The Solitary Wanderer

Published on 28 July 2023 at 16:32

Medium: Acrylic on canvas

Date: 2010

As you first glance at this expansive acrylic painting on canvas, a captivating skull seizes your attention, occupying the top third of the canvas. Entitled "The Solitary Wanderer," this painting serves as a self-portrait, embodying elements of my life: the skull, the head, and the body.

The skull symbolizes Death, an inevitability that marks the conclusion of life as we comprehend it.

Divided into thirds, the painting's middle section showcases a head, while the lower third presents an animal body. These illustrations represent my personal experiences and emotions. The head features an abundance of black curls, reminiscent of Louis XIV of France, and dons a hat akin to one from my Army days. It's an embodiment of strength and authority. The meticulously crafted nose and mustache, and the finely detailed eyes with their disdainful downward gaze, consumed a substantial portion of my time and effort. The eyes cast a downward look towards the animal body, hinting at an uneasy attachment. Resting on a horse blanket, the head pays homage to my grandfather, a horse trader, and my ideal of manhood. The body takes an animal form, demonstrating a rugged toughness along with evident afflictions. These afflictions are manifested as black triangles along the rear and protruding spines from the tail, details that emerged spontaneously during the creative process.

The painting's lower third embodies a flowing, swirling stream, symbolizing the subconscious, drawing inspiration from the psychoanalytical theories of Freud and Jung. The water engulfs the animal's feet, indicating a deep submergence in the unconscious realm.

My Interpretation of this piece tells me that life unfolds in a singular narrative, a solitary journey navigated independently despite the deep ties that bind us to others and our surrounding world. The figure in "The Solitary Wanderer" serves as a potent metaphor for this concept. Despite being placed in the foreground, the figure appears detached from the pale, elusive background, a reminder of the omnipresent yet often forgotten reality of death. Our existence, much like this figure, is deeply rooted in the rich soil of our subconscious, shaping our actions, reactions, and interpretations of the world around us. We meet life's myriad experiences, as mundane as sitting in a dentist chair, with our unique blend of resilience and vulnerability.

The creation of this painting was a transformative journey. The initial stages were marked by vague concepts and hazy outlines, much like the early stages of any significant endeavor. As I conducted three preliminary watercolor studies, the ideas began to solidify and coalesce, eventually gaining clarity and focus. The finished piece was a testament to the journey, a culmination of exploration and evolution of thought.

Interestingly, this piece evoked a variety of responses. Two close friends, who had been fervent admirers of my previous works, unreservedly expressed their aversion to this piece. One friend succinctly commented, "This mural encapsulates the essence of life." I couldn't agree more. Such diverging opinions are a reminder of art's subjective nature, its ability to resonate differently with each observer.

However, this painting found an admirer in Elena Scola, a long-time friend and fellow artist in Sonoma, California. I decided to gift her a smaller rendition of an early study of "The Solitary Wanderer". Elena has been appreciating my work since 1966 when she bought a large painting of mine titled "Garden 1," in San Francisco. This token of our enduring friendship remained in her ranch bedroom, occupying a special place in her bureau for the last decade of her life.

My affinity towards this painting has only deepened with time, a testament to the emotive power of art. It remains a vivid representation of my feelings, reflections, and experiences, a mirror held up to the complex human experience we collectively share.

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