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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Face of Beauty: Don't slap it.

I was talking with my dear friend the other night over margaritas and queso, and somehow the subject of my blog came up in our conversation.  She mentioned that I don't write much anymore, and that it could be better.  I know.  She is right.  It is true that I don't write as much as I have in the past, and it is not because I don't want to.  I thoroughly enjoy writing about art and the human dynamic and the life in this world that inspires art into existence.  I believe this is becoming a kind of hybrid explanation/apology/restitution for simply posting images of paintings and their locations for the past few months.  In other words for slacking off on the blog.  The truth is, I am very busy.  I know, so are you.  And so is everybody.

*Side note:  I cringe when I hear people say they are "busy." Or worse..."crazy busy."  But dammit, sometimes we just are.  I also cringe a little bit when single mothers use single motherhood as an excuse for their shortcomings or mistakes.  But let me tell you, it is hard as hell being a single mother, and I promise you sometimes it can really cramp our style and turn our otherwise efficient, completely competent, badass selves upside down in more ways than one. You can probably not tell because chances are we are still smiling calmly, especially if we were born and raised in Louisiana where you are expected to smile no matter what, even if you are contemplating something that may be considered...bad manners.

Here is an excellent example. Yesterday, I left the studio early so I could pick up my sons early from Montessori.  I thought it would be nice for them to play while I cooked them a healthy dinner of mozzarella meatloaf and sauteed summer squash before doing the whole nighttime routine.  Everything went fine and according to plan, and by 7:45 they were tucked in bed, squeaky clean, hair washed, and teeth brushed.  We read two chapters of Junie B. Jones: Dumb Bunny and sang a handful of songs.  Perfect execution of a perfect plan.  Wrong.  After the two and a half hours of double kid tears and double kid drama that followed, it was 10:30, and I was beyond exhausted.  Freaked out and guiltily pondering my failures, my head was spinning, and sleep was not an option.  So I watched a bad indie movie.  It was so boring that I pulled down one of my favorite books, Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, hoping to find some kind of peace or insight in the section on raising children.  I ended up reading the whole collection and instead found insight in the section on beauty:

On Beauty

      And a poet said, "Speak to us of Beauty."
      Where shall you seek beauty, and how shall you find her unless she herself be your way and your guide?
      And how shall you speak of her except she be the weaver of your speech?
      The aggrieved and the injured say, "Beauty is kind and gentle.
      Like a young mother half-shy of her own glory she walks among us."
      And the passionate say, "Nay, beauty is a thing of might and dread.
      Like the tempest she shakes the earth beneath us and the sky above us."
      The tired and the weary say, "beauty is of soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit.
      Her voice yields to our silences like a faint light that quivers in fear of the shadow."
      But the restless say, "We have heard her shouting among the mountains,
      And with her cries came the sound of hoofs, and the beating of wings and the roaring of lions."
      At night the watchmen of the city say, "Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the east."
      And at noontide the toilers and the wayfarers say, "we have seen her leaning over the earth from the windows of the sunset."
      In winter say the snow-bound, "She shall come with the spring leaping upon the hills."
      And in the summer heat the reapers say, "We have seen her dancing with the autumn leaves, and we saw a drift of snow in her hair."
      All these things have you said of beauty.
      Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of needs unsatisfied,
      And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.
      It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth,
      But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.
      It is not the image you would see nor the song you would hear,
      But rather an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears.
      It is not the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a wing attached to a claw,
      But rather a garden for ever in bloom and a flock of angels for ever in flight.
      People of Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.
      But you are life and you are the veil.
      Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
      But you are eternity and your are the mirror.
  



These words embody what I have tried to convey in the group of paintings in Visible Spectrum, an upcoming exhibition at Pryor Fine Art.  The final verse inspired the title of the final piece for the show, The Unveiling of Life's Holy Face. These paintings are a collective homage to what we see right before our eyes--the image of physical reality simply as it is, rather than how it exists within the bondage of our interpretation or understanding.  The image itself as it exists in the brief moment of our initial encounter, in that brief moment before we attach our own meaning to something outside of ourselves.  In this brief moment of freedom, there is beauty.


The point is this--that in search of one thing, I found this instead.  And after reading last night, I realized for the first time that my sons each have a very real perspective of this world that I had not considered.  A monster in the closet is not a joke to a four year old. Starting first grade at a new school with all new friends is very scary. It is really, really hard to stop sucking your thumb after six years, and the frustration that comes with feeling like a failure at the tender age of six can feel monumental.  I remembered that there is really no such thing as success or failure.  Absolutes are illusions, and our interpretations are simply our stories.  To step outside of the fragile shell of our own understanding is to open ourselves up.  Not easy, and not always pretty.  But it is the truth, and the truth is always beautiful.




The Unveiling of Life's Holy Face:  72" x 96", ink & oil on Belgian linen, 2011


The rest of the exhibition can be seen here (except for Hibiscus I, which was impaled by a 7 foot bronze statue).




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