July 3, 2019

What abstract art means to me

Cool Man, Cool! | 42″ x 84″ | Acrylic on Canvas

Published in the July 2019 • Vol. 22, No. 11 of:
Rapid River Magazine’s Arts & Culture

Abstract art is difficult to define but fascinating. After an extremely long progression stemming from the Impressionist movement beginning in mid-19th Century France, the “Abstract Expressionist Movement” as we call it today, came to fruition in 1940sNew York City

Artists in that movement fully understood what the very act of painting was about. It was clear and simple, an expression of art that came directly from the creative energy of the universe and channeled through the artist onto canvas. They were strongly motivated to dive into the process of uncertainty and agreed singly, as well as collectively, not to use their intellect or reasoning for the purposes of creating art. It was a wild and never-before-attempted art form that shocked the art world. This is how I paint. 

The time it takes to create an abstract painting is irrelevant. Franz Kline finished a very large canvas within an hour; as do I (with music). This abstract action painting movement was so powerful that it offered complete painting freedom with no end in sight. 

This is what my work is about. With a mesmerizing explosion of color, contrast, movement, and strong music, my paintings aim to bring new life to the tradition of the abstract expressionist movement of the New York art scene as described above. 

My abstract work began in the 1970s in the middle of a nationally-recognized portrait painting career. It was an honored opportunity to present a monumental round canvas to President Ford, which was accepted as our nation’s bicentennial portrait. “We the People” remains part of the Smithsonian Institution’s permanent collection. 

My big challenge was to let go of the financial success of realism and portraits to pursue the need to be true to myself regardless of any financial concerns that would arise due to this drastic shift in style. This shift was a lifesaver to my true self and my progression as an artist. 

I finally gave up figurative painting and dove in fully to the world of abstract painting and joyfully embracing the excitement of being faced with uncertainty. The secret of true abstract expressionism is to be able to let go — to the point of feeling what it would be like to be willing to jump off a cliff without a parachute — and become very comfortable allowing uncertainty to take over. You will not die! Instead, you will experience a new way of doing life, acting, and being uncertain at the same time. That’s very exciting, to be sure about not being sure. Just think about it. 

Fluidity of Grace | 56″ x 72″ | Acrylic on Canvas

In 1966 I met a great spiritual Master who transformed my life and taught me how to meditate. My life and my painting completely changed. I started to create from deep within me, learning to deal with the interference the mind can create with all its interruptions tricks and its various laws of duality. Now, after 52 years of meditation, my process is slowly becoming freer and involving less personal judgment. Another excellent resource for me has been Stuart Cubley’s Painting Experience workshop (www.processarts.com). 

After all these years, it’s like my soul is doing the painting and I allow it, much like the way a three or four-year-old paints — totally free of trying to look good. When I let go, the creative energy of the universe comes in at hurricane force, and I have no choice but to surrender to it without a goal or plan. Without it, paintings can end up looking very lifeless and often predictable. Then there’s no juice! 

That state of letting go and allowing the energy to take over becomes a unique and magical experience as if my inner eye were looking into a reflection of itself. That’s the positive force that people, who set their eyes on it, become fascinated and are moved without knowing why. 

At its best, that’s how powerful abstract art can be. There’s nothing like it because it’s just pure energy without a subject, without a purpose, without a message — and it’s very appealing. The heart is touched. A comment I hear often is, “I just can’t relate to abstract art, but I just love this painting.” It becomes a heart experience, bypassing the logical mind and all the duality tricks we are all familiar with. 

For me that fascination with this process is very addictive, it’s a high, a state of pure bliss, and the wonderful thing about it is that it’s always there ready to capture my attention, no matter what my mood. From the first stroke, it kicks in. Over the years, I found that the best thing I could do to relate to others what my experience is like is to do it in front of a crowd. Each second Saturday at my Riverview Station location, in the River Arts District, I feel as though I put my life on the line with full confidence as I paint like a madman and do what I call a Painting Performance with rhythmic music. Everyone is welcome. 

For the last 12 years, I have been, attracting other artists, visitors, clients, and folks from all walks of life to experience how fascinating life can be when you plan less, fearless, trust more, and feel comfortable with uncertainty. 


January 18, 2019

Life & Art
In Search of the Illusive Inner Self

Why is it so difficult to discover one’s inner self?  Shouldn’t it be an effortless process occurring naturally as we age — where ultimately, like mental slight-of-hand, the inner self is magically revealed?

The difficulties people experience while striving for inner peace and harmony would suggest that achieving psychological and spiritual growth is a bit more complicated than a hunt for something intact and hidden waiting to be found.  In fact, a thoughtful analysis could go a step further to suggest that “the search for an inner self” is but an illusion. 

So, what is a more reasonable explanation for how self-growth actually occurs?  Initially, our DNA sets certain proclivities for each us relating to our environment and how our perceptions will color who we are and what we will become. 

From early on, mental/emotional (psychic) energy is used for coping with our surroundings and providing fuel for our development. If we compare an individual’s psychic energy to a pre-established number of troops available for metaphorically going into battle to deal with loss and trauma, then troops are left behind at the site of emotional wounds that result from trauma.  They [are] left there to protect those unhealed wounds. 

As our troops protect, isolate and avoid these wounds, our developing “self” can become fragmented, as “unhealed” wounds are akin to scabs with the potential to be opened, rather than scars or completely healed skin.

What energy remains after dealing with loss and trauma, is needed to deal with life’s present challenges.  Do we have enough energy (troops) to allow ourselves to be open, engaged, and welcoming to new sources of energy entering our system?  Or are we emotionally depleted, inflexible, and rigid? 

As there is no hidden, intact inner self waiting to be discovered, growth, is a process of healing wounds by recapturing parts of our self, and integrating these splintered parts back into the wholeness of our being. 

As our ability to deal with loss and trauma and the amount of energy required to shape our personalities influences the decisions we make, we can become prisoners of our past.  WE must heal our wounds and recapture the present in order to allow new experiences to splash onto our life’s canvas and take us in a forward new direction.    

Like the abstract painting that evolves as each moment is guided by the color and shapes preceding it, our inner harmony is created by healing our wounds, recapturing fragmented parts of ourselves, and allowing who we are to evolve into who we might become.  When viewed as an ongoing process of integration rather than quest for the discovery of an intact “inner self,” we can proceed with a different focus that allows our life’s painting to expand, rather than to have it become smaller and smaller influenced by the traumas of the past.

By Carl B. Gacono, Ph.D., ABAP
Author/Artist – Asheville, NC

November 21, 2018

When A Painting Speaks To You
Part II: What Makes A Painting Work?

In Part I of “When A Painting Speaks To You”, we explored how one can be drawn into an abstract expressionistic painting. By allowing oneself to feel the energy of the painting, the viewer often connects to the artists’ process of creation, resulting in feelings of completeness, wholeness and peacefulness—of things being “right.” In this way, abstract expressionism can be a mirror for life, where the “unexpected” shapes and directs what follows. This is what pulls us to the painting—our innate resonance with a very natural and sometimes spiritual process.