It is hard to see her face

after Ingres two

The definition of art is a somewhat amorphous thing.  Recently I chided someone for identifying “art” with whatever will challenge me, make me feel uncomfortable, touch me, transform me.  I suggested that some things will have these qualities and yet will decidedly not be art.  Driving in rush hour, doing taxes, taking a standardized test, getting a root canal — all are challenging.  I guarantee the root canal will make you uncomfortable.  Perhaps a dentist will argue that root canals are art.  But, for goodness sake, let’s let the dentist make the argument.  Artists don’t have to do it for them.

What is art?  In the era when drawing doesn’t count, art has morphed into namelessness.  Everyone is an artist now.  Art is whatever you want it to be.  And still life beckons.

Let me suggest that art’s definition be reserved for the hard stuff.  Let an old master’s skill be an ingredient.  Better that we be striving toward it than grinning and slapping our own backs in self-congratulation. 

Life still beckons.  I say art is a mystery, and I will pursue it.  Better to ever pursue and never reach than to cheapen the journey with goo-gaws and touristy nick-nacks.  Can I persuade you to share in the longing?

Okay, I don’t usually rant.  But the ubiquitously recited litany that art will challenge me, make me feel uncomfortable, touch me, transform me — it’s so “me, me,me”!  When did we lose our bearings?  When did we leave nature aside?  When did we lose our capacity to see inside the veil?

I copied Ingres (who knew what art is) and left the face blank.  I think she makes a nice metaphor for Art.  Art is she whose face is hard to see, the mystery that beckons, the life that needs transcription, a line suspended in air, a thought held in a breath, a definition that defies.

Into the Sky?

landscape meadow path

A picture should enjoy an aspect of ambiguity, just like persons.  It needs some enigma.  A friend once told me “a little mystery helps.”  And it does.

I’m not sure where the path is leading here, whether into the meadow or up into the sky.

Can You Guess What This Is?


I’m not giving any hints.  None.  Nadda.  I’m being very coy.  You’ll have to figure it out all by yourself.  Don’t bother begging me for clues.  There will be none.  So, don’t waste your time making waves. 

What you see is what you get.  (I’m just curious what you see ….)

Collage La Nuit

Abstraction is not always as devoid of subject as it appears.  There might be something that looks like this.  Lots of other artists have made pictures this one resembles.  And it resembles other pictures I’ve made that are pictures of something.  So, by following a trail of clues, being a visual detective tracking down myself, I might in time figure out what I was up to. One might in time discover what the other artists were up to as well.  If I am on the same wavelength as others, what wave is it?

On the internet once I found a wonderful website set up by two photographers, husband and wife.  They took amazing, high resolution photographs of the oddest things — bricks, stones, grasses, tiles, old rusted metal surfaces — anything with texture.  Their photographs looked like the most ravishingly beautiful abstract pictures you’ve ever seen.   And they invited anyone to use their work for free. 

I downloaded lots of their pictures, like a miser at a flea market.  Each image seemed more beautiful than the last, and I sat before the monitor for a couple hours, watching each image load and then copying it to use later.  My printer could not do the proper homage to their stunning imagery.  But I printed out some of the pictures to make a collage.  My printer started running out of ink, but I continued printing, letting the vagaries of the machine add a further layer of chance to the mix.

I had cut up some paper bags and glued them together to make a large sheet.  Grocery store shopping bags are incredibly strong.  Then I glued the prints of the couples’ photographs together into the pattern suggested by the moment.  I added a few pieces of gold foil wrappers from Lindt chocolates à la Bonnard, and voilà!

[Top of the post:  Collage, La Nuit by Aletha Kuschan, a collage made of borrowed pictures and whimsy]

Art is all about mystery

Why are you attracted to one object and not another?  One sight catches your attention, and something else passes by you as though it were invisible.  I have never known why I paint and draw water.  I love the color blue.  Blue has its own built in mysteries, quite apart from what it attaches to.  It is the color of the sky, and it pulls us into a sky hidden inside the heart.  Blue is an expansive color. It stretches away and above us.  And it’s altruistic.  People who like blue want things to be clear and straightforward.

But the pond has a particular meaning for me.  I have been drawn pondside at meditative moments in life.  Once I took an unscheduled, unannounced long drive in the morning (this was many, many years ago).  No one in the household was awake yet.  No one knew I had left, and naturally therefore they could have had no idea where I went.  But then I did not have a planned destination.  I just decided to go for a drive in the country,though the roads of the place were not well known to me.  Mine was random wandering launched by mere whim.

At a certain juncture I decided to stop.  A branch of a local river was supposed to be nearby so I decided to park the car and walk to what I thought would be a creek or stream.  I didn’t know my location when I descended down a dirt road through pine woods early that morning.  At the end of the walk, I didn’t find a creek.  Instead I found a pond (fed by the creek?) that was absolutely isolated and still.  It lay upon the ground like an enormous mirror aimed at the sky.  I walked right to its nearest edge and looked down and realized that I could not locate the water’s surface.  All I could see were the seemingly endless depths of the morning sky reflected back at me.

In retrospect it seems almost as though I was magnetically drawn to this water as by a mysterious fate just so that I could see magnificient liquid light.  I have drawn and dreamed about ponds in the intervening years.  I don’t know what they mean, but they are reservoirs of more than just water.  They are filled with resonant, echoing thoughts.  They are mirrors reflecting the depths in life above and below.  And of these depths — whether of love or friendship, a desire for purpose or direction — the edge of the surface is similarly hard to locate.  It could be measured in a few breaths or in distances of long years.