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The Spiritual in Art

A slow deepening and gradual unfolding, 48 x 60 inches, oil on canvas, Sharon Kingston


If there is no spirit unfolding itself in history, No gradual growth of consciousness Beneath the land grabs and forced migrations, … The bought elections, the betrayal of trust By party faction in the name of progress— What about spirit in the personal realm Unfolding slowly inside us, so slowly That our best days seem like a holding action? Seasons repeat themselves, but the tree Shading the yard keeps growing. Don’t be chagrined that the sadness you felt This evening beside the bed of a friend Who’s growing weaker wasn’t more profound Than the sadness of yesterday, that you still Can’t imagine a fraction of what he’s feeling As the world he loves slips from his grasp, No progress from your perspective, But who’s to say what you might notice If the scroll of the last few months were unrolled On the table before you, how clear it might be That your understanding of all you’re losing In losing him has been slowly deepening? Another day, you say to yourself, at dusk As you climb your porch steps, which you notice Could use some scraping and painting this weekend, A fresh coat that with luck will last a year.

–Carl Dennis

The word “spiritual” is often whispered by viewers when relating to my paintings.  I also find myself talking about my works as a response in some small way to the missing connection / void many of us feel with organized “religion” and the disconnect from our natural world that technology and our busy lives has brought about–which is all explored and poetically represented in the words and metaphors of Rilke’s poetry.  Spiritual art is taboo, I expect, in the gallery world where art is about the head, and less about the heart and hands and spirit.  I believe I extended the kiss of death to a gallery opportunity a few weeks back when I used the “s” word to describe my work.  But those gallery owners haven’t had the experience-one that keeps me painting and striving to capture this essence–of viewers responding again and again to my paintings on this level.  Laughable to my atheist friends who believe rational thought reigns supreme, but relatable to my Buddhist friends who find meaning and mystery in the breath that is life and nature– I still find words such as these by Carl Dennis and Rilke and images of the abstracted natural world to be gateways to empathy and understanding.  

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