“Boys will be boys, young men must sow their wild oats, and women must not expect miracles.” From Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, 1869
‘A Good Sleep’ and ‘Sowing Wild Oats’ were painted in April to June 2002, after an intense winter processing 9/11 and post 9/11 politics and ramifications. It was my way of getting back to pro-creativity instead of destruction. The impulse to create never strays for long.
‘Awake’, painted sixteen years later in 2018, is a counterpoint to ‘A Good Sleep’ and is my embracing with acceptance the playfulness of sexuality in a conscious way, as opposed to in the subconsciousness of sleep, as portrayed in the earlier work.
Tom’s Great Leap –
I refrain from going into a prolonged statement with obtuse qualifications and verbose extrapolations in an effort to validate concepts. Artists’ statements often come across as unnecessary blathering, incessantly pedantic, and obscurely referenced. So instead I will break with contemporary mores and refer back to the more standard narrative, much like in the day of Thomas Carlyle. It is more my way.
I am always thinking about the passage of time, the afterlife, the meaning of this life. I ask myself “What is spirit? What is my role as a man, artist, student, mentor, parent, lover, citizen? What is a great man? Do I know any? Is there such a thing? What is it all about here on this earthly plane? Is it about experiencing form? What is a man’s biological mandate, and what does society permit a man to be? Are we all something more than we a permitted?” I think about nature’s gift: the gift of being here. I often reflect on the suffering that sometimes comes with being alive. “Do great men alleviate our suffering, or teach us to accept it?”
My friend and teacher Tom LaPierre also thought about these things. He thought life was absurd, and that unforeseen daggers could break the calmness at any time. When I painted ‘Tom’s Great Leap’ I was at the time remembering and feeling the transience of life as Tom, who was favorite professors had passed away.
Tom was a friend and mentor. He taught me how to draw, encouraged to paint, pointed out my strengths when I doubted myself. He shared his love of art, painting, colour, and composition. He loved the old masters. He was an ‘old school’ male figure always on about the beauty of shape, the loveliness of the female form. He loved vision, nature, flowers, mountains, and Fellini films. Tom loved the art of George Grosz, and Max Beckmann, and became friends with the family of Stanley Spencer. Tom was cool! The voice I hear in my head, the questions posed about shape design, placement on the page, line, tonal areas, simplification of form, compositional rhythm, and watching the edges. These words are Tom’s words echoing in my head as I design images.
Some of the modern day people would say Tom was a “pervert”, old school, that he objectified women. I think Tom loved women, loved the female form, and loved the expression of his sexuality. Two things Tom said to me in our last conversation were that he thought I was one of Canada’s great artists, and to “fuck lots”.
Tom had an authentic William Burroughs words of advice, “avoid fuck-ups insight” about him. He embodied the old Peggy Lee standard “If that’s all there is my friend, then let’s keep dancing.” A number of years ago Tom expressed that he wanted all his friends to drink and dance naked on his grave. Tom passed away in April 2010 at the age of 80, after suffering from brain injury due to a tragic freak accident. A construction billboard had fallen on him while he was on his way to the Toronto Art Fair back in 2006. What Tom would have called “an unseen dagger.” He lived art and he died on his way to view more of it.
I remember him asking me what I wanted to do after college. I responded that it was not so much what I want to do but what I want to paint, as I knew I wanted to paint. As life unfolds images and ideas evolve, life experience has shown me what to paint. In this case, it is an homage to Tom. Tom always encouraged his students to “take great leaps” with their art. This image can be read as Tom taking his great leap into a final paradise, or possibly Tom entering this realm, as I am not so sure of heaven beyond.
There was a truthfulness in how he expressed his personal philosophy regardless of others’ judgment. He always talked about having a thick skin in regard to what others may say about his imagery as long as he satisfied himself. I have learned and stuck with this myself. Tom also talked about never letting life get in the way. Too often there are excuses for not doing. “Watch for and avoid these”. I have been painting ever since, regardless of the circumstances.
Thanks, Tom. Great man, I hope you enjoyed the Great Leap. Send me a sign from beyond.