Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On Truth, Beauty and Color ... with a dab of career counseling by Jesse Putnam, this month's gallery artist at Freehold

Lately I've been wondering if I made the right choices in deciding the ever-obstinate 'what do you want to be when you grow up' question. My first choice (center-fielder for the Red Sox) didn't catch on with the scouts. My NASA space explorer quest ended in expulsion from flight school (apparently cocaine and Cessna single engines don't mix). And my Senatorial ambitions ran into the ideological, puritanical buzz-saw that kills most lefties (read: I'm a socialist with an appetite for Vegas). I'm wondering if maybe I shouldn't have given up on growing up altogether and stuck with... I don't know... finger paints? After all, I do like color. No telling where that could have led.

In all seriousness, I have, in my somewhat delinquent adulthood, found more than a mere career in the arts: I've found a true love. A love for the conceptual, the colorful, the wry, the rich, the pure, the ruined, the divine (and on and on). And in no art-form I've explored have I found more luxury than in painting. I first discovered a special attraction to painting primarily in my study of the 20th century painters: Kandinsky, Klee, Newman, Mondrian, among others. Though I've yet to pursue the painter's craft with the dedication required to live the art, I have enjoyed peering into what lies underneath it. Kandinsky, for instance, was driven by an intense philosophical and spiritual urging – what he called the “inner necessity." His paintings were vehicles for his profound spiritual beliefs. Newman thought that painting was as much about metaphysics as physics (and smartly tore at critics who didn't appreciate his pursuit of both).

And Mondrian, perhaps my favorite painter, (photo left of Mondrian's Composition II in Red, Blue and Yellow) explored the weights and balances of life through color and form – his canvasses became as much a stage for pure color as the black box is for the performer. For me, these painters pursued what all artists are bound to: Truth, Beauty, Spirit, Meaning. It may seem silly to place an image of a Mondrian painting next to one of the photographs I have displayed in the space Freehold provides to local artists. It is not to compare my work to his. It is to celebrate the questions and discoveries his art has helped me to enjoy. It was his exploration of color and form that spoke to my inner truth in a way that compelled me to explore my own ways of expressing that truth. Through his art he tapped me on the soul, triggered that inner necessity Kandinsky spoke of, and forced me to investigate what it was that was generated within. In the case of these photographs (hung in the Freehold space), that became an exploration of the delightful and curious relationship color and form have to beauty; how elements of matter on a canvass (or any surface) can, if specifically arranged, tickle the interior in a way that nothing else does – save, perhaps, a corresponding sound (nod to Kandinsky).

In the end, I'm OK with my “chosen” career. Being an artist surely isn't about money. Or fame. Or even happiness. But it is, for me, the only career path for those who want to explore the unseen and discover truths that are buried in the deepest parts of each and every living thing. Unless, of course, NASA opens up Mars.

Jesse is currently a student in Freehold's Ensemble Training Program.

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