Oil and ink on various materials
“Melinda, Jeff, Sam and Lulu”
Oil on panel/canvas
24″ x 18″
“Study for Suffering Change”
8″ x 8″
“Sisyphus With Cart”
24″ x 36”
I don’t remember when I painted this piece. It looks like the visual vocabulary I created 10 years earlier in the early 90’s. However, even though the central focus of my work was figural realism and full on abstraction, I continue even to this day in 2020 to sketch in this manner. There is something about the handling of the paint that makes me think it was 2004 or so.
I am attracted to the myth of Sisyphus because it has so many layers of metaphors and speaks directly to the modern conundrum of “work vs. labor” and artistic creation vs. artwork. In the myth, Sisyphus is condemned by the gods to push a large rock up a hill each day. At the end of the day, the rock rolls back down and he must begin again. On one level, this is the story of my libido. Each day he must labor up the hill with the burden of his sex drive. The hill gets steeper and the road gets narrower as the day continues. With persistence and focus, he will keep it together and arrive at the top without ruining his life. There, he will have a brief moment of ecstasy only to find himself at the bottom of the hill again the next morning.
In this painting Sisyphus has transformed into a phallus and labors with an empty cart. I hardly need to elaborate. However, what is worth further comment, perhaps, is the fact that his head is a kind of visual pun with the mountain top, thus implying that the journey is not just to the top of the mountain but up and out of this continuous sex drive to a higher level of thinking. Or perhaps it suggests that the sex drive is a kind of fuel to arrive at something higher. It isn’t clear, but does imply questions like this.
As an artist, I feel it is important to have an empty cart, an empty bowl and an empty heart. The beggar is a metaphor for the emptiness and receptivity that is part of the creative spirit. Sisyphus begins his journey with an empty cart in hopes that indeed it will be full by the time he reaches the “top” of each day.