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Me and Jackson Pollack

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I am first a painter and second a writer. I approach both in the same way, which sometimes lands me in trouble. When asked what kind of painting I do I describe myself as an abstract expressionist painter. Abstract expressionism is commonly understood to be a post-WWII art movement that was instrumental in New York becoming the art center of the world. There were varied styles of paintings completed by artists identified with this movement and not all of it was abstract or particularly expressionistic.

My work most closely resembles that of Jackson Pollack’s action paintings, a calliope of color and brush stroke more spontaneously developed than planned. Though I cannot speak for Pollack’s intentions for the viewers of his art, my work attempts to express ideas I hold dear about the nature of the ever changing and never changing conscious and unconscious mind as expressed through the soul. It is the journey that’s important, not the product.

Nice words to live by but not to eat by. I love the romanticism attached to such language — “it's the journey that’s important.” An actor interviewed December 5 on PBS’s Charlie Rose tells the audience he had found joy in his work. He stated his joy comes from the fact that he can now pay attention to process rather than externally defined success; he was a man well past his 50s. How fortunate for him, I thought. He did the career ladder building thing until he achieved the measure of success he needed so he could let go and practice his craft. What would have happened if he didn’t live long enough to achieve the goal of enjoying process? Would he have been an artist or a mere entertainer? Our social order demands a curious demotion of the soul. If we do what we love we are likely to have little money. If we follow the money we are likely to lose touch with what we love.

My love of abstract expressionism arises out of the desire and the freedom to pursue man’s (and woman’s) inner world — that part of us that is connected to each other and to all things. Like everything around us we too are made up of hydrogen and carbon and a few other elements. To make life delicious, we have this inner world where all things are possible — birds swim, fish fly, and trees grow inward to the center of the earth. To make life exciting we constantly mediate our embattled and ever so human desires. To be an artist is to consciously face at least one of these conflicts all the time. There’s no money in the love of making art, and all art, to be well done, requires lifelong dedication.

The observable world is lovely to behold and photographers have taken over what artists once did — rendering and recording the world around us. Some 40 years ago, critics claimed painting was dead, painting had accomplished all it could ever hope to do. To some extent I would agree with that viewpoint. Realist painters paint their landscape, their portrait, their still life using cameras to compose and record what their eye sees but might not remember. These artists convey the beauty they capture for public consumption, as do photographers. But painters do something no photographer can do and that is to create one of a kind. No painting or drawing can ever be duplicated exactly and still be a painting or drawing. It is artisans’ work and its precious beauty is not so much about the picture but about the hand that brought it into being.

The mind, however, cannot be accessed by any means other than the self. I paint what I feel and what my mind’s eye sees. This process tickles my imagination which stimulates what I feel and, in turn, stimulates what I see with my mind’s eye. It is ever expansive whose limits are most likely shared with the limits of the universe. I personally detest artist statements for their attempt to explain what I find to be a mystifying process, although I will play the part ascribed to me by the commercial art world. I paint for you, not that world. I paint non-representational subjects so you, the viewer, can have an experience similar to the experience I have as I paint. There is nothing to see and everything to see and like an engrossing novel or great film, it takes time to digest everything the art has to offer. I hope for you what I once experienced looking at a Jackson Pollack. I climbed into the painting and swam around until I was satiated and then I walked off to look at a Picasso portrait of his mistress Dora.

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About Victoria Q Legg