Our house here in Guanajuato, which belongs to artist Dean Gazeley comes with a terrific book collection. Admittedly I’ve never been drawn to history much, but there are times when I’m lonely on this road I’m constantly carving out, and it is helpful to read about those who have been this route.
A satisfying read has been Vincent van Gogh’s letters to his brother Theo. It is a touching read; he is humble and passionate, it might have been written by any transparent person I know. The lives of miners and farmers touched him deeply and there is a real urgency about his need to push aside his worldly cares (mainly survival and the pain of having disappointed his family) to capture his experience of these folks, and then to do it again, only better. Most notably to me, he was stirred by things that others of his education must have found unremarkable.
Hearing his voice, I no longer think of him as “the guy who cut off his ear”, (I feel like I’m violating him by mentioning it) but rather a soulful character who stumbled in life, who desperately wanted to be financially self-sufficient, who was frightened that the world would judge him for not contributing, for not having a real job.
I find tremendous company in his fears, his honesty. Gravity pulled him towards solitary skill development rather than social climbing and self promotion, which btw, he certainly thought about a good deal, but kept going back to his easel with his own ideas.
I’ve also spent some time salivating over the paintings of Jenny Saville. She’s a contemporary Brit who does giant figures, fleshy bodies that are part self-portrait and explorations of androgyny and body image. Unlike VVG, Jenny Saville was picked up by Charles Saatchi when she was 22. Art in America describes her work as “disturbing”, something that seems to be required for contemporary painting celebrity, since in academic circles painting well without an intellectual agenda is considered vaguely embarrassing.
It is satisfying when people connect with a soulful quality in my paintings. I’ve never been drawn to doing content driven work or promoting a political agenda, despite that being de rigeur, I paint intuitively and I often don’t understand why certain scenes or shapes captivate me.
Unlike more cerebral artists, I adore the world of craft and the craftperson’s commitment to a lifetime of honing one’s skills. In our culture of Justin Beibers the slow acquisition of ability and growth are neither profitable nor glitzy
As I dance and sing in the studio, brush in hand there is in me a seemingly endless wellspring of desire to keep learning, to manifest my vision on canvas and to keep seeking out the authentic voices (dead or alive) of singers, writers who keep me company on some spiritual level. And not infrequently it turns our I’m not looking for career “artists”, just chewy people who risk revealing to the world some slice of their inner life, who live thoughtfully. Sometimes I suspect their obits might include something as snazzy as : “made good jam”.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012