Friday, June 17, 2016

A Day on the Coast - How are we now?

                                             A Day on the Coast watermedia on Yupo 26x20

 I`m having a fine time playing with abstraction and bold color and trying to determine if I can work this way with any dedication. Over time, to create a different body of work than the landscapes. Though some think I`m already an abstract painter, I find a non-objective intention quite uncomfortable. Here and there I can hit it by luck but in the past, I`ve eventually been drawn back to the natural world where I find the most meaning. As I paint and look for an opening, the work of my heroes encourages me. Emulating is a way to learn. I keep thinking of Anne Lamott`s advice to new writers, "write the books you want to read". Paint what I want to see. That`s enough to go on!
With a big show complete and ready for delivery, this is the right time for questions.

                                                Alders through a Clearing oil on canvas 12x9

 I came across this the other day from 2010. Since the studio flood and my decision to move in the fall, the disorder has become permanent until I have a new space. I`m never sure what I`ll find when I move a stack of paintings. This piece has always been a favorite for an odd redemptive quality I find in it.

 So it`s been almost a week. I`m sorry to say my initial reaction was just a grim disgust and acceptance. If the murder of 20 elementary school kids didn`t galvanize our country to change, why would this? When I woke Sunday morning and read the headline on my phone, Donald Trump was already screaming about Muslims and terrorism. Without knowing any details I went back to sleep sure that this wasn`t a terrorist attack. Later in the week I`d rethink that. It was terrorism for sure but not toward our country, it was for homosexuals.
I think it`s time to resurrect that word, put the sex back into view. Unapologetically. Because that`s what this barbarism was about.
I`ll let John Sundholm and the Redneck Liberal express the rage that rose up in me. Having grown up in the church, I have a trigger reflex for fury at the historic and continuing Christian persecution of my kind. But I want to talk about sex.
 For far too long, religions all over the world have shown a profound disrespect for the power and importance of sex. In and of itself! Desire is the engine of evolution, the spark that eventually made an ape, human. The impulse is strongest in the young by biological imperative, yet they face ridiculous impediments in communities of faith. Unemployed young Arab men with zero prospects for arranged marriage [the only possibility for sexual expression] join Isis or fly planes into buildings. Teenagers leave Bible study early in a desperate attempt to find privacy and intimacy, and often produce a hope destroying pregnancy. Catholic men enter the celibate priesthood to bury their shameful urges and some become warped by the experience and do terrible psychosexual damage to children. Unstable young men inhibited by their culture`s ancient biases furtively explore their same sex attraction but enter into unhappy marriages then massacre dozens in their frustration. In 1994 the nominee for Surgeon General, Jocelyn Elders, was forced to withdraw simply because she said masturbation was healthy and normal and an excellent way to avoid risky sex. Let me tell you, that crazy prohibition is many a teenager`s first egregious encounter with the hypocrisy of their church and it often facilitates the slow dawning of reason.
 Now a nightclub is not a temple but it can be a sacred space nonetheless. Even in this era of gay marriage and surprising acceptance, the club is still an important part of queer culture. More for celebration now than for meeting places as it once was. To finally be surrounded by those just like you is a joyous experience. Kids, on their own at last, will dance and flirt and party and hookup. This is good! Learning about your young body and its desires is critical to mental health. Safe, consensual, respectful sexual relations when we are young can prevent a whole lot of unhappiness later when we are ready to settle. And in the past, the gay bar was often the only safe place in a homosexual`s life. That  aura of sanctuary remains and its violation early last Sunday morning [for hours] is most upsetting to me. This is the heart of terrorism.
 What can we do? We can explore and accept the scientific facts being discovered about human sexuality. We can take a long hard look at the taboos and fears surrounding sex and ask who do these serve? If we have them in our lives, we can insist the religious institutions talk about sexuality with humility and openness and toss out the horrific interpretations of scripture that vilify people because of their sexual identities. Or find new sources of spiritual communion. My Mom was a lifelong Southern Baptist but in her early 80`s she finally had enough. She left the church after defending me, my homosexuality, from cruel remarks she encountered in Bible study. Be like my Mom, confront homophobia wherever you find it. That act of courage does enormous good.
 Shared suffering is important in a society. My blogger friend Elizabeth Corsa has a son, a resident doctor who was on duty in the ER last Saturday. His were the bloody shoes in the photo that went viral this week. Listen to him now. It`s heartbreaking watching his face remember.
It was important to me to read all the names and look into the eyes of the murdered. Such a small thing helped me feel the loss, it was the least I could do.
The apology and expression of love from the white, Mormon, Republican Lt. Gov. of Utah made me weep. This is what gay people crave, an apology.
The orthodox Jews that went to the African American gay bar last Monday night to mourn and pray moved me as well. When all the passengers on a Jet Blue flight to Orlando paid their respect to the lone grandmother flying in for her grandson`s funeral, I felt hope. All week these symbolic gestures kept coming and they were healing indeed. Being gay it`s hard to tell, but I think I felt the country shift. There will finally be votes on modest gun reforms in the Senate on Monday. Lets encourage them to do the right thing.
Thank you for listening.

      There`s real courage for you, circa 1940. From the Bob Bragman collection

work for sale in my studio


Libby Fife said...


You know I am going to tell you that I like the abstract! I think I understand what you mean too about being uncomfortable with completely non objective work. I think of it as being purely process driven. I find it difficult to do. I like something more personal to go on-some idea, some subject, some underlying meaning -something tangible in my life to anchor the work.

So, I have reread your writing a couple of times. I can't help but think of what we do seem to allow in our culture which is violence in all of its forms. Violence on tv, in the sports arena, on our news, and in our video games and other types of entertainment. The more the better it seems. And we allow it towards one another in our everyday language and how we carry ourselves and treat one another. Is it any wonder that the violence spills over into other areas? Many hide behind religion or morality and call the violence justified. We are terribly squeamish about sex though for some reason and as you pointed out, it causes all sorts of problems. Love and affection is a tremendous outlet (and gift) yet we tend to squash that. It somehow embarrasses us.

I hate that it takes an act of terrorism to make people think. And I hate even more that realization, education, empathy and understanding is such a slow process. I wish it were faster and more complete. We can do so much better.

A good essay, thank you for speaking up. I wish we were much farther along.

Ruth Armitage said...

Beautiful work and a thoughtful post. Because of you I have changed my views a bit. I admire your logical reasoning.

E.M. Corsa said...

I have always loved your work, but I now love you more.

My heart is still breaking for every person involved in this nightmare, but of course it breaks the most for my son; a kind, compassionate and loving human being, just like your mom.

RH Carpenter said...

I share the sentiments of Elizabeth - you are truly a lovely man as well as a wonderful artist. I find that since I was gone when this happened, I did not post anything specifically to this horrific event. I hope that wasn't seen as not caring. We all have to be much stronger to fight the strong hate that is breeding around us, and if that means being vocal and unafraid of offending anyone, then so be it. I was just thinking about that term, homophobia. Being afraid of homosexual? Having a fear of homosexuals? How can someone have a phobia about someone's sexuality? What, truly, are they afraid of? This US vs THEM, ME vs YOU attitude has to stop before we all implode with the insanity of it all.
Thanks so much, Randall, for being exactly who you are :)

Melody Cleary said...

A very, very good statement, Randall. Your Mom's actions make me proud of her.

Gary L. Everest said...

Hi Randall,
You hit the proverbial nail on the head, Randall. It wouldn't surprise me if your statement becomes mandatory reading in elementary schools, Sunday schools of all religions, all branches of our military, all police departments and by all government offices--elected and appointed. I should probably add "when Hell freezes over", but I'd like to be more positive than that and say, "soon".
It was heartfelt, powerful and necessary.
I truly admire the stance you take on your blog. I've been tempted many times to start another blog as a forum to express my feelings about all the evil, mean-spirited things occurring across our planet. Sadly, it would take all day, every day, to keep-up.
Keep fighting the good fight, my friend!