Thursday, July 21, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Themes

When I began this blog in 2007 I decided that one way to set it apart would be to combine my writing with art that I created. As time when on the illustrations and paintings I'd been creating led one of my readers to suggest having an art show featuring the art. I'd not had an art show since college and since a space was offered I took him up on it. I titled the show First Hand Experiences. As it turns out I hung more that 120 pieces in that show, and even sold a few. Here is the blog post I wrote in July 2009 regarding the artwork displayed that month in Duluth's West End.

"A sincere artist is not one who makes a faithful attempt to put on canvas what is in front of him, but one who tries to create something which is, in itself, a living thing." ~William Dobell

A lot of people have asked me if my show has a theme, or what kind of art I do. It was always hard to answer that since my work goes in a lot of directions. Eventually, I came to answer that my paintings and drawings were "in the modernist style." It is not classical, baroque or art nouveau, nor is it realism, landscape or still life. I can't call it abstract because much of it is representational to some extent. Certainly the portraits of Lincoln and Sitting Bull are straight up portraits.

As for themes, we have a friend who does gnomes. And some people do flowers. In American art, the major themes might include scenes from everyday life, historical subjects, abstract art, landscapes. Jackson Pollock did the large splatter paintings which brought him fame and fortune in the modern art world. Warhol did screen printing with images from pop culture, creating iconic reproductions of Marilyn Monroe, electric chairs and soup cans.

Although the styles in this show vary, one can't help but notice upon deeper reflection that certain themes emerge. One of these is the theme of suffering. We live in a broken world. Pieces like Scars Remain and Chase Ends In Suicide show the chaos of our culture, and paintings like Grief and Sad Clown likewise show the personal impact this brokenness has.

Another theme, which may or may not be immediately recognized, is the underlying sense of the comic. I like making funny pictures, and also enjoy toying with people a little. My found art piece Tribute to DuChamp was intended to bring a wry smile to art connoisseurs, though I have now learned that the average person no longer knows who DuChamp was. Nearly everyone gets a kick out of The Great Escape, a small brush and ink drawing of a man crawling on hands and knees, a guilty expression on his face.

The most important thing to me is that people who visit the show take time to engage each piece, which might be an impossibility in light of the quantity. Someone once said that "the holy grail is to spend less time making the picture than it takes people to look at it." I can relate to that. I'm honored when people get drawn in, engage, interact. Too much of life is lived on the surface, and so it is that once in a while we need to get jarred, to be made to pause, to reflect... not only on the piece, but on that which is occurring within our selves.

Maybe I'm just trying to share a little about what I like to do when I get away from it all while others go fishing. Some people might just call it glorified doodling. For me, making art satisfies a need. Sharing what I've created, and seeing other people enjoy it, satisfies a second.

Have a great day! Hopefully the rain will have stopped when you walk from your cars to the show tonight.

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