Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Eyes of Lee



No. This isn't about Jeb Stuart. It is, to a degree, I suppose, about professional competence, but I'm sick of using that word in relation to what I do. I mean, how much can you really lean on competence if your whole thing is throwing paint from a stick, hoping it ends up looking like something? I'm more attracted to the notion of good luck being the residue of hard work. Although there are those who might debate sections of that language as well.

Hard work? they might ask. To which I would respond: Are you familiar with this?
There are fifty roads to Beauty, and only one of them involves blonde hair and a button nose.
Probably not. I just made it up. By the way, the one road that does involve blonde hair and a button nose is called, predictably enough, the Katherine Heigl Expressway. Six lanes, both ways.

But let's not worry about her now. Let's get back to hard work. It, like beauty, comes in all sorts of shapes. And there's that business about skinning cats--you're surely familar with that? And Thurber's complaint that the hardest part of his job was convincing his wife that it involved staring out the window? Now we're getting somewhere.

Me? Hard work for me comes, as often as not, late at night, sitting in a chair, staring at a half-finished--or in Big Maria's case, completely finished--painting and trying to figure out what's going on, what to do next, what's wrong, what's right. Just because I have some music on, and a glass of Evan Williams in my hand (Jack Daniels is too expensive), that doesn't mean the gears aren't churning away.

The painting is easy, most of the time. Freeing. Like playing catch with somebody who can't throw back. Like pitching to Mackey Sasser, if you are up on your New York Mets lore. No--the painting is easy. It's the thinking about the painting that's hard.

Big Maria jumps back to mind. Everytime I look at her I want to vomit. And I see her fifty times a day. Enough said.

And besides, the whole point of this post is to announce that my favorite part of Old Bobby Lee is the 50% differential between the size of one eye and the size of the other. His right eye (to your left) measures just under 4 mm in diameter. His left eye measures just over 6 mm. It is, frankly, dynamic disjuction functioning at its highest level. It is also a complete accident.



The thinking here is that if both eyes were the same size, much of the drama of the painting would be lost. As it is now, the increased size of his left eye dramatically alters the perspective of the painting, pulling that portion of his face closer to the viewer, pushing the far side of his face back into the distance. Further complementing the effect is the predominance of blue on the left side, which recedes, and red on the right side, which does whatever the opposite of recede is. Charges?
Now listen, George. I want you to take about 15,000 of your boys and charge like holy hell across this big meadow and up that ridge. The idea is to crack them Union bastards in half. Right down the middle. Do it and they'll roll up like a cheap suit. Any questions? Good. Let me know how it goes.
No wonder he looks sad.

I dont' have the energy to locate a appropriate Chuck Close image, even though there are tons that illustrate the point, but one of the things that makes his photographic images, and his early, super-realistic portraits made from those images, interesting is the fact that he opens his lens wide, radically compressing the camera's depth of field so that while the eyes are in focus the tip of the nose is not. Nor are the ears.

It's all the same shit. Me? It's like I'm walking with the giants.

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