Here again I will attempt to foolishly explain what a picture means and why I created it. I say “foolishly” because I know, as an artist, that once a picture is finished, it is really no longer mine to interpret. It becomes the exclusive province of the viewer to define what you see in your own terms. Your experience of the picture is your own private matter, entirely between you and your eyeballs and your own happy little brain.
That being said, here is the insight into my own internal bad weather in the brain that led to the making of this picture.
I created this picture in colored pencil back in 1981 when I was finishing my grad school degree, and waiting for my comprehensive exam in the spring led to a lot of sitting around with nothing to do nor money to do anything with. I was living in an efficiency apartment in Iowa City, a twenty-minute walk from most of my classes in the University of Iowa Campus, nestled nicely among the downtown features of one of the most progressive cities available in farm-centric Republican-conservative Iowa. It was no Berkley, California. But it was not Hayseed Hicksville either.
So, I was thinking about how my mind had been freed from the prison of Iowegian conservatism by learning in the school where Kurt Vonnegut had once been part of the acclaimed Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa. I had taken some courses that really opened my eyes. A philosophy course taught by a professor who had been excommunicated by the Catholic Church. A deep study of English linguistics with a fairly radioactive dose of the breakthroughs of understanding made by Noam Chomsky. I was moved to “think about thinking,” and so, I drew a picture I would call “The Wings of Imagination.”
As a pencil drawing, I had originally set the eagle-winged Pegasus in the middle of a Medieval village (having recently discovered the original blooming of the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons that was sweeping the university.) But when I looked at the drawing of the winged horse compared to the surrounding drawing, I knew the beautiful imaginary creature had to show the ability to soar high even though its feet were on the ground. So, I erased everything but the Pegasus and turned the background into the mountain heights you now see in the finished version.
I cannot claim the picture is without flaws, however. You may have noticed that the horse part has overly massive hind legs compared to excessively spindly front legs. The mountainous region I set it in was inspired by watching Bob Ross paint mountains on PBS. I had some pictures from National Geographic as reference for the mountain tops, but the lower valley came entirely from memories of vacation-time Colorado and Montana. The clunky parts were caused by an imperfect memory and a lack of landscape skill.
So, that is why I did what I did. And I am proud of it.
But it is entirely up to you to make of it what you will. That is how the artist/viewer relationship works.