In Preparation of Leaving Home: The transitional year of 1985 was both horridly bad and rapturously beautiful, or at least it began as the latter and ended as the former. I will not go into details, but I had to delay applying for graduate school because I waited too late in the year to apply. (Where one does not seek counsel, counsel is not given.) I describe this summer indirectly in the first chapter of Icarus Transfigured (do not mistake the three prologues for the first chapter).
To speak frankly about my apprehension that long year, one can see it in the paintings. Whether flowingly romantic or borderline psychotic, they show a young man with something to prove: If he could have raised his fortunes through a quantity of brushstrokes alone, he would have calmed his mind about the unknown journey ahead.
Works between college and graduate school (1985-86).
Cloud Shadows (oil) 1985. I sold this painting through the Alice Bingham Gallery in Memphis, Tennessee, which was located in a neighborhood that is now regarded as the Cooper-Young Art District. At this time, there was no such designation, and Alice pretty much had the only viable gallery in town. Had the Memphis art scene been more developed in the mid 80s, I might have moved back home. Alice was a booster and a supporter and, being a genteel Southern woman, was kinder to my uneven artwork than it deserved. However, this was a very good painting.
As I state in the notes pertaining to the history of my comics, I have never been one to understand the significance of encouragement. Robert Fogelman, part of The Board of Directors for the Brooks Art Museum, brought one of my three-dimensional paintings right out of undergraduate school (mentioned previously). This was far from discouraging, I now realize, but the gloominess of that year gave me little sound reason.
When all else fails, go to graduate school.
Larry Edwards, my advisor at the University of Memphis, was instrumental in getting me into Indiana University’s graduate painting program, which was then rated as one of the five best painting programs in the country. Larry was also a supporter, and I wished I had bent his ear on what courses of financial support were available to me upon completing my BFA degree in Memphis. Had I been able to see my way to do it, there may have been little cause to go to graduate school. This, however, is water under the bridge, and I have nothing in my life to compare to the rich experience I took away from IU.
Moonstones (acrylic collage on canvas) 1985. This work was later destroyed because of its thick inflexible collage elements. A lot of sentiment went into making this piece, but little was left ot save it.
Further Alienation (oil and acrylic) 1985. This canvas has the dubious distinction of being the largest artwork I have ever created. Lantern Coffin, see at the bottom of this page, is the second largest.
Further Alienation (detail). The color-coded bees will be recalled from my Op Art painting from the previous page. The lamp here is quite good, as is the acoustic guitar on the other side of the canvas. One of the pitfalls of being a young artist is not being able to see where you are good and where you are bad. The lamp was a particular object of fascination, whereas finishing touches in other regions of the painting are inexcusable slapdash. Slapdash, in and of itself, is not always a bad thing; inconsistency always is.
Further Alienation (detail). The female anatomy in this painting is painful to look at. I have touched up lighting effects on the body in Photoshop. The monsters framing her are arguably some of my best painting.
Triptych in Blue (oil, acrylic, and collage) 1986. One of many self portraits. This one is unapologetically blue.
Triptych in Blue (detail)
Lantern Coffin (oil and acrylic) 1986
Lantern Coffin (detail)
The Making of An Artist: I will not dispute Malcolm Gadwell’s benchmark 10,000 hour rule, where 10,000 hours of practice are required before a level of achievement is obtained. (This is what separates the extraordinary from the merely proficient.) I have doubtless logged in as many hours in several of my pursuits, but to claim extraordinary status would be immodest and off-putting. Indeed, in the first version of my website, I proclaimed my genius to the world, which may have been premature where 10,000 hours were needed just to learn the imprudence of that remark.
I do, however, believe in genius. Arthur Schopenhauer said: “Talent hits a mark that others cannot hit, while genius hits a mark that others cannot see.” The world is not only incapable of seeing what geniuses see, but it cannot value it even in being made factually aware of it. Resultantly, the term is reserved for sports figures and mathematical child prodigies because these outliers are more readily identified in the culture at large. My definition is boarder. It includes artists, composers, and writers of original thinking. As Sherlock Holmes declared: “Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, while talent instantly recognizes genius!”*
You might construe this obscure topic as a roundabout compliment of myself, and you might be right. Yet all I wish to underscore is my work ethic. Schopenhauer said that he would not have been capable of achieving all he achieved if he did not have private wealth that enabled him to pursue his life’s work to the exclusion of all else. I do not have wealth, but my autistic disability, which denies me practical organization and a working memory, has afforded a safety net entitlement that, in earlier epochs, would have made my creative life impossible. Like Schopenhauer, I never married or had children. I have so few friends that it is fair to say that I have none. Beyond the 10,000 hours, there are these points to consider: not as sacrifices but as necessities of a peculiar life. Autism is perhaps an essential part of this equation, but I already verged on praising my outsiderism too much by raising this subject too often.
*This is not always true. From my reading I have ascertained the following: Goethe did not grasp Schopenhauer’s genius; Schopenhauer did not grasp Wagner’s genius; Wagner did not grasp Nietzsche’s genius.
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