Monday, January 4, 1999
S260 Fossilized Orange Chair
24 x 18" oil on canvas
October 30, 1999: I squeezed an orange chair onto a small canvas this morning, before setting to work on P254. Yes, I have changed the series designation for this work, since it so obviously belongs to the Paleozoic Series. When I began it, the Paleozoic Series did not exist, so I suppose this is the Prototype. Back at the small canvas on the easel, I surprised myself by carving the orange chair out of its background with French Ultramarine, which I have not used in some time. But then, the Pthalo Blue was a few feet away, over by P254, and I was too lazy to fetch it. The chair, at any rate, is a flow of orange, waiting to solidify into something else. Or at least until the underpainting dries.
November 4, 1999: This evening I spent entirely in the studio, working on P260, the little orange chair painting, and another sketch of a fossilized orange chair, this one sporting an appendage. I am still enjoying the crimson and orange and blue combination, with some of the flesh of the Paleozoic series added. In fact, I would not be surprised to see the orange eventually make its way into the big wall hanging, whose rocks and fossils have gold and rusty tinges already.
November 12, 1999: While working on the fossilized orange chair, P260, I began adding some of the organic shapes I have found in the fossils of the big hanging, the holes and creases and shapely hollows that make them more than rocks but less than living, the solidified parts of once-life. The chair, of course, has always fascinated me as the backward imprint of a being, like some fossils. In P254, the bigger spiral of the original vector has once again reasserted its form. It is squirming with petrified creatures, trying to come alive (again?). The cosmic spiral becomes appropriate, a birthing nebula. But are these beings improving?
Looking over my shoulder at the orange chair on the easel, I wonder if it is transcendent or simply decadent. But decay would not dare blush that fleshy pink, or crease into such a lively pucker. The chair is about to explode with exuberance, an ancient volcano.
I dare not sit down today, but pace the studio, looking from one painting to the other.
25 January 2000: My work today on the fossilized orange chair seemed to alter my own view of the painting. At times chaotic, at times a flow, the form streams in and out of collapse, the most complicated vector arrangement yet to appear in this series. Mildly disturbing folds appear, changing to pleasant bulges. It is the disintegration of the bold and decadent creature, indolent and self-aware, the modern psyche. It is the decadence of the twenty-first century sybarite, admiring its own flabbiness and the disorder of its indecisive shape.
As I paint, I am partly amused, somewhat repelled. What IS that green? Iridescence, or the onset of a sort of mental gangrene?
26 January 2000: Even in its advanced decadence, the Orange Chair is convinced that it will go to heaven. It is the bliss of orange, soothing itself. It is the complacency of a chair, the settled confidence of a utilitarian object. What would happen if two orange chairs bumped into each other? On collision, would they merge? They might trade elements, exciting each other to change.
This afternoon I finished P260, and as usually happens by the end of a painting, the entire picture resolved itself rather nicely, contorting back into something like the original idea.
Orange Chair Series
Tuesday, January 27, 1998
S252 Visage to Visage
24 x 24" pastel on panel
This painting evolved from an interesting photo my daughter had taken of two friends. Their bright clothing, and the compelling V-shape formed by their bodies interested me. It is really just a big sketch on Masonite, broad gestural strokes in oil pastel.
Orange Chair Series
Sunday, January 25, 1998
S250 Woman Curling in on Herself
24 x 24” oil on panel
June 8, 1998 9pm: This evening I made a sketch on a 2x2' panel, of a woman curled in on herself. She fills the square, almost a circle herself, almost a chair. I want to make her flesh orange, with blue or purple shadows. Beside her is a rock, and this I will make flesh-coloured, the background a blue void. For a few moments, thinking about getting the paint out in the morning, I considered textured or directional strokes, instead of the very plain blended effect I had originally envisioned. It is useless to think about that, though, as whatever feels right is how I will paint it in the morning. It is always at the very moment of creation that the design is truly conceived. The rock, for example, was unplanned and appeared as I drew the lower right corner. The rock has a certain fluidity, though it is just a line or two, as if it too wants to become a woman. It is a piece of statuary about to become alive, or an iteration of the woman's pose. Is the woman uncurling or curling up? She is a knot, or a vortex, drawing to the inner being.
June 9, 1998 8am: I blocked in the under-painting for V250. She is actually a Visage with a body. She is cadmium orange against a French ultramarine background, her hair raw sienna. Her companion rock is flesh tint, looking mauve, a life form in itself, more real than the icon/woman. The rock is a Neolithic goddess, the woman a piece of furniture, product of another decade, overstuffed but somehow renewed.
Orange, transparent and peripherally jarring, is an oddity of existence. Where is orange, exactly? In blooms and sinking suns and the neon of fruits and tubers. There are orange chairs in the bank at the mall, soothingly retro and business-like; "This is not your living-room." When is the woman orange? It is an existentialist question, for the woman has chosen not to be a fixture and has twisted around into herself, refusing to be named. Not without a final pout.
The woman's expression came out of this morning's gestural brush strokes, the oily glide of a nice medium round brush tipped in linseed and French ultramarine, merging sullenly with the pure orange (the colours having been kept well apart on the palette, as I do all my mixing on the painting itself). This produces, in the sometimes backward way of art, the mother colour. Wanting to be green. The mouth turns down, clinging to orange.
June 12, 1998: Yesterday and today I worked up the arm and hand of the woman in V250. The gesture of the hand, palm down, suggests one moment protectiveness or defensiveness, the next moment the rejection of anything beyond the arm's barrier, which stretches like a glowing halo over the woman's head. A headrest. I envy the orange chairwoman her effortless curving. One does want to curl up comfortably, in defiance of angles and corners. I stayed longer at the easel today, painting flaps of hair instead of doing chores. The wind had been howling and thumping under the cantilevered part of the studio, driving great sheets of rain across the lake and against the windows. The sound and greyness outside is soothing, contrapuntal to the silent studio with its hot centre of colour.
July 21, 1998: After a long trip, and a week teaching an Artists Colony, it is good to be back in my studio. As I work on the orange lady curled in on herself, I realize that the reason, probably, that I use unusual body colour in most pictures is to lessen the sexual impact of a naked body. Here, I used orange largely to avoid using flesh colour, which would draw too much attention to the body's nakedness. Clothing, too, distracts from the gesture of the body. The movement and landscape of the body is brought out by an un-flesh colour, where the viewer is freed of mind-set and inhibitions to regard the shapes before him, all the while identifying with the familiar limbs and postures.
September 8, 1998: Several more weeks of holidays and delays, and I was finally able to get back to studio work, most importantly the finishing of the orange lady and her companion rock. The entire composition is a great circle, weighted very heavily now by the rock, which offers to keep the motion balanced as the woman turns on her inner axis. Even the rock seems to curl up on itself.
More than anything else, though, the woman reminds me of the snails I used to represent the brain in the Raven Series, a fitting symbol, since this series is about thinking.
Orange Chair Series
Tuesday, July 1, 1997
S234 Artist at lake with orange chair, birds and pot
36 x 24" mixed medium on primed paper