The Artwork of Michael Divine

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Posts from November, 2015

Accidents on the Life Highway

The Angel of Grace

The Angel of Grace

Last Friday at about 6pm on my way home from the gym I rear ended the SUV in front of me at about 50 mph after I glanced away from the road for a mere moment – two seconds – tired from the gym – there was the back of their vehicle in my headlights – no time to swerve or move though I tried and – my car – their car -BAM – airbag explosion in my face –

I’m lifting my head and it’s quiet and the cabin of my Honda CRV is smoky and my engine – in front of me – practically in the window – a gnarled and gnashed mess of dull grey corners and curves and I wipe my lip with my hand, a bit of blood. I bit my lip. Is my hand burned? Body feels all in working order although the wind is well knocked out of me and my chest is tight. I don’t feel or seem injured. I can open my door and I climb out and onto the asphalt highway. A sea of red brake lights surrounds me in the middle of the highway, horns honking because goddamn I just screwed up everyone’s evening commute but no one is stopping just honking. I manage around the other side of my car and, 50 feet ahead, along a path of the broken glass and detritus of my car, is the other driver and car with it’s impacted bumper and this young girl is coming towards me yelling about how I hit her and it’s a new car that she just got and why did I hit her how is she supposed to trust anyone ever on the road blah blah blah and I’m just apologizing because shit I’m alive but I’m sorry I hit her I didn’t mean to yes it’s terrible but it’s useless to be angry but she needs to be angry at someone.

I walk to the side of the highway and, crouched down against the railing, stunned and shaking and shaken, call 911 and they tell me that CHP will be on their way and everything will be ok. A white van pulls up on the other side of my car, blocking traffic, and the guy gets out and comes over to check that I’m ok and he’s looking at my car, amazed I made it out because my car is a crushed mess. He checks again that I’m not hurt and I tell him my chest is in pain and he says it’s from the airbag which hits you at 250 mph or something but, well, accidents happen at least you’re ok, man. It’ll be ok. You’re lucky your alive. And this isn’t the first time in my life for that statement.

The friendly samaritan leaves when the CHP show up and they’re just nice professional highway patrol taking down all the details. It’s not major. There’s no ambulances so it’s not major. No big deal. Business as usual. Accident clean-up is an efficient process. They’ve called the tow company. They’re dealing with the girl I ran into and the guy she ran into. The tow guy shows up, this heavier hispanic dude and the cop, a buzz cut white dude, calls him ‘brother’ and I think ‘only in California’ and I’m grateful for these moments of human decency.

And Violet – who was about ten minutes behind me – who came upon my crushed car sitting sideways in the middle of the highway with the airbag deflated and me not in sight – comes running up to me holy shit what happened are you ok and I’m a bit in shock but I am ok. I’m ok. I just… I look at my totaled front end car and again shake my head, I just looked away a moment… I wasn’t touching my phone or anything I just… It’s a bit much and I want to sit down and we get all the stuff taken care of with the cops and my mind is replaying the crash again. CRASH. again. CRASH. again. Crash… crash… What have I done? What did I do? Just accidents… all the things that lead up to this… just little things, so many little things.

The road is clearing and my car is loaded onto a flatbed truck and I will go back and retrieve the paintings in the back – 5 big paintings in the back – that are also ok. I go and gently sit in Violet’s car while she finishes up with the cops. My body is wracked but in such minor ways, I remind myself, such minor ways, tense and tight and my chest feels torn and I can’t move very well but I’m alive and shocked. And alive.

An accident on the life highway and the angel of grace that said – o no, not you, it’s not your time. You have work yet to do.

Summertime Paintings 2015

Samsara-molting-big-sky-mind-paintings

Summer Paintings – 2015

Years ago I got into a kind of creative flow that went like this: winter was when I worked on large, detailed paintings while summer was for getting out and doing things and events and traveling and the like. I found myself painting and sort of hibernating during many winters because life feels quieter and more internal. It’s helpful for allowing my mind and body to settle, focusing on the finer details of my work. Come summer – when life bursts with exuberant busy-ness, I’d pick up and go out and share and be more social. During those summer months, I often plan out a course of paintings to work through the winter – a general game plan, if you will – a setlist of paintings – and return to the studio.

It’s like a moebius strip where I would go far enough inwards in one direction that I’d eventually circle back in the opposite direction… and then far enough out in the other direction, and so on. Back and forth, round and round.

Things flowed differently this summer. Violet was deep in the final throes of grad school and her dissertation which meant fewer events (if any) for us because it was better having me around so I could help out, make tea, etc. I also somehow ended up with several large canvases and a good chunk of time by myself while Violet was away for a few weeks mid-July.

One of the tacts I took was maintainining that exuberant summer flow. SoCal is hot and sunny and wide open in the summer. I wanted to work with that and translate some of it onto the canvas.

I’d also just finished The Crucible of Love sometime in May. It was a monstrously beautiful painting to work on. The level of detail, the quality of light, the movement – I was very happy with it but it was deeply challenging as well, as love can be. Upon completion, sitting back from it I felt like ‘Phew! Love! What a ride!’

big-sky-mind-web

“Big Sky Mind: Where Do We Go From Here?”
36″ x 60″ | Acylic/Canvas
Prints }

After the fine precision of The Crucible of Love, the painting I’d worked on all last winter, I wanted big brush strokes and broad expanses. I also liked the crystalline structures at the top of that painting, feeling like they extended on into the heavens. I wanted to paint that part: the light cascading and refracting through the crystalline and clear Big Sky Mind. It felt like an appropriate next step and at 60″ x 36″ was big enough to let my hand fly free for a while.

molting-web

“Molting”
30″ x 40″ | Acrylic/Canvas
{ Prints }

Dropping down into fierce emotional movement, ‘Molting’ stemmed from a flash of an idea I’d had the previous fall in the midst of personal transitions. It’s a visceral piece that careens out of the big blue skies with a momentum that eventually finds ground and precision within its own unfolding.

lightning-on-a-summer-cloud-web

“Lightning on a Summer Cloud”
48″ x 36″ | Acylic/Canvas
{ Prints }

This is a breath of fresh air – like the crystalline core after the just shed skin. I was invited to paint during the Dalai Lama’s 80th Birthday event at The Honda Center in Anaheim. I wanted to paint something that breathed beauty and openness. The name, “Lightning on a Summer Cloud,” is drawn from a line in the final stanza of “The Diamond Sutra”.

samsara-web

“Samsara”
60″ x 36″ | Acrylic/Canvas
{ Prints }

I returned to my sketchbook and said, “Whatever I draw right now I’ll paint.” I made a very rudimentary sketch, painted a 60″ x 36″ canvas black, and, with a very focused edge, started laying down the beginnings of this piece.

I worked on it throughout July and August while Violet worked on her dissertation. If you’ve ever been with someone getting a PhD you know it can be a slog. It just goes on and on with little sleep, a lot of questioning of purpose, and seemingly endless amounts of writing. I spent a lot of time making beverages, taking care of things, being a listening ear, and painting. And the more I worked on this painting, the more I meditated on the wheel of life and death and time and space, the more I realized what it was – and what it is – Samsara.

promise-web

“Promise”
24″ x 18″
Prints }

A gift for my brother and my new sister-in-law on the event of their marriage last summer.

 

self-and-other-web

“Self & Other”
18″ x 22″ | Acrylic/Canvas

A thought form given life from a small sketch, an exercise in stylistic choices and deceptively simple motifs. Self, Other – we are all the same stuff and we try to wrap the Other into a neat box but it refuses it and even our boxes are transient.

ascent-of-you-web

“Ascent of You”
18″ x 18″ | Acrylic/Canvas

On a flight home from Hawaii last summer, I sketched a few quick lines that turned into this painting. I began work on it last fall and has sat in my studio since then, getting taken down now and again to be worked on, and I finished it this summer in the midst of the others – and the abundant blossoming that is summer.

 

 

Surrender

surrender-small

I was going through all sorts of files, updating web stuff, doing businessy things, cataloging and organizing, as one has to do. Sometimes I’m struck by the fact that there is just so much art I’ve created over many years. And much of it, I think, returns to this painting, Surrender (28″ x 48″), painted in 1996 when I was 19.Painting it was a turning point in my life. I’d had this experience earlier that summer which had left me filled with questions and doubts. Basically, I was struggling with letting go of the yoke of social and parental expectations.

In my sketchbook, during one of my classes, I made a drawing the vision I’d had – after getting twisted around through some dark and frustrated rivers of mental constructs – of this land I arrived into of just… endless exuberant love with the sky folding into the earth and vice versa and these beings just dancing over the hills grabbing pieces of clouds and LOVE was written all over everything. I decided to paint it – maybe just the third or fourth painting I’d ever made.

While painting it, enthralled by the color and the worlds flowing out of me, I had this moment – this flash – it felt like this book cracked open in my head and the pages were all flipping too fast to see and this voice – my voice? – was telling me that I could do this for the rest of my life . I could just paint. This book, flipping it’s pages too quick for me to get a glimpse… And, it said, all you need to do is give up everything and go, go follow that muse.

It took some time. But not long. Eventually, I got rid of everything I had and, eventually, that summer, I formally withdrew from school and, as luck would have it, a good buddy of mine had as well (he later returned for his PhD in mathematics). Did I want to join him and some others in Vermont and work at a ski mountain that coming winter?

The rest… the rest is stories for other days.

But I look at all these paintings: so many moods and feelings and emotions, ego dances with the divine, blissful prostrations, the whole spectrum… The journey of this painter scribe… There’s a lot of time, a lot of movement, a lot of paintings, between that painting and now.
And I wonder: what comes next?

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