“We’ve got to be as clear-headed about human beings as possible, because we are still each other’s only hope.”
“I find my position as a poet today a curious one… For a long time I have maintained that the poet’s affair was the individual human soul, the story of it in one man, in my case the transforming of personal emotions into written events. Now it has become impossible to guard one’s soul — death to do it — we are forced to read the papers, and yet I still believe that our job is somehow or other to be above the mêlée, or so deeply in it that one comes through to something else, something universal and timeless.”
May Sarton, 1939. (With extra thanks to Maria Popova at http://www.brainpickings.org, for featuring the writings of poet May Sarton in her weekly newsletter).
The painting My God Your God is from a series started in late 2012, begun after seeing last year’s exhibition of work by Richard Diebenkorn, a painter I’ve long admired, at the Corcoran Gallery. It was a way of having a conversation with his work, of remembering the experience of standing before the richly marked and nuanced surfaces of one of his paintings and having a sense of actively participating with the history of its making.
In my own work, I never begin a painting with a specific idea or have an end image in mind. Rather, I start with a very slight notion of some triggering subject. The subject is often connected to a memory fragment of a landscape or gesture, or to a dream image that I can just barely grasp. I work with the image as it develops—all the while trying to remain open to associations that open up on the surface in front of me. This is really an internal conversation, a process that is simultaneously balancing a complicated set of issues, ranging from formal considerations (composition, color relationships, etc., ), to material concerns (paint too thick/thin, which medium works best, etc.), to those which are more difficult to articulate (what am I getting at here? where is the “heat,” the thing that I care about, the thing that will keep me interested and pushing ahead?). At some late point in working, it becomes more clear what the general subject of the painting is and arriving at a title clarifies this even further for me.
To do a slight rift on a Robert Frost quote: “The making of the painting helps me to remember something I did not know I knew.”