It’s been said that every subject that’s been painted has become a cliche- it’s been painted a thousand times in a hundred different ways, and our job as an artist is to do it in a way it’s never been done before.
I have worked for ten months out of the year painting for shows at various galleries for 20 years now. It’s a glorious paradox- both grueling and transporting work. From show to show for two months at a time I’d be living the upcoming show and nothing else. It’s a descent into obsession (or else) in the best of ways- until it’s not. Over the past few years I’ve felt an increasing uneasiness with falling into a niche and staying where it’s comfortable and familiar, and this year I finally did something about it. I exited every gallery where a connection didn’t exist, and I have no shows scheduled for the entire year and into next year as well to work with no objective except to escape any barriers to me giving my highest as an artist. At 63 years and at this stage in my “career”- I’ve been exalted and humbled- worked with a slew of galleries, good, bad and ugly. I have something to show for my work. I have 20 years worth of really nice reviews, a good following nationally and internationally, collectors, and I’m one of those fortunate enough to make a decent living at it, etc. One of the biggest dangers I face at this age and stage in my work is complacency. I don’t believe people lose their edge- I believe they let it go. At this point in life you either drop your edge and fade into oblivion or you ignite into a bonfire and take your art to more amazing places than you ever imagined you could go.
On this journey as an artist there are times when i feel like I’ve taken it all as far as it will go, but I do know better. I’m out there finding it, with no show to paint for, no commissions to attend to, nothing to do but create, 2016 has been a retreat devoted to exploring, to breaking out and playing with different mediums, random materials, varying painting styles, and just letting whatever is going to happen happen- just paint, and work with collage and sculpture, and assemblage or anything else that comes to mind and let the Muse have her way.
This commitment to making art that possesses true Spirit and a living Soul is oblivious to tried-and-true methods and trends, to what’s in vogue or what’s selling, but rather surrenders to the movement of the unnamed, unknown Spirit that moves the creator into new and unfamiliar territory- the more unfamiliar the better, and it inevitably involves getting lost and finding your way, and even failure- lots of it. You need tenacity as much as you do talent. There’s no way around it- if you haven’t failed- and failed and failed then chances are you’re mired in mediocrity.
Over the years I can think of several periods I’ve gone through where painting after painting seemed a failure and it became tiring and a struggle to even pick up a brush- just not in that enchanted zone where paint magically flies and masterpieces appear, tediously trudging through each painting only to end up with an overworked, boring and colorless failure- but that led me further into foreign territory and eventually into that promised land.
The really interesting and telling thing about all this is that looking back over the years (decades) I see that when I was the most devil-may-care about painting and free from concerns about making art that would be familiar and embraced by the masses were the times when shows sold out before the reception even occurred, where sales were in the six figures, where collectors bought ten, even twenty pieces in the space of a year. I do believe- no, life has proven to me, that Spirit takes care of us when we put our being into doing what we were put here to do. “Career” concerns aside, I’m realizing I haven’t even scratched the surface of what is out there- and I am so excited to see what will come of this time for the next 20 years…