The idea of paradise as a pretty place has never really sat well with me. Perhaps because I don’t embrace its biblical connotations. Paradise is simply the best we can conjure for ourselves.
My paradise is broken, melancholic maybe, but beautiful nevertheless. It’s a place that makes me feel comfortable.
Though the landscape at once looks familiar, with water features or flora elements, something doesn’t make sense. You don’t catch it at first. Everything seems sort of known, even copasetic. Why, then, can’t we put our finger on it?
Peculiarities elude us unless we look closely and continue to be on alert for something that doesn’t feel quite right. It’s a mood, a color and a confused scale. Things that once were nearly perfect, maybe, appear scarred or spoiled, while other things seem misplaced.
Though the paintings could be viewed as a puzzle I’d rather think of them as a collection of elements that foster our ability to trust a sense of place in the world while they encourage us to question reality.
I’m not interested in beauty or non-beauty, hence the title “Paradise Notwithstanding.” I’m interested in the complexity that won’t allow me to define what I’m looking at and to establish a narrative, a narrative that’s shy and hidden from view and with time unpacks itself.
In my paradise, I see too much. I’m aware of the past, present and future all at once. I can see underneath and behind solid objects. It’s a skill not unique to me but one that most do not care to employ because it’s too demanding and too isolating.
Then what’s the attraction? I have to think that it’s a full display of life on life’s terms. It’s all the undesirable stuff and all the great stuff mixed up together. It’s not a visual world of our choosing per se but rather one that we’ve been dealt. It’s a vision of imperfection’s guiding light.
The dystopia of this paradise is straight ahead and honest. It doesn’t try to fool anyone but its audience is small. It takes some getting used to; acceptance is key.
What would we do if the world went mad? Where would we find ourselves? Would we run toward or from something familiar? It just depends on circumstance and timing.
To suspend our ideas about a concrete reality is our best skill for survival. Nothing is what it appears to be, nothing is beautiful and nothing is forsaken. More realistically, it is both of these things and more, in rapid-fire succession, back and forth, before our very eyes until we have to simply lay it down and accept what is. It may not be what we want but it is what’s here for now. It’s real and believable if only in a picture.