A Place We Once Were

The other day I was watching a documentary about wine and sommeliers. I have always been fascinated with old crafts, skills that are passed on through generations, so naturally I am intrigued by wine making. The whole documentary was very good, but one line ripped my chest open: “The complexity and the layers are there for those who want it.” This was in reference to the vast factors to the taste of any given wine, but I took it to heart; life is complex but life is simple. I’m trying to find that balance of simplicity yet being aware of all the wonderful accents that create such a rich comprehension of our my (our) existence. Upon hearing that quote, I thought about the way I paint and how it is a mirror image of my personality. I have been searching for the type of artistic expression that feels like “me” and at this point in time I feel comfortable with my paintings as a representation of myself.

Each layer tells a story, a place which we once were. I have fought my layers for so many years, hating their existence, loathing who I am because of them, until the other day. I was painting and spilled some chemicals on part of the painting I didn’t want them but instead of getting frustrated or stressed, I rearranged my thoughts, kept calm and made it work. I didn’t plan for the cap to not be fully screwed onto the bottle, but I went with it, I learned from it and did my best to just enjoy the process of creative expression that I hold dear to my life. In my paintings, I have layers…lots of layers. Typically, I start with a sub-straight, a surface which to build upon. Sometimes it comes distressed, character ridden from the start and sometimes its a clean slate, open waters for my imagination to sail upon. I then lay down the base layer, the foundation of emotion that directs the painting. It is movement, it is frustration, it is happiness, it is stress, it is surrender; it is my everything, it is I entirely. Each painting is a milestone, an emotion that might only exist for a short time, but has been captured for the foreseeable future. After the emotion layer, I distress…I reshape and redefine; there is scraping and cutting, sanding and gouging. I find solace in the destruction I use when I create this layer, it becomes a beautiful harmony I seemingly hear for the first time, every time. The next layer is the color, the vibrant colors that let me fall in love with life all over again. I know there has been so much before the color arrives, but its beauty in those first minutes after they are laid down is one of my favorite parts of the process. As the color settles in, the character of the distressed layer begins to shine through, the emotion of the first layer takes shape. The beautiful color soaks in and highlights the pain and the deepest cuts, creating the most wonderful accents the colors could not comprehend ever existed; scars and stories. The next layer is more color and more distressing, but with chemicals and not physical damage. It is a refining process, one to even out the highs and lows, absorb the good and adjust the bad. The final process is to seal it all in. The colors intensify, the valleys shine and an exhausting process of spilling my guts into a painting is complete. Each direction you see it from will tell a different story, whisper a secret you never knew. It may look dull from a distance, but it will captivate you from up close. You will reach out your hands, begging to touch the character, to but brush the texture and you may, if you desire to be close, for it is a story for all, a comfort for few.

You and I are both going to change; we will grow, we will stretch, we will evolve until the end. Some will love your foundation, the strong beginning of it all and some will love your color, the joy you breathe, the way you see. There will be some that remember your days of darkness, never letting you bloom, confining you to the cold. I have tried to separate the layers for years and I have layers…SO MANY DAMN LAYERS, that it feels impossible, entirely overwhelming to be known and I usually just fall victim to poisonous preconceived expectations and perpetual feelings of letting others down for not being what they expected of me. I have been this way since I can remember, but the last six months I’ve seen a transformation. I’m starting to be okay with not being able to show all my layers at once, but I have been trying to be as true to who I am as a whole. There are those that won’t understand, there are those that like some of my layers and not others and that is just fine. I remember hearing once that if you know what you’re looking for when you buy art, it’s just decoration and loses it’s artistic capacity, as it is reduced to something you want it to say instead of listening to it. The same is true of you and I; our flaws, our pasts, our strengths, our stories, all compose unique, wonderful individuals that cannot exist without every layer. Even when wine is bottled, it never stops developing in flavor; wine is never still. Even when we feel as if we are at our ends, we are only beginning. You can hide your layers, I have for years, but they are better if you just take a deep breath and embrace your full self; be a whole person. Use each chapter of your life for something bigger, for the final product. Make your mistakes, writhe in pain for a season, but move forward and grow from what you’ve experienced; the end is never the end, only the start of something new.

Take heart, hold fast hope.