Artist's Statement by Steven E. Counsell

detail of woman's eyes

EQUIPOISE, Detail of pen & ink drawing

How do you make a picture?
Is it through refinement, or does that enter your house an attenuated smoke over time?

Is a picture made by power?
Or is it the force of any object, relationship, or thought. An act of attention and lived experience, budded over and over again like leaves on a branch?

ANGEL OF BEING, Detail of painting

How do you make a picture?
Is it the sensuality of seeing itself that can engulf you in a sense of aliveness beyond metaphor or metaphysics - to spiral down to that pool of self where our most essential nature resides quietly?

THE ORDINARY DEVINE, Detail of painting

How do you make an image? Is it idea?
Can anything we do be long divorced from some thread of narrative? The sincere abstractionists of this century desired an art beyond storytelling and finally beyond even narrative. In the end how little they understood the human condition and the human heart. There is a will to meaning and narrative that is irrevocable. To resist it, is to resist image itself and ultimately our nervous systems will not allow it, our animal origins cannot allow it.

BRIDGES, Detail of graphite drawing

How do you make an image? Is it really only the process?
The product is irrelevant? The truly mediocre believe so because the structure of their house is so badly built it will collapse under intense scrutiny. Process alone is not why we admire Rembrandt, Cezanne, or Picassso, picture is!

How do you make a picture? Is it to be childlike?
Yes, of course, but in our inflated age of ever expanding ego and the "cult of personality" isn't childlike often merely childish?

ALCHEMY OF THE EVERYDAY, Detail of painting

How do you make a picture?
Is it through training which is only conspicuous by it's absence? My generation was told to "express itself". Like the dream of a well run marathon from the confines of a wheelchair. Untrained artists make untrained art. If one is truly primitive this can be truly charming and powerful but the marketplace has stripped away the innocence of even the most ignorant in our society. Untrained in America now usually means either: "Designer-Abstraction" on the one hand or "Dumb-As-Dirt-Generic-Realism" on the other. We've consigned technical skill to the advertising industry.

To attempt to integrate feeling, skill, and thought in our culture now is spitting into the hurricane and yet if one really struggles toward mastery, if the word ARTIST is not merely an empty category, what choice is there but integration?

Why do you make a picture?
In this media saturated, market place horror show of stuff and politics where every scam in a frame screams at the top of it's aesthetic lungs "LOOK AT MEEEE!".

RIDDLES OF WOOD, Detail of painting

Why do you make a picture?
Perhaps even in this time of nightmarish excess and dishonesty, when the authentic is pulled deep from inner necessity we can still change our lives. We can still change the world. We can still offer longing, beauty, grace, and humanness and our more abiding natures can yet be drawn out. As the long tooth of steel and control attempts to devour our life, perhaps something as old fashioned as a picture can still show us a light beyond the shroud of our dying culture.

ADAM, Detail of painting

How do you make a picture?
Well if you're a humanist you place the human-being at the center of your art. You observe intensely the ground of your being which is literally the ground beneath your feet. You consider your real responsibilities to tribe, town, or city and offer it magic that works, not smoke and mirrors. Neither slave nor martinet, you become an adult that happens to be an artist.

Perhaps in the end Carl Popper was right? I may not know what I truly am, but I do most emphatically know what I will not allow myself to become. In a bankrupting society such as ours to "mirror the times" is to be as corrupt as the times. Hence the prevailing cynicism, glib decadence, and effete silliness of what's left of the"Avant-Guarde".

Angel of Being

ANGEL OF BEING, painting

What we need NOW, what I must pursue as an artist, is the "prophetic". To contribute forms that can live in a world that must come into being if we are not to lose our basic humanity and our basic lives.

The servo-mechanical-dark-age that is invading our spirit must be resisted. What I can attempt to do is to make doors and windows.







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