I looked at the paintings on my wall today and 9 of them were about water! Because this was not planned, I began to ask myself "why"? The connection between water and life is both foundational and inexorable. Only in the most imaginative SciFi is there life without water. Almost all cultures and religions both celebrate the gift of water and use it in religious rites. The great ancient cities were all near great rivers and ports. In arid lands, nothing is more valuable and precious. Who can forget the early scene in Lawrence of Arabia where a man is killed for drinking from a well without permission from it's owner! The painting above is an imaginary bend in the Chama River, bringing life to the high desert of New Mexico long before people modified the landscape.
Rivers in particular, seem to capture the movement of life and it's journey. Beginning small, they grow and grow, gaining input from others, finally emptying themselves into some vast, mysterious ocean where all others also end. Sitting by a river, I like to just close my eyes and listen to the almost musical quality of it's sound. I often reflect on where I have come from and where I am going, what life am I bringing to others and how I am impacting my world. Things that are important, not the urgent mental clutter that controls us so much of the time. Perhaps that is why I paint them.
Psalm 38 is a dark song of the night. We all have them. We blame God, we blame others, we blame ourselves. The mystery of faith still finds rays of light.
38 Domine, ne in furore
1 O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger; *
do not punish me in your wrath.
2 For your arrows have already pierced me, *
and your hand presses hard upon me.
3 There is no health in my flesh,
because of your indignation; *
there is no soundness in my body, because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities overwhelm me; *
like a heavy burden they are too much for me to bear.
5 My wounds stink and fester *
by reason of my foolishness.
6 I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; *
I go about in mourning all the day long.
7 My loins are filled with searing pain; *
there is no health in my body.
8 I am utterly numb and crushed; *
I wail, because of the groaning of my heart.
9 O Lord, you know all my desires, *
and my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart is pounding, my strength has failed me, *
and the brightness of my eyes is gone from me.
11 My friends and companions draw back from my affliction; *
my neighbors stand afar off.
12 Those who seek after my life lay snares for me; *
those who strive to hurt me speak of my ruin
and plot treachery all the day long.
13 But I am like the deaf who do not hear, *
like those who are mute and do not open their mouth.
14 I have become like one who does not hear *
and from whose mouth comes no defense.
15 For in you, O Lord, have I fixed my hope; *
you will answer me, O Lord my God.
16 For I said, "Do not let them rejoice at my expense, *
those who gloat over me when my foot slips."
17 Truly, I am on the verge of falling, *
and my pain is always with me.
18 I will confess my iniquity *
and be sorry for my sin.
19 Those who are my enemies without cause are mighty, *
and many in number are those who wrongfully hate me.
20 Those who repay evil for good slander me, *
because I follow the course that is right.
21 O Lord, do not forsake me; *
be not far from me, O my God.
22 Make haste to help me, *
O Lord of my salvation.
This is the latest in the Lightscape series, a desert arroyo that bends towards the light (18x18 acrylic on birch panel). It looks pretty good but only a couple of days ago it was a mess. I use an abstract process to build these lightscape paintings that is open ended, but sometimes results in a dead end, poor composition. I asked Chuck Volz, my painting mentor and gallery neighbor for some feedback. He took one look and said". Are those mountains or an indian pueblo?" The hills on the left were much higher, more complicated and had too many right angles. The scene had no rhythm or story. Yesterday I went back and forth to Chuck as I rebuilt the scene. His constructive criticism made this a much better painting. More importantly my relationship with Chuck has made me a much better painter and person. Cultivating mentors and truth telling friends has been the most challenging and rewarding part of my growth journey over the years. Criticism stings a bit, but it takes a few sparks to make me sharper! Thanks Chuck!
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news* of God,* 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;* repent, and believe in the good news.’*
16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen.17And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
Tom C. McGee, Jr.
Musings about mystery, art and spirituality.