry it in a way that deepens and enlarges who we are. She suggests the secret may be in the original meaning of the word which alludes to the term undercarriage--bearing the weight above the wheels. She believes that only when we take in our suffering in the full sense of the word, are we able to transform and carry the weight in a manner that adds meaning to our lives.
While I was thinking and working I realized that the scraping had released what I saw to be a human figure. I knew immediately what the piece had become and went straight to this quote: "Imagine walking through your own cloud of smoke to clean blank sky." from Smoke Break Behind the Treatment Center by Dena Nystrom.
LEDA AND THE SWAN SOLD
Storytelling is full of tales about the difficulty of the numinous in whatever its form, to stay in its place and not covet involvement with the lives of humans. And because stories are not just stories but the oldest form of humanity's attempt to understand existence, the myth of Leda and the Swan wasn't only about Zeus wanting a woman.
Zeus desired Leda and changed himself into a swan in order to take her. There are many layers of symbolism in the story, but the one I thought of the most with this piece was the driving need in all of us for union of the creative receptive feminine power of Leda with the outpouring of the masculine spirit of Zeus. The energies of male and female are meant to achieve union and acceptance within and without. Their joining on every level is the union of spirit with matter, the incarnation of the soul within earthly mortality.
And you thought it was just a story about sex right?
When we achieve our own union of Leda with Zeus we act on behalf of our truest selves, we ponder the meaning of our lives, the mystery of being. We become full of God and full of ourselves all at the same time. Rilke has an amazing poem about this magnificent moment, the last lines of which run:
"the god released himself into the beloved./And then he took joy in his plumage/and really became a swan in her lap."
THE MINE OF SOULS SOLD
I have wanted to do a piece for years based on the hauntingly beautiful poem "Orpheus, Eurydice and Hermes" by Rainer Rilke. It retells the story of Orpheus who lost his bride Eurydice on their wedding day to Pluto, the god of the underworld. Orpheus, a renowned lyre player grieved so that the god Hermes interceded on his behalf and Orpheus was given permission to go down into the deep to retrieve his bride on one condition: that he not turn and look at Eurydice until after she had followed him back into the light.
As I often do, I dreamed about this piece while I was working on it and in the dream I could see the dark shadowy world and in it the glints of countless unmined emeralds, rubies and other precious stones.
This myth like all timeless stories, is full of symbols and interpretations but a little thread to start pulling might be to remember our greatest treasures come our of our own dark places. When we ignore the inner feelings we carry, try to live only on the surface of our lives without examining our feelings and motives and yearnings we leave unearthed the most beautiful parts of who we are as well as the very gifts we need to help us lead a deeper, richer and far more meaningful lives. You know that term 'mid-life crisis'? It happens when after years of neglect our inner world revolts and starts calling for anything that will serve as a shovel and pick. Isn't it odd how many times those tools gets confused with a red sports car or a long, lean blonde? hmmm....
"What stands between you and a full bodied life can be found only in the shadows." Carl Jung