Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ghosts, Beauty, And Suicide

Yesterday I walked with a friend to a place where many suicides have occurred. It is near the rough and tumble old west town of Taos, at the foot of mountains where Taos Indians have lived in their pueblo village for many centuries, and close to where many people have sworn they have heard a mysterious sound called the Taos Hum, featured on the television program called Unsolved Mysteries.

We had to park our car and walk before setting foot on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, a fantastic metal span, 650 feet above the river below. Narrow walkways allow pedestrians access on either side of the two lane highway that crosses over the gorge. The day was bright and balmy, but steady strong gusts of wind buffeted us, and almost immediately my friend complained she was dizzy. In fact, it is easy to get vertigo so high in the air above ground, but the view is breathtaking and so spectacular that the draw is almost irresistible. Standing in the middle of the span, visitors can lean against a railing that is chest high, then gaze out and down to the wild, relentless river far below. To stand there in the proud and primitive setting is to be inches away from certain death. I felt something primeval and compelling about looking closely into such a grand abyss—as if in one second I could disappear forever by crossing the thinnest of lines.

It is said that a ghost inhabits the bridge and has caused people to jump. She appears as a young Hispanic woman wearing jeans and a white T-shirt who is visible one moment, then suddenly disappears. I cannot say that I believe in ghosts like that, but I do say that people carry ghosts inside themselves and that these “demons” can do harm and even drive a person to suicide.

What is true is that invisible vestiges of doubt or fear can be lodged in a human psyche, and whatever a person does to root out this “ghost” can fail, so it lingers as if in a haunted house.

I knew the last person to be confirmed as having committed suicide off the bridge. The last time I saw her was when she modeled for a drawing group on a summer evening, and afterward we talked outside under the moonlight. She seemed very animated and also to be slipping into darkness and then scrambling out again. Her boyfriend had left her; she was plagued with self-doubt and had money problems. Her intelligence was astute enough that she had written, produced, and then performed in many one-woman theatrical productions that had been favorably received, and gained reviews in the local newspaper. In her productions, she tried exorcising her ghosts by making light of her personal problems and how she felt that she did not fit in the world. Shortly after our meeting, I learned that her car had been found by the bridge, and she was missing. About a week later, her body was found, miles down stream, caught in brush and partly submerged in the river. Had the ghost spoken a spell in her ears? For some, the peace of death, and the urge to control the pain of life by a "final solution" ultimately gets the better hand.

After my friend and I peered off the side of the bridge, we walked along the West Rim Trail amidst rugged, wide-open mesas and chiseled steep canyons.  The elevation along the river is 6,100 feet and rises 800 feet at the gorge rim. Along the way we often stopped to gaze from the mesa top above the river at stunning and breathtaking views of the Rio Grande Gorge and Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Not once did I see a ghost.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Wild Beasts

A problem with new ideas is that they may be rejected by society. There are many examples of this in the arts when an artist is inspired to create something different, but the public is not ready to receive this unique gift. This is probably where the term “starving artist” gets its meaning.

There will always be critics, some who are professional and paid, who are the self-proclaimed arbiters of public taste. They insist that they know everything that constitutes good art and are quick to judge anything that an artist produces that enters the public domain. There are endless examples of artists being publicly derided by ardent critics. But artists listen to their inner muse, not public taste. Often artists are ahead of their time. Van Gogh met with scorn his whole life until he committed suicide. Now his art is universally valued and sets records at auction. The impressionists met with rejection in the beginning because their paintings were not deemed academic, realistic or historical and met with disapproval from the "establishment”. These artists were excited by a new way of seeing things, but the public was not. Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, their families and other impressionists suffered miserable poverty for years. Eventually, a few artists including Pierre Matisse, Andre Derain, and Maurice Vlaminck began further liberating painting from representational, literal values by using color whimsically, such as in a famous painting by Matisse of his wife where he colors the middle of her face with green. These artists shared their first exhibition at the 1905 Salon d'Automne, and the group gained their name, fauves, after a critic named Louis Vauxcelles described their work with the phrase "Donatello au milieu des fauves!" ("Donatello among the wild beasts"), contrasting the paintings with a Renaissance-type sculpture that shared a room with them.

Later, a man named Jackson Pollack responded to his muse by flinging paint on canvas in what he termed “ all over” paintings. They did not have a gravitational reference, but could be viewed from any direction. In fact, he placed the canvases on his studio floor and walked around them as he applied his drips of paint. This was the beginning of abstract expressionism.  Painters such as Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Pollack initially met with skepticism and were so poor that they sometimes could only share a can of spaghetti and meatballs for a meal, and fought over who claimed the extra meatball. Interestingly, an insightful and compassionate dentist agreed to trade his dental work for the early art of some of the expressionists . . . and later claimed a fortune when the public eventually proclaimed the artists as geniuses.

“Every so often a painter has to destroy painting. Cezanne did it and then Picasso did it again with cubism. Then Pollack did it—he busted our idea of a picture all to hell. Then there could be new pictures again.” Willem de Kooning

“The artist must prophesy not in the sense that he foretells things 
to come, but in the sense that he tells his audience, at risk of their 
displeasure, the secrets of their own hearts. His business as an artist 
is to speak out, to make a clean breast. But what he has to utter is 
not, as the individualistic theory of art would have us think, his own 
secrets. As spokesman of his community, the secrets he must utter are 
theirs. The reason why they need him is that no community altogether 
knows its own heart; and by failing in this knowledge a community 
deceives itself on the one subject concerning which ignorance means 
death. For the evils which come from that ignorance the poet as prophet 
suggests no remedy, because he has already given one. The remedy is 
the poem itself. Art is the community's medicine for the worst disease 
of the mind, the corruption of consciousness.”
Quote from R. G. Collingwood, The Principles of Art.

See the new art of Steven Boone

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


The place of your birth will always have special meaning as your entrance spot into this world. Furthermore, the elements that formed your body in that place, infused their memories in your bones. The life of your mother, and her perceptions and experiences during pregnancy arrived with you in gestation—what she ate, drank, perceived, and thought.
I was born in Chicago, Illinois. My family moved when I was nine and I grew up in Washington, DC before finally settling as an adult in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Sarah, my youngest daughter, was born in Santa Fe and after high school chose Columbia College in Chicago to pursue her study of dance. Interestingly, she returned to my birthplace. Sarah has lived in the “windy city” for almost five years and this past weekend, graduated with a Bachelor of Art degree.

Whenever I return to Chicago, I am aware of a distinct sensation. It is as if a familiar vibration comes from the earth, entering my feet and quickly awakening all my senses with an echo of personal closeness. It is as if this intimacy sounds through the pavement and brick, sounds through steel, and ripples in the wind. I feel it in the air pressure, and smell it. All the sensations speak to my core and tell me I have arrived home again.

View my artistic photography of Chicago 

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Woven Of Many Threads

 A human being is woven of many threads. Each thread is given at birth and has come from afar, through generations, to arrive in the special place of a unique person. Some people are woven of strong threads throughout, and others include threads that will break. Our environment and personality are responsible for weaving the strands together into the design that becomes the semblance of our life. It is dazzling to behold all the patterns and complexity of the human race.

We must always know that diversity is good and not to judge too harshly if one weaving is of gold and silver threads, and another is of plain cotton. Rather, it is good to celebrate the splendor of the world and that it is varied. Never complain that we have been given a bad deal and our threads are not good enough. It is best to use what we have been given and then be imaginative. If we weave love, justice, charity, kindness and wisdom into our design, a marvelous outcome is assured, even if the threads are not all of the highest quality; they can be made into something pleasing and fine. Likewise, even though the threads be of excellent quality, yet if hatred, greed, or falsehood be woven into an otherwise beautiful design, the result will be worthless.

Lately, I have continued with my new direction in art. It is as if I am sailing my boat in uncharted waters and do not know where the journey will take me. But I am simply sailing and learning the waters. The voyage is wonderful enough. I am the captain, so I can go in any direction. I just need the wind of inspiration to fill my sails.

See some new work at

Sunday, May 02, 2010


Does the moon follow you when you walk outside at night? It depends on what you believe. If you imagine so, and push that imagination into the forefront of your mind and then invest the thought with a determination that it is true not based on logic but simple belief based on feeling, then this fantasy can be hard to shake.

Religious attitudes can be especially strong, particularly if individuals base their salvation upon belief and have been trained to trust in the “higher minds” found in their religious order. For instance, this may lead to a conviction that God came to earth in the form of a man. Or that to kill unbelievers will gain you favor with Allah and a seat in heaven.

In the first example, if we apply logic and understand that God is illimitable, then He does not go up or down, but extends through all space and time, so it is quite impossible that He would fit Himself neatly into a tiny cavity of flesh to work miracles from this place. What would happen throughout infinite space if He were to only be in this tiny cell? The universe would collapse.

In the second example, why would anyone think that they have to kill in order to gain favor with God? God could easily do this Himself if He wanted everyone to be the same and only believe. No, He enjoys diversity and wants people to come to Him of free will, and that is why He is patient and merciful, and all manner of people exist on earth.

I have been exercising my imagination in doing new artwork. Using photographs from my world travels and also studio shots, I then print them onto canvas, mount them on board, and then paint over and apply encaustic (hot wax and resin mixture) to give added dimension and nuance.
For years, I have gained my livelihood for the most part through my landscape paintings, and some artists are content to continue in the comfort zone of success achieved by the formula that is feeding them. But imagination is an artist’s foremost calling, and for me, this must be my path, although it might be fraught with peril . . . I would call it sublime fear.

Does the moon follow me at night? I can imagine so, but not necessarily believe it.