Friday, November 8, 2013

Beauty Is in the Eye; Impressions from the Heart

"Victims of War" mixed media on canvas; in juried show re political angst
We've heard it all of our lives--"beauty is in the eye of the beholder." This was never more true than when I discovered a petrified cactus on the desert floor in Phoenix, Arizona where I lived for several years.

In the winter I liked to take long walks in the desert. If you've never done it in January and February, you're missing an incredible sight. During the milder temperatures of winter, the desert cacti and plants come to life. The sandy terrain sprouts into a thick carpet of grassy clover and turns the normally drab browns into radiant greens. The cacti begin blooming, dotting the burgeoning scene with splashes of pinks, yellows, reds, and blues. An incredible sight!

"Whimsical Drawing of a new Series
called: "The Neptunes"
In the midst of this color, a dead cactus, brown and forlorn, caught my eye. It's arms were arranged in graceful twists and turns as beautiful as any marble sculpture I could imagine. "God's handiwork," I quipped. and decided to bring the orphaned cactus home to grace my flower garden.

I mentioned my unusual sculpture to friends, family, and neighbors. I must have described my find in such detail and with such embellishment that soon I had visitors to see my heavenly sculpture. I chuckle now, as I remember their disappointment in this dried up piece of wood that once was an elegant cactus. To me it was still beautiful, but to those who saw it through a prism of their own experience, it was a disappointment.

I get that same reaction with some of my favorite paintings, especially the ones that I cherish because of the blood, sweat, and tears, that went into them. Those are the paintings that sometimes draw this reaction: "Eh!," a shrug, and they walk away. Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

"Drawing is painted in with Burnt Sienna; This panel is called: "The Trumpeteers"
My grandfather cut his thumb off long before I was born. He tangled with a paper cutter during his years as a school teacher. Although he showed his granddaughters the scar where his thumb once was, and warned us about the dangers of paper cutters and knives, we never looked on it as a disability. It was simply Grandpa. The lack of a thumb made him unique and adoring. Whether he had a thumb or not didn't make one whit of difference. To us he was perfect as he was. 

Artists frequently fret about whether their work is acceptable; compliant with the constraints of acceptable color and composition. And yet, those artists who achieve recognition and acclaim are the ones who dare to cross the line; the ones who boldly walk into the cutting edge limelight through experimentation and creativity.

"Work in Progress:  "The Neptunes -- Trumpeteers" 11 x 14 acrylic on panel
I've had the same paintings rejected by a jury at one show and then go on to win first or second prize in another. How we look at something is personal, subjective, and fleeting. The mood of the judges and the way they view your art on any given day may change. Don't take it to heart. Listen to their comments and weigh it against what you know and were trying to achieve. Don't be deterred by others. An artist must express his own inner vision, even if that means standing apart and standing alone. 

Take a deep breath and dare to be different. Some people will love your work, others will criticize it. Beautify is indeed subjective; enjoy the moment, create while you can!

"Kindred Spirits" was rejected at one juried show and won 2nd prize at another! 24 x 30 acrylic on canvas