Over the span of a few hours in 2008, I sat down in a circle on the floor with four blank pieces of hot press watercolor paper, acrylic pigments and mediums. Moving between sheets, in no particular order, I painted this series of images. The overall subject, in hindsight, is about finding a healthy balance between the various impulses of self; about “finding a plateau upon rocky pasts so that one can start a fresh hike into the future.” Put simply, on that night, in that moment of my life, I wanted nothing more than to move forward in a healthy relationship with the amazing woman who is now my wife.
First Steps on a New Journey depicts two sprouts coming eagerly out of the ground and seeing the world for the first time. While firmly rooted to the ground, in the breeze they discover that they can dance, and begin to do so. Growing side-by-side; going nowhere, anywhere and everywhere at once.
Dejected Righteousness and Somber Flower: Love Internal, incidentally paralleling the modern dualist conceptualizations of “feminine as passive” and “masculine as active”, depict the bipolar representation of the transculturally genderless dialog between “the need to honestly accept how things are in the present, even the horrible” and “the desire to always make things better, even the good”.
In the animist spirit of Gaia, Somber Flower reflects the Earth, personified, feeling the (often horrendous) choices human beings make. She is the pained Inner Child I have seen, and see, in others… in strangers, in friends, in family… in lovers. She is also my own scared inner child. Curling inwards. Twisted in existential anguish. Tears of frustrated disappointment. Trust, violated. Emotional washouts of pigment. “Why!?” she cries. The starkness of life, realized in the heart of a flower, the jadedness of adulthood following a ravaged childhood.
If we could feel the total amount of sadness being felt on the planet at any given time, would we die? Somber Flower attempts to feel it. She can’t help not to. Even so, she refuses numbness. She feels for us; is the ever-feeling aspect of us. Even as she knows the amount of pain we bring unnecessarily upon ourselves, she is there to comfort us. She is Quan Yin. She is compassion. She is not only a child, but a mother and grandmother. The beheld and the holding. Not only the seed, but the soil, the darkness and moisture, the sprout, the sapling, the tree, the fallen branch, and the moss and fungus which brings it all back to nothingness, and then, once again, into life.
Dejected Righteousness reflects the (archetypically patriarchal) desire to “fix reality”, to turn righteously-felt-as-unnecessary sadness into momentary (and passing) joy. “He” is a being taken up with the idea that the world is full of wounded children — and they must be saved. He is the mistake of not approaching others, respectfully, as co-partners in human struggle, but rather “maiden-damsels in towers,” he, “the sage-warrior/hero, come to the rescue.” Covered in war paint, ready for battle, armed with nature, a thousand truisms blindly memorized… he arrives at her arched window, triumphantly… expecting, a band… at least some trumpets… definitely, a kiss… Somber Flower tells him “Yes, I’m sad, but I’m okay. Are you okay?” He breaks down. She ends up holding him that night, a defenseless knight in shining moonlight.
Key Hole represents the process of realizing that the world is full of pain and sadness, and then coming back full circle to rediscover the joy of being in non-sense. Hinted at in the earth toned thought-bubble of Dejected Righteousness, the blended androgenic symbol living within spirals of brushstrokes, captured in wash, brings to mind that finding balance is a process, a happening, an event — not an object which can be possessed and certainly not purchased. It also reminds that it is something, once found, which can easily, again, be lost.
Igniting Roots: Lovers’ Fire Dance is the actualization, the fruit of the process of facing the starkness of reality and, simultaneously, accepting and rejecting it. The masculine and feminine are brought together into a genderless-sensual expression of passion and joy unfolding. The earth in its naked and savage beauty is celebrated in spirited firelight. Consumed and simultaneously illuminating through the rigorous sweat of midnight dancing and the subsequent ecstasy of having faced and shared real truth, two find themselves in love.
Letting go of the preconception that sadness must be stopped or prevented, avoiding the mistake of embracing it as one’s identity. Coming to know that tears can be transformational and the experience of having overcome pain is what brings depth and meaning to psyche. In the embrace of honest sadness, in the surrendering of the quest to fix things, in the deepest act of the physical: emotional and spiritual grace is discovered… the heart’s love is given the chance to dance.
Realizing that I cannot help another without helping myself, that I cannot love another without loving myself, that I cannot save anyone, other than myself, that my war is with no one other than myself, and that nothing is in actuality ever totally and/or permanently broken, even in the deepest shudders of past trauma – completing this series, internally as much as through paint – brought me full circle and prepared me to move forward into a compassionate, loving, honest, passionate and sensual future with the love of my life.
When Erica and I first reconnected, we spent many nights sharing truth over gently crackling campfire in her backyard. Nothing consumes the unconscious, facilitates trance, silences the ego, integrates the past, fertilizes the imagination, or makes possible the future… like a friendly campfire. Above, an early airbrush and graphite experiment from this time; below, excerpts from a stream of consciousness poem, “Laying in Your Studio”, from the same period.
… I am in your backyard
a fire is burning
we are taking turns feeding it sacrifices …
… I am in your backyard
a fire is burning
we take turns dancing with shadows
the almost full moon …
… I am sitting with your soul by a fire
speaking the unspoken
the sun sets
the moon rises …
… we are sacrificing pasts silently via fire
for all intents and purposes, naked
for all to see
the beauty of our divinity …
… I am bored with any form of spirituality
that doesn’t take into account natural, primal, instinctual ecstasy,
or at least gardening …
… I am sitting by a fire
taking turns with you being teacher and student
speaker and listener
drummer and dancer …
… sitting with you by a campfire
unsure sometimes whether we are in Dreamspace
or we are awake…
.. I am sitting with you by a campfire
i am standing with you in a tree …
we’re really experiencing this
and dreaming it
that’s enough to bring the tears
I break down
I am falling in love
a gateway opens into the fortress of my being,
I am vulnerable
I do not know what will occur
I do not know if my heart will break again
if I allow myself to continue to let it open
fear of what may come
I acknowledge vulnerability
I relinquish self doubt
I silence fearful thoughts
I close my eyes
I let the words come through …
… we are tying knots with rope
untying knots in backs
we are sitting by a campfire
are we awake? …