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Added: Sunday, December 1st 2019 at 12:11pm by JohnScherber
Category: About Me
Related Tags: writing, painting, language






            I’ve been doing more painting lately. I have a series of old wrecked cars rusting quietly into the soil of junkyards. I call it the Twentieth Century Sculpture group. It sounds quirky but it offers some wonderful opportunities in color and texture. One of them I even used on a book cover.



            Last month I was on vacation in Santa Fe and Taos, connecting with the vibrant art scene there. While there some dreary high-priced offerings of the kind I think of as New York Art Market Hype, there is also about as strong a collection of honest artwork as you will find in any area of that size in the world. I came back home to México inspired.

            One of the weaknesses of my own painting is foliage, and I have long avoided it. But there is a view of our yard that I have wanted to paint ever since we moved here two and a half years ago. So I started doing some studies of the trees and bushes and soon I’m going to take a run at it.



            Just in psyching myself up for this mentally I’ve been thinking about painting and what it is. What role it’s played in my life and in our history. As a cultural form it is archetypal. Many of the cave paintings in France are between 35,000 and 40,000 years old. A few things, like tool making, are older, but not many. Painting predates written language. As a human impulse, nothing so early still communicates with us so easily today. Is art therefore essential?

            My answer would be yes. As a writer I tend to think of language as a fundamental and basic feature of civilization. Certainly language precedes painting, but literature does not. I think of writing as a translation of speaking, and speaking as a translation of thinking. But painting is a translation of nothing. It is a unitary act that begins and ends with itself. It may come from the impulse to make magic, and magic is the source of religion.

            Jared Diamond, writing in his book, Guns, Germs and Steel, says that religion does not appear in human society until the chiefdom/state phase, which requires agriculture and a certain population density.

            Art is not like anything else. The fact that it appears so early testifies to its necessity in human development. At the period when the French cave paintings appeared there was no agriculture. The earth was entirely populated by hunter gatherers.




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