The conventional definition of nativity, appearing first in Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, is “…the process or circumstances of being born…” followed by “…the birth of Jesus…the horoscope at or of the time of one’s birth….” and finally “…the place of origin.” It’s that last definition, with its vast implications that inspired my newest painting, which is called, simply, “Nativity.” The large, 36 x 60″ oil painting looks at part of a densely glowing field of dust and gas – just the kind of place that nurtures the development of new stars. Also in the painting is the trail of an asteroid, the glow of older red and gold stars, and bands of dust obscuring what might be another galaxy in the more distant upper left.
When the question arose of what to title the new painting, I considered the idea of a portrait of time, for the painting does show deep space, new and old stars, and begs the question of our perceptions of time. We know time by change and movement, and the painting certainly portrays various “speeds” of time, including the time the human eye and brain takes to ponder the image. But when I thought about those stars pulling their way into being, I decided on Nativity, because it speaks of time and includes our very human concept of the place where we start, the place we call home – and the cosmos is another part of our home.
Technical painting notes – The process began with an alkyd primed panel (seven layers, sanded between applications), which was then glazed with green, blue and violet colors. This provided a tinted, less absorbent surface on which to begin the actual painting. For the next stage, a dark Prussian green and indigo glaze was applied and creatively removed using rags, plastic bags, and paint thinner. Bubble wrap was pressed into the surface, and solvent dripped and blotted. This process created textures and blocked out the major areas of light, along with the dark sweep of the dust bands. When it was dry, I applied more glazes, along with tiny dots of stars. The lighter areas were developed with layers of more opaque highlights, followed by additional glazing. Stars were spattered on then buried (almost) by deeply tinted glaze layers.