My friend Steve is fighting cancer. I won’t expand, but among his friends we’ve all been worried about financial resources. This came to a point tonight when he invited me down to his studio. He pulled out several pieces that he had been working on before his illness sidelined him, and offered me my pick at a bargain-basement discount.
Completely floored, I kept on digging. Painting after painting reflected the culmination the I extolled previously in Designed, Seen, Felt, Expressed. It wasn’t just the landscapes – it’s also showing up in his paintings of tribal women.
Steve had a fascination for Native American culture in his childhood, and recently traced it to a prior life. The tribal experience of immersion in the natural world goes beyond the sensory perceptions. It includes awareness of the powerful interconnectedness of things. From that root he also carries a deep sense of the injustice that European culture has wreaked upon the natural world.
The work I saw tonight threads the needle between representation and abstraction. Through color contrasts and plastic layering, he vitality and energy of the natural world seem to leap off the canvas – and yet delicate washes and luminous backgrounds preserve the sense of ecological harmony and balance.
Yin and Yang. Masculine and Feminine. Design and Expression.
The problem was evident when another friend showed up. She immediately pointed to a boat picture on the wall, the most concrete representation. I praised that work when Steve put it on display, but it’s a confrontation with nature, not an awed celebration. She didn’t seem to recognize that power in his recent work.
Will others? Can Steve explain it to them?
In the end, I couldn’t buy anything. The works need to be seen, and I don’t have a place for that appreciation to occur. Those that are incomplete need to be finished.
They bear witness to the relationships that our artificial reality has sundered. They prepare us to process the intensity of the natural world when it must be confronted. They celebrate its beauty and honor its power.
If we do not integrate those truths into the manner of our living, none of us will survive. Steve: we need your witness!