I have woken each morning since August with this exhibition in mind, and before that, sporadically, but just as intense when imagined. I wonder often if I should have went to divinity school to become a preacher. A veritable Vernon Johns selling vegetables out of my pick up truck on the side of the road after Sunday service. I say this because I feel lately that artists and their art, when taken together, exemplify the human spirit far better than any Middle Eastern Bible can, repetitively citing another used parable about a flock of sheep, a wife to lay with, and a regular threat of a high and mighty smiting. And I realize that a Christian life would be nice, but very stale, following the same old example of a Jesus who never painted a picture, or sat on a train, or read a book about black bears in the wild.
Artists suffer and abandon, accept and howl as good as any bigoted patriarch of Canaan. It’s been so since the compiling of the good book of whichever religion your grandparents pretended to obey, and passed down to you after the atheist slaughter of the modern wars and rise of the nuclear age. Every generation since Job and Jesus has had the artist and the poet to imitate and/or reflect joy and suffering, and every age does to them just what the mighty Lord often did to his abiding flock.
And it often ain’t pretty.
There are artists like Lena Ulanova who are humble to the core, and give back in spirit and wonder so much more than what life offers. I look at her paintings throughout the gallery and am comforted that spirit and harmony with nature and man is in tact as it ever was. I see improvements made to a suffering world, joy expressed, and original compositions of the eternal human condition. If you knew Lena like I imagine to know her, you would see how I see a modern-day St. Francis of Assisi—with a palette of paint and substrate of the forest. No creature fears her presence. All of nature is her monastery and mankind is connected as before, now and always. She is a mirror of the lust of life, as any religion must be if it is trying to remain human.
I made this painting to revere the artist in woman and man. Nobody expects her to perform the healing miracles of the saint, and yet my soul is free and the birds alight on her shoulder.