Truth?

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study, 18″ x 24″, mixed media on paper

 

I read the phrase “a child’s truth” in a book recently and began to think about what it meant. Internet research detours you through a discussion of when a child begins to lie, but that’s not where I was headed. My own interest in the phrase had more to do with emotional truth. In a world where a child is seeking to connect actions and reactions, they often think they have caused an event that they had nothing to do with.

As adults we sometimes do the same. We take responsibility or blame ourselves for things that occur, but are often accidents or mere oversights. And worse, we often take credit for causing something beneficial for which at best we had very little agency.

Truth for a child is all knotted up with innocence and trust and a very “if/then” perspective of the world in which they live. It is naïve, but in my mind far less complex and far more factual than what we as adults deal with.

So truth is a grey area like so many other things, a mixture of fact and fiction, fantasy and reality, memory and illusion.

 

Covering Everything With White

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“Seeing In A Different Light III,” (detail of 4-sided painting 36″ x 8″ square), mixed media on wood

As I painter I know that if there is an area I don’t like in an artwork, I can cover it with white and begin again, another chance if you will. Here in the South of the US, January seems to be symbolizing that chance—a bit of a “do over” if you will. But the interesting thing is that no matter how much we cover, what is underneath is still there. A snow-covered roof may look beautiful, but if it leaks; it leaks. There is only so much covering you can do.

In my artwork I have found that after a while the paint won’t stick very well, and you have to dig deep and sand carefully to get solid surface on which to build. Perhaps it’s time to take stock, to use this as an analogy for my life as well as my work.

Leaning In

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“Setting Boundaries III: Leaning In,” 14″ x 11″, mixed media on deep wood panel

 

We hear so much these days about how divided the country is, how one group is just so very different from another. It true, we are different; yet, we are the same. I personally believe it is not either. It is both.

The problem is fitting it all together. How can we “be an individual” if we are like everyone else? How can we support each other despite our differences? How can we trust each other? How can we bend just a bit to keep the structure whole?

Leaning in is not a weakness. To me it takes incredible strength. Just as the structure of a building depends on every component working together, community is also about support—even when we don’t agree. It’s about leaning in—both to get support and to give support.

Leaning in is not about destroying the differences and making everyone and every group the same. Without the differences, without the sameness, and without the leaning in, the picture would not be nearly as beautiful or bold.

Setting Boundaries

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“Setting Boundaries I,” 12″ x 12″ x 3″, mixed media on deep wood panel

Who doesn’t love a beautiful stonewall or a wrought iron fence? It makes everything seem contained, more civilized, safer. But do boundaries always keep us safe, or does they simply separate us?

Robert Frost in his poem “Mending Wall” questions this notion with his neighbor as they do a spring mend on a stonewall, each on his own side. The narrator considers this repairing an “out-door game,” since there is no livestock to contain. But his neighbor seems serious about the boundaries and quotes the proverb: “fences make good neighbors.”

As houses get closer and the noise louder, I too want to set boundaries—to live within a walled garden. I get up early not to hear the sounds of construction. But will a wall, garden or not, make me more tolerant? Will I sleep better at night with a 6-foot privacy fence? Possibly. Or perhaps it is more about what a fence symbolizes, because boundaries can be so many different things.

If boundaries alienate us from each other, can we name the boundaries? Are they simply differences in looks or opinions so that we draw lines of exclusion to feel more comfortable? Are they differences in values or religion? Or are they what we imagine of our “neighbors”? Frost says, “my apple trees will never get across and eat the cones under his pines.”

So I ask myself and you, does setting boundaries benefit us or keep us from crossing lines that might make a difference?

Pine and Palmetto

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“Pine and Palmetto,” 7″ x 5″ x 2″, mixed media on wood panel

 

My favorite place to unwind has always been the woods. From the time I was nine or ten years old and could wander on my own, I sought out the woods behind our house. I could spend hours there and never felt alone.

Whether mountains or coast, it is still no different. Among the trees is where my spirit renews. This painting represents the woods of my recent unwind in the forest of our Southern coast, filled with tall Loblolly pines and Sabal palmetto. It is a mixture of greens, with a bit of sunlight showing through, and filled with the textures of pine cones and barks.

Black and White

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Untitled Black and White, 11″ x 15″, acrylic paint and collage on canvas paper

Is anything black or just white or even black and white? There are shades of grey—and don’t forget some blacks are warmer than others. Some are blue/black; some are red/black. I’ve seen it in the bleed from my Epson printer.

So why do I rant about this now? I’ve been limiting my colors all week, black and white and brown and white, as a way of keeping my sanity, trying not to get angry at little things or at myself for not being perfect, and because it seems a fitting image for our world right now.

Apparently, many of us want to be with people just like us, who look like us, and who think like us. Perhaps it makes us feel safer, and there is less time spent in discussion giving us more time for Pokemon Go or whatever.But the reality is this: like it or not, we are all different even if we appear the same. Our children, bless them, are not exactly like us whether the same blood or just our love flows through them.

We used to talk about America as a melting pot. We thought everyone eventually learned English and moved out of the neighborhoods where their native languages were spoken and into the suburbs where they dreamed the American dream and became like their neighbors. The dirty little secret was that we were all still different; we just didn’t admit it.

My American dream is for a great salad, not a bland fondue—those of us with color and without not melting into a single, unrecognizable generic monoculture, but adding our own distinct flavor to the mix and being celebrated and respected for that contribution. Hopefully, my art is like that too.

 

So Much To Say

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“So Much To Say”, 10″ x 10″, mixed media on deep wood panel

The hate that has been displayed and the violence that has occurred in the last few years leaves me almost without words. I used to think that today we just knew about events more quickly. This was why there seems to be more violence. But for whatever reason, people now feel free to express themselves in any manner of their choosing. In some ways, it makes me want to go back to the fifties when things appeared more peaceful—close to home at least.

But that takes us back to discrimination and hate of another kind, a more silent, behind the curtains hate. I need to remember that just because I didn’t know what was happening doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Today there is a constant ache in my chest from hearing and reading the news.

So, I take to my studio and try to release my own thoughts and feelings knowing that sometimes conveying a feeling takes more than a few words. I ask myself is color enough, a marking or two, perhaps a small image?

Nothing seems enough and yet everything seems too much.