oil on canvas 40" x 50"
"For all its charms, the island is uninhabited,
and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches
turn without exception to the sea.
As if all you can do here is leave
and plunge, never to return, into the depths.
Into unfathomable life."
From "Poems New and Collected," by Wisawa Szymborska
I've always thought that the island refered to in this poem stands for the world and our individual lives here. The evidence left behind for us seems to mark our way 'into the the depths' - perhaps death and what awaits us there. But then the whole idea of this plunge is rescued by the "unfathomable life" ending. So perhaps the poet is refering to birth or maybe the rebirth that occurs when one finally realizes we are only here to embrace it all and do what we can while we can.
This large painting of a rotting stump, deep in a wood, represents both sides of life - the obvious remnant of a large tree once standing here - but in its beautiful decomposing also the material of rebirth and life.
Once I was out painting in the field and someone came up behind and watched for a few moments and then commented something to the effect that 'while that's a nice painting, no one will ever want it'. I asked why she felt that way and she replied 'because there is a dead tree in it - noone wants to buy a dead tree in a painting'. I told her I hadn't even thought of it as a dead tree - it was a passage of a silvery blue-gray that fit with the composition and color scheme. She rolled her eyes and left - I left the tree where it was.
Early on the morning after I finished this large painting of this rotting stump - I was seized by the idea that I'd gone way over the top and that the painting was an empty exercise. I walked over to the studio in my slippers and realized what it was - the evidence of a week's worth of concentrated joy - joy made up of the color, the thick brushwork, the color, the space and form coming to life - all in concert to establish a moment that sums up the wondrous chaos and purpose of the cycles of life. Enjoy it if you will, and consider those scattered footprints that all lead to such a joyous plunge!