BEGGARS OF BLISS,
ICONS OF LOSS
Bliss is what blossoms from loss.
Max Roemer presents “Beggars of Bliss, Icons of Loss”, new sculptures and paintings that speak to the viewer as archetypes and inner fairytale figures.
The sculptures are “Beggars of Bliss”, human-like figures made of found wood, shapes and plaster in poses of begging or asking for alms. And the paintings are “Icons of Loss”, portraits of beggars, resembling medieval icons. They hold cardboard signs with one-word messages that invite multiple readings and meanings.
Icons are flat pictures that are full of symbols. Their depth lies not on the picture plane but inside the viewer, whose awareness they nourish, as they draw from the unconscious. And often it is loss and crisis that dumps us into this spirit world, where we begin to understand values that haven’t touched the outer world, an inner world with a road to bliss.
The beggar is a symbol of loss, an archetype personifying total powerlessness, the feeling of not controlling anything, as such the polar opposite of the king in fairy tales. And icons are representations of bliss. In reversing this connection to “Icons of Loss, Beggars of Bliss”, loss turns into a precondition of bliss by suggesting that the darkest loss, and possibly only the darkest loss, bears the spark of bliss.
And the noses? They’re no joke. They are soul spigots, plumbing from the imagination. The nose is the sense of the instinct, blind and dumb, with a direct line to the unconscious. The nose has an animal wisdom that knows how to sniff out bliss. It is the nose of the beggar, the Dummling of fairly tales, the dumb one, who is an embarrassment, sent forth with no skill, and who no one expects to be a success. It is the nose of the spiritual beggar who is not afraid to beg from the natural world and who is fed by that natural world, who even in rags knows how to win wholeness, how to find Bliss.
Therefore the materials matter. The sparse materials, seemingly disintegrated, distorted, gnarled and twisted, give expression to the bare experience of both loss and bliss, the bliss from spiritual poverty. The use of found shapes and natural objects is an important part of the process. Plants from the yard, sand from the beach, and tree waste from neighboring fields connect the pieces to the environment from which they grow. And the idea of connection vs. loss is central to the work.
My Practice And Process
Don’t ask “What would Wang Wei do?” You know that already: drink wine, meet friends, meditate on nature, make paintings, write poems, tend to the garden. He would do the same here and now, in Encinitas today: Meet friends, water the garden, cook, paint, write poems, get in the water. Repeat. Daily actions, forming thoughts, forming mind, recluse, aware and awake, seeking the spiritual in the mundane and the basic blessing of head in cold water.
The question is “How to paint? Make art? Find poetry?” How to reimagine the tradition of literati artists, reimagine the spirit of the recluse here and now? How to express the ideal and practice of the craftless amateur, here, on a different continent, and now, in a hyper-industrialized, consumption-crazed society?
Play here and now, in suburban irreconcilably nonsensical Southern California - because and in spite of it. Play in the realization that nothing more than play is needed, that nothing less will do. Play as daily practice, as the last and first political act, protest and life-affirming act. Play as the Great Refusal, the big No, and the little Yes