Thursday, October 10, 2013

Painting in the Dark

When George Plimpton interviewed E.L. Doctorow, he asked him if he had any idea how a writing project was going to end.  Doctorow replied: “Not at that point, no. It’s not a terribly rational way to work. It’s hard to explain. I have found one explanation that seems to satisfy people. I tell them it’s like driving a car at night: you never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

That’s true for making paintings as well. It is also true for understanding them.

The previous two posts, Hearing Paintings and Hearing Paintings: Part II, described my attempt to finish a picture after I lost the use of the subject that inspired my effort.

I finally finished the picture.

I promised you when that time came, I would share it with you and, together, we would uncover its aesthetic visual meaning.

Did you notice the word “together” in the previous sentence?

I need your help because I have been looking at the picture right side up and upside down for more than a week, and I do not understand it.  Edward L. Loper, Sr., called this “going dumb.” 

I have gone dumb. 

Here is the picture:

Bauman, Red Clay Reservation, 2013

I will not repeat the trials and tribulations of making this picture because you can read about them by clicking on the two links in the third paragraph.  I will say that making this picture proved incredibly useful to my understanding of how visual ideas originate.

It is now proving incredibly difficult to explain how it means (notice I said “how” it means, not “what” it means—for a review of that concept, click here:  How Does a Picture Mean?)

Here it is upside down:

I do notice some things: circular rhythms of high-key luminous color; geometric planes that jut in and out in relatively compressed space; dramatic contrasts of hot and cold color; curvilinear vs. angular color volumes; and overall color harmonies I can’t describe at all.

Rather than wait until I “hear” as well as see what is going on in this picture, I decided to ask you to assist me.

Tell me what you see. You may send this to me in an email by clicking on this link: Marilyn’s email. Or you may write your response in the respond section of this post. 

I will read your replies, and then, I hope, I will be able to write an analysis of this picture sometime in November.


















  1. Van Gough brush strokes mixed with Gauguin-like color. Your best painting ever. xx Your daughter

    1. Best painting ever? If that is so, tell me how and why. I do see the van Gogh brushstrokes, and the color is vivid, approaching lurid--perhaps that is what mystifies me--not my usual color harmonies. I can't get a grip on the structure of it, its composition, and how that fits with everything else.

  2. I don't know what to say other than this painting is "magical".
    I look at it and immediately I am transported to another universe. I realize I am not sounding particularly intellectual but OMG..I am in love with this work.