Once, when in Death Valley, probably right around this time of year 20 years ago, a new found friend said something very similar, something along the lines of “You write when you are sad and draw when you are happy.” Hearing Joni Mitchell say the same thing this morning naturally made me ponder the seeming universal truth of this. I thought about a couple of friends of mine; she paints and he writes. It made me wonder about the idea that opposites attract. It made me think about how I have not written in quite some time and as for drawing, well I left that behind a long time ago.
“December, man. The darkness, it gets all up in our business.”
It is December. It is unseasonably warm for the ‘banks this time of year, but it is dark. Of late have found myself pining for creativity, although as I type that I am uncertain just what it means. I have never been overly creative really. I grew up with a friend who was a fantastic sketch artist and I was always slightly jealous of his ability. Over the years I have mucked about with sketching using various media (pencil, pen, charcoal, pastels, etc.) but I was never very good at it. At one point I really felt like I had found my place behind a camera, but I just do not spend much time with one anymore.
So I write, for good or ill. But this brings us back to the original point. I have been reluctant to write, knowing the state of my moods of late, yet feeling the need for some sort of creative outlet. I guess for the moment I will go on living vicariously through others and appreciating the art they generate. I am no art critic and the descriptions here are just an expression of how these pieces make me feel…
First is this photo by a friend of mine that I find perfect for this time of year. It matches the quote above about December quite well. There is so much going on here. The man sits in darkness… in more ways than one. The sign is confusing, the dark side points to the light, while “First Class” point to barriers and a wheelchair.There is light down the corridor, beckoning, but it is either beyond reach or the man ignores it for some other reason. He dwells in shadow.
This past Friday I had the privilege to spend a few hours at the Anchorage Museum and while I genuinely appreciated the relatively new Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center exhibit, it was the art that I was particularly drawn to on this occasion.
One painting in particular made me sit down and stare.
An artist I had never heard of named James Behlke was the creator and while I have inserted an image of the painting below, this particular version does not do it justice; it is far more arresting in person, partly due to the large format. I tried to describe it to the wife but that too was difficult. It is both obvious and obscure. It is reflective, suggestive. The depth draws you in while the frigid, almost bleak emptiness pushes you away. It is both soft and severe.
Referring back to that quote about December; it is attributed to the painter friend of mine mentioned above. You should go check out her stuff, it is amazing. One in particular has captivated me for some time and I find that it too speaks to me this time of year, but again, this diminutive version does not do it justice.
The colors and patterns and even the shaman’s countenance are somewhat whimsical, yet there is far more going on here. There is an element of confusion and perhaps even uncertainty in the shaman’s eyes… as there should be. Shaman’s deal with the supernatural… and bears in this case. There is darkness here too, but it is much more internal in contrast with the world of wonder that the overall image suggests.
Anyways, it is December. Here, it is dark, but if one looks around a bit there is both light and wonder, even in the shadows.