Monthly Archives: May 2023

The Restless Lotus

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.


"Forest" - Carraher 2022

2022. Acrylic, charcoal, collage on canvas. 12 x 12 in.

The forests of California have not had an easy time of it in recent years, have they?  Fire, drought, blight, flood, mudslides.  Encroachment by humans.  Centuries of overlogging.

But forests were not in my mind when I began this piece.  It was a canvas I’d prepared with a light texture some time in the past and had sitting around, and I decided to try a new variation on the collage style in which I’ve been working.  I stained the canvas with cadmium yellow light, then rubbed on a random pattern of transparent blue-green  with a sponge.

And I think it was that ground preparation that, more than anything, pulled the image in the direction of a naturalistic dimensionality, hinting at the depth of a landscape.  Which is not, generally, something I’m going for.

The works in collage over this last year have challenged my preferences of pictorial depth and subject matter.  The early collages were generally fully nonobjective or at least highly abstracted, with a flat picture plane:  all shapes and elements on or near the surface, with no or little illusion of depth or form.  And they were largely without “subject” beyond the purely poetic.  (See, for instance, here, here, and here.)

But as I’ve worked with this collage technique I’ve found – and accepted – paintings that venture beyond these preferences.  I’ve at times been perplexed by the diversity of the collection as a whole, while slowly coming to a deeper understanding of what holds them together.  And I’ll be posting more on that, with examples, in the future.

So, you see, I did not try very hard to avoid the landscape or scenic dimensionality of “Forest”.  I’m cool with what feels right, categories be damned.  And I liked the charcoal/burnt tree trunks, the could-be-wire could-be-foliage curly lines, the big blue-green transparent boulder-pond, or however you personally see any of it.  And most of all I liked the little ghostly mushroom, which I found I could not live without.  Despite the stresses, our forests are not terminally discouraged, after all.