|Charles Seliger; c.1940
My friend, the painter Charles Seliger, believed that good things came in small packages and to those that wait. I have tried to learn from him. I have. But... I have never felt that way.
|Charles Seliger, Lagoon, 2004, acrylic on Masonite 12" x 12"
As much as I might imagine the truth of what he believed, my experience has actually been quite different. Now I realize that I have to trust that difference. The things that made an impression on me as a boy were the opposite of small and patient, they were large and impulsive.
Clouds, ships, oceans, cliffs, grottoes and mountains, the Winged Victory in the Louvre, and the lions on Delos.
It made an impression on me that my mother would spontaneously take us out of school to go see Giotto, or maybe just to go to the beach. It made an impression on me that she looked out the window and said grab your things and took us off the plane at a stopover in Rome flying from Athens to the US, and that we found an apartment and lived there for 4 years, instead of going back to Cleveland. My mother never waited for things to happen, she made them happen. Our apartment had a large terrace with a view of the entire city, domes and towers as far as the eye could see. It had 25 foot ceilings, and windows to match. And we ate beans to afford it, as she would say. And it was worth it!
|The author, age 10, Via Margutta 48, Rome, c. 1963
The whole reason I got hooked on art in the first place as a boy was from seeing her working fast and furiously on a giant terracotta head of her lover. There was nothing small or patient about that experience of watching her work. It was inspiring.
|One of my many attempts at a small painting, c.1997, 16" x 10"
I have tried to paint small, I have, and I will keep at it, but I feel better when I move my arms, my shoulders, my whole body. I have tried to be patient, but I need to breathe. I need to get excited. I need to feel alive, to stretch out! Now! Anything good that has ever happened in my painting has come in a burst, from an impulse. No exception.
|The author in his Carr House studio at RISD, c.1975
Recently when my family suffered a bad experience through no fault of their own, I took them out of school and we drove up to New Hampshire and climbed Mount Monadnock. It was unbelievable. Awesome. It made all the difference.
So maybe good things come in all sizes, and maybe sometimes now is all that matters!
I may never know why my friend Charles Seliger thought what he thought. He was very close to his mother as a boy. Maybe it came from her.
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