Decades ago at 2:30 a.m. on a back street in La Jolla, I was arrested driving my mom’s ’68 Firebird 400 convertible. I had our tiny mutts Nikki and Dinky as passengers. I was 12 years old. The feeling of driving was incredibly delicious. Riding home in the back of the cop car, I asked the two burly policemen what I did wrong. I obviously didn’t want to make that mistake again. They looked at each other, not sure they should educate me on the rules of the road. It turned out I was driving with the high beams on. After some prodding, they kindly explained what and how they worked.
My feeling for art is a lot like that adventure–it is hot, daring, and a beautiful experience. I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything, including life and love. I didn’t have the words to answer people who tried to steer me towards business or a tennis career–it wasn’t going to happen.
1-minute concept sketch, interesting to compare it with the finished version.
In my late teens, I was very lucky to travel to New York and Europe, where I took the opportunity to visit art museums. Every time I walked into a room filled with life-sized ancient Greek sculptures, I had the same emotional experience: an overwhelming feeling of peace and that everything was right with the world. That experience was something I could never feel for the visual rantings of suicidal, CIA-sponsored abstract expressionists.
I’ve never wanted to live back in time, and I wasn’t going to play the postmodernist game, so the only place for me and my art was the future.
The Beautiful and the Noble
The toughest, most ruthless, and most demanding thing to do in art is to make something noble and beautiful. Any blemish of color or skewed perspective or proportion screws one’s vision. (Artists, daunted by the challenge, and lacking skill and fortitude, give up, and they trade their best visions for ugliness and abstraction–a horrific choice). Holding onto great visions and simultaneously growing and trying new things as a totality is a great accomplishment, and yet, the art itself looks like the simplest and most natural thing in the world.
This brings me to Venus of the Planets. She is the result of all the hard work, adventure, the lovely model Georgie Leahy, my journey to Washington, D.C., Star Trek NG, and bridging the feeling of ancient Greece with our future decades from now–and a result of joy riding.
Venus started life in the swirling currents of rage, envy, hopelessness, promises, and unchosen obligations. She wasn't meant for life as it was known on planet Earth. She had within her, as all humanoids have, a minuscule fragment of DNA, so tiny it was, and is still, unknown to most of humankind, yet this spec of stuff can ignite and light a universe. It is called the Sublime gene. Venus had no words for it, only a recognition that it was within her. Humans had no time to notice such an insignificant thing, they were too busy fighting against or running away from each other's hammers. Venus wasn't immune from the ravishes of anger and fear, until one day she noticed that they were cords that bound humans together in security and endless conflict. She wondered: what happens when you cut the cords? She did just that and an amazing thing happened, she became free. Free to let go, free to be beautiful, free to let the sublime gene grow, expand, and ignite. Her inner light burned so brightly it reached the farthest planets of our Universe, and she made her home there. If you look deep enough within and without you will see her there in her home of flowing arches and glass windows with vistas of Jupiter and her moons Callisto, Io, and Ganymede.
Michael Newberry, b. 1956, is an American neo-romanticist painter based in Idyllwild, California. He blends a variety of influences, notably Rembrandt and the French Impressionists. His major works are typically life-sized canvases. He has exhibited in N.Y., L.A., Santa Monica, Rome, Athens, and Brussels. His works are collected by internationally renowned people such as designer Chan Luu and philosopher Stephen Hicks. Full bio and CV including links to important artworks, articles, and presentations. https://newberryarchive.wordpress.com/bio/