Dance With The Fire

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 5.21.46 PMLast night was Duke’s (Richard Kruse’s) memorial art show. There was an abundance of food, wine, laughter and stories. The gallery was literally filled with his paintings, prints, and sculpture. He was prolific. His paint encrusted chair, draped with his paint spattered coat, sat empty before his easel; on the easel was a large sketch pad, a place for notes for Duke and his family. I watched people approach the chair, catching their breath before sitting to compose their thoughts in the very chair he’d occupied for decades to compose the paintings that lined the walls. The chair became sacred space, a bridge between worlds.

I did not know him but I felt an immediate kinship with his work. He was a figurative painter – as am I – and given to the mystic – as am I: he worked the figure to find the soul shining inside – as do I. It was a great treat to thumb through his sketchbook. The energy and freedom of his drawings took my breath away; this was a man who needed to make art. It was an imperative made visible. I found an even deeper kinship in his imperative.

It’s hard to explain to someone who is not filled with the fire, the inner necessity to draw, dance, make music,…. It is more than a want or desire. It can be ignored but withering is the price. If it is not honored it will consume. To someone who does not know this fire the making of art appears as an indulgence. To someone who burns with the fire, anything else is a distraction; they will construct their life patterns according to the necessity of the fire.

The myth of the suffering artist is perpetuated by non-artists. The only artists that suffer are those who ignore their gift. Most people, despite their rhetoric, fear the kind of freedom and energy evident in Duke’s sketchbook. Artists run at the unknown. They develop craft so they might relinquish control in order to dance with the fire. Too much investment in control (of self, of other, of circumstance) smothers the flame. By the stories I heard, by the power of his sketches, by the laughter his life evoked, I can only assume that Duke must have been a master of this fire-dance.

 

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