Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Perception Shift

Perception Shift - 22 x 30 mixed media on mounted paper

The poet Rhina Espaillant says, “Writing is the process of listening internally - to understand what it is the poem wants to be.”  The process is the same for me, except that as a painter, I look more than I listen.
The first poem (Common Threads 2015) that grabbed my attention, and caused that familiar tug of recognition was “Prospective Immigrants Please Note” by Adrienne Rich. I know nothing of what it is to be an immigrant, but I do know that there are many life altering doorways of transformation that each of us experience in the course of a lifetime, some that are of our own choosing, and some that unexpectedly slam behind us.

It is at those times that our perception shifts, priorities change and beliefs are challenged. Rich alludes to this perception shift in her poem, “Things look at you doubly / and you must look back / and let them happen." In my work I contemplate these shifts but ask what, if anything endures, or what does it take in order to persevere?

For several years I have focused on two motifs that serve as my metaphors to explore these questions. One example from nature – the tree, another man made – the house. Both of these endure the hostility of the ever-changing environment. Both serve as shelter. Both are equipped with different methods of coping and both ultimately decay. They bear witness to times constant wearing away on any notion of permanence, while I watch.

While watching, I seek brief moments of clarity, little glimpses of grace, the times when my eyes are focused so intently on seeing what is behind that damn veil of unknowing that I finally begin to see the hazy outline of something. I strive to give form to that something. I am filled with hope when I see a shape that remains the same no matter where I stand, and sustained by the knowledge of its existence even when it is hidden. I watch bare tree limbs reach unashamed and unprotected into the winter sky. I feel the fearlessness, the unwavering faith in the potential buds they carry while blissfully ignorant of what storms lay ahead. Again the poem, “to maintain your attitudes / to hold your position / to die bravely.”

Like a poet, I seek to extract some sort of meaning from these observations and find a way to share the encounter through shapes and colors on a flat surface. As Stephen Dobyns has so articulately written in his book "Best Words, Best Order", “A work of art gives testimony as to what it is to be human."  It is an exchange between one human being and another in an attempt to communicate and offer some existential relief in the recognition of our shared experience. As a painter, I am a wordless poet.

There will be an opening reception, September 20th from 1-3 pm surrounding Mass Poetry's "Common Threads", at Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA that will include various pieces of art by myself and 7 other artists that have studio space in the Old Schoolhouse Studios in Barnstable Village, MA.  There will be poetry readings at 2:30 by three of the poets represented in this years selection. The show will be on view Sept 10 - Oct 31.

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