Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Next World:

Here lies a newborn.

This newborn has no concept of history, but the pieces of history are embedded in every image his mind presents to him. He does not recognize what unravels before his eyes, whether opened or closed. Nothing has a name or a purpose.

Images from well-worn ancestral paths merge with what he perceives. There are no barriers between the world of ancestral dreams and what his forebears consider to be concrete, actual, and of the present.

The adult, who is assimilated to the surface reality we call “the world” trusts in her knowledge that what rests before her eyes are white impatiens, fully bloomed in a terra cotta flower pot. Beneath this object are the planks of a wooden deck painted a deep red. Several feet beyond, there lies a patch of lawn being doused by a sprinkler at intervals.

To the far right, a group of shade trees where the buzz of a cicada is traced rustles faintly. She knows that the sprinkler was bought at a nearby gardening supply outlet and that the cicada is an insect which sometimes does damage to certain kinds of foliage when depositing its larvae. Moreover, she is probably aware that, under rare circumstances, a cicada might accidentally sting a person, mistaking their arm for a sap-filled tree limb if allowed to rest on it for an extended amount of time.

Her eyes and mind identify these illusions from a life lived far away from the primordial storm that birthed her.

The newborn, without the ability to express such a concept, might fully understand that none of what he sees is real beyond his own perception. The universe at its most basic blackness is harnessed within his brain, and he is aware that before this darkness, and before his eyes looking inward, anything can happen.

The newborn hears the cicada’s drone and is transported through the current that made him along with the insect. They are one and the same, albeit of different physical manifestations. In a dream, the infant grows a long proboscis under the shell of his skull and injects it into various limbs for feeding. The sap, the blood of the universal body fills his veins. When he awakens, he wails into the ever-widening basin of the world before him, where everything is plumed in darkness.

The adult motions into the adjoining room to console this newborn where he lies. To her, it is a small nursery room and he lies safely nestled in a crib.

It is four AM.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Road Narrows:

The future occurs every second, every millisecond, and the road narrows to the head of a pin as it expands outward. I once had a vision of a circle, but that was inaccurate. Now, it is only a line.
The year is 1997.
There is a road that meanders up a hill in lower Westchester County, NY, hidden by a wall of trees. Nothing extraordinary.
At night, this road is pitch dark, save for a lone streetlight located where the road turns at a ninety-degree angle. From afar, the light in the corner resembles a lamp illuminating the corner of a room. The line begins there, veering to the right.
I am more alone here than I have ever been, and the feeling is markedly positive. I’ve cast off the normal trappings of the nineteen-year old college sophomore, the libidinous frustration, the late night parties, the part-time dead end jobs, the uneasiness of the transitory state of being between adolescence and adulthood. All of this, shed like a snake’s skin. Here, I am ageless and inevitably saved. No one is aware of me here in the dark, sauntering down this road. I sense that I am folding into a void of time as I walk to the corner where the light shines down, and then turn the right hand corner into more darkness.
Further down, another lit landmark appears in the form of the US flag. A quarter of a mile beyond it, the road continues toward an intersection where the local library is flanked by the local post office. Beyond this point is another stretch of road leading toward Route 684.
Somewhere within the boundaries between these passages, the mood shifts. I feel as if I am chasing my own shadow cast by random streetlights, which are scarce. More accurately, I appear to be running from phantoms of people and places I had once known. I see myself committing this act, and it seems cowardly. It seems as if am trying to escape the world in vain. It’s a foolish act. There is no escape. Better to confront the world. Better to turn back.
Back within the boundaries of the campus, a police car pulls up alongside me with flashing lights. I stop in my tracks. Worst-case scenario would be a case of mistaken identity. Instead, the cop simply asks me why I am walking around campus so late. I tell him I was just taking a walk. I decide to be truthful about it, adding that I am an art student who gathers inspiration from late night walks. “Late night? It’s four am in the morning bro! Are you nuts?” is his swift response. Next, “Let’s see your ID”. I show him my student ID and my driver’s license.
He proceeds to check my license to see if I have any prior offenses attached to my name. When nothing comes up, save for a speeding ticket that had already been paid, I figure I am clear. Besides, I was walking. At the end of it, he gives me a brief look of suspicion while confiding to a fellow officer over his CB the contents of our meeting. “Alright, go home. Try to find some other way to get ‘inspired’, you know? It’s too late to be walking around”.
In total compliance, I walk back to my apartment (the cop car casually and slowly follows me from a considerable distance). My overriding thought at this moment is that I don’t fully belong to the contemporary world of curfews, property lines and surveillance, but that I must be better prepared to deal with such realities, regardless of my impulse to venture out freely. The prospect of such a life ever increasing with time fills me with an specific kind of sadness; the sort of sadness one feels when moving out of a place they’ve lived in all their life. Few hiding places remain.
Frontiers exist on a tight budget. There aren’t many left here. The mind is quickly becoming the only frontier left, but what good is a mind when it has so little to explore that is new? The woods are government property, as is the field, the riverbed and the cliff side. It’s difficult to know whether or not my own mind contains such boundaries as well.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Evening arrives and darkens the scene. The young boy sees a girl, a few years older than him, dangling playfully from the branch of a crab apple tree in the corner of the yard. It is autumn. The above ground pool to the left of her is closed up and winterized. The tool shed to her right is padlocked. In the increasing dark, the girl leaps to the ground and runs across the patio and into her house. The house is a split-level ranch. There is one light on in the dining room where the rest of the family is sitting down to dinner. She joins them. The boy is alone now, listening intently to the wind that rustles through a tall swamp maple slowly shedding its leaves.

The air grows cold. The boy suddenly remembers that he is invisible. No one will notice if he takes a peak through the window into the dining room.

The window is high up from the ground and cannot be reached unless he devises something to lift him up to the windowsill. He finds a nearby toy chest, props it under the window and climbs it, finding the entire dining room scene before his eyes.

No one is there.

The overhead chandelier above the dining room table suddenly turns itself off, shrouding the interior in darkness.

The boy is relegated to imagining the possible scenes within the house while stranded in the yard. None of the family members living there can be seen. Furthermore, they are unaware of him. In fact, no one is aware of him. He turns his attention away from the house, which lies completely blacked-out into a silhouette against the faint, orange light pollution of the evening sky. He now focuses his eyes toward the fence at the back of the yard. In the midst of his focus, he spies a shadow crossing over its aluminum fretwork. Studying it for a while, he seems to recognize the shadow as his own. His initial response is to walk toward it in order to discover its true source (he doesn’t believe that it is him). The scene doesn’t make sense to him. Where is the light coming from that makes this shadow possible?

Approaching the shadow, he is able to confirm that it is certainly his. The paradox: it does not follow his movements. It moves by its own volition toward an expanse of darkness to the left, obliging him to follow it.

Beyond the crab apple tree, the shrubs that strafe the aluminum fence and behind the swimming pool, the shadow is lost before his eyes. This does not disorient him. He can feel its movements now, descending further into the underbrush in the far back corner of the yard. Every sound becomes amplified. A chill runs through his veins and forms a ringing in his temples. Now, in the pitch black before him appears the figure of a great Doberman Pincher, standing completely still and staring him down. The boy is now unable to move.

The Doberman, with a sleek, majestic gait, ambles toward him and resounds an echoing bark that cancels out all other sounds. The yard surrounding their encounter has thoroughly disappeared. All that remains is the dog, with phosphorescent green/yellow eyes, and the sheer black nothingness surrounding his approach.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I spent the bulk of my formative years walking around late nights by myself.  By this practice, I accumulated a vision of my place in the universe devoid of the trappings of everyday life that surrounded me (the tedium of jobs, money issues, obligations and responsibilities placed upon me by society, etc.).  It was my form of enlightenment, a communion with myself.

In the dark, impressions mean nothing.  Everything I suppose is wrong. In other words, true freedom suddenly becomes possible, freedom from oppressive forms, from standards and archetypes.  A great liberating force overtakes the individual who saunters long enough in the dark with a mind opened to its powers.  Walking in the dark for lengths of time, one can more clearly perceive the larger universe. 

One gets lost, and finds one’s self again. 

In the tri-state area of New York, where I’ve spent the bulk of my life, one might assume that finding such night darkness is difficult. Not so. I’ve searched this area of the world long enough to know exactly where those myriad places are, and I have returned to them time and again.  From the foot of the Catskill Mountains near the Shawangunks where the Wallkill river meanders, to alcoves hidden throughout the Hudson Valley, to the back alleys of certain NYC neighborhoods, to the flat, southeastern shores of Long Island (where I began), late night darkness is at hand for those who search it out.  The caveat is to be willing and able to traverse it.  This becomes (perhaps) a feat more suitable for an adolescent, someone at an age when he or she is still enthralled by the prospect of “breaking and entering” into areas left alone by the public at large. For my adult self, this thrill has not been altogether lost, though I am more cautious these days. A “No Trespassing” sign is no longer an invitation at my age.  I’m relegated to places I’m actually allowed to wander.  Now, I engage in deeper explorations as an artist through the process of painting.

A word on painting:

 Many of the images that appear in my paintings at present were first formulated while climbing fences and plunging into abandoned spaces as a youth.  Those trespasses also informed the way in which I paint, beyond the content of the works therein.  The content, oftentimes meaningless, follows the form in most instances. 

What is NOT shown becomes more vital than what is.  The mystery becomes the ultimate content.  The beginning and the end beget each other ad infinitum.

I paint as if documenting the account of a perilous journey through dimly lit passages.  Yet, a journey that seems perilous sometimes stumbles upon a joke. What is found in the dark is not always wrought with deep significance or spiritual power.  Often, there is nothing around the corner, if not something absurd or just plain benign.  Frequently, you’ll find something that brings you back down to reality in a humorous way.  Consider finding an abandoned building or house covered in overgrowth, a place that is shrouded in the past and left to decay.  You approach with your imagination running wild, thinking you might come across a corpse if you dig far enough into the place…You travel deep into sagging rooms dotted with mildew, hit pitch black passageways broken randomly by shafts of green light from the outside world…The whole scene smacks of the supernatural…and yet nothing comes out of it except for a few grimy, ripped up pornographic magazines tossed in a detritus-filled corner. This was often the only way a teen encountered such material during the early to mid nineties.

West Sayville, NY circa 1992-1996:
 One such place that held this experience for me as a teenager (multiple times) was a local abandoned complex that had allegedly been used as a telecommunications station by German spies during World War 1 (by a company known as “Telefunken”).  Telefunken developed the first antenna to transmit between America and Europe.  According to historical accounts, a radio specialist was able to intercept a telegraph being sent from Germany to the complex there in the most remote section of West Sayville, NY.  The US National Guard caught wind of this and put a stop to it.  As the story goes, they cleared out the German spy occupation, but left dismantled remnants of the Telefunken site for later generations to dig up. The entire complex was situated in a hidden area beyond a fence flanking the Sayville train tracks.

 Beyond the tracks, in the main field, stood a widely scattered series of tall, concrete towers about two and a half stories high.  These towers were windowless and littered with generations of graffiti.  They had no doors.  Instead, they were accessible through underground passages. These were the first structures I happened upon in my exploration of the space, hence their sheer scale and location in the open brush. I haven’t been back there since 1996; the year I graduated from high school.  I’d be surprised if anything remains of the place today.
I first became aware of this site during evenings wandering around a stretch of train tracks close to where I lived at the time. I remember the first time I observed that someone had torn open the chain link fence, likely with a pair of standard-issue bolt cutters.  It was the only possible way through besides digging a tunnel underneath (the top of the fence was lined with barbed wire).  It was an open invitation.  I nonchalantly slipped inside and thus began a journey well trail blazed by another, but mysterious to me none-the-less. 
Although Sayville was (and still is) a fairly pristine town compared to others nearby, this less visible area behind the tracks was somewhat disheveled and polluted.  Thickets of pine brush choked with plastic bags, smashed beer bottles and newspapers covered the place. In addition to the towers, broken brick walls surrounding graffiti-covered cement foundations sulked and continued to crumble. Exposed rebar and shredded electrical wiring that may or may not have been live (I wasn’t going to find out), the obligatory presence of mangled shopping carts (how did they always get into places like this?), endless scraps of garbage tucked away in weeds and brambles all offered a narrative of decay and neglect.  The most curious object: a child’s tricycle left keeled over in a sand-filled ditch.  Only a dismembered toy doll was needed to complete the cliché (none to be found).
Further into the area, there lay a field dotted with leafless trees, leading toward a more thickly wooded space where a dirt path snaked through for about half a mile.  The path through the foliage lead first toward an abandoned delivery truck with its trailer opened wide at the back.  After what might have been decades of rust, it ceased to resemble anything like a truck, but rather a gigantic, gutted animal carcass.  Opposite this abomination was a palatial, rundown building resembling an aircraft hangar overgrown with weeds and vines.  A heavy, rusted steel front door teetering on imminent collapse hung loosely from its hinges.  When cracked open (carefully), the scene inside was decidedly unattractive for further explorations.  Dead smells. Garbage. Potentially poisonous aerosol fumes.  Darkness.  Silly me, I went on in, paced the area a little, and left.  Toward the back of the building, the floor felt weak and I likely risked falling through it.  Not an option. 
The conclusive findings most gathered in places such as these were not necessarily worthy of any historical society’s collection.  The aforementioned soiled pages of skin magazines, the remnants of juvenile “occult” rituals, complete with putrefied rodent remains, charred embers and burnt book pages (probably Mad Libs or crossword puzzle books), perhaps a scrap left over from the old Telefunken wire-tapping days would turn up, but imbued with no real significance.  Overall, I determined that places such as this were often designated as private sanctuaries from the more restricted life of the masses; a hidden locale where typically misunderstood teens, or lonely vagrants of all ages could go forth and act out their necessary rituals and transgressions.  For me, it was simply a place to explore, an environment beyond the radar of what could be considered “normalcy” (a relative term).
More infrequent than these aimless excursions were moments in which I was able to reach a “peak experience” while in exploration mode.  One night, I had the premonition to hop a tall fence dividing the woods surrounding the old abandoned complex and the backyard of a local technical school, which I had scouted out one previous afternoon.  It was a clear night.  The stars shone brightly (a rare occurrence in any area of Long Island west of the Peconic).  I climbed the fence and proceeded to scout out the area beyond it.
Wandering this new territory, I happened upon a vast, empty yard neighboring a baseball field to my right (belonging to the Edward J. Bosti Elementary School), and the tech school on the opposite side.  I looked up into the night sky, and laid flat on my back with my arms stretched out on the damp grass. 
Gazing into the sky, I perceived that I was not looking upward, but outward. 
There I spied infinity.  I felt the sensation of being small beyond small, floating through space.  This was a macro-cosmic reality I had not experienced before.  In finding myself insignificant in the face of the universe, I, in turn found a deeper significance within the confines of my life on Earth.  Here, I bore witness to an ultimate truth.
Life’s meaning, I gathered, is never a given.  We CREATE meaning.  We are all potential artists, developers of our own visions if we allow ourselves to view reality in particular ways.
Paths toward a deeper understanding of our place in the universe need not lead us to Tibet.  An empty lot not far from my house was enough.