Sunday, October 19, 2008
Pictures From An Empty Place
In the desert, the famous artist dressed in jodhpurs and a Stetson and strode around the fractured, dessicated landscape with a small, folding safari chair and a compact easel. He was very conscious of being filmed and photographed and you could tell he enjoyed the character he assumed on camera – urbane artist-as-adventurer. He painted (to my eye) dull panoramas of barren mudflats, shimmering mirages, and vast skies. Sometimes, he set fire to lengths of rope held taught between two rough stakes in different settings, then photographed them. It was as much an act of theatre as of creative practicality. We would watch as he donned pink rubber gloves, soaked the rope strands with lighter fluid and lit them. He did one in the lake’s shallow waters, at dusk. As the flames merged with the orange sky and the suns dying rays, I glimpsed embers of meaning that would cool and blow away from the paintings he would later make of the scene.