Dawn in Studio Eidolons

Early Morning in Studio Eidolons

Motherwell’s varied imagery was a product of his complex, anguished inner being, and also an expression of his deeply held convictions about the nature of reality, which he believed to contain not a single truth but many relative truths, which could be only partially revealed and not explained. This is reflected in his fascination with the idea that the ancient Greeks had no word for truth. As he told an interviewer, “Socrates says something and it’s translated, What you say is true Socrates.” But as Motherwell pointed out, the Greek word was aletheia, which meant revealed, or hidden. “And so a literal translation,” he noted, “would be you’ve unhidden that point, Socrates.”

Jack Flam, “Introduction: Robert Motherwell at Work,” volume one Robert Motherwell: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1941-1991.

5:37 a.m.–the dogs dragged me back to consciousness. Something triggers inside them, telling them it is time to eat, and they immediately pounce on me. This is good though. I retired early to bed last night thinking of what I could do when I return to my studio vacated since the middle of last week. I love being back in the space where I can pursue creative eros. By the time I entered this morning, the light was just breaking, and I felt my breathing change.

While making Cowboy Coffee, my eyes lighted on the three-volume Catalogue Raisonné I purchased for myself as a retirement gift four years ago. Re-opening it over coffee, I decided to re-read portions I had marked (and forgotten), and came across the thought-provoking passage quoted above.

We acknowledge that we are complex individuals. The longer we live, the more we seek understanding of our complexities. We reach for an explanation, pattern or key phrase to encapsulate our persona.

Early in life I sought role models. Later, wishing to find myself rather than copy the character of others, I looked upon my assembly of heroes as templates, finding pieces of my own life amidst the collage of attributes among them. I turned to Robert Motherwell this morning, not because of his artistic style (of which I share little-to-nothing), but because of his lifelong struggle to balance a life of art and scholarship. Art Digest labeled Motherwell as “one of today’s most thinking painters.” He was frequently criticized for teaching and publishing instead of focusing all his time on developing as a painter.

I laid down my brush for a decade to study theology at a seminary. Once I emerged from the halls of academia, I entered the teaching field. Within a year of teaching, I once again picked up the brush, hungry to make art again, but never able to walk away from the books. Motherwell is my friend, because I see in him a complete man who never apologized for pursuing both worlds–art and scholarship. Art feeds my scholarship and scholarship feeds my art. At this age, I make no apology for living a life of the mind.

This morning’s reading brought my attention again to this notion of “truth.” Learning Greek years ago in seminary, I knew the word translated “truth” (aletheia), but never paid attention to its etymology till late one night (in that wonderful rustic general store in the east Texas wilderness) reading Martin Heidegger’s notes on the pre-socratic Heraclitus. It was then that I learned the word (aletheia), often rendered “truth”, is better translated “unforgetting, revelation, uncovering, or discovery.” The word “lethe” we know from the River of Lethe. It means “forget”. The prefix “a” (alpha privative) is the negation, hence “the un-forgetting.” Continuing with Motherwell:

“In that sense, I wish the word truth didn’t exist. Because one of the reasons I’ve been able to move all over the place is I take that for granted. Everybody has his own revelations, but the mass of the totality has never been revealed to anybody.”

I am going to try in my future to redefine this notion of “truth” that has been misused and understood throughout my life. The word denotes an uncovering, a revealing, a reminder (un-forgetting), a discovery.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to UNCOVER (seek the truth).

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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