Blog: One In A Million II

Christine Alfery

Posted on September 02 2020

Blog: One In A Million II

As a Christian I think of heaven as Utopia, a beautiful place where there is both peace and harmony.  For a long time I used to think that I could find and create Utopia through my art.  I wasnt the only one. Artists from the Renaissance on have been painting pictures of their interpretation of Utopia.  The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is an excellent example.  Fast forwarding in art history , from the abstract expressionists to the present-day artists, all think they can find Utopia through their art.  Artists have tried to find the origin of truth of a medium, the origin point of a drip, a mark, on a what they thought was a blank slate.  The blank slate represented a utopian state. Origin and truth represented a utopian state.

For years, before I began painting, I would try to clear my head and my studio of all other thoughts except for that blank slate in front of me.  I used to get mad at myself when I would begin thinking of other things – and not about the immediate fresh action of the process of painting on this blank slate.  I have since learned that there is no such thing as a blank slate – and the origins of a drip or a mark. It is me, the artist, not some mystical source guiding my hand, my gestures. 

I can never get rid of my history. It is unique to me as an individual. And my history is why there is no blank slate or Utopia here on earth, and why I will never find it – but only imitate it as best I can, like Michelangelo’s fresco ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. So, while I believe in the unity of the human race, I also believe in the uniqueness of the individual.  Perhaps, the reason why there is such division within our country right now is because it is linked to the old idea that there can be a blank slate that unifies all. But, in reality, what the individualism of each person is screaming out for cannot be linked to the old idea of a blank slate. Instead it needs to be linked to individual histories and what makes each one of us. Whether we are artists or not, we have our own uniqueness and one of a kindness.  We need to find that, and respect it in others.  Just like we respect it in art.

And if we as individuals find our uniqueness, we also find, just like freedom, that it is a lot of work to keep it. As I have said in the past, we should all learn from the arts, and use the arts and the history of the arts in how to move forward together.  I honestly cannot say I have found this truth anywhere in the arts except by honoring the individualism of the artist and the viewer.  And it is why I believe that the concept of freedom is so integral to what art is and how it is understood, and why the idea of individualism and uniqueness is so important.  I believe too many have not thought about what having freedom means in the arts, that it no longer means we have a blank slate, that Utopia does not exist here on earth, or in our imaginaries.  There is no collective ideal of Utopia except in some mythical space we cannot see or know. There can be a collective ideal of unity, but not a unity made of ideologists that think there is only one way to solve a problem.  And not for those who think that you must work to maintain freedom and individualism.  Artists have known this for a long time.  And their works illustrates this.  If I have created a work that brings this idea home for me, I put it in my "One In A Million" series. 

I will have a gallery during the Northwoods Art Tour that is filled with the few pieces that I have left in my collection that are part of my "One In A Million" series.  They are very, very special pieces and only happen once within a million tries.  That is why we must paint every day and learn every day in order to maintain our freedom, uniqueness and individualism.

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