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We are taught to love the things that will save us. If we’re willing to be instructed by delight and engaged in deep interest, we can tell a story so hopelessly small or so wide open. Something between us, before us, above us, beneath us, and around us, seems complete—ahead of all parting.
Just one color makes us believe the brightness will come. The childish pleasure of something shiny. Folded pieces of paper and handwritten prayers turn toward a fragrant paperwhite curling in the window. Nearest you. You, who sees the world wide open, who loves the deep, deep reds—rooted in childhood passions. You, who paints in layers of hidden message and meaning—a metaphor for the micro and the macro. You, who is carried forth on the backs of giants who cheer you on. Go, Tiger, go!
Just paint. They’ll show up, don’t worry. Just paint. How you spend the days in disciplined search and movement. Moving things from here. Now there. You lift up your eyes from soaring, lost in the sound, that roaring in your ears. You wake early and clear the house then up you go. To the great interior, from the vast exterior—to get lost in the doing and the thinking and the writing. The encounter and the form and the conviction awaits. Uncovered and sprayed and wet with the ripe expectation of memory.
You have the magic. Shake yourself up or look at something different. Wreck it completely and scratch back into it. And laugh! It’s a disciplined, but colorful, sensory day and then you fight with your demons. You think eventually they will go away, but they don’t.
They are your teachers.
Ephrata was a lovely little town to grow up in and pedal my bike around and I managed to get into the country. I’d ride horse and bike out into the country and have explorations just all by myself, looking for ruins and ancient bits and pieces. In Atlantic City, I loved the old hotels, seeing the old architecture, getting up before everyone and just going down, being on the beach or getting on my grandfather’s bicycle and just going around. It was always about exploring. It was a grand and glorious place and my grandparents were part of that. I’d love to go down there and be with them.
Susan Joy Gottlieb means 'pure joy and God's love.' That is my reminder of how I’m supposed to live. My father and I had these adventures. I wanted more. I wanted bigger ones. My mother fed me all the right books at just the right time. She challenged the boundaries of reality, opening up spiritual dimensions and a psychic dimension to me. The collective unconsciousness.
When a good painting comes through and greets me, there is no higher high. There’s nothing. And it is the micro to the macro. It is ‘I am a Creator. Look what’s come through me.’ It’s the most powerful thing in the world. It’s touching the hand of God.
There’s always hope. The creative process teaches you in your darkest moments there’s hope. Whew. If you trust your process, you come out of it. The creative instinct is when you make special. Just by some ritual we are better. Through the process you trust it. In the end you will be saved. I can do it again now. I made my name here, people started to pay attention. There’s such a great history. I don’t want it to be forgotten.
It’s always about layers, literally and metaphorically. And it’s also the archeological idea that you peel layers back and you see more and more. Go thicker and thicker, deepen the layers even more. Stack them up thick. But it’s really the metaphor I’m most interested in where these paintings are layered with my memories, sometimes literal poems students have written to me or poems of other people or my scribbling on a piece of paper. The paintings are the archeology of my life and particularly the moment I’m in. People see us as the surface we are.
My granddaughter says, 'Are you old? Are you an old person?' Inside I’m not. We are like the cubist artists would say, all of us. We are all of our sides, all of our facets, all of our layers, all at the same time. That’s what it was. It was about showing all of it. My paintings are that too. People don’t take the time to go deeper and look at the layers of these people. The young artists today don’t know who I am. They don’t know who Echo Valley is. We are all far richer when we know the layers and not just the final surface because the surface doesn’t give you the whole picture. You have to peer in.
Peer into my work and go, ‘Oh look at that!’ When you talk to someone, listen. Be authentic. My painting. I. You. We are the universe. Right now. And that calls for mindfulness. It calls for eyes wide open. It calls for honesty. I do always work with lots of layers, it’s just the subject changes but it’s still always the same thing. It is trying to be an ambassador for beauty and wonder at the marvel of this existence and in some small way, trying to turn people’s heads around and be an ambassador for life. Sheesh. We are all little creators. We must be our own visionaries. Go bigger into the world. beauty will save the world.
Do not go gently into that great light.