If you look at the post from March 25 when I just started this painting, and here you can see the work I did on it yesterday.
The Dancing Bear is the title of one of my plays. The Dancing Bear is a person dressed in a bear costume. She wears it like we wear our own bodies, our own personas. You should stand clear of The Dancing Bear, because if you don't, who knows what you'll find out about yourself. (The truth hurts, doesn't it.) But then again, maybe it won't be so bad.
Genesis (triptych), Acrylic paint and graphite on three 12"x 16" boards; 2021.
I survived. It was that simple. I was spit out of a spiraling vortex where there was no consciousness of this reality, where cause and effect had no meaning or nothing else had meaning. Nothing had meaning, nothing had value, nothing was named. All that existed…was nothing.
All I could do was stay alive. Breathe in and breathe out. Pump blood through my veins. Give nourishment to my vital organs. I learned to kill with my bare hands and I learned to like it. I could fashion weapons from anything around me. A rock. A stick. My tears.
I survived. I resorted to cannibalism and I ate myself. I focused all of my energy on devising ways to kill, and in doing so, I realized that the more life I snuffed out, the safer I became. No other life became more important than my own.
What can this possibly mean? Is it my commentary on the state of affairs in the United States? The world? The pandemic? Modernism? All of the above? And why all this pretentious French?
I want to raise questions. 'Cause you have to think and interact with the painting. (I just don't get modern art, you say? That's like saying you don't understand a chair. You sit in a chair and you look at a painting, and that's all you need to know.) Except...except...dear viewer, I think you need to do more than just look at a painting; you need to interact with the painting. You need to engage! Theater nor painting, despite what I just wrote above about just looking, are not spectator sports. You must interact with them. You don't just buy a ticket to a play, sit back in the seat, and say, Ok, entertain me. You respond, you give the actors your energy so they can do their jobs. Nor do you look at a painting and say, entertain me. Do you speak French? Non? Then pull out your phone and pull up Google Translate. There, you've begun engaging. You do speak French? C'est bon! And isn't my French terrible? What about that? I know people who speak French; why didn't I call on them. Maybe I wanted the French to be bad. And the red, white, and blue? U.S. colors. And French and Russian, too! If that's as far as you get in one of my pieces, well, fine, I guess. But if I've hooked you somehow, keep going. That's what I want.
When not on the page, it's not that a word's meaning diminishes, it's that it has to share its essence with other artistic elements, starting with the painting itself; with the thing that has been made. Words on a page have been put there by the writer, the typesetter, the publisher, in a way that makes the words stand out alone, emphasizing them and putting them on the page to show them with the intent to best communicate meaning that the order of the letters dictate. That changes when words are used to paint. In painting, even the reason for language has a different purpose.
John Greiner-Ferris is an artist in the Boston area. Sometimes he makes images. Sometimes he writes. Sometimes he does both.