A metaphorical scene about owning our inherent power and divinity, about sanctifying ourselves. Born from a poem I wrote a few years back...
DOING THE REAL WORK
You may move bricks
dirt, dishes, paint, words
from here to there
meet privately with forlorn
whales in the southern archipelagos,
translating their melodic languages
or scan boarding passes for those
who fly with the urgency of swans
towards something that feels like love.
Perhaps you sit as a witness for the dying
or for the living who
do not yet know that they are dying
or do you pull things –
thick, heavy ropes.
The point is, it really doesn’t matter
what you say you’re doing
while on the clock
because I’ve seen you
through the shop window
late in the night, doing the real work
of polishing the crowns and
ironing the iridescent wings
you all arrived with.
This is the Tor (or hill) topped by the 14th century church tower of St Michael’s in Glastonbury, England. Both my wife and I have many uncanny connections to this place, and when we finally visited a couple of years ago we had what I can only describe as a mystical experience. As I entered the grounds of the nearby Abbey ruins I literally fell to my knees and wept. The knowing that I had lived a beautiful lifetime there was clear and overwhelming. My wife had a similar experience in the ancient apple orchard. Perhaps I was one of Arthur’s knights, or a lady of Avalon, or a simple monk. I don’t know. I just know that it felt like home. The flowers symbolize a welcoming home – which is what we both experienced – of the tiny figure walking up the path. Even as I write this, the emotions well up within me.
Trying to put into words the experience of meditation is a paradox. It is a once troubled monkey finding his inner peace. It is that, despite countless birds and endless clouds crossing its face, the sky remains untouched. It is finding the perfect balance point on an undulating sea. Residing in a temple you built from stars and bones. Describing what it’s like to glimpse one’s untethered consciousness and infinite nature is best settled with an allegorical painting of a metaphor.
I painted this idea obsessively in my head for 6 months before finally getting down to its physical creation. The current state of political and planetary events gave it added urgency. The rhino represents the vanishing of species, but also of greed and ignorance, as the animal’s horn alone is taken for the money and unfounded medicinal value. The setting in the arctic brings to light the vanishing of the ice caps with perhaps even deeper consequences. The conquering knight symbolizes the dominant patriarchal society which often seeks profits over human sustainability. And the flowering tree on the ice flow, and the signal fire, is the sign – the song of the divine feminine – which I believe is now emerging to heal and balance an aching world.
This piece speaks to the dichotomy of our dreams as both the burdens, as well as the things that make our lives worth living. Every one of us has unrealized desires. When they are ignored, or not pursued out of fear that we cannot achieve or don’t deserve them, our lives are tethered to an unfulfilled potential. A dilemma that I feel is the cause of most of the sadness in this world. On the contrary, when we pursue those dreams they will immediately lift our spirits and give new meaning to our lives in unimaginably miraculous ways.
IN BETWEEN HERE AND NOT HERE
If you were to die before me
I would find a piece of real estate
in between heaven and earth
where I’d build a little shelter
like the ones hikers use on long mountain trails.
There, we could spend nights together
and, if you were so inclined
I’d let you cradle my new-born sadness.
Out of the storm of my grief
You would tell me stories
about why I shouldn’t be in a hurry to follow
and feed me with knowing words
that it’s all OK. All divine.
That you left with everything you came for, and more.
With coffee-flavored kisses
you would thank me for the sweetness I gave to your life
and I’d make you stay until the dawn was certain, until night
had poured out the last of its darkness.
When I awoke again
the smell of you on our sheets would confirm
that it wasn’t just a dream.
That you were waiting for us in the shelter I built
in between here
and not here.
While exploring a moss-covered glen beneath the ruins of Scotland’s Rosslyn Castle I come upon this tree whose trunk had burned out, leaving a cocoon-like opening. It feels a very safe place, like the embrace of a beloved grandparent. I’m tempted to crawl inside. Surely it serves as some critter’s shelter at times, and it invites me to consider the idea of home and what that means to each of us individually. Not just as physical protection from the elements but also as a refuge for the heart. Home. The word alone causes flutters. I squeeze myself in, thanking my old friend for the embrace and for gifting me this painting idea.
McKena's Bittersweet Departure from the Island of Happiness
The Monkey King, with a sad knowing in his voice, spoke softly into McKena’s ear. “It’s time for you to leave us, child.” McKena, with her eyes already fixed on the boat coming to take her to the Land of the Grown Up, said absentmindedly, “but I’ll be back soon, OK?” “Perhaps,” replied the king. But he knew it would be many years, if ever, that she would return. There would be purpose for her in that new world. But when she forgets to play and use the gift of imagination, the going will likely be hard. “Just remember that we’ll always be here. When the day that the opinions of others becomes more important than your own, and the sadness of living a life where magic has ceased to exist too heavy, and laughter is scarce, this same boat will bring you back.” The others on the island, who had heard the Monkey King’s farewell millions of times before, still always cried at these words. Not for their loss, but for hers. Though they knew that in their dreaming they would still play together. And maybe, someday, perhaps while watching a child of her own become filled out like a sail with her own joy, she would be one of the few to return. Perhaps.
To quote the author and mystic, Wayne Dyer:
Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world.
So what does the home of the wild optimist and unabashed connoisseur of life’s most intoxicating goodness look like? Perhaps a little like this… welcome to the world of my unreasonable happiness.
Though born a raven, Stan always knew he was something grander. That inside him lived a fabulous hidden potential. So, in full view and to the utter shock of the congress, he begins the transformation into the bird he knows he can be.
The sea princess accompanied by a leafy sea dragon on their quest for lost treasures. Being a lifelong surfer and lover of the ocean and the female form, it’s natural that at some point I’d paint my interpretation of a mermaid. This painting was inspired by my fascination with the graceful dance of jellyfish.
Many years ago as a teen, I saw a movie called “Silent Running”. In the film, a biologist is sent into space in a floating greenhouse to care for the last remaining species which were no longer able to survive on a decimated planet earth. I remember being deeply impacted, mostly by the love that the main character showed these plants and animals. I’m finding now that as I enter earth’s unspoiled natural places that they feel increasingly holy and sacred to me. Worthy of protection and reverence. The reality is that we are each essentially that character – floating in space on a giant greenhouse with plants and animals that are likely unique to all of the cosmos, and most of which are facing an unprecedented future.
Inspired by a quote from T.S. Eliot:
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
Namotu leaves his jungle paradise for what he hopes will be a grander life. Perhaps he will find it. And perhaps, he will simply come to discover that his source of happiness was no further than the depths of his own heart. It doesn’t always require an external journey to discover it. But following the callings of our hearts is the only truly worthy voyage in life.
The Delicate Countenance of Fibonaccis Eldest Daughter
In the background of this piece is the Fibonacci Spiral, discovered by the 13th century Italian mathematician of the same name. It is created by graphing a curve through interconnected rectangles which grow at a ratio of adding the two preceding numbers together (1 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 5 – 8, etc). It creates a shape that is found in the growth patterns of many natural objects, and as a result has been used by artists since the Renaissance when creating visually pleasing compositions. I use it often as an invisible framework for my art. When I was playing with the spiral on top of this image, I became inspired to include it as an additional element, as a symbol of the natural growth and evolution of life. The swans represent strength, inner grace and beauty, and are perhaps poised to carry her off. They surround and protect the innocence of this young girl – as does the umbrella – on her journey in that evolution.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated the World in a Dream of her Own Making
This painting is about trust and optimism. It is said that people who live in a world of uplifting thoughts aren’t facing reality. But the fact is, their reality is different than others’. It tends to match their attitude. They trust that all is unfolding with purpose and their lives reflect that thinking. This is no simple philosophical pondering for me. Indeed, I believe this is the key to an expansive, fully lived life. Challenges still happen. But the difference in moving through them brings to mind the words of poet Patrick Overton:
“When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and take the step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for us to stand on or we will be taught to fly.”
I wanted to illustrate what letting go of the pain of our pasts might look like. Opening her umbrella in an act of graceful surrender, she releases the sorrows and sadness that had once roosted in her heart. The birds, which represent her solidified grief, cast no shadow as they are illusory in nature to the outside world, though very real to her. Such is it also with guilt and regret. We cannot evolve until we acknowledge and let go of that which binds us to the past. Only then will there be room in our lives to experience a new reality.
The idea for this painting was born from a trip my wife and I took to the Isle of Sky in the north of Scotland – a very raw and mystical place. While on a hike we came across this formation that looked like a throne. We sat for a long while, taking in the timeless landscape and changing skies. Wondering how many eons this formation had seen. In the rock is carved a petroglyph of the Greek characters, Alpha and Omega. Symbolic of the beginning and the end. Or perhaps in a metaphysical sense, the transition of one cycle to another. The birds are canaries, used in coal mines as an advance warning of danger. And a seer is one who, through supernatural insight, sees what the future holds. A prophet. Putting these elements together gave me this scene. What does it all mean? Like the fate of our collective future, I’m not sure, but I remain ever hopeful.
A tryst is a private, romantic rendezvous between lovers. This was inspired by an afternoon walk taken with my wife through the Le Marais neighborhood of Paris. The recent rains created intriguing reflections off the cobblestones and so I snapped a few shots. While revisiting them later, I was pondering the narrowness of the street and imagined that the tenants in the apartments above would likely often end up becoming intimate with their neighbors, if only as a result of seeing into each other’s windows over time. A scene quickly evolved in my mind of what my imagined lover’s affair might look like. Perhaps a secret to them, but in plain view to the rest of us.
This painting illuminates the meeting point between the living sea that moves like breath – inhaling and exhaling itself into the world – with the illusory permanence of our structured lives. As a lifelong surfer, I am intimately aware of the sea’s urging to ever flow and evolve. And no matter how we might try to delineate our man made world from nature’s perfect design, nature will find a way to prevail. Yet when we can merge our lives and homes in respect with the natural world, then will we have reached true harmony with the earth. The title is also a double entendre: as it references one of my favorite artists, the Pre-Raphaelite painter John William Waterhouse, whose painting “A Mermaid” is partially reproduced in this scene.
A magic spell is simply the words we speak and believe about ourselves, which becomes the difference between living life as a tiresome decline from the happiness of youth, or a graceful and ever expanding dance towards our full potential. While working on this piece and contemplating possible titles, the song Time by Pink Floyd came on (from which I borrowed a line). It’s a story of misspent youth and the relentless advance of age. It spoke to me as an appropriate metaphor for this painting, which captures a delicate moment in the life of a young girl on the human journey. The scene was further inspired by the ethereal figurative works of 19th Century artist, William Adolphe Bouguereau.