Monday, January 25, 2010

The Wilderness

Journal Entry, June 1863:
It seems appropriate that the Jones family farm is located in an area of Virginia called The Wilderness. I have wandered in that wilderness as the Buddha wandered, as Jesus wandered, as all pilgrims wander, walking towards and away from the light which is our life. When I was there at home, that light seemed to be a fire that one must stand back from; too close will burn a boy’s backside, like a woodstove after a bath. Now that light could be cities burning; now I see the light of distant fires, but cannot reach the flame. Perhaps, like the moth landing on my lantern; in one fine and final moment, I will disappear into that light.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Journal Entries

The Sesquicentennial Show will undoubtedly have a separate Journal, like my last exhibit, so I have started writing these journal entries that will give rise to the actual art. In this blog, the Journal Entries and Letters will be in italics to stand apart from my own thoughts, as I try to keep my own commentary separate from that of my characters. Below are examples of a journal entry and a letter home. After this all entries should be in chronological order.

Journal Entry, July 20,1862:
This home had been ransacked, burned, as had many of the surrounding houses, but scattered about were wonderful remnants, bleached bones of books, belonging to no one now. I carried as much as would fit in my saddlebags. Even the spine of an ancient volume of poetry seemed a treasure to this pilgrim from The Wilderness.

Letter Home, June 25, 1862:
Dearest Marianna,
The journey away from home has become much more than I imagined. There have been sights I hope you never see. I hope no one that comes into this world shall see the horrors that I have witnessed. Yet, there are people I have met, sights I have seen and lessons I have learned that are more beautiful than this pilgrim can describe. I shall never be the same boy that I was in the Wilderness. I am a part of all of this now; I am all of this now, and for always; in all ways.

As a courier, my horse and I must remain the fastest of the fleet; we travel quick; travel light. I have collected more books than I can carry, so I must bury my parcels of knowledge as my collection becomes unwieldy. Only you and my brother know this, and in the event that I do not return from this journey, only you two will know the locations of these parcels. Upon my person will be a list of latitudes, longitudes, and landmarks. Go there, if you wish to find them; if you wish to find me. What you find there will be a part of who I have become, who I am.

An immensely large battle waits tonight for its players to arrive at dawn. We may return, or we may completely extinguish a generation of boys; whichever it shall be, remember me to all you meet, for within their eyes, you shall see me smiling, and almost speechless in my love for you.

So, no more. I still remain
Yours until death,
and beyond that as well.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

On The Dead Line

Today I got a call from Diane Sibbison, the wonderful exhibits manager at Delaplaine, and she has scheduled my solo show for October, 2011. There it is; a deadline; I love deadlines, as they provide necessary focus. Oddly enough, that word DEADLINE originated as a real line, drawn in the dirt or marked by a fence or rail, restricting prisoners in Civil War camps. They were warned, "If you cross this line, you're dead." To make dead sure this important boundary was not overlooked, guards and prisoners were soon calling it by its own bluntly descriptive name, the dead line.

Shortly after that call from Diane, I could feel the reality of the project and started to flesh out my characters and the narrative of a story that never happened, and yet, happens every day.

I believe it was Albert Einstein’s pal, Johnny Wheeler that said, “Time is nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once, and space is what keeps everything from happening to me.” My story will be set in the 1860’s, yet it is happening to me right now, 150 years later. The feelings felt do not change; all is reduced to love or fear.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Today I started gathering artifacts to use in the Journals series. Whenever I start collecting visual artifacts, the narrative of the pieces starts to evolve quickly. I have always started any visual art project with an underlying story, even though that isn’t a necessary function of the design. It is simply my way of working. My training is that of an illustrator and even with an abstract piece, I have a back-story or, at the very least, a symbolism. I guess I will never be a minimalist.
Paul Simon said, “Maybe I think too much.” Left brain, right brain, it is my entire monkey mind, chattering away. Perhaps this year, I should take meditation more seriously. I‘ll think about it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Journals of The Blacksmith and The Beekeeper’s Boy

The Delaplaine Visual Arts Center has asked me to consider an exhibit commemorating the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War. The center will be working with Frederick, Maryland’s local museums and historical societies to produce programs to attract the tourists that will be in the region during the next five years visiting the battlefields of Maryland. These programs would connect the events of 150 years ago to what is happening in all aspects of the arts today.

More than twenty years ago, I spent a few years doing history painting, specifically Civil War paintings and am not interested in doing that again, but I am eager to create work that relates the life experience of 150 years ago to a very similar, but seemingly different experience today, so this project will not be about battles on the field; that has been well documented. This will be more about the thoughts of people on the verge of great change in the world.

As the Civil War was brewing, great minds such as Walt Whitman, Charles Darwin, Thomas Eakins, Arthur Schopenhauer, Lorenzo Langstroth and Mark Twain were expressing new ideas that would forever change our thinking. The world was about to move from the country to the city, from the farm to the factory, from nature to technology… 150 years later, the green movement longs to reverse that shift.

So here in 1860, we have young people preparing to leave their homes, most for the first time, as they went off to war, not only seeing new places, but being exposed to new ideas that would create an entirely new America.

At this point, I am planning a series of 24 collage pieces that follow a journey through the fictional journals of the blacksmith and the beekeeper’s boy, two Confederate Cavalry couriers during the American Civil War. The characters are based on Issac and James Walker Jones from The Wilderness of Spotsylvania County, Virginia who, along with several of my other ancestors, joined Company E, 9th Virginia Cavalry. While these two ancestors are real, the story and artifacts will be completely my own musings on the mid 19th century. This project is in its infancy, so it could change completely, and probably will. I hope this blog will keep my thoughts organized.