A new project is taking me into a new place with cardboard and wood. This one is four sides instead of just one side. It is eight and a half inches tall and five and a half inches each side. This block of wood has been in the house for several years. I found someplace and kept it with the some-day-I'm-gonna collection of found things I'm looking to use up before my last day. I don't want who cleans up after me to throw them away. I have feeling for the beauty in each object such that now I want all my future art objects to be made from the found things. The plywood pieces I'm gluing cardboard to are pieces I've found over the years with a mind to painting on them. The cardboard is found too. I'm surprised at how many I have, and continue to find more. I had in mind I wanted to make a few small ones too. I found two small pieces in the house among the collection. This block of wood I'm working on now has been here possibly fifteen years. Its dry. It was excess, cut off the end of a six by six found I have no recollection where. It was aged when found. I have no concern about it drying further and developing new cracks. It has cracks from drying out, which is ok. I don't want cracks to occur after the project is finished. I've made a base for it to stand on from a block of wood five and a half by five and a half, an inch and a half thick. On top of it sits another block of wood an inch and a half thick, three and a half by three and a half inches. Both blocks of wood I found the exact size they are, at different times. They fit as if I'd cut them to size. The two blocks are held together by wooden pegs. The big block of wood will be fixed to the base by two wooden pegs. I'm looking at painting the base black. The big block I aim to paint a deep dark red not quite maroon; red enough it will be seen as red.
Red is a color I have shied away from in the past, though now I want to make some beautiful red things. Red has moved in on me. I like red now like never before. I've always liked red, but never wanted to use it much. It seemed like an arrogant color in the past. It doesn't seem like that at all now. Possibly some years of seeing Chinese films, reading Chinese fiction and history, paying attention to contemporary Chinese art, I've learned an appreciation for red. Red is as important a color in China as the color combo red-white-and-blue is in USA. Red goes all the way back in the Chinese aesthetic. I tend now to associate the color red with Chinese art, an Eastern aesthetic. I already have a Western aesthetic by a lifetime of influences from European and American traditions, all of it based in Christendom. The Eastern is based in Buddhism. I see the two religions the same as they teach the same universal truths. Only the different cultures they represent make them different. At the core, they are the very same. I tend to see everything outside the core superficial. Only the core matters to me. I could go from one religion to another with no more problem than a Methodist visiting a Presbyterian church. I could go to a Buddhist temple and pray with others there, the same as I can go into a Muslim mosque, pray with the worshipers there and feel at home. Hindu is a beautiful religion, but there, again, only the core is of interest to me. I'd be interested to learn about the various gods and goddesses and the texts, though with the same interest as I'd read a history of India. My personal preference is to have it as I have it now. No religion. Only the core. I live with that core, the core that is the same in every living being. It is the very deepest part of who I am; it is my consciousness, the self who sees my dreams. I carry that core with me wherever I go, even to the liquor store. Like the Rastafarians say, I am I.
That's where red takes me now, to balance of east and west in myself. One of the aspects of what I'm doing now that excites me is I see the Eastern aesthetic blended with the Western. That I'm doing single colors now is Eastern as it can be; Chinese, Japanese, Korean. It's also Western, particularly American. Everything I've done heretofore has been totally Western to my eye. I've wanted to get the east-west balance in my painting, but was not satisfied I had. Because I didn't have a warehouse to keep unsold paintings, I felt it important to paint for the people of the world I live in, rural Americans, Appalachian Americans. About ten years of portraits of mountain musicians. It came to feel like coloring books, keeping it inside the lines. I wanted to reach into the abstract in a way that the simplicity itself is what's abstract about it. On the plane of one color, the raised cardboard surface becomes subject, or positive space, while that around it becomes negative space, in one color. If the light is coming from above right, the light makes a light line along the right side and upper line of the rectangle, and shadow on the left side and lower side, two sides light and two sides shadow articulate the rectangle. For me, that line is the subject. This block of wood will have some interesting lines on it. I'm loving playing with a four-sided version of what I've been playing with on a flat surface. This feels like the first time I have felt like my art projects were playing. I feel like I'm making music finally. All the way along, it felt like every phase I went through was a leap beyond the last one, each one a stair-step process of learning by doing. It's like I've been learning chords, songs, techniques, the art of making music. Suddenly it all came together, ceased to be work and learning. Now I'm playing.
I have relaxed. I wanted to make something of my own aesthetic that is no one else's. To get there, I threw off thoughts of selling. I don't care if somebody likes it and don't care if somebody doesn't like it. I'm reaching inside self to find my own aesthetic without interest to please anyone outside myself. I was looking for something wholly my own. It started with a simple design that went simpler and simpler. I want to shave the object down to its own core. Like I don't want any kind of dogma to sour my faith, I don't want anything in my art object but its core self. I like using paint for color and for its textures. Putting the two levels of the base together with pegs, I used the smaller block to drill holes in first and use it to guide the drill bit for the peg holes in the larger block and in the bottom of the big block of wood. I was pleased with myself for doing it so accurately. I measured and drew lines, had it just right. The big block sat on the base at about a thirty degree angle off from what I'd planned. It's crooked. I have not been able to figure out how it happened. It's simply how it is. Everything about it looks right, but it's way off from what I saw initially. However, I want chance to have a role in everything I do. I read this as a chance occurrence out of my control. I received it as Divine intervention and said, Thank you. It makes everything just a bit askew, suggests the big block is turning on a pivot, gives a retinal sense of motion, gives it lightness. I like it. I thought for a split-second of drilling new holes, and said, no-no-no. I must receive the touch of the Divine when it is given. My mind is still unable to figure out what happened. It will look so much better. It will look like I meant it. The element of play is now established in it. The corners lined up, it would have looked like a wooden soldier. Now it is a dancer.