New Paintings – January at the State of the Art Gallery

Here is a preview of paintings that I will have on display at the State of the Art Gallery during January in the first of two shows celebrating SOAG’s 25th Anniversary. During January and February the gallery will be featuring works of the members, half of the members, in turn, participating each month.  This will allow for a rich sampling of new work from all of us.

My work this month is taking a radical departure from my usual bucolic landscapes. These paintings are not pretty. They are in fact very disturbing. They are painted in response to media reports of violence and disaster from around the world. To be acquainted with the harsh realities that people face in areas torn by strife, civil war, and persecution requires some action. Finding a visual image that portrays or symbolizes the issue helps me to process the raw emotion generated by the news. I want these paintings to remind people that there are others whose lives are unimaginably difficult. I want the paintings also to ask the viewer to probe the dark corners of their souls and reference their own sorrow, fears, and loneliest thoughts, in order to activate empathy and compassion for others who may seem very different from themselves. Noam Chomsky says “If you take a look at the progressive changes that have taken place in the country, say, just in the last 50 years – the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, opposition to aggression, the women’s movement, the environmental movement and so on, they were led by popular organizations, by activists on the ground.” We have only made a dent in those issues.  We are going to need a resurgence of activists.

Daily LifeAcrylic on Canvas, 18x24"

Daily Life
Acrylic on Canvas, 18×24″

Daily Life was created in reaction to events in Syria – but it could just as well be a bombed out city in Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Libya. It is unimaginable that people’s daily lives can contain the horror of repeated bombings, death and destruction, and continue to go on in the middle of rubble. I don’t know how people cope with that.

Voyage to a Better Life Acrylic on Canvas, 18x24"

Voyage to a Better Life

Acrylic on Canvas, 18×24″

Voyage to a Better Life was prompted last October by news that a boat carrying as many as 500 people capsized and caught fire off the Italian island of Lampedusa. At least 110 people died. This was just one story among many in the rising global phenomenon of  hundreds of thousands of  migrants seeking a better life at great expense and at the mercy of violent and unscrupulous smugglers. Migrants are often sent to sea in overcrowded vessels without enough engine power to make such a long and dangerous journey.

For more information, Lampedusa’s boat people: One man’s story

Risk for a better life ends in death for 22 people near Indonesia

Gold and Blue #4 is in a series of abstract paintings that start with a simple combination of two colors, and then

Gold & Blue#4Acrylic on Canvas, 18x18"

Gold & Blue#4
Acrylic on Canvas, 18×18″

develop as a dialog with the paint, reacting to the shapes and colors with each addition or subtraction. The composition of this one was inspired by the border of a beautiful blue and yellow silk scarf that was draped around a candle during a solstice celebration, and a simplified image of poinsettia petals, beautiful and simple images of celebration. It was not my intent to create a political painting, but soon the red rays were taking on more and more energy.. The painting absorbed some violence. I have been thinking about how many drone strikes have killed civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen during weddings and birthday parties, working in the fields, meeting after work, going back to help their wounded companions. The joy and happiness of a family celebration or an everyday activity shattered by unnecessary death.

Some references:

Two Figures Acrylic on Canvas, 18x24"

Two Figures

Acrylic on Canvas, 18×24″

Two Figures started as an abstract composition with one vertical turquoise rectangle and three horizontal yellow rectangles. I did a small version in acrylic paint on paper last January. I was not satisfied, but hesitated to muddle with it, so I put it away. In November, the painting surfaced again. I put it up on my wall and started an 18 x24” version in acrylic on stretched canvas. This time I started by painting the edges bright blue, then I painted the turquoise and yellow rectangles. I had to put in my ubiquitous diagonal line, and by then it was beginning to look like an interior space, which called for some figures. Much thinking and gazing time was needed  before I was able to complete the wall on the right side of the painting –a grill sort of structure (I like to play vertical lines against horizontal shapes) which felt better as a less substantial, shadowy or breaking up sort of structure. The figure on the right also became less substantial by adding the background color to its shape. What does it mean? no doubt something deeply profound that is wordlessly bubbling up out of my subconscious.  Maybe it even has multiple meanings. More to the point, does it mean something to you? Does it resonate with something in your subconscious?

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