"These jewel-like paintings intuitively fuse different aesthetic traditions, folk art and old master, with natural grace and an uncanny quality that may be a species of magic." —American Arts Quarterly
I will be part of a group show “Mirror, Mirror” opening this Saturday on September 4, 6-9 pm at Meyer Gallery, Park City, Utah. It is a showcase of figurative works by 10 artists including Ray Bonilla, Fidalis Buehler, Ted Gall, Glen Hawkins, Brian Kershisnik, Emily McPhie, Chris Miles, Jim Rennert and Justin Taylor. I am most thrilled to have “Lucy and the Majorette” as the featured image on the invitation cards. The show runs until September 21.
There is a monkey whispering in my ear. Is it a devil or angel, perhaps an alter ego planning dark or brilliant deeds? It’s nothing but a conspiring hairy muse. Shakespeare certainly thought it rascally, chiding the idle and absent muse in Sonnet 100.
by William Shakespeare
Where art thou Muse that thou forget’st so long,
To speak of that which gives thee all thy might?
Spend’st thou thy fury on some worthless song,
Darkening thy power to lend base subjects light?
Return forgetful Muse, and straight redeem,
In gentle numbers time so idly spent;
Sing to the ear that doth thy lays esteem
And gives thy pen both skill and argument.
Rise, resty Muse, my love’s sweet face survey,
If Time have any wrinkle graven there;
If any, be a satire to decay,
And make time’s spoils despisèd every where.
Give my love fame faster than Time wastes life,
So thou prevent’st his scythe and crooked knife.
The mischievous, elusive muse is a myth which remains with us today. In The Oxford American magazine – yes the issue where my painting “Young Woman with a Cupid” is featured (see post here) – Rick Bragg gets funny and brutal, questioning the idea of the fairylike creature showering us with creative pixie dust.
The accoutrements, the fashion, I can do without, but I have always been intrigued by the notion, the whimsy, that some kind of writing spirit hovers near.
I, myself, have never seen one. But all my writing life I have heard writers speak of it, wistfully, as if it were a lover. “Oh, punkin’, I had planned to write today, but the muse, you see, it just wasn’t on me.”
Because you know that some days it doesn’t come at all, the words, and you write anyway, gaining just inches instead of yards, write until you can’t feel your legs and your family thinks that you might be dead.
If it had a form, this muse, it would be a hairy, goatlike beast, something you pin down with a boot on its neck, just so you won’t be so goddamn lonely during this hateful process. And at night, when you believe you are done with it, it bumps and growls from underneath your bed.
–Rick Bragg Laments His Absent Muse
I worked on my new little Pierrot intermittently over the course of a month. I knew I wanted an austere background, gray and atmospheric but I didn’t know how to give form to the original idea. Almost through serendipity, I happened on a lovely and very gray George Inness at the American Impressionism show at the New Mexico Museum of Art here in Santa Fe. Inness’ “Gray Day Goochland Virginia” was hung low to the ground below another painting. One had to kneel to take in a closer look. There was a mystical quality to the painting, the subtle repeated glazings, and scrubbings almost seemed evident of some prayer or meditation. I wanted that same diaphanous gray.
After seeing this painting, I knew how to make something meaningful out of a solid gray background. The joy in painting “Young Pierrot as Hunter” was not just from the impasto of white paint gracing and dancing in the highlights and the little humor of a young clown and his simian assistant engaged in mock hunting. The passage of grays enveloping the two figures was a delight in itself. I wanted to follow the tradition of Pierrot standing in a theatre, spotlighted in his own world just as Watteau commemorated Gilles as Pierrot.
“Was it worth it?” Is perhaps a proper question to ask when one wonders about the relevance of one’s work. If there ever was a manifesto on the artist’s life, Robert Henri’s seminal collection of writings, “The Art Spirit” come immediately to mind. It has been the bible for many a generation of hopeful creators. He explains the inexplicable desire of those who endeavor to pursue this calling. Below is an excerpt form a “Letter of Criticism.” These are wonderful words to remember when one doubts the validity of his or her work.
Art is, after all, only a trace – like a footprint which shows that one has walked bravely and in great happiness. Those who live in full play of their faculties become master economists, they understand the relative value of things. Freedom can only be obtained through an understanding of basic order. Basic order is underlying all life. It is not to be found in the institutions men have made. Those who have lived and grown at least to some degree in the spirit of freedom are our creative artists. They have a wonderful time. They keep the world going. They must leave their trace in some way, paint, stone, machinery, whatever. The importance of what they do is greater than anyone estimates at the time. In fact in a commercial world there are thousands of lives wasted doing things not worth doing. Human spirit is sacrificed. More and more things are produced without