Dynamo I: Nine Blackbirds

Dynamo I: Nine Blackbirds. Acrylic, charcoal, ink on canvas. 40" x 40"
Dynamo I: Nine Blackbirds. Acrylic, charcoal, ink on canvas. 40″ x 40″

I finally “finished” this painting after tabling it 2+ years ago. Sometimes, it takes a long time of living with artwork on your walls, glancing at it every day, before it becomes clear what to do with it next. Now I’m looking back at what I wrote about the work in 2014:

Why “dynamo?” Strictly speaking, “dynamo” indicates a generator of some sort, which converts electrical energy to mechanical energy. I once came across this word in a short story, used to describe a dark forest ravine. I never got away from the imagery of the ravine filled with the energy of frog croaks, insect whirrrs, leaves rustling, water flowing etc. Earth/Nature as limitless battery, endless potential for conversion, transformation and sadly, exploitation … It’s fascinating to observe the world this way and to recreate the exchange of energy in the act of painting, which is itself a form of exchange and re-genesis.

Wrapping up this piece, my mind was more or less in the same place. I think the final decisions of what to do were more practical/aesthetic and less conceptual. The repeating blackbirds on an underlying grid provides a sense of iteration, structure, and repetition that we see reflected in the natural world in so many ways. The dancing colors and movement remind me of the myriad permutations energy takes as it travels through nature’s pathways. The blackbirds themselves are significant. Their dark plumage is iridescent, reflecting many colors, and some subspecies mimic the sounds of other birds, predators like cats, even humans. These traits reveal a complexity that is not at once apparent.

I’m still working within the theme of painting itself as a form of exchange parallel to nature, albeit somewhat more abstractly and on a much smaller scale. For me it’s a conceptual theme that has stayed fresh and inspiring with so many potential applications.

Dynamo I was recently shown during a 2 month exhibition at Reverie Cafe + Bar – the lush green nature theme worked magically on their exposed brick walls and provided a stark, warm contrast to the dark, frigid days of Minnesota’s winter.

4 thoughts on “Dynamo I: Nine Blackbirds

  1. I love this painting and your commentary about it above. It was a favorite of lots of the people at Reverie too. Great work Zach!!! ❤️

    1. Thank you for for reading and asking. For me it depends on the style. With abstraction, I rarely arrive at a point where I feel like it is totally finished. Knowing when you’ve crossed some sort of “finish line” seems so arbitrary with paintings that are purposefully ambiguous. I often ask myself whether the painting sufficiently deepens the question instead of whether the painting answers the question. On the other hand, if I’m doing a representational piece (like a commission for someone else), I can usually decide when it’s done based on the amount of time I put in and the absence of any glaring imperfections. That’s not to say that I see little things here and there as I look at it weeks later that I would go back and change… But some things are just more worth coming back to than others!

      1. Your distinction between person pieces and commissions is fascinating. I think something similar might apply in working on a work of fiction, vs a piece of long-form journalism or what have you.

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