I’m back to painting science imagery! And I’ve taught myself how to gold-leaf.
Gold Has Often Been Used to Highlight What the Upper Class Considers Important
I’ve always been a fan of those very old, Italian religious paintings that were painted very flat, (in terms of perspective) and are also very shiny and covered in gold leaf with other painstaking, handcrafted, decorative details. This is, in a historical context, referred to as Byzantine art. You see a lot of triptychs from the 1300’s painted in this style in museums. So much loving detail in each carefully-crafted piece. The gold highlighted the important objects in each frame to tell a story most-often from religious texts. Not everyone could read, but most everyone could see the story and it helped to pass along information and to contemplate the moral lessons of the day. Such glory and shine! I often imagined the craftspeople toiling with loving intent with tiny flakes of precious gold for hours upon hours in their workspaces, commissioned or driven by royalty and the upper elite to tell their stories of the time. Art as a storyteller.
Now jump thousands of years into the future when Trump came along, thrust himself and his lifestyle upon us. Gold as wealth became a theme yet again (it’s recurring) and I became fascinated with the Trump family’s seemingly over-the-top obsession with gold furniture and very shiny, decorative objects.
The gold for the Trump family seems to be more of a distraction than a true story teller in this case. Or perhaps it’s a story meant to tell us that only one thing matters; wealth. So much gold on things that don’t really matter. Gone are the lessons to teach humanity. It is just gold for the sake of advertising the illusion of wealth. Interesting for a moment, sure. It’s dazzling and shiny, but then it relegates itself to being a very troubled commentary on American life and really, on the life of wealthy people’s priorities on a global scale. “Is it pretty to look at?” It asks us. Maybe, but then it also appears sterile, elitist, greedy and sectioned off from reality. It is closed off and is meant to be separate from the rest of society. Positioned high above the rest. It is not meant to be shared. You can admire it, but only from afar. It’s a lonely gold. It’s a cold gold. Gold is normally considered a warm color. But in this particular case it is not golden like a sunbeam pointing at an oasis or highlighting a tale to remember. It is gold only as representational of a monetary transaction with the message that you can not afford this, this is not for you, we are better, and you can not have this. This is not a gold you can touch or ever interact with. It’s much like a mirage. It’s a simplified, poorly thought out idea of what richness should be. Perhaps it does indeed highlight a tale of morality, but that, I assure you was far from its intent.
Coincidentally, when you plaster gold everywhere it loses part of what makes it special. It becomes the average. To our eyes, the gold simply becomes beige or orange.
Gold Could Be Used To Highlight What is Important to All of Humanity
This led to an obvious path in my head. Instead of highlighting wealth, and placing gold and glory upon average objects, why not highlight images and objects of actual importance, images and objects that lead to truth and to understanding that could help move all of society forward, could educate, could save lives. In the 1300’s and in the renaissance era, many hoped to place an importance on education and uplifting society and the arts. Teach, learn share, come out of the dark shadows and into the light. Use what resources you have to lift those around you, up. Artists today have similar potential to encourage change. We can take the lessons of morality, wisdom and mindfulness and share them on a grand scale. Like a mockingbird, we can gather the golden tunes and make them into songs of our own that can drive a new generation towards truth.
We live in a time where wealth is praised but we could be living in a world where knowledge and facts are held up and represented as valuable. More valuable than cars, or homes, bank accounts, credit scores or chandeliers, is the human ability to decipher truth from bullshit. We should highlight these tested techniques and tools used to uncover truth, and share it. Despite what this current American president tells you, truth is quite easy to decipher. Learn the scientific method, it has been separating truth from bs for many, many years and you can use it!
With a government often focused on passing off garbage as gold and truth as lies, I shall momentarily (in the grand time scale) respond in my tiny art studio by highlighting, with gold-leaf, what I think (and hope) actually matters.
Taking Back What is Deemed Valuable
Empirical evidence, tools of finding truth and the elegant forms in nature that lead us to a better understanding of life and the cosmos is much more valuable than any gold-leafed frame hanging in any Manhattan apartment.
Please enjoy the beginning of my gold-leafed science series with a retrovirus, bacteriophage, telescope, microscope, some neurons and a reminder that the ocean tides are rising. More to come soon!