AMERICAN ALLIGATORS IN MID-AIR

 

Paintings and drawings by STEVE GALLOWAY, Los Angeles

“I travel through time,” says a seven year old, “Which time? Ancient, a far past?”
asks the adult. “I come from yesterday night.”

A conversation reported by artist Giuliano Nannipieri, from Livorno (Italy)

STEVE GALLOWAY, Suppose 2011  14″ x 11″ Oil on canvas
Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery

STEVE GALLOWAY, Terrestrial Patterns 2007 15″x 11″ Charcoal and pastel on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery

MEMORY BEHIND THE EYES

by Rosanna Albertini

John Cage wrote that the means of thinking are exterior to the mind, and we might leave the mind ready to welcome divine influences. It is so hard to do. Maybe the handstand on the back of heron, giving our feet to the sky, would help if we could accept being displaced in an unfamiliar landscape. Steve Galloway places the heron on an alligator and the alligator in mid-air. This pathetic description, that says nothing about the art, only sends the art to hell.

You can only count on your eyes and look through charcoal and pastel until the imaginary land the artist found behind his eyes starts filling the paper. Along with him, we believe he saw it, he discovered it, he felt the power of images somehow as people did when they did not have books in their hands, and written language. “Tout faire parler,” let everything talk, representing the “large uniform flatland of words and things.” (Michel Foucault)

STEVE GALLOWAY, Floating 2008 52″ x 72″ Charcoal and pastel on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery

STEVE GALLOWAY, Moonflight 2015 20″ x 25″  Charcoal and pastel on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Rose gallery

Words, animals, and trees as figures of the world, limbs of the same body: neither too big nor too little, as they must be deep in a dream: feelings wearing the heaviness of matter: they are so dense and persistent that maybe only the alligator’s skin reveals their bumpy, obstinate proliferation. Now, as well as in the night of times, we know there is an infinite mystery we were born in. It doesn’t matter if computers try to visualize the back holes as if they were organs of the universe. How can we believe in what scientists say today, which is different from what they told yesterday night? At least in my countryside Italian legends we found and believed newborn babies were picked up from underneath a cabbage leaf. God’s eye, only one, inscribed in a triangle, was piercing the clouds to look at us, even listening to our thoughts. I don’t know about dreams. I suspect they were secret. He was not a god we children could love, his son was much closer to us, with his bloody cut in the chest and nails through his hands and feet. Children feared the father, not the son.

Sorry, I traveled back through time. It is what Steve Galloway’s images do to me: they bring my mind to a time before the order of grammars, to the time when I believed dreams were not distant from the frozen trees I was watching through the ice crystals on the window. Seeing was believing, although most of the images were made up. Nature couldn’t be copied. Books were the end of my era of belief.

STEVE GALLOWAY, Hibbies ol’ Place 20″ x 25″  Charcoal and pastel on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery

We live today in an age of disbelief. Let’s read Wallace Stevens:
“It is for the poet [and the visual artist] to supply the satisfaction of belief, in his measure and in his style….
To see the gods dispelled in mid-air and dissolve like clouds is one of the great human experiences. It is not as if they had gone over the horizon to disappear for a time; … it is simply that they came to nothing. Since we have always shared all things with them and have always had a part of their strength and, certainly, all of their knowledge, we shared likewise this experience of annihilation. It was their annihilation, not ours, and yet it left us feeling disposed and alone in a solitude, like children without parents, in a home that seemed deserted, in which the amical rooms and halls have taken on a look of hardness and emptiness. What was most extraordinary is that they left no momentous behind, no thrones, no mystic rings, no texts either of the soil or of the souls. It was if they had never inhabited the earth.”
WALLACE STEVENS, Two or three ideas.

STEVE GALLOWAY, Handstand 2011 50.8 x 63.5 cm Charcoal and pastel on paper    Courtesy of the artist

We had the Greek gods in mid-air, we had utopias, and later on in a similar vein Marx, Gramsci, Lenin and Che Guevara; now we have American alligators. They give us back impenetrable truths, and yet become our nautilus, the vehicle towards Galloway’s landscapes filled with irony and gentleness. It’s enough we “suppose” things that he doesn’t dare to entrust to words. We shouldn’t either. His image are not objects, they are “expressions of delight.”

STEVE GALLOWAY, Coyote Sky 2017, 30″ x 24″ oil on canvas
Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery

Bibliography

Wallace Stevens, “Two or three ideas”, in Opus Posthumous, edited by Milton J, Bates, Vintage Books, New York, 1990

John Cage, composition in retrospect, Exact Change Cambridge, 1993

Michel Foucault, Les mots et les choses, Une archeologie des sciences humaines, Gallimard, paris, 1966