Our show, "Great Things Come in Small Packages" is in progress now, in the middle of last minute shopping season. Yes, I am hoping someone buys the small painting above, but mostly I am hoping all the giving and receiving accomplishes one thing: reminding those around us of the value of our relationships with each other. It is not the size of the gift but the smiles, hugs, words of gratefulness and encouragement that we need on the journey that make all the difference. The receiving end is just as important as the giving end. Don't evaluate whether it was a good gift, think of the goodness of the person giving it and richness they bring to you, and smile in some memory. Blessings, Tom
I did not show work in progress on this large "Grand Canyon" piece because it was supposed to a surprise for some long time friends. But as you see, it is very similar in approach to the commission work I did, "Wonder." As we approach the holidays, art occupies a seldom thought of but very significant place as a gift. Yes, it can be expensive, but the lasting value can be immense. Art can be a constant reminder of the beautiful possibilities of life in a world filled with beauty and mystery. It can also be an encouragement of some past achievement or blessing. I gave a friend battling cancer a painting of Denali, one of 6 continental highest mountains he had climbed in his lifetime. I gave the above painting titled "Deep and Wide" to remind my friends of the impact they have had by loving others deeply for a long time in the same place. Art speaks beyond words directly to the heart, providing encouragement each time it is encountered.
Consider art as a gift this season, and don't just think about the color of their decor. Think about what is in your heart and what their heart might need more of over the years ahead. 7 Arts Gallery will be having a show of smaller, affordable artworks in early December hoping to encourage art lovers to share their love with others!
Ok, when the client’s name is on the artist’s proof, it is pretty clear who the art was made for. Right? Not so fast,.. even in a commission, an artist with integrity is trying be true to the values and vision that inspire (breath life into) their work. Without that, the work is literally life-less. I actually like the challenges of commissions where I have to blend the client’s needs and desires with my vision and values. Their vision was to further the creation of art by investing heavily in children’s art programs like our own Art Smart organization in Santa Fe. I see art as a light shining in our world, revealing truth of our place in it as those who reflect the beauty infused into Creation itself by the Creator. In the end, I make art not so much FOR someone (God, myself, others), but to BE something, light that brings something of truth, beauty and inspiration (breathing life into) to all who experience it.
My art is known for it’s sense of motion. I started painting on a rotating display stand a while ago to add some actually kinetic energy to my composition and brush strokes. However, many of my paintings can move from “kinetic” to frenetic” at times, leave no space for the eye to rest. I am reading a book by Pico Iyler titled, “The Art of Stillness.” (Look him up on Ted Talks). He is challenging our “frenetic” culture of instant messages, unending interruptions to slow down, breath and actually become aware. Early in the book he makes this insightful observation, “Movement makes richest sense when set within the frame of stillness.” That sentence stopped me.
I began to reflect on my work as an artist, “was my art telling me the I need more stillness and motion?” “Would my artwork make “richest sense” if the kinetic energy was set within a “frame of stillness.” Using the spiral as a motif in this painting helps a bit, creating a focal point of movement and contrast. But would it be even better with more places to rest like the water. I don’t know. I tend to the let my work speak what ever it wants to. However, I do need to stop, be still and listen more to what it is saying!
Artists have always pushed boundaries. What "can be" is more interesting and challenging than "what is." At the beginning of the year, I had a simple thought, " I wonder what painters are doing with 3D printing technology." I found little on the net. Partly because it would confuse categories, is it still a painting or is it hanging sculpture? Sculptures are not supposed to be painted are they? But I would rather explore "what can be" and figure out what to call it later!
What I wanted to do was "re-imagine" landscape painting. My process is generally - Painting - Photo - 3D Print - Painting. It begins and ends with painting. I won't go into all the challenges and dead ends, but after trying a number of software approaches, I ended up using Photoshop for the conversion to 3D. Every piece I do, ends up unique in some way because of unexplained interruptions in my plans! Kind of like life. But, I am having fun exploring some new territory. I hope you are finding some space to explore "what can be" too instead of being stuck in "what is." Blessings, Tom
nThe last few months have held many challenges, most of all assisting dying parents. Many times my sis and I would just look at each other and say, "It is what it is" or "Everyone is doing the best they can." These simple phrases helped up to accept life as it comes and people as they are. In the midst of life's turns over the past few years, I have found another silly little phrase - Things have a way of working out - on my lips and in my mind more frequently. It too is way of pressing into an attitude of acceptance, positive anticipation and openness. It is not blind faith in good outcomes. Neither is it a passive stance, waiting for a miracle to change things to conform life to my wishes and hopes. Nor is it a phrase to use on others to help them in their grief. Most often I have used it when things have not turned out as I planned or hoped, but someone I have still gained something for which I am grateful. However this has happened so frequently, that I am now seeing it as a way I can process life as it come with that sense of gratitude, acceptance, awareness and openness.
It is like knowing there will be a sunrise after the darkness. I think this is why people are drawn to sunrises and why I like to paint them, "Enchanted Sunrise," show above was my largest painting at 7 Arts Gallery, and did not sell all summer. Honestly I thought many times, perhaps it is too bold, too simple, too big, too expensive. After a summer of slow gallery sales, I sold it last week to the right people at the most encouraging time possible for me. The phase did come to mind! But more than that, I think the attitudes of acceptance, openness, and positive awareness and influencing my art work and my approach to art. I more open to experimenting, more patient with myself and others, less anxious when challenges arise, seeing them as opportunities to grow or learn something.
I wrote something similar to this a couple of days ago and hit the publish button, but it got lost before it was posted on the blog. I am hoping the mess up turned out to be good timing for someone! It was good for me to think about this again and make some mental edits!!! Blessings!
Etty Hillesum was a Jewish Dutch girl whose war time diaries and letters from 1941-1943 we just published a few years ago. Her life ended at Auschwitz at the age of 29, but her remarkable mystical journey was miraculous preserved. As she began her inward journey that prepared her for her ministry of love to those headed for a certain death, she wrote this:
"The inner world is as real as the outerworld. One ought to be conscious of that. It too has it's landscapes, it's contours, possibilities, it's boundless regions. And man himself must be a small center in which the inner and outer worlds meet. These two worlds are fed by each other, you must not neglect one at the expense of the other, You must not deem one more important than the other. Otherwise you will impoverish your own personality. A great many persons strike me as divided in half and thus more or less disabled." Etty Hillesum:Essential Writings, ed. Kidder, Orbis 2009.
I find that using this rotating platform in my studio paintings is enabling me to compose landscapes that capture some of this interaction between the spiritual and phyliscial, the inner and the outer worlds. This swirling scene was the first landscape in this series and sold immediatly to someone who saw some of this mystery in it. Meditating on a painting that invites you to explore your inner landscape is a way to find your own center where these two worlds meet and feed each other.
So many fundamental things come in threes. Primary colors: red, yellow, blue. States of water: solid, liquid, gas. Our planet: earth, water, sky. The Christian view of God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Three seems to combine the individual, the other and the community in the smallest number. Simplicity, complexity and harmony. In this painting, I see all this in beautiful, messy, tension filled harmonious unity. Life in all it's spiritual, natural and relational complexities, out of which flows the possibility of love. It is constantly in motion like the rotating platform it was painted on, like the planet we live on, like the seasons of life. Like faith, hope and love.
What if the cosmos is governed by attracting forces that bind individual things together into some new whole? What if this unseen force, built into the fabric of the Universe , led to conscious beings who could theorize this? What if this consciousness including a capacity to move into symbiotic and mutually beneficial relationships, that would go so far as self sacrifice to assure the survival of the other? What if this is all the manifiestion of a single driving force we know as love? What if the universe is not an impersonal collection of particles but a relational process that culminates in persons who are bound together in love with a personal creator?
I cannot prove this to be the case, but the miracle of life itself and our collective consciousness as human beings give me cause to ask the questions. As scientists still search for the mysterious particles that form the "dark matter" that holds the billions of galaxies together, I still search into the mysteries of life and love with the eyes of faith. This is motivation behind this painting and indeed all of my artwork. This piece was created on a rotating platform, naturally organizing the paint into spirals and interesting rythms of color and light. I see both cosmic and personal forces represented here. It the first in a series of paintings titled Symbiosis. These will celebrate connections that create beauty, life and love. In closing I offer a quote for further reflection from Ilio Delio, a follower of French scientist and theologian Teilhard de Chardin, in her book, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution and the Power of Love:
We shape our enviornment, then it shapes us (Winston Churchill, modified). The move from Canyon Road to 125 Lincoln has opened things up for me. The more spacious surroundings has me doing larger work, capturing colorful vistas from my imagination and from my experiences in New Mexico. In the past few weeks, I have completed three diptychs:
The imaginary "Confluence" shown above (Acrylic, 24x48). The theme is the interaction of sky, land and water in the arid New Mexico climate. $1,800.
"Enchanted Sunrise, panorama (below) of Ghost Ranch hanging now in the Root Cellar Pub on Marcy (Acrylic, 30x60). Looking East towards the land of Georgia O'Keffe and her beloved Pedernal, the sun announces it's presence! $3,000.
"Sangre Sunset," from a photo taken last Tuesday from our deck (Acrylic, 24x48). The red glow of the cloud lights up the Sangre De Christo range over Santa Fe. $1,800.
Feeling confined or stuck? Look for ways to open up your world, expand your environment and see what happens!
Tom C. McGee, Jr.
Musings about mystery, art and spirituality.