Random Thoughts from a Black Pouring

Number 28. Jackson Pollock

I am a Jackson Pollock painting these days. Life and death have been splashing all over me and the result is an indecipherable hodgepodge of an inner landscape.

To be honest, I love Pollock’s work and a lot of other artists who painted in the form of Abstract Expressionism. This art reminds us that the world and life is not always represented by definable forms that can be described in propositional language. Life is mysterious. Life appears random. Patterns and purpose are not always discernible. God is silent; we fear God is absent. We welcome the occasional surprise. The Abstract Expressionist artist painted by means of spontaneous motion, randomly dripping, splashing, and smearing art onto a canvas. It was about the journey as much as it was about any destination, about epiphanic manifestations not calculated designs.

I find a transcendent beauty in much of Jackson Pollock’s color work, but there was a period where the artist abandoned the drip style and color and tried a new approach. In 1950 he began to create his series of “Black Pourings.” Don Nash describes the method:

Pollock began his black paintings by pouring black Duco paint, which he thinned with turpentine, directly onto a blank canvas. The canvas was soft, unlike a primed canvas which is firm, so when the black paint was applied, it blurred (as when a photograph is enlarged and lines appear frayed).

According to his wife Lee Krasner Pollock, her husband’s painting tools were sticks, basting syringes, and old brushes that had become stiff.

Other artists loved these monochromatic paintings, but they were a complete commercial failure. An angry and discouraged Pollock, from that point, descended into a spiral of depression and drinking, which ended with his death in an auto accident in 1956. It was as if these bleak artworks foretold his own personal future.

I am not spiraling, but man it feels grim sometimes.

It’s one foot in front of the other. Sleep. Eat. Work. Do what needs to be done. It’s May but spring still seems a long time coming. The world’s a pretty monochromatic place these days, to my point of view. My soul’s been soaking it up like Jackson Pollock’s blank canvasses.

I just keep telling myself: Embrace the life impulse. Side with the seeds. Howl at the moon.

Tires type black
Where the blacktop cracks
Weeds spark through
Dark green enough to be blue
When the mysteries we believe in
Aren’t dreamed enough to be true
Some side with the leaves
Some side with the seeds

On the wind the wolves are howling
She cries they’re drawin’ near
Turn around, turn around my darling
Oh, the wolves are here

Everything’s so great, can’t get better, makes me wanna cry
That I’ll go out howling at the moon tonight
Yeah I’ll go out howling at the moon tonight

23 thoughts on “Random Thoughts from a Black Pouring

  1. Amen. In crises like this, it’s the poor and the handicapped that suffer most. We need to pray for them. Thanks, Robert.


  2. David, I am so sorry for what you are experiencing.
    When I lost a dear family member, my priest told me ‘it’s a process’ (grieving) and I have learned that this is true. I guess maybe he meant that I had to ‘process’ the sometimes overwhelming sadness and to try to cope . . . but then I found out that God does send His peace to our hearts, even when those hearts are broken with grief. I will pray for you. We here will pray for you and for one another. So let us know when it gets dark for you, like Chaplain let us know about his journey.


  3. Pray for the people of Houston and its environs, that are receiving rainfall of almost Biblical proportions.


  4. “May softly come unto me Thy mercy.
    So I call on Thee, for Thou hast created me.”


  5. Like David, my days are getting brighter. I start a new job Wednesday and I am really looking forward to it. Many thanks to Chaplain Mike and the encouragement he has been to me.


  6. Without the light, we would not know there was darkness — it could not even exist, or be experienced. Still, the experience of it in the felt absence of the light we know is real can be excruciating, as you in your grief know David. I’m very glad you are experiencing a measure of solace and renewed hope in these last few days; may it continue to be so for you.


  7. Several days before Marge’s death I wrote something about how I was feeling. This was gathering darkness, not one that appeared suddenly and without warning. In fact, it had taken two or three years for it to birth itself and become what it now was. I’m not sure if I published this somewhere, or just wrote it and held it in a computer folder.

    Here it is:

    “In the past, I loved the evenings, the coming of darkness, and the peace that would come with them. I’d get out and walk around the lawn, the driveway to the road, listen to the birds singing their bedtime songs, and sometimes the frogs. Voices of nature and of love, the happy goodnights.

    “Now it all seems to be reversed. I hate the evenings, dread nightfall, and can’t sleep. Now I listen and hear all the wrong things. Sirens, voices that are gone forever, and the midnight phone call. The weeping in the night of a hurting soul. The prayer of desperation that will never be heard. Darkness.”

    About three days after I wrote this, Marge died. She died suffering far more than she should have, in pain and discomfort that was difficult to look at and hear as she called for help and tried her best to cope. My daughter had to leave the room to weep.

    This was in the afternoon of a Sunday. But it was like the darkness of midnight.

    Now she has been gone for about a month. The first week was hard, hard, hard. Over and over my mind played out the events of not only the last few months and days but the last few years.

    However, in the last few days, something almost imperceptible began to happen. My mind began to ease. Things began to look different. The old promises began to mean something once again. I wasn’t going to bed in despair every evening, waiting for the phone to ring, and in worry about the person I loved most in life.

    And I’ve been reminded that first there is death, then the light begins to shine into darkness once again and new life comes forth. I’m reminded of this in many places of scripture. The following speaks to me from 1 Corinthians 15:

    “And when this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then the word that is written shall come about:

    “Death is swallowed up in victory.
    Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”


  8. There are a lot of people out here praying for you, CM, and wishing you the best. And whatever it may be worth, you can take that to the bank.


  9. Having an Irish soul is a universal human phenomenon. Dig into anyone deep enough, and you’ll find it there.


  10. I have had a rough week, as have most of us at IMonk.
    However, I am sure there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

    I love this ancient hymn because unless my steps are in step with God’s plan I stumble.

    In heavenly love abiding,
    no change my heart shall fear;
    and safe is such confiding,
    for nothing changes here:
    the storm may roar without me,
    my heart may low be laid;
    but God is round about me,
    and can I be dismayed?

    My Saviour has my treasure,
    and he will walk with me.

    (Anita Letitia Waring)

    How else can we attempt getting out of bed each day and opening the curtains, unless we know we have God at our right hand pulling them part and challenging us to step out of the dark into His Light, what is there to attempt?

    I pray for His Light to illuminate our paths as we stumble from bed and into the new day.
    And at the end of each day to give thanks.



  11. “. . . He saw all the sorrows and troubles that would fall upon Men and Gods.
    But he saw, too,
    why the sorrows and troubles had to fall,
    and he saw how they might be borne
    so that Gods and Men,
    by being noble in the days of sorrow and trouble,
    would leave in the world a force that one day,
    a day that was far off indeed,
    destroy the evil that brought terror and sorrow and despair into the world.”

    ( Padraic Colum)


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