City Park Sparrow, 6×6 oil on gessoboard $75.00 SOLD Buy Now
Yesterday afternoon I had the priviledge of meeting one of my former students for coffee at Morning Call in city park. She was one of those students that made teaching feel the noblest of enterprises, and the kind that made leaving teaching, well, sad. She had the rare ability to embrace new information while still maintaining a subtle yet sharp critical eye and steadfastness to her own convictions or artistic ideals. She wasn’t the kind of student that made me love teaching because of my own profound ability to illuminate the unknown but the kind who made me love teaching because I was eager to hear what she knew, what she thought.
She’s a newlywed and her mother contacted me about creating a painting for her as a wedding gift. We met to discuss the details.
She likes sparrows, and several watched from the ledge of the roof and peered at us from a trashcan overflowing with styrofoam cups as we talked about them. We also talked about J. Alfred Prufrock, not so much his dilemma or plight but the brilliance with which Eliot wrote him into life. I wonder if what we each love about that poem is even remotely the same.
I was thinking about her when I did today’s painting. It’s a little sketch in preparation for what I might do for the larger commissioned piece. When I first started painting, I would always scribble words into my images. I intended for them to be illegible but, inevitably, people wanted to read them. I quickly became discouraged. It’s not what they say, but that they say, I wanted to yell at people, noses pressed to my often times still wet canvases. Words were design and suggestion, not sentiment or poetry.
I wrote in the opening lines of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” into this painting mostly because I was thinking about my coffee date yesterday but also because the sparrow is such a contradiction to the words. The poem exhaustingly and beautifully depicts the plight of the modern (wo)man– inaction, indecision, inability to get out of one’s head, grandiose illusions about the mundane. But the sparrow? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor do they gather into barns.
The sparrow seeks beignets crumbs from sticky cafe tables, not an understanding of his place in the narrow-minded universe he’s created. He wanders through half-deserted streets, but not because he is lonely or confused about his own importance.
I’m slowly becoming a painter of birds. Not quite sure how I feel about that, but trying to get outside my head.