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Digital_Cintiq 24 Pro_PhotoShop_Hard Pencil
Printed copy = 36" in the longer dimension

This artwork is a scene from my narrative sequence "Mother of the Muses," which consists of five, digital paintings also on this website: “Snowy-fingered Iris,” “Iris’s Dream,” "Valentine,” “Within Without,” and “Iris’s Early Light.”

“Valentine” started as a reworking of “Iris’s Dream.” I ‘flipped horizontally' “Daniel’s Dream” to start “Iris’s Dream.” I flipped horizontally “Iris’s Dream” to begin this artwork. All three are related in imagery and ideas.

The story, theme, message—narrative content—for “Valentine” is opened-ended with no specific storyline or message. It’s about allusions to spiritual worlds, subjectivity, art, memory, forgetfulness, etc.: the Ancient Greek God Iris dreams a dream whose content is unclear, whose plot is equally as unclear.

The rainbow is central to my ideas in “Valentine” and its antecedent digital painting “Iris’s Dream.” As a high school kids working in the supermarket upfront in the store and frequently at Sebago Lake as a kids, my brother and I witnessed late afternoon thunderstorms that rocked the landscape--the brothers Zeus and Poseidon working together! These storms moved from west to east. After the storm, the thunderheads lined the eastern horizon accompanied by a huge double rainbow. The huge windows upfront in the supermarket faced east and so did the Sebago beach front, so we had an unobstructed view of this remarkable event.

Another time, thunderstorms delayed my shuttle flight out of Charlotte to Greensboro. When the storm cleared, the sun was out, and the flight was in mid-air, I looked out from my window seat—eastward again—and gasped: I beheld two complete, concentric circle double rainbows. I had never seen anything like it before or since.

This painting and "Iris's Dream" I hope communicate the wonder ad beauty of my experiences of rainbows. I imagine Noah's experience of the rainbow in the Old Testament must have been completely overwhelming, especially in regard to what happened to him and to humanity. As we know, the Rainbow was God’s message or sign of his reconciliation with humanity and new beginnings. This is kind of ironically, a seemingly sudden reversal, after God had pretty much obliterated life on earth! The Ancient Romans claimed that Iris, Zeus's or Jove's messenger, used the rainbow for transportation.

I think the rainbow is such a powerful symbol because it is undeniably one of the most beautiful phenomena—yet one often created out of violence: the aftermath of terrible thunderstorms and stories, like Noah's in the Old Testament, which was the aftermath of God's terrible beauty and majesty: the utter devastation of earth and humankind. In a sense rainbows signal violence done onto visible white light: strewing or spaghetti-fying it into its colorful components.

I experimented a lot with “Valentine,” working indirectly and using a multitude of layers—27. I did not work destructively in this piece but instead tried to preserve each decision by creating a layer for that decision. I used various tools that I had not used much before in Photoshop, especially the Object Select Tool and the Transform Tool. I used Masking extensively, too.

“Valentine” started out as a demonstration and lecture for my digital painting course that I taught in Spring 2024 at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

I prominently feature Iris in “Valentine:” she emerges into this scene, this dream, which suggests that the dream itself may have started before she arrived and that she is not the sole conjurer of her dream; whereas, “Iris’s Dream,” the digital painting that preceded this one, suggests she is the sole creator of her dreams. I tried hard to represent this ‘emergence’ by using repetition, by altering the transparency/opacity of Iris, and by altering her scale/size relative to her moving from deep space to the viewer’s space. Iris enters the dream and simultaneously approaches our, the viewer’s, space, world, consciousness. Thus, I encourage an interpretation of this painting that the viewer might also be a co-conjurer of these dreams in "Valentine," the other four paintings of "Mother of the Muses," and of course in "Mother of the Muses" itself.

I entitled "Valentine" after my cat Valentine. It seemed appropriate since he presides over the entire scene and is in the middle of the composition. Visually, Valentine also acts as a fulcrum or weight pulling everything in toward himself, much like the heaviest mass of gravitational field pulling everything lighter into it.