Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Coming out of the Dark, and Looking Ahead

This week I have just finished the long delayed "Giants of the Desert III". This series of works feature large, powerful images of Saguaros that I have discovered as I've been hiking around the Tucson area. The original "Giants of the Desert" depicted a stand of Saguaros on a ridge at Catalina State Park. "Giants of the Desert II" depicted a group near Skyline Drive, in Tucson. The new "Giants III" painting returns back to Catalina State Park for it's image - a group of massive Saguaros near a meadow on the Sutherland Trail.

And for me, it seems a luxury even to be thinking about these things. I did write awhile back to let you all know that my back troubles were slowing my work down and causing me grief. After about a zillion scans and trips to countless Doctors, we finally found the culprit. I had a tumor called a Schwannoma, which had pressed my spinal cord nearly flat. My neurosurgeon was impressed that I was still walking, because the scans revealed that the cord was literally pressed down to a very fine filament. On June 26th I underwent the operation to remove it, and it was successful. Thankfully I could wiggle my toes and move my feet even as I was coming out of anesthesia. Now in recovery, I am walking pretty well, doing exercises every morning and strengthening my legs. In such a situation there is only one primary goal - get well enough to be able to be an equal partner in my family. To be able to be a good husband, a good dad, and yes, by ALL means - a good painter! During the initial recovery phase, I was literally aching to paint. Now I am back at it again, working short shifts and giving my back plenty of rest. When I was in the hospital and the medication left me unable to sleep, I literally spent entire nights trying to ignore the Michael Jackson hoopla on TV, and trying to dream up new ideas for paintings. I can't bear that any time in one's life be wasted!

My initial goal is to work towards an exhibit I have coming up in December where I will be the featured artist at the Tansey Gallery in Tucson. It will not likely be as large a group of works as were put on display in January at my one man show, however I am changing the focus of this group to simply be a collection of high quality works - without trying to overwhelm the viewer with numbers. In among the Southwestern Landscapes that I am known for, will be a handful of works on more diverse subjects such as Italy, Alaska, and perhaps also the Gaudi church the "Sagrada Familia" in Barcelona, Spain. For a long time I have wanted to do a version of Claude Monet's Lilly pond, but do it in MY style...and that may emerge for this show. The theme will be something along the lines of "the Southwest and beyond", as I'll certainly do some of the regional works that I am known for, but I'd like to infuse some new blood into the subject matter.

I've always said that an artist must give themselves the time and the ability to have visions. By that I mean that the artist has to have proper time and ability to conceive of things that do not exist at present. In fact, my convalescence after the surgery to remove the tumor was, despite being physically hard as hell - also a blessing because it forced me to think about my work from every angle, and it forced me to get excited about new views of beautiful wild lands. I am practical enough to never forget that the Southwest has been the place of origin of my success so far - and I still paint Southwestern subjects happily. However the challenge right now is to continue to find NEW images in the old landscape, and they are there - certainly. You just have to look. I was reminded of this a couple of months ago when I received a beautiful stack of photos in the mail from my friend and mentor Jean-Claude Quilici. He sent ahead some images of new works of Provence he had created for shows in Hong Kong and elsewhere - and I was struck by his amazing ability to find new and interesting angles on his old favored landscape of Provence. Quilici has had artistic roots in Provence for all of his 60-plus years, and he still pulls something beautiful from the land and puts in on canvas. That is an excellent artist.

I can freely admit as well that I am obsessed with landscapes of another nearby state....California. Ever since my wife and I and brother-in law Uros (pronounced oor-ush, my wife's family is from the former Yugoslavia) took a road trip in 2006 thru eastern California and Yosemite, I have not been able to get the place out of my mind. I saw things in Yosemite than a thousand canvases couldn't satisfy. And all along the way, from Mono Lake, to the Bodie ghost town - countless amazing visions. I painted a large work called "Yosemite Valley" in 2007 and it was shown and sold at a gallery in Taos, NM. But I still feel there is more to do, and I hope in the near future to find a gallery I can work with in California, and set about in earnest doing some more CA subjects and going out there to find more.
Stay tuned to for new fall works as they arrive!