Commissioned murals at Linfield College, McMillville, Oregon 2006
PDF of artist statement
Brinded Arc, 96" x 151" acrylic on canvas
Artist's Notes and Remarks
Regarding the dedication of a pair of two new large-scale paintings for Linfield College
It is my hope that the pair of paintings created and hereby permanently loaned* to the Linfield community for Melrose Hall entitled Brinded Arc (the largest) and Rampant Arch (over the steps) might focus attention on the recently renovated Ice Auditorium, and coincidentally create a sense of place, and a warm, even luminous greeting for those first passing through the front portal.
Arc, Arch, and Milton: The arch was adopted as a motif in reference to existing architectural features. It was also chosen because I find the form uplifting to paint, allowing broad sweeping gestures and, importantly, a soaring armature on which to hang the sort of cellularized and layered complexity I most love to paint. The word arc comes to us in part from old English via old French, meaning bow and the path of the sun, from horizon to horizon. Dynamic asymmetrical arches in architecture are known as rampant arches. The term rampant, in the sense of luxuriant exuberance, intrigued me as I worked, especially when I found this passage from John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) in Book IV, from line 466, which deals with Creation mythology:
“And rampant shakes his brinded mane: the ounce,
The Libbard, and the tiger, as the mole
Rising, the crumbled earth above them threw
In hillocks: the swift stag from under ground
Bore up his branching head; scarce from his mould
Behemoth, biggest born of earth, upheaved
His vastness; fleeced the flocks and bleating rose...”
I found added pleasure in noting the mention of brinded (or brindled) referring to grey, mottled surfaces, much like the duotone grisaille grey–scale palette I used in this work.
Golden Mean: Brinded Arc was structured using geometry based on the golden mean or ratio, 1:1.61803399, drawn on the floor of my studio using simple and ancient geometric construction methods including the Egyptian 3:4:5 right triangle and charcoal snap lines common to field carpenters even today. As has been common practice since the Renaissance, the various subdivisions one may create based on the golden proportion provide subliminal structure and impart (it is believed) near mystical harmony consistent with the famed phi and Fibonacci numerical series discovered to permeate aspects of biological morphology. Though I had not planned to leave visible evidence of the underlying geometry in the painting, in process I elected to do so. Given the nature of the college, a bridge linking art, mathematics, and science is especially interesting to me.
Pareidolia: As seems unavoidable, the sort of non–representational, organic fields I love to paint invariably and seemingly without my control provide opportunities for viewers to imagine they see figurative images, like the clowns, faces, or parades of elephants we “saw” in the clouds as kids—or images of the Virgin in a burned tortilla discovered by the devout. No less than Leonardo gazed at water stains on the ceiling for inspiration. This phenomenon is properly called pareidolia. As I rule, I don’t look for such things as I work, though I find delight in what others see. I can’t categorically deny the possibility that on some subconscious level I intend them. Still, they are more reflective of the observer’s imagination than my artistic intent. All interpretations are therefore valid. I claim only to provide the prima materia.
Acknowledgments: This project was developed in consultation with Dr. Thomas Hellie President of Linfield College, Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs/Dean of Faculty Barbara Seidman, Vice President for College Relations Bruce Wyatt, and Dean of Enrollment Services Dan Preston. Facilities Services Senior Director John Hall, Associate Director Ron Ponto, and especially master craftsman and Building Maintenance Supervisor Rick Carruth also played important roles in the realization of the project. Important critical and sometimes encouraging comments were offered by colleagues Professors Nils Lou and Brian Winkenweder, President Emerita Dr. Vivian Bull, artists John Gregory, Shaun Jarvis, Hal Case and some very perceptive and encouraging art students. I owe special thanks to my wife, artist Carmen Borrasé, and my sons for inspiring me and for bearing with my fevered enthusiasm during September and October as I sought to complete the work in time for the unveiling. Finally, I must acknowledge the help and love of my eleven year–old son Joel and sixteen year–old son Ruben whose sharp eyes, physical help, and frank comments I value so much. And to you, dear viewer, through whose eyes the work is finally completed.
Unveiled and dedicated: November 1, 2006
*As long as the work is on display.