The Dream oil on linen 2015
I just added this recently finished oil painting to the 'paintings' tab of the website. You might recognize the chair and clothing from the painting below, which I finished in December. I've started working on 'the Dream' at the same time as I worked on 'Little Sleeper Sleeping,' but 'the Dream' is larger than the 'Little Sleeper' and took much longer to bring into balance.
Little Sleeper Sleeping oil on canvas 2014
The paintings make an interesting set of sorts with this painting I made of my husband. They are all oriented the same direction and set in the same area of our living room, they are all devoted to the theme of rest, sleep, dreams.
Private Life oil on canvas over panel 2013
I read a few books about the sculptress Louise Nevelson last month and one particular thing she said has held fast in my mind. I will paraphrase her: No one gives you the title of artist. You choose it for yourself.
It is something I think over often while I work in the studio. Here is a photo of my painting desk while 'the Dream' was still in progress. I feel shy about sharing work in progress, but the light was so beautiful as it lit up the painting that I wanted to make a record of it. The roses are from my mother's garden. The water buffalo carving was my grandmother's. I keep it close to remind me to be steady, to continue, to endure.
Christiane Pflug Kitchen Door with Esther oil on canvas 1965
"Good art is a truing of vision, in the way a saw is trued in the saw shop, to cut more cleanly. It is also a changing of vision. . . Why ask art into a life at all, if not to be transformed and enlarged by its presence and mysterious means? Some hunger for more is in us--more range, more depth, more feeling; more associative freedom, more beauty. More perplexity and more friction of interest. More prismatic grief and unstunted delight, more longing, more darkness. More saturation and permeability in knowing our own existence as also the existence of others. More capacity to be astonished. Art adds to the sum of the lives we would have, were it possible to live without it. And by changing selves, one by one, art changes also the outer world that selves create and share. . . Artists. . . perceive the extraordinary within the ordinary by changing not the world but the eyes that look. Within a summoned and hybrid awareness, the inner reaches out to transform the outer, and the outer reaches back to transform the one who sees. . . To form the intention of new awareness is already to transform and be transformed."
--Jane Hirschfield Ten Windows
Vincent Van Gogh Wheat-field with Cypress Tree oil on canvas 1889
For an author who sets forth his aims to "offer an interpretation" of Van Gogh's life "that is up to date, unmystified, concise and . . . compassionate," Julian Bell succeeds in at least three of his four goals. Van Gogh: A Power Seething is only 148 pages and sets out Vincent's life from childhood to unfortunately early death using all the plentiful resources available to the modern researcher. But while I was reading I felt sympathy was lacking. Van Gogh's extraordinary written voice from his letters is used sparingly and with skepticism, and most of the book dwells on the way Van Gogh appeared to others, detailing stories by friends and family that generally show Van Gogh at his worst. Theo Van Gogh showed more empathy and discernment (and more balance) when he described the complications of his brother's personality: "It appears as if there are two different beings in him, the one marvelously gifted, fine and delicate, and the other selfish and heartless."
When looking on Van Gogh's life from the outside, there is certainly much to trouble. He was sometimes violent, sometimes misogynistic, spendthrift with his family's money, radical in belief and life-style, vehement and often strange in his behavior around others. But he was also humble, persistent, thoughtful, intelligent, widely read, and totally devoted to the beauty he saw in even the most poor, sad, and out-of-the-way circumstances of life. There is much to inspire in the way his art and certain of his letters transcend the pitiful details of his mistakes and missteps to become timeless documents of what it is to be human. Without looking at things from the inside, from Van Gogh's own point of view, he becomes an indecipherable enigma. But when empathy and imagination are used to attempt to enter into the space of his emotions, it becomes clear that his dogged honesty and complicated personality led him both to the depths of misery and to the heights of creation. Some of those very personality traits that made him an incredibly difficult person to know as a friend or family member were also the traits that contributed to his great achievement as an artist: his stubbornness, his side-ways thinking, his imaginative leaps, his uncontrollable honesty, his wildness, his unanswered love and alienated loneliness.
It is the emotional intensity of his artwork that makes it so powerful even now. A book that ignores most of the emotions of its protagonist for most of its pages can't help but to be an incomplete although well-written and researched account of a life deeply lived.