Friday, September 30, 2011

About What I See

Does anyone see what I see? Does anyone care? Should they? You can’t eat it or use it to clothe or shelter yourself. How can anyone in her right mind make it the reason to get up everyday? 

When I had my first solo show, thirty-three years ago in Caracas, the gallery owner would stop by my little studio occasionally to check on me. He was giving over his beautiful exhibition space to me for a month and I suppose he thought he needed to crack his whip now and then. Actually, he taught painting at the Universidad Central and was the best teacher I ever had. He was able to put aside whatever his own aesthetic preferences were and help me to move ahead in my own direction. I always greeted him with questions somewhat in the vein of those above. And he always repeated these words as he left: “Now stop thinking and paint!”

I’ve just come from the studio where I dove into my red painting again. As I worked I knew exactly what color to put where, how thick or thin, how transparent or opaque and how short or long the stroke. But César was right, when I really know what I’m doing, I’m not thinking. I see and I act. Very strange.

I wind up feeling very pleased with myself, very complete after a session like the one I just described. And then I wonder if anyone really cares about whether or not that red comes alive. Maybe nobody sees there what I see. And, of course it could happen that nobody will ever see it. Over my dead body.

The response that I get when a viewer says something to me that means he delights in the color that I have manufactured means a great deal to me. So what is that about? I think it’s a kind of communication. It’s not too much different from preparing some wonderful food and then waiting on the edge of your chair as your guest(s) or family taste, and then tell you how good it is. Makes that time in the kitchen worth every second. There’s a movie about that called Babette’s Feast. Babette was a totally whacky artist whose medium was food.

I have finished the quartet. I will leave it hanging in place for a while in case I see something more it needs. I have already started the next project which is about assembling paper that I painted some months ago. I will adhere it to canvas to make collage paintings. I had a lot of this material on the walls of my office for a long time and not the slightest notion of what to do with it. And then after two days of playing with the stuff I got very clear about how I want the new work to look. Which made me very happy. I am committed to eleven or twelve linear feet of wall in a group exhibition in December and there is a chance that I will be moving home and studio soon. I need to get ready now for that show, just in case.

A long time ago, somebody who did his utmost to discourage me from the path I chose to follow said to me: “You’ll see, you will get tired of painting and then you will see what a mistake this plan of yours is.” I couldn’t know what lay ahead and those words scared me. But the mistake was his.

The image above is of some of the material I am using for my collage operation now. Each color panel measure 17” x 11”. They are usually cut up into separate sections, but not always.

And here below is the Destination Quartet ©2011, finally finished. 35” x 25” each panel, mixed media on heavy etching paper.

From Douglas Adams author of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy”: “He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.”


  1. When you wrote of the man who tried to discourage you from your path, I thought of this poem by Shel Silverstein:

    "Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be."

    Your work is beautiful. Your work is wonderful. Your work brings happiness to others.

    My response to your detractor:

    Stop with all your mustn’ts, shouldn’ts and don’ts. Stop with it’s impossible or I will never have nor be. Just listen close … I’m a friend of Mr. Silverstein and I’ll be ALL I want to be.

    Have fun, oh colorful lady,


  2. Oh, Mike. You gave me a big smile. Thank you.

  3. Joan,

    Your sharing of the quartet process has been a delight. And yes, I see the perfection of the finished piece.

    My friend, Diana Sanford, talks about the place between intention and surrender in art making and I wonder if this is what you are describing.


  4. I like that. I imagine that "intention and surrender in art making" might be starting with a vision of the finished work and after a while letting the work itself and one's response to it lead the way. I am hell-bent now on staying with the vision to the sweet end of the process for some of what I envision for a proposed show. I am not totally confident of success but am going to give it my all. "Surrender" has just a bit of "defeat" in it. There is always a small amount of that even if the work itself is is satisfying in its final form.