I No Longer Ask Why

“You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” George Bernard Shaw

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"Not Intended For Ground Contact," Mixed media on deep wood panel, "17 x 23"
“Not Intended For Ground Contact,” Mixed media on deep wood panel, “17 x 23”

You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” George Bernard Shaw

 A couple years ago I a wrote asking art lovers to respond with specifics about a piece of art, not just “beautiful” or “wonderful” or any other single word adjective. Part of me would still like more, but I have decided I was wrong—wrong to ask any viewer to explain their emotions or feelings about a specific piece of work. (Let’s face it sometimes I don’t want to have to explain even to a juror what my painting is “about.”)

Instead, I am now content to just “like.” I have come to understand as one blogger Ralph Ammer puts it, “art is a mirror for artists and viewers alike.” When we as artists have put all of our thoughts, feelings, and emotions into a piece, our story is told. Our view is registered. For the viewer, the reflection begins when they stand before the piece or see it online. And often their emotions and thoughts are so personal and complex, they may feel there is yet another story to tell—or not tell.

So, I no longer ask “why.” I am just grateful that they are art lovers and that I have the opportunity through my paintings to touch someone or trigger a few thoughts.

 

 

 

 

No Destination

borderlandwandering
“Untitled,” 16″ x 20,” mixed media collage on deep panel

The week has just started and I am tired. To say it has been difficult to concentrate on art the last few weeks is well…an understatement. Illness, my own upper respiratory infection and my elderly mother’s increasing anxiety, has consumed me.

Finding myself the bad guy is not a new role, just one that comes and goes. And no matter how you feel at the moment, you really don’t want it to return. You want all hatchets buried, all peace pipes smoked. But usually, life doesn’t work that way even with the most optimistic outlooks. To keep my own head about me, I paint.

Lately, I have been working on paper, which doesn’t create my usual amount of texture. But it still allows quite a bit, just more visual than tactile. And because there is less preparation, I can work in the moment. Luckily, most of the layers also dry a bit more quickly as well.

This one, as yet untitled, is likely part of a new series. I feel myself moving a brush, a pencil over the paper as if it is a landscape I want to explore—even though there is no definite destination.

Do we need one? Can’t we just begin a journey and see what will happen, where we will go if we follow a line?

 

 

Separating the Parts

holdingfastside
“Holding Fast,” 10″ x 10″, mixed media on wood

Lately I’ve seen some artists admonished on social media for posting comments or links that reflect their “politics.” I interpret this to mean there are those who believe an artist can separate their art from their “politics.” Perhaps there are those that can, but I cannot.

Here’s why: My art is a reflection of who I am—my joys, sorrows, experiences. When I create a painting it has many meanings. It may be inspired by nature, a beautiful piece of architecture, a poem. But always, there are deeper, more complex questions and emotions. There are bigger pictures. Some the viewer will never see.

Because it is not a party I vote for, but rather for my values and beliefs, then my “politics” will surely be incorporated into my work and my life.

It’s A Wrap

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rCoND8EooA

 My first video is complete, and I feel much like a five-year-old who has finally learned to tie his shoes—though not without tears.

Since I have no technology genes, it took almost two weeks, off and on. Yes, I still remember typewriters and have even used them. So while the video doesn’t have the detail I would like, I’m ( we’re) feeling rather proud. My partner in this venture was my partner in life.

May I also say thank you to those whose posted “how to’s” on You Tube.

Art is Prayer

openingweb
“Opening,” 10″ x 10″

 

To pray you open your whole self

To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon

To one whole voice that is you.

And know that there is more

That you can’t see, can’t hear,

Can’t know except in moments

Steadily growing and in languages

That aren’t always sound but other

Circles of motion.

 

Taken from the first few lines of “Eagle Poem” by Joy Harjo

Striking the Drum

watertimpani2side
“Water Timpani II: Striking the Drum,” 18″ x 15″ x 3,” Mixed media on deep wood panel, https://www.artfinder.com/manage/patricia-raible/product/water-timpani-ii-striking-the-drum/

Moore Cove Falls in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina is certainly not as spectacular as the cascading Looking Glass Falls nearby—and it’s further into the woods. But all along the trail you hear water, soft little gurgles, then stronger burbling as you are forced to hop, skip across the stream. It is a beckoning that reminds me of the Rumi quote that begins, “Come, come whoever you are.” Then when you reach the bottom of the falls it is almost an anticlimax. There is no roar. The fall is a simple horsetail waterfall, mostly maintaining contact with the rocks. But I am strangely satisfied—content to stop and look and just be.

For what fascinates me even more than the sounds are the shapes and textures of the falls. It becomes a puzzle to reduce such an intricate picture into shapes, textures, a few colors, and hopefully feeling. Is this fall square or rectangular? What about the fallen limbs that come out from each side of the creek or the rocks that have settled there hundreds of years before? And what would the markings look like?

A timpanist will beat the head of the drum approximately 4 inches from the edge, knowing this will make the best sound. And that is my job, to find that point, the one that visually communicates whether it is in the center or close to the edge. So painting after painting, I keep trying.

 

When Words are Boundaries

settingboundariesiiweb
“Setting Boundaries II,” 11″ x 14″, mixed media on canvas paper,  https://www.artfinder.com/product/setting-boundaries-ii-3ee0/

For someone who spent a lot years working with words, I find that many,many times what I tried to say was not what was heard. Then every once in a while, I stop and say nothing, and my silence is taken as acquiesce as if I don’t care. When considering the vitriol of our current elections, I can’t help but wonder if the Saxon derivation of much of our language has somehow imparted a measure of staccato belligerence into our speech.

Words are certainly powerful. They can divide us or bring us closer together. They can draw a line in the sand that can’t be crossed—at least not without anger and resentment. Of course our world would be less civilized without some verbal and physical boundaries, but the question is whether those boundaries can be crossed to pull us together as communities. Clearly we can’t do this without the appropriate words. Learning how to communicate what you mean and what you feel is not something that happens when we reach some magic age. We must continue to learn, change, and occasionally question the wisdom of our boundaries.