Monday, February 17, 2020

Art is a metaphor for life

Barry Lopez is a hero of mine.  I attribute some of my first glimmerings of coming awake to his early books, especially Of Wolves and Men, and Arctic Dreams. My reading of his new book, Horizon, has coincided with my finishing of the 11th painting in my many-years-long project to paint the 47 dreams that helped create the Journey Oracle

Just as I finished this peculiar composition, I read this: Art's underlying strength is that it does not intend to be literal.  It presents a metaphor and leaves the viewer or listener to interpret.  It is giving in to art, not trying to divine its meaning, that brings the viewer or listener the deepest measures of satisfaction. Art does not aspire to entertain.  It aspires to converse. 

So when I give in to this image, I am struck by its calmness.  There is much at risk, yet no one seems urgent about the fate of the assembled items.  The wind chime is quiet, the delicate shell bowl not cracking in the heat from the wood burning robustly in the stove, 
which is roaring, even though the damper is turned down. 

The feather apparently stuck in the side of the stove 
appears unharmed by its location,

and certainly the turtle is not scampering to escape,
 if indeed turtles ever scamper. 

Most dramatically, the person whose hair is on fire

is making no gesture of alarm.

I notice some apparent safety in 
the otherwise dramatic situation.
The stove seems to have no door so nothing further can be added, 
but neither can it be quenched. 

And who are these people?
Clearly they are engaged with each other 
rather than with the scene inside, 
and their appearance of caring is quite engaging to see. 

Of course, meaning does creep in with the question from the 
Oracle dream
which created the title of the painting:
How is this a gift? 
I cannot resist assembling the following conversation with this art:

We are in a home on this turtle island in which the furnace of our desire for comfort and plenty is now beyond our control, and even our hair is on fire, and yet we inexplicably receive the damage with utter calm. We continue to gaze at each other with kind regard, when maybe
we should at least be breaking in the window,
 to rescue the turtle.