Showing posts with label Steven Boone art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Steven Boone art. Show all posts

Sunday, October 02, 2022

Dance of Death

Over the years I have come to realize my best artwork elicits strong reactions and not necessarily favorable. People have cried in front of my paintings. I have been assaulted in fury, with invectives hurled. Folks have swooned. 
Most of my career has been as a landscape painter. From the start of life I have been a nature boy. In school I often gazed out the windows to the landscape beyond, wishing to be free as a bird. I am tactile, feeling things to help me connect and understand. Thankfully the world has responded to my creative efforts and I have been able to make a living as an artist all my adult life. 

Keeping Score, oil on linen, 28 x 22 inches  c. 1996 

I struggle to make work that pushes boundaries and reaches into human psychology. A painting series called Hangups, begun in 1993 and continued for a decade were faces hanging from clothespins suspended on lines. The images originated in my subconscious. With the contortions and props, they elicited a wide range of emotions, from happiness to comic laughter, frustration, anger and repulsion. One, called Van Gogh All Hung Up, is in the permanent collection of the Foundation Van Gogh, in Arles France.

French, Middle Ages

Here in Oaxaca, Mexico, I have been working on a series of “Memento Mori” paintings. The Latin phrase literally means, "Remember that you must die." Each time I begin work on one, I touch raw feelings such as sadness or grief. Also come feelings of closure, laughter and relief. 
The famous French painter Matisse made the statement: “Art should be something like a good armchair in which to rest from physical fatigue.” I say that is not all art must be.  

The biggest annual festival in Oaxaca is Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead. It is time of remembrance and celebration of souls departure from this earthly existence. Most Mexicans consider death as not just a misfortune but also an ultimate state of liberation. Many positive images associated with the skeleton can be found in Mexican culture.

Skeletons in art have a long history. Some of the most memorable works in my mind are by Albrecht Durer, Pieter Breughel the Elder and Hieronymus Bosch⏤famous artists from medieval times. In the Middle Ages the skeleton started to be used artistically as a personification of Death, i.e. in Dance of Death artworks, and as a symbolic element in other 'macabre' artistic themes with memento mori content, such as the Triumph of Death.

Detail from Pieter Breughel the Elder, Triumph of Death, 1562

In these contemporary times, the dance of death continues with different plagues: world wide pandemics, global warming and the ensuing natural calamities, wars, famines . . . you get the picture.  Death does not care, it comes to all that live. The skeleton represents spirit released of the body; a medium that connects life and death, conscious and unconscious. 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Nature In Balance

Spring is arriving on schedule amidst the world-wide pandemic. In the southern hemisphere autumn is unfolding. For Amy and I, living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, we see flowers and delicate green buds on trees as they begin making leaves again. 

The deadly covid virus is a result of nature out of balance. Like so many others, Amy and I are staying home. Our art gallery has been closed for well over 1 month. We have no social contact since there are official edicts limiting gatherings, and everyone is cautious about the virus spreading.

Amy and I go for a walk alone in our neighborhood once a day. Seeing the tree blooms turning into leaves, I suggested a drive out of town where we might see apple orchards. 

We packed a lunch and drove north toward a little town called Dixon. Passing through the city of Española, Amy remarked that the name means “Those from Spain”. The main road has about seven traffic lights and then the highway resumes across open landscapes. In a short while we were driving in a chasm with the rushing Rio Grande River on our left. The road twisted in the mountain pass with scenic vistas at every turn. Soon we came to the turn off to Dixon. The landscape was not yet green. A few homes stood along the county road but we noticed the fruit trees were either past blooming or not at all. Driving on, we passed a food market and church, then not seeing what we came for, turned around. The Dixon market is a homespun food co-op and Amy wanted to stop there. She put on her mask and went in. “Look for toilet paper!” I said. It is entirely scarce everywhere— all the stores in town are sold out. Soon she came out, no toilet paper in hand but quite happy she had found some bulk beans and other items she could not find in Santa Fe. 

I suggested we go further north, since we were very near a tiny village called Pilar and the entrance to the Rio Grande Gorge. At Pilar, I turned off to an area near the river. The air felt balmy and temperate, with blue sky above—perfect spring weather. We got out to stretch our legs and stand by the flowing water. Amy surmised later that it was there that she lost her hand sewn face mask—it must have fallen to the ground from her lap when she got out of the car.  

I never tire of the Rio Grande Gorge. The vistas are grand. A small road follows the river which has cut a deep groove in the mountain terrain. Rock is exposed and sage brush grows among the hearty little piñon and cedar trees dotting the earth. 

The Rio Grande Gorge State park, extends along the river and we noticed that entrances to campgrounds and picnic areas were closed off, (because of the pandemic). None-the-less, I saw plenty of fishing activity. Folks in waders stood in the middle of the flowing water, fishing for trout. I was surprised to see so many anglers, but surmised they had no work so wished to be outdoors doing something pleasurable and useful. 
We found a spot by the river to sit on boulders and eat lunch to the sound of strong currents of water flowing. I wanted to paint a picture so we climbed back in the car and drove further until I found the scene that appealed to me, (see picture at top). I set up and painted while Amy stayed behind and read. My view was looking north through the gorge. The mountains rose from the river banks on each side and colorful sage and other shrubs speckled the earth. I like painting scenes that include a path that starts in the foreground and then gets smaller and disappears in the middle somewhere. In this case the river extended from my feet and vanished in the gorge with mountains behind in the distance.

After painting, we drove a bit further to the end of the paved road and came to Orilla Verde, a small recreation area that has a trailhead. The elevation along the river is 6,100 feet and the steep canyon rises 800 feet from the river to the Gorge rim. We hiked in the early afternoon sunshine and I took pictures. By now fluffy white clouds were arriving to blow slowly across the stretch of blue overhead. Both of us felt jubilant and Amy said, “We must do this twice a week!” 

Indeed, nature in balance is the best antidote to a pandemic.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

No Middle

Recently, a married couple came into my gallery and I noticed, as is almost always the case, a sense of wonder and also, hesitation. Artwork is personal and subjective, and invites a reaction. Sometimes, the work does not impress and it is dismissed, and then again, occasionally a work of art can cause a light to go inside the viewer. Sometimes, people fall in love with art.

In my front room are my landscape paintings but the couple strolled into my alcove area and the husband was the first to stop in his tracks. My alcove is where I show my paintings I call Hangups. It is a series that I made of faces hanging from clothespins, suspended on a clothesline. Usually, the initial response is bewilderment, and then it quickly goes to either like or dislike. There is no middle. Stopping in front of a painting called “Pecking Order”, of a face hanging from a clothesline and being pecked at by two crows, the man went from being startled, to bewilderment, to amusement and confirmation. I could almost hear him say to himself, “I know what that is like . . . I tried to tell someone but nobody understood. Now I am vindicated.”

The couple walked through the rest of my gallery, speaking with Bill, my gallery director, and I. They were from Texas, where it has been very hot, and they enjoyed the change of climate in Santa Fe. We learned that they had not been married long, each coming from a previous marriage. We arrived back to the alcove and the gentleman spoke with Bill while I talked with his wife. They had both suffered loss, but were trying to get back to happiness. She told me she was eighteen years older than her husband, which surprised me greatly, and I said, “You don’t look it.” I could hear bits of Bill’s conversation and heard the man speak of his fight with depression in the past. Later, Bill told me it was because of divorce.
Finally, they both agreed they liked “Pecking Order” but could not afford it. I offered to make a pigmented inkjet print on canvas, the same size as the original at 1/6 th the price. The husband still hesitated, but the woman chirped in with a smile, “I will buy it for you as a Christmas present!”
I have made the copy and will send it off to Texas this week.

To see more hangups, go to: either Steven Boone Fine Art or The Steven Boone Gallery

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Reflection From The Bottom Of A Well

In most cases, people see art and respond to the surface, but only briefly. They may even own art, but see it as decoration. Especially, for this sort of public, art is, as Henri Matisse said, “a comfortable armchair which provides rest from physical expectation.”

A man I shall simply call Jim, met me during a presentation I made of photographs from my journey around the world (see: Journey Around The World ). He was fascinated with the experience and also wanted to see my artwork. I told him where my gallery is and he visited it on his own. Later, my gallery informed me that a person had greatly admired one of my pieces. It is a large 60” high x 90” wide mixed-media diptyche; meaning two images are placed side by side to make one. I placed an image of a young Spanish woman holding flowers and seated in a window, next to a scene of the ruined interior of an abandoned home. Moreover, the gallery told me that the man had, “spent hours” looking at this piece and wanted to buy it as soon as his finances would allow. Later, I learned that it was Jim who liked the piece. Subsequently, he visited frequently, and once brought a psychologist friend with him to analyze the art.

Soon afterward, by chance, I met Jim again and took the opportunity to invite him to visit my studio. A few days ago he came, and I found great pleasure in his visit. He is the rare person who goes so deeply into art that he is transported, and can express his thoughts about the experience. He helped me see into my own unconscious. In particular, we looked at a work, (seen above), that is similar and smaller than the one at my gallery. During our conversation, he noticed I had incorporated bits of masking tape. “It shows fragility, like it is holding together something that is falling apart.” Immediately I knew he had expressed what my true intent had been, but he was able to make it literal. “The work has a strong contrast . . . she is so strong, and clean, amidst the ruins and decay all around her. A strong figure in a world falling apart. The red clothes she wears signifies sexuality and fertility.” “Yes,” I agreed, “the art would be too depressing if she wore black.” “And what do you make of the drips?” I asked. Immediately he responded, “They are like tears.” Again, he had discerned my unconscious motive in the drips of paint.

When Jim spoke he gestured and moved back and forth in front of the art, sometimes pausing to peer deeply, his face almost brushing the surface, as if looking for a reflection from the bottom of a well. As he spoke his voice became passionate and I could see his excitement and yearning to discover. “This needs to be seen” he said.

When Jim left my studio, I was surprised how he had so thoroughly explored my artwork, and shared insights that had illumined my own mind.

See more of the art of Steven Boone

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Visual Vocabulary

“Why would anyone want that?” "Don’t you want to sell your art?” My friend was trying to be helpful, because she knew my art sales have been meager during the economic downturn. She was looking at a big picture I had just printed . . . of the ruined inside of an abandoned house in Spain. A broken chair and empty suitcase sat forlornly amid the rubble that littered the room. A basket and empty liquor bottle rested on a windowsill where bright light poured through onto the glum interior. I was a bit startled by my friends query, because I had been in my creative process and working by my inspiration, and not thinking of the business angle. “Well,” I said, pointing to portraits on my studio wall, “there are these that people can buy.”
When my friend left, I continued working, and felt slightly crestfallen. What was I doing anyway? The finished work includes the disheveled interior on the right, and on the left in a separate scene, a beautiful, young Spanish woman standing inside a ruined home, holding flowers in her hand and looking up through a hole in the ceiling. The work evokes feelings of loneliness, abandonment, ruin, time, neglect, beauty and hope.

If artists only thought of making “pleasing” art that will quickly sell to a public eager for soothing objects that reinforce their feeling of well-being, then some of the most famous art would never have been made. Look in the art history books, or if you are near a big city, go to an art museum—you will see that some of the most famed art often is unsettling. As an example, take Edvard Munch’s (December 12, 1863 – January 23, 1944) iconic work, The Scream. Do we imagine that he was thinking to make a pleasing picture for someone’s wall and that he could quickly earn cash to buy groceries and more paintbrushes? No, this work came from his inner anxiety and wonderment about the human condition. And his expression touches a nerve in all of us. Similarly, Chaim Soutine (January 13, 1893 – August 9, 1943) was a Russian emigrant, laboring at his art in France and living in poverty, before being discovered by Dr. Albert Barnes (1872 – 1951) , an important American art collector. Soutine worked entirely from his emotions and his visual vocabulary is volcanic. He applied his paint as if in a tumult of recklessness, and with hardly any regard to constructing pleasing shapes or flattering portrayals. Instead, what we get are portraits that convey anxiety and the struggle to stand upright while all of life tries to pull us apart, or melt us in its heat. The paintings Soutine left behind after he died prematurely at the age of 40, hang now in major museums around the world, and continue to shock our sensibilities, but also make us question our perceptions of what is real and true.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bloom Where You Are Planted

At times in my present nomadic existence, I wonder, who am I now that I do not have a home? The thought might come as I am standing in a shopping line, and people around me are speaking in a language I do not entirely understand, and I realize I have no one but myself to turn to, or while on a bus as it is taking me somewhere in a city half a world away from my native land. Always, the answer comes back to me; I am comfortable in my own skin, and at home wherever I am. During my crazy teen-aged years, during the hippie revolution, I remember reading a slogan that a flower child had painted on a wall, and it has stayed in my consciousness all these years: Bloom where you are planted.

The combination of Frederique’s artistic encouragement and Granada’s creative atmosphere and bravado has resulted in my reaching for a new space in my painting. I am painting closer to my heart, and not thinking of marketability. My self-portrait came out with an edge to it: blurred borders, three hands, and an intense gaze. I have made three other paintings as well, and they all are different from my normal approach when I am painting landscapes.

As usual, I am walking a great deal. Thank God for my Clark shoes, which are holding up under brutal exercise from walking the streets and exploring. I remain intrigued by the graffiti I see splashed everywhere on the walls in Granada. The textures too, are like abstract paintings. I am amassing quite a collection of photographic images. So much, that my hard drive is becoming crowded. I have to burn pictures onto DVD’s for backup and then destroy most of them from off of my computer as I go along.

Frederique is coming to visit. We have such wonderful dialogue and I welcome her presence and willingness to share moments with a nomad, living in THE DREAM.