Morning Flash

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It’s happened again.

Through the blind, a sliver of light.

I’m lying awake with the darkness of that time

trying to pull me back under.

Like Poisedon ready to quake, ready to hurtle the sea at my enemy.

Though, like Prometheus I cannot see.

My eyes, stolen by beasts.

When I try to recall it all

I recoil inward with force so strong

that even memories cannot escape.

Bleach white flashes of light,

 A sunrise at my southernmost point,

Just enough for my third eye

To exhume frozen moments of clarity.

It’s happened again. I’ve awakened with ideas I didn’t ask for without coffee first.

I’ve talked a lot in this blog about not knowing how to move forward. This is a constant in my creative life and one I’ve learned to embrace because of moments like this morning. I woke up and, between dream and movement, answers to my questions came in flashes.

In my last blog post, Suspended Still, I intimated that moving forward I would like to continue with the scroll format, but that the works should keep transforming. Or rather, the process used to make them should keep transforming.  What I am seeing in my mind is something more sculptural and this morning’s flash offered a way forward. I don’t know why or what I had been dreaming about, but I awoke to visions of carving rubber….stamps I think. I was then lead to rubber in general and then a vision of molds was offered and I think that this might be the way forward because I really want to work both sides of the paintings now. I’ve also had the vision for a week or so of making a series of paintings that, because both sides are finished and are probably quite different, they cannot be displayed flat against a wall but must be displayed suspended in a space.

It’s happened before. I woke up one morning last winter with the notion of the third eye and, with a seed planted by peer and colleague Robin Perry Dana, developed an entire show around shaped panels for Gallery 221.

I’m not sure why, but I also received the poem this morning. I really liked the sad notion of a past experience being so gravitationally black that even memories cannot escape.

Suspended still

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There is no more time…

This grant project turned on me midship and overturned my best laid plans.

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I was talking to Ry McCollough in the hallway at the University of Tampa after this ship wreck. I don’t usually blurt out what I’m thinking of doing until I’ve given it a lot of thought, cause then I might have to do it. But I was excited to tell him since he was on the panel that awarded me the grant. Suddenly all was crystal clear.

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There are holes in Space-Time. Space-Time is a verb, not a noun. Or rather, Space-Time is movement, not a thing that moves. Movement is past, present and future. Future unknown and past forgotten – holes in Space-Time. Holes are filled with stories that dimensionalize who we were and who we want to be and help us know who we are. Stories harden into knowledge over Space-Time and we pass this knowledge along with symbols that float before our eyes like shadows on the water.

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Knowledge is Kintsugi. Immaterial and precious. Be aware the Kintsugi you fill your holes with. Kintsugi is neither OR nor VS, it is AND that binds ALL together when it breaks. And it will break.

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I listened to my intuition and recalled my past. I didn’t know where to go, so I listened and was reminded that snakes shed their skin. And they did.

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It told me to bury the snakes deeper and deeper until I could only just hear their ancient hiss, like some cosmic background radiation that only intimates its own origins. The serpents transformed from Causa Prima to Causa Sui, First Summer then Fall then Winter then Spring. Finally I am able to write with shadows made of gold and continue my meditations upon infinite unfolding – Backward and Forward, Inward and Outward – upon breathing.

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There is no time…every time I slip behind, I remind myself – you do not have time. The wonderful thing about aging and having less time is gaining space to maneuver and confidence in one’s compass.

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I listen to my intuition now, but I hesitate to tell you. It tells me that the work must be less pictorial and more thing-in-itself. That it must be thicker, heavier yet somehow more fragile. Edges frayed and searching, center aged and confident. Suspended still. Surface built from both back and front. Find the time, make the space.

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SQUIRMA

Squirma is what I silently called the hurricane in the week preceding its arrival. Silently so that its guiding goddess would not hear me and reign destruction upon our household. Our psychologist friends probably have a term for what I was doing. In renaming, even mocking, the oncoming danger I was trying to ease my anxiety.

Whether one stayed or evacuated, we all handled our anxiety in different ways. It was very disconcerting to be able to see its every move, every day, yet still be unsure what its path would be until hours beforehand.

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My family decided to stay, but also made preparations to evacuate to a local shelter should it take the worst possible route up the west coast and into Tampa Bay. We utilized every piece of plywood we could find, including the pieces that were sheathing Vera’s playhouse.

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And including the pieces onto which my newest works, Kintsugi Scrolls, were being prepared.

I had to dismantle them. A couple of the works still bear the scars of being hastily removed. My many thanks to Nancy Niss and her incredible skill for being able to hide the scars.

Irma brought up some very important issues for me. As an artist who makes work on wood panel and whose inventory is composed of pieces mainly exceeding 4 ft. in dimension, I cannot quickly transport anything. I keep all of my pieces in my studio, wrapped in plastic.

During the run up to the hurricane, I worried about our roofs. Our house is poured concrete and essentially a bunker. We are high and dry at 53’ above sea level. But a Cat 4 or 5 don’t care about none of that. Especially the studio roof since it has open eaves.

So, as we diligently prepared as a family, I did come to terms with and accept the possibility of total loss of 5 years of work. I am very proud of the paintings I’ve made and wish more than anything that they will be acquired for either private or public collection. But, the physical objects have been made, exhibited, and received by my community and while their loss would be sad for me, what I chose to remember and cherish were all of the relationships and friendships that were a result of those journeys.

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Another issue that came up for me was the portability of sacred objects in our distant past. As the impending apocalypse approached, I wondered what purpose art would serve in times of survivalism and what form that art would take. If art carries the symbols of our most sacred experiences, does it need to be 6 x 8ft? Should I refocus my effort on making work that is mobile and portable?  Or should I just cross that bridge when I come to it?

LOSING MY PERMANENCE

Do I dare admit it? That I have just delivered for exhibition the best paintings I have ever made, yet they still fall short of the type of perfection that the "best" normally indicates? That I am confounded about the path forward and perplexed about what to retain and what to eject?

I have been privileged to receive the mentorship of Jason Hackenwerth during this grant period and dialogue with him has been critical to my latest unfolding.

inflatable sculpture by Jason Hackenwerth, from the MEGAMITES series

inflatable sculpture by Jason Hackenwerth, from the MEGAMITES series

At our first meeting, I mentioned that I wanted to bury the serpentine forms deeper into the paintings I was making without completely losing them. I wanted them to operate in the background like some hidden cosmic force. He mentioned Structuralism and I recoiled a bit because I suddenly realized that despite my best efforts to move away from Dualism, Opposition, Contrasting Notions and Determinism, I have retained the core idea of the existence of something in the background determining the course of events, a cosmic director, that implies that we are fated to certain ends.

No, this would not do. What should I cut out? What part of my art should I eject? And the only answer is that it must be the Cosmic Director visual metaphor – the serpentine forms that I have been working with for 5 years.

Or…

I could shift my perspective and keep the forms and imbue them with new purpose and meaning. Kintsugi repairing a broken notion. Perhaps they could instead act as an initial condition that helps to generate the unfolding of THE PAINTING ON HAND, rather than a universal metaphor running through the entire Exit Music series. The important difference between the idea of a Cosmic Genitor and an initial condition is that the condition changes, disappears, is not infinite or omniscient or sentient. It arises itself through the interaction of origins preceding it. Initial conditions are not permanent.

Kintsugi is the ancient Japanese tradition of fixing broken ceramics with lacquer, dusted with precious metal powder, and falls in line with the general notion of wabi sabi, the embrace of transience and imperfection. During and after my recovery from addiction, I embraced imperfection not for any spiritual reason, but as a method to evade stress vis-à-vis the disproportionate demands of my own expectations, which was a huge trigger for me.

The practice of Kintsugi is unequivocally relatable. How many times have I been broken and put back together? Who helped fix my cracks and what did we fill them with?

For the past 5 years I’ve been increasingly obsessed with knowing the nature of Space-Time and this pursuit has really been a veiled method to embrace the other half of wabi sabi, my own transient impermanence. I have been admittedly faulty in doing so, since the forms always turn out to be metaphors for some hidden, universal, and by implication, permanent, force.

The serpentine forms in my newest paintings have shed their skin, transformed from metaphors for pan-universal “forces” into localized initial conditions. And as we know from our very recent experience with Hurricane Irma, local conditions can redirect and reshape the most powerful of forces. As the saying goes, “When a butterfly flaps its wings…”

Wrong

Let's start with a farce: Monolithicism

Space-time is something we think of as one continuous, undulating, plane. As children and into adulthood, we believe that space and time are to be thought of separately. X+Y+Z dimensions plus T as a fourth, and kind of illusive dimension, because Time is relative. So we have 4 dimensions: 3 measurable with physical units and one measurable with temporal, abstract units that together tell us the size and movement of a thing. 

Past adulthood, we learn about fractal self-similarity, which is a maths/science speak for an ancient, intuitive knowledge relating the apparent "sameness" of things to the great variety of things across vastly different scales in the universe. Pursued further, we see that it is not the thing that is similar, but the process by which the thing "becomes" that is similar. Take the general notion of Waves, for instance, and we can go even further and see that the universe is one great giant place of energy transfer.

So when we arrive here, we have to ask ourselves: Why are we are? As part of the universe, what energy are we to transfer?

I am looking towards a deeper understanding of Space-Time by regarding it not as one potentially infinite Monolith that constantly changes, but rather as a collection of self-similar Polyliths that act in the same Space and Time as each other so as to produce the effect of "ONENESS". Unity is an illusion.

In a sense they fill in each other. Space-Time, as a function of humanoid memory, is full of cracks and space and holes...Holes in Space-Time. We fill those holes with stories, and those stories become knowledge and after measurement we allow them to become Truth. And Truth becomes ONENESS.

I read today that the Universe is not physical but is rather immaterial Information....While initially exciting and intriguing because of the idea's relationship to our modern notions and desires surrounding the Universe as Machine, I reject this notion for the simple fact that I do, and you do, EXPERIENCE the world in a physical way. YET, we can EXPRESS our experience of the world through word, number and letter....or, information. 

Again, the notion of determinism strikes our fancy strongest. Reception, Perception, Experience, Expression, Action, Ritualization. Layers of Space-Time all here dancing before us so romantically that we perceive them as ONE...One beautiful, deftly dodging, sexually swaying, deeply staring, a taking in and yelling out, a bursting pregnant moment that was surely meant to be as it was revealed to us.

But there is always something missing, something we must fill, something we must know, something we must explain and even sometimes ignore.

To this I say that Knowledge is a self-similar layer of Space-Time and that its holes, rips and tears are filled by a type of similarly immaterial Kintsugi. Our most ancient, intuitive knowledge has deep gutted holes that are being filled by contemporary scientific and a-scientific information. Our deepest, longest, most historically experienced AS A SPECIES knowledge has giant holes and can often be completely wrong because over time, things break, they crack, they fall, they smash.

And as a species, a provocatively intelligent species, we are in the position to shape the reconstruction of Knowledge as Space-Time. What shall we fill those holes and crack in with?

Knowledge is Kintsugi. Certainly we would wish to use the most durable and beautiful of materials to fill in our holes. Gold or Silver comes to mind. But perhaps we would prefer to use the poetry of those transformed by an idea, or better yet, by their own personal experience.

I have a very close friend, who I have not revealed my fraternal love for, whose family is considering a very serious loss. There is a crevice between us, one that can only be hinted at, lest we dig too deep and either of us is destroyed by invasiveness. A mining of clay rich to the tongue, however ironically, since the truest gold may lie underneath. There are chasms that can only be filled by the shiniest of metals, if only they could be reached. 

There are Holes in Space-Time

Exit Music #60 (Lost in Translation), acrylic on canvas, 24" x 18", on view at Gallery Girasol, Kitakyushu-shi, Japan. "East Meets West" organized by Noriko Kuehn and hosted by Shunji Shinkai

Exit Music #60 (Lost in Translation), acrylic on canvas, 24" x 18", on view at Gallery Girasol, Kitakyushu-shi, Japan. "East Meets West" organized by Noriko Kuehn and hosted by Shunji Shinkai

Headed east in my mind

All Possibilities

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then suddenly south with a red light ahead

where am I going? should I stop?

There are tears and rips

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memories lost forever filled with pictures and words

a crevice however adorned is still a crevice

Kintsugi http://mymodernmet.com/kintsugi-kintsukuroi/

Kintsugi http://mymodernmet.com/kintsugi-kintsukuroi/

Why should we not be content to leave the void empty?

https://www.algabeth.ro/materiale/granit/granit-black-galaxy/

https://www.algabeth.ro/materiale/granit/granit-black-galaxy/

Nathan Beard

Nathan Beard was awarded a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Colorado State University in 2001 and then worked in galleries and as an Art Consultant in Denver, CO for seven years. He grew up on a dairy farm in western New York. Prior to his university studies, Nathan lived in Egypt for one year as an exchange student and, upon his return, worked as a cowboy in Wyoming for two years. Nathan currently maintains a studio in St. Petersburg, FL, where he lives with his wife and six year old daughter. His work is represented in Pinellas County by ARTicles Art Gallery (St. Petersburg, FL). Nathan also serves as Curatorial Assistant at Dunedin Fine Art Center and as Preparator at Scarfone/Hartley Gallery, University of Tampa.

Recent solo and two-person exhibitions include Left to Right, Howard W. Blake School of the Arts (Tampa, FL) 2017; BROAD SPECTRUM, Highlands Museum of Art (Sebring, FL) 2017; Pond’s Edge, Museum of Coastal Carolina (Ocean Isle Beach, NC) 2016; Confluence of Origins, Gallery 221, Hillsborough Community College – Dale Mabry (Tampa, FL) 2016; Surface Tension (with Nin McQuillen), ARTicles Art Gallery and Custom Framing (St. Petersburg, FL) 2015; Illuminated Silence (with Ya la’Ford), Dunedin Fine Art Center (Dunedin, FL) 2015.

Recent group exhibitions include Skyway: A Contemporary Collaboration, Tampa Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts (St. Petersburg, FL), and John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art (Sarasota, FL) 2017; 8th All-Media Juried Biennial, Art & Culture Center/Hollywood (Hollywood, FL) 2017; Bay Life Art Exhibit, Tampa Bay Watch (Tierra Verde, FL) 2017; YES!, curated by Chad Mize, STUDIO@620 (St Petersburg, FL) 2016; Leave a Message, curated by Tes One, Morean Arts Center (St. Petersburg, FL) 2015.

Recent curatorial activities include CONSTRUCT: 16 Tampa Bay artists whose work speaks to the ways in which we build our world, Gallery AIA (Tampa, FL) and Centre Gallery (University of South Florida, Tampa, FL) 2017; WorkingTitle: Inaugural Exhibit (15 Tampa Bay artists curated from the pages of WorkingTitle, produced and edited by Michael Crabb), presented in partnership by ARTicles Art Gallery and the Staybridge Suites (St. Petersburg, FL), 2017.

Nathan anticipates using the grant funds in myriad ways, mainly to demonstrate and fund all aspects of an exemplary instance of collaboration between artist, gallery, designer, developer and arts organization. He has recently been contacted by a designer who is developing interiors for a large development in St. Petersburg. They have asked about reproducing Nathan’s work at a very large scale for the lobby atrium. He is currently developing a mock-up for their approval and the piece he’s creating for the Creative Pinellas Group Show in October will serve as the piece to be reproduced. If the developer decides to pursue Nathan’s work for the project, he will be blogging about the entire process as part of his grant obligations. Nathan also intends to use the grant funds to set up and run his studio/professional art services as a business and to make minor repairs to studio lighting.