Transcending Oblivion


Title change from Man Moving Out of Oblivion to Transcending Oblivion

I have been living with the Man Moving Out of Oblivion for about ten years. The concept is one of a man stepping out of a black void into a ray of light with his hand leading the way. The painting has been through countless edits–everything from life drawings to pastel color studies. I had problems with his arm and hand gesture from the beginning, and it was a lengthy but fun and challenging problem to solve: the hand and arm went from being slightly sideways to ending forward and foreshortened.


The transparency of the clothes over a muscular body reminded me of super heroes, which complimented the idea that it takes a lot of strength to keep going when all around you is dark. There was a narrow spot light on his face meaning that his gestured hand had already past through the light and would be dimmed. The painting had thousands of tones of black, which was very tricky to place through space. Recently, I thought I could tweak it and take it to another level. There had been no collector interest in the painting, so I thought “why not?”


I have been living in a kind of sociological bubble. My art is between me and my perception of models and nature. Once in awhile I would check  what was going on in the art world, get turned off, and go back to my studio sanctuary to recover. But I have started a twitter page sharing both good and bad art news that is happening within the last 24 hours. I enjoy it and it has expanded my awareness of the current art world and gives me delight in the wonderful works my artist friends are doing: A very unpleasant and inescapable popular art news topic has been political polarization along with a lot of references to Nazis. The “heil Hitler” salute makes me sick to my stomach, but last night I thought that even though my painting’s gesture is downward it could be mistaken for a fascist gesture, which was not my intent.


Horrified by the subject’s meaning backfiring I went through my options, never forgetting that I had already put 3,000 hours towards this work. Every way I looked at it there was no solution that appeared to improve the painting. Michelangelo hacked away a figure not working in this last Pieta, Rembrandt cut away the setting in his massive The Conspiracy of the Batavians under Claudius Civilis (though for storage as it had been rejected as a public work), and the fictional Howard Roark, architect, swallowed the expense of making changes after his designs were already approved by the clients.


This morning I made up my mind. I got  out a smaller frame, 22 x 20 inches, white chalk, and a box cutter. Then I composed  the canvas, marked it, cut out the man’s face and shoulders, then restretched it. Introspectively I was watching my reaction and wondering if I would freak out by the horror of slashing the linen canvas. Surprisingly I felt relief and joy at the result.


I don’t know if this will resonate with you, but in the past I have done a good job of protecting my studio time and creativity by blocking out annoying art movements and artists. But what protected me then is no longer necessary, there is no chance of my path getting waylaid by negative stuff. Consequently, I think “bring it on!” Undoubtedly, opening up to good and bad has made it easier to see things for what they are, including better possibilities.


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