Thursday, November 26, 1998
Nottoo many artists bother to write manifestos to support their artwork. That''s very early 20th-century behavior: Surrealists, Constructivists, Futurists, Socialist Realists, all viewed their art--both the process of creation and the final product--as intimately allied with certain political or social goals, as an organic part of a conscious restructuring of society.
Most artists, however, prefer just to paint. Or sculpt. Not that they don''t think about their art and its meaning, but to go out and write a book about it?
So it might seem a bit excessive for 28-year-old Carmel artist Paxton Mobley to have penned a 130-page tome, A Step Beyond Madness, The First Manifesto of Midrealism, outlining what he calls a new way of looking at the various stages, or dimensions, of human consciousness. But the Louisiana-born, Alabama-reared artist talks about his world view with such passion, such unstudied exuberance, that it''s more fun to sit back and listen to his ideas than wonder why such a young artist would write down an entire "theology of existence."
Paxton''s self-published, and intelligently argued, book describes the world of "midrealism," which he posits as the interface between the "outer reality," made of the physical body and conscious mind, and the "inner reality," or metaphysical soul. That mid-point, he says, is the state of the dreaming mind, and it is from that level of (mid)reality that Paxton draws the fantastical images that inhabit his paintings.
And the images that crowd Paxton''s canvas are odd indeed, sometimes grotesque. Tree trunks push up through the bowels of abandoned buildings. Impossibly twisted female forms, with carrots or pears for heads, twirl on deserted moon landscapes. Beetles lunge, pincers at the ready. Chicken drumsticks hang above empty boxcars, disembodied blue ears float by in the sky.
Yet the overall effect of his paintings is strangely serene. There''s nothing menacing or arousing about them. A white rat may be dangling over an abyss, a branch may be thrusting through a man''s head, but somehow the viewer gets the feeling that nothing unpleasant will happen. There is a stillness of motion, a silence in his eery landscapes, as if the oddly beautiful characters that people his paintings are captured mid-stream. "My paintings are frozen moments," Paxton says. He paints only in oils, but so fine-textured are his brushstrokes, so infused and rich are his colors as to give the effect of acrylics, or even animation gels. It''s an odd, yet calm and beautiful world.
"If I had the money, I''d do theme parks based on this stuff, and have people walk around in it," he muses. "Or create a dome and put my studio in the middle, so I could look out the window and see my world, with birds walking by and the moon changing colors in the sky. Not only do I paint the paintings, I''d like to exist in that world."
Paxton says he wrote his book in order to distinguish his art, and its philosophical underpinnings, from that of the Surrealists, with whom he is most often compared. Looking at his paintings, one is reminded immediately of Salvador Dali or Rene Magritte. At his first solo show in San Francisco in 1991, he says he was called a "soft Salvador."
"I used to call myself a Surrealist," he says, sitting in his Carmel studio-home. "I really respect Andre Breton and the other Surrealists as the movement of the 1920s. It was a great wake-up call for the early 1900s, but it''s time for a new and present view of the association of dreams and the art world."
Paxton draws many distinctions between himself and the Surrealists. While Surrealism posits itself as the meeting point between the conscious mind and the dreaming mind, Paxton says he works at the dream level, which he sees as the meeting point between the conscious mind and the metaphysical soul. Second, the Surrealists disavow the existence of a spiritual realm, while Paxton believes the spiritual and the physical worlds co-exist.
Finally, while the Surrealists were known to dabble in drugs to produce their fantastic images, Paxton avoids even caffeinated beverages. "Midrealism demands a complete disassociation from mind-altering drugs for creative inspiration," he says. The artist''s vision should be transferred from the mind to the canvas without outside influences. But, he adds, he''s not fanatical about abstention. "I don''t drink coffee, alcohol or do drugs, but I don''t expect others to go as far as I do," he says.
"At my shows, people come up and, whisper to me, ''What drugs do you take? You''ve got to do drugs, right? Not only do I not, but I make it a point of the movement to say, look what you can do without drugs," Paxton says. "Just wake up and write down your dreams."
That''s how he works--he gets many of his images directly from his dreams. "I wake up and draw what I remember," he says. "I sketch it exactly. I don''t try to explain it. Images come to me every day, from my subconscious mind. I''m living within my world when that happens. I''m not creating a world, just looking around the world in my mind and painting what I see there."
So why all the fruit and vegetables? He doesn''t know, except for the carrots. "When I was young, I was really into Bugs Bunny, because of all the things he could do with carrots," Paxton says. "He could roast them, fry them, all kinds of things. And after art school, when I was a ''starving artist'' in San Francisco, I lived on beans, hot tea and carrots. I''d sit at my easel and paint, eating a carrot. So I decided to put what I was holding in my hand into my paintings."
Then there was the recurring dream he had of the twisted female figures he uses so often. The dream was of three dancers, made of white material that seemed to be their skin. When he woke up, he couldn''t remember their faces, so he used the first thing that popped into his head: a pear, a radish and a carrot. These same dancing forms turn up in several of his works--although their bodies are twisted in half, they seem unperturbed, elegant, standing tall with an almost joyful disdain.
If these are the images that come to Paxton in his dreams, he must rarely suffer nightmares. That''s true, he says. Sitting in his Carmel home, married just two weeks, surrounded by his artwork, he seems like a pretty happy guy. "I''m being decently successful at a young age," he concurs. "I''m passionate about my work, and I''ve stayed true to what I want to do. I''ve never changed my work to make it more ''sellable.''"
Paxton holds several local shows a year, but his work is not shown on a permanent basis in any local galleries. He participates regularly in local group shows, including the Juried Show presently on view at the Monterey Museum of Art (his painting received one of 10 honorable mentions). Only one gallery carries his work, in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala., but his art can be viewed and purchased via his website (www.midreal.com).
Weston Gallery "Devotion." New works by local artist Jeffrey Becom. Lincoln Street and 6th Avenue, Carmel. 624-4453. Reception: 11/28, 4:30pm. Through: 12/23.
Ansel Adams Gallery "Chip Hooper: Photographs." Black-and-white photographs that "capture and liberate the dynamic and subtle interplay of light and form in our natural world" by local photographer. The Inn at Spanish Bay, 2700 17 Mile Dr., Pebble Beach. 375-7215. Through: 12/15.
Carl Cherry Center "Shadows." Metaphysical and introspective paintings and drawings by Anita Benson exploring shadows and configurations in nature. 4th Avenue and Guadalupe Street, Carmel. 624-7491. Through: 12/11.
Carmel Art Association Works by Eleen Auvil, Micah Curtis, Alicia Meheen and Peggy Olsen. Dolores Street, between 5th and 6th avenues, Carmel. 624-6176. Through: 12/2.
Carmel Coffee Roasting Co. "For the Love of Dogs." A humorous study of dogs in paintings by Joanne Licsko. 3720 The Barnyard, Carmel. 622-7070. Through: 11/30.
Carmel Valley Manor "Museum Posters." Posters from the collection of Jules Trattner. 8545 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley. 626-4711. Through: 12/31.
Center for Photographic Art "Juried Exhibition." Works by 39 photographers as chosen by juror Mark Petr. San Carlos Street and 8th Avenue (in the Sunset Center), Carmel. 625-5181. Through: 12/4.
Gallery Artemisia Works by local artists, with special appearances by artists during weekend days. Call for schedule. Highway 1 (in the Village Shops near the River Inn), Big Sur. 667-2027. Through: 11/30.
Gray''s Art Gallery "Memories of Women." Light sculptures, murals, painted stone implements Yael Maayani-Brown, Shannon Harvey, Berit Anderson-Friedman, Maria Concha Salinas and Graciela Vega-Cendejas. 1104 Broadway Ave., Suite K, Seaside. 899-1069. Through: 12/5.
Monterey College of Law An exhibit of photography and printmaking by Lesley Anne Spowart. 404 W. Franklin St., Monterey. 373-3301. Through: 12/30.
Monterey Museum of Art "Juried All-Media Show." Works in many media by 95 artists from around the Monterey Bay. "Art From the Collectors'' Guild," paintings from private collections. "The Broken Road," art and poetry by Big Sur children created during the ''97-''98 winter. 559 Pacific St., Monterey. 372-5477. Through: 11/29.
Monterey Museum of Art--La Mirada "Face to Face: The Paintings of Mabel Alvarez." 720 Via Mirada, Monterey. 372-3689, 372-5477. Through: 3/7/99.
Monterey Regional Waste District Office "Recycled Art Festival." Award winning projects made from recycled materials, ranging from sculpture to art pieces by Michael Duffy, Steve Gaily, Dick Iverson, Ed Leiper, Paola Berthoin, and others. 14201 Del Monte Blvd., Marina. 384-5313. Through: 12/20.
MPC Art Gallery "By Special Invitation." A variety of artwork, from photography to found-object sculptures, by Monterey County high school students. 980 Fremont St., Monterey. 646-3060. Through: 12/11.
Mudzimu Gallery Sculptures by Gedion Nyanhongo, from Zimbabwe. 6th Avenue, between Lincoln and Dolores streets, Carmel. 626-2946. Through: 12/20.
Nancy Dodds Gallery "Internet Art." The premiere of art by Stephen McMillan, Gail Packer and Anita Toney on the gallery''s new Website, www.beanbag1.com/NDG.html., Carmel. 624-0346.
Pacific Grove Art Center "Out of Residence," sculptural works by students of MPC instructor Gary Quinonez; sculptures by Doyle Foreman; "Mount Toro Suite," paintings by Johnny Apodaca. 568 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove. 375-2208. Through: 11/27.
Searle Art Supplies Paintings on wood, and monotypes by Robyn Smith. 639 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey. 373-0126. Through: 12/2.
Seaside City Hall Works by Alison Cloran, Betty Rees and the Carmel Crafts Guild. 440 Harcourt Ave., Seaside. 899-6270. Reception 12/11, 7pm. Through: 12/31.
Shallcross Gallery "Works on Paper." A variety of works on paper by California artists Carolyn Berry, Mira Kamada, Antonella Brughera, Gloria Shaw and Marjorie Faris. Visitors enter to win a lithograph by Mira Kamada. 499 Calle Principal, Monterey. 655-0642. Through: 12/30.
Thunderbird Bookstore Color photography of landscapes and seascapes by David J. Gubernick. In the Barnyard Shopping Center, off Highway 1 and Carmel Valley Road, Carmel. 624-1803. Through: 12/10.
Valley Art Gallery "Art is a Lasting Gift." Works by members of the Valley Art Gallery. 218 Main St., Salinas. 422-4162. Reception: 12/5, 12pm. Through: 11/29.
Venture Art Gallery "Stone and Wood." Sculptures by Charley Abildgaard. 260 Alvarado Mall (in the DoubleTree Hotel), Monterey. 372-6279. Through: 11/30.
Vest Pocket Art Gallery "Hand-Crafted Creations." Crafts by Bobbie Marion and Barbara Radley. Forest Hill Manor, 551 Gibson Ave., Pacific Grove. 657-5200. Through: 11/30.
White Oak Grill "Day''s End." Color photography of sunset images by David J. Gubernick. 19 East Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley. 659-7632. Through: 12/31.
Woman''s Wellspring Watercolor monotypes exploring "the visually meditative themes of dancers and webs" by Anne Downs. 575 Calle Principal, Monterey. 649-2320. Through: 11/30.
A Christmas Carol Call for info. Drama. Unicorn Theater takes on Scrooge and all the ghosts of Christmas in this classic Dickens tale of meanness redeemed. . Hoffman Street Playhouse, Hoffman Street at Lighthouse Avenue, Monterey. 649-0259. $15/general; $12/children. Through: 12/23.
La Virgen Del Tepeyac Preview Friday; opens Saturday 8pm; Sunday 4pm and 8pm. Pageant. The historic San Juan Bautista MIssion explodes in an extravaganza of music, dance and theater every other Christmas in Luis Valdez''s adaptation of the beloved Mexican story of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Working from a 17th-century text, Valdez''s spectacle reenacts the day in 1531 when the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared to the Indian Juan Diego, and told him to command the Bishop of Mexico to build her a church on Tepeyac Hill, the site of indigenous Indian worship for centuries before the arrival of the Conquistadores. The play is performed and sung entirely in Spanish and Aztec, with librettos for English-speaking audience members. It''s a family affair, with staging, music direction, costumes and lighting by Valdez family members. . San Juan Bautista Mission basilica, Second and Mariposa streets, San Juan Bautista. 623-2444. $17/general; $8/children; $14/seniors. Through: 12/20.
The Idiot Witness Friday and Saturday, 8pm. Melodrama. The Idiot Witness, another in the First Theater''s wide repertory of 19th-century melodramas, centers around the mysterious identity of the Solitary of the Heath. Why does he keep a secret prisoner? Why does he want to get rid of his "adopted" son? Boo, hiss and cheer the maidens and villains in California''s oldest continually running theater. California''s First Theater, Scott and Pacific streets, Monterey. 375-4916. $10/general; $5/children; $8/seniors. Through: 11/28
The Circle Friday and Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 5pm. Comedy. Nick Hovick directs the Staff Players in this 1920s-era Somerset Maugham drawing room comedy. It''s a romantic bit of fluff and charm, centering around an ironic reunion among lovers and spouses, where everyone gets his or her come-uppance.. Indoor Forest Theater, Santa Rita and Mountain View, Carmel. 624-1531. $12/general; $9/children; $9/seniors. Through: 12/6.