Saturday, February 24, 2018

"Glory" 18x18, Oil on Canvas

"Glory" 18x18, Oil on Canvas

The definition of Glory is: Great honor, praise or distinction accorded by common consent, renown.

I wanted to depict a typical field just as the light was hitting it in the right way. For me, the battles of the Civil War don't have to include figurative images but can be plainly seen in the ground. The life, death, light and dark can tell the whole story. Each battlefield reminds us that these men died, and were buried where they fell (until they were dug up for another burial later). Most men were farmers and worked the land. And don't forget the countless slaves who were worked endlessly to make the ground yield crops and cotton. 

So many battles were fought on an open field: Manassas, Gettysburg, Antietam (to name a few) and so many died. Over 600,000 (more than any other war fought by an American. And yes, that includes WWII). For many men there were several reasons why they gave their lives. And for many young men it was the chance to have a uniform, to catch a pretty girls' eye and to make a name for themselves in battle. Remember at First Manassas that men and women came out in carriages with picnics to witness what would happen. No one thought the Civil War would be so bloody. Until after that first battle and the people saw the blue and grey, the carnage red with war.

Friday, February 23, 2018

"Gettysburg Address" 18x18, Oil on Canvas

"Gettysburg Address" 18x18, Oil on Canvas

"In the summer of 1863, General Robert E. Lee pushed northward into Pennsylvania. The Union army, under General Meade, met him at Gettysburg, and from July 1 to July 3, the bloodiest battle of the war ensued. By the time it was over, the Confederates were in retreat, and the battlefield was strewn with more than 50,000 dead and wounded.

Four months later, thousands gathered at Gettysburg to witness the dedication of a new cemetery. On the program was the standard assortment of music, remarks, and prayers. But what transpired that day was more extraordinary than anyone could have anticipated. In “The Words That Remade America,” the historian and journalist Garry Wills reconstructed the events leading up to the occasion, debunking the myth that President Lincoln wrote his remarks at the last minute, and carefully unpacking Lincoln’s language to show how—in just 272 words—he subtly cast the nation’s understanding of the Constitution in new, egalitarian terms. Wills’s book Lincoln at Gettysburg, from which the essay was adapted, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993."
                                                                                                              - Sage Sossel

So much has been written about this incredible speech. I urge you to read this particular article from  The Atlantic HERE. It is finely written. 

As an artist it is hard to put into words something that you are trying to feel your way through. For me, Gettysburg is about the death of every man (and one woman who was a civilian casualty) that was in the largest battle that North America has ever recorded (yes, still to this date). I keep asking myself, "why?" Why fight so brutally? Why give so much blood to something? There are so many answers to that and far better scholars and writers have done it justice. But the question will probably linger for ages. Why?

In Lincoln's speech, he was able, in 272 words, to define the why for many of us. His speech was not the real speech that day. He, in fact, was just the ribbon cutter. Really just a placement on a program to dedicate this new cemetery. A cemetery that still had not been completely finished as graves were still open, caskets still lined the railway depot where Lincoln came through and the area smelled of death (even in November, 4 months from the battle). We have to remember that the little town of Gettysburg (population 2,000) had been leveled to such an extent that death was on every door. Remember that the casualties were near 50,000. Women were moping living rooms and sitting parlors from the blood of the dying and wounded. One particular woman, Elizabeth Thorn, became the caretaker of the town cemetery while her husband was away fighting for the Union. She was 6 months pregnant with her daughter when the Battle of Gettysburg took place. After the fighting had ended her home was surrounded by dead horses, men and her house was in shambles. With the help of her father in law she buried (in the hot July months) 105 war casualties. Even when paid help wouldn't do the work (because they got sick from the stench). She did it. This was the kind of carnage that Lincoln was coming to remember. And these were the kind of townsfolk who had seen hell at every window, doorstep and room.

Although the speech is mythologized in history as something Lincoln thought up on the train or wrote on the back of an envelope Historians have found that the speech was deeply thought about. There is not a word wasted. If you look closely you will notice he calls us to remember the war nearest to the Civil War, The Revolutionary War. The Patriots that founded the nation, the United States are America. That's right. Are. It was only after the Civil War that we began calling ourselves the United States of America. Think about how Are and Of are so different. These words matter. For Lincoln, every word was laboriously precise. He called upon God, the memory of people and the service of the dead. He gave worth to that death. And called us to something higher than even just honoring them. He called us to resolve ourselves to the unity of the nation. A nation that had believed (as far as ideals go) that freedom was imperative and that we must really live it. Freedom for all people...and it would take great men and women to resolve to make that happen even now in our time.

As I painted this I thought about that little glimmer of hope, the red ground and sky. I thought about that little tree that was split in two but still one. It reaches up to the light. I even thought about how the speech was so short and small compared to the strength is gave many through the ages to come. I chose to paint it small (or smaller than some of my other works). 

I leave you with the Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.

We are met on a great battle field of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground.

The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—

that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. 
 - Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

"Yielding" 30x24, Oil on Canvas

"Yielding" 30x24, Oil on Canvas

Painting is sometimes like praying and with this one I felt a sense of my heart pouring out. Even if there wasn't any words.

As I get older I like the subtleties of the shadows (don't get me wrong I like strong contrast and dramatic colorings too!). But the slight color shifts are more interesting to paint. It shows a layering that is there within the water. Just like prayer. There are layers of thought, emotion, soul.

Monday, February 12, 2018

"Cry" 18x72, Oil on Canvas

"Cry" 18x72, Oil on Canvas

I am trying to get at something I see over and over in the landscape and that is just a powerful sense of emotion.

I also had fun with the cool and warm tones of blue and green in this one.

Friday, February 2, 2018

"Breakthrough" 36x36, Oil on Canvas

"Breakthrough" 36x36, Oil on Canvas

Just took a break from all the greys and whites to do something colorful.

The definition of Breakthrough has to do with moving through or beyond an obstacle. I feel like I have been doing that these past few months with my work. I'm finding my way to say something without worrying about how it looks or what others think. Not saying "I've arrived" but that I'm loving this space of freedom that God has carved out for me.

Monday, January 29, 2018

"Touched" 48x48, Oil on Canvas

"Touched" 48x48, Oil on Canvas

Just working through some of the impressions of Niagra Falls. I feel like I've said everything I can with words. But not yet with paint. 

When we visited the falls we were so close to the spray that we were touched by it. But deeper still I was touched by its power and mystery.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

"Untouched" 6x36, Oil on Canvas

"Untouched" 6x36, Oil on Canvas

One of the most mesmerizing parts of a waterfall is where it almost turns completely white and all you see are the folds of water turning and shaping continuously. The word, "untouched" means to keep pristine, not corrupt or be holy.

Since water has such an ethereal nature it feels like a fitting metaphor for something holy. Holy and wild.