Showing posts with label artwork. Show all posts
Showing posts with label artwork. 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 04, 2021


Our house is magical; it drew us into itself. All the way from New Mexico USA to Oaxaca, Mexico, near Central America. 

We have met neighbors who know the history of this place and of the couple who built it. Everyone in these parts knows it as a landmark. Standing around a bend, on a hillside—unlike every other house for miles.

A Mexican architect designed it and his wife financed construction. Alfredo Figueroa was married to a German agronomist. There are stories about him. It seems he was a tall man with a long beard and something of a mystic. Our neighbor, who is a talented artist and craftsman, knew Alfredo and said that he made this house as if designing a sacred cathedral. And this is the way we feel living in it.

Our art work now adorns the walls. The neighbor Mayolo, has designed a magnificent wrought iron railing for our stairs rising from the front entry to the flight above. He built us curved curtain rods to go above the vaulted windows in our bedroom. We can see Mayolo’s house down below the hillconvenient because he can do so many artistic tasks for us, and knows how to help us with our new culture. The problem is he only speaks Spanish; like almost everyone.

We live among poor people. Dwellings are very humble compared to ours. Mexico reminds me of other developing countries I have lived in, like Egypt or India. Infrastructure is problematic, and being surrounded by manicured beauty is an unaffordable luxury. Amy commented that not many of our friends would like the conditions apparent in our villagei.e dusty roads, hardscrabble little dwellings that are hastily built . . . lack of sophistication.

I like that we often hear singing from the neighborhood evangelical church nearby. There are birds in the trees at our home that make remarkable songs . . . the best I have ever heard. Days are hot but nights are sublime. People are friendly and many have gone out of their way to insure our well being. Our magnificent cactus is beginning to bloom and attracting hummingbirds. We have bought a sturdy comfortable car—a Honda CR-V four-door with plenty of space.

There is a large paper wasp nest outside our bedroom window. It is at eye level hanging from an eve. To me, a thing of beauty—and I respect wasps because they help control insect pests.

The house is built of adobe blocks. Adobe consists of earth and straw. It is excellent at insulation and moderating temperatures. That is why it is commonly used in countries that are typically dry. We knew beforehand that this home has no heating or cooling systems. It is self modulating. We installed a ceiling fan in the bedroom and it is perfect.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Go Jump In A Lake

When I go to bed, I always see her—a redhead woman leaping, arms stretched in front, about to splash into a pool of water. She is dressed in white, with white stockings and no shoes. The foliage behind the figure is lush green on the banks and reflected in the greenish water. There is no sky.

I think, “Yes, this is what I am about to do. Jump in the great pool of the unconscious world and drown there for a while.”

The artwork is above my bed. A mirror above my dresser directly across from it reflects the image. My mother made the painting and signed it simply, Chloris. It is titled Go Jump In A Lake.

She died in 2016 at the age of 84.

Chloris Boone, age 27

When the family estate was being disbursed, I wanted it more than anything. To me, it does not get old . . . it stays fresh and lively, telling its story with vigor and gayety, though there may be some darkness in it.

Mother and me

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Unraveling Mysteries

After almost 600 posts spanning a decade, occasionally I find myself without a topic to write about. I could go to my poems or myriad journal entries from years past. But with a vast archive of photos, occasionally I select a couple and let them speak. After all, "A picture is worth a thousand words."

I was searching through my photo files the other day and found these two from Paris that I pulled out to take a closer a look.

This is me, doing my "street photography". I am looking into the picture window of an art gallery. On view is a bold, colorful painting of a building with tower and windows. Reflected over the art is the street where I stand. Cars, and stone facades of residences are set at an oblique angle to the building in the painting. My reflection seems to melt into the scene. Appropriate! When I am in "the zone", doing my street photos, I disappear into my surroundings.

I think I was at Musée d'Orsay when I took this "picture within a picture". 
It works on various levels. First is the masterpiece of art; a painting in classic style, skillfully depicting an unfolding drama of momentous proportions. A mother and her child are succumbing to cold in a frozen landscape. Franciscan brothers have come to their aid and are trying to resuscitate them—just as an avalanche strikes close behind. In front of the painting, a couple hold one another and look. The artwork has moved them to intimacy as they share in unraveling its mysteries.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Window Shopping

Almost everyone has known the pleasure of gazing in glass store windows. There is a name for it: “window shopping”. The allure is in tasting the eye candy without having to buy. It is a treat to just look and then move on. 

My art gallery is in a pedestrian mall on the central plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Santa Fe is a major tourist destination in the USA. It is rich in history, is tri-cultural including Anglo, Hispanic and Native American people, is free of pollution and sits among mountains, is the state capitol, and a famous art center. 

Boone Gallery advertises my artwork in a glass display case that is in front of the building on the street bordering the plaza. It is lit all the time and can be seen round the clock whenever anyone stops to look.

The other day, July 5th, was the anniversary of my daughter's death. My assistant worked half the day. I was supposed to go in the afternoon, but did not have the will to go open up and meet the public. Late in the afternoon my phone rang. I noticed the phone number was from Virginia and thought it was an advertiser so did not answer. The next day I saw that the caller had left a message. Turns out that someone had been “window shopping”, and wanted to make an appointment to see my artwork. When I called back, we had a nice chat and I learned that he liked my art and wanted to see more.

I met the man and his wife at my gallery and they narrowed their choices down to four paintings. The woman left and the man stayed with his friend—deciding. He had a budget and so I offered him a discount for buying more than one. In the end, he bought three.

Window shopping started it all.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Expressing Inner Life

Artists are often reluctant to interpret their work when asked. A reason could be that the artwork is like a child and the artist the parent. The parent does not want to interpret the child, but rather have the child speak.

Hand of a Muse, mixed-media on panel, 20 x 16 inches (50 x 40 cm)

Furthermore, often there is great mystery in creating art—and it is not easily put into words. Accidents come into play (that are not accidents at all), and the art seems to breath and have a life of its own. Sometimes I finish a piece and when standing back to look, I catch myself saying, Wow, did I do that?

I have been making three-dimensional art recently and often, hands are included. The one shown here is new. I wanted to use a hand with forearm. It had to be situated so that it expressed itself. I had the thought that it could be dragging colors with fingertips across the white ground. To cover the arm, I had the idea to use pieces of broken mirror. 

As I broke a mirror into bits with a hammer, a piece struck me in my left eye. Ouch! Then I thought, How stupid of me. Why was I not wearing eye protection? Thankfully, I did not need to go to an emergency room and my eye was not cut. That was several days ago and it is still sore. I wonder why my left eye was injured (everything that goes wrong with me or suffers injury is on the left), and I also ask if it was fate that by breaking a mirror, which held my image, I would feel torment? Oh well, as they say, "No pain, no gain."

Now that the art piece is done, I will make an attempt to interpret it:
The white rectangle ground represents purity of space. White contains all the colors. The hand represents human endeavor, and art. It is interacting with the white, bringing forth colors that plays from fingertips. 
Color is vibrant life, like the inner life of an artist. The bits of mirror reflect light and the real world. They are broken in fragments, but recreating to be part of a whole—coming together to be part of the magic artist that is expressing inner life like reflections in a mirror.

As I finished, I decided to pour white over the colors streaming from the fingertips, to soften their notes, and further the mystery of coming forth from an enveloping matrix.

One day I noticed that I could go on working my art motif no matter what the weather might be. I no longer needed the sun, for I took my light everywhere with me. (Georges Braque)

Sunday, April 24, 2016


Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973) was a phenomenal creator. The public recognized his genius and followed along adoringly. He went through stylistic phases such as a Blue Period with sad, gaunt people in gloomy settings, and then circus and harlequin subjects. The predominant color is a melancholy blue. A Rose Period with romantic, delicately treated subjects in pale pink. Cubism where natural forms were changed to geometric-like shapes. Distortion and multi-view figures in mainly dull colours. Neo-Classicism with heavily-built sculpturesque Grecian women. Surrealism and dream-world compositions and more, including sculpture, ceramic art, constructions, printmaking, drawing and even poetry.

Most artists do not change styles frequently. They find a niche and stay there. If they are successful, they are afraid of repercussions if they change and their new work is not favored. In marketing language, this is called “branding”.

I have been aware for many years that my greatest success has been as a landscape artist. Yet, all along, I have done other work more or less simultaneously. And I have appreciated all kinds of art and music. I have resisted branding and yet have been able to make a living as an artist.

Now my work is changing again. I am constructing my artwork as much as painting it. Gone are the landscape paintings. The subjects are figures and dreamworlds. So as not to confuse people, I have considered taking a pseudonym and making a clean break from the past. Perhaps I should not take another name and simply walk in Picasso's shoes.
Steven Boone, 18 x 24 inches, mixed-media

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Material Things

"Visitation" original photo by Steven Boone

For some reason I lost my attraction to material things about eleven years ago. I lived in a big house on beautiful land and did not lack for anything. It was all paid off. Stuff just didn't seem important to me anymore. I craved submersion in experience. Shortly thereafter, I sold off belongings and told friends and loved ones that I intended to “disappear into the matrix of the world.” Some laughed, but this is what I did. I left the United States and traveled around the globe for a year. Along the way, I stepped into THE DREAM, a condition of consciousness where everything has meaning and purpose but nothing is permanent. I loved being in flux—open to the next surprising event that would illumine my mind. Even the mishaps had a part to play in THE DREAM.

Laundry day, Burano, Italy
I am surprised that even now, I do not have much that I crave or need to have. I rent a house, own my vehicle, have essentials for my artwork and creative pursuits and am debt free. I don't need to own anything to be happy. I keep waiting for the feeling to come into me that says, “Buy something permanent.” This spring I got some faint suggestions that it might be nice to buy a house and live by a river, giving it my own artistic touches and making it a place of peace and creativity. But its just a romantic imagination. Perhaps it will arrive and perhaps not.

I have been going back to THE DREAM, seeing my life through its prism. It is fantastic and I feel it is my real HOME.

Dock at Ipsos, Greece

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, December 21, 2014

The Greatest Pleasure

Santa Fe Winter, oil on canvas, 26 x 23 inches
Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.
 - Camille Pissarro (French: 10 July 1830 – 13 November 1903)

Perhaps the greatest pleasure for an artist is to have an idea, and then start from nothing and using his body and senses, create from inert materials something meaningful and inspiring. The more talented and skilled the artist, the more likely is a great outcome. Even the best artists suffer failures along the way. Passion keeps them trying.

Last week, I wrote about a vision I had of making a painting based on an old wall and gate that I have painted in the spring. This time, it is winter, and the scene is changed. The two paintings are the exact same size and it is interesting to see how nature can drastically change the mood. 

The beginning is the most important part of the work.
Plato (Greek: 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BCE)

Santa Fe Splendor, oil on canvas, 26 x 23 inches

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Taking Risks

Sometimes, in olden days when ships were powered by sails and breeze, it happened that during a journey, the wind stopped. The ship and its crew could then only drift at sea, forced to wait for a current of air.

My artistic work life requires a steady breeze of inspiration, but occasionally the wind unexpectedly stops, and then I am in doldrums. I am not sure if every artist feels this. The common advise for artists to become successful is to find your style, and stay on that path without deviation. I think my career has been unusual in that I get restless for change, and do not like repeating myself and so go off on tangents frequently. Sometimes it is a dead end . . . but by taking risks, discoveries are made.

I have volumes of old work that is experimental, and most is in storage . . . awaiting further inspiration, or simply to be painted over and begun anew. This artwork of the woman stepping forward with a flowing gown is something from years ago, and just such an experiment. It has been in storage, and I will work more on it sometime. The circle around her head could be a halo, or the full moon.
It appears a shadow shaped like a bird is crossing over her. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Playing Tricks

Ice-cream Hangup, by Steven Boone

I enjoy surprise in life and art. Surprise is what challenges our perception, and makes us wonder. Most people prefer predictability because it offers a sense of safety of sorts, and scientists need the laws of nature to be fixed in order to compute and invent, but oddity and absurdity are never far away. In fact, chaos is ever present, and scientists must allow for it in equations. This is why weather will never be absolutely predictable. All living things depend on predictability to survive and prosper, but the universe will forever be playing tricks.

In art, the arena allows for chaos and surprise. The surrealists made paintings depicting melting watches, flying cows, or trees growing in mid-air. Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973) painted bold portraits with faces that had two eyes on one side and a mouth on the other. 
Portrait by Pablo Picasso

I like the unusual, and it often comes into my artwork as well.

A man, walking past a billboard. Berlin, Germany.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

A Unique Brand

"Road To Bliss"
In business, it is important to create a “brand” which identifies a product as desirable to the public. There are many examples of highly successful branding in commerce, where the name and image become so engrained as to gain legions of faithful followers. Even in the wide-open realm of art, it is often remarked that to be successful, a brand must be established. There are many artists that develop a style that is uniquely their own, and when they become successful, they continue within the brand that they have developed, afraid to go outside its boundaries.

"Target Hangup"
I never have been able to live within creative boundaries. I like to experiment, and even though I have been most successful as a landscape painter, and established a recognizable style that could be called a brand, I have nonetheless continued going beyond boundaries. It would be much easier, and I would be richer if I just stayed on a branded track. People like dependability and are uneasy being surprised. They want to know that what they like is current, and not a passing phase.

Artists need to be able to go through phases and explore. This worked for Picasso, DaVinci, and a handful of other art greats, but for the most part, once an artist has developed a unique brand and is identified with it, he is also slave to it—at the risk of being rejected and having to start again from scratch.  
How did Pablo Picasso pull it off? The force of his personality became the brand. He was PICASSO—and everyone expected new surprises from his genius. This would not have worked for his American contemporary, Norman Rockwell, whose brand was his marvelous illustrations of homespun Americana. To change his formula even a little, would have elicited howls of complaint.  


I have written of this creative dilemma previously: The Tightrope Walker

See more Steven Boone artwork:

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Captivated In Wonder

Every picture tells a story, and in art, it is remarkable how different that story can be from one person to the next. For instance, a painting of an apple sliced in half with a knife nearby can look juicy and appealing to one person, but not to another because the apple is cut open and the knife is sinister. In short, artists create pictures, and once they go public, the doors of interpretation are flung open. I have seen this many times in my years of being an artist. This is especially so with figurative work that is “controversial.”

This week I posted a photo on Facebook that immediately provoked debate. The photo was of a young woman, nude, on her side, holding herself closely in an almost fetal position. There is a great deal of movement around her, with textures, and symbolic elements, such as flowers and contrasting values of light and dark. The first comment was from a woman; “Beautiful!!! This is tasteful and gorgeous. Feminine loveliness.” The second commenter, also a woman, made several remarks— “She looks beat up.” “Sorry, maybe it's my healthcare background.... maybe it reminds me of what I faced last yr....queasy feeling . . . reminds me of.... can’t! Tears!” Did she mean it reminded her of death?

First off, I am always grateful for strong response to my artwork one way or another, for the Bible warns, “So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” I have had to make choices as an artist, to either stay away from controversy, or pursue and then share visions that may be met with disapproval. (See my Hangup paintings.)

This particular piece began because I have a huge archive of photographs and enjoy combining them into new forms. I like working with nudes because of the divine qualities of the human form, and also because bodies are powerful symbolically. The textures were created in my studio, painting on glass and they are fast moving, like the wind. The flowers are white roses, and an iris seen from above. I like the color red as a symbol of blood—life. Blood can also be threatening, seen as a wound that brings death. For there to be breadth in art, contrasts must be included, thus darkness and light.

After all this, it is up to you the viewer to bring whatever emotion and experience you have into the picture. Or else, look with fresh eyes, like a child, and be captivated in wonder.

Here are the photos that were combined to make the final artwork: