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Environmentalism metamorphosis New Blog Post New work Transformation

Le Rêve

Le Rêve (The Dream) is, of course, the famous painting by Pablo Picasso and famously punctured by the elbow of casino magnate Steve Wynn the day before he was to sell it for a sum that set records for the most amount paid for a piece of artwork by a U.S. collector. This record was shattered two years later but still–I don’t think this is a painting anyone would think about when looking at a pile of garbage. But that’s exactly what I did when I saw my neighbor’s garbage on the curb a couple months ago as I was walking my dog home in the dark in August.

Tabula rasa tabula rasa tabula rasa

This is what I spotted. A broken, spray painted table with busted legs.

I’m getting ready to sand this honkin’ mofo.

I dragged it across my yard and tried to conceal it in my back yard so as to not tip off my neighbor to my garbage tablenapping deeds in order to avoid awkwardness as we exchanged our awkward “hello”‘s twice a year. I went to sleep that night positive, indeed, my table hiding skills didn’t fail me and awoke to the reality that, indeed, my table hiding skills did fail me. I’m positive the neighbor saw it so I don’t look forward to our next “hello” in four or five months.

The next day I took the extremely heavy, broken legs off of the table and dragged the table top inside. I knew I wanted to turn it into a piece of yard/garden art for my front yard but I wasn’t really sure what to do to make that happen or HOW to do that to make that happen. Not yet. It is 42″ in diameter, which is pretty big. I’m not going to lie–my first impulse was to paint an anus on it. A realistic close up up of a glistening butthole. A 42″ wide realistic close up of a glistening butthole. I decided to go in a different direction, though, imagining the hoards of parents and possible law enforcement individuals showing up at my door and stomping on my blue sage plants next to my door. No, no 42″ anus for me, sadly. At least……not yet. I did briefly consider turning it into a giant pink button, drilled with four holes with brown “thread” sewed in an x. Since I couldn’t have a buttHOLE I could have a buttON at least. I couldn’t decide, though. It was hard to think of something I really wanted to do that was crowd friendly.

So the table top hung out in a corner of my living room being a 42″ pain in my fucking ass instead for the next six weeks or so. A couple things prompted me into getting it out of the corner of my living room. One was the pain in the ass factor but also I knew the weather was going to turn colder and wetter, making setting concrete a little more difficult. I needed to get this think on a post in a hole with concrete while it was still warm. So I started sanding and priming and trying to decide what to paint on the thing. And somehow, mysteriously, I landed on the face of Marie-Thérèse Walter from Le Rêve.

When I finished it I suddenly realized that this is WAY too good for my neighbors to gawk at as they walked past my front yard. *I* wanted to look at it, not them. I changed its’ final destination from the front yard to the backyard, in the center of my flower bed dedicated to flowers for my beloved monarch butterflies. I mean, other things visit the flowers too, including hummingbirds, countless insects, butterflies, baby rabbits, squirrels and birds.

The painting process was difficult but unbeknownst to me the most difficult part was to come: mounting this thing on a post and getting it into a hole filled with concrete. This was a *table*, not a sign. It was a heavy wooden table that was not veneered so it was a pretty quality table in its’ time. But it also consisted of six boards glued together and held in place by braces as you can see in this picture. I made the mistake of removing the braces in order to sand it and the table top broke in two. I had to immediately try to glue it back together and reattach those janky ass brackets in order to keep it from further falling apart. I didn’t want to tempt fate again by trying to remove the braces. Ever. So I decided to just paint the back with several coats of paint and coat the entire thing with many layers of clear coat and use the braces in the mounting process.

The thing is though–look carefully at the spacing on the braces. The damn braces were too closely spaced for me to get my drill close enough to the table top to get lag bolts into the post–>through the brace–>into another post on the other side. It was a MESS. I eventually hand chiseled those notches into the post, used deck screws to mount it to the notched post and then placed *another* identical post next to the first one, effectively sandwiching the brace inside the two posts with multiple lag bolts. My dog felt that something was missing though! Just seconds before I prepared to lift this thing into its’ final, glorious spot in my garden he decided it needed his pee. Alllll over the back.

Even though the glorious moment of finally placing this piece in its’ home in the ground was accompanied by dog piss it was a pretty fucking great moment. It was so much better than I even imagined.

“I peed on that.”–my dog

It is an absolute joy to look out my back door every morning as I let my dog out to pee (not on the art this time). Since it is late fall the flowers are a little ratty, yes. But just imagine it surrounded by zinnias, cornflowers, rudbeckia and daisies next year. The tithonia behind it will also return because they are so beloved by monarchs and hummingbirds.

One of my favorite photos of it because you can see a monarch flitting from flower to flower in the background.

I had to spend a long time researching Le Rêve in order to try to determine the actual colors Picasso chose to use in the original. In doing so I ran across many different analyses that mentioned the erotic elements of the original–her hands forming a vagina shape and that Picasso painted what is presumably his erect penis on her face. As I stood watching the butterflies, bees, butterflies, and birds surround her face and watched the flowers sway in the wind none of that came to mind. To me this was her dream–my dream–to be surrounded by this beauty under a blue autumn sky. The joy on her face is mine. From now on the $155 million original will always make me think of garbage.

Categories
Growth metamorphosis Monarch Butterfly New Blog Post Transformation

Initium

Initium: From ineō (“go in, make a start”) +‎ -ium, the former from in (“in, into”) +‎ eō (“go”).

When going through metamorphosis are you making a start or are you making an ending?

One of my most beloved passions is devoting my time and effort to the protection of and a haven for monarch butterflies. My yard is devoted to the plants they love to suck nectar from and plants they must lay eggs upon for the proliferation of their offspring. I search for their eggs and very tenderly and lovingly raise them from tiny 1/4 inch long creatures to 3 inch long chonkers. I do this in hopes of increasing the members of the species so that this beautiful and nearly endangered species has a better chance of surviving our brutal world marred and made toxic by human hands.

Watching the metamorphic process the caterpillars endure up close something that is striking to me is how there are many endings before the final beginning of life as a butterfly. Each caterpillar has to focus purely on eating and growing larger. They go through stages called “instars”. Each instar is marked by a change in size and appearance. They have to unzip their skin, remove their face cap and throw them both off to welcome their new stage of growth.

I think humans can go through similar phases/stages of growth. These stages are not always marked shimmying out of our skin and leaving our face cap behind but sometimes the pain of enduring growth and transformation can come with the pain that feels as though this very thing is happening. And I think this pain is what keeps people from pushing themselves to introspect, take risks, grow and go through further transformation. The vast majority of people stagnate, board over the windows of their souls and in doing so halt all transformative possibilities. Growth is pain and transformation is terrifying.

The coronavirus pandemic has been a source of tremendous, unbelievably painful transformation for me as a person and as an artist and for that I have only the deepest, most humble sense of gratitude. Part of this transformation to my next instar is the desire to share the pains of the growth and how my work reflects my personal and artistic growth.