October 7, 2009

, originally uploaded by Mark Horst.

October 3, 2009

what does a painting know?

The visual image carries a strange intelligence. It can speak to us in ways that both deepen and undermine other ways of knowing.

Sometimes this is not at all the case. One reason we disparage art for being “illustrational” is that it is possible to eviscerate this deep work of the visual and harness it like a painted pony to someone else’s cart. Then the work tells us what we already think we know: no more.

But this strange intelligence has it’s own clever power: the visual can also take an image or a narrative and drag it place it never intended to go. Caravaggio’s prostitute saints and rent boy angels say something that the theologians only dreamed of.

What if representational, narrative painting could find it’s feet again, not as illustration, but, as a means of dragging the reluctant soul into a place ripped open by lightening and smoldering in grief? What if the visual image commanded the narrative like an insane dominatrix so that the old stories hauled some unseen strength out of the darkness?

What of Cain and Abel? What gift does Cain bring to the Divine No? What does he see in his brother’s election except some distorted reflection of his own wound? Who would be the keeper for that? What does Abel’s blood say to this man?

Are the wings of Icarus just another reminder that rising up will lead to no good and that we'd all be better off keeping our feet on the ground? Is that what Pieter Bruegel wants us to know? Maybe Icarus’ flight points to the inevitability of this golden, flighty, puer energy—and the need to rise up in order to escape from the prison of life's every-day-ness? What if these images say that flying becomes it's own prison and falling brings its own freedom. What if we grow our wings on the way down?

September 26, 2009

your brother's blood

your brother's blood, originally uploaded by Mark Horst.

July 18, 2009

July 16, 2009

July 14, 2009

this clumsy living...

So many camels kneel to take their burdens,
what choice do we have but to go down?

The salmon has to weave through so many waters
before she can return to her old home.

So many stammerers labor to speak one word.

from a poem by Robert Bly

July 2, 2009

wings of the morning

If I take the wings of the morning,
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me,
and thy right hand shall hold me.

Psalm 139: 9-10 KJV

June 30, 2009

fragile wings

The wings we have are so fragile
they can break from just
one word, or
a glance void
of love.

I wanted to live in the cloister of light's silence
because, is it not true, the heart
is so fragile and shy.

Catherine of Siena
translated by Daniel Ladinsky

June 17, 2009

study for icarus series

study for icarus series, originally uploaded by Mark Horst.

Is the story of Icarus just another way of reminding us that rising up will lead to no good and that we'd all be better off keeping our heads down and our feet on the ground? Is that what Pieter Bruegel wants us to know?

Maybe the story points to the inevitability of this golden, flighty, puer energy--and the need to rise up in order to escape from the prison of life's every-day-ness? What if the story says that this flying becomes it's own trap and that falling is also a kind of freedom. What if this falling and death is how life begins?

j.l with hand on soulder

j.l with hand on soulder, originally uploaded by Mark Horst.

There is something here that speaks into me: is it the sense of being bound and working for freedom and motion; the sense of being in shadow and emerging into light; the sense of struggle, of wrestling, of searching, of finding; is there a question held in this image about the difficulty of being in the world? whatever it is, I can't get enough of it. If I could eat this drawing I would swallow it in one gulp.

May 4, 2009

jewel-like beauty

Any Chance Meeting

In every gathering, in any chance
meeting on the street, there is a

shine, an elegance rising up. Today
I recognized that that jewel-like

beauty is the presence, our loving
confusion, the glow in which watery

clay gets brighter than fire, the
one we call the Friend. I begged,

“Is there a way into you, a ladder?”
“Your head is the ladder. Bring

it down under your feet.” The mind,
this globe of awareness, is a starry

universe that when you push off from
it with our foot, a thousand new

roads become clear, as you yourself do
at dawn, sailing through the light.


May 3, 2009

that wildness of heart

“He was a reasonable man and he believed that there was love in his heart.
There was not. Nor does God whisper through the trees. His voice is not to be mistaken. When men hear it they fall to their knees and their souls are riven and they cry out to Him and there is no fear in them but only that wildness of heart that springs from such longing and they cry out to stay his presence for they know at once that while godless men may live well enough in their exile those to whom he has spoken can contemplate no life without Him but only darkness and despair…”

from "The Crossing"
Cormac McCarthy

May 2, 2009

lovett children. first state

lovett children. first state, originally uploaded by Mark Horst.

I'm working on this portrait... I like the lightness in it--and the gesture of the children. There are some areas to clarify, even though I plan to keep it more suggestive than polished.

April 29, 2009

looking in no. 3

looking in no.3, originally uploaded by Mark Horst.

piling everything on an altar

“To see God everywhere is to see Him nowhere. We go from day today, one day much like the next, and then on a certain day all unannounced we come upon a man or we see this man who is perhaps already known to us and is a man like all men but who makes a certain gesture of himself that is like the piling of one’s goods upon an altar and in this gesture we recognize that which is buried in our hearts and is never truly lost to us nor ever can be and it is this moment, you see. This same moment. It is this which we long for and are afraid to seek and which alone can save us.”

from The Crossing
Cormac McCarthy

April 28, 2009

nourishment like light

from Rumi
(Sheikh Sarraze comes in from the wilderness)

…There is nourishment like
bread that feeds one part

of your life and nourishment like light for another. There
are many rules about restraint

with the former, but only one rule for the latter, Never be
satisfied. Eat and drink

the soul substance, as a wick does with the oil it soaks in.
Give light to the company.

April 23, 2009

journeys still to be ours

A group of us were painting in Pepin, Wisconsin last weekend at Barbara McIlrath's farm. I found this poem at Barb's. It's how I feel painting: "imagine! imagine! the long and wondrous journeys still to be ours." The poem is Mary Oliver's.

Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me

Last night
the rain
spoke to me
slowly, saying,

what joy
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud,
to be happy again

in a new way
on the earth!
That’s what it said
as it dropped,

smelling of iron,
and vanished
like a dream of the ocean
into the branches

and the grass below.
Then it was over.
The sky cleared.
I was standing

under a tree.
The tree was a tree
with happy leaves,
and I was myself,

and there were stars in the sky
that were also themselves
at the moment
at which moment

my right hand
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars

and the soft rain—
imagine! imagine!
the long and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.

Mary Oliver

April 16, 2009

the light that I love

It is a certain light that I love and melody and fragrance and embrace that I love when I love my God—a light, melody, fragrance, food, embrace of the God-within, where for my soul, that shines which space does not contain; that sounds which time does not sweep away; that is fragrant which the breeze does not dispel; and that tastes sweet which, fed upon, is not diminished...
Augustine of Hippo

April 15, 2009

how the light gets in

how the light gets in, originally uploaded by Mark Horst.

24" x 24", oil on canvas, 2009.

how the light gets in

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen

April 6, 2009

why paint?

My painter friend, Katherine Treffinger, asked me to say something about this question for her blog: “What I am wondering is why do you as an artist show up in front of the canvas? How does just the act of creating art hold enough meaning for you to show up and what is that meaning?”

If there weren’t something that remains hidden from us much of the time, something precious and wild, I don’t suppose I would bother with painting.

I do love paint. I love the smell of the linseed oil and the raw colors squeezed from the tube. And I do love painting: standing before the easel; the open window of a fresh canvas; the first brush stroke of paint dripping and clear; the deliciousness of seeing shapes and patterns and shifts of value and intensity.

But for me painting is—above all—a way of being present. It is the daily practice of paying attention with enough intensity that when the hidden world steps closer, I have a chance of noticing it; so that when the wolf stops to sniff the air outside my window, I can catch a glimpse of her.

March 25, 2009

looking in no. 3

looking in no. 3, originally uploaded by Mark Horst.

I'm working on a series of head studies--with a goal of painting one each day for the month.

March 13, 2009

where to look for advice...

…expectations based on the work itself are the most useful tool the artist possesses. What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece. The place to learn about your materials is in the last use of your materials. The place to learn about your execution is in your execution. The best information about what you love is in your last contact with what you love. Put simply, your work is your guide: a complete, comprehensive, limitless reference book on your work. There is no other such book, and it is yours alone. it functions this way for no one else. Your finger prints are all over your work, and you alone know how they got there. Your work tells you about your working methods, your discipline, your strengths and weaknesses, your habitual gestures, your willingness to embrace.

The lessons you are meant to learn are in your work. To see them, you need only look at the work clearly—without judgment, without need or fear, without wishes or hopes. Without emotional expectations. Ask your work what it needs, not what you need. Then set aside your fears and listen, the way a good parent listens to a child.

from Art and Fear, David Bayles & Ted Orland

looking in no. 1

looking in no. 1, originally uploaded by Mark Horst.

learning freedom

The way of love is not a subtle argument.
The door there is devastation.
Birds make great sky circles of their freedom.
How do they learn it?
They fall, and in falling, they’re given wings.


I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath moves through. Listen to the music.

I love Jesus who said to us:
‘Heaven and earth will pass away. When heaven and earth have passed away my word will remain.’
What was your word, Jesus? Love? Affection? Forgiveness?
All your words were one word: Wakeup.
Antonio Machado

duende and paint

Everything with black tones has duende and there is no truth greater… These black tones are mystery itself whose roots are held fast in the mulch we all know and ignore, but where we arrive at all that is substantial in art. [Black tones are a] mysterious power which everyone feels but which no philosopher can explain.

So then duende is a power not a method. The duende is not in the singers throat, the duende rises inside from the soles of one’s feet—it is not a question of ability but of possessing an authentic living style… it is in short the spirit of the earth.

The arrival of duende always presupposes a radical transformation on every plane. It produces a feeling of totally unedited freshness. It bears the quality of a newly crafted rose, of a miracle that produces an almost religious enthusiasm.

from Lorca's—The Havana Lectures—on duende


I know I love the day.
The sun on the mountain, the Pacific
shiny and accomplishing itself in breakers.
But I know I live half alive in this world,
Half my life belongs to the wild darkness.
Galway Kinnell

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade.

the marks of wildness are:
a love of nature—especially silence…
a voice box free to say spontaneous things…
an exuberance…
a love of the edge…
Robert Bly

February 18, 2009

sunrise of wonder

" At the back of our brains, so to speak, there was a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spiritual life was to dig for this submerged sunrise of wonder ." G. K. Chesterton

j.l with hand on knee

j.l with hand on knee, originally uploaded by Mark Horst.

j.l with hand on soulder

j.l with hand on soulder, originally uploaded by Mark Horst.

February 7, 2009

from Mary Oliver's essay, "of power and time"

It is six A.M., and I am working. I am absent-minded, reckless, heedless of social obligations, etc. It is as it must be. The tire goes flat, the tooth falls out, there will be a hundred meals without mustard. The poem gets written. I have wrestled with the angel and I am stained with light and I have no shame. Neither do I have guilt. My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not include mustard, or teeth. it does not extend to the lost button, or the beans in the pot. My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o'clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.

There is no other way work of artistic worth can be done. And the occasional success, to the striver, is worth everything. The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.

Mary Oliver's "a poet's voice"

Also, for the poet as well as anyone else, each day in the private realm is filled with its mundane details, its noise, its flutterings, its passions, amusements, trips to the grocery store, to the amll for socks, to the car wash, to the all game. Such activities however are surface activities--the curl up and the breakage of waves. And poems do not come from that part of the ocean; they come from the dark and heavy and portentous and almost impenetrable depths. this is where the poem erupts and begins to shape itself. It is also the place where the poem matters, where it is read--for this place exists in every human mind whether one is a writer or not. Each one of us, in our lives, opens to this deep place at moments of ceremony, of crisis, of passage, and of transcendence, a moments of terror and at moments of great joy. It is where some understanding of our lives is sought, even if it is not always found.

January 6, 2009

two women in the wind

two women in the wind, originally uploaded by Mark Horst.

January 5, 2009

embracing the world

from The Brother's Karamozov

In the sixth week in Lent, my brother, who was never strong and had a tendency to consumption, was taken ill. It was a late Easter, and the days were bright, fine, and full of fragrance. I remember he used to cough all night and sleep badly, but in the morning he dressed and tried to sit up in an arm-chair. 

That's how I remember him sitting, sweet and gentle, smiling, his face bright and joyous, in spite of his illness. A marvelous change passed over him, his spirit seemed transformed. The old nurse would come in and say, "Let me light the lamp before the holy image, my dear." And once he would not have allowed it and would have blown it out.

"Light it, light it, dear, I was a wretch to have prevented you doing it. You are praying when you light the lamp, and I am praying when I rejoice seeing you. So we are praying to the same God."

Those words seemed strange to us, and mother would go to her room and weep, but when she went in to him she wiped her eyes and looked cheerful. "Mother, don't weep, darling," he would say, "I've long to live yet, long to rejoice with you, and life is glad and joyful."

"Ah, dear boy, how can you talk of joy when you lie feverish at night, coughing as though you would tear yourself to pieces."

"Don't cry, mother," he would answer, "life is paradise, and we are all in paradise, but we won't see it; if we would, we should have heaven on earth the next day."

Everyone wondered at his words, he spoke so strangely and positively; we were all touched and wept. Friends came to see us. "Dear ones," he would say to them, "what have I done that you should love me so, how can you love anyone like me, and how was it I did not know, I did not appreciate it before?"

When the servants came in to him he would say continually, "Dear, kind people, why are you doing so much for me, do I deserve to be waited on? If it were God's will for me to live, I would wait on you, for all men should wait on one another."

Mother shook her head as she listened. "My darling, it's your illness makes you talk like that."

"Mother darling," he would say, "there must be servants and masters, but if so I will be the servant of my servants, the same as they are to me. And another thing, mother, every one of us has sinned against all men, and I more than any."

Mother positively smiled at that, smiled through her tears. "Why, how could you have sinned against all men, more than all? Robbers and murderers have done that, but what sin have you committed yet, that you hold yourself more guilty than all?"

"Mother, little heart of mine," he said (he had begun using such strange caressing words at that time), "little heart of mine, my joy, believe me, everyone is really responsible to all men for all men and for everything. I don't know how to explain it to you, but I feel it is so, painfully even. And how is it we went on then living, getting angry and not knowing?"

So he would get up every day, more and more sweet and joyous and full of love. When the doctor, an old German called Eisenschmidt, came:

"Well, doctor, have I another day in this world?" he would ask, joking.

"You'll live many days yet," the doctor would answer, "and months and years too."

"Months and years!" he would exclaim. "Why reckon the days? One day is enough for a man to know all happiness. My dear ones, why do we quarrel, try to outshine each other and keep grudges against each other? Let's go straight into the garden, walk and play there, love, appreciate, and kiss each other, and glorify life."

"Your son cannot last long," the doctor told my mother, as she accompanied him the door. "The disease is affecting his brain."

The windows of his room looked out into the garden, and our garden was a shady one, with old trees in it which were coming into bud. The first birds of spring were flitting in the branches, chirruping and singing at the windows. And looking at them and admiring them, he began suddenly begging their forgiveness too: "Birds of heaven, happy birds, forgive me, for I have sinned against you too." None of us could understand that at the time, but he shed tears of joy. "Yes," he said, "there was such a glory of God all about me: birds, trees, meadows, sky; only I lived in shame and dishonored it all and did not notice the beauty and glory."

"You take too many sins on yourself," mother used to say, weeping.

"Mother, darling, it's for joy, not for grief I am crying. Though I can't explain it to you, I like to humble myself before them, for I don't know how to love them enough. If I have sinned against everyone, yet all forgive me, too, and that's heaven. Am I not in heaven now?"

And there was a great deal more I don't remember. I remember I went once into his room when there was no one else there. It was a bright evening, the sun was setting, and the whole room was lighted up. He beckoned me, and I went up to him. He put his hands on my shoulders and looked into my face tenderly, lovingly; he said nothing for a minute, only looked at me like that.

"Well," he said, "run and play now, enjoy life for me too."

I went out then and ran to play. And many times in my life afterwards I remembered even with tears how he told me to enjoy life for him too. There were many other marvelous and beautiful sayings of his, though we did not understand them at the time. He died the third week after Easter. He was fully conscious though he could not talk; up to his last hour he did not change. He looked happy, his eyes beamed and sought us, he smiled at us, beckoned us. There was a great deal of talk even in the town about his death. I was impressed by all this at the time, but not too much so, though I cried a good deal at his funeral. I was young then, a child, but a lasting impression, a hidden feeling of it all, remained in my heart, ready to rise up and respond when the time came.

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