I can’t say I remember from my own point of view all of the moments that went into when I learned how to swim, but what I am certain of is that it involved another who was there for me to swim to. I was a small child, and she was an amazing and kind human and even after all these years, I can say I remember her kindness and guidance and that the experience was so positive that I’ve spent many many years swimming since then. It’s how most of us learned how to swim. There is a guide of some sort, someone with experience and who has the confidence in us, truly believing that we are strong and capable enough to venture out into these waters without any knowhow and we will make it. And they have given us every notion that they will without a doubt be there in case we dip too low under the surface or flail too much above it. If we seem scared, they will put a hand out for us to remind us that they are there and can lift us up. They give us the confidence, not only by showing us their arms outstretched as a goal to swim to, but in the energy they possess, the confidence they have in us that permeates our surroundings and affords us the boldness to try. And we jump in, albeit with a distinct amount of fear or at the very least awkwardness, and when we hit the water, we are instantaneously kicking and paddling and gasping, with the belief that we are going to choke and sink from our lack of knowing how. And there they are for us. And they will stick through it with us at least until we get the hang of it. We put our every ounce of faith in them. There is a significant amount of trust involved in the learning and teaching of swimming.
I think learning to swim is a pretty great metaphor for how we humans seem to handle unknowns much of the time too. It’s nuanced and depends on the experience, but it’s probably one that most of us can relate to in making associations to different aspects of our lives. We can feel this from the new swimmer’s perspective, and if we have lived life for a little while, we can feel this from an onlooker’s and the guide’s perspective as well as the now-experienced swimmer’s perspective too. I think it’s a good comparison to make in practically anything else we may experience. Definitely in art too. Learning how to swim and the act of swimming can effectively be a good metaphor for much of life itself, and perhaps the most important aspect of that experience I described above is that it involves others.
I wanted to paint about this. I was really inspired to paint about this, actually. About how we get this sense from others we feel a connection with, and that connection can come in many different forms that mainly have an underlying sense of knowing. There is something in the knowing. I mean a deep knowing of something, a knowing that doesn’t have boundaries to one specific thing but based so much on a feeling and alignment of all things. Those things that keep the driving force revved and the flame burning bright. It’s not just positivity, but a sense of familiarity in the depths and darkness too. Not just the intelligence and understanding of any one thing but also an observation shared in spirit and wonder. Not just straightforward hard work that goes into getting stronger or better at something but also the knocked-down full-on loss and obliteration of that ever-present myopic perception and a rebuilding of what that broader sense of knowing is based on: having an open mind and eyes that notice and a heart that has felt this connection as well, a deep sense to want to share this, and that this life we each lead is not a singular vision or voice, but a collective one. A shared melody.
So, what is this painting about? It’s about swimming, perhaps in a vast sea, it’s about singing the melody with another soul, it’s about all of the above, it’s about life. And within that, it’s about connection, love, unknowns, and all of the emotions that come with every aspect of that. It’s a portrait of connection in just one of the infinite ways that connection can be depicted. It’s very special to me, and I wanted to share it with you. Last year, I made several of these mindscape paintings based on moods and emotions and how we as humans experience emotions as more of a bundle and never really as separate. Most of my work is and has always conveyed emotions in this way but most times has contained a figure or face. These new works depict forms that may take on somewhat of a human shape but in looking at them, we are looking directly into the human condition and not just at the surface. I look forward to sharing these new paintings here on Muddy Colors as I’ve finished them.
If you’d like, you can see another new painting from this body of work in my article Painting The Intangible by clicking here and you can read more about my thoughts on making tangible imagery from the intangible in my article Through Art We Harvest The Unknown by clicking here.