Now, as I think myself back, I can see that day again as if it were only yesterday. All the feelings are still with me; every small particle of my Self returns to that moment of release, along with the grandiose conviction I held towards the completed Work.
I no longer felt doubtful about success. I stood back, away from the completed canvases, and knew exactly how everything would fall into place.
[(My backers and the people to talk with and the Gallery owners and the press people and my friends and supporters and Mentors, (Ian Rodgers, for one) would all give me the needed push.) All they would have to do is take one look at the canvases.]
The work I sweated over, during four, frantic, months, was right there, central:
Right there, stacked against the three walls; the dried paint, imbued in all its colours; every bit of cast-off glimmer, every still vision, I’d been too blind in recognizing in my previous creations.
My dry spell had come to an end. Whatever funk I’d put myself in, since 1980, was no longer consuming me in stasis. On that cold Winter day in 1989 I was on the move again; and, the only place to go was up. A turning point had been reached, and transcended. I’d used up every bit of colour, shadow, and light, going beyond the set surface of the canvas, in order to redefine the entire working process of creation. I’d taken something “old,” [those sketches] and transformed them into something “new,” [those forty paintings, stacked against the walls].
I thought I was redefining a process of painting; however, on reflection, the truth is I had redefined myself.
Seeing the paintings now, [in my mind’s eye] what strikes me is the secret Self: A dark side the paintings represented.
All is too clear in the aftermath:
The Self I’d painted,--something an Artist should never do--was a Self as dangerous, and violent as any carnivorous beast. In four months time, every piece and part of my better nature was tossed away; and, what had entered to take its place was something I would’ve never imagined as a part of myself. The Self revealed upon these canvases was a self which gratified itself, without respect or love. The images were stark, and stripped bare of anything hidden. [Of course, the wildness of these canvases would bring me riches, beyond measure; although, (as, final analysis) what the paintings revealed of the man who painted them would leave a far more lasting, and greater, impression.]
In retrospect, looking upon my hibination, the Outer and Inner Man were given a home. With the completion of this Work I had assumed a greater visibility, which in turn only hastened my undoing.
Everything is struck clear now:
My inhibitions were transcended as well. Each canvas (particularly, the ones which depicted themes of power, domination, or pain) did nothing but hold a mirror up to my own deeper, darker, nature. Refusing to inhibit myself, I’d managed to strip myself bare of all pretense in these paintings; going beyond solitude, beyond individuality. Now, I was, in effect, finally seeing the Soul for what it was; breaking free, of all internal chastisement, or external pain. Everything was dragged into the light and illuminated [tenderly] on canvas.
All of the soul-searching in paint, eventually, brought me fame; however, it would not be without a corresponding price to be paid.
[Distancing himself from this Self, he sees so clearly:
He stands in the middle of the loft. The “I” falls away, and he sees and feels and thinks as if he were someone else entirely; not the man who sees himself in mirrors, or the self-possessive “I” of his account. He shifts his naked body, further into the room, walking away from the mirrors; although, never, ever fully away.
What he sees in the mirror is a monster: ego-driven, callous, and cruel; devoid of all morality. His life goes crashing into another frame of reference. Like some strange admixture of sane and insane, he grasps the totality of his living, breathing, presence in the lives of Others; the living, and the no longer alive and all those who’ve come to know him through the years.]
They never really knew me; never knew the violence in me, or my own silence, or the pain I endured to get to where I’ve gotten in life. I wonder, even today, how it was I ever lived to see the Winter skies of New York, or the beginning of a new Decade.
[He doesn’t understand why, and can only step outside of himself in order to begin understanding himself. The man in the mirror is forgetful and uncertain (a weakness, of immorality). These words seem to be the sum of everything he sees before him. He shrinks from the pictures he’d painted of the Self, trying to deny the deep truth of each and every one of them. He confronts his mother, his father, in a collage of twisted desires. He wants to crawl away, fall into a fetal position, and shut out the light of day; and, oh God, why did he ever paint such things as these? He sees each painting (at least, now, in 1994) as some sort of premonition of what his life with Beauty would be like. It was there all along, (he thinks, to himself) right there in the paintings, he can trace, not only his early life, (his childhood and youth) but also his all-consuming relationship with the Muse. What he’d put on canvas was only a prelude.
Everything followed, as if he’d known all along: What moved him and spurred him on and drew him toward that one Ideal, one woman. She (Beauty) was a woman to make all his desires something spoken; all of his fantasies a reality.
Now, all he felt, when he thought of those paintings was a deep shame; a convulsive neutering of all desire. Right before his eyes, what made him famous, turned shameful, twisted, and muted. He had gone too far into himself; like an opening of Pandora’s Box, the paintings were self-revealing entities, which couldn’t be closed, or hidden, or even, shut-away within his own mind. The impulses: The possessiveness, the domination, the obsessions, the breaking of boundaries,--all of these things--were pieces of him, long before he’d ever set a brush upon the canvas; and, the violence and pain and hurt, comingeled (as they’ve been) were all a part of his Character.
A naked, shame-filled man weeps in his loft. Even now, after everything is gone:
He still misses that one Ideal, that one woman who’d helped him release what had been there all along. Now, with knowledge of his own guilt, he weeps for himself; and, in turn, weeps for her.]
In each mirror, he’d hung with care, upon his walls, he sees himself. His mind becomes clearer as he distances himself from the “I.” He can picture that day as if it’s happening again, and he himself has doubled, tripled, although, standing outside of it.
[Now, like a burst dam, he overflows with everything inside him. He crouches to the floor and rents the hair from his head and beats himself upon his back and doesn’t stop until he has raised welts. With one, final, shudder, he falls completely to the floor, and folds himself up into a fetal position.]
Now, I understand:
Having stood outside myself, I’d eaten the shadows and ghosts in my head; reveling in the past which sickens me. I know what I’ve done--know, really know--for the first time, what I did...and, why.
Going back: It was only days until Beauty entered my life. At this time, I wasn’t seeing the paintings as anything representative of my character, or moral standing. All the mistakes I was blind to in those Works only enhanced their value. The shadows, the lines, and colors, brought a deepness of expression, which in my haste of brushstrokes, only enhanced, and accentuated the overall impression. Judgment was stifled. Praise was loosened.
There were moments, during these four months of painting, when I couldn’t recall the exact moment I’d colored, or filled-in, a particular area of the canvas; each image came to me unbidden, unconsciously, so. (All, of course, would have been better had I left everything in the dark. I was in denial of these pieces of myself; completely blind to the shattering of my character.)
It’s too late now for regrets.
It may even be too late for forgiveness.
Whatever I’d managed to suppress, up to a point, as I began painting, came spilling out onto the canvas. I painted as if my very own life were on the line. The only person I had to live with, in those months of confinement, was myself. Therefore, I think it would be fair to say, this complete isolation brought every unexpressed, dormant, desire, out of hiding; projected, and immortalized, in paint.
With the addition of Beauty in my life the fostering of further, uninhibited, leaps of creativity would arrive also. A muse, [so I’ve heard] can be fluid and dominant. The changes to come in my life would be staggering; something huge, and without boundaries. There was no compromise, no brook, in my feelings. We were open to anything; and, her eyes pieced me, completely.
My desire to write of these things can only begin to redeem me. For now, I must return to those heady days of December [1989.] This, as I look back upon it now, was the true beginning of the end.
I couldn’t see it then.
By God, how I see it now.
Every sound outside my studio/loft had faded into a half-recognizable hum. I’d dropped out of the world, and in turn, had fallen mute in its absence. It was time to re-enter the world.
With this self-imposed confinement I’d shed any doubt from my perspective. I burned with a new-found confidence, knocking down walls of self-criticism. The only occupation which held any meaning for me was the clear recognition I experienced, each day, before the easel. As in life, each day was a new creation:
Each preliminary sketch became a focal point, a jumping off spot. Each day became a new round of things I’d never dared to see before. There never was enough light, in a twenty-four hour period, for all the work I did. Each painting, finally, became a sort of rapture, never stifield by fading sunlight.
All those sketches I’d thrown onto a shelf were only a germination of things to be realized; ones having dates scribbled upon them, revealed themselves to be ten, twelve, and thirteen years old.
[Was I at the end of my creative rope? I certainly was, when I’d picked up those forgotten sketches. It did not matter. Here, finally, was something I could work with. My mind was on fire.]
In shutting out the world, I’d reclaimed all the lost pieces of my Self, which for better or worse, had been relegated to a silent place, dormant and muted.
Nothing seemed more important, as I began the Work, as the possibility of what could be expressed in paint upon a canvas. I was completely within my chosen element; only, this time, the focus became narrowed down to a point of invisibility, only to be re-born with a fullness I’d never visualized before:
The approach was frontal; undiminished by the thematic underpinnings of Bondage and Submission. Later, however, the spell would be broken by Rodgers’ invitation. Now, the time had come for me to open my studio door, and exit into the street I’d abandoned, in my envy and pride.