Oil on Steel, 24” x 36” (lithography plates from former artist)
“Flow” is a study of moving water. To date there are four paintings in the series. I have been working them in rotation and have 9 more gifted sheets of steel that I may possibly use to expand the series. At first, I was fascinated by the play of light; translucent jewels of blues and greens, edges setting off sparks and undulations. As I painted, I became interested in the boundaries that were defined by obstacles; a stone, tip of a leaf, or length of a stem, that broke the flow into diverging directions.
Pushing my creative boundaries, I found myself distilling order from chaos, lost many times in a myriad of twists and turns. I discovered that the more I attempted to capture what I was seeing, the more the painting became an abstraction. Just as the more I tried to comprehend the new reality of living with COVID19 the more it became surreal.
The first three paintings of the series were slated to be on exhibit at the Weston Library in early March (see below). This was one of three scheduled library shows where I was to exhibit my work that was shuttered in order to stem the flow of the COVID19 virus.
Several months into COVID19, I found that #2 took on more somber tones; blood red stones set off by mossy greens, shrouded in dark ambiguity, leaves submerged, wedged in the crags of rocks or caught in the current. Trapped or out of control, left to die or resurface, yearning for a moment’s glance of sunlight. The paintings seemed bound to the death that had come to envelop the world. Not just the unfathomable mortalities from the virus itself but of all the deaths, including the ability to go or do and touch.
Social isolation is routine for me as an artist, although I think of it more as solitude. A place to be quiet and go inward to connect up with source and find my creative flow. When I am in flow, I am in a reverie of connection to all that is wonder and beauty. When I am interrupted in that flow it is a loss of communion, a quick and rapid descent into imperfection and ugliness. When boundaries are crossed it becomes a challenge to find flow. Practicing “Shelter in Place” is a different kind of isolation, especially when it is for an extended time and there are limited outflows. Cohabitating for the first time in many years along with a constant barrage of construction permeating through a neighbor’s shared wall, severely challenged my personal boundaries. Sometimes I found a slight irritation silting its way through and other times it came as a roar of untethered anger. And I realized that my already compromised individual boundaries were being further challenged when set in motion against other’s boundaries.
In the last week of May, as I brought #2 to a finish, every part of the world had been infected with the virus and life itself seemed more precarious than ever. There were thousands of more cases than when we had begun social isolation. America with the worst record for restricting the flow of its spread. No end in sight, no cure, no vaccine and still not enough masks or ventilators. And yet the good weather heralded in a break in isolation- more people began to venture out causing more friction and resistance.
Many people respected other’s boundaries by staying a good distance apart and/or wearing masks. While others raged, and even stormed a state capitol with assault weapons in demands that they be allowed to go about business as usual. As if it was the state that was responsible for the virus itself. Not one of the weaponized protesters was gassed, struck by plastic bullets or penalized in any way. In stark contrast, a fellow citizen’s ultimate boundary was crossed, killed by those sworn to protect. In a swell of disgust, fatigue and fury peaceful protesters took to the streets across the nation, exercising their American right for peaceful assembly. Many of the protesters were shot and gassed by those sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. The virus has brought clarity to the insidious turbidity that has occluded our vision. We have become a people who have tolerated our compromised boundaries to a point where atrocities are commonplace.
Water moves as one, when it comes upon an obstacle it flows around and reunites with itself. The human body contains 60% water. If our recent confluence of events has taught us anything, maybe it’s the need to learn to move as one, be one, navigate around obstacles and reunite with ourselves. When we do cross each other’s boundaries (which we are all bound to do, even unintentionally), to be able to forgive ourselves and each other. To acknowledge that the best common goal is to be interconnected and flowing together, greater as one than our individual selves.