Persistence of Vision

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Great trapezoidal canvases jut upward on both sides of a narrow walkway. Their sheer presence is forcing me to tread upon my own paintings laid lengthwise on the floor. I am aware I am dreaming but this only serves to frustrate me. While I know I can change my surroundings by force of conscious will, it would serve no purpose to do so. I know I am here in order to understand something that ineluctably seems to lie ever beyond my comprehension.

And so I search – search for shards of meaning in what appears to be an inscrutable dreamworld. The canvases, forming the walls of this virtual hallway extend upward to infinity. They are covered with thousands of near-invisible geometric and biomorphic images composed of nothing but dim red outlines.

In my lifetime I have created several paintings larger than twenty feet in length. These canvases are rolled out beneath my feet. There is no space – no air here – outside of my immediate path. I cannot veer from it for fear of suffocation. I can only walk over my own work and observe the scratchy glyphs filling my peripheral vision.

As I move forward and reach the edge of each trapezoidal surface another looms beside it. Any gaps that appear are filled with my own pointillist pictures. It is clear I am walled in and I must ascertain some meaning in the red-outline pictographs filling the sides of this endless chamber.

The scratchy imagery comes into focus in equal measure to the intensity of my gaze. Rows of humanoid caricatures like layered hieroglyphs clamoring for attention lie just within the realm of visibility. There is no color but the faint red-outlines of which they are composed and the stark white of the surrounding field.

My paintings are sharp, multicolor, and complete, yet they serve as background for the ghostly apparitions that can only have issued from the mind of Keith Haring. It occurs to me I am in a sort of postmondern museum in which my own work sets the stage for Keith’s emergent imagery.

The more intense my gaze the more the images materialize. Before my dreaming eyes and brain, additional form and color develops. The vast white slabs behave like Polaroid film when I stare at them. But when I look away, or reduce the intensity of my gaze, they fade and whiten. I am literally “seeing into the work.”

The thought forms within me that I am somehow “finishing” Keith’s work by dint of imagination. I look closely to see exactly what kind of “filling-in” is taking place. I observe at once the signs, symbols, and colors of folk imagery and religious symbolism – an intermingling of natural and supernatural worlds and pure decoration playing over and throughout the visual and psychological tension of a strict geometry and formal design.

I am confronted by my own aesthetic vision interwoven with Keith’s intense seriocomic universe – all pinioned between a world of fundamentalist superstition and a technological post-apocalyptic dystopia. Overcome by the urge to pursue the significance of this phantasmagoric experience, I am moved to further exploration. I peer behind the walls to glimpse a lambent reality of my own imagination at work…

The decision to traverse the interstitial spaces comes with a wordless realization of a great weight or ponderous responsibility – I am somehow intervening or intruding into Keith’s death – more significantly, his after-death experience.

Nevertheless, I walk more quickly to delve more deeply. Soon, I am running – then flying through a golden museum/mausoleum space suffused with intersecting beams of unearthly light.

Everywhere my own carved-up canvases fill the space within and without Keith’s looming figures. I am reminded of my installation at the New Arts Program space where I executed just this solution to the situation of Keith’s floor-covering painting on permanent display there.

The great weight has been lifted from my mind. I am soaring through an infinite architectonic universe. Bathed in a numinous glow of total illumination and warmth I shed my very materiality, achieve invisibility, and feel myself at one with the light surrounding me. And I know there is nothing in this place that can die. And I know he is here.

Confident, I decide to end the dream and instantaneously I am awake. It is a brilliant June morning. I hear the songs of a hundred birds. The sun warms my face. I am alive!

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Image: Tullio Francesco DeSantis “Persistence of Vision, acrylic on canvas, 1978,” (digital image mod, 2009).
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