Paintings            GARY BARTEN
Reserved #1 - Heat Shrine
December 2018
ink, acrylic, and tempera on paper
48" x 36"
Winter is the season when much of the usual throbbing current of life is held in a kind of reserve. Except for the quick blur of birds against the cold sky the general pulse of winter life is turned down like reptile heartbeats. Ants and bees have disappeared, and wind-driven snow blows across the landscape. A moaning sound reverberates inside the stove pipes that stand above the house and studio.

The end of the year approaches and it always means taking stock of what has passed, perhaps in light of what may emerge in the coming months. The efforts of the passing year have a certain momentum that is quietly held in reserve during this assessment process. A mix of small triumphs and larger disappointments may be highlighted in retrospective, but they all fall into the same pot now and are stirred about to generate some kind of mental strategy that might be initiated in the next season. This too, contributes to our sense of reserve that is characteristic of winter months.Thankful for our shelter and its artificial climate, I remain wary of the cold outdoors here in Santa Fe during winter. This contributes to staying home with more time to work and reflect on what I am trying to do and say, the seasons having a big share of the content. The reserve of time spent reflecting reveals new understandings of how intertwined the change without is with our ambitions, beliefs and ideas.

A friend from California who went to graduate school in NYC remarked that he felt very sad that first winter walking among all the leafless trees, an image that recalls to me how much is made of maple sugar season in New England when the sap falls back toward the roots of the same leafless maples. The downward slide of all this arboreal energy and the months of wind and snow, all accompanied by shorter days while we orbit the sun with the northern hemisphere tipped away from its rays also bring to mind the distant time when farming began at the edge of the receding glaciers. Perhaps, thought patterns that guided our farming ancestors through the still winter months resurface in meditations on our relationship to sunlight and daylight, growth and dormancy. Like a store of seeds during winter these ideas are vital, never arcane or frivolous because they link us to what it is about the rest of the year’s seasons that preserves us and the life on the surface of our planet. Passing through this cycle of dormancy and growth we are immersed in a visceral connection to life but without winter to hold a part of it in reserve and establish a time so conducive to our rediscovery of ourselves, we might well have less of an understanding of generation and dissolution. Likewise, without this time of reserve, a frantic and despondent life would confront us like a ceaseless winter wind.
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