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Without a Net

Daring Starts From Within

Tag / guilt

All Frailties That Besiege

Monkey

Oil on board           2015          16″ x 20″

Sometimes life is so confusing that I assume I’m not seeing reality clearly. I’ve had times when I would label myself as crazy, and I’d feel the shame that accompanies such a classification.

I chose a chimpanzee for my painting because they act zany. I dressed him in a straightjacket because that’s where crazy people can end up. A straightjacket is also a metaphor for constraint. I used to feel incarcerated by the maze of thoughts and feelings that converged when situations and people were beyond what I thought I could handle.

I imagined the cast of a circus would sum up the whole idea of crazy with its outlandishly costumed characters and their variety of exaggerated body sizes. What a joy it was portray the clowns and weirdos! I kept the background a monochrome blue to relegate their presence to a dreamlike haze of sameness. They are presumably an influence on the monkey’s craziness, but he stands out on his own as being the main-event nut. (Excuse my use of these politically incorrect words for mental instability. I’m not meaning to be dismissive of real mental illness. I’m using offhand lingo to vaguely sum up a felt state.)

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Such Heavenly Touches

Art Nouveau Spider

Oil on Board      2018       16″ x 20″

My first drawing was of a man. His body was a big, round, wobbly circle and his limbs stuck out like the rays of the sun in all directions, with crooked circles for hands. He was smiling. I still have that drawing, and ever since then I have known I wanted to be an artist. I still have a faded sheet of paper with a list of questions I answered in a first grade quiz, one of them being, What do you want to be when you grow up? I wrote Artist. Fast forwarding many decades finds me still loving making art, as well as teaching it, selling it, and singing the praises of it. I have led a life of non-stop creativity, so I have plenty to say about it. A painting about it seemed impossible, but I gave it a shot.

I looked up ideas online for an animal that might represent creativity. When the spider repeatedly came up as a possibility, I was at first taken aback. Creativity is joyful and often associated with beauty. Spiders are mostly feared and squish-worthy in our culture. But immediately on the heels of my cultural prejudice was the obvious, unassailable, awe-inspiring, perfect fact that spiders make gorgeous art all the time. I was easily converted to a spider-lover. Out of all the fascinating types to chose from, I chose the jumping spider simply because it caught my eye. Ironically, the jumping spider makes no web, but does make a cozy little tent to hide in at night. Because my paintings veer far from reality on a regular basis, I saw no problem in setting my new friend on a web.

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Book My Errors Down

Hyena

Oil on Board        2018       16″ x 20″

I like to think I’m an accepting person who treats people without prejudice. But this painting came about when I caught myself being cynical and judgmental in spite of myself. Even as I admitted that I was being judgmental, a thought-string of excuses trailed close behind, hoping to erase the idea of examining my mean habit too closely. Everybody does it, the excuses said. It’s normal, it’s human nature. I went forward with the painting anyway, because whether everyone does it or not, it was becoming uncomfortable for me.

I started to become aware of how I sometimes pretend it’s fine to be annoyed with others.  Not only did I sometimes feel disgruntled thoughts about people, I often entertained others with explanations about my observations and opinions. I can make an art out of relaying clever stories about people who annoy me, complete with funny imitations and a didactic punch line about the way “good” people should do things. This encourages listeners to add their own story about a similar experience so I can feel validated in my mudslinging. In the South we often use the phrase “bless her heart” (or his) which follows a badmouthing rant, implying that we mean no harm, and we wish the person well. Most people giggle after they say it, knowing that it really means “you can let me off the hook for saying these things, but that person really is a jerk.” I usually follow my badmouthing with a humorous chastisement of myself for being so judgmental, a feeble attempt to excuse my behavior.

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Forgot For Which She Toiled

Possum

16″ x 20″ Oil on Board 2013

I was the oldest kid in a large family, and I did a lot of watching over my younger siblings. I don’t think this is unusual, and it had its benefits and drawbacks. With my Possum Mama painting, the mind-state I intended to portray was about feeling responsible for the wellbeing of others. It’s not necessarily a bad thing unless I overdo it until I’m worn out and am resentful over it. In that case I feel alternately selfish (for not liking it) and trod upon (for not meeting my own needs as well.)

A possum, with babies crawling all over her, was the first animal to come to mind for this piece. A possum carrying her babies can look pretty cute; my version looks like she’s got her hands full. I wanted her to look like a mom in a normal neighborhood, and I chose to place the setting at twilight, always a bittersweet time of day, to me. She’s doing that thing that possums often do—crossing the road when it’s hard for drivers to see. The obvious implication is danger, or at least some negative possibilities.

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