Thursday, May 30, 2013

90% Return

Handel Evans

Most of what anyone does goes unappreciated. Just the way things are. This is not cause for lament. Couldn't be any other way. 90% of what we all do goes unnoticed. How could it be any other way? No one has a dedicated audience and fan base. 

This is difficult for artists because getting noticed, getting appreciated, getting recognition and attention would seem to be part of the equation of being an artist. Even though this is only half true,  we have been conditioned to believe it is the whole truth, which is a shame on so many levels.

Hope and faith are an artist's good friends. Self-pity is that worst of enemies that worms its way into our confidence and consciousness. What is unfortunate is that the 90% of what we do that goes unnoticed and unappreciated is just unacceptable for the idea of artist that we have invented. This is so much the case that the opposite has become true; that the artist's new twisted but real function is only to be noticed and appreciated. This is a travesty of gargantuan proportions! Why? Because the truth, the absolute truth, is that it is the artist's job, no, the artist's sole purpose and calling in life, is TO NOTICE AND APPRECIATE! Not the other way around! At the very least one can see that this is all backwards, that the work must come first, that the horse comes before the cart, that what is being celebrated counts for more than the celebration itself, that it is love and then art, in that order. The reality that the artist must compete for attention in order to succeed must never steel the sense of purpose and wonder that started it all.

That the artist has been led away, astray, by themselves and others is not just a shame, but the downfall, the impossible, the end. The artist's role is to see more and to document, celebrate, comment on what is seen.  Again, not the other way around.

The temptation is huge of course. The weak-minded need for adulation and a parade preys on our vanity and pride and insecurity. I remember when I was a boy of 10 in Rome and I had sold one of my favorite paintings at an outdoor art show to some American collectors who lived on our street, Via Margutta. I hadn't signed it on the front. I didn't want to because I knew it would ruin the painting by having any extraneous marks on the surface. The collectors encouraged me to be proud of my work and sign it boldly. The two of them puffed me up and convinced that 10 year old boy in a moment of uncertainty, so I did. Then they told me I should make it bolder. So I did that too. They said that thing people say and I heard so often, "for when you're famous!" I ruined the painting and let it get away. I wish I still had it. I had made it under the guidance of the Welsh painter Handel Evans(apparently almost everyone in Wales is an Evans, a Jones, or a Williams), who had taken me under his wing. What he taught me was immeasurable, and this painting had been a part of the process. It was about not just finding the painting in the painting, but "discovering" it. It was about the magic and meaning and adventure and hope that comes from that. About trusting the process, having faith in it, letting the painting come to you, letting the painting happen.

I had regretted what I had done to my Handel painting at that moment instantly, but I couldn't take it back.  It wasn't mine anymore. I wished I could have taken it back, all of it, but somehow I had been convinced that this was as it should be. Selling and being appreciated. Since that experience I never sign a painting on the front.  I sign works on paper in pencil with a date on the front because they get framed and when that happens you can't see the back anymore. Everything else I sign on the back.  

Nobody gets the appreciation that they so richly deserve. Not in this life. Were not supposed to. It isn't why we're here. It isn't what it's all about. Handel didn't get that appreciation. He never even knew that what he taught me has lasted a life-time. He also gave me my first set of paints at 9, and I've been painting ever since. He got me started painting murals and I still do over 50 years later. He was a great painter, who died in his mother's arms back in Wales after living all over the world. He died unsung and at a too young age. But he taught me to appreciate what happens, what has happened and what can happen. Handel Evans taught me to make lemonade when life gives you a lemon, as corny as that sounds. To make lemonade and love it!

Addison Parks

Spring Hill

Addison Parks, Via Margutta, 1964

My sister DD watching my paintings during Via Margutta
1964 Mostra D’Arte Dei Cento PittoriRome, Italy

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


The way I figure it, people are like icebergs, 90% is beneath the surface. The 10% we encounter is something we can handle most of the time, but the other part, the part beneath the surface, can rip a hole in us from bow to stern. Fortunately the only time you're going to really encounter that 90% is through a medium called the arts, or, and this can really test anyone, on a long road trip.

The arts are the domain of the 90%. Painting, music, fiction, film, photography, etc. I recently watched a television show that while patchy, really plumbed some of the deep stuff, which was intriguing and surprising. The show, Da Vinci's Demons, is on some levels, crap, but in other ways it manages to really go off the charts in a way that gets under your skin and under the surface. It makes good use of surrealism and collage/montage/assemblage to stir up the unconscious, to strike at places dreams can only touch us.

The show pushes every boundary and button in ways that at once seem gratuitous and yet also strip life bare. It also has moments of illumination and poetry, like when Lorenzo rather eloquently appeals to Spain for her business, or puts on a performance of Boccaccio's Decameron to show off Florence.

Da Vinci is at his best as the inventor and free spirit, who like a dolphin racing against the bow of a ship, stitches his way through life arcing above and beneath the surface in a perfect arpeggio. The great thing about the show is that it follows da Vinci's lead as it takes us below the surface, into that 90%, back up for air, and then plunges us right back in.
More about the 90% to come.

Addison Parks, Spring Hill
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