Each new painting is an adventure for me since I am both an amateur and born explorer. I do not paint for others—but certainly do not mind if others enjoy my work. I chose the title of this paining “In Search of Blue and the Anxious One” to express the ambiguity of it. The word blue is full of ambiguity. It can connote the color of ice, a mood, a tune, a rare moon, a highway, illicitness, virginity, royalty, the sky, searching (blue skying) or even a “period” such as Picasso’s Blue Period. It can also mean a condition, a color or an act. I think no other word has so many contradictory meanings.
The act of painting what I am pondering puts me in a contradictory state. At once I am happy to be creating something and having a good time. Yet, I am anxious and worried that what I will do will be an embarrassment or not come close to the idea in my head. Certainly not a abnormal feeling for the amateur and the professional alike. I sometimes over-think things and choose a starting point that leads to a dead-end. Yet when I finally reach the point of closure—the point where the painting is “done”—the contradictions converge into an interesting state of equilibrium and contentment.
In this painting, started on December 20, 2015 and finished on January 26, 2016 I was thinking mostly about enigmas and identity. We all, I believe, wonder about who we are, where we belong and with whom (or not.)
In “The Book of Hours” Rilke writes this poem:
I am, you anxious one. Do you not hear me
rush to claim you with each eager sense?
Now my feelings have found wings, and, circling,
whitely fly about your countenance.
Here my spirit in its dress of stillness
stands before you,—oh, do you not see?
In your glance does not my Maytime prayer
grow to ripeness as upon a tree?
Dreamer, it is I who am your dream.
But would you awake, I am your will,
and master of all splendor, and I grow
to a sphere, like stars poised high and still,
with time’s singular city stretched below.
For me, I have belonged, for a long time, to the company I founded in 1981. It was all consuming. Even though I had a strong urge to paint, time evaporated. What was left went to family. Hardly anything was ever left in the tank for me. Now that I am rapidly disengaging from that enterprise I am energized to begin this new chapter. I am anxious each day to be in the studio; to read; to think about the next story. A new level of excitement is entering my corpus.
In a letter to Lou Andreas-Salomé, from August 10, 1903, Rilke wrote:
Somehow I too must find a way of making things; not plastic, written things, but realities that arise from the craft itself. Somehow, I too must discover the smallest constituent element, the cell of my art, the tangible immaterial means of expressing everything…
What is most important: I am not blue. I am in search of a singularity. I want to match my ignorance with elation. I look forward to being a fugitive in my studio sanctuary. I am my own dream and create my own ripeness. It is time to express.
Yesterday, January 25, 2016, a friend of almost 50 years wrote this in an email to me about an earlier blog. I am posting it here since she did a good job of capturing my adventure:
“On Dec 18, 2015, at 2:36 PM, Jeff published this drawing/painting. ** has this to say about that: Of all his recent works, this one best illustrates the current state of his Pilgrim’s Progress, at least to my mind it does, because I see, here, a recording of his transformative process, or the transformation itself (nod to Wittgenstein) of a highly structured existence now morphing into a new and as yet undetermined state of being. Jeff’s transformation. The dissolving rectangles represent an existence that required turning corners “on the square” … the dutiful obligation of a decent designer/architect, owed to a decent client. A life structured by relentless duties. The image of the unstructured cloud enveloping the rectangles demonstrates how remnants of his past existence are still partially connected and illustrates where Jeff is now: Becoming untethered, cutting loose, learning how to free-dance as he floats toward a new but unknown destination. “ **name withheld at the author’s request.