My Little Brother Started College This Semester

destin4Destin, striking a pose…

I’m proud of the guy. He’s strong, smart, and pretty thoughtful (although it’s hard to find a picture of him that’s not a selfie taken in the bathroom). I know pursuing higher education is going to make him an even better thinker and doer in this world. His matriculation this semester is not only about his abilities and drive, but also about the vision that our mom had many years ago, as well as the guidance and mentoring our older sister provided. I think Destin would thank everyone – Walt, Stacey, and Denya, our Mom and Pastor Dan – for their efforts. I know he’ll make us even more proud.

destin2Stacey and Destin on a walk back in the day…

One of my favorite memories of Destin’s early years was when I’d come home from college to spend a few days with family and sometimes things would devolve into sword fighting…

destin1

destin5

destin3That’s some glory right there!

Destin, I hope your first semester is rolling along amazingly well. When things get weird, strike a pose with a plastic sword like the old days.

It’ll help, brother.

~

The Big Tree

This week was Spring Break for me (and the rest of the University of Missouri). Not that it really felt like much of a break. I honestly don’t remember what it’s really like to just be free. I don’t begrudge my responsibilities – much to the contrary, I’m grateful that they’re things I believe in and understand to be meaningful. Yet the freshness of just being able to BE… well, I guess I’ll have to experience that vicariously. 

One of the ways I see that “astonishment of being” taking place is through the experiences of my daughter. This week when we took her to see The Big Tree near Columbia where we live (here’s the Tree’s Facebook page) she was pretty excited. 

 

A group of shots of her at the base of the tree.

 

And with mom out in the field nearby…

 

…she picked flowers for the first time!

 

A pretty nice view.

Overall it was a good, joyful day. I’m blessed by the delight in her eyes at moments like these. I’m hopeful that we can let Miranda just experience being alive for as long as possible, before the cares and responsibilities crowd out wonder.

Statement, January 2012

     I create paintings, drawings and prints in an attempt to address – through archetypal themes and symbols – the fundamental questions, ideas, hopes, and concerns I have about being in the world. I write texts in an attempt to integrate rational conceptions and reflections with my passionate, sometimes illogical, image making. In tandem, these avenues of expression form a multifaceted arena of investigation and inquiry that I use every day to – hopefully – understand and make sensible the miraculous reality of being.

     The statement above relies on the fact that I am deeply interested in three main aspects of the human condition: being, symbol, and body.

     I am intrigued by the state of evocative subjective experience that Gaston Bachelard described as “the astonishment of being.” Thus, though I am interested art of all kinds, I take particularly to those forms that connect with our embodiment or sense of being. This means the physical world, the objects we use and love, and the bodies we inhabit are particularly important to the sort of art I want to see and make.

     It follows then that I find the expression of meaning through symbol – that is, the potential for objects to accumulate and resonate with meaning – to be a central interest of my art-making practice.  Anything containing meaning has been, as John Dewey wrote, “funded” with importance through the physical interaction and intellectual contemplation human beings have invested in it over time.

     The body is the zone of incident where being-ness and the structures of significance coalesce. Therefore, I foster a deep appreciation for the human body as a container for and calibrator of meaning and knowledge. As a maker of images – be they painted, drawn, or printed – I function as a symbolist in the traditional sense; I create tableaus for the relational contemplation of that which is beyond the facts of appearance. In doing so I hope to stimulate an evocative, transformative experience in my fellow human beings.

A Sound of Being

“Evening often brings contemplation. The paths are quiet and fires smolder in the distance. I’m out behind the Inn again. Some people come and go, moving in the ethereal between-time, but we sit on the steps with a kind, unimposing light glinting out from within. There, the warmth of the air touches my arm as I bring my hand up for another pull on my smoke.

See how poetic that stream of consumption is as it gracefully spreads upward, as smoothly as my eye follows it, as light as my mind. Shared… a cigarette-trust between friends.

And there is just silence, but that is not to say there is no sound. There is a sound that true silence makes, a sound of being. What a precious joy now to sit and feel that silence, having grown accustomed to all the oft-unheard sounds of life embodied in it: there two girls talk quietly down by the lagoon, here the underbrush rustles with some rooting creature. Around us the sounds of the night move in close, the trees and hills settling in. Above, in the near cabins, assignations await. The studio glows, and there’s music trailing through the trees… notice the diffusion. The Inn lights lilt like ghosts greeting that twilight time, that time when the entire world is mother-of-pearl.” – from A Mnemonic of Longing, an unpublished essay, 2002-2009.

Image from a digital photo taken between May and August 2001.

Miranda Grace Ballou

Miranda

Your hands and feet… your eyes and brain… they are all more than fresh; they are still being knit together.

As I sit here, there you are across the room in your mother, your heart striking a tattoo of potential to future joys and woes. When I think about all that I am, all that your mom is, all that our people are, all that our world is, I am caught short of breath… not really overwhelmed, but overawed.

Overawed because I know that, in major ways (foreseen and unforeseen), I will be part of the way you access all that has been. This great world, this great universe of experience and time and sensation and being – each facet part of your inheritance as a human being – is going to be presented to you by my faltering, limited, frail hands and voice.

And I am moved by all of this, partly because I know that being alive is hard and I don’t want you to hurt. But I am more moved by it because I know how much the miracle of being conscious has inundated me, made me, transformed me. The glories and wonders of the things you’ll know and see and touch and hear and be flood me; I, too, know them, and know that you’ll know them so much differently than I have. But we’ll have that knowing to share.

Part of that knowing is a realization that the dignity of what you are is because of a Story that transcends space, time, personality, individuality, and being itself. That’s the place I want to start, even as we explore everything else, because everything else is embedded in that Story. You are in that Story.

You are the precious thoughts of the Author of that Story. You are the manifestation of the articulated structures of Story rippling through all things. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!

Latest Essay – On Robert Henri, Subjectivity, and the Nature of Being

My latest essay, Subjectivity and Robert Henri, was published this week over on the Neoteric Art Blog. I’m really proud of the piece. It challenged me while writing it and I think it’s something I’ll go back to again and again.

Check it out here.

I have to say that Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space were major influences in the essay. Here’s to good thoughts and words, ones that reproduce (even if only in some small way) after their own kind.