The Artwork of Michael Divine

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What It Looked Like From Here: Tiananmen Square, June 5, 1989

"What It Looked Like From Here: Tiananmen Square, June 5, 1989" - Acrylic/Gold Leaf/Canvas - 36" x 24"

“What It Looked Like From Here:
Tiananmen Square, June 5, 1989″
Acrylic/Gold Leaf/Canvas – 36″ x 24″

In 1989, I was 13. In the second grade, we’d done drills in grammar school where we knelt against the wall of the school hallway with our heads between our knees because if an atom bomb fell then that was, apparently, the best position to be in (ha! as if) because the Russians were at war with the United States but it wasn’t an actual war it was a Cold War and that the threat of nuclear war loomed large in everyone’s minds.

China was an even bigger mysterious behemoth.
But by the late 80s it seems that tide was turning and in China, students and thinkers and others wanted real change and they organized themselves and rallied in Tiananmen Square. By May of 1989, 300,000 people had rallied in the square. A reasonably detailed and fact based account can be found HERE on Wikipedia.
But I remember on June 5th, this man, unmoving, who stood before a line of tanks with red stars on them. I remember the sensation as if a veil of fear were about to be lifted. I remember that the crowds of people were students. I was a student. They were young. I too was young.
You have to understand, in 1989, the world was on the brink of change. A few months later the Berlin Wall fell. A couple of years later, the USSR became the independent state of Russia and a bunch of other independent countries (the independence of which is debatable, at the very least)
That Spring of 1989, there were protests in China. China did not budge. By some accounts, thousands of people died and the real history of it – and the people who will never be heard from again – is far more sordid and nuanced than I can write here.
But the world held its collective breath for that moment with that one man.
"What It Looked Like From Here: Tiananmen Square, June 5, 1989" - Acrylic/Gold Leaf/Canvas - 36" x 24"

“What It Looked Like From Here: Tiananmen Square, June 5, 1989″ – Acrylic/Gold Leaf/Canvas – 36″ x 24”

Who was that man? I have read that he was a man merely on his way home with his groceries. The Chinese government claims that he went on quietly and anonymously with his life. Considering the China’s track record, I doubt that.

The Sunday Express, a British publication, reported that summer that his name was Wang Weilin, a 19-year-old student arrested for “political hooliganism.” Varying reports suggested the student was either imprisoned or executed.

Chinese officials have refused to confirm his name or whereabouts in response to numerous queries from Western journalists in the years since the incident. In fact, they claim they were unable to locate him.

History.com

A couple months ago, I was reading again about China. This time it was about their imprisonment, brainwashing, indoctrination, and reintegration of millions of Muslims in an area that the government would like to have greater control over. Millions of people. Disappearing. Gone. Husbands. Wives. Friends. Children.

It made my heart ache.

A country may censure another. They may, on the world stage, call one out. But that’s about it.

And so when we look at China, as a whole – not as the bulk of people who make it up who would likely be happy merely to walk home with their groceries and go about their lives just as that man was doing – we see a country that scrubs its history and uses its economic might to keep the rest of the world from protesting its treatment of its people.

From the ‘social credit system‘ to its treatment of Buddhism and specifically Tibet to its current treatment of Muslims to its treatment of artists or journalists there’s nothing good yet no one is going to stop them because of their economic clout.

So I was thinking about China. And I was thinking about this moment, years ago – 30 years ago to be exact – where there was a moment, a brief moment – where it seemed it all might change for the better.

It was a spark, a candle flame in the dark. But it was blown out. Squashed. And scrubbed from their history, lest it inspire others, in the future, to do the same – to speak out.

I kept seeing that one image in my head. ‘Tank Man’ as he became known in the media. I kept thinking about not just him and that line of tanks but the line of tanks as the extension of a vastly powerful entity.

In my head, he was always down there, a light in the darkness. A focal point in a dream of freedom up against a wave, a massive tidal wave of force bearing down on him. Yet, as I thought about that wave, I realized it needed a face, it needed a name.

I thought about those demons of Tibetan lore. Primarily, Mara came to mind. Mara, in Buddhism, is sort of an embodiment of desire and illusion. I could think then of nothing better. There is nothing so much as desire and illusion which drives the power hungry needs of humans.

And so, today, on the 30th anniversary of when one man, in 1989, stood down a line of tanks in the face of an oppressive and controlling government,  I give you this painting.

It is an homage to Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989 when one man stood before a line of tanks and the world wondered: was the government so hellbent on keeping its power that it would run him down?

Spoiler: the man lived but, yes. They were. They ran down hundreds if not thousands in the end. Reports vary.

I’m sorry it had to be like that.

I think about all those students and writers and artists and intellectuals: this is who made up that revolution. The thinkers and doers who could see a better world. They didn’t want ‘capitalism’ or ‘socialism’ or ‘communism’ – they wanted a world where they or their children could think and speak and worship freely without fear of reprisal from some force or another. That’s what freedom is. Obviously there’s limits to that: do those thoughts or acts impinge upon the freedoms of others? And so on… I mean, there’s always some asshat racist who thinks they should be able to vent whatever they want).

My art doesn’t take sides. It is about humans and human nature. It’s these sensations of being alive today, right now, in this set and setting. It’s about archetypes across cultures and religions and spiritualities and world views. It’s about communication.

Art expresses various aspects and facets of the world as whole. Some art might be there to say ‘the world is commodity’. That’s not for me.

My art is there to inspire. It is there to tell a story of a better world. My art calls out, sheds light on, and illuminates the darkness.

Wherever you may have gone, Tank Man, I send my blessings.

To the world, this vast spectrum of humanity, that finds itself at the whims of small cadres of individuals who call themselves governments and institutions and corporations… I am right there with you.

If you wanted to express this, but could not, I ask your permission.
If you wanted to express this, but could not, I send you my love.

May all beings experience freedom and the causes of freedom.

5 Tiny Visions

This Saturday, July 7th at the Hive Gallery in Los Angeles is the opening of a show called “Tiny Visions”. Alongside the pieces below are works from Violet Divine (my amazing wife), Martina Hoffmann, Allyson Grey, Radhika Heresy, Dan Cohen and a bunch of others (maybe two dozen other artists?)

Small (tiny) paintings like this allow for a kind of intimacy of the experience. One can imagine it at 4 or 5 feet tall but instead they are these delicate little portraits of dream-like ideas and core moments.

Hopeful
Acrylic/Canvas
4″ x 4″

 

Parsifly
Acrylic/Canvas
7″ x 5″

 

Thoughtful
Acrylic/Canvas
5″ x 5″

 

In the Beginning
Acrylic/Canvas
6″ x 4″

 

Ascension
Acrylic/Canvas
6″ x 4″

 

“Morphic Awakening” – Rise of the Butterfly

Morphic Awakening

“Morphic Awakening”

This painting is made in collaboration with Layla Love, a photographer and human rights activist. The painting is part of a show in NYC titled ‘Rise of the Butterfly‘.The show aims to raise money and awareness for issues around and the ending of sex slavery and human trafficking.I have a small blurb accompanying the piece. It reads:

There’s no pretty way to say this; no way to look away or ignore it. This: a painting born from the sweetness of my studio, speaking to and of unfathomable human despair. But here it is. Here it is. And that despair cuts through it like an absence of light in a clear sky. Yet without casting light into those dark spaces we can never heal our culture, transforming that absence, awakening each other again to the dance of interconnectivity, creating beauty. And I believe that, in the end, there will be – and always be – beauty.

It was a hard painting to make: the reasons for its existence are disturbing, to say the least. So where does one find inspiration for such a piece? I think it starts with finding gratitude and beauty in one’s present moment and then turning that gaze to where there the light is absent.

Commissioned Portrait: “A New Perspective”

"A New Perspective" - Commissioned Portrait

“A New Perspective” – Commissioned Portrait

“A New Perspective”
Acrylic/Canvas
15″ x 22″

A collector of my work, Eben Pagan, commissioned me to paint a portrait of him in my style. I don’t do a lot of portraiture so I enlisted Violet’s help and we worked together on this painting. She is more adept at creating from real life than I am. In that way, we tend to meet in the middle as my approach generally builds up from abstraction.

Eben is quite a thinker, parsing different ideas and concepts through his mind in a really brilliant manner. The resulting piece is intended to portray the lens of the mind contemplating a flower and the various ideas and associations around that- colors, shapes, etc. He loves the blues in my work and had requested that I stay within that spectrum, so it was a good piece to paint in tandem with “Only Love Can (Reign Over Me)”.

His response? “I hope I can live up to this vision you’ve painted of me.”

Interested in discussing a portrait? Contact Me

About a Painting: “Only Love Can (Reign Over Me)”

Only Love Can (Reign Over Me)

Only Love Can (Reign Over Me) View More

A preliminary word first: art is not made within a vacuum but is a part of the paths of our lives. This piece about the painting “Only Love Can (Reign Over Me)” is a sensitive and vulnerable bit of writing, and you should know in case you have sensitive vulnerabilities of your own that some challenging topics that involve my wife, Violet, are discussed. But, lest you think I betray her confidence and expose her innards without concern, this was written with consent and in conjunction with her. The best remedy for shadow is to bring it into light. – MD

I began this painting in September 2017 and called it finished in March 2018. At the time I began it, the blues and clear focus felt like a good next step following “A Transitive Nightfall of Diamonds”. But then the fires hit all around us (we live a couple hours north of San Francisco) and our air was awash in smoke, the light was ever orange-gold, and everything was on edge and chaotic and burning. Suddenly cool blue didn’t seem appropriate even if it felt trite to say so.

At the time, too, we’d taken in a bunch of cats that our neighbors abandoned when they moved a few weeks before. One of those cats, Mu, who Violet had rather fallen in love with, was seized by our neighbor’s dog and killed. They both – the cat and the neighbor’s dog – somehow got into a fenced off portion of our yards that we powerless to access, but it all happened right in front of us. It was brutal. This would be in and of itself rather tragic, but she had already been in the trenches of grief and depression. There had been a lot of loss in her life recently and it’d been building, draining, challenging: Four very close family members and a friend all within a year or so, all in tragic ways. This sweet new kitty had been a bright spot of hope, and his violent death rocked an already distressed boat and she tumbled even deeper.

Meanwhile, the painting was on the proverbial back burner, but prominent on the wall of my studio. I kept looking at it: this messy and incomplete vision of beauty that seemed so distant and burdened. This sense of wonder was surrounded by despair.

Everything hurt all the time.

Yet, I kept seeing – or trying to see – this painting as her in one of her highest forms. She sat for my reference photos, after all, as she frequently does, even though it’s never really the intention to paint her specifically. Violet is a powerful woman, this amazing force in my world. She has a wonderful way of seeing everything all at once like no one else can. And she can take it all in and find relationships, memorize moments, and she manages it pretty well, for the most part. So we’d have our arguments as all couples do and it’d be this pool of sad and I’d come back to this painting that didn’t even seem to be about anything anymore. It was supposed to be a vision of clarity yet everything felt so unclear. So raw and vulnerable. Nothing made sense.

For me, it felt overwhelming – all these responsibilities (mundane things like mortgage and bills but also the person who is keeping things moving forwards. The one whose “turn” it is to be UP) and desires (personal goals and dreams and needing inspiration but also in business or love or spirit) and emotions (and all the rest) (not to mention the general state of the world) (gah!). All the while, Violet struggled through this ever deepening pit of despair while I was left simply trying to stay afloat.

Through all that, I wanted to build this beautiful vision for her so that when she looked at it she saw some aspect of herself. She’d modeled for my original photos after all. I wanted it to inspire her the way she inspires me.

You see, the paintings I make create a backdrop to our lives – these ordinary and yet extraordinary lives that we lead. They reflect it all back and become points of departure, growth, and intimacy. It was challenging sometimes to go back to this painting when there’d be strife or despair and I’d be left feeling like I’m wringing light from painted diamonds.

And so that became this painting: it is simply me lifting her, you – all of us – up as best I can to the highest vision where we’re left without form in a space of light reflecting light.

Looking for a title, I’d been calling it “Rain” for a long time, referring to it as “That Rain Painting,” Violet had used the word “Reign” at one point in our seemingly never-ending discussions of titles, and I recalled ‘Love Reign O’er Me’ – a song by The Who – and though I’ve not been much of a fan or follower of The Who, I found this bit of writing from Pete Townshend regarding the song in the context of the album to be relevant:

“Love Reign O’er Me refers to Meher Baba’s one time comment that rain was a blessing from God; that thunder was God’s Voice. It’s another plea to drown, only this time in the rain. Jimmy goes through a suicide crisis. He surrenders to the inevitable, and you know, you know, when it’s over and he goes back to town he’ll be going through the same shit, being in the same terrible family situation and so on, but he’s moved up a level. He’s weak still, but there’s a strength in that weakness. He’s in danger of maturing.” – Pete Townshend (From the liner notes of Quadrophenia)

Only Love Can (Reign Over Me)

“Only Love Can (Reign Over Me)” Detail

Going back to October, November, I was having conversations with Violet about her ruminations on suicide. She’s no stranger to it, having lost her best friend and first love that way when she was young, and then just recently her closest cousin in July. Depression is so very real and they were heartbreaking conversations.  Conversations that left, in the back of my mind, a lingering worry of leaving her alone for too long. It is frightening. It was all the work I could do to stay focused. Committed. Moving forwards. Staying on top of the bits and pieces of our business, our home, our lives and also maintaining some creative flow and focus.

I suppose there was a moment – perhaps for each of us – between one maelstrom and the next – it’s like the eye of the storm – the pause of the pendulum – when everything is still and perfect – everything is floating, falling, cascading – frozen – you stop going in one direction and decide to go in another – it’s a sleet of diamond daggers and you’re on fire and your head is exploding but in that moment everything is perfectly balanced, in sync, and in a moment’s time the light passes through it and you hear that note, that melody, that reminder and in that moment we catch our breath, we lift our heads, we open our eyes again and say I AM. Here, I am.

In those crystalline moments of realization, when we see everything so clearly – when it’s all just light and shadow, contrasts weaving in and out of each other, ebbing and flowing together – there it is; there is life. We can keep our heads hung low but, really, I think, it’s love that anchors us, makes us look up, that causes us to open our eyes. To see. I think that only love can do that and it is some spark within us – this unquenchable fire – that is ignited again. And again. And again.

Only Love Can (Reign Over Me)

‘Only Love Can (Reign Over Me)” (Detail)

View more details HERE
View print options HERE

A Transitive Nightfall: Notes on a Title

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 – from my teen years into 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 – you know, somewhere between the lyrics and the bridge – but only Dark Star could open up everywhere in every direction all at once between any note.

“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. The pieces on their own don’t have any real narrative but, taken together offer a glimpse of a sensation, a possibility.

This is, to me, the essence of painting. Each moment and each brushstroke is a thousand possibilities. This painting attempted to be even more of that – every moment cascades into the next with only loose rhymes or relationships to the previous. It is the heights and the troughs, the peaks and valleys – the rippling edges and roaring swoops – of a thousand nights under bright lights and raging guitars. It is the echo of a rhythm of a perfect 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, ad 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? Fifty years ago. But time is an illusion. And the space where the pen stops and where the pen begins again – a lifetime, an eon, to some – may, in all actuality, be merely a moment, a breath, a transitive nightfall of diamonds cascading through the atmospheres waiting for the next scribe to pick up their brush.

A Transitive Nightfall of Diamonds

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 in “The Rolling Stone Interviews”

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

“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.

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.

 

 

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