Plein Air – Beauty Bound “Good”

The last page and the inside back cover. As the book comes a close, the meaning finally becomes clear. I’ve assembled a collection of my plein air paintings, some with added collaged elements, and some collage/mixed media pages. Side by side, the styles sometimes conflict, though I didn’t feel like compromising one or the other by bringing more unity to them. I found the key in the word “layering”. Collage artists in the States began calling themselves “layerists”, referring to the process of building up layers upon layers of imagery, meaning, textures. The strange word “palimpsest” came up more and more, like headstone carvers recycling old cemetery stones by sanding down the original inscriptions, and carving new ones, while never able to completely erase that haunting image of the other. That is the allure of mixed media to me. To me, plein air has that same attraction. As I work outdoors in situ and surrender to the flow, I eventually lose myself. And that’s when layers of the animate life world reveal themselves to me. Trees begin to sway and dance, I sense old stories of the ones who have gone before in this place, and I am no longer a simple observer. To quote David Abram: “To be fully human means being part of the larger world”.
The large gold “Good” has a double meaning for me. In virtue ethics, Iris Murdoch questions “what does it mean to be good?” and uses the example of the artist’s loving attention to beauty as a step in developing the good life. I did a lot of research on that for a philosophy paper on ecology.
But it’s also on the last page that the Prof scribbles “GOOD” on an “A+” paper. Yeah. I just patted myself on the back for a good job.


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