Tears of Some God
John Natsoulas Gallery, 2020
"What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”
Crowfoot, Chief of the Blackfeet
We are living in challenging times. I, for one, am feeling deep regret at how catastrophic modern humans are for the other life forms that share our staggeringly beautiful planet. It is amazing to think that we are experiencing the beginning of the sixth mass extinction as an estimated 200 species go extinct every day – more often than not because of habitat compromise or destruction due to human activities.
As a kind of centering practice, I found myself painting over and over on a lot of little paintings, obliterating forms, asserting new ones. Most of these paintings in the Installation “Tear for the Gone, Tear for the Going” have been ‘finished’ many times over. I would show up in my studio, paint over them, feel a bit better, go away, learn more about the stressed future of life on earth. Repeat.
The mutability of forms and colors engaged me and gave me peace.
I have long felt that my abstract painting aimed to capture something of the feeling of experience, the experience of consciousness. So, in the paintings for the installation, I began to consider the potential experience of consciousness of various animal and life forms. A few of these works – referring to extinct creatures – have been replaced by plastic images of bones and plastic. Some of the paintings – referring to endangered creatures – have been replaced by plastic images of plastic animals randomly moving over Google earth locations as if refugees.
In these times of our great, generally destructive impact on ecosystems of all kinds, I find myself saddened not just for the loss of the miraculous form and function of the diverse lifeforms on this planet, but of the lost EXPERIENCE of those creatures, which is as real as ours, as valid and likely as ‘beautiful’ as ours, however different.
A favorite artist, Bill Viola says, “The larger struggle we are witnessing today … [is] an ecological drama where the outcome rests not only on our realization that the natural physical environment is one and the same as our bodies, but that nature itself is a form of Mind.”
I interpret that Mind as referencing a sort of collective Consciousness in which we all – from humans to honeybees – take part. I wanted to paint this without defaulting to representation.
People will go with me on this and consider these painting abstractions as vanishing other ‘forms of mind’ or they won’t. The painting titles might seem demanding or just truly random (which, frankly, in a way they are – what does Hunger look like after all?) Regardless, the paintings are meant to be enjoyed for their color and energy and to stand alone as individual small works.
Again, I find my creative process fully meditative and encourage others to view these and the other works in the show - as objects for meditation, for considering how form leads to form, how all forms are contained in a larger field; as soon as there is an ‘edge’ or definition of something, there is immediately that field that contains it and it, in turn, can be the field around something else. In a nutshell, this is my spirituality.
From the microscopic to the astronomical, I see this idea of system dynamism and containment repeated, in invisible, microscopic reality, inside our bodies, in our visible world, in the earth as seen from space, inside solar systems, etc. Furthermore, I FEEL this to be true even in the more abstract realms of feeling and experience.
As a final note, I have to say, in all the (utterly unscientific) research I have done for this show, I am wholly touched that there are people who care enough about our co-habitants on this planet to name them and count them and know how they are doing, or when there is only one of them left.
I think the least we can do is consider the endangered or vanishing ways of experiencing life on earth, while, hopefully, we continue to marvel at our own.