Man on Fire

today cc group 3

I begin most of my pieces with a clear idea of what they are about and an outline of how they will look. With a few images, however (such as The Man with Cello) I began with a visual concept and had to discover their meaning as I went along. These are the hardest pieces to do.

These two pieces, Man on Ice and Man on Fire, I had to discover the meaning as I went along. When I was in St Petersburg, Florida last month I watched a boy throwing bread in the air for a group of seagulls. They were all hovering over him and it made for an amazing visual. I stood and watch them for a few minutes, took a few photos, then moved on. For this piece, I had a clear vision of a man playing a guitar to the sea gulls, but I did not have the meaning behind it.

So I posed a friend playing a guitar and placed him in the image and began searching for the meaning. I looked into mythology, psychology and religion to see what might resonate. Maybe he is Orpheus, the Greek musician and poet who could charm all things. Maybe the birds are messengers. A funny thing happened on the way to finding the meaning. I realized the birds, originally my favorite part of the image, had to go. This is what writers call “ killing your darlings”.

This left me at the beginning again. Now, what is the piece about? Who is this man?

What or who is he looking at? Is he playing the guitar for himself? Did he just want peace and solitude?

As I began working with it, the clues began taking shape. Twice in two days, I came across Copernicus’s illustration, Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres). His illustration places the Sun, not Earth, at the center of the solar system. Since it kept appearing, I included it in the piece. I also added a diagram of a Sun chart, showing it at different locations in the sky during various times of the year, and photos that I’ve taken of splashes of concrete on a train car, which looked to me like stars. I added the fence for visual depth and also to suggest limits or boundaries, imposed or imagined. There is either a fire in the background or a brilliant sunrise.

If I am to understand this piece, I have to begin with the Copernicus illustration. It seems obvious that placing the Sun instead of the Earth at the center of the solar system is a psychological shift, which is a metaphor for the fact that we ourselves, are not the center of the universe.

The figure in both pieces also seems to relish his aloneness. If there is a fire, he is not disturbed by it. This could suggest that it is a psychological fire, something burning inside, or being cleared away or purified. Perhaps in his solitude he has discovered that he is not the center of the universe, and is relieved; perhaps he is celebrating or singing a song of gratitude.








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