“Like a snowflake landed on your sleeve, an apparition from that mysterious shadow-world, beyond nature, that final world which contains—if anything contains—the explanation of a human and a catfish and a green leaf.” Loren Eisley The Immense Journey.
The summer before college, the incoming class was sent a reading list to prepare us for the rigors of higher education. The two books that stuck with me (and the only ones I read) were Gideon’s Trumpet, the story of the landmark Supreme Court case assuring the right to council and The Immense Journey, Loren Eisley’s story of his relation to the natural world as an anthropologist and poet. As an addled adolescent, I got a surprising amount out of both books; the Eisley moreso, has stayed with me through all these decades. Our place in the world as experiencers puts us in our proper place, and Eisley’s meant most to my attempted project of bringing Art to take its place beyond a passing fancy, a decoration, a trophy of great wealth, a benchmark in the Western Canon. And Art that doesn’t just talk to other artists. Of course, you want to talk to your tribe, your Brothers and Sisters, who’ve swum in the river, who’ve faced a blank wall, who’ve picked up a piece of trash and said, “I can use this, this is useful”. Those are my people. And yes, that world is full of hard-nosed Post-Modernists, who’d disdane the above piece as hokey, malarkey, and I love them none the less for their well-deserved snark, for who among us isn’t looking over the shoulder wondering if it’s going to end up all being whisked away in a blink of Atomic blasts, or like we’re all a bunch of frogs in the boiler wondering why it seems to be getting warmer and warmer and warmer….
In spite of it all I do want to talk to the real-estate developer. I do want to talk to the scientist with the rational mind, disdaining the paper-doll world of Art. I do want to talk to the carpenter who’s shaped his mind to expediencies of his tool chest. The exhausted nurse climbing off the rack of a triple shift…all might be better-off having a look-see at what a human mind, this human mind, has produced after 50+ years, shoulder to the well-wheel, dipping into the universal source and hauling up what can be found down there.
I painted the white duck from my observing the ducks on the local pond. That pond, a water feature, a 2-stroke penality hazard on the local golf course, if your ball plops in, nothing special. The ducks get fed bread crumbs by the kids and some exotics have shown up, Widgeons, Pintails, Golden-eyes…which gave me a hankering to paint a duck for the Federal Duck Stamp program. An Olympic-level event. It was a short-lived hankering, the winners get big bucks and the depictors of those ducks are the Caravaggio’s of waterfowl. I’m way out classed. So I settled on a plain white duck, because the light falling on that white body is the same light falling on Caravaggio’s Saint Peter.
Wisteria blossoms, fragrent & fragile for week give the ground for this figure, in my point-counterpoint way of working these days. I called the picture The Twins after the Epic of Gilgamesh (1200-2300 century BCE, the oldest written story we know of, retrieved in the excavations of Ninevah in the 1850’s) where-in Gilgamesh grieving the loss of his brother manages to have his brother’s feet sewn to his feet so they move through the world as one. Is there such a thing as the unconscious? The Twins are a reminder, the fragrance of wisteria, a mnenomic.