Tuesday, June 28, 2011

of nature of art of memory

Grass, oil on canvas, 30"x30"
Orange cup & saucer, acrylic on wood, 5"x8"
Mike's guitar, acrylic on canvas, 6"x6"

I'm still painting, and soon we'll be readying the barn for an art show this evening, which is open to the community. Last night we made a really pleasant outing to a friend's tiny island in Goose Bay (off the St Lawrence River) for swimming and a cookout. Very beautiful. There have been many different kinds of inspiration to be found here, in the people as well as the environment, quietly and profoundly affecting me.
I just reread The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa (by Michael Kimmelman), I'd read it 5 years ago but thought it was time to check back in, especially after reading Dyer's The Ongoing Moment last month. Each essay illuminates a different perspective of art's effects on everyday life, its truths and its power to transcend the moment. Not only visually, but in terms of things like exploration, adventure, collecting, survival, artlessness, deliberation. Living life more alertly through deeper understanding of all the ways art 'gets down in there', as I like to say. I've been on board that train all my life, but I am always looking for new ideas and reminders of why it's important, or as he puts it, its 'consolations'. The final chapter, The Art of Gum-ball Machines, feels to me like a culmination of some of my own thoughts on why I make art.
Much of the commentary centers on Chardin, Thiebaud and Hopper. Their pictures prompt something more than joy, closer to the nature of memory. The 'gap between what was and what we wished the world to be'. (From my vantage point in history, all I have is my own observations and daydreams, besides the stories of those who did experience them. The act of painting those objects now, provides a new context for looking.)
Joy yielding to memory yielding to melancholy yielding to a satisfaction in good craftsmanship- the dedication to pictures lovingly and expertly made. The American can-do spirit, and the sometimes deadpan wit evolving from that combination of joy and melancholy. The humor (which deflates pretense) and the abundance is there but also a faint dread in isolated shapes and wide open spaces. But they can provoke happiness because they are content to be what they are, which is plenty.
Quality of paint being the measure of subtle change; whether affectionate or detached, the works are far from mechanical. In a ruthlessly forward-moving world, this isn't always easy to find. They conjure up feelings and associations, if we choose to see them. I may have my own motives, and I am actually moving into more self-expressive work (readily apparent or not), but they also appear as free-floating signs, wide-open to our dreams.

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