Ars Poetica*

 

Gregg & Kent Chadwick

 

 

 

   

 

A Walk with Ganesh

Gregg Chadwick, 72" x 84" oil on linen 2005

 

 

 

"Between Moment and Memory"

New Paintings by Gregg Chadwick
 

January 6 - 29, 2006
Julie Nester Gallery

 

1755 B Bonanza Dr.

Park City, Utah

(435) 649-7855
 

“A poet or a painter must commit to a life of deep attention and even reverence for the multitude of meaning around us. An artist friend of mine, Gregg Chadwick, calls this 'pulling the moment,' a way of looking deeper into experiences that inspire him.”
-Phil Cousineau, Once and Future Myths


Strike a hard rock edge with a piece of carbon steel and a spark will spread onto dry tinder and burst into flames. In the same way, when artistic cultures strike against each other, new fires can erupt. To build on these experiences, careful attention and reverence must be focused on the moment even as the world rushes by. One of my major goals as a painter is to hold onto the light in these moments with rich, fluid and layered applications of color.

The paintings that make up the exhibition, Between Moment and Memory, are sparked by the life of a son of a Marine Corps officer and the subsequent artistic pilgrimage that has led from New Jersey to Paris, Los Angeles, Venice, New York, San Francisco, Tokyo and Chiang Mai. My current artwork is a synthesis of these travels and experiences and seems to evoke dreams of the moments that sparked their inspiration. These new paintings ask the question: What is the place of beauty in the 21st Century?

 

— Gregg Chadwick

 

 

 

Deep Song

Gregg Chadwick, 38" x 38" oil on linen 2005

 

 

 

 

 

Temple of the Mind

Gregg Chadwick, 48" x 22" oil on linen 2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sound of Bells

Gregg Chadwick, 40" x 30" oil on linen 2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water from the Moon

Gregg Chadwick, 48" x 36" oil on linen 2005

 

     

A Walk with Ganesh

 

     Obediently, I begin, but it is a curious

     way to experiment with no design

     and venture out in thought alone.

     It is my father who has traveled to where elephants

     wander, to where they’re worked and tended.

     It is my brother who has breathed the red

     dust of Bangalore, who was told

     by a Bombay cab driver,

     “Ganesh was just in my car!”

     At home I know just what I read—

     that he broke off a bit of his tusk

     to take dictation, to copy

     down at divine speed

     the inspired, sculpted rush

     of Ved Vyasa’s verse

     creating the Mahabharata.

 

Oh, to compose as swiftly

     as a god can write!

Oh, to out sing one’s breath!

 

     Obediently, I begin a journey

     measured in mouse steps—

     a journey inside—to that seam

     between animal and god, those stitches

     holding our incongruousness together.

     A seam like the one his mother’s

     husband made with a sword:

     Shiva, angered, striking

     off the head of this unknown lad

     who blocked the door to the bath,

     the boy Pavarti made

     from the sluff of her body herself

     to guard her door, her honor.

     Remorseful, Shiva sent

     his retainers to find another.

     They found an elephant by a stream,

     sacrificed the young bull—

     it’s blood flowed down to the water,

     dyeing the fair stream—

     and they carried back its proud

     head of tusks and trunk,

     which Shiva joined to the lifeless

     body of the boy, reviving

     him, making him god of beginnings,

     Ganesh, remover of obstacles,

     Ganesh of a mother’s love.

 

How swiftly we pull our swords;

how often cry out in sorrow.

 

     Obediently, I follow Ganesh

     into my head, my memory, my past.

     He knows where he is leading, with no hesitation

     takes me back to the bare

     hills of Southern California:

     their sage and tumbleweeds,

     tan grass alive

     with beetles, horned lizards,

     red diamondbacks.

     Vultures soaring and seeking

     over the arroyos; the chaparral baked

     in the sun’s blue kiln;

     the wind’s warm fragrance

     dryly whispering, “Thirst.”

 

     “Why this place?” I ask.

 

     “Isn’t this your imagined golden land?

     What better place to see the story you are to sing?”

 

To sing? 

Oh that this god would grant sweet lyrics.

 

     On a path of sandy loam,

     quartz, fool’s gold,

     we crest a hill of oaks

     and see below us Combat Town.

     The idylls forming in my head

     of surf and sand and love

     disappear with the smell of spent

     shells and smokeless powder. 

     This is the place we played as boys,

     among the cartridges, K-ration

     tins, ammo boxes,

     scarred earth and walls,

     mimicking our fathers’ skills

     in killing the enemy and saving

     their own. This is where we acted the lucky

     hero whose M-16

     clip never empties, who captures

     the flag and comes back

     home unscathed, victorious.

     This was Combat Town circa

     1963

     arranged as a Vietnamese hamlet

     with sweeping roof lines,

     open air market,

     even a pagoda, which is where Ganesh heads,

     a pagoda without sutras, built

     not to house a holy scripture

     but for training in combat tactics,

     hollow like all the buildings in this town.

     On the ground floor Ganesh

     sits his great body

     into position, folded supplely

     for meditation, his elephant head

     echoed in the carvings on the pillars

     of animals of power—elephants

     and tigers—verisimilitudes

     the Architect had insisted on.

 

What powerful tremors,

     what earthshaking silence

flows from the meditation of an enlightened one.

 

     I look out the empty windows

     of the bullet-pocked pagoda

     and see Combat Town

     fill with young recruits

     fumbling with their rifles, confused

     on how to move, how to follow orders

     that their drill instructors shout,

     blushing when the war game

     officer marks their helmet:

     “You’re wounded.  You’re dead.  You’re hopeless.”

     And time accelerates around Ganesh:

     the recruits run through their drills,

     day upon day losing

     their awkwardness, reflectiveness, weakness,

     becoming stronger, fiercer, obedient,

     ready to aim and fire.

     The anger, fatigue, and repetition

     carve a soldier’s instincts

     into their psyche, setting the triggers

     that when needed will help them kill

     and survive, save their buddy,

     bring their unit honor.

     Then the rounds’ sound changes

     to live firing.  It’s Vietnam

     before me and those same recruits are blooded warriors

     now moving through a hamlet safely

     separated, poking the dead,

     silencing any hut that returns

     fire, questioning the headman

     in pidgin about when the V.C.

     came and where they ran to, believing

     only half of what he says or what they see.

     And when their patrol moves on, the local

     Viet Cong lieutenant

     climbs out of a tunnel

     below the headman’s home

     with the men and women from his squad

     he’s saved and they slip away.

     The Marine patrol comes

     back through the hamlet in another week.

     The corporal on point spots

     the mine, signals a halt.

     The men crouch anxiously.

     With no explosion to begin their ambush

     the hidden Viet Cong

     start firing separately,

     yet are killed quickly by multiple

     streams of automatic fire.

     One of their rounds, though, tears

     off the corporal’s jaw—a gaping

     wound where his mouth had been.

     The sergeant pulls him to cover

     by his ankle, his broken face

     dragged oozing over the dirt.

     His buddy crawls to him and stabs

     syringes of morphine into his leg,

     wraps his head with gauze.

     When they finally secure the hamlet

     they force the villagers out of their homes

     and huts and fields, push

     them out on the road carrying chickens

     and children, leading their buffalo,

     warning them not to turn back—

     “Go!  Go!  Don’t look!”—

     as a Thunderchief delivers

     the napalm strike exploding

     as a white fireball

     burning everything they’ve known.

 

“It is a great sin,” Ganesh says,

“to ever imagine destruction as a cleansing.”

 

     Through the acrid smoke I watch

     the Architect directing changes,

     reshaping Combat Town

     by blueprint, desperate

     for a stratagem that will win the war:

     strategic hamlets, truces,

     carpet bombing, mining

     Haiphong Harbor, interdiction,

     Vietnamization, invading Cambodia.

     But every advantage leads to losses

     and the helicopter evacuation of Saigon.

 

     Combat Town quiets down

     for a season.  But then new blueprints

     are drawn and the pagoda we are in becomes

     a Central American church

     and wars later is rebuilt to be a mosque.

     And the weapons the recruits learn

     become smarter and more deadly, as do they.

     And when Ganesh rises from his meditation,

     and I am ready to leave this dream,

     he chides me and leaves me there to stay,

     saying, as he rides his mice away,

 

“This is your story, no?

     America’s story.

A story of continuing war.”

— Kent Chadwick

 
 

    


Gregg Chadwick is a painter with studios in San Francisco and Santa Monica.

Kent Chadwick is a poet living on Bainbridge Island in Washington state.

Brothers, they share in the long conversation between painting and poetry.

 

 

 


  Gregg: Kent:
 

 

chadwick15@mindspring.com