Michael Childress

by Susan Jennings


Michael Childress studio, 2015. Courtesy of the artist.

Visit to Childress’s studio in Easthampton, Mass.

It starts, of course, with water. A bath for the newborn, a baptism for the blank canvas.

Add phthalo blue, the solar color. Retinal cones fire in a way that no other color can coax. Light.

As babies age they develop the ability to see color. So do cultures over time. At first there is only black, white, and red. The history of literature of each culture slowly adds colors. Without words, say without the word blue (or phthalo), it does not exist. Blue is always last.

Form
Affect

Words give birth. Word is form. Word is matter. Word is an event. Everything begins with word.

Humanity.

I wonder what our today’s “blue” is, the thing that is everywhere that we have not yet recognized and named?

Art. A painting.

Phthalo. A color discovered in the atomic age, now essential to functioning of solar panels.

Invention. Destruction. Invention.

Failed gestures are the train tracks for the eventual breakthrough. Artists seek blind spots, the color blue, by laying the tracks of the failed gesture so that the breakthrough moment is birthed. To not be willing to create failure is to not be seeking to succeed.

Agnes Martin alone in the desert reached her own zero. She felt without zero there could be no truth.

Quiet. Nothing.

An empty room. A canvas. A void. Nothing.

It starts, of course, with nothing. Nothing can begin without nothing.
And then there is all possibility. Everything.
Topology. Sperm. Möbius strip egg. Looping and …

Energy

Mass times a really big number.
The speed of light squared.

Isn’t that another way of saying E=M going extremely fast? Mass (going fast) and energy are the same thing.

Field
Array

Quantum mechanics tells us that there are no edges. We name the edge. We call you you and me me and it it. But electrons and particles fly between the edges. I share mine with you and we share ours with chair, floor, wall, tree, light.

Light.

Lene Hau, a physicist at Harvard, slowed down light. C isn’t so constant, after all.

E=M times a really big (variable?) number.

Can quantum mechanics and Newtonian physics be resolved by light being variable?

Time.

There is no time. Time is a construct.
A name. A word.

There is now. And now. And now.
And memory.

And nothing.

Abstracta
Concreta

Between and within the quarks and the leptons there is more and more nothing. It is all all all all ...

Nothing. Birth.

Birth of a child. Birth of a painting. Some forgotten.

Destruction. Memory.

A scar is just a memory of an event. There is no good reason for cells to continue to form around that event.
Yet they do.

Quiet. Minimal.

Donald Judd’s plywood boxes are not minimal. They are everything. Frozen time. Psychedelic. Memory. Energy. Rhythm of growth.

Trees. Chlorophyll.

Heliotropism, Gravity. Photosynthesis. Form.

Fibonacci is magic nature. Form responding to and created in gravity, matter’s bending and warping of the emptiness between matter and matter.

The growth of trees and their light-seeking leaves. A thumbprint. A nautilus shell. A hurricane. A galaxy. The great whirl of all existence.

Exquisite. And as Richard Feynman said “Nature,” (or art) “as She is – absurd.”








—Susan Jennings is a visual artist and musician/performer. She often collaborates with Slink Moss on their multimedia project called Black Lake. Jennings lives in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

Tags:
painting
abstraction
space
physics
BOMB 133
Fall 2015
The cover of BOMB 133
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