In October of last year, I began this suite of paintings at our Shed in Wisconsin. The work was shipped back to my studio in NYC. As the pandemic unfolded, this suite of work also grew. It now numbers over 30. From January 3 to February 7, 2021, the Plaxall Gallery at 5-25 46th Ave., L.I.C, NY 11101, will host a solo exhibition of this work. A reception will take place on Saturday, January 9, 2021, from 12-5pm. With respect for Covid best practices, please make a reservation when you plan to visit. All visitors must wear a mask. In-person viewing times are Fridays, 6-9pm; Saturdays and Sundays, 12-5pm. Go here to get a free timed ticket.
This suite marks a change: produced with an initial layer of Venetian plaster, these pieces are more spontaneous, with less pigment on their surfaces. They retain a link to the body of gilded work in that each is ringed with a precious metal. Recalling work from the Renaissance in which gilded areas marked the sacred qualities of various personas, these gilded rings also enclose the paintings. They function as a distinctive marking, a nod toward the metaphysical.
Matter and spirit. These two entities have a long history of being deeply intertwined, and for good reason. As we engage with the world around us, we also sense something more than what our eyes can see. What that other dimension is has been the subject of many explorations in verbal language – poetry, philosophy, metaphysics – as well as in the visual language of art.
That other dimension is rarely visible. Finding a way to translate that into visual language has been an essential commitment in my work as an artist. What the Light Saw is a tribute to the restless shifting of light and energy. The other dimensions, other understanding present in this work are strengthened through the accompanying poetry, and the imagination it calls us to. The work embodies that aspect which carries us to the delineation, and unification between matter and spirit.
|By W. S. Merwin|
|Now in the blessed days of more and less
when the news about time is that each day
there is less of it I know none of that
as I walk out through the early garden
only the day and I are here with no
before or after and the dew looks up
without a number or a present age
What the Light Saw II
The light saw
light and dark
it saw these two tumbling,
turning, and sometimes
The light thought
in poetic terms
set things up
in cycles, repetitive
but with variation
The light didn’t want
it wanted to be
present in whatever
whim it desired
so it might shimmer
in someone’s consciousness
enough for perception to fail,
to ignite fire deeper in the
The light saw
gravity and time
the cloak of invisibility;
knew what fun
naughtiness always is
because, after all
rules are definitive
give form just
-Karen Fitzgerald, 10.2019
What You Cannot Hold
You who let yourselves feel: enter the breathing
that is more than your own.
Let it brush your cheeks
as it divides and rejoins behind you.
Blessed ones, whole ones,
you where the heart begins:
You are the bow that shoots the arrows
and you are the target.
Fear not the pain. Let its weight fall back
into the earth;
for heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.
The trees you planted in childhood have grown
too heavy. You cannot bring them along.
Give yourselves to the air, to what you cannot hold.
- Sonnets to Orpheus I, 4
Rainer Maria Rilke
by W.S. Merwin
All day the stars watch from long ago
my mother said I am going now
when you are alone you will be all right
whether or not you know you will know
look at the old house in the dawn rain
all the flowers are forms of water
the sun reminds them through a white cloud
touches the patchwork spread on the hill
the washed colors of the afterlife
that lived there long before you were born
see how they wake without a question
even though the whole world is burning
THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings. -Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89). From Poems, 1918
It was a riverside meadow, lush, from before the hay harvest,
On an immaculate day in the sun of June.
I searched for it, found it, recognized it,
Grasses and flowers grew there familiar in my childhood.
With half-closed eyelids I absorbed luminescence.
And the scent garnered me, all knowing ceased.
Suddenly I felt I was disappearing and weeping with joy.
by Patrick Kavanagh
Green, blue, yellow and red-
God is down in the swamps and marshes
Sensational as April and almost incred-
ible the flowering of our catharsis.
A humble scene in a backward place
Where no one important ever looked
The raving flowers looked up in the face
Of the One and the Endless, the Mind that has baulked
The profoundest of mortals. A primrose, a violet,
A violent wild iris- but mostly anonymous performers
Yet an important occasion as the Muse at her toilet
Prepared to inform the local farmers
That beautiful, beautiful, beautiful God
Was breathing His love by a cut-away bog.
Follow this link to watch a video about this project: I walk you through the exhibition and discuss the work in relation to the poetry posted within the exhibition.
On Friday, January 15, 2021 at 7pm a zoom conversation took place. Queens Poet Laureate, Maria Lisella, Academy of American Poets Fellow https://poets.org/poet/maria-lisella and Richard Lewis, Director of the Touchstone Center for Children, Touchstonecenter.net, joined with me to discuss how words and images are deeply interconnected. The conversation ran about 98 minutes, and included audience input in the latter half: you can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zw09R4AJgW4
Here is the exhibition checklist: a listing of all works with pricing.
This project is made possible with funds from the Decentralization program a re-grant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and administered by the Queens Council on the Arts.
Thank you also to Deborah Barlow, Susan Weiman, and Mary Zehngut for support and assistance.