When I was in the 2nd year of school we had to draw a picture of our selves. Someone stopped by my desk and said “wow”. My desk soon gathered a small group kids – My desk – The desk of that somewhat shy and easily overlooked kid. A little girl said “you are an artist!”
“no.” I said, bashfull. But under my breath I added “not yet”.
So, in a way, I am an artist because I impressed a girl, but in spite of that, it wasn´t until my early twenties that I realized that being an artist was attractive. Duh!
On my way from there to where I am now I´ve been been loved and hurt and I’ve hurt others as well. Through it all I painted. In college, when my first girlfriend left me, I painted about that, and painting was the only thing that kept me hanging on. It was never enough that painting be therapy, I had to make something beautiful out of it. I had to find this beautiful, imperfect sort of perfection in a painting. We all need to find that in our lives. If we can´t…well then, what´s the point? Facebook likes??
I´ve always painted intensely personal images, private moments made very publicly. In my later twenties I revisited an incident from my childhood where 5 of my best friends tied me to a baseball backstop at night, trying to strip my clothes from me. I was terrified, humiliated, and powerless…and these were my friends. Luckily, I was saved by a friend who untied my shoe, allowing me to kick. I didn´t know why they did that. Looking back, I see the shadow of rape culture.
Painting can attract, it can also repel.
I burned out my marriage for painting. I was always in the studio, smoking hashisch from one morning until the next, in intimate situations with my models. It was a volatile mix for any marriage. Despite my earlier insistence on honesty in my work, with marriage, my personal content went into shallow hiding from my spouse. As I hid myself, my sense of self-worth went deep into hiding as well. I reduced myself to collecting likes on FB.
Eventually, after our separation, I fled to a new love in Germany. We met at an opening, she watched me painting, and it was either that or my constant emails that convinced her I might be worth her time. This time I was determined not to let painting destroy our relationship. I stayed at home in the evenings, terrified that painting would end us. Clinging. I almost stopped making art completely while I worked in a vineyard and as a housepainter. I was still in hiding, but I was being impatiently coached out of it.
Now that relationship may be ending on good terms, but I won´t hide away anymore. I am going to keep making images, and allow my light to shine, finding that imperfect, perfect beauty in this terrible, wonderful life.
Paul Beel, Feb 8, 2018
Paul Beel, Feb 8, 2018