“The Artist is engaged in a spiritual activity whose essence consists in the precise delineation of reality, which is revealed to the visionary Imagination.”
Rockwell Kent taken from William Blake
This quote hangs on the wall of my studio and it clearly expresses my approach to painting. Kent, who traveled and painted the Arctic landscape, exemplifies Blake’s concept. Kent’s landscapes go beyond merely depicting the vast open spaces of the Arctic but embody an imaginal element that speaks to the viewer about our own existential place on earth. He places humanity in the realm of Zarathustra (see Kent’s, Wilderness).
But Kent’s paintings do not negate in any way what rose up before him. He places man precisely in reality and is true to his experience of the moment. But what makes the work remarkable, is that Kent allows freedom for the imagination to occupy that same place as the visual reality before him. Both can exist simultaneously and each can have a voice in the image. Kent’s passion for the North, particularly Greenland, comes from the immensity and expansiveness of that place unmarred by man. It is a place of solitude where the imagination can easily find expression.
Is it even possible to find that balance of isolation and imaginative freedom now? I think every artist has that place somewhere where they feel the expressive possibilities of both worlds- the depiction of reality within the natural world and a place of visitation for the imagination. In my own experience, the sea provides that space of immensity, expansiveness and acts as a portal of an imaginal vision seeking it’s imprint upon reality. It is the very reason I travel to the coast of Maine as much as I can. It is a retreat from my normal, harried existence and an immersion into another realm removed and yet a more concentrated experience of reality.
The sea is a symbol that has effected painters and writers of America. They have qualified the sea as a medium in which we see our true existence amplified. I often think of Melville’s, Moby Dick, and how the whale symbolizes those deep, unconscious realities that we only have a mere intuition and feeling of. But it is these realities, the spindrift surfacing deep from the sea floor (Rumi), that gives meaning to our existence, creates a longing to know our place in the world, that cannot be suppressed. Ishmael needs to get to sea because he has lost touch with his inner self and if he remains on land his longing will be too great to bear. His inner life will be annihilated under the superficiality that consumes much of our daily existence.
So, this year, I present to you my Maine coast paintings as a way to meditate on the beauty of the sea amid an imaginal vision seeking to call us back to ourselves, back from the brink of forgetfulness.