crying eyes cast downward

Those eyes were never meant to be. But now, when I look, they are all I see. “Vision” that the artist’s heart and soul never envisioned.

Remember that. First. This canvas was not meant to be pierced.

The piece began as whole cloth, stretched tautly over determined wooden bones, smooth and ready for the master’s work to begin. Unblemished it was, and unblemished it was to have remained.

A clean brush was pressed into the palette of pigmented oils, the paint-laden brush was lifted to and laid upon the waiting canvas, then came the imaginative strokes of the artist’s hand, pulled from someplace deep within – perhaps broadly and determinedly drawn, side to side or top to bottom – perhaps with a quick flick of the wrist. That’s the part most of us never see and can only imagine, but if you look closely enough at the texture, you can get a pretty good idea. You can see – you can feel – the heavy drag, the feathered touch, the long drawn bow over a thigh-enclosed cello or the percussive picking and plucking of dexterous digits on catgut strings. It’s all there. Use your eyes.

Use your eyes. This painting has no eyes.


But. Things happen. As things do.

“I loved this one until a shelf fell into it”
Clinton Snider

The artist’s studio is not neat. They rarely are. Most artists can’t be bothered with things like order and organization. This is why they are not accountants. Or rarely are, I should say. It would be wrong to paint with too broad a brush (Ha!) Assume a “most” or “nearly all” whenever I generalize about someone or something, unless I’m making a horridly racist/sexist/classist/ableist/-ist -ist -ist error, in which case, please call me out on it. I like to think I’m teachable.

So anyway – not a neat studio. But. He DOES have shelves. Which, in general, are good things to have in a studio, unless they happen to tip into your artwork.

And tip into the artwork they did.

Gashed it good. You saw the picture. Here it is again. Oof.

But. Do you see what I see?

Crying eyes cast downward. Which is cool. At least I think so.

I can also see crying eyes looking upward. But I think that’s wrong.

All of which is beside the point.

Sort of.

Remember the point from the very beginning:

This canvas was not meant to be pierced.

But it is. Irreversibly.

The artist, and we, have options and decisions to make:

  • Rip the canvas from the frame, pitch it, and stretch a new one.
    Just admit the irredeemability of the situation and start over. carte blanche, literally and figuratively. The old, useless, canvas goes to the burn barrel, and we can all pretend it never existed. Lots of us “artists” try that with the creations that are ourselves with very limited success. Re-create as you may, but you will always remember that original work that was, at one point, so, so, good.

  • Carefully remove the damaged canvas, resize it to remove the damaged section, and stretch it over some new “bones”.

    Several problems with this approach, as far as I’m concerned, and I have a hunch most artists will agree: 1) YOU will always know what has been “cut off”, even if the viewer doesn’t. It’s no longer authentic, just “presentable”, 2) The final “work” is no longer what the artist intended. I don’t know many artists who are ultimately “ok” with this (I’m generally NOT), and 3) (this is cool, kind of sad, and quite telling), it wasn’t until the more obvious damage was “cut off” that other damage, further up, became apparent. Smaller, less obvious damage, but damage nonetheless (hmmm).

  • “Fix” the damage in a way that lets the whole work stay intact but creatively incorporates the damage and the repair.
    This is probably what most of us do, both as artists with our physical “work” and as humans with our metaphorical “works” of Our Selves (God, I hope you’ve figured out there is metaphor at work here by now…). With this painting, there are many options. Someone suggested, “Personally, I would put an ugly artificial sinew stitch on those.” I like it – like binding up the wound, but leaving stitches and scars to remind yourself (and everyone else) of the damage incurred and the hard work of repair. The Japanese art of Kintsugi was also discussed, which uses precious metals to repair chipped ceramics, treating breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. Cool stuff.

  • Leave it “As Is” and “Let it Be”
    “I had a great piece going on. I loved it. Some frickin’ shelves fell into it and gashed it. It’s still mine. It’s still art. I’m hanging it on the wall, and you can love it or hate it.” This requires a great deal of self-confidence, and very (very, very) few of us get to the point where we can do this and be genuine. If you go this route and YOU still hate the piece and rue the damage and the original, intended work that never will “be”, then this solution is self-limiting. Everyone around may praise you for your bravery, but if you feel like a fraud, have you really chosen to “Let it Be?”

So many choices. None of them more “right” or “wrong” than another – except to you. Which choice will help you express your “art” most completely and with the utmost integrity and authenticity?

Your choice.

For what it’s worth, Clint, I’ve named your painting:

crying eyes cast downward

I think you know the choice I’ve made.


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