Today I Build my House Again

Terlingua framed

Framed watercolor of Terlingua Ghost Town

The beginning and the end of all literary activity is the reproduction of the world that surrounds me by means of the world that is in me, all things being grasped, related, recreated, molded, and reconstructed in a personal form and an original manner.

Quotation from Goethe to Jacobi, Frankfurt, letter of August 21, 1774

While assembling my gear for today’s load-in at Arlington’s Art on the Greene, I brought up YouTube on my television and listened to the “Edward Hopper and the Blank Canvas” documentary. I had to stop loading and write out the Goethe quote that really resonated with me. It is said that Hopper carried this quote on a piece of paper in his pocket as he went about looking for subjects to paint. I someday would like to construct a well-worded definition of art as a number of these remarkable thinkers have done before us. Anytime a muse speaks of art as a combination of our inner world with the outer world, I feel a rush of new energy and enthusiasm.

In an earlier post, I tried to explain how my theory of plein air painting parallels the practice of Georgia O’Keeffe. She painted her landscapes directly, then brought them into the studio to revise. The finished result was the abstract work that we admire. For me, it is a little different–I love to paint directly from nature, but sometimes do not finish the work on site. I’ll take a reference photo, and for days the image of what I tried to paint will compost in my mind until I think of compositional matters to resolve in the piece. When I return to the work with fresh eyes, I make whatever alteration is necessary, most of it involving the perimeter of the painting as I decide which portions to leave blank and which ones to render in some combination of texture and color. One of the things that made this past week so difficult was the plein air competition in Waxahachie–all works must be created exclusively on site. Therefore, I could not work in the studio, but chose to return daily at the same hour to the sites where I began each of my three paintings, and push further with the composition. Still, the composting activity happened in the evenings when I looked at the in-progress paintings and made mental notes of what I wished to accomplish at my next session.

This morning I finally framed the Terlingua ghost town I visited about a month ago. I took a number of photographs of the church on the hill as the sun was setting, and for weeks afterward continued to re-visit the subject in my mind’s eye. Once I set out to paint it, I reproduced the church, looking at the photos I took. Then again I laid it aside as I continued to ponder (compost!) how to render the surrounding terrain. After a few more days, I reached a decision and finished it.

The theory of books is noble. The scholar of the first age received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind, and uttered it again. It came into him, life; it went out from him, truth. It came to him, short-lived actions it went out from him, immortal thoughts. It came to him, business; it went from him, poetry. It was dead fact; now, it is quick thought. It can stand, and it can go. It now endures, it now flies, it now inspires. Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”

This Emerson quote has flooded my soul since 1992, when I first read it while studying in Oregon, and I have re-read “The American Scholar” every semester since that remarkable day. Every word of the statement clamors for my attention, but this morning I’m fastened on this portion: “Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing.” When I was young, I relied on my eye-to-hand coordination and what others call “talent” while trying to make art. In my senior years, things have changed. I am wishing more and more to pour a life of experience and depth of feeling into my paintings. When viewers see my work, I appreciate them telling me I am “talented.” But frankly, I have known that from my youth. What I really want to know is if anything I paint stirs them, holds them, resonates with them. Ken Wilber wrote that beauty “suspends the desire to be elsewhere.” I guess what I wish to know is that someone experiences “beauty” when they look at something I painted. That fact holds much more value with me than someone acknowledging that I have talent.

All creation, because it is such a drawing-up, is a drawing, as of water from a spring.

Martin Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art”

This afternoon I’ll experience the rebuilding of my house, as I set up the 10 x 10 booth for display and sale of my work. There have been times past where I dreaded this moment, but this isn’t one of those. A couple of weeks ago, I had my best experience of assembling and disassembling my booth and gear at the Dallas Arboretum. Richard Greene Linear Park, where I set up today, is filled with large shade trees, and wind often blows across the lake to provide comfort as we labor over our steel poles and vinyl tents. I’m looking forward to another good festival.

Richard Greene Linear Park is located in Arlington at 1601 E. Randol Mill Road. Hours for this event are Friday 3-10; Saturday 11-10; Sunday 11-5.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

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