Friday, December 26, 2008

The Direction of Light

Lumière, 2008, oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches
© 2008 Diane McGregor

"The Direction of Light," a poem by Linda Hogan:

New stones have risen up earth's labor
toward air. Everything rises,
the ocean in a cloud,
the rain forest passing
above our heads.
Children grow inch by inch
like trees in a graveyard,
victors over the same gravity
that pulls us down.
Even our light continues
on through the universe, and do we stop to
wonder who will see it
and where,
when the light of this earth is gone?
May there long be our light.

And then it falls. Shades are pulled down
between two worlds, clouds fall
as rain, light returns
the way rain from Brazil falls
in New York and the green parrots
in their cages feel it, shake their
feathers, and remember home
and are alive
and should they be thankful
for that gift
or should they curse like sailors and grieve?

I tell the parrots,
I too have wanted to give up
on everything
when what was right turned wrong
and the revolutionaries
who rose up
like yeast in life's bread, turned
against those who now rise up.

That's why I take the side of light --
don't you? -- with the weight of living
tugging us down and earth wanting us back
despite great thoughts and smiling faces
that are prisons in between
the worlds of buying
and selling even the parrots
we teach to say "Hello."

Hello. Did I call this poem
the direction of light?
I meant life
so let this word
overthrow the first
and rise up to the start.

("The Direction of Light" is taken from The Book of Medicines: Poems by Linda Hogan, Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 1993, pages 79-80.)

Monday, December 15, 2008


First Breath, 2008, oil on canvas, 12 x 12 inches
© 2008 Diane McGregor

My work is about process, and I often find myself submerged within the painting, the paint, the brushstrokes, the moment. Starting with the grid, I slowly build up grid layers of paint, almost in a trance putting down horizontal and vertical brushstrokes. As my body of work evolves, I am finding it more satisfying to leave some of the grid intact (rather than blending the entire grid into a diaphanous structure). This is permitting me to add more textures and areas of pure color, and I'm enjoying the more dynamic interface with the act of painting and the end result. I've been thinking a lot lately about how process and contemplation are related.

I lead a contemplative life -- not full of blissful meditative moments but rather a life of hard work, struggle, and effort while maintaining awareness of the present moment. I am reading Thomas Merton's The Inner Experience, a book about the contemplative life, and he writes:
One of the strange laws of the contemplative life is that in it you do not sit down and solve problems: you bear with them until they somehow solve themselves. Or until life itself solves them for you. Usually the solution consists in a discovery that they only existed insofar as they were inseparably connected with your own illusory exterior self. The solution of most such problems comes with the dissolution of this false self.
I think process-oriented work is contemplative. Painting is all about problem solving, and process-oriented work is all about letting the problem work out its own solution. It is a challenge to allow the process to find its way through, to consciously keep out of your own way and let the paint and the process come together into a fully realized artwork. But for me, this makes the whole act of painting a spiritual practice as I learn to let go and contemplate the solutions I am given.

(The above quote is taken from The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation by Thomas Merton, page 2.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Andrew Forge, Fall (For P.M.), 2000, oil on canvas, 44 x 36 inches

I went to New York City a few weeks ago and bought a wonderful catalogue of Andrew Forge's work at the Betty Cuningham Gallery. Forge was a painter and a well-known art critic. His paintings are composed of tiny dots of color, a repetitive technique -- a technique of gradual accumulation -- that attracts me. Although obviously influenced by pointillism, the work is non-representational and completely modern. I think his work is honest and sincere, without exposing a sense of the artist's ego. A critic once wrote that Forge's paintings "stand as poetic meditations on the process of perception."

The catalogue includes excerpts from an interview which reveal Forge to be a great thinker with a keen insight into other artists' work, among them Giacometti, Monet, and Bonnard. Regarding Monet's late work, Forge observes that Monet begins to
realize the connection between the kind of painting that he's doing and the way in which the painting absorbs the onlooker, and the ambient consequences of this, and once the idea of a series begins to fascinate him -- all this brings into his art, at the turn of the century, so much of what constitutes our consciousness, the flow of time, the feeling that it is actually our minds that are forming and re-forming the imagery that the painter is dealing with, that these images are not, so to speak, taken from the culture at large, but are actually discovered out of individual experience.

And of course that's his modernity; he realizes intuitively that the culture is no longer providing us with those great, firm icons that it had given us in the past; that somehow modern man is thrown back onto his own nervous system, his own perceptual system, his own struggle for cognition. With Monet this is acted out in the painting; it's an extraordinary life-work.

Claude Monet, The Water Lily Pond (Japanese Bridge), 1900, oil on canvas,
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

(The above quote is taken from Andrew Forge, Exhibition Catalogue 2007, Betty Cuningham Gallery, New York, NY, page 22.)