Scoundrel Time

On Painting in These Times: Two Works

The visual arts and (instrumental) music to me, are expressions of pre-verbal content. And our reactions to works of art and music also occur on a pre-verbal level.

As an art maker, much of my time is spent emptying my head of conscious thoughts and ideas so that I can ‘just paint’ (or in the past ‘just compose’). As that happens I’m reacting to the materials I’m working with and how they relate to each other and getting excited about what I’m seeing or am about to see. I’m not thinking about what I’m ‘saying’ or what I’m reacting to from the world outside of my art. I once had an art teacher who said, “Don’t worry about expressing yourself. You can’t help it.”

In our current political climate, it has become more difficult to clear my head of what’s happening out in the world so I can ‘just paint.’

(“Cauldron of Forgotten Memories,” 2018. 46” x 64”. Acrylic on canvas.)

This painting is from early 2018 and was not a conscious reflection of what was going on in the world or in my life and was ‘untitled.’ Yet the more I looked at it, the more I saw that the work reflected an internal “Cauldron of Forgotten Memories.” We all have recent and ancient personal and societal events/memories that we’d just as soon forget or erase. Alas, the ‘residue’ of our lives cannot be completely left behind, no matter how hard we try.

(Now’s The Time,” 2017. 64” x 46”. Acrylic, graphite and oilstick on canvas.)

This painting in shades of black and white was also “untitled.”  It was painted in October 2017, about a year after Trump was elected.

I was (and still am) longing for the day when truth, facts, and humanity are once again the qualities that most Americans and especially our elected leaders exhibit, espouse, and embrace.

I realized that if I thought about current events too much I wouldn’t get any painting done. So I had to double my efforts to stay in the moment especially while working in my art studio. I recalled the bebop classic “Now’s The Time,” by jazz giant Charlie Parker. That helped me focus on ‘the moment’ while making art, and it made a terrific title for this painting.