Recollections 54 Redivivus

abandoned-cafe

The virtue of art lies in detachment, in sequestering one object from the embarrassing variety.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Art”

On February 7, 2002, over fourteen years ago, I was convinced that I had finally found my artistic voice, and responded by launching my sole proprietorship Recollections 54, creating a market for my watercolors (www.recollections54.com). My passion has always been to travel  county roads through the sleepy towns of America, my watercolor block riding at my side like a faithful travel dog. Always on the lookout for something to paint, I experienced every day as a new opportunity for discovery of some artifact reminiscent of earlier decades of energy and prosperity. Today, only the shells and husks remain of filling stations, general stores, movie theaters and other public buildings formerly stirring with conversations, stories and glimpses of life. The writer Marcel Proust has pointed out the thrill of beholding an object capable of triggering profound memories from youth, and being filled with a sense of warmth and gratitude.

Holding down two jobs has made painting with any kind of regularity a challenge, and should I be fortunate enough to retire one day, I have this fantasy of pursuing my watercolor passion with fewer restrictions. In addition to working full time, I have also taken a number of detours throughout the past fourteen years, traveling roads that involved significant changes in my signature genre–still life painting, plein air painting, Texas coastal themes and fly fishing, to name a few. But lately, I’ve found joy in returning to this Recollections 54 genre, selecting scenes from vanishing America.

I have nearly completed another watercolor of this favorite genre, and posted it above. This relic of a roadside restaurant flooded me with a sense of loss and presence when I stopped and photographed it in New Mexico years ago. Loss, because the business was dead; presence, because the structure resonated with stories as I stood gazing at it from every possible angle, near and afar, taking dozens of photos and trying to imagine what it was like to pull into the gravel parking lot hungry and eager to enter a comfortable zone and be served.

Emerson wrote that detachment was the virtue of a piece of art, that ability to detach the subject from the surroundings that tried to draw away attention. Frequently that is what I do when selecting something to draw or paint. From buildings such as this, I frequently remove windows, air conditioning units, graffiti, dangling cables–anything I regard as taking away from the simple integrity of the subject. The surroundings often present that annoying tree or trash dumpster that is in the way. The fun thing about making art is the ability to make those decisions in framing up a composition. And so this subject also presented its own unique set of possibilities.

I believe the painting is nearly finished. As was the practice of Andrew Wyeth, I’ll put it up in my home somewhere, and glance at it as I enter or leave the room, always evaluating, figuring if there remains something to do before signing off on it.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

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6 Responses to “Recollections 54 Redivivus”

  1. kkessler833 Says:

    Great quote!

    Like

  2. Xraypics Says:

    Thanks for this quote. It’s interesting, and your comment about simplifying by removing extraneous objects from the scene gives rise to some thoughts. I was friendly with a distinguished artist (a retired architect) in Capetown, South Africa now sadly passed on. She made images, mainly etchings, of old South African buildings. She was interested in how the impact of years of use and abuse, modifications and additions, had affected the structure and appearance during its lifetime; graffiti, dangling wires, broken lights, street furniture, signs, posters, etc. all featured in the pictures. Quite a different point of view.

    Like

    • davidtripp Says:

      I appreciate reading this, Tony. In my earlier years, I put everything I could into my old relic building paintings–signage, dangling wires, light fixtures–the works. In recent times, I’ve been simplifying, probably thinking more along the line of Andrew Wyeth when he said the strength of a composition lies in what you can leave out. I’m still working on this theory, and certainly have not reached any conclusions. Thank you always, for such a good word.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Xraypics Says:

        Different styles, different messages. Its all about communication. My preference lies with the simplified image; fascinating when those ideas are pushed to an extreme. On the other hand my own images aren’t particularly simple. I have been watching Teri Malo whose recent pictures have become abstractions of complicated images, and they are delightful.

        Like

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