NM Paintings 2022 > Vita Longa

Vita Longa - Elemental Drift
Vita Longa - Elemental Drift
ink, acrylic, and tempera on paper
32" x 46"
September 2022

Vita Longa

Of course, this turns out to be the names of innumerable health organizations and several medications as well as special diets. Eating your way to a longer life seems both the most accessible and the least likely of the above. So perhaps there’s something more than a tad amiss with the title?

Yes and no. Having retrieved it from the quip ars longa, vita breve, it still seems like a formula that grows out of that argument and is custom-made to accompany an ancient life-form like the sturgeon across the eons of its long existence swimming in riverine and ocean depths.

Like one of our first assembling of the elements, the Greek list of Fire, Air, Earth, and Water seems to resist evolution. Recombination notwithstanding, the elements drift and rumble across time containing life forms like the sturgeon that they provide with an environment tuned to longevity.

The original question I posed for myself when I began these paintings was, “So, how long do you want to live anyway?” This somewhat mean-spirited prompt slowly became the more benign idea that life in general is continuous on many different levels and in many different ways. Ways that we may not be able to share or visualize sharing without the help of a theology, mythology, or fantastic history that can somehow supersede biological, time-bound limits.

While ruminating about the sturgeon and its elemental environment, I was reminded of Blake’s “Tyger” and its life, a fire “burning bright in the forests of the night,” and then of the cold, clear air at night that reveals the stars and Milky Way above us here on Earth. We are here now in a form that is comprehensible to us, but we loathe that time when we might not be able to comprehend this same, simple entity we often call our soul. Nonetheless, while we walk about the same elements that cradle our existence have been holding the sturgeon in its midst for longer than we can imagine. Even our arithmetic numbers, and their living chamber of abstract calculations, cannot give us a tangible memory of the lifespans of ancient fish, or the elements and their climate of timeless intermarriages.

We have evidence in photographs of the spiraling arms of stars that have always been moving outward, expanding towards a future time. Perhaps we’ve already been a part of a similar excursion beyond our thin wall of skin, mingled with rock, buffeted by solar wind, and baptized in rains and ocean waves, at sea with sturgeon.