November, 2013, Work-in-Progress
There are a few compelling things that came together as inspiration for the painting that I’m working on now. My son, Nick, and his bride, Michelle, started their life together in Colorado. I wanted my next painting to have something in it that would be a visual tag to Colorado, so I painted a small bouquet of columbines when they were in bloom last summer — symbolic of my heart in Colorado. The columbine has a complex physical structure with five Fibonacci Petals that provided a link to my enduring fascination with spirals. That got me started on a still life that makes use of some objects and ideas that I’ve saved for a long time.
I became interested in spirals years ago with the first botanical paintings I did. It would be impossible to produce a detailed study of a pineapple, or the seeds in the center of a sunflower without recognizing the opposing spirals that create that structure. A minor investigation led me to the golden proportions of logarithmic spirals and fibonacci sequences that are the architecture of life itself! And then there is that visual movement of continuously receding from or approaching a fixed point: both coming and going. What a great visual message that is — one that I’ve been saving for years, along with a magnificent set of spiral antlers from a bighorn sheep that I’ve had so long that I don’t even remember where I got it. These two Colorado identifiers, along with a couple of spiral-chambered shells, started a visual dialog about some issues that resonate for me personally and are also universal in their sentiment. Visual commentary, I love that about still life!
I want the fact of the spirals to be as important as the magnificent objects that they are, so I needed to present them not as objects-on-a-table, but in a way that could dramatize the spirals that they are. I am hanging them inside a strict geometric structure the way Juan Sánchez Cotán painted still lifes in the early sixteen hundreds — a complete departure from the traditional Flemish motifs which were so visually loaded. It is thought that his imagery related to Christian and medieval ideas of beauty at that time, when reference was frequently made to the Book of Wisdom, as in, “Thou has ordered all things in measure and number and weight” (11:21). Calderon also alludes to this apocryphal Bible passage in El Divino Orfeo.
The neo-Platonic theories of proportion and harmony that are evident in Cotán’s work are useful to me in contrast, because of what the objects that I chose can reveal about: disorder, extinction, diminished capacity, strength, love and longing.