I started this painting on the afternoon of January 6th, while unbeknownst to me violence was unfolding in the U.S. Capitol. I “finished” it the next morning, moving it out of a much uglier stage. Although I’m not sure I’ve moved it far enough out of “ugliness,” I also know it’s good to sit with it all, that the truth of a moment doesn’t always appear beautiful in the ways we’ve known. And also, that ugliness and beauty are mostly ideas and relative to their context. Art is not always visually appealing; movement doesn’t always feel good. My paintings don’t usually name themselves when they aren’t finished, but this one did, so maybe it is.
The alchemists have a saying: ‘Tertium non datur.’ The third is not given. That is, the transformation from one element to another, from waste matter into best gold is a mystery, not a formula. No one can predict what will form out of the tensions of opposites and effect a healing change between them. And so it is with the mind that moves from its prison to a free and vast plain without any movement at all. Something new has entered the process. We can only guess.
– Jeanette Winterson
This painting has been on and off my easel since February. And although I wouldn’t call it gold, I can say that the process of making it had an alchemical quality. Put another way: I have no idea what I’m doing or why, but always have transformation foremost in my mind.
Moving is tough, more so when you learn the new owners don’t want any of the remnants the last owner left behind (which in our case includes a lot of unused house paint, among other things that are costly to dispose of). After an initial meltdown, many days of exhaustion/tearfulness, and no time made for the creative things that fuel me, I turned the garage into an impromptu studio and made this painting using some of the paint to be discarded. Lemons into lemonade.
I will treasure this as a piece that holds the many wonderful memories of the house we’re leaving and symbolizes where we are heading. The surface is quite rough and highly textured (largely due to the limited paint application tools and the viscosity of house paint), but even this seems metaphorically apt.
Celebrating my 50th birthday today in the most perfect way for the day, as required – packing boxes, taking out the trash, connecting with so many of the people I love, and painting.
Sometimes a painting changes. A lot. Although I never quite liked this painting in the early stages, I kept looking. As the surrounding light shifted, the painting did too. The images (directly above) represent my first draft and appear different only because they were photographed at different times of day.
Ultimately, I painted over most of the original. The final image is the result (pictured at the top), a very different painting for sure.
The poem is an ode to the making of the painting. But has broader applications too, I think. I’d love to hear what you think!