As we watch the world burn around us, many of us are waking to the reality that we are truly non-essential. As artists, we’ve always known this. You can’t eat paintings. We’ll continue to forge ahead on the fringes while everyone else sorts out the falling chips. Some of us won’t make it. We chose to carve our own paths in life away from the safety of “real jobs” so we’ll get what we deserve in the end. I can accept this. But buried within our need for survival, our need to sell art, there is a pressure to take our art and provide what many people want right now. Diversion. Escape. Idyllic scenes of better worlds and better times.
I don’t think anything sums up my feeling about this better than this passage from the book of Psalms:
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.
Upon the willows in the midst of it we hung our harps.
For there our captors demanded of us songs, and our tormentors mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”
But how can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
There will be a time and place to paint better times and better places, but my heart is not there right now- too many people are hurting too deeply, and my own heart is too heavy. So for the moment, I have chosen instead to paint our world on fire. To meet the flames face to face. To accept them. To find beauty even in this tragedy. Without a forest fire, there can be no forest- the mighty sequoia needs fire to release its seeds and clear the ground for its young. Those three seeds in this painting might be my own three children preparing to take root in a world changed forever.