DUST MOTES AND CIGARETTE SMOKE: A PAINTER WEIGHS IN FROM BROOKLYN

I’ve been going over my posts from the last ten years. This was first published on December 24, 2013. I liked it so much I’m giving it another go. Wishing you all the joys of this wondrous season.

From a reader:

Heather,

Painted some snow-filled pots two days ago in my icy backyard. Beforehand I was thinking about the capitalism that is grinding up all social cohesion and about the american-led war against all the little/ancient societies of the globe. Thinking, what in god’s name can be done? How to fight back?

Then, during painting, how I would never want painting to be part of any political struggle except on its own insignificant terms – just observing/participating-in whatever little corner of existence I find myself in – a fence, some brown reeds, steaming humps of snow.

And after: how it’s really just us, the devil, Mary, and the child in her womb in whatever little corner of the world we’re in. And she seems to know almost nothing, just a little corner of Palestine, not even about sex. While the evil one seems to control everything, know everything (is probably reading this email), twist everything…

But her victory is so obvious, so utter. Even the brilliant, huge counter-refomormation paintings seem to miss how completely she crushes him (she’s the one we call “terribilis,” not him). Yet the truth is shot like radiation through everyday material: the warm shadow in the folds of a crumpled tissue, the broken pencil point left on a church pew, dust motes in light, the microclimate of a hot sidewalk. In short, our millennia-old, common existence, which we’re now mostly too busy to notice, but which menaces us and loves us still.

Then again, there is a dull horror to the everyday – old wounds that should have healed but haven’t. STUPID misunderstandings that no amount of explaining seems to be able to overcome. Anger buried and exhumed. The sudden awareness of lost years.

We don’t live on light and dust motes alone, as much as I sometimes wish we could. There is the whole social dimension. The need for justice. The need to keep talking, keep trying to understand and to make clear. The Not Yet.

Anyway, here is a painting of a plant and some objects in my studio at night. Thanks for your openness, your willingness to talk to strangers, your beautiful photographs, and for LA (never been there except to smoke a cigarette outside the Amtrak station – I’ll never forget the thickness of the light, smell of the plants and the heat of the sidewalk!).

I’m also attaching the snow-filled pots mentioned above.

Merry Christmas!

Matt (brooklyn, ny)
See more at Matthew Kirby

POT IN SNOW
MATTHEW KIRBY

3 Replies to “DUST MOTES AND CIGARETTE SMOKE: A PAINTER WEIGHS IN FROM BROOKLYN”

  1. Thank you for this. The honesty of the artist encourages me- and, the style (reminds me of a combination of Cezanne and the Ashcan School)… "we don't live on light and dust motes alone…" I will chew on that awhile.

  2. I just love Matt's quick comment that he's never been to LA , except to smoke a cig in the Amtrak station ! That just cracks me up !

  3. The paintings are wonderful. The third and fourth paragraphs are a beautiful even profound meditation on Mother Mary and we her spiritual offspring; certainly "Magnificat" worthy. Thanks Matt for allowing Heather to post this and thanks dear Heather for doing so. And for something else I perceive underlying this letter like pentimeto, as an artist I am both convicted and encouraged on this New Years day.

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