On Pigeons, Meaning, and Words

I ramble a lot when I 'just write'... and my thoughts ramble along just as busily when I am painting. This post comes from what I heard someone describe as the "Monkey Brain"... full of opinions and comments, never shuts up, we all have one inside our heads and its the hardest thing to divert from when meditating.

My monkey brain has been itching to share the thousand words of a painting, which would apparently take 7.7 minutes to speak. Be warned, I spend a lot more than 7.7 minutes painting, so the monkey has had lots of air time. Most of it's repetition, though, so I can tidy it up for you here. 🙂  

Pigeons became a subject matter for me fairly early on in my rust-and-grunge explorations. While I was painting rich crunchy surfaces monkey was a-chattering on with thoughts like "Ooo, look at that, such a lovely shade of dirt." "Well, that was a waste of time going over that area 5 times it looks the same, oh not really, it does have a lot more depth like that doesn't it?"

"Heh, painting a Chicago scene in rust... heh heh... rust = corruption, entirely Chicago-appropriate to be painting with colors of corruption"  "Steel, yeah, strong and gritty Chicago".

And deeper ramblings like "And it's all twined together, then when you paint it the same stuff it just looks like it belongs together it doesn't matter where it's from or what it was made of originally" "Dirt and grime and corruption and broken things and trash and the discarded forgotten and obsolete"

"Everything and everyone gets broken eventually, but it can still be beautiful and entrancing and delightful". 

Which brought me to pigeons, as they certainly have a bad rap, yet when I was coming home on the train after work and they'd all scatter in front of us commuters I love how they look. The evening sun would shine through their open wings, and you catch your breath at the delicate translucency of their feathers, the wonderful sweep of their flight and how their shadows dart up the wall to meet them at the overhang. 


I was beginning to really like these beasties. They are goofy-as... fluttering away in a big hurry then swooping back just as fast. Statistics are severely against them, their living conditions are pretty dire, and bad shit happens to them all the time. Yet they keep coming back, and they are beautiful.

So why is this so endearing?

Because we're all broken. It's a universal thing that bad shit happens to us. We survive. We might be messed up in various ways, but that can also FORCE us to re-evaluate our lives and our values. Decidedly unpleasant - personal growth really sucks. It's also the best thing ever. As I was painting pigeons with rust colors and textures I was feeling some of those personal growth thoughts.

My first rust-pigeon painting was still focused on the walls, the texture of rust pushing aside the paint, the stories the stains tell of hidden steel and unsuccessful obliteration attempts by white paint. The pigeons are characters in the story, witnesses made of the same material, yet separate from the rust action.

Then the shapes of the rust became interesting, and I worked that into the next piece, where the pigeons become the rust. I go to therapy (yeah, #MeToo), untangling the weird wiring of my brain, sinking into the deeper layers of where I get who I think I am. Sometimes I feel I am the rust, just a shape pushing thru time, all the steel of me corroding under exposure, my story written in oxidized particles carried along the surfaces of the walls I run beside. "Look, we are the environment, we become what we stay near" "See how the edges crumble as the wall meets those extended feathers, in some places gripping, in some releasing" "why am I holding on to this?" "what invisible adhesion is happening under the surface?".

Monkey-brain really enjoys sci-fi, as well. Lots of good ramblings and tangents in those books. "So if the space we are in could record our existence, could remember us..." "Each wall knows its people, its trash, its pigeons" "Time isn't really linear - it's just that we perceive it that way, so the story of the wall can change density with the impressions it has collected" "pigeons in and out of reality, sometimes they are just possibilities of pigeons, written in the wall's memory, sometimes it is just their constant passing that is remembered."

I imagine the drips and catches of paint to show where the tears of the pigeons are wearing deeper grooves in reality, and that the trash dreams of becoming pigeons, that the walls stand unperturbed, yet obsessively document each twitch of a tail feather, trading quantum stories with their echoes in New York and ancestors in Rome.

In "Into The Underpass" the pigeons become the wall, the wall becomes the pigeons, and with "Debris" the trash finally takes flight. Everything is in flux, we're all compost in the end, so it's our moments and our stories that decide us.

When you look at a painting let your sane-brain drift off for a while. Art is much more fun with a bit of transdimensional travel. Our brains construct reality for us, there's no such thing, really. We're not solid at all, we're mostly space and vibrations. You can use your monkey super-power of imagination and tangential thinking to take you into different spaces - even personal growth, if you dare!