Renascence

by Robert Zurer

Regarding his work, the artist says:

In contrast to this piece, all my other work reflects a process of discovery. Most of the time the "meaning" does not become clear to me until long after a painting is finished. 'Renascence' is unique in that it is the first and only work that I have done where I started with an idea and executed it. It is really the only illustration I have ever made.

I first read Edna St. Vincent Millay's Renascence when I was around 15. As I write this, I realize that I read this poem at one of my own first awakenings, when I just began to have an inkling that there is infinitely more than meets the eye.

It starts with a statement of our very human condition.

All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked the other way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I’d started from;
And all I saw from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.
Over these things I could not see:
These were the things that bounded me.

Finally, after intense and painful struggle, it reaches its climax.

God, I can push the grass apart
And lay my finger on Thy heart!

And then it resolves.

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky,—
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat—the sky
Will cave in on him by and by."

It is just so beautiful and sad and true. I can never read it through without tears.

Robert Zurer was born in New York City and grew up in Greenwich Village in the 50's and 60's. He was graduated from Reed College in biochemistry. Upon his return from college, he settled in Brooklyn where he has lived ever since with his wife of 45 years. They have two grown children. In 1974, he started a scrap metal/dismantling business. In 2000 he closed his business and began designing and developing software at which he still works every day for a living.

He is self-taught and has been drawing and painting since he was a child. His work is narrative and is about inner life, mostly about struggle. The visual artists by whom he is most influenced are Gorky, Bacon, Neel, Lassnig, Balthus, Ensor, De Kooning, Hopper, Turner, Bosch, Grosz, Dix, Feininger, Millet, Church, Kahlo, Benton, Dove, Kandinsky, Burchfield, Carrington, Howson, Guston among many others.

Comments

By Cynthia Low on May 22, 2016 23:21 (UTC)

The world is never wider the heart is wide. What a powerful painting! Thank you