Showing posts with label surprise. Show all posts
Showing posts with label surprise. Show all posts

Sunday, April 23, 2023


To be honest, the skeleton motif took me by surprise here in Mexico and then I stayed with itcreating about a dozen paintings so far. Certainly there are those who have followed and collected my artwork over the decades who are bewildered and perplexed by my departure from landscape painting. All I can say is this is Oaxaca, Mexico and I have been influenced and like it. People ask when I will go back to landscapes. I don’t know.

My latest is called Venice Vanitas. It shows that even in one of the most desirable places, Venice, Italy, amidst youth, luxury, pomp, √©lan, gaiety and romance, death is a commanding presence. 

Everyone is always aware of death on an unconscious level. It is omnipresent. We are born with our days numbered. A germ can take over the body and cause it to fail. Sudden accidents occur. People can even die of melancholy. In the 18th century, death certificates signed by the British clergy listed as many as 41 different causes of death, including 'suffocated by wet nurse or mother'. 

Not that we dwell on all this and live fearfully. That is perhaps why I am bringing death to the fore. As if to say, “I see you, and I am okay with you being always around.”

In the painting Venice Vanitas, a lovely young woman is enjoying a gondola ride on the grand canal. She holds red flowers, symbolizing life. A mask is nearby, symbolizing deceptionlife can be deceiving. The water is flowing life force; bringing us from birth to death and always onward. The bridge is passage from one world to the next. The skeleton gondoleer is death, determining when life will eventually end.

A story:

Once upon a time in Venice, there was a young woman named Venetia. She was known throughout the city for her beauty and her love of life. One sunny day, she decided to take a gondola ride on the grand canal, the main artery of Venice.

As she drifted along the canal, Venetia held in her hand a bouquet of red flowers, symbolizing the beauty and vitality of life. But nearby, a mask lay on the seat, a reminder that life can be deceiving, that appearances can be false.

The water flowed around her, a reminder of the life force that carries us all from birth through death. A bridge she passed often spanned the canal, a symbol of the progress from one world to the next, from the living to the dead.

Guiding the gondola stood the Grim Reaper, a reminder that death is always with us, determining when our time on earth will come to an end.

Despite the reminder of death, Venetia was not afraid. She knew that life was meant to be lived to the fullest, and she was determined to enjoy every moment of it. She smiled at the skeleton behind her, knowing that one day they would meet again, but for now, she was content to enjoy the beauty of Venice and the joy of being alive.

As the gondola glided along the canal, Venetia breathed in the salty sea air and felt the warmth of the sun on her face. She knew that life was fleeting, but she also knew that it was beautiful, and that she would always cherish the memories of this moment. And so she continued to smile, holding her bouquet of red flowers, enjoying the ride, and living her life to the fullest.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Ocean Of Trees

I stumbled upon a shrine someone made and hid in the woods. Intoxicated with mountain fever and wandering off a trail at upper elevations, beauty had made me drunk. It is in moments like these that surprise comes.

Shimmering gold against a blue sky makes for a sublime dance in the mountains. For a brief span of about two weeks at the beginning of October it’s entrancing to go hiking in the woods high above the city. As seasons shift and autumn arrives, aspen trees heart-shaped leaves quake and gleam golden at the slightest breeze. Each white bark tree is rooted with another close by so that together, they make for some of the largest living organisms on earth and blanket mountainsides.

Amy and I began early—At 7, beginning with a stop for fresh coffee at a local cafe and then up along the winding road to Santa Fe Ski Area. Near the top is a favorite trail called Aspen Vista. We stopped there and to our surprise, although it was not yet 8:00, many cars were parked at the trailhead. It had rained recently so the ground was soft. A mist shrouded the upper mountain. We hiked on the broad path, reveling in the color of the aspens with accents of deep green from fir and spruce trees.

Near a small stream, we left the main trail to follow the water upward. Amy felt dizzy from high altitude so we found a place along the stream for her to sit. “I am going to explore the woods but won’t go far” I said, and left for a short sojourn into the primitive terrain, looking for the next photograph. Soon I was climbing over fallen tree trunks on the densely forested mountainside. The aspen stood side by side and shot up hundreds of feet toward the heavens. Often they are bare until near the top where foliage grows and receives sunlight. Dotted amidst the aspen are the deep green, sturdy fir trees with their skirts spread. I clambered over fallen trees and took photos, but thought of Amy and turned back after ten minutes. As I neared the stream, something caught my eye. A large shell gleamed underfoot. I had seen mollusk shells before in the southwest, even in desert regions where millennia before oceans covered the land. But this one was iridescent abalone and therefore struck me as unusual. Reaching down, I turned it over and saw that someone had put small symbolic objects underneath the protective cover. “Amy! Where are you?” I shouted. “Here” she replied and I saw her move just fifty feet away. She came and we both studied the tiny shrine. Amy is more familiar with native symbols and began telling the importance: Abalone shell used in sacred ceremonies for burning sage, obsidian stone, also called dragon stone, is volcanic glass and used in making arrow heads and also clearing blockages, white quartz for healing and purification, Native American pottery shard representing first people, and a metal bookmark with shell emblem—perhaps representing wisdom.

Someone had deep communication in the woods and felt thankful enough to make a sacred offering in a private ceremony which for some reason I was meant to discover.

The abalone is back in its place in the ocean of trees.

Amy, with two friends she met on the way home

Sunday, June 25, 2017


The ancient Greeks believed Chaos was the first thing to exist from which the primordial deities came; including Gaia, the ancestral mother of all life, Eros, a god involved in the birth of the cosmos, and Tartarus, both a deity and a place in the underworld—also the unbounded first-existing entity from which the Light and the cosmos are born.

The word khaos means "gap" or "chasm" being the space between heaven and earth.

Chaos has always been a partner to me in life. During early childhood, it was a natural part of magical life and development. Yet like everyone else, I was trained away from it in favor of order. Then it felt like waging war between good and evil.

When this happened a deep division came into my life. From then on I felt as though walking a tightrope. To fall was to descend into the chasm of chaos.

I remember being with other teenagers and driving out on the town one night. When the music was being changed between channels, static came on and I said "leave it there." Everyone laughed but I preferred it for awhile;  the little interval of chaos.

Shortly thereafter, I became afraid of dark forces in the universe and in myself, and turned against chaos. I suffered. Part of the equation of existence is that in life, mistakes happen, surprises occur, plans are upset, the unexpected happens. Chaos is in everything to some degree.

The "chasm" between heaven and earth is a fertile place. I believe, as did the Greeks, it is where creativity begins.

I have become stubborn about leaving space for it.

In my artwork, some of the best results come when there are "happy accidents". The mind comes to an impasse and sort of collapses into "unknowing" . . .  a place is messed or destroyed on the canvas yet in the destruction the hint of something with great beauty and clarity arises like a phoenix. It could only come about through destruction.

When I am out on the streets photographing, I often stop to study and take pictures of random textures and forms that seemingly come from chaos. Sometimes they are quite beautiful—the scrapings across metal, leaves floating in streams, random blazing clouds at sunset, or many other chance interchanges that leave marks upon nature.

I have learned in myself too, to make room for surprise. It is necessary.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Pristine Moment

The Red Pancho, Oil on linen, 16 x 12 inches
Awakened experiences and new perceptions are occurring regularly and I am thankful for all. My inner child is thriving, along with active imagination, and I have been producing a new series of artwork. 
All I can say is that it must be equanimity. I had a perception the other day—a visualization of looking through a thick sheet of glass. The glass was flawless and absolutely clear, allowing me to see with perfect clarity the world of beautiful nature. I think this showed my inner life is in a calm and peaceful place that allows me to experience the outer world with clear perception. Like a child looking through eyes of wonder, and years of experience offer some wisdom too.

In fact, my energy has been good and I am doing things easily and without resistance. I drove to California for sixteen hours straight. This surprised me. Usually I get dreadfully tired after 500 miles or six or seven hours of driving, and have to drag to a stop. Same on the way back—sixteen hours no problem. My mental state is alert, calm, and reflective. 

If I feel a complaint, I can easily overcome it by absorbing into the “pristine moment.” What is this? It is where love exists in nature and can overcome troublesome mind with great curative effects. 
Daydream, Mixed Media, 16.5 x 12.5 x 3 inches

These days I am busy opening a new art gallery in Santa Fe. It is a temporary affair in the same location on the plaza that I had a gallery last summer for two months. This time I will go three months, taking advantage of the busiest part of the tourist season. I do not know what to expect and I am paying a higher rent than normal for the privilege of not signing a one year lease. Last year it worked nicely, but I am hearing from business people that retail is down from last year. They say it is probably because of the uncertainty of the upcoming election. The whole world is watching as our national spectacle unfolds.

Anyway, I am taking the jump—the same way I did while in New Zealand last January and jumped from a suspension bridge into a deep stream of glacial water far below me. I crossed my arms over my chest and as I hurled myself forward I cried, “Thank You God for everything!”

Blue Pools, Glacier stream, New Zealand

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Fun Intensity

Winter cold makes life contract—or so it seems. The sun shines for fewer hours of the day, plants go dormant and energy is spent in conservation rather than gleeful expenditure. And so it goes with my art business. The Steven Boone Gallery art sales lapse, as the Santa Fe art market declines to its nadir in January and February. 

It is a good time to take risks creatively. Why not let the modus operandi be that of surprise and exploration? 

I always come back to experimentation as a basis for my art. I am easily restless and never self-satisfied for long. This week, I pulled some large abstract monotypes out of storage and began painting on them. They were made years ago, during another period of exploration, and have been out of sight ever since. I allow my eyes to wander over the surface and like a Rorschach test, let imagination come forth to suggest a narrative. 

I love having archives to draw upon. This blog is an archive of my life for many years . . . and I have been drawing from it to write a memoir. Thirty thousand photos are in my files, and only last night I took delight reworking a photo from a session with two models in my studio that took place several years ago. The pair were young friends, a white woman and black man, roomates who had an easy ambience between them, and who were quite comfortable being naked and interacting joyfully for a few hours with me, as I took hundreds of pictures.
The studio was draped in black cloth, and at one point, the woman, who has marvelous milky-white skin, held a long black cloth that she used to duel with her friend, who had a good physique and cocoa complexion, and battled with a flowing white cloth. The action was wonderful and my camera captured the fun intensity.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Creative Spirit

Mayan Woman in Belize, photo on canvas, 18"x24"
Nexus, Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 inches

Koi, mixed-media, 20"x42"
Since I have a creative spirit, I thrive on surprise. So when a friend of mine made the decision to add to his art collection and buy a wide variety of my art in various styles, I felt overjoyed. I could not have predicted that this person would collect six pieces—five last week, and is considering more. What gratifies me most is that he has explored my world, and chosen to be as broad in his collecting as I am in my creating.
Sicilian Coast, oil on linen, 36"x48"

As my friend adds to his art collection, his home grows in stature, ensuring a pleasurable and sophisticated atmosphere.
The Red Scarf, oil on linen, 18"x24"

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, April 01, 2012

I Wish I Had Not Seen That

Yin-Yang, Mixed-media on canvas, 20 x 30 inches
“I wish I had not seen that!” Heidi Of The Mountains was in our gallery when she overheard a man speaking to his wife. He must have wandered into the last room and looked into an obscure corner where my mixed-media piece called Yin-Yang is hanging on a wall.

Heidi reacted with surprise, even though she calls the piece “controversial,” and hangs it out of the way where many people visiting the gallery do not see it. Too bad, because it is beautiful. I made the image from a photograph I shot in my studio. Two young people modeled for me—a black man and white woman. They were roommates, and not romantically involved. To my surprise, they were perfectly at ease while I had them pose naked and sometimes intertwined. My studio was draped in black cloth and under my skylight, they danced, twisted, turned and played creatively while I snapped a few hundred pictures. Sometimes I had them flinging cloth around, or wearing masks. In the end, I made a number of very good pictures. They each were paid and signed releases granting me permission to use the pictures I took, and make them public.

With Yin-Yang, I manipulated the image in Photoshop, printed it on canvas, applied a coat of art medium to seal it and saturate the colors, and finally, painted on it, then after it dried, framed it. For some, it is their favorite piece of art in my gallery. One artist friend of mine told me, “They are both so very beautiful, expressing such an easy joy. I love this piece.”
Art galleries and museums are exciting places to visit, partly because we are free to experience what is taboo in general society. We see intimate expressions of humanness, and voyage with artists through their conscious and unconscious experiences. We can see all the colors of life, and it’s light as well as shadow.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Best August Blogs

This weekend I am posting some of my best blogs from the month of August since 2007. Here they are:

Eternity In An Hour, 
August 19, 2007

August 17, 2008

THE DREAM Unfolds, 
August 24, 2008

Woven Together Into Eternity,   
August 02, 2009

August 30, 2009

August 08, 2010

A Marvel,
August 21, 2010

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mister, what are you looking for?

Living in THE DREAM, where flux is ever present is wonderful, and also full of surprise. I should have known better than to show up at the Bangkok, Thailand, airport without a proper visa for entry into Vietnam. I was turned away. Fortunately, I went to the Vietnamese embassy in Bangkok, paid extra, and received an approved visa the same day—so I only stayed an extra night in Thailand. I forgot that Vietnam is one of the countries where a visa cannot be obtained at the airport upon arrival.

When I arrived in Saigon, I needed money, so went to an ATM, but forgot the exchange rate. I thought 20,000 would be a good amount, but the machine said I had to choose 50,000. I got the 50,000 and quickly discovered it was worth $2.85. Meanwhile, my bank charges $5.00 for foreign ATM transactions. I went back and got 1,000,000 dong; about $57.00.

Fortunately, I am okay with chaos in my life . . . otherwise by now I would be frazzled, especially after losing my iPhone in the motorcycle choked streets during a rickshaw ride. 

I am getting good photographs and find people generally open and warm, although as a foreigner, I am often seen as a wealthy person and invited to spend money; Vietnam is a country with one foot in poverty and the other climbing toward affluence. Sometimes in the crowded markets, women grab me forcibly and literally pull me into their stalls, saying, “Mister, what are you looking for?”

After Saigon, I arrived in Hoi An a few days ago, and it is lovely. If not for the heat and sweating so much, I would be out all day long exploring. Amazingly, this town has over 400 tailor shops. It is known internationally as a place to get clothes custom made for prices less than ordinary clothes cost elsewhere.

I am surprised how many people remember me from my visit here last year. I have already been motorcycling with a new friend who showed me around while I looked at houses and shops for rent. It is funny, but when I tell people I am an artist, they act surprised because I do not have long hair. Another thing is how often I am told, “You are a handsome man.” I like it, although maybe it is perhaps an often used compliment.