Morning Coffee with Dave & Barnett

newman 2

An artist paints so that he will have something to look at; at times he must write so that he will also have something to read.

Barnett Newman, “The Ides of Art”

Barnett Newman has been an effective vitamin pill along with my morning coffee recently, providing plenty of inspiration for me as I continue work on my painting and ideas. For several decades I have been absorbed with the art and milieu of the Abstract Expressionist painters, also known as The New York School. I have read The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell and parts of  Mark Rothko’s The Artist’s Reality: Philosophies of Art. Ian Watson, a former student of mine and now an artist emerging in the gallery milieu, presented me with this copy of Newman’s writings when I attended the opening of his show in Amarillo last month. And I have found his ideas very engaging.

The present painter can  be said to work with chaos not only in the sense that he is handling the chaos of a blank picture plane but also in that he is handling chaos of form.     . . . it can be said that the artist like a true creator is delving into chaos. It is precisely this that makes him an artist, for the Creator in creating the world began with the same material–for the artist tried to wrest truth from the void.

Barnett Newman “The Plasmic Image”

When I read this quote, I had to close the volume and catch my breath. For a number of years I have mused over a theological approach to creation. I have even used it in talking points during workshops I have conducted recently.

    In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 

    The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And          the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

    And God said,“Let there be light,” and there was light. 

    And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.

When reading these opening verses of Genesis, I still tingle at that description of the world without form and void and darkness moving over the face of the abyss. Then God spoke, and as he spoke, the chaotic mass began organizing as he divided light from darkness, day from night, earth from sky, etc. Robert Motherwell said that drawing was a way of organizing space. God did that by dividing, and so also do we, as we look at the white expanse of surface and begin dividing it into a composition.

In verse 26, Genesis records that God made people in his own image. For centuries, thinkers have mused over the Imago Dei, wondering what it means to be made in the image of God. I answer the question with another: what is the very first thing recorded in Genesis about God? He created. And he made people to be like him. What do humans do? They create. Personally, I delight in that mandate. And I love rising to the challenge of confronting chaos and seeking to organize it into something worth seeing.


Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to be like God.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.



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3 Responses to “Morning Coffee with Dave & Barnett”

  1. Barbara Tyler Says:

    Hey Dr. Tripp,
    Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve chimed in on your blog, but this post rang a bell for me. Recently I studied the creation verses and was inspired by one of its narratives (Gen. 2:8-17) to create a piece for a local community college-sponsored exhibition geared for the blind and visually impaired. The artwork I ended up with requires the observer to use the senses of touch and smell to experience the work. If possible, I’ll add a sound element as well. After finishing the artwork I stepped back and decided it was a good piece, never making the connection that God did the same thing when he finished creating the earth. I really like this comparison and hope to use it in future studies of the creation story.
    The college gallery exhibition titled “Tactilis” will begin in October. I’ll message you some photos of my piece later today!
    Been living vicariously the life of the traveling artist by keeping up with your summer blog posts. Thank you again for all the inspiration!


    • davidtripp Says:

      Wow, what an inspiring idea, Barbara! I would love to see photos of the exhibition once it opens. Congratulations on your achievement. I believe you are the first artist in all these years to share with me this connection with the Genesis narratives felt by an artist. I am currently working on a blog post featuring one of my favorite quotes from Emerson about this primal quality felt in the creative act. I am always thrilled when other artists experience and share this sentiment.

      I often thought of your warm sentiments toward Georgia O’Keeffe while I was at Ghost Ranch. I still have overpowering memories of those canyons and the sensations I felt, trying to sketch them onto paper. I can understand how she felt so overpowered and small in such a Presence.

      Thank you again for writing me. Please let me see what you’re working on these days!


  2. Morning Coffee with Dave & Barnett – Best kopi Says:

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