Art Students League

A Green Manifesto: “See” Change

“Man With Torch” 30×42″, Monotype. Will be shown at The Art Students League’s Carson Gallery, “Modern Man and the Landscape”, May 17-June 28

In Spring the light moves quickly. Spring is a good time for seeing. Slapped in the face by a fresh breeze, I realize that I have been looking at things through windows and I can now step out into the air to see them as they really are. But Spring moves at the speed of light. One day we look out and see a few diaphanous green leaflets, another, we are driving to work and see through the windshield a scrim of fully leafed trees. Spring reminds you that you are present; a green manifesto.

Sight is the most mercurial of senses. Smells linger, cumin and cilantro just beneath the radar until we realize we are hungry, songs become earworms for days. But look away for a second from a glade of trees and everything has changed. The light has moved- it has parsecs to go before we sleep. Even in memory, sight is ephemeral. We struggle to recall the face or breasts or fingers of a past lover.

The top picture, though more autumnal than vernal, is one of my favorites because it shows a man poised very incrementally between past and future, memory and hope. He has a torch, which suggests bridges being burned, but also light shining (it also, some have suggested, indicates environmental disaster, a not incompatible theme). Environment, is after all, where we are now. And a job? A denial of the present experience in favor of an idealized future. Necessary, yes- but Spring reminds that the time is now, and the word is light.

An artist gets placed in charge of freezing light and time, a trickything to do. An artwork is always about a moment, as Mark Tansey’s rather subversively iconic image of plein air painters documenting a shuttle launch tells us. The trick is to slow things down, get in the present, making art in real time, somewhere in the rushing stream of photons. Not an easy thing. So I guess I’ll get out and take a walk.

4 replies on “A Green Manifesto: “See” Change”

Thanks Erin. It’s not actually a new piece. 2005, rather old. But it hasn’t been seen around here much. That will change May 17- showing at Carson Gallery, 5:30-9 PM. The title of the show is “Modern Man and the Landscape”.

Nice, very nice, Joe! I love your work and I love your words.

Funny thing: a decade ago or more I saw in a magazine an article about this interesting painter, featuring some of his work. Ever since, I have been wondering, well, occasionally, who this guy was.

Now I know it was Mark Tansey. Chapter closed.

I adore your stuff, Joe.

Thanks, Herm. Glad I could clear up that Tansey thing for you. A talented realist with a conceptual edge.

Leave a Reply