Sometimes A Painting can be More than Just One Thing
This isn’t the first time I’ve re-worked a painting, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might remember when I redid a painting that had one element in it I really liked, but I really hated everything else, so I covered everything except that one thing with white and redid everything around. I told about that in Metamorphosis of an Old Work PART 1 and PART 2. In that case I was reworking the original to try to bring it in line with the vision I’d originally had for it, but which I failed to achieve the first time around.
This time though, I did the original exactly as I wanted, or as my daughter wanted, since I did it for her. The original is still hanging in her room. It is titled Eiffel Tower in Pink.
I thought it looked nice, and I made several archival prints of it. For some reason though, of all my prints, I sold fewer of these than any other. So lately I’ve been looking at it and wondering what I could do to use the prints I bought. Well, with Paris being the city of Romance, and with the pink background, and with Valentines Day being around the corner, I decided to take a print and modify it for Valentines Day. So, I added paint on top of the print, which I will later scan and have greeting cards made from. The photo below is just taken with my phone, I’ll do a high-resolution scan to make the cards from. And this print with the paint on it? Well I think I am going to get a piece of poster and make a giant card from it, and ask the same as I would have asked for the print in the first place.
So, I’ve not been blogging as much as I’d planned on, but I had good reason. I was too busy painting, you see I had a deadline to meet, and was working on my largest painting so far… my 9/11 remembrance piece.
9/11 Memorial Art Finished
I managed to finish the painting on time. It is the largest canvas I’ve worked on to date… though I have done larger works for sets on plays. This canvas is 48 inches wide and 24 inches tall, and its size alone has made getting a good clear photograph a challenge. I will eventually get a better photo, though it may have to be taken in parts and stitched together in a photo editor.
At any rate here is the finished painting, though some details may not be visible because of the photo quality.
And here is detail shot of the area with the gold hearts:
The painting explained
I also wrote up a short description to be posted with the painting in the public display, explaining the main though process behind it and some of the symbolism of the piece. I didn’t explain every single detail, but enough to give a general idea of what I was trying to get across, what follows is that description.
Zero Hour: Evolution of American Psyche
By Vicki J. Maheu
This work seeks to depict the mindset of most of America before and after the events of September 11th, 2001. It does not necessarily reflect the mindset of any one individual, so there will of course be aspects with which certain individuals, and certain communities, may not identify.
Before 9/11, the mindset of America seemed very much to be childlike, somewhat naïve of the state of the world and the dangers that many other nations had been facing for many years. America had not had war on her own soil since the Civil War, and was, for the most part, looking ahead with optimism. The rest of the world seemed to be a friendly place. America, in many respects, seemed to have the world on a string, facing a bright future.
Then that infamous Tuesday morning changed everything. On that day 2996 lives were lost. 2606 were lost in and around the Twin Towers, 265 were lost on the four hijacked planes, and 125 lives were lost at the Pentagon. Immediately after, in the shock of what happened, there was a surge of national pride and religious sentiment. Statements made by heroes, by mourners, by clergy, and by politicians became catch phrases for how we tried to see that day. From the plea of a widow that life was short and there was no time for hate, to the stirring call to action of “Lets Roll”, these phrases expressed for us what we were too numb to put into words ourselves.
Eventually though, the shock wore off and the national pride of many wore thin. More than a decade of fighting the vague enemy of “terror” took its toll, and many started wondering what we were fighting for. The world seems to many Americans now as a scary place, an angry place, a place where our blood is shed and where we arm ourselves and shed blood. Many of us look around our own country and instead of seeing a bright future full of plenty, we see bleakness, and the starkness of the cruelty that exists in the world, and often we don’t know whether we should be more afraid of enemies from without, or of each other. Our idealistic American dream seems to many to be just that… a dream, out of touch from reality.
However, we have not quit. We continue on, we are still Americans and we still plan for the future. In the final scene of the painting, the artist intentionally included a field of newly planted crops, to show that we as Americans, while we cannot go back to the naivety of childhood, can still look to the future with hope, and, with God’s help, we can move forward.
I, along with many other artists, have been asked to create a piece of art commemorating the events of September 11th, 2001. I wasn’t sure at first if I would be able get a piece finished on time, and I’m still not sure it will be finished… but I started it yesterday.
In this piece I wanted to express the changes I’ve seen in America since the September 11th terrorist attacks. I’ve tried to explain these changes to my kids, and to others who were just too young to really remember, but always, I struggle for words.
America changed forever that day
Its hard to express, but I’m sure others who lived through it know what I mean. On September 10th, 2011 we woke up to the America we has all known. The America who hadn’t had war on their own soil since the Civil War. The America who looked at the world with optimism. The America who was proud of who they were and what they stood for. The America who was pretty sure that the American dream was still something envied by those in other countries, and something still obtainable to those willing to work for it.
Before the attacks, America was Naive
America, like all other nations, has its dark periods of history. It has its pages that it would rather not read aloud to anyone… its done things as a nation that it would rather everyone would just forget.
Despite that though, America has always striven to be better. We declared our belief that all men were created equal while we still owned slaves, but eventually we tried to live up to that declaration by turning away from slavery, and later through the civil rights movement. We haven’t been perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination, but we did have ideals that we reached for, and those ideals were commendable.
Before 9/11, the average American citizen, at least those who were born after 1960, were much like children in our naivety. While we couldn’t really claim complete ignorance, or innocence, we were aware that our country had once had slaves, we were aware of the atrocities that our nation had committed against the indigenous people of this land, but that was all a long time ago, and the majority of us saw this country as a good place, a place to be proud of.
The evils of the past and the dangers of the world around us weren’t completely unknown to us, but they were also not in the forefront of our minds. Most of us looked forward to a bright future, and saw the world as a generally friendly place, and other nations as places we would like to visit some day.
September 11th, Shocked us into Reality
All of that changed on September 11th. At first we were shocked, not understanding why anyone would want to do such a horrible thing, and figuring it was the work of a few madmen. News coverage showing people on the other side of the world cheering and dancing at the news of the attacks made us realize though, that there were large populations of people who hated us… and we wondered why.
I won’t get into all the reasons for the hatred, or try to tell you if any part of it was justified or not. I won’t hash out all the details of who did and who said what. I won’t drag our own nations actions out to be scrutinized, nor will I hold up some other nation and tell you to hate them.
What I will say, is that after the shock of 9/11 wore off, America was a different place. There was an initial surge of national pride, and even an initial surge of religious sentiment. But when those things wore off… the American public had, in a very real way, had our eyes opened, lost our innocence, and became tired and old in spirit.
Putting it all in a Painting
Of course, I can explain all that in words, but it takes a long time, and as the cliche says, “A picture speaks a thousand words.”
So I had to find a way to put the experience, the shock, and the instant loss of childish innocence into a painting.
Now, the painting isn’t finished yet, but most of the details have been sketched.
Like many artists, quite often when I paint, I like to have music playing. Now, many artist have specific type of music they listen to every time they paint, it might be classical, it might be jazz, it might be heavy metal, but most artists I’ve talked to have a very specific type of music they prefer to paint by. But I like a variety.
Sometimes I paint to the soundtrack of Les Miserables, sometimes I paint to jazz, quite often I paint to the sound of classic rock or surf rock. Honestly though, I like to choose a play list that mixes many different types, from easy listening to rock to jazz to country, and when I am the one who selects the songs for the playlist to paint by, there is one song that almost always makes its way into the mix.
Often, even if I do not have any music playing, I’ll find this song playing in my head.
The song in my head.
The song that plays over and over in my head when I paint in silence, is “Vincent” by Don McLean, if you’ve never heard it, it is song about my favorite painter of all time, Vincent van Gogh. The lyrics and music are soothing and smooth, but sad, and the images that the song brings to mind are the beautiful paintings of this revolutionary master in post impressionism.
Vincent, by Don McLean
Rather than just tell you all about it though, I’ll just share the song in the form of this YouTube video, complete with a slideshow of Vincent’s paintings.