The Restless Lotus
2022. Acrylic and collage on canvas. 14 x 14 in.
I have a mixed regard for this piece. I see its weaknesses. It was set aside multiple times. I called it finished/gave up on it multiple times. It was a long hard time a-birthin’. I never liked the green, obviously a problem since the green dominates the piece. I really disliked the original gesture, which you can tell because of how little of it is left.
But during one of the periods of its abandonment, I opened a large suitcase of artworks created a very long time ago by my friend who passed away while I was working on this Green Monster. And finally, the painting began to come together.
My late friend spent a lot of his boyhood in the local library, where the librarian kept him fascinated with literature and music and books of art. The Modernists, especially. It’s here, I believe, where he first experienced Kandinskys and Pollacks and Picassos, the Fauvists and the German Expressionists. And so it was that his own artwork, later, was heavily flavored with Modernist influence. That, and the comics, frankly. No, not Marvel superheroes: the Sunday funnies. It all added up to a strong, direct, sure-handed graphic style that was all his own. He turned out reams of drawings and paintings, on paper or cardboard, in quiet hours at the end of the day. Never thinking of himself as an artist but nonetheless sometimes tacking them to the wall, and stacking them without comment on a shelf or in a box. He saw himself as a writer, and later an activist, not as a visual artist. But he held on to the works. They had some totemic significance for him, I think. Very clear expressions of his complex mind and vision.
And when last year I unpacked that suitcase of his aged but still strong works, I realized how much his style had surreptitiously influenced me, since all the way back in those old early days of careless, delighted play. When we would sit around the table and just…do stuff.
His spirit definitely surfaced in the late process of this work. The flat picture plane. The symbolic shapes that in his own pieces were often actually labeled, but in other cases left mysteriously to wonder. The restlessness. And the lotus, of ever-unfolding creation. I have no idea how this painting will strike anyone else. But the spirit is in it for me.