There are times when I just want to escape from what I call “trauma porn”, that constant bombardment of the dark, angry words and images so prevalent at this moment in our society. It’s everywhere and it must sell well. I know there is distress and war and hardship in the world. And that should never be hidden. But the media feeds on it, and it seems like lately there is not a healthy balance with the more introspective, peaceful side of our society. There has to be an equal emphasis on good and what is enriching rather than only a biased focus on terror, anger and turmoil. How else will we be able to find our own personal balance?
What better place to contemplate the good than Monet’s garden, even if it is only at the Museum of Modern Art on a cold February morning.
I actually began working on a very different painting right before New Year’s. People often ask me how long a painting takes to complete. Well, it all depends.
I was trying to come to grips with a scene I had noticed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. Four women were sitting sketching and it intrigued me. What a positive way to spend a morning. I worked on it for over a month.
But it just never came together the way I wanted it to. I couldn’t seem to find what Alex Katz (one of my favorite artists) calls the “inside energy”. This piece was not going there. I finally decided it was time to erase it from the expensive linen and begin again. And what better place to go than Monet’s gardens.
These Monets are at MOMA in NYC. After my trip there in early February, I was drawn to these two extraordinary paintings. The museum curators had moved them to a different gallery since the last time I was there, and it was quieter and more removed from the crowds.
I found these two women each transfixed by “Water Lilies” and “Agapanthus”. A recurring theme of mine in this series of paintings is how art and museums bring us to a more positive, introspective state. No bi-partisan arguing. No shrill media. As far as I can tell almost everyone finds peace and tranquility with a Monet. And if they want to explore a darker side, there are other galleries and paintings that focus on that. It’s all so civilized in a museum.
When I start a painting I am concerned with what the artist David Salle recently described in an article as an “alignment of intention, talent and form”. He suggests the art of painting on canvas has returned to importance, if it ever left. And these three values are what create a masterful painting.
I know Monet has this in his work. But do I? Can I?
I constantly strive for that interior energy in a painting. And my subject (or intent) is often an interpretation of ourselves attempting those perfect moments of contemplation. I’ll leave the dark side for others to explore for now. Monet certainly helps.
“In Monet’s Gardens”, oil on linen, 36″ x 24″, with thanks to MOMA and Monet.