Behind the Art: Let the Sparks Fly

Talk about a giant metaphor for the human condition.

Oh yeah, and it’s also a bit of an oxymoron.

Let me explain. When I first heard the term “social distancing” as it regards ways to thwart the spread of Covid, I couldn’t help but see the larger issues at play here.

It really begs the question: how can you be both distant and social, especially if everyone is wearing a mask.

Here’s the thing. To me, this whole subject is ripped right out of Jung and Shakespeare.

For those of you who don’t remember, Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist who believed that we all present kind of a “social mask” to others. In other words, when you wear a Covid mask, you are actually wearing two masks, the persona you show the world and the one you wear for safety.

At the same time, I couldn’t help but be struck by the idea that social distancing spoke to the huge problem already afflicting the human race — even on a good day, it can be hard to communicate appropriately with others

Indeed, Shakespeare was famous for writing comedies about how a series of miscommunications can cause all kinds of problems for people.

This is both physically and metaphorically true with Covid masks. It’s often really hard to understand literally others are saying, aggravated by the fact there are no facial expression that help you understand the other person better.

So, with that in mind, I embarked on a series of paintings I call the “Spirits of Babylon.” Part of the series name comes from the old kingdom of Babylon, which was literally a divided nation. (Kind of like the US today).

The other part of the title comes from one of my old original songs. The line that matters says “every day our leaders just babble on.”

This is particularly apt because to me, it seems we can’t get a straight answer from our elected leaders about exactly what is going on with the pandemic. And right now, millions of us can’t find out when we can get the vaccine.

“Let the Sparks Fly” kicks off the series with two characters divided by what could be a river on fire, or an energy flow or a rip in the cosmos.

To accentuate the separation, I made one figure a man and the other a woman. This gives us a sense of sexual desire – sparks -- but at the same time alludes to how hard it can be for men and women to fully communicate with each other.

I decided not to be literal about the Covid mask so the painting can stand the test of time. But I made sure that each face is masked in some manner, a characteristic carried out throughout the Babylon series.

Above each of the figures, is an oblique and obscure persona. I present them as hidden spirits themselves, possibly amused at the tragicomedy of the human condition, but also giving us a sense of a higher power.

I personally like the way the colors all flow in the piece. There are large sections that are subtle and moody with blues and maroons which are offset by the bright, almost fluorescent swatches of color for the sparks in the energy flow.

Finally, as with many of my paintings, the title of the piece comes from one of my favorite songs. This one is by a Canadian Christian rock band called Thousand Foot Krutch whose name "symbolizes the point in our lives that we realize we can't make it on our own strength". It adds another layer to the painting by once again alluding to a higher power.