I recently had a successful exhibition at the 3rd Street Gallery in Eureka CA. After the show I wanted to take a break to reassess where I was at in my artwork but also to devote some time to my ceramics. The exhibit ended early November and I planned to take a break for a month. Of course I reflected on my desires to make the paintings stronger and clearer. I also wanted to take an on line meditation retreat on Loving Kindness, offered through Tricycle Magazine with Sharon Salzberg as the teacher. In addition, I wanted to do some outside landscape painting, weather permitting.(I have been inspired by nature in my art for years)
I don’t know if it was because of the material I am studying or just life- but I again was/am consumed with thinking about Afro American history, my family, my accomplishments, Black individual accomplishments, Black exclusion, the horror of slavery, Jim Crow, and racism. Racism which still manifests today with police shootings, discrimination, the incarceration of so many Black men, poverty and gun violence. Besides collecting Pinterest images of paintings ,ceramics, recipes,etc.; I also collected images of lynchings of black men and women, as well as derogatory commercial images of Black people.
How to make sense of all of this while also wanting to deepen my meditation practice, work in the studio again, and make a difference to someone suffering.
I can be kind, be compassionate, give of myself to others in need, be aware that we all suffer from the transitory. Nothing is permanent, remind myself that we all as humans suffer from loss; declining health, death of a loved ones, not feeling safe, aging, etc. This is what connects us-we are all passing through life, while it’s changing, trying to make meaningful choices, and finding love for ourselves and our families and friends.
After a month passed I started going to the studio to paint again.It is unlikely that my work will end racism, but it is possible, for those who get to see them, that they will reflect my desire to be an aware, compassionate, generous human being. Maybe that will contribute to making the world a better place.
This quote from Thanissaro Bhikku caught my attention,
“The material world offers 8 things: (1)material gain, (2)material loss, (3) status, (4) loss of status (5) praise, (6) criticism, (7) pleasure, (8) pain”
What about love and beauty? But I know I hang on in gratefulness, knowing that that which I cherish is impermanent also.
New Painting, Acylic on panel
It has been a while since I last posted something. A lot has happened since then. There have been major illness in the family, and deaths in the family. The view that all is changing all the time is becoming more obvious.
I also attended a high school reunion which then became a catalyst to review my major life choices from then to now. Somehow it all made sense and that it was clear that I made choices, conscious or unconscious, that got me to this point. In talking to one of my former classmates about our families and how they influenced our choices. He told me about his uncles that where in the advertising business, and how they encouraged his art making and the belief that being an artist was a valid life choice. It became clear to me that our early childhood experiences really shape us as adults. The influence of friends and teachers encouraged my choices. My high school counselor told the black and latin kids that we were not college material, so don’t bother trying. By not having an opposing voice, we believed her. But after graduating, an older acquaintance from school kept encouraging me to show my portfolio of art to the admission counselor at Pratt Institute. He bugged me for almost two years before I relented. This friend set me on my course and I have thanked him many times. He told me that a another high school classmate somehow deconstructed the situation we were in and bugged him to apply to college. So we both owe a debt to our classmate Freddy. Thank you Freddy
The point that I take from this is that it only takes one person to believe in you. and they can make a hugh difference for us as individuals and for the health of the society.
I have been doing encaustics off and on for almost 15 years. I began that journey after taking a workshop in San Francisco at BookArts offered by R & F paints. What I love about encaustics is the particular experience the translucency of the wax offers. I also like the physicality of the medium. The fact that it dries immediately its a blessing and is also sometimes frustrating. Since my initial experience working with wax I have attempted to create that depth of translucency when working with acrylics with the assortment of mediums available. Also the acrylic painting doesn’t require all the paraphernalia of encaustics such as hot plate, exhaust fan, propane torch or heat gun, etc.
After my opening at the Sewell Gallery I was wondering how to make it more meaningful. It would have been great to sell more paintings, but that is out of my control. I make the paintings as best I can, and I felt good about them. They looked great hanging in the space. The owner and the staff at the gallery were fantastic. It is a real pleasure to work with such professionals. Seeing them up I can see potential as to where I would like to focus for future paintings. But the question of how to make the opening as meaningful as the process of creating the painting still remains. Of course when I do artwork you want to share it with my community of fellow artists and supporters. Perhaps that is sufficient in and of itself. Taking the perspective from Buddhist practice maybe I should have no expectations and just be aware of the experience, and maybe enjoy that I have had this opportunity.
This spring we traveled to Peru to visit my wife’s family but also to do some sightseeing. Lima is a city of 8 million people and has the same richness and busyness as any other city I have been to. The people have a rich history and culture that includes the influence of the native population, Spaniards, African, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and more. This mix of people and the geography of the country have contributed to a rich culture and outstanding cuisine.
From Lima we traveled almost 4 hours south to the town of Paracas, which is on the coast, and is the northwest corner of a 7000 square mile desert. I was amazed at how the desert and the ocean were right next to each other. We were told that the area got less than an inch of rain per year. The desert was grand and beautiful. (I checked the water bottle often, just in case…) I loved the space and the various colors of the sand. It had the same feeling to me as standing at the shore of the ocean and gazing out to the horizon. At one time it was covered in water so there are fossils of marine life to be discovered with a guide.
My friend, on returning, asked how this experience influenced my artwork. I don’t know. I will keep you posted.
My friend Russ, who I have not spoken to for a while, sent me this poem. It really resonated for me, especially as I am getting older.
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you have ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Derek Walcott, Collected Poems 1948-1984, New York, Farrar Straus Giroux, 1986.