The Artist at Work

The Artist at Work
The Artist at Work

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dwell in Possibility: Religion, Science and the Art of Metaphor

Detail from the painting titled "The Watch"

In The Life of the Skies, Jonathan Rosen talks a lot about the fracturing of the world (or the western mind) that happened after Darwin. It's a fracture Rosen himself is still trying to heal, through birdwatching as an mediating activity - one that makes people look up and see. For Rosen, as for many of us who love birds, what we see when we look up is the glory of a bird, but also all that the bird represents - literally, spiritually. Metaphorically.

He talks a lot about naturalists of that time - Darwin, Alfred Lord Wallace. And about how they also sought the divine in their work, whether this was made explicit, or not. Wallace, for example, spent years on the Malay Archipelago before he finally found the bird that sent him on this quest - the bird of paradise - a bird in which the natural and the spiritual seem to meet by virtue of a name!

Rosen uses poetry to really bring out the spiritual aspect of birding. He connects Alfred Lord Wallace's quest and love with Wallace Steven's mystical bird, the one in "Of Mere Being" that sings "in the palm at the end of the mind." Rosen makes a good distinction we really appreciate between the materialist versus naturalist.

Marcus responds to this idea in a way that reminds us of poetry, reflecting on his life, confined, yet metaphorically free through the natural world he creates in art. The following words to the conclusion of the post are his thoughts, shared with you. The featured image is a detail from his current work, the painting, titled "The Watch," which you can see in progress in the slideshow to the right:

My confined life is metaphorical happiness.
I should be miserable because?
But, I do not accept misery as a solution.

Self value is part of measuring happiness.
I have purpose, the result is bliss.

Emily Dickinson pops up the the book Life of the Skies too. Her poem, "I dwell in Possibility" evoked this response:

Why not live a life without restriction.
An infinite perspective is the fountain of youth.
Which feeds our hunger to search in a spiritual and or scientific way.

I love the intertwined idea of science and religion. Because I breathe the metaphorical, my acceptance of both is satisfying. I am not grasping for Big answers! Content with the obvious, focusing on MY metaphorical foot print and embracing what is real.
This is my consumption!
Reality is the foundation, for I live in an abstract frame.
Escape through paint, brush and love? YOU BET!
If your mind becomes bored with your heart, you are defeated.
Rock on!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Carolina Wren

I just had the pleasure of watching and hearing a Carolina Wren. Less than a few feet from my face,the power and clarity of that voice is amazing. How does that small frame produce such volume?

Carolina Wren photo credit:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Reading *The Life of the Skies*

Currently, both Marcus and Leslee are reading the book, The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature, by Jonathan Rosen. Rosen, a New Yorker who haunts Central Park with his binoculars, writes of the world that opened up for him when he began looking up and taking note. He also does a lot to connect human nature and the act of birding. Birding, for Rosen, is both a spiritual and physical pursuit that really speaks to the tension between our destructive and creative tendencies.

Leslee, who birdwatches and loves to learn the names of things, has always suspected a connection between what people notice and what they care about. She thinks maybe the more people notice and name the birds in their backyard, the trees in their neighborhood, the fish in their streams, the more likely they will be to care for them, and fight to protect them. She also likes this book for the great use of quotes from Thoreau, Audubon, Faulkner, and this one from Robert Frost's poem about the Ovenbird:
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.

For his part, Marcus is in the business of showing folks the world in a way that helps them notice birds, among other natural phenomena, and recognize the peril, the "diminished thing" nature may become. In a way, what Marcus shows in some of his paintings, like the one of the cedar waxwings and the bobcat, is similar to the message Rosen conveys in his book.

But there are some differences. Here's what Marcus says, particularly about the thesis that we are seeing the end of nature: "Insight comes when the end is near? I am not sure I like that projection. Clearly! Cherish the moment. My take on the "ending insight" is that clarity is the result of hindsight. Actually, hyper-hindsight! The past is always clearer than the projected future." So stopping short of predicting the end, Marcus seeks to convey understanding with a decidedly less "doomsday" approach.

Stay tuned to hear what we think about the comparison of birding to hunting, and the gender inequality among birders . . .

In the meantime, what do you think? Do you know the names of the birds in your backyard? Do you notice them? Are we "at the end of nature"?

(Image is from the New York Times review of Rosen's book. Credited to Oliver Munday.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Saturday Reflection - Monday Direction

A classic shot of Lake James, courtesy of the Lake James homepage
Saturday at the lake has become a reliable diversion from the work week. With plenty of snacks, a good book (painting project) and friendly weather, we settle in for the day.

Anne remains on deck for an interview. She seems to be in delay mode most of the time, perhaps if the exchange could be conducted at the lake, the information would flow freely. Add a glass of wine to the equation?

My current painting projects consist of work needing to be completed for the book, Florida subjects for winter shows and miscellaneous scenes needed for creative growth. More hours in the day would be welcomed!

I am discovering that the more creative paintings provide me with a satisfied emotion, a more rewarding feeling of accomplishment. Such soul-reflecting works should insure longevity and provide me the inspiration to continue painting long after I am dead.

What a concept!

With lots of shows on the horizon the typical productive week will be altered  slightly. The norm is to enjoy a complete week of painting with one day of play. Soon, the show routine dictates a pace that Anne maneuvers through like a super human (super hero). Organizing business demands, travel requirements and a host of family stuff only scratching the surface of her list. Me, the adjustment is pathetic in comparison.

The book project will adapt with the schedule. Our goal is to have a mock book in toe when we visit the design company, located in Charleston S.C.. November is the target.

Hopefully, Leslee will join our journey, providing her expertise with text layout. Multiple ideas channeled into one goal should deliver the desired result.

Go / Team / Go !

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Marcus and Leslee discuss the paintings

Marcus and Leslee spend a wonderful Friday morning discussing the process and the particulars of his paintings, particularly the ones that incorporate striking images, juxtaposing nature with myth, everyday objects and ideas.

These paintings will be shown and discussed in depth in the book. Stay tuned for further thoughts on art, life and the world.

Feel free to comment below on your experiences with Marcus' art, or even art and life in general. We'd love to hear from you.

Friday, July 1, 2011

While embracing the power of Leslee's writing, we enthusiastically continue plotting the book design.
Please stay tuned.

It's time for some July 4th play!

With a toast in mind, Happy Birthday Cameron!