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david slader
art letter | no. 1. 2020 | January
The moose shines bright
The stars give a light,
And you may kiss a porcupine
At ten o’clock at night

This nonsense couplet by Daniel Pinkwater makes me laugh. When I look at my most recent painting, I see a woman throwing her head back to let out a raucous hoot, so I shared the rhyme with her. She agreed Moose Shines would be a fine name. Perhaps we are laughing at the same silliness. Although, I must admit, there have been times when I thought she was crying. Take a look, decide for yourself.
 
After all, what you see is all that matters. The significance of my intent, assuming I had any, ended once I scratched my name in the wet paint. Likewise, there is no reason you can’t, like me, see two opposite expressions. After all, if art doesn’t have ambiguity, why bother?
 
Samuel Beckett said it this way: "Art has nothing to do with clarity, does not dabble in the clear and does not make clear." I like that. Clarity is the last thing I am seeking in my work. Which brings me to . . .
 
Imagining Anywhere In Black
 
Barbara and I recently returned from a trip to Spain. In Barcelona, I blissfully fell down the rabbit hole of Joan Miró, the artist who wrote, “If you have any notion of where you are going, you will never get anywhere.” Now, that is reassuring! Barbara almost had to drag me out of the Miró Museum (Fundació Joan Miró). This is just one of the works that enraptured me (Woman and Birds in the Night):
Woman and Birds in the Night - Miro
I share Miro's love for black—and, now, I think I will use it even more. But, unlike Miró, all of my work is more or less figurative. More ”less” as time goes on. My paintings merge illustration and abstraction, and more and more, the abstract elements are ascendant.
 
Art has always combined the two as that is the only way an act of creation can compete with nature. If the view from an open window could sate the human need for visual stimulation, we would have no need for art. Art without fiction is superfluous. That is as true of the cave paintings of Lascaux as it is of the color fields of Rothko.
 
We hunger for the visual expession of others—for imagination, unreality and ambiguity. The more fabulous the lie, the more we crave it. (Which, sadly, might be as true in politics as it is in art.) Miró does that for me.
 
A Flirty Giraffe

Miró’s art, especially his sculptures, spread smiles like a whimsical virus. I could see it clearly on the faces of the school children in the museum. They “get” Miró, no explanation needed. This seems to reflect a thread in Catalan culture. Josep Granyer’s sculpture, the Flirty Giraffe, welcomed us to the Rambla de Catalunya, a pedestrian mall anchoring a parade of outdoor cafes.
 
Calling her “flirty” is a bit of an understatement. She is—as much as a giraffe can be—downright sexy, complete with anthropomorphic womanly curves. Her pose is a broad parody of the classic Venus odalisque that is the subject of so much art. Some of it quite wonderful and some only appropriate to decorate a saloon.
 
This statue was intended to be part of a series of lighthearted works along the length of the Rambla. But there was an outcry when “Flirty” was installed in 1972, a time when the stifling Franco dictatorship was just beginning to unravel. I have not been able to determine whether the controversy was over her blatant sexiness or because she was poking fun at revered classical art—perhaps some of both. Either way, only two statues were installed. The other, at the far end, is a bull posed as a Rodin-like “Thinker.”  
 
Several times during our Barcelona stay, I walked out of my way just to visit “Flirty.” A few extra steps for the chance to smile.
 
Resonating Reflections

Not long after returning from our travels, I was saddened to read what might be New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl’s farewell article, The Art of Dying. Facing a terminal cancer diagnosis, he is coming to grips with life, love, craft and death.
 
No other art writer has so resonated with me. That might be because he is not an “art critic” at all. He never picked up the lingo or tried to sound erudite. He is first and foremost a journalist: a sensitive and astute observer and a word artist. This is what he had to say about the art of writing:
 
“When I finish something and it seems good, I’m dazed.
It must have been fun to write. I wish I’d been there.”
 
I have many times said the same thing about painting. I just haven’t said it as well.
Art is where we
find ourselves
by losing ourselves
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Copyright © 2020 David Slader artist, All rights reserved.


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