Tuesday, January 13, 2015



SERENITY oil on canvas by Barry Howard SOLD

For many years, these bubble-like spheres have shown up in some of my paintings and people often ask what they represent....I try to have an answer because I want to be helpful but in reality I wish they wouldn't ask. To me, one of the best things about art is that it means different things to different people. Each person brings their own perception to it and gives it a meaning that is personal to them. At times I have painted, say, a landscape of the town of Mendocino, for example, and someone will see it and say, " oh look, that looks just like that place we went to in Cape Cod..." or wherever, and they buy it because it represents something meaningful to them....doesn't matter that it wasn't Cape Cod that I painted...and if I insist that it isn't Cape Cod it simply steals the significance of the image from them. So I would rather just leave the meaning of those bubble-like spheres open to interpretation.

Having said that though, they do have a significance to me. They represent other worlds that exist within this world...because there are such worlds going on...we just don't know it because we don't have the receptors to percieve them. We tend to think of reality as a very definite, fixed thing....it's not. We humans only come equipped with a limited abiltity to recieve information. Take, for example, the electro-magnetic spectrum...we only detect, with our limited senses, a small range known as the visible light spectrum, when in reality there is infrared, ultra-violet, micro-waves, all kinds of stuff going on but we don't know it, because we can't see it....so to us, it's not part of our reality. Other creatures have different receptors...butterflies and hummingbirds see a whole world of color that we don't....dogs hear sounds that we can't hear and dolphins and whales percieve sonar and can pick up on the blood flowing through our bodies. Reality looks much different to them....IS much different to them. Our own reality is only a partial picture constructed from limited and incomplete information....like putting together a jig-saw puzzle with half the pieces missing...you still get a picture, just not an accurate one. All you get is a partial representation of reality. But we humans are very insistent that reality is what we can see and hear. We say, "Seeing is believing..." we tell people to "face reality." All of our senses tell us that this boulder we are sitting on is solid and unmoving, when actually we know it is in constant motion and is made up of mostly empty space. It looks the way it does because of where we are sitting...our point of view...if we could pull back far enough to look at our own galaxy it would look solid and unmoving too. We would be completely unaware of all the stars burning and exploding, planets zooming around them, people sitting down to tea on those planets as they zoom around, and discussing things like our limited abiltiy to percieve reality. From our hypothetical distant vantage point we would swear that we were looking at a fixed, lifeless solid lump of rock. From our distant vantage point we wouldn't exist. The farther away we get from things the more they slow down and appear fixed in time and space. If you have ever looked down at a line of breaking waves from the window of an airplane you will notice that they don't seem to be moving. Like telephone poles whizzing by the window of your car ten feet away...put those telephone poles a mile away and they seem to move by very slowly. It's all a matter of perspective. Perspective changes both time and space. Reality conforms to our perspective. Reality is very fluid and malleable. Reality is what we believe it is...and we're mostly wrong. So those bubble-like spheres help remind me not to take my own interpretation of reality too seriously.