A work of art does not appeal to the intellect. It does not appeal to the moral sense. Its aim is not to instruct, not to edify, but to awaken an emotion.” - George Inness
“To be interested solely in technique would be a very superficicial thing to me. If I have an emotion, before I die, that's deeper than any emotion that I've ever had, then I will paint a more powerful picture that will have nothing to do with just technique, but will go beyond it.” - Andrew Wyeth
I paint for an emotion, or more specifically a feeling. A feeling in myself, and hopefully a feeling in my audience. The purpose of art is to make the viewer (and the creator) feel something. It is absolutely not to make the viewer “think” something. Art is not a medium of language, and therefore does not, can not, and will never serve philosophy. Art is not supposed to “say” anything. If there is a language of art, it is the language of feeling.
Feeling is the most profound, most noble, most exulted, and heavenly purpose art can serve. It is to the effect of a feeling both within myself and within my audience that I aspire.
Feeling is, in my definition, the bodily translation of a change of state, a change of consciousness. It is a modification of one’s personal energy to a different frequency, a different state. When I am outside painting directly from life I am in another state of mind all together, on a whole other wavelength. Nature harmonizes my emotions, my mind, and my inner energies. This state of harmony and “wakefulness” is actually a higher state of presence and aliveness. I achieve this state through my interaction with the sun, with nature, and through the very act of performing what excites, energizes, and fulfills me: the act of painting directly from life.
All of my paintings are created on location. Every single brush stroke is made while standing within the landscape of the subject. The sun beating down on my face, streaming through the glimmering, golden light of the leaves, the flowing sounds of water, the breezing rush of wind on my skin, the solid earth beneath me. All the elements of nature interact and hypnotize me in a profound state, the vibration of which enters into the paint itself.
The point is this: the energetic frequency of my state of awareness during the creation of my works is physically bound in the oil on the surface of the paintings, and it emanates from them. Therefore, to gaze upon these paintings is to enter into, and harmonize with the state I achieve while I work. The only way this can be experienced is within the mind, the body, and the heart of the viewer. It is experienced only ever as a feeling, a change of state of the observer. It is this feeling that is both the seed and the fruit of my work. As one of my teachers once said: “not everything can be explained, but everything can be experienced.”
Contemplating Art, by Ken Wilber
I am deeply interested in matters of Spirit. And to this concern my paintings are a narrative through my continuing inner unfoldment. I discovered this passage by Ken Wilber and I think it is the finest selection of words regarding art, its relationship to the spiritual, and its power to transform and enlighten. This passage points to an experience I strive to elicit with my work.
When I directly view, say, a great Van Gogh, I am reminded of what all superior art has in common: the capacity to simply take your breath away. To literally, actually, make you inwardly gasp, at least for that second or two when the art first hits you, or more accurately, first enters your being: you swoon a bit, you are slightly stunned, you are open to perceptions that you had not seen before. Sometimes, of course, it is much quieter than that: the work seeps into your pores gently, and yet you are changed somehow, maybe just a little, maybe a lot; but you are changed.
No wonder that for the East and West alike, until just recent times, art was often associated with profound spiritual transformation. And I don't mean merely "religious" or "iconographic" art.
Some of the great modern philosophers, Schelling to Schiller to Schopenhauer, have all pinpointed a major reason for great art's power to transcend. When we look at any beautiful object (natural or artistic), we suspend all other activity, and we are simply aware, we only want to contemplate the object. While we are in this contemplative state, we do not want anything from the object; we just want to contemplate it; we want it to never end. We don't want to eat it, or own it, or run from it, or alter it: we only want to look, we want to contemplate, we never want it to end.
In that contemplative awareness, our own egoic grasping in time comes momentarily to rest. We relax into our basic awareness. We rest with the world as it is, not as we want it to be. We are face to face with the calm, the eye in the center of the storm. We are not agitating to change things; we contemplate the object as it is. Great art has this power, this power to grab your attention and suspend it: we stare, sometimes awestruck, sometimes silent, but we cease the restless movement that otherwise characterizes our every waking moment.
It doesn't matter what the actual content of the art is; not for this. Great art grabs you, against your will, and then suspends your will. You are ushered into a quiet clearing, free of desire, free of grasping, free of ego, free of the self-contraction. And through that opening or clearing in your own awareness may come flashing higher truths, subtler revelations, profound connections. For a moment you might even touch eternity; who can say otherwise, when time itself is suspended in the clearing that great art creates in your awareness?
You just want to contemplate; you want it never to end; you forget past and future; you forget self and same. The noble Emerson: "These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God today. There is no time for them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or heedless of the riches that surround him, stand on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time."
Great art suspends the reverted eye, the lamented past, the anticipated future: we enter with it into the timeless present; we are with God today, perfect in our manner and mode, open to the riches and the glories of a realm that time forgot, but that great art reminds us of: not by its content, but by what it does in us: suspends the desire to be elsewhere. And thus it undoes the agitated grasping in the heart of the suffering self, and releases us - maybe for a second, maybe for a minute, maybe for all eternity - releases us from the coil of ourselves.
That is exactly the state that great art pulls us into, no matter what the actual content of the art itself - bugs or buddhas, landscapes or abstractions, it doesn't matter in the least. In this particular regard - from this particular context - great art is judged by its capacity to take your breath away, take your self away, take time away, all at once.
And whatever we mean by the word "spirit" - let us just say, with Tillich, that it involves for each of us our ultimate concern - it is in that simple awestruck moment, when great art enters you and changes you, that spirit shines in this world just a little more brightly than it did the moment before.
The Eye of Spirit: 134–136