The daily lives of action painters inadvertently reflect their studio methodology. Painting purely on impulse requires a total commitment to the Zen-like release of the mind; if you create in that manner long enough… the time in the studio becomes a neo-reality that invades and eventually replaces the manner in which one approaches life in the outside world.
Sadly, I must admit that my ignorant teenage mind had little interest in any traditions or beliefs beyond the narrow scope of my own southern Missouri home. This place was somewhere to endure until the moment I could leave, with few concerns for reconciling the impact of its unique culture on the later years of my life.
It was my slowly acquired impulsive approach to living that allowed me to spend yesterday traveling the marshy bottomlands of the river’s northern delta. I bounced across gravel roads and blue highways (not listed in the online services of Google Maps or even Mapquest) intermingled between the towns of Caruthersville, Hayti, Dyersburg and New Madrid. Searching for that perfect taste of barbecue with slaw. Waiting for my moment to interact with locals.
I see this land much differently, now, than I did even ten years ago. Glancing out a car window while cruising across strips of highway connecting corn and cotton; I wonder at the white flowered fields still picked by hand. The people of the Mississippi Delta regularly contend with floods, tornadoes, immense poverty and a history steeped in longstanding traditions of racism. Suddenly, now, these residents are rarely far from my thoughts.
Occasionally, even I consider the moment of retirement; but in a manner different from most. I simply see retirement as the years spent creating the final paintings of a specific place. I argued, a few months ago, with my friend Hank regarding locations where we could retire our two families, together. I pushed for Alaska and the like… but he was adamant to return to a homestead within the Missouri Bootheel. I couldn’t quite grasp his desire to travel home. His declared love of this region puzzled me for some time until ultimately it became the leading influence in my recent urgency to explore the Southern states… and I’m better creatively, for returning here. – DN