24 x 22 oil on canvas; born 11.3.2012
24 x 22 oil on canvas; born 9.3.2012
Here is one I started without you. As you can see, I haven’t gotten far. Which is worse: painting through fear, or the fear or not painting at all? I have painted nothing so far this year. This one is only started. I’m afraid I let myself begin to feel useless as a painter. It happens. Actually, it happens everyday. Anyway, a few weeks ago when I started reading Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, I found this part at the beginning particularly piercing for me:
“As long as social damnation exists, through laws and customs, artificially creating hell at the heart of civilization and muddying a destiny that is divine with human calamity; as long as the three problems of the century—man’s debasement through the proletariat, woman’s demoralization through hunger, the wasting of the child through darkness—are not resolved; as long as social suffocation is possible in certain areas; in other word, and to take an even broader view, as long as ignorance and misery exist in this world, books like the one you are about to read are, perhaps, not entirely useless.” —HAUTEVILLE HOUSE, January 1, 1862
“O you! You ideal! You alone exist!” —Victor Hugo
I cannot know the worth of it, if indeed there is any worth in my painting. I just know I will keep trying. We still have some of these same problems, more than two hundred years later. In fact, we seem to be re-manufacturing some of them. In painting, I keep struggling to find a voice that will speak clearly and maybe do some good. Maybe it’d be faster if we all just read Les Misérables. No, I mean read it—not watch it.
Here i am asking what would happen if we were all able to protect our children the way the powerful have done for centuries. What seems like paradise would cripple the earth and the only home we all know. So whose daughters should be sacrificed? This struggle has already turned us against each other. Maybe we should think more about our stewardship of the earth and of each other.
The multiple levels of limited sight in these children is a representation of our society. As children playing a game, unaware of each other except through performance, they are connected through the universally shared history of humanity. I am not depicting enemies here. Nor am I creating a portrait of a pariah. Each of us begins life learning what we must in order to survive. We each enter the game from different places and perspectives, with differing levels of preparation or instruction. Some of what we were taught, some of what we believe, leaves us blind. Some of it is possible to fix; for some of us, sight may never return. Still, life supports us—until it can’t.
My sister posted this picture of us on the book of faces this morning. I don’t remember ever seeing it. While it must be over forty years old, I don’t remember when it was taken. Mom was definitely pretty. My younger sisters were definitely cute. As I look at it now though, I am struck by something…nobody would have recognized the invisible artist in the photo. There she is though; the little red-haired girl on the far right. I’d always thought folks were deliberately ignoring my dream to be an artist—as if they thought I couldn’t possibly have it. But no, it just didn’t show.
I knew she was supposed to be here. it just took me a long time to figure out how to get her in. Now, I can go on.
“From the moment at which a painter begins to strike figures of color upon a surface he must become acutely sensitive to the feel, the textures, the light, the relationships which arise before him. At one point he will mold the material according to an intention. At another he may yield intention—perhaps his whole concept —to emerging forms, to new implications within the painted surface. Idea itself—ideas, many ideas move back and forth across his mind as a constant traffic, dominated perhaps by larger currents and directions, by what he wants to think. Thus idea rises to the surface, grows, changes as a painting grows and develops. So one must say that painting is both creative and responsive. It is an intimately communicative affair between the painter and his painting, a conversation back and forth, the painting telling the painter even as it receives its shape and form.” —Ben Shahn, Biography of a Painting