Peter Carolin


Gainesville, Florida

I love painting water abstractly. Many people are disturbed by abstraction in a picture because they are looking for content: a kayak, a boat, a leaf, a thing. But rather than being a “noun”, water, in itself, is an action; a “verb”, or a “gerund”. It is swirling and spinning, evolving and dissolving; water is abstraction itself! Though water’s motion may best be described by video; the swirls, churns, and boils do repeat. To see the structure, or pattern, which is the “stillness” in a moving thing, requires a “freeze-frame,” or a painting. To observe the flow of energy requires more than one picture.

Nature is the Mother of both diversity and fecundity in physics and biology. A single blizzard creates trillions of snowflakes; each a unique structure, perfect and beautiful. Nature is a sculptor. Look at a rising mountain, or a hollowed out canyon. Geologically, Nature is also an architect. Observe that in both cases water takes a part. Water makes the erosion happen that carves out the canyon; and water just sitting there, at the bottom of the ocean, pushes down against the planet, forcing mountains, and continents themselves to spring up!
In Autumn, there are trillions of abstract paintings falling to the ground in the shape of a leaf! As each leaf changes, falls, and lays upon the ground, its life passes before its eyes thermographically, like a mood ring! All the energy that went into the leaf, from the spring day it was born, is recorded energetically, atom by atom, protein by protein, cell, by cell; the story of its life. It was a hot day. It was a cold day. It was sunny, cloudy, wet, dry, and windy. (There’s not a lot of drama to being being a plant. It seems all they talk about is changes in the weather. I guess people can vegetate that way, too.) All the changes occur in a temporal sequence. As the leaf decomposes, its story of energy is retold in reverse order in vivid color. Because it is a direct interpretation of the flow of energy itself, each leaf becomes a perfectly balanced (asymetrically, of course) abstract painting. So Nature is an Abstract Painter.

One could go on and on observing action in Nature. The beauty of the waves. Or, the crashes when the “Sea” is angry. I think it was the wind who acted as instigator! The “punches” of the clouds, as water droplets do their best in a boxing match with the “Sky”. At first, pop, pop, pop. All little uppercuts. Then, the clouds seem to get big and tough and mean. They strike hard against the sky, with ions, left and right, electronegatively breaking the sound barrier. Although the sky rips, and cracks, it heals in a flash. The clouds are the ones who get all bruised and bleeding, black and blue, and beaten, until they fall down. We just don’t notice, because their blood is clear, and pure, and the fall of a single drop is almost silent, except against a hot tin roof. Anyways, after a big fight, the sky and the clouds usually make up at sunset, and become friends again.

Finally, especially portraitists, find diversity in biology. There are no two faces alike, and it can be a compulsion to want to paint all of them. Why? Because it is an inherent response. It is a celebration of life to experience and wonder about uniqueness and diversity; each thing and its specialness becomes a symbol, or a metaphor for an experience of life. As the artist creates a description of the person/subject matter; whether exactly, or distorted, simply or detailed, the actualization of caring about life, and acknowledging certain aspects of life, celebrates in the humanist cultural tradition, what it means to experiences life as a human being. As we share and increase our “caring” with each other collectively we increase our “humanity.”

Artists are heralds. They have something to communicate, either about the physical world around them, the conceptual/emotional world within them, or the social world among them, to criticize or celebrate, sometimes to make more noise, and sometimes to make more peace and quiet. Like modern journalists, artists may attempt to be objective, (or not), and tell stories for shock and impact, drama and even disgust. The critical artist attacks or challenges us to stop living senselessly and be more attentive and act more alive. Art may also celebrate and examine life, from a more sensitive perspective, and bring a sense of vitality, and information to the viewer, often translated as good feelings and healthier attitude. The statement may be less loud, but more detailed. As diverse as life is, it may take even more diverse angles and perspectives to understand and examine it, logically, scientifically, poetic and mystically.

Even if we weren’t in an age of crises of sustainability; exploration, reflection, and imagination that lead to communication, culture, creation, and innovation are all worth experiencing.