The Artwork of Michael Divine

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A Transitive Nightfall: Notes on a Title

December 5th, 2017
A Transitive Nightfall of Diamonds

“A Transitive Nightfall of Diamonds” – Detail

“I was very impressed with T.S. Eliot around the time I was writing [the lyrics for] Dark Star. Beyond that, that’s just my kind of imagery…. I don’t have any idea what the ‘transitive nightfall of diamonds’ means. It sounded good at the time. It brings up something that you can see.” – Robert Hunter on the lyrics for “Dark Star” from which the title of the painting is taken as quoted in “The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics”

“So I have a long continuum of ‘Dark Stars’ which range in character from each other to real different extremes. ‘Dark Star’ has meant, while I’m playing it, almost as many things as I can sit here and imagine…”
– Jerry Garcia, Rolling Stone 1971

I’d like to share a few words regarding the title of this painting, “A Transitive Nightfall of Diamonds”. I had thought, at one point, of calling this “Electric Guitar is My Guru” but for various reasons, not the least of which included Violet saying that she didn’t like that title, I changed it. I’d thought that a good title because really it’s a sound that has followed me and that I have followed – like a dancing partner – for all of my adult life. It has expressed those deep parts of my soul, long tangents of my imagination, and the heights of my spirit. But the word ‘guru’ has a lot of baggage attached to it. So, as a title, I had to leave it behind.

Then I remembered something that Jerry Garcia, one of the greatest guitarists of our age (forget about whether you like the Grateful Dead or not, the man was a magician of the guitar.) said about the song “Dark Star” Dark Star is one of the Dead’s epic songs of open ended flow. I can’t really describe it. It is an experience as much as it’s a song. Years ago I read something that Jerry had said about that song – and I can’t remember where I read it and can’t seem to find the quote anywhere. He said that the thing he loved about Dark Star is that between every note was an infinity of possibilities – more than any other song in their catalogue. There were songs that could open up, could go in multiple tangents and directions, but only Dark Star could open up everywhere in every direction.

“A Transitive Nightfall of Diamonds” is a lyric from that song. Written by Robert Hunter, the lyrics are as visually elusive as the song – moments and fragments cascading through time offering images and suggestions of moods and melody. This is, to me, the essence of painting. Each moment and each brushtroke is a thousand possibilities. This painting attempted to be even more of that – every moment cascades into the next only loose rhymes or relationships to the previous. It is the heights and the troughs, the peaks and valleys, of a thousand nights under bright lights and raging guitars. It is the echo of a rhythm of a melody never forgotten found deep in my soul I can never forget the love I felt then and all of the infinite possibilities.

It’s all and everything. It is diamonds, reflecting and refracting, an infinitum. It is a nightfall of them. So I am grateful (no pun intended) for that line, those few words, penned by Robert Hunter, back in – what – 1968? Forever ago. But time is an illusion. And the space where the pen stops and where the pen begins – a lifetime, an eon – may, in all actuality, be merely a moment, a breath, a transitive nightfall of diamonds cascading through the atmospheres.

A Transitive Nightfall of Diamonds

December 5th, 2017
A Transitive Nightfall of Diamonds

“A Transitive Nightfall of Diamonds” – Detail

See the full painting here: A Transitive Nightfall of Diamonds

“Each note is like a whole universe. And each silence…. And the quality of sound and the degree of emotional… It’s like the most important thing in the world. It’s truly cosmic.” – Jerry Garcia, “The Rolling Stone Interviews” – Peter Herbst

 

Loud fuzzy distorted sustained amplified strummed plucked looped shredded wah wah wah wailing upon and fed back through layer upon layer of chord progression melody line guiding me and dividing me and finding that perfect note, that golden chord, that crying out tone of my soul.

This is my homage to that instrument that has been this shining beacon in my life, the guitar. There are so many rock stars whose narrative melodies, soulful intonations, thrown to the wind ministrations on this instrument have triggered the unfolding imagination of my mind. My art, all of it, finds its harmony with the guitar. My paintbrush is the guitar with color and shape rather than sound. Etching along the space time tunnel in perfectly poised movements, some weird zen dance – the guitar lines and my brush – are one moment in motion flowing in gold. Every painting is another rock star fantasy.

I remember being at a music festival and, amongst the thousands of people, the multitudes of noise, the dust and mayhem, there was this beautiful high melody being played over the heads of everyone and I was like ‘what. is. that?!’ and I followed it and found a stage with this rather shriveled old man in a wheel chair and a guitar on his lap, glinting shiny silver in the afternoon sun and a huge smile on his face as effortlessly sang his soul through his Fender guitar and it was Buddy Guy and he was a master.

There’s Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page and Jerry Garcia and Eddie Hazel and Thurston Moore and Frank Black and Slash and George Harrison and Trey Anastasio and David Gilmour and Kieth Richards and John McLaughlin and Kurt Cobain and The Edge and Van Halen and and and. I mean, there’s so many. All these bands and their guitars: The Black Crowes, AC/DC, Pearl Jam, and whoever plays guitar for LCD Soundsystem and the various guitarists for Talking Heads and on and on and on… There’s just. So. Many. It goes on and on. Some added one perfect note. Others, entire encyclopedias of sound.

It’s the musical instrument of the 20th Century. Now, in the 21st C. it seems like the ‘instrument’ of the century is the computer. But the 20th C. was led by the guitar. And I followed it religiously.

I learned so much from that golden raucous everything. It can be delicate restraint then complete self-indulgence. It’s all the rock and roll one can handle. It is, to me, the voice that ties the band together. It’s a note. A chord. A sound imprinted on my heart. It just takes me and takes me and takes me and I go – willingly – with all the ego aggrandizement and dissolution at the same time.

It is delicate curlicues of aural calligraphies written on the passing fabric of time. The best of them form elaborate sentences, paragraphs, whole novels of sound with beginnings, middles, and ends, where deep troughs in which we lose ourselves lead to high peaks from which the view is as close to infinite as is humanly possible, arriving at conclusions of sonic perfection creating, within that space of time, a sparkling, shimmering, twirl and dip, grip the underbelly, and shimmy through the spinal column, all of it never ending noise sound tone soul realization – is this the sound of infinity – is this the sound of the inner eye of the universe? It is the sound of sunlight glinting through the diamond jewel of my mind.

I’m so grateful for that sound – that roar – that has flowed through my life for several decades. It ripped into my soul. It took over my world. It never let go.

This painting is an homage to that sound, that instrument. It is a homage and thank you to all the great guiding lights who picked it up and wailed their souls on it. To all those epic rockers and their late late nights. All the sex and drugs and rock and roll. Whatever got you through the night. And that release you found – from our inner soul to the outermost edge of human expression that this instrument was capable of transcribing.

Somewhere, and I can’t find where, Jerry Garcia remarked that the thing he loved about playing their song “Dark Star” was that it could open up anywhere – there were an infinite number of possibilities between any note and the next. I think of paintings like this and my favorites are those that seem to be able to continue to expand and expand – between any line, any curve, every piece unfolding to the next.

So I borrowed a line from that song, titling the painting “A Transitive Nightfall of Diamonds” where each drop of that nightfall, each note shimmers and glistens, merging with the next, a cascade of sound, light, color, all at once.

This is a painting of self-indulgence. It is a painting of Rock n Roll.

Thank you, dear musicians, for all the good times you’ve brought into this world.

 

The Apotheosis of Hope

November 3rd, 2017

“The Apotheosis of Hope” (Detail)

Hope.

It is a silly thing – a frivolous thing. Hope is the breath of a bubble waiting to burst.

In the midst of our more confidently brazen facades, we scoff it off as naive – a thing for children’s stories and religious tales when the fairy godmother might come and sweep us away and the brethren hope for the return of their savior.

When all is well, what need have we for hope? When tomorrow and the next look as bright and full of possibility as today what need have we to break our stride? I’m ok. You’re ok. Everything is grand. Everything is ok. Our needs are met and our systems intact and life provides because life will always and forever provide in as abundant a manner as now – or so we believe – what need have we then for hope? It is, in those times, when earlier moments of want are forgotten, that hope turns into it’s own ego reflection and becomes ‘expectation’.

Hope is that fleeting moment – that briefest of uplifts – before the story kicks in. The story of “what I want or need”. Or what I believe it should be. What I think should happen next. And how we will feel or want to feel when it all works out like we expect it to.

Every archetype has its counterbalance. Discernment becomes judgement. Joy can turn to hubris. And so on.

But hope.
We are talking about Hope.

When we awaken in the morning and it’s another day and the news bombards us with more vicious attacks and security outrages, political upheavals, and vomitous personality flaws, and the bills in a stack that need to be paid sit in unopened envelopes while I scoff down another breakfast and that one blood relative that just needs a break or a chance or something anything is still calling and I haven’t been paid and more stuff and dramas and dead weights and the kids or the cats or the car, maybe it’s the dog, there’s the old scars prickled with new scabs. It’s then when dreams seem so far away buried on some distant horizon blanketed in grey and the expectation of the day to day becomes a breadcrumb trail leading away from better times because now these days are the only days. It is then.

It is then, too, that hope seems a trivial thing. For what is there to hope for when yesterday’s trials just get worse today and the next looks to be about the same and rather than healing all wounds, time just continues to grind away? Every dream becomes dust. Your sweet reflection rusts.

Why hope? Why hope at all?

It’s not about a better job or the kids will be ok. It’s not about a sweeter place for our bones to stay. It’s not about things. It’s not about structures. Hope isn’t about belief systems and carefully weighed outcomes. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. Hope doesn’t care about any of this.

My structures will be torn down by his structure will be torn down by her structure til you build your structure all over again to be torn down all over again and the cycle continues. It’s not about winning or losing. Hope isn’t an outcome.

Hope is the breath of being and not being at the same time. An inhalation turns into the exhalation and into an inhalation. Over and over and over again.

Hope is the barest flicker of a candle flame in the middle between believing and not believing in the next gracious moment.

Remember when it was the pyre of all our desires burning in an ever lasting blaze? Everything – with or without name – all thrown in at once – won’t need that again! – burning burning – everything just burning away. We were dawn’s new day ever-lasting to become the sun as if we were only and ever the first greatest golden one and this is the end forever and ever and in the midst of playing that last note, that last chord, that last song we would ever hear and could possibly hear for once there will be peace on this earth world without end name without name flame within flame – has anything ever looked sounded seemed so clear…

And then.
And then.

Comes the darker hour of night.
Comes that moment after losing sight.

Mind chewing away on all the could have beens should have beens maybe why why did I even think – even consider – even entertain for a moment’s breath – I could touch that sky? Let alone – fly?

When everything – and I mean everything – the leaking pipe, the traffic light, the unopened envelopes, the endless parade of tirades, the places I’m powerless – the bottom’s dropped out – the cries of a billion starving mouths with nowhere to sleep, the still-boxed dreams that could have been – all whispering and whimpering amongst themselves, screaming and shouting and crying out loud:

Where have you been all this time. You’ll never make it. You don’t even know where to begin. Won’t you help me?

Even then.

That candle flickers inside, casting a light, a glimpse – I’m still here. We’re still here. It’s ok. We’re ok. It’s going to be ok. One foot in front of the other. I hope there’s still a floor!

If I could be one voice in the dark. If I could be one spark in a world waiting to ignite. Needing to ignite. Praying to ignite. Hoping.

If I could be one dream. One whisper. One song. One being. Still banging that drum, ringing that bell, dreaming that dream. Singing that song and pulling myself apart at the seams… for you. For them. For us. For everything. Just to inspire the belief that there can be more than that and more than this because there is only this and forever this. And whatever we choose make of it.

If you are that one only soul remaining – that one candle flame flickering – that one tiny breath. That whisper. That whimper. That one soul still left dancing… If you can be that and inspire that feeling in another – that sensation – or reflection – that is hope. It is the hope that we are growing towards better days and the best is not behind us.

It is the driving force that says: Grow. Survive. Thrive. There might be another day. There might be a better day. But if we don’t LIVE in this one we’ll never make it to the next. If we don’t build towards that possible future now, then what do we have? Life begets life. Breath becomes breath.

And hope begets hope.

If you see me crawling alone on the side of the street, destitute and wondering if this asphalt is the only thing that has ever been – I am only human – toss a crumb – a smile, a coin, it’s truly all the same – in my direction because you never know if what to you is the mere faintest of distractions might actually save a life, a soul, a spirit in need of resurrection, maybe just a human reflecting humanity in need of connection.

See, if I can be just one whisper, one underlying tone – one breeze upon the nape of your neck making you feel a little less alone, that taste that still lingers on the tip of your tongue reminding you of songs yet to be sung or that memory of a dance so good now long gone, that recollection of a time so serene, so magic, so visceral, so real or that possibility of what could be – it hasn’t even happened yet – if I could be that future – if I could be that

Hope
for you
That it could be
Again
I will.

Hope.
The intimation of the greatest of pasts and futures in the now.

Hope.
It is the song that sings: we have yet to hear the final note. Hope keeps it’s money in the game. Hope strategizes moves and sees me completing actions beyond which my tiny mind can even comprehend. And I – my mind – this heart – we are only messengers of hope – of life – of love and laughter and soft sweet surrenders for all whose candles flicker, whose wells run dry because they do sometimes.

Hope, said Alexander Pope, springs eternal in the human breast.

In the darkest of your night, in the softest of your light, in the deepest of your fright, in the barest of your sight… Hope eternally springs forth like a the barest of a new shoot, a new bud, a new blossom after winter’s cold remorse.

Hope is the effulgent light of our mystical hearts and the great human potential of all we could be. It is that well spring of eternal devotion that we direct ourselves towards – a notion that is as close to beyond our imaginations as we can comprehend. It is all of the everything at once. It is the sky folding into the earth and back again and our place in that as one more beautiful and intricate cog of a machine whose only true goal is beauty, life, death, entropy, all of it at once. It is mind no mind. It is a verse of the song of this infinite dance.

And it is hope that, even in the most trying of times – in the darkest of your moments – which may not be as dark as those of some but, still, may be darker than others – everything has its day and everything has its night – the darkest night hopes for the brightest light and the brightest light hopes for the darkness of night – it is hope that keeps us alive.

Hope says, “We will meet again.”
May you remember hope.

The Value of F***ing Around

November 1st, 2017

As an artist, they say, you should always be producing. And, the older you get, the more this adage echoes through your mind. Does what I’m doing have value? Is this worth the time I’m spending on it? How long until it’s done and will it compare to previous works? And so on. The questions, the inquiries, the pressures, the doubts – they’re endless.

If I go back to my early days of my artist career, I see a person who found value for the sake of the thing. I just knew I wanted to make it. I had nothing to compare it to. I had no previous sales. I had a small collection of work but not enough that I had a spectrum of pieces to compare anything to. I had only pen and paper, brush and canvas and paint. And a will to simply push forwards.

I remember spending half a winter in the early 2000s (while working on the painting Limits, amongst others) learning Adobe After Effects. I spend hours and days creating rudimentary animations, visual smorgasbords of psychedelia, and the like. It had no real ‘value’ and I certainly wasn’t going to sell it. By today’s digital standards, it was all pretty basic stuff. Which is to say: I spent a lot of time fucking around with it. But it brought me joy and provided me with this other creative outlet. Along the way, I learned a useful skill (After Effects) and had fun.

Similar things could be said for nights spent turning chalk pastels into piles of muddy dust. Or bottles of ink into splattered vistas of no real use or value to anyone other than myself. Maybe I was just beautifying a corner. Or expressing a momentary emotion. Maybe I was just exploring how a thing worked and letting the chatter work itself out.

Whatever story I tell myself of ‘why’ I’m doing the thing, the fact is, I’m sometimes spending my time on things which likely have no tangible value within my body of work.

The job of an artist is to LIVE CREATIVELY. Every square inch of that time and space is a place to drop in and make or do or explore. This isn’t to say every waking moment should be this endless act of conscious creation. Sometimes, sitting in the sun and reading a book is the only obvious next step.

On the other hand when the heart says ‘Hey I want to explore this thing’ then go ahead, I say, see where that thread takes you or where that tangent leads. My own personal creative tangents create space for a kind of creative processing that allows my painting practice to be all the more clear and in tune.

The avenues and outlets I follow – allowing the muse to unpack itself in various novel and creative ways – are like the branchings of a tree. In this metaphor, I never know when one branch might bear fruit or even what that fruit might be. Many of those fruits are, for the most part, nourishing only to myself. Maybe it is a tea stand I made or a side project website that gives me a laugh. But that nourishment – those breaths of creative fire – inspire me to move forwards in my creative flow. That inspiration invariably seeps into my work and actions.

As we creative types get older, we hopefully learn to discern between distraction and inspiration, between fucking around and fucking off (although the latter has its value as well). I have a sketchbook I draw in. It’s a place of lots of fucking around. It’s dorky mental lines that maybe turn into a sketch into a painting into something truly noteworthy. Maybe. 99 times out of a 100 it’s just ramblings.

What I’m trying to say is:

The world is heavy lately. It’s no joke. And we artists have this sense that we have to do things that are ‘meaningful’ and make things ‘of value’ and so on. It is all very serious. And then, on top of that, you have got to hustle your work and maintain your brand and make sure you adequately engage with your social media platforms and run a business and heft your burdens and don’t forget the personal stuff – there’s got to be room for that – and so on. Phew!

Look: It’s ok to just breath for a moment. And, more so, it’s ok to just play sometimes. If you can make that space for yourself, revel in it for a bit. Give some paper over to random drawing. Paint over a canvas you forgot about with just who knows what for the sake of it. Remember that feeling? You were seven or ten or you just were lost in your creative flow, just messing around, making the most meaninglessly important thing ever. You didn’t even need to ‘give yourself permission.’ You just did it. Treasure that part. It’s still in there just waiting to play, to explore, to dabble, and to dance.

Even artists should have hobbies.

When the Smoke Cleared

October 24th, 2017
Cloudscape Sketch • Acrylic/Canvas • 12" x 36"

Cloudscape Sketch • Acrylic/Canvas • 12″ x 36″

So the past couple of weeks at our little Divine Comedy have been challenging. We moved north of Napa back in December and, after the wettest winter on record, we had the hottest summer on record which led to the worst fires, you guessed it, on record.

Our air was thick with smoke and we woke every morning examining the current fire maps. We were rather surrounded – to the north, south, and west at times less than ten miles from the brunt of them. When everything is like a tinderbox and winds may shift at any moment, that ten miles doesn’t seem so far. Some friends transported all of our artwork to Oakland for safekeeping – ‘just in case’ – and our bags were packed the whole time.

Thankfully just in case didn’t come to pass for us. Many others though lost homes, businesses, and even lives. I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures – of Santa Rosa, Napa, etc. It’s heart breaking the swath of destruction left by the fire. These extremes are the tangible examples of what climate change looks like and the reality we live in. We’re incredibly grateful that our gardens, home, and lives are still intact.

In the coming month I’ll have some new works to share with you and will also be doing some fundraising for those who lost everything these past few weeks.

The painting above (and the detail below) were made while our air was thick and the light was this weird golden rose color from the smoke filtered sunlight. It was hard to relax into the general painting flow so I worked on some free-flowing pieces, painting over canvases that remained at home.

Here’s to the rain of the coming autumn :)

Cloudscape Sketch (detail)

Cloudscape Sketch (detail)

It Is a Good Time To Make Art

September 28th, 2017
"Flowers for Atlas" by Michael Divine

“Flowers for Atlas” by Michael Divine

“I recalled the artists who had done their work in gulags, prison cells, hospital beds; who did their work while hounded, exiled, reviled, pilloried. And those who were executed…

This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.

I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.”

– Toni Morrison

Kiva – Loans that Change Lives

September 4th, 2017

Kiva - Loans that Change Lives

Some time back I loaned some money on Kiva. Then, after the allotted time, I started getting my repayments. Those payments ended up just sitting in my account there not doing much. So I started looking around and reloaning the money. A little here, a little there. Every little bit, they say, helps. Plus,tThese are LOANS not gifts. While there’s no monetary return other than the original loan, there IS the benefit of helping others in the world.

I’ve looked through the various projects in the world to see what people are doing. Most are sole proprietor businesses looking to expand and grow – exactly what you expect with a business loan. There’s a number of women in the Philippines who would just like to borrow some money to build themselves a sanitary toilet for their families of six or more. There’s countless others who would like to grow their businesses, create more stable support systems, and so on. Some are in your own backyard. Some are on the other side of the world.

Imagine if you put just $50 or $100 to use – money that you’d get back over time. Even just $20. Then relend it and relend it. Just let it keep doing good for others. If you really need it, it’ll be there. But I bet that you don’t REALLY need it. We forget sometimes how much we actually have. And if you really do need it, it gets paid back eventually.

Add to the pool here: https://www.kiva.org/

Why You Should Make Art (according to science)

July 31st, 2017

#5 – “Turning our problems into narratives can help us work through them” – is really a key part of my work. When I am thinking of what next to paint, I try to find works that help to guide me through my life, the preciously beautiful as well as the preciously tragic. The transference of thought into matter for no other reason than as an expression of ourselves and finding the patience to see it through, whether a napkin doodle or an epic painting, is an important part of our humanness to nurture.

And if it is only to make us happy and healthier humans – well, that’s not so bad. After all, happier healthier humans make better choices for themselves and others. In my opinion, it makes for a better planet to live on.

From Business Insider:

Painting, sculpting, dancing, making music, and all the other artistic pursuits have benefits that go far beyond pure enjoyment or cultural creation — these activities can also strengthen your brain and improve your mood. Here are seven reasons to give yourself time to make art, even if you think you’re bad at it.

1. Making art may reduce stress and anxiety.
In one recent study in the journal Art Therapy, researchers found that after just 45 minutes of art-making, levels of the hormone cortisol — which is associated with stress — were reduced in participants’ saliva, regardless of their prior art skills.

Read the rest here: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-you-should-make-art-even-if-youre-bad-2016-6/#1-making-art-may-reduce-stress-and-anxiety-1

A Walk Through Our Garden

July 4th, 2017

A little walk through our garden

A walk through the garden. A pause here and there. Persimmons and plums. Grape vines overflowing over the trellis of the bridge. Tomatoes and peppers. Squash and corn. So many different flowers and soft shades on sprigs of green leaves all mixing and dancing and leaving their echoes in me. This little stream that trickles into our pond. The koi that swim about and the damselflies and dragonflies and butterflies and birds that dart to and fro. My cats that follow me around. And I. A steward of this earth and this little corner of life all swirling together doing my best to give it what it needs. The sun sets and evening gold turns to dusky pink. It’s life.

The blossoms of our garden

The blossoms of our garden

 

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