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Empty Yet Full of Love

Oil on Canvas - 22"x24"

Finished 1994

Concept:

 

This is perhaps the most personal work of art that I've ever done. When it was about 3/4 done, I decided to write my definition of the painting onto the painting:

I am empty yet full of love,

Do you know me?

I dream of fairy-tale romances that will never be...CAN NEVER BE!

Am I that different from you?

It seems that I am destined to remain an observer of both worlds. 

Would you trade places with me?

As an artist, oh, I have created...as a man, I've achieved nothing.

Which do you believe is better?

I've made my heart into an island – perhaps by choice.

My nights have become an eternity. 

Have you ever watched an infomercial from beginning to end?

Friends, worry not. For I am not without smiles.

If you want, I'll happily share some with you.

At the time that I painted this, I was 26 years old, not dating anyone, and starting a local free newspaper after having been the editor-in-chief of my school's student-run newspaper. I was artistically fearless yet fearful that I would always be alone. I needed a release, and this was it. 

...empty yet full of love...

The focus of the painting is the figure of Cupid, who we all know, is full of love. I wanted to show Cupid was unable to give love, i.e. shoot his arrows, so I have the bow lying in front of him. Unable to give love, Cupid has not only turned to stone but is empty of his heart. To bring home the point of not being able to shoot his arrows, I have made his arms broken. Cupid is me. I even made this more personalized by showing Cupid having a lipoma on his right hip, which I had at the time. I have Cupid also standing in dead leaves, representing the transformation from life to death. 

Next to Cupid, I have the traditional symbols (hourglass, sand, bubbles, skull) of a common theme popularized in the Baroque period. The theme, Vanitas, is Latin for "emptiness."

...fairy-tale romances that will never be...

Above the Vanitas symbols is a depiction of a fairy-tale romance. Interesting enough is a depiction of Snow White that I found on a puzzle piece set at Target. I wanted to separate Cupid from everything since he was my main focus, so I used missing puzzle pieces behind him - which also reinforces that Cupid is not complete while unable to give love. At the time, finding the love of my life seemed like a "fantasy."

...observer of both worlds... and ...as a man, I've achieved nothing...

I have the image of Earth, i.e., the physical world I was living in. At the Earth's center, there is the image of an embryo. This is reinforced by the image of a fetus in utero that was conceived in love which is shown by silhouettes holding hands in the tradition of the Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966). At the time of this painting, I could not see if I would ever find someone to share my life with and eventually have children with.

...heart into an island...

In the top right-hand corner is an image of a heart as an island. I've reversed the puzzle imagery behind Cupid and filled it to look like an ocean map.

....nights have become an eternity...

Behind the Earth and the trees, I've made the sky static, like when a television station used to go off air during the early morning hours. Also, the snake (Ouroboros) biting its tail symbolizes eternity by forming a circle.

...not without smiles...

I painted a giant smiling face opening its mouth, and inside it shows an open door with a sad face in water yet flames edging it. I am, by nature, a happy person. However, with the matters of the heart at this time, I smiled on the surface but inwardly felt different. I was the opposite. Fire/water and happy/sad are opposites. I felt that, at the time, my smile was cheapened by the lack of happiness behind them. If you count the dimes with smiling faces plus the large smiley face with the open mouth, they number 12, making my smiles a dime a dozen – meaning that my smiles had no particular value.

...I'll happily share some...

I wrote the painting's definition over an area inspired by the artist Francis Bacon's (1909-1992) "Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X." Behind the wording is an image of a daisy which is a symbol of hope. Even though this aspect of my current circumstances saddened me, I was not without hope. I knew it would happen; I just didn't know when.

the cherubs...

If you've ever spent time talking to me about art history, you quickly discover that I am a fan of Sir Peter Paul Rubens. When I was working on this painting, I drove to Toledo, OH, to see a major exhibit on Rubens, and his fantastic painting, "The Garden of Love", was the show's centerpiece. His cherubs inspired the cherubs in that painting. The cherub holding the blank puzzle piece represents the hope of what is yet to come, and I took that piece and used it in another painting titled "Life's Missing Piece."

the names on the wall...

I included the names of friends who were in marriages or were in serious relationships. I wanted to use these as a foundation for what I wanted in my life. It's now a little awkward with some who are no longer wedded. However, the thing for me is to remember that a painting is a time capsule where the artist captures their feelings, whether they be happy, sad, fearful, or hopeful. I've always thought that I was able to capture all of those feelings in this work of mine.

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