Saturday, August 26, 2017

An Early Awakening

When I was but a toddler, my father would carry me in the early morning to the local bakery. We took a route through the back alleys behind our tenement building in Chicago. It was before my brothers and sister were born. He would hoist me atop his shoulders and I would hold on to his head. At the bakery he put me down and when the door opened, the light, warmth and sweet fragrance poured forth. On the way back one morning, a bird flew into the brick walls nearby. It is so far back in my memory . . . but I distinctly remember the fright of the beautiful winged creature. Was it blind? Or trapped? 

Why did this brief experience have such an impression on me as to last all my life? Certainly, to see a bird fly against a wall or glass, as if blind, is a jarring sight.

Now, six decades later, I drive to work and park my van in a city garage, then take my bike out and ride to my gallery. There are four parking levels. Birds come in the garage, and sometimes they fly up the stairwell and think they have reached daylight at the top level, only to smash into a big panel of glass. Often, feathers are strewn about the concrete floor. Once I found a dead bird and took it home for burial.

Birds represent freedom and are like unto spirit. In many ways they are angelic. So to see one fooled by glass and be trapped or hurt flying into a transparent barrier, reinforces the feeling that physical life is not what it seems—it also holds death. For my childhood eyes, the vision startled me, but also was an early awakening.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Indian Meeting Place Of The Universe

A life size wooden Indian faces my gallery every day. He wears a war bonnet, is dressed in buckskin and holds a tomahawk. Each morning he is dragged out of the shop called Shalako that sells old Native American Indian silver jewelry and adornments. Then he goes back inside at closing time. He stands sentinel at the door and tourists from all over the world have stopped to have their picture taken next to him.

Santa Fe is the meeting place of the universe for Indians this weekend. Indian Market is in progress. Today, a real Indian stood next to the wooden one as I took a picture. He grabbed the ax from the wooden Indian's hand and smiled while I photographed. He is from the Jicarilla Apache Nation in New Mexico, and is here among tribe people from all over the United States, including Alaska, and also some from Canada. 

Tents line every street going out from the plaza. The Indians sell their pottery, jewelry, weavings, artwork and more. Tourists come from all over. They can be seen waiting at the booth of a favorite artist for over an hour before opening time at 8 AM on Saturday morning. 
Throughout the two days, there are continual performances of native music with colorful dancing in traditional costume . . . and a spirit of happiness and excitement pervades everywhere.

My gallery is only 100 feet from the plaza. Often, downtown businesses complain that shoppers are so fixated on the Indian crafts that their businesses go into a sales slump. Last year I had the good fortune to sell a big painting during the market.

I show up with a positive attitude and am thankful for what fate brings . . . and this year some collectors came in and bought art from me; including a portrait that I had just completed. You might call it a “native” portrait. It is of an indigenous woman from South America, wearing her native costume, including a bright red felt hat.

"The Red Hat", oil on linen, 20 x 20 inches
by Steven Boone

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Geese Are Clouds

Recently I happened to meet my friend Therese at a place where the sunset views are spectacular. If a good sunset is unfolding, we both know that we may find each other at this place. I was there before her and took pictures as the fiery drama climaxed and slowly receded. As I was about to leave, Therese arrived. We hung out together for awhile and then bid farewell. I went home, but she stayed and the next day sent me some of her photos by email. 

I find being with Therese often leads me to see in new ways. She experiences a psychological phenomenon called pareidolia. It is where the mind takes familiar patterns and perceives something beyond what is apparent. For instance, a common activity among children is seeing dragons, rabbits or other phenomenon in the shapes of fleeting clouds. 

Therese has pointed out angels or faces in my paintings. If I look close enough and with active imagination, I might see what she does.
My father could not see the man in the moon.

When she sent me the photos she remarked about seeing geese in one picture of a road with dark, moving clouds in the sky. 

I asked her if I could make a painting from her photograph, and she agreed. The result is a combination of our creativity. The geese are clouds.

See more paintings from Steven Boone

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Darkness and Light

The ultimate task for me is not an external goal. Rather it is gaining wisdom and inner peace. Sounds simple enough but if we understand that it may take many years to understand just one dream we have had, then we see some of the difficulty.

I had a startling epiphany during a particularly crucial time in my life. During my late teens my mother had just finished reading books by the esteemed psychologist Karen Horney (German/American, 16 September 1885 – 4 December 1952). She had gained insights and lauded them. Two hardbound volumes by Horney were on our bookshelves: Our Inner Conflicts, and The Neurotic Personality Of Our Time. I was a voracious reader and had read classic literature, so read both books—though the language was dense and sometimes almost indecipherable. 

Through reading, I grasped that neurotic people identify themselves with an idealized image and will go to great lengths to maintain an unreal position. Their pain is unconsciously knowing they are not the idealized vision. The gap is unbearable. 
I realized I had been doing the same by blocking out undesirable aspects of my "hidden" self in favor of a superior.

I entered a trial period of just letting thoughts and emotions float to the surface without judgement. Even nasty stuff appeared but I did not bury it. Rather, I accepted and witnessed without judgement. Although difficult, this process lifted me to greater strength. I breathed deeper. 

At that time, I had also delved into religion and enjoyed the ideals in the Baha'i Faith. Furthermore, great emphasis was on unity, freedom from prejudice, purity—away from materialism and towards spirituality.

As I continued my experiment, I remember coming to a crossroads. The difficult emotions and feelings continued arising and I wondered if I could go forward in life feeling such dark forces yet being a person of light. I wondered if I could live with the dichotomy. Should I block the gate and keep the devils locked away, concentrating on adhering to a religious and pure way of being? Or continue withholding nothing and feeling like I was in a Hieronymous Bosch painting of The Last Judgement with depictions of rebellious devils led by Lucifer, or Garden of Earthly Delights.
At this particularly sensitive time in my development, I chose to block the uncomfortable dark feelings and urges. Instead, I would concentrate on immersing myself in religion as a way of evolution and salvation.
I would adopt thinking similar to what Emanuel Swedenborg, (Swedish, 29 January 1688; died 29 March 1772) wrote: The amount of goodness we receive from God can only equal the amount of evil we remove from ourselves as if by our own power, which is done by both working on ourselves and putting faith in the Lord. 
This fateful decision led me into a colossal war of light and dark forces. The more I sought to dispel the anger, frustration, pain and malevolence within me, the more it insisted on knocking at the door of my consciousness. No amount of praying, being with religious people or studying holy texts could slay the monstrous beast terrorizing the kingdom of my being. My light side hated my dark side. I was divided and suffering. 

My family history is an interesting study in light and dark. My mother came from a disturbed upbringing. She lived in foster homes at times. Her mother went from husband to husband; eventually going through ten of them. Mom was beautiful and hardscrabble when she met my father in Chicago. My father grew up the son of doctor and a sensitive Jewish mother, was brilliant and entered the University of Chicago at the age of fifteen. He finished graduate school with a degree in criminology. Human darkness fascinated him and he was a problem solver. He went on to an illustrious career in social engineering, implementing great changes in American society.
Perhaps it was fate that I would be a problem to myself and have to unify my original archetypes.

These days I find myself embracing non-conflict. I have come again to allowing all feelings, memories, thoughts and perceptions. They come and go without a fight. I am a changed person. I continue in my religion and gain great inspiration from it, as well as from other sources of the same Divine light.

A few days ago, I wrote in my journal:
Essentially, I will stay in a state of peace. If my pristine and calm being is tested by unruly ego or illusion of duality, I can override the challenge. It is as if I am at last taking the throne of command to my own kingdom. No longer driven by intractable and wayward passions..
Thank you Lord for giving me what I ask for.

So I embrace all and realize that all is necessary. Nothing drives me but the urge to understand the puzzle of life and be near God.

The darkness and light inform each other. Any great work of art must have them both.