Sunday, June 28, 2015

Arranging To Be Free

Me, in Venice, 2007
Time sometimes flies like a bird, sometimes crawls like a snail; but a man is happiest when he does not even notice whether it passes swiftly or slowly.
-Ivan Turgenev
 I have two months to set my affairs in order before leaving on prolonged travel. In July, I travel to Michigan and Wisconsin for art shows and will probably spend three weeks on the road. Then in August, I will be busy consolidating my life so that beginning September, I will be free to live in Venice, Italy. From there who knows? 
Consolidating means selling off possessions and arranging to be free. I have done this before and so know what to expect.
Venice, just before sunset . . .

-Elizabeth Taylor

Sunday, June 21, 2015


If there is any doubt that art shapes our way of seeing the world, a recent experience of mine will shed light. Yesterday, my home and studio were open for the Artists Studio Tour, an annual event where artists open there studio to the public for one weekend. This year, the studios are open for two weekends consecutively.

A woman came by and liked my art, but she focused on only a section of a couple paintings. She wanted a vertical piece of art for a particular place in her home and she already had in mind a concept. My landscape paintings attracted her for the colors and nuance of tones, but in a limited way. And this is what she wanted—an abstract painting with only a few colors. This is called minimalism. I told her I could do what she envisions, and have sent her samples.

Before the twentieth century, nobody would dare imagine such paintings. It would have seemed insane to consider it art. But modern art changed all that.
A patron viewing a large color field abstract painting by Mark Rothko, (September 25, 1903 – February 25, 1970),

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Adventures Are Myriad

Some people thrive on surprise and are more willing to take risks, other folks are the opposite—more comfortable with predictability, structure and what is familiar. Psychologists offer their own explanations based on the type of person and their traits. Temperament is another explanation of how people learn and behave.

One my favorite books is Narcissus and Goldman, by Hermann Hesse (German: 2 July 1877 – 9 August 1962). He describes the lives of two friends who are similar and very different. They meet in a monastery. Narcissus is older and preparing to be a monk, while young Goldmund is brought by his father to live at the monastery and be trained.

The two bond in friendship and Goldmund comes to revere Narcissus and tries to emulate him. The two share in the practice of prayer and austerity. They have deep conversations, and Narcissus soon observes that Goldmund might not be cut out for a monastic life. Goldmund is handsome and has an earthiness not easily given over to the cerebral disciplines. Narcissus intimates this to Goldmund but it hurts the young devotee.

Before long, Goldmund leaves the safety of the monastery to explore and discover life in all its aspects. His adventures are myriad and he throws himself with abandon into every experience, tasting life and death, becoming an acclaimed artist, knowing many loves, accumulating vast experience and growing wise while he finds his true nature being one with the world. He never forgets Narcissus, but is following his own course which pulls him inexorably forward.

Narcissus remains austere and in sacred study. His life is strictly disciplined and he becomes an initiate of the inner verities of the spiritual realm. He knows his loneliness and accepts it. He gains peace through rational thought and surrender to the divine.

Through plot twists and turns, Narcissus enters Goldmunds life at the end and saves him from execution.

I identify strongly with both of the characters and it is why I have read and re-read this masterpiece.

Some of my other favorite books are by Russians: Anna Karenina, and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (28 August 1828 – 20 November 1910), and The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (11 November 1821 – 9 February 1881).

Sunday, June 07, 2015

This Dream

On occasion, I have been able to see into another dimension—a spiritual realm of greater reality. It is a place that transcends the material world and goes beyond time and space. I had such an experience just today, but first I will describe a couple other episodes from when I was in my twenties. I was traveling with a few friends to visit a Native American man on the Navajo reservation. We had stopped outside Gallup, New Mexico to visit someone who could tell us the way. I was in a chair, not paying attention to the conversation and instead half dreaming. A vision came to me of driving on a dirt road, and arriving at a place where an Indian fellow was building a house, laying cement blocks by hand. Suddenly it was time to go, so we headed out and in about ½ hour, we were on a dirt road and then came upon the man, building his house exactly as I had seen earlier—including the wall, and him with his trowel in hand laying the blocks.

In my book, A Heart Traced In Sand, I recount another spiritual experience:
For years I had felt the presence of angels that reside in God’s other realms. When I was twenty-two, during a summer break at the Maryland Institute, College of Art, in Baltimore, I moved to a small town in Maryland and rented a room in a YMCA. One evening while ending my prayers, I felt a change occur around me. I seemed to be wrapped in a hazy, otherworldly light, and suddenly the perfumed scent of a thousand roses filled my nostrils. Turning toward the one window in my little cubicle, I saw a shimmering light come down, pass through the wall, and then hover above me in the approximate shape of a person’s aura. Immediately I knew I was in the presence of a spirit and was frightened. The light shimmered in place, waiting for some acknowledgment, until with trepidation I said, “I am afraid. But come into me.” Then it descended into my soul and for a few dazzling moments bestirred my whole being before vanishing.

Every now an then, my third eye glimpses into the spiritual world of light. But I can't predict when the door will open or what I will see. Several times I have been praying from the depths of my soul over some important matter that is weighing heavy on me, such as when my daughter was dying and I could not bear to see it and needed help. I cried out in anguish. And then I got a glimpse of angels who were smiling and  calm as could be. This sort of infuriated me at the time—that I was so anguished and they were absolutely calm in the midst of my storm. I did not understand what help this was to me, but accepted that I was the one whose vision was limited. This happened again today, but it has come to my awareness that in fact, despite appearances here, all is well in heaven. All of us have one foot there already.

Here is a poem by Hafiz:

Forgive The Dream
All your images of winter
I see against your sky.
I understand the wounds
That have not healed in you.
They exist
Because God and Love
Have yet to become real enough
To allow you to forgive
The dream.
You still listen to an old alley song
That brings your body pain;
Now chain your ears
To His pacing drum and flute.
Fix your eyes upon
The magnificent arch of His brow
That supports
And allows this universe to expand.
Your hands, feet, and heart are wise
And want to know the warmth
Of a Perfect One’s circle.
A true saint
Is an earth in eternal spring.
Inside the veins of a petal
On a blooming redbud tree
Are hidden worlds
Where Hafiz sometimes
I will spread
A Persian carpet there
Woven with light.
We can drink wine
From a gourd I hollowed
And dried on the roof of my house.
I will bring bread I have kneaded
That contains my own
Divine genes
And cheese from a calf I raised.
My love for your Master is such
You can just lean back
And I will feed you
This truth:
Your wounds of love can only heal
When you can forgive
This dream.