In 2005, those of you who are familiar with my work, I did some paintings on a young female Botswana girl named Gobona. This was pre-Existence in the Dream, where my palette changed to jewel tones. Two of the Gobona’s follow:
Recently, I went to Italy and loved every second of it. I met this young man just outside of the Duomo in Lecce. He was just so gorgeous, I could not help myself staring. Finally, yes, I did take a picture:
When I came back to Kelowna, I was going over a number of different pictures, and came across him … I was already doing pairs of females prior to departure (some of which I think I will paint over). New now, from my works from Gobona, and my dancers, and the time in Italy with the earthy colours, and returning to most of this palette. Everything comes around:
I am enjoying the return to the earthy colours, it’s been a challenge to come back to, but it feels right. The limited palette I gave myself in Italy was definitely beneficial.
The experience has been a very positive one. There will be a few changes when I get back to Canada. I feel much more confident, more assured, more in control and cognizant of my own abilities, in so many different ways.
These artworks are based on the birds that flew in the courtyard where I was staying, but they were hard to catch in a photo. They had a joy of life, of freedom, and they taught me so much.
Some of these, I started to see what they were – wonder if you see the same things I do ….
When Gianni Sirch saw these, one of the first things he said was that I was not afraid of death. No I don’t think I am. I don’t think he meant that I was morbid, just that I recognize there is darkness and light, and there must always be a balance. Because of my experiences through the military, and after, I’ve been through hell – and I think that is the key – to go through, and not to stay ….
These images have become the recording of my own existence, perhaps. I don’t think we are all that different in our experiences.
I did a self portrait near the end of the residency. I was quite captivated by Andy Warhol’s Saint Apollinia, which was on display in the gallery of the Castello Aragonese.
I liked that image so much, that I did a grisaille with my minimal palette of white, titan buff, and earth tones in pastels, fixed with medium. This is a process I follow (doing a rendition close to the original) when I am going to change the image in to my own expression. Not always, of course, sometimes I just paint …. but this time I did:
There are no titles for these works just yet. I do know they are responses to the environment, the people, the energies in Otranto and the surrounding area.
The most beneficial thing I did in Italy was give myself the permission to create works as they came, without judgement or contrived artifice. As both Lucio Pozzi and Gianni Sirch (the visiting critics) said, these are very honest and open.
I love history, I love the human whys and hows. Where were these artworks coming from? The artworks completed are distinctly tied in with the surroundings, with the dichotomy of living in the present but with the influence of the past.
Here is a brief story of one of a short physical time, but a lasting effect on the people, the place and the existence in Otranto. It doesn’t matter to me what religion they were, it is the ideal of standing up for one’s beliefs in the face of mortality, with the knowing and understanding that ideals last longer than one’s breath on earth.
There was a place for the martyrs of Otranto, with heads and bones still in place behind the glass case, and the stone used to behead them, still containing fragments of bone and flesh, in the space under the altar. It was quite macabre, but it was effective. Strong visual reminders of the human ego, the requirement of other less evolved beings to dominate and to be right, the cruelty of humans to their fellow man, our mortality but our endurance and fortitude, strength and power over one’s own actions in spite of external pressures. These people lived by their own rules.
These kinds of stories abound all over the world, and are not particular to this region, but anyone coming here, can not help but be affected, if they are open. Time is different, and the veil is very thin. Somehow, the wind is the guardian I think…
I am reminded of Lao Tzu’s wisdom:
“He who gains a victory over other men is strong; but he who gains a victory over himself is all powerful.”
The emotions of the people who lived here still linger. Remember during artwork creation, I was reacting instinctively and without thought to the place, reveling in experiences, feelings, emotions, intuition, just making marks, just being in the moment. It is only now, three weeks later, after the effects of being present are considered and thought upon that these conclusions are being reached. I am very grateful that I had this opportunity to come to a place where I could immerse myself completely in all aspects: sensory and intellectual. Both the male and the female have been represented, and there is a balance.
The mosaic floor, done by the San Nicola Abbey monk Panteleone in 1063-66, holds much esoteric knowledge. Because many people could not read during this time, education was done through images. For those with the ability and interest to learn and understand, this information was freely given. For those who needed or could grasp only the simplest concepts, these were offered for them as well, without judgement.
Around the same time in other parts of the world, items such as The Bayeux Tapestry and the Unicorn Tapestry were being fabricated. Art was the tool of the few to educate the many.
Education also included pictorials on other cultures and animals.
Biblical stories such as King Solomon and the Tower of Babel to fantastic stories like King Arthur. Astrology was accepted as a higher education, indicated where it is placed on the floor. It appears that the images were set down by levels of understanding. The simpler, near the front of the church, gaining in increased symbology and complexity as one nears the altar.
After visiting each of these places, there was a visible impact on the work produced. What does it all mean? I am not sure yet. It will come. What I do know is that the reference to the female is not obviously done. While the male presence is obvious, the female seems to be referenced and revered and is suggested through the senses.
The Cathedral dominates the old town. It sends out peals of joy, expectation and command. From early morning salutation at 7 am to the end of the day notification 12 hours later, it reminds residents and visitors of its presence and symbols.
Here are a few excerpts from the book “Perle del Salento”, published by SOSalentovacanze.com. It tells the story of the area in the south of Italy.
There is a shrine to the Otranto Martyrs (more to come). This is a visual reminder of steadfast faith, a belief in a higher power for all to see.
Those who come to Otranto can not be but affected by its sublime energies. I’ve said it’s a different world here, and it is. It is in the land, in the sea. Its very existence is primal, and pure, and authentic. The connections to a higher plane, in my opinion, is strong and tangible. This has definitely had an impact on my work here. If you are open, you can feel it. It’s wonderful.
I am still processing what these images mean. Once that is done, they will have titles. So far they are experiences and a record of existence.
There is a strong sense of identity here. People appear to know who they are. The rest of the world exists, but it does not seem to touch them.
Here are a few excerpts from the book “Perle del Salento”, published by SOSalentovacanze.com. It tells the story of the area in the south of Italy. Thousands of years though can not be put in one or two paragraphs, but it becomes clear that this area has a strong history from megaliths, dolmen and menhirs to current religious bent. But there is an undercurrent that I am feeling that leads me to believe the old gods are not dead, that there is a co-existence of beliefs, that it is in the south of Italy where the spirits of the air and sea join with those of the earth and fire.
June 4th, the first Monday was our trip to Lecce (pronounced Lay’ cheh) and to the art supply store. It was a beautiful walk around the city centre to the ancient Roman ruins, and the Renaissance Duomo. Barry was not at the first trip, but he was at the second time I was there, so I took pictures with him:
I am not much of a church person, but the architecture was wonderful, the places people lived, again was stunning. Old balconies, palaces that have been turned in to flats, the history, the feelings, the eminence of life and living, souls who were trapped or who chose to stay. The streets were quiet when we went, as it was still the quiet time of the day where people did not go outside.
Dinner was at Alle Due Corti, and was grand, I thought. Many dishes were passed around, appetizers of zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, red pepper, so much! Then there was the actual dinner of pasta and vegetables. I have no idea the names of them, but the Italians certainly know how to cook!