Upon Visiting Alice Neel

These are the strange things we encounter.  Worlds we didn’t know were there.  Moods that turn.  We are encouraged to share what we create, yet when we promote our work we are labeled self-serving.

My friend is a painter in the old-fashioned sense, painting portraits, and so will never be recognized for her work because it is too old-fashioned, all the real painters abstractionists.  But she does it anyway, filling her small apartment with these portraits, searching for freedom but never finding it, in her words, the only work there is. 

Art is the search, she says, and it lightens my mood which has been dark for days.  How is it that an idea, a flash of words, changes the chemistry and suddenly, we can write again or breathe or whatever, when any number of platitudes offered by friends could not break through, but I sat, heavy. 

Or is it that at that time of night, after so many days of gray and a cup of wine and a note, that an eruption of molecules just happened to coincide with the utterance from Alice, and suddenly I am back to work again and what seemed impossible is now possible, what seemed ravaged now appears whole, what was so thin, now again full?

There is only one way to deal with this thicket of greedy thought that wants only to compare and lambast and pout and that is to turn away from it and to keep up the search, as Alice says, the only work there is. 


  1. Funny that I just emailed you about how much I liked your drawing style, and then along comes one of those drawings. So nice! What you wrote here about art is pretty much the same thing I read this morning about writing, written almost a couple hundred years ago by the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Writing was the only thing that brought him happiness. Luckily you have art — and music — and writing. And sharing. Thanks again.

    1. Thank you, Barbara for putting me in such good company! The problem is, I suppose always the same, no matter who you are, or when you live, that dire sensation of being stuck. Wishing you abundant flow. . . .