Guessing Where that Painting Was Painted

Here's a painting I shipped north yesterday to Edgewater Gallery in Vermont for their Featured Artist show for December (Dec. 1- 31). There's a public reception Saturday Dec. 4 from 5 - 7 p.m. Any readers of this blog are especially welcome to come by and say hello. This one is Trees at Lake Conroe, oil on canvas, 42 x 28".

Inevitably when people really respond to one of my paintings at an opening reception they come up to me a little excited and announce they know exactly the spot where the piece was painted. I'm always temped to tell them "You're right." Because in a real sense they are.

Let me explain. A painting is a little like a springy trampoline for one's imagination and memory. In all of us both those capacities tend to get rusty and need to get provoked back into action. That's where the art part comes in. If my painting is really well painted it is saying something important to the viewer using the unique language of shapes and color chords. Form and color affect us in ways that aren't logical and rational. They seem to speak to the deeper layers of our personality. They are particularly good at expressing emotions and memories that are difficult to put into words.

Think for a minute how often your emotions and memory have been triggered by unexpectedly hearing a song from back in your teenage years. You temporarily lose yourself into the images and feeling the song calls up in you. What's important is that a particular song takes each person to a place and time that's unique to their own life. My wife Alice is pulled back to her earlier years in the Bronx. I go back to upstate New York where I was a boy or to Ohio or Indiana where I did college. You have your own places.

Painting is more like music than not. It reaches into the mysterious corridors of your psyche and hauls out some forgotten baggage for your recollection. I think we have an emotional need to do this re-visiting of our past experience. It's as if it isn't done with us.

If you come to the exhibit I'll be having at Edgewater Gallery, one of the things I'll be urging visitors to do is to look at the whole exhibit and pick out the piece that's their favorite. Then I'll tell them the piece they picked out is their self portrait. At first they're puzzled, but soon most people nod and agree the painting holds a particularly meaningful kernel about their inner lives.

So where was the oil Trees at Lake Conroe painted? In the literal sense, I began the painting in Texas about an hour north of Houston. But what really caused me to stop and paint this particular road was how much the place reminded me of my old driveway through the woods near Rochester, New York. One of the things I loved so much about where I grew up was the deep forest. A favorite memory is that of craning my neck to look up to see the light catching the tops of the trees. It seemed the trees were impossibly tall, so the canvas I chose to paint on had to be really vertical. For me it's more a painting of upstate New York than Texas. A lot of people walk around carrying beloved images like that in their heads. Where's yours?


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