While spending some time in Madrid I came to appreciate the trees planted along the busy city streets...as a land-lover, they reminded me of the woods and things I missed. It occurred to me that the trees were not endemic to the city; they came to do a job. Sort of like immigrants. So the trees became symbolic of immigation to me and I set out to paint something of that nature: how the non-natives improved the city scene and so on, blah, blah.
I wanted to keep it all very flat and non-realistic to focus attention on the trees which were collaged on in Spanish and Chinese type.
So suddenly I realized I was dealing, mentally and philosophically and thus artistically, with a totally different issue. (And this is not a political commentary as I think this is a nation-issue, not one a specific candidate has the answer to).
The city cross walk came into view, the side walks, the curb...none in black or white, rather tones of grey, as this is not a black and white issue: no easy answers here. I wanted very much to keep the composition as clean and simple as I dared, focusing attention on the interesting design the trees provided (and, please note, the only bit of color as well). But it just wasn't coming together. The piece felt unbalanced and incomplete. Yet as I thought more about the children I realized that if I were one of them, thinking of myself as an American but having no papers to prove it, I most likely would have a huge fear of an unknown future. I would sense a shadow over my shoulder.
Thus I knew I needed a shadow. A shadow lurking across the street starting to cross over with no evidence of its purpose. There is no way to tell if it is a friendly shadow or an unfriendly one. The indication of "something" starting across the street balances the composition and rounds out the issue. It begs the discussion of "what happens next."
Not all art is meant to hang over the couch. Sometimes it is painted to stimulate a discussion, commenorate an event or document a culture. I'm not sure I have achieved that higher purpose but I have found value in letting the issue and the painting run symbolically together.