Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Last week, I stepped out of the house for about two hours to pick-up some materials at the local Home Depot to complete my kids’ swing-set and fort. While I was out it had actually begun to rain. I was glad for the moisture and its cooling effect on our early summer heat wave – until I came home to eight fire trucks lining my gravel road and the Sheriff sitting in my drive-way. Lighting had struck the mountain behind my house and studio; starting a fire that eventually burned an area the size of a small home. My place was pretty much the first inline to be evacuated if the fire got out of control. Faced with that sort of situation made me think about what was worth saving and which items would be more easily cashed out by my insurance in the instance of a catastrophe as opposed to an inevitable “for sale” posting on Craigslist or eBay – if nothing terrible actually occurred with the fire. Eventually, nearly everything I own gets resold in some venue. Before I left Montana, I hosted a two-day yard sale that netted $2k in sales by its close. I can honestly say, I didn’t sell anything that I later lamented losing. There was really nothing in that house I have purchased, that I could not easily replace. If it was irreplaceable… well then I still had the memory of ownership. What is ownership? Is it really anything more than a power-trip over inanimate objects? How meaningless is that when you stop to consider it?

I read an article in the Sunday paper about a retired attorney that boasted over 12,000 books in his personal library. He admitted he had not read all of the books – though, he claimed to know what was “in” all of them, whatever that means. The man took pride in his refusal to write-in or “mark-up” his books. Here he had over 12,000 works of literature and not one of those books had inspired him enough to circle a passage, or write a revelatory thought in the margin. It makes one wonder if he had ever really read anything worthwhile. He also bragged that he never lent books to friends. That seemed sad, not having friends that one can trust with something as easily replaceable as a book. Not having friends with which you treasure enough to share a tremendous idea as represented in a great passage of a book.

I have a grand admiration and interest in the philosophy of simplicity – specifically as described in the works of Henry David Thoreau. I read every self-sufficiency story I come across, as well as follow a number of blogs on the subject. One of my favorites is “Compact”. The site is posted to by a group of four contributors with the following mission statement:

1) to go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of U.S. consumer culture, to resist global corporatism, and to support local businesses, farms, etc. -- a step, we hope, inherits the revolutionary impulse of the Mayflower Compact; 2) to reduce clutter and waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er); 3) to simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact)

Instances such as my little mountain fire make me reconsider what is really irreplaceable. Naturally, I would have loaded my children and my paintings into the truck, but I’m not sure what else. Ironically, I never use insurance when shipping my art. The added insurance fees are astronomical considering that the shipping companies never payout for damages on artwork. More important than that, though, is the fact that I’m the only one really qualified to repair or replace the work. Why should I pay insurance replacement/repair fees for my own paintings? It’s like saying I don’t have enough faith in my own talent to recreate the work or on another level its saying that an older painting is more important than a newer one. I look at each piece as a continuation of an idea or concept. Each new piece represents a growth in the knowledge of a specific perspective of philosophy I am attempting to further.

Sure, I was prepared to toss the paintings into the truck, why should I throw-out all that work. After all each painting is like a page in a book that gets me closer to a resolution of the central theme, but at the same time, once I’ve completed the work, I’m that much closer to the completion of my own thought pattern.

Should I bemoan the loss of a single work or group of works or rather resolve to celebrate the fact that I can continue the journey in new paintings? - DN

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