D E B R A   J A N   B I B E L


Commentaries & Dialogues

SA: Last week I read somewhere that when regarding or reading art, emotions are needed as "navigator towards meaning."  I've always found great craftsmanship in your art but must admit that, for me, emotion, the "love" of which Louis Nizer was speaking [in: A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.] is absent.  Or perhaps not.  Perhaps it contains a deeper sense of "love" which James Joyce referred to when he suggested that we "refine yourself out of existence."

DJB:  Art inherently reflects the artist. In Chinese calligraphy and painting, the brush never lies. The precision and architecture of my paintings do indeed stem from my scientific analytical training in the same way as my study and practice of Asian philosophy and art influence the harmony and balance of composition.  Some people do not regard steadfastness and calmness, so evident in my works, as emotions; they expect to see frenzy, anger, loneliness, and protest in art, particularly Abstract Expressionism. I do not paint negativity, I paint thusness. The Theosophist Mondrian understood this. The Pythagoreans of ancient Greece reached toward it through geometric and mathematical ideals.  The Minimalists of art have explored such seemingly emotionless clarity, often to extremes. We should also remember that there are positive emotions, too, as in the joy of utter simplicity and elegance found in Scandinavian, Japanese, and American Shaker design. And I am a metaphysician who reaches beyond the delusions emotions often lead. Perhaps this is the great difference between art of East and West, as it reflects underlying religio-philosophies.

SA:  A critic after viewing some art found himself calm but not tranquilized, freed from overwhelming emotion by the contained emotion.  I regard some of your art as soothing. While at the same time?  Bursting with vibrant colors which provides lovely contrast with the energy vibrant colors can convey. 

DJB: Yes, color IS energy. The universe consists of some 70% dark energy....perhaps that emptiness from which virtual subatomic particles arise, interact, and return. My bold colors speak of that implicit energy within the calmness of no-thingness.

SA: In your Synthesis Series, I enjoyed the contrast of the surface of your myriad display of buildings with the implication of the depths that hint of sea as "shadow path" wound around as if seeking.

DJB: Yes, I am a seeker after all, and my art suggests the existence of something beyond.

SA: At first glance, in spite of your colors and precision, severity stood out. So rigid! So many straight lines!  To add warmth, softness, (femininity?) to the work and myself, I found I was looking for curves! I was glad to find them. 

DJB:  I am not a fan of random curlicues and filigree swirls. Precise arcs and especially spirals are OK as they are mathematical fundamentals in the behavior of life and matter. I like circles because they are everywhere, are highly symbolic, and are actively complete. The spiral is the labyrinth, my dream archetype. Thus far, only a small number of my pieces, mainly early works, include spirals.

The First Brush Stroke

Applying the first brush stroke is special. As with the first of other activities, where it be the first time behind a new car, getting on board the airplane to a vacation destination, or opening the door to a new guest, an adventure commences. A risk underlies that first step. In a painting, my sort of painting, that first color, that first line, that first area on the canvas sets the stage for all that follow. A different choice will produce a different outcome, albeit similar.  I often conceive of a painting with a certain cast or dominance of hues. Its presence in mind will influence color choices, but what will ensue is unknown. Each area of the painting — for instance a building — is a new choice, dictated by its neighbors. It feels good to begin.  Of course, I consider and stare at the pencil canvas layout for hours before I dare that first stroke.

                                                                                                       Painting by Gestalt

The first, brave brush-stroke,
one color against the void,
orders all the rest.

For other haiku, see links within  Résumé

More on The Emotion of Calmness That Pervades These Paintings

This commentary falls within the martial arts of the samurai, kung fu sifu, and StarWars' Jedi Knight or Matrix's Neo. Also the Asian brush calligrapher. It happened at the start of Dances with Wolves. It occurs naturally when one cannot fight or flee, when there is no choice but letting go. Not to suicide but to the Cosmos, or God's Will, or The Fates, or the Tao.

Proper Situation + Proper Relationship >> Proper Action

Imagine any emotional situation that normally leads to anger, grief, fear, loneliness, worry, awe, contempt, or pity.  Love, Great Love or compassion are special cases and are not normally routine, and I shall not discuss them at this time. It is easy to be caught up in emotion, for they are torrents, actual, as the body does release a flood of neurotransmitters and hormones in response to a situation. We all have experienced such emotions and can relate to them when manifested in people or in their art.  The body/mind does this cascade in order to sharpen senses, quicken reflexes, and think more rapidly. Emergency situations initiate stronger memories; time seems to slow down.  Emotions can be good when acute but bad when chronic. 


With such emotion comes the need for action. This is the crux. When emotion leads rather than the brain, we do stupid things, we make errors, we do things others regard as heroic and brave, or antisocial and rude. But when mind uses the emotive biochemicals to transform negative emotions to heightened calmness, there is superior efficiency of action, more precision, and  greater resulting effectiveness. When the spiritual master talks of no-mind with respect to action, the term relates more to no-thinking, not falling into the trap of emotional associations. The calmness I refer to is not Stoic tranquility. Stoics try to live without the sway of emotions. Those who practice the art of calmness use these negative emotions but chop off their chains and transform them into positivity. But not so positive as giddiness; a lighthearted cheer, a gentle delight at most. Therefore, calmness is a secondary or derived emotion.   


And I emphasize emotion. Emotions are nonrational and associative responses to situations. The dictionary says: An intense mental state that arises subjectively rather than through conscious effort and is often accompanied by physiological changes; a strong feeling. Calmness is certainly a feeling.  The sumi painter or calligrapher gathers up the emotions associated with the scene or the meaning of the ideogram, exhales into calmness, and applies the brush.


When is an explorer no longer an explorer?
When is a scientist no longer a scientist?
When is an artist no longer an artist?
Settling on a particular form, format, or rigid style
ceases being exploration, acquisition of knowledge, and creativeness.
Short of applying geometric solids and dense hues,
                                                                               I have no idea where I am heading:
                                                                               My art leads me, teaches me.

The Joy of Creating Art (Stages):  From nebulous ideal to disappointment to surprised discovery to astonished satisfaction.



            Rev. 2/10/16

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