Here’s what used to look like a wounded bagel, condition now stabilized. The orange is actually Indian Yellow, a beautiful color that I’m still trying to adopt. We might need just a bit more Alizarin red here.
I’m trying to depict a conversion, a turning toward something unexpected, a grace of light blue. Originally, I was thinking about the narrative of before and after — I was lost and now I’m found. But that seemed too simple. I remember what Joan Didion said: “I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”
Aside from the portal at the center, I’ve left just a few edges here. While I was painting this, I was thinking about all the discussions in art classes and art books about edges, how to “steal” the edge, either from the figure or from the background. But I was also thinking that mystics see beyond the edges. That’s a part of what they do. I’ve been reading The Night of the Confessor by Tomas Halik — excellent book — and he says “Love is the only force that unifies things without destroying them.” Yes, I thought. That’s what’s I’m trying to do here and with other paintings these days. Unify things — soften the edges — without destroying them. Be on nodding terms with what I used to see.
Anyway, that’s what I see in this painting I’m working on. A work in progress; we’re not there yet. I have in mind some sort of circle or target, with a portal, a skylight, at the center that shows the same cerulean blue that we see at the edges. We end where we begin.
Lauren likes it. She always prefers the rough over the polished, the raw over the cooked. She helps me wean myself away from the lapidary, the overly wrought. As I say in “Outsider Art,” I need an art that is “deformed so it can breathe.” Is this deformed enough? Or just a wounded bagel?
That’s the thought for this pastel, anyway. I discovered Asian painting very early on, and I’ve loved it ever since. Especially the “broken ink” style of sumi-e that Sesshu practiced. I had a reproduction of his landscape below hanging in my room when I was a young existentialist in McKinney, Texas.
Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem keeps moving through my head. This painting is called “Fire Root.” I built up a thick landscape of acrylic molding paste, let it dry, and then followed the bumps and contours of the little ridges and valleys of paste. (The painting is just a bug, 8 inches square, but a bright bug, part of my series on fire and combustion. “Million-fuelèd, | nature’s bonfire burns on..”
I was aiming to finish this by the 50th day after Easter. Late as usual. I wanted to put Mary’s flames in the middle, but somehow that didn’t work out. Perhaps we all burn equally bright before a loving God.
I’m thinking that this painting might be included in “Opening Prayer,” a book of poetry I recently finished.