July 1, 2015
I have debated at times whether to discuss politics or other controversial issues in this blog. I have ideas and opinions about just about everything from animals to the zodiac. But my art is about beauty, the beauty of nature, the beauty of light and reflection, that small spot of beauty one can capture with art. And I hope to touch that part of my viewers that generates an appreciation of the wonder of life and light. I am not naive, but I believe there is far too much controversy and righteousness in the world today. I, for one, want to counter that as best I can with beauty.
I, like many others, have been over-stuff-ed for years but always seemed to have something more interesting to do than sort through it all. But recently I have been doing just that, with the help of a little book called “the life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing” (sic), by Marie Kondo. The author has given me ways of looking at “things” which makes it easy to decide what to part with. While she has many ideas which I’ve found useful, her basic suggestion was best of all: You hold each item and ask yourself: “Does this spark joy? If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it”. It was the first book on de-cluttering that ever considered feelings! And it’s working. Yesterday we took three bags of clothes and three boxes of books to Talking Talons in Cedar Crest. And that’s just a beginning.
But in going through books, I ran across a little cook-booklet I inherited with my parents huge library called “Cuisine De l’Amour, compiled by Charles F. Heartman. (Isn’t it appropriate, that a man named “heart man” should write such a book?) It was published by The Gourmets’ Company, New Orleans in 1942. As I glanced through it, planning to relegate it to the giveaway box, some of the words in the Introduction caught my eye. I want to share them with you here:
“The philosopher and the physiologist have agreed upon one fact: that hunger and love are the driving forces in the universe. Since the dawn of mankind no incident has taken place in the history of the world without either of them or both together being responsible for it. Sometimes these powerful elements work independently of each other, but usually there comes a time when they cross and meet. Both are always occupied with some object or illusion and become extremely restless when any interference appears. There are, of course, many kinds of love and hunger, all springing from the same mysterious instinct, yet all requiring attention. While in the process of satisfying hunger, mankind has built a physical world and during the process of searching for fulfillment in love, has created a spiritual world: the arts, literature, music, and speculative flights into inventive imagination.”
I had never thought of events that way, but those words explain just about everything we do, or that happens in the world around us. There really are many kinds of hunger beyond that for food: hunger for recognition, for money, for power, for control, for knowledge, for purpose, for meaning. And there are many kinds of love, as indicated by the ease with which we include that word into our daily language.
Love touches us all. In my case, love of nature is the driving force behind my art. But my art did not spring from nature, but from another love. It was prompted first by my parents’ love of art, which brought paintings by Leonard Brooks into our house, paintings I loved. In 1988, I went to San Miguel de Allende with Frank to see Leonard and Reva (his wife) with intent to buy another of Leonard’s works. After looking at several, I considered two: one that I could afford; one that I could not. Reva said the fateful words,: “When you really want something, there is always a way”. I told her I wanted to think about it overnight, and we went back to our hotel, Las Monjas, The next morning, Frank observed, “You’re cheerful this morning.” I said, “I’m in love!”. He looked at me oddly (we hadn’t been married very long at the time), and I quickly added, “…with a painting.” So I bought the one I could not afford. I paid for it over three years, sending a check every three months along with a letter. Leonard would write back each time, and that began a personal relationship that grew into a deep, loving friendship that endured over the next 23 years, and sowed the seeds of my art.
But it is hunger that keeps me doing art–hunger to create, to be productive, to be able to share something that I hope someone will enjoy. When I’m not creating, I start feeling out of sorts — like I feel when I’ve been too busy to eat. I feel like I’m losing my sanity, like life has little meaning. For the three years I couldn’t do my art, I felt I was accomplishing nothing, sharing nothing of significance, just getting through one day after another. When I was able to do art again, it filled that hunger. I understand now why Leonard kept on painting or doing collages right up to two months before he died at age 100, even though his prime years as an artist were past. Is that hunger common to most, if not all artists? I suspect it is.
So I believe Mr. Heartman was right, love and hunger do drive the world. I know they do in my little corner of it!