Before Everything There Was Visual Art

Chauvet Caves, Horses Heads, 32,000 BC
Chauvet Caves, Horses Heads, 32,000 BC

The embedded rocks and still-green tumble weeds were flying towards my tennis shoe covered feet, my outstretched hands steering my downward trajectory were being cut to slivers by the crystal rock veins lining the 40-ft ravine incline—the unexpected push and gravity created a reckless momentum that might be fatal. It was not. 

Never turn your back on evil people, or they will destroy you. 

If light could kiss this would be the most loving, achingly sensitive kinetic caress. Shadowed waves rose and glided back to the recesses, like invisible currents of air witnessing a glint of moisture and a warming pulse. This is where goodness lives. In the eyes of Rembrandt

What had I done to deserve this? The soul-wrenching introspection was reserved for messed up adults with the guidance of a therapist. There was evil stuff going on. What the hell was I doing to make me feel responsible for this pain? Dive deep. Let’s analyze every bad thing I have ever done. What lie did I tell? What bad word did I say? Did I cheat anyone? I was 11 years old, for fuck’s sake. Racking my brain to fit the crime to the mental punishment. I could not find it, no matter how hard I searched, and realized with certainty I had done nothing wrong, that I was by everything I knew a good kid. Whatever this evil was, it was outside of me. 

Whatever these marks of pigment and burnt branch were, they held the secret to existence. I was to invest everything to experience this phenomenon. 

What the hell are you doing? People die from disease. We need food to survive. Maybe I’d be better off as a farmer or doctor, something real, something that people truly need? For all the magic what value is art to anyone? Do these relentless voices never cease? Yet, it drags me back and there are no answers, just an enormous wonder. My 16-year-old thoughts while chasing down a tennis ball to drive it down the line for a winner. 

The mischievous sparkle of light in the eyes of an old man that saw visual metaphors everywhere, such as finding the curves and allure of a female’s body in the spark plug of a souped-up 1970’s sports car. Pull out and celebrate the light and push back hard the dark. 

Ruthless, ruthless angels. Creation is the one safe place to burn like a nuclear explosion, instead of death, the life force grows exponentially. She had so much love and respect for art and artists, what a caress that was. 

Forever an open-ended path of discovery, unlimited growth, a magical mysterious future, exotic cultures. Is there anything more glorious than the life of an artist? Not in a million years. 

Tinned mushrooms and pasta, walls muffling the sharp acidic voices, “out of order” carved by a knife on the enamel side of a washing machine, hopeless guys from the projects amused by leaving no room to pass by on the sidewalk, thank God for tennis, walk strait, look them in the eyes, keep moving forward, politely making them give ground with a “thank you.” I was the lucky one, I was there by choice painting masterpieces for history. Hopelessness is a destroyer and is pitied.

A young philosopher stooping to examine with intense focus a budding flower making its glorious way through the cracks of cement to rise along a chain link fence. Aristotle’s descendant.

Crazy love: warm, generous, passionate, so real and intense burning to ashes reservations—voices are in awe singing as one. 

“But I don’t think of you” in my case there are no significant enemies because they already lost their soul to be on the other side, there is nobody home in that world. 

Friends and lovers living “the shining city upon the hill.” Burn energy, rekindle and burn ‘til every cell is extinguished, ‘til there is no comprehension, no strength to lift a weightless brush, yet the soul is flying in ecstasy beyond my furthest imagination. The pillow beckons so silent, so fulfilled, another perfect close. 

How can others not see, not feel, not understand? And why do they bother with power to block, inhibit, to hold back joy and celebration? How can anyone be anti-evolution? Yet they exist in stupid stubbornness, clever in creed, greed, and nothingness. Indeed is it not genius and god-like to make fortunes not from work but from instant manipulations? But they know they are worthless and continue to avoid, suppress, reject all that is good. Do not attempt to win at their game. “Do not open your heart to evil…Because—if you do—evil will come… Yes, very surely evil will come… It will enter in and make its home within you, and after a little while it will no longer be possible to drive it out.”

Having made it this far all intact, a constant, beautiful, quiet joy is the reward. Praise “this little light of mine, all alone in my room, I will let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

Newberry, Let it Shine, charcoal on Rives BFK, 26x18"
Newberry, Let it Shine, charcoal on Rives BFK, 26×18″

Before Everything There Was Visual Art

It has been said the final act of art is to infuse wonder in strangers—For the artist to step away from the studio sanctuary and spread the artworks far and wide like Zeus creating the Universe. The artist risking the danger of hubris, of being so famous and idolized that they believe themselves as invincible as a god. Crash and burn is surely the penalty. Is that my destiny? But go on I must, why this drive that burns beyond reason? 

30,000 years before there was religion, before there was writing, and 33,000 years before philosophy there was visual art—the first and most important step in humankind’s evolution. With the pull and roots so deep anyone touched with the art gift feels a calling that only death can extinguish. It is a sacred calling holding the weight of humanity’s wellbeing and hope. 

Active, nay, brutal listening to all the voices in my head had a wondrous unexpected result. They drove me to evolve, to honor, and to act on this connection to the birth of humanity—to be blessed and humbled that the banner was also mine to own. 

It seems there is only one fundamental question: to evolve or not? I hope you will join me in saying “yes” and in making the future a better home than the one we have now. 

Michael Newberry, Idyllwild, 2/13/2020

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