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I create because I feel driven to create, and as a self-taught artist I'm not sure I even have a "style" - at least one that fits neatly into some imagined category. With the drive that I have, I need my art to really mean something. I'm not always sure what it means, but it has to be something. I want to change the world, although the world isn't really interested in changing. It is so dark and cold and uncaring that the little light I offer is probably lost in the black hole of the human race that sucks up all that is good or worthwhile. What can I do?
My inner guidance has led me to envision the function of art in a new way, at least as it pertains to abstract paintings. Through many many lost nights of stress and prayer, I began thinking of colors and shapes not in the vague and highly subjective terms of beauty and appearance in a scientific way: the way colors and shapes act upon neural synapses from the initial stimulus of the eye, and how this information can be used to manipulate the minds of viewers. In a sense, then, it is neither the canvas nor the paint that are my contribution to art, but the sculpting of the human mind. At least, that is my desire.
Although self-taught and unschooled in the arts, I have
certainly seen a lot of art and the things I have seen have had an effect on me
- not unlike the effect of the inner forces that drive me. I am not
unaware of the influences of Edvard Munch, Winslow Homer,
Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock and Willem DeKooning. I share the lost
nature of these souls and hope to join them someday. In the meantime, I will
continue to seek my own direction, with representational art as my hobby and abstraction as my work and the thing that stresses me out sometimes.. After all, it's really all about my life, expressed in paint.
|My parents, brilliant but messed-up people, in a happier time, before I was born and homelessness became a way of life.|
Perhaps my never-ending search for the meaning of existence stems from those times. Or perhaps it comes from being the progeny of extremely brilliant but emotionally unstable people, and in m own way being as crazy as they were. In any case, my dramatic early life shaped who I am and the stories themselves can be rather hard to stomach for some, but this page is about my art, not my suffering. I have tried to overcome all of the bad things and while I haven't exactly succeeded in living a "normal" life, I've managed to stay alive and not kill myself - and for someone with my background, that's actually quite an accomplishment - or so I'm told.
I started painting prolifically about age four. Of course, when your family is often homeless you aren't an artist, you're a vandal. I painted on walls - other people's walls - because that's all there was. So I was also taught at an early age that painting was bad. Very bad. It took me a long time to learn differently. By age for or so I had figured out that pieces of asphalt could be used to make marks on any kind of wall. If I didn't draw with pieces of asphalt, I chewed them. I liked the taste and besides there often wasn't enough food to go around.
There was a lot of violence in my family. I remember the night my father tried unsuccessfully to shoot my sister. He missed. He threatened me with the same fate but never actually did it. Of course, he committed suicide when I was still a child so perhaps he would have made good on his threat if he'd stayed around long enough. I've seen a lot of death, too - almost everyone in my family, in fact - starting with my father's suicide. And we don't even count my own near-death experiences at the hands of my father, do we? Throughout all of this I continued to use art as a way to tune out the unpleasantness of the world. I drew and painted landscapes as well as abstract squiggles and shapes. Art was my escape from this world and having been forced out of wall-based art and once I got into school - over a year later than was legal thanks to my unstable family - I showed some early promise as an artist. As a child I spent every free moment drawing and painting. At that age art may have been an anesthetic but it never crossed my mind to make it a career. If I had thought of such a thing I'm sure I would have been told it was a stupid idea.
After my dad committed suicide we continued to move around a lot but the violence stopped. I know that school counselors were concerned about me for at least a couple of reasons. One was non-standard gender behavior and the other was my apparent lack of interest in actually doing any of the work assigned in school. These well-meaning counselors regularly called my mother in to ask her to get help for me, but my mother felt that psychologists and psychiatrists were agents of Satan bent on destroying the family. If the counselors became too insistent, we would move again to somewhere where they didn't know us.
In Junior High we went through some testing and somehow they got the idea that I was "gifted", which made them even more insistent that my mother get counseling for me in order to understand why I was underperforming. At this point we actually went to a therapist in Portland for one session. I don't remember much about it other than my mother yelling a lot. That was the end of that.
I continued to be an uninspired student and all through high school I skipped classes frequently and barely made it through. I never had any real friends to speak of, I just wasn't interested in the same stupid and pointless things that preoccupied others my age.
During my teens I became very interested in spirituality and psychic phenomena. You could attribute this to my close familiarity with death, I suppose, or maybe it was just one of those temporal lobe things I've read about. In any case, I read voraciously and took correspondence courses whenever I could find them. It will sound funny but I simultaneously graduated correspondence courses from the Church of Wicca and a Bible course presented by the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Clearly, a search for meaning was uppermost in my mind.
Well, everyone has to make a living and so I tried commercial fishing at 18. I found it mind-numbingly boring even though I liked the solitude of the sea, so at 19 I went to college. I studied sociology, music and theology - then drifted through many other careers all unrelated to my training except for the brief period where I pastored a church. I kind of gave up on the normal world at some point and became a roaming philosopher. What does a roaming philosopher do? Counsel people, help with problems, be the shoulder everyone cries on and the advisor everyone seeks out. It doesn't pay anything but the world needs such people.
The unevenness of my early life hasn't gone away as you can tell. I was and continue to be tormented by visions and vivid dreams of violence, and sometimes I put these things on canvas. Therapists have called this Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As predicted by the school therapists, I also suffer from (if 'suffer' is the right word) Gender Identity Disorder (discussed elswhere) and this too has been a defining element of my life. Personal identity, I like to say, is the thing I can't live with and can't live without. I refuse to concede my life to the disorder contained within it, however. Instead, I want to leave behind something positive and be remembered for that. Furthermore, my relentless and uncompromising search for truth has given me special, some even say gifted spiritual insight as well as a close personal relationship with The Source and Essence of All That Is.
Art continues to be therapy. The Oregon scenery and wildlife I paint makes me happy, but I am even happier when I tune out the world and throw myself into my abstract work. My abstractions are full of chaos and violence with paint and are therefore the very definition of my existence. It is important to understand this duality of source in my work: First is the expression impermanence and injustice of all we see around us and my need to give it greater permanence by preservation in paint; and second, the inner chaos of my life, that which is beyond words or rationality, translated to paint. This becomes therapy because I can move the thoughts and feelings that overwhelm me to a place outside of myself, and in so doing achieve some momentary peace.
From here, my intention is to continue to follow my own path as created by my internal compass. What the future holds I cannot say: The nature of my existence has been that of perpetual uncertainty, not unlike many of my fellow travelers. Right now I need to paint. Furthermore, I feel I owe it to those who collect my work to do everything I can to ensure future value. People who choose to own my art are my family.
Am I a successful artist? Not to my way of thinking, although I know that I'm a harsh judge. I have a gallery that represents me, and a few collectors, but I don't think one person in the world has an inkling of understanding of the meaning or purpose of my work, and I just have to live with that. Yet in an odd way, I believe that somehow some meaning will come from my otherwise meaningless existence through the art and prose that I create... that sometime long after I have become worm food, someone will look at my work and know that I was alive once. And that is all that I can expect from this cold, dark world.
Homeless no longer, I still stay fluid as to location. Being tied down is uncomfortable and I prefer to feel the freedom of the road. For me, home is where my art is.