Every January I paint a large scale painting. Something about the new year and spreading my wings and feeling the freeness that scale affords the gesture…and how there is so much more of me in a large work. Last year I created Nimbus Grey. I had been painting small scale sky studies through most of 2010 while this large canvas sat in the back of my studio. I believe it was the months of contemplation, reading Rilke, and struggling with life changes that brought about this painting–which was done in one long session of bliss. I often refer to Nimbus Grey as the unity of dread and bliss–the storm cloud symbolizing the releasing of tension that has built up, but also the idea of bravely stepping into the storm and really feeling life instead of sitting in the safety of the sidelines.
Rilke says about the subject: The person who has not, in a moment of firm resolve, accepted–yes, even rejoiced in–what has struck him with terror–he has never taken possession of the full, ineffable power of our existence. He withdraws to the edge; when things play out, he will be neither alive nor dead.
So today, a snow day, gives me some time to contemplate the next 50 inch x 70 inch painting. Could a series develop one painting per year at a time? And if so, do these paintings become markers of my personal circumstances–situations that are in effect universally felt?
My hopefulness has returned this year. My gratitude is ever present. I’m almost drunk with it–giddy. I know suffering remains but our happiness is our own to create–and it is our responses to our world that determine our mindset–not what the world throws at us. So it is not the Nimbus that comes to mind, but the Cumulus. The pocket of warm air surrounded by cold. The height. And, as my teenage son loves to say, the puffy. And the Blue. In German, to be “blue” (blau sein) is to be drunk. This derives from the ancient use of urine (which is produced copiously by the human body after drinking alcohol) in dyeing cloth blue with woad or indigo. Love that idea.
And so, as I strive to make my own world, this year’s painting will be about that idea. Still a stepping away from safety, but of doing it as a creator of my responses to my environments and less of a weathering the storm.
Entrance By Rainer Maria Rilke
Whoever you are: step out of doors tonight, out of the room that lets you feel secure. Infinity is open to your sight. Whoever you are. With eyes that have forgotten how to see from viewing things already too well-known, lift up into the dark a huge, black tree and put it in the heavens: tall, alone. And you have made the world and all you see. It ripens like the words still in your mouth. And when at last you comprehend its truth, then close your eyes and gently set it free.