Work In Progress.

One of the classical ideas about art is that it aims for eternity, that, against the backdrop of ephemeral nature, it remains unchanging, although technically that may be more of a Neoclassical 18th century revision of the classical view of art, especially considering that Plato had a rather low opinion of artists, but that’s another story.

Maybe I should start over.

Once I saw an artist working on a painting in a public space. I sat down and watched him for a while and then asked, “Do you mind me watching?”

“If I minded I wouldn’t be painting out here,” he replied.

It was fascinating watching a painting develop. It’s one of the reasons I think Bob Ross’s painting show was so popular. I’m sure there were plenty of others like me who weren’t really interested in painting ourselves but were just fascinated by how a few dabs of paint could create a vivid picture. Bob Ross’s gentle personality and “happy little clouds” were a bonus.

This background reminds me that any work of art is a work in progress, that however static a picture might seem, even if the artist is decomposing, the picture will change as it too decomposes. Van Gogh’s paintings were even more vivid in his lifetime, Edvard Munch used to put his paintings out in his yard when he was done with them—something that would make art preservationists tear their hair out—and even the classical sculptures that are so loved for their stark beauty and subtlety were once painted with gaudy colors.

What I’m taking the long way around to get to is that a few months ago when I met artist Billy Martinez working on a mural over on Elliston Place I assumed what I was seeing was a more or less finished work, but since then he’s come back and added to it. Here’s an earlier picture of Johnny Cash and Bettie Page:

Here they are now:

At the other end they’ve been joined by Dolly Parton, another iconic Nashville figure. At least a certain, er, feature suggests she’s Dolly Parton. Before she became famous she lived down the street from my parents and they still like to say, “We knew her before she got so big.”

And he’s added some interesting symbols in between. These seem to only be outlines and I plan to go back—especially since it’s just a hop, skip and a jump—maybe with another skip—from where I work to watch its growth.

The one thing that remains constant, even in the supposedly fixed world of a painting, is change.

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