Edge Of Understanding

Edge of Understanding 36 X 24

Edge of Understanding (Mixed Media/Acrylic 36″ X 20″)

Throughout my life I have been seeking answers – answers to practical questions, moral questions, scientific questions, and spiritual questions. I have found that the answers to the really stubborn questions usually come in the form of “realizations”. These “realizations” seem to be the combined result of learning new things and experiencing more of life (getting old, in other words…), catalyzed by some random bit of inspiration or the assistance of someone or something functioning as a teacher.

This painting was inspired by my desire to depict the sensation I get when I am on the verge of grasping something that has previously been beyond my understanding, the moment when things start to fall into place. When this happens I find the answer is not immediately apparent in its totality. One key element is revealed and then the other previously obscured aspects of the puzzle are exposed, causing everything to fall into place resulting in a more complete understanding of whatever it is that has been puzzling me.

It is as if a light was turned on inside a previously dimly lit room, and all of the things that earlier appeared to be vague unrelated indistinct shapes suddenly are clearly revealed.

Frequently, the most difficult part of this experience is the realization that something I thought was true is not. It can be hard to let go of old beliefs, especially when those beliefs are about someone rather than something.

In this image the rising sun is illuminating the middle ground while the foreground is still masked by the lingering shadows of night. The background is obscured by the glare of the rising sun that is causing drops of dew to sparkle in the light. The composition is designed so the viewers’ eye is drawn around the shadows and into the light, where still more questions remain.

I do not like suspense, not knowing how things turn out. Maybe all of this searching for answers is motivated by my need to know how things end, how everything turns out. Over time, I have found that the few answers I get only lead to more questions. It seems as if I am always on “The Edge of Understanding”.

Image and text © 2015 James Golaszewski


Escape From Oz

Escape From Oz 14 X 30

Escape From Oz (Mixed Media/Acrylic 14″ X 30″)

Escape From Oz
This painting was inspired by some thoughts about the power of a decision. Many times, I have found myself putting up with a bad situation for quite some time before it finally dawns on me that I have the power to change things by simply deciding that I am not going to tolerate it any longer.

As you will recall, in the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz” Dorothy finds herself trapped in a world not of her choosing and not to her liking; Dorothy is dropped into a strange unnatural world of too bright colors, weird characters, and dark horrors. She keeps waiting for someone else (Oz) to provide a solution or answer, or for circumstances to change on their own. Ultimately, she discovers that all she has to do in order to get where she wants to be is click her heels together and repeat the phrase, “there’s no place like home”.

Life is not that easy, but the principle is the same. However, the magic lies within us and not our ruby slippers. I am not trying to say that change is easy. My point is that nothing can happen until the decision is made.

The seeds for this painting were planted in my soul by the addicts I used to work with in Drug Court. When you work with addicts you quickly learn that all of the treatment – counseling, medication, classes, supervision, encouragement, incarceration, and enforcement – will not move an addict one step closer to recovery… unless the addict wants to do it. Once the decision is made the hard work begins. With addiction, the decision is the beginning and not the end of the process.

Lest we start to feel too superior, we have to remember that none of us are perfect and there are parts of all of our lives that need work. The key is that the first step is the decision. We have to decide, truly decide, to make changes. We have to be fully committed. Change will never happen if we try to keep one foot in the Land of Oz.

Image and Text © James Golaszewski 2015

If I Only Had A Brain

I could wile away the hours
Conferrin’ with the flowers
Consultin’ with the rain
And my head I’d be scratchin’
While my thoughts were busy hatchin’
If I only had a brain

I’d unravel any riddle
For any individ’le
In trouble or in pain

With the thoughts you’d be thinkin’
You could be another Lincoln
If you only had a brain

Oh, I would tell you why
The ocean’s near the shore
I could think of things I never thunk before
And then I’d sit and think some more

I would not be just a nuffin’
My head all full of stuffin’
My heart all full of pain
I would dance and be merry
Life would be a ding-a-derry
If I only had a brain
Harold Arlen (music) and E.Y. Harburg (lyrics). The song is sung in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz

Nine Twelve

Nine Twelve 30 X 40

Nine Twelve (Mixed Media/Acrylic 30″ X 40″)

It is commonly said that the world changed on Nine-Eleven, but it really didn’t.

On Nine-Eleven we were still using our old way of thinking to attempt to wrap our brains around the tragedy that was so senseless and of such enormous scale that we were initially unable to comprehend it. On Nine-Eleven we had not yet decided how to react to the realization that barbarians would attack innocent civilians on US soil for no rational reason, for no possible tactical gain, for no possible political advantage… for no reason other than the insane desire to cause pain.

It was very effective, it caused a great deal of pain. The question then became, how do you defend yourself, or a nation, against insanity? Resilience is your only defense, and we are resilient.

The title of this painting, “Nine-Twelve”, refers to the day after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, and all of the days since. All of the design elements are intended to be symbolic and stimulate thought about how the world has changed – the Gargoyle, the relief carving of the turban wearing man, the US flag, the name of the bar (Embassy), the crescent moon painted on the building in the shadow of the floodlit US Flag, the fiery sky, the nearly totally hidden sign painted on a background building (it is part of a sign for “Federal Reserve Bank”, a nod to the tinfoil hat wearing crowd out there…), and the “new wind blowing” the curtains in the window – all have meaning. The Hotel is named ASTOR because it has an old-timey sound to it; it represents stability and prosperity. There is a television playing inside an apartment window, calling attention to CNN and the televised “instant news” that dominates our lives post 9-11.

The painting is intended to make the viewer speculate about who or what represents the biggest threat, what threats are real, and what threats are imagined. It is also intended to make you wonder if, in our efforts to protect our safety and freedom, we have instead surrendered it to a new master.

Unfortunately, with the recent mass shootings and the unprovoked attacks on Law Enforcement Officers, we have been reminded that the people of a civilized free society will always be vulnerable to injury initiated by psychopaths, sociopaths and madmen, even psychopaths, sociopaths and madmen living among us.

This is one of those paintings you will either love or hate. If you do not like it, I am sorry… but the world ain’t all bubblegum and fluffy kittens.

Image and text © 2015 James Golaszewski

Late Lament
Breathe deep the gathering gloom,
Watch lights fade from every room.
Bedsitter people look back and lament,
Another day’s useless energy spent.
Impassioned lovers wrestle as one,
Lonely man cries for love and has none.
New mother picks up and suckles her son,
Senior citizens wish they were young.
Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the colors from our sight.
Red is gray and yellow white.
But we decide which is right.
And which is an illusion???.
From “Nights in White Satin” which is a 1967 single by The Moody Blues, written and composed by Justin Hayward and first featured on the album Days of Future Passed. The spoken-word poem heard near the six-minute mark of the album version of the song is called “Late Lament”. Drummer Graeme Edge wrote the verses, which were read by keyboardist Mike Pinder.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Turning Things Around

Turning Things Around 16 X 40

Turning Things Around (Mixed Media/Acrylic 16″ X 40″)

I tend to “drift with the current”, to let the direction my life is taking be directed to some degree by circumstances rather than rational well thought out choices. This can lead to mixed results.

Thirty-six years ago, I was studying Architecture and Art History at the University of Illinois. My passion was painting, but I needed a “day job” to provide some sense of financial security. I had “experience” as a security officer (long story to be told some other time) so I started the lengthy and arduous process of being hired as a police officer. I applied at all of the police departments that were hiring within 50 miles of the University of Illinois. The Champaign County Sheriff’s Office was the first to call with a job offer. I took it. I did not plan to stay too long. Turns out, I loved the job so much that I spent nearly 35 years serving as a Patrol Deputy for the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office.

In this instance, I was fortunate; circumstances led me in a good direction. However, when the currents of life cause us to drift off in the wrong direction, we need to change course. Sometimes we need help.

This painting was inspired by my desire to express my thoughts about moving in the wrong direction. We need to be willing to accept a little help now and then to make needed changes; and we need to listen to “that little voice” that warns us about danger and guides us down the path our life is supposed to follow. Sometimes the guidance is as subtle as a summer breeze, and sometimes it will grab you and drag you in the right direction.

As with most of my paintings, the ship and tug are idealized caricatures rather than portraits of specific watercraft. The ship is designed to resemble the style of ship used to move cargo on the Great Lakes.

When I was composing this painting the ship and tug names were problematic. They both needed names in order for the image to feel authentic, and yet I did not want the painting to be “about” the names. When you include text in a painting, our eyes tend to focus on the words and the text can easily dominate the image. You end up with what I think of as an oversize inspirational greeting card. Not that there is anything wrong with that (as Seinfeld says), but it was not what I wanted to create.

In the end, I tried to give the ship and tug authentic sounding names that were not full of obvious meaning. However, I did not select the names at random. The ship name has a dual reference. First, my mother grew up in Argo, Illinois. Second, the ship name is a reference to the mythological voyage of Jason and the Argonauts. The tug name is intended to hint at any positive influence we encounter as we chart the course of our life.

This painting is a bit of a departure from by usual subject matter, but I wanted to use an image that highlights the fact that we can all use a little help when we are “Turning Things Around”.

© James Golaszewski 2015
“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” (Lao Tzu, 6th century BCE)