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Phelonise Willie

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Birth year
year of the parrot

Lives in

Works in


I paint to make order out of chaos. And I write to make order out of chaos. And yet, for me, the two disciplines are very polar. Writing is all specificity. If you’re honest you must cut your heart out and dissect it. Strip yourself naked in headlights. It’s a bloody painful process. But it’s an addiction. I would never write if I could kick the habit.
So perhaps I began painting because I can’t stop writing and was desperately in need of a vacation in paradise. To a space where I leave mind and body behind - leave the earth to explore the firmament. Since I didn’t study, Painting remains a sweet Anarchy. There are no rules except those I invent. Scary but thrilling! I know some artists focus studiously on what they’re painting. I try not to. I do my best work listening to music so wonderful it distracts me so completely I literally forget what I’m doing. Like the statue hiding inside the uncut stone, I find paintings buried inside the whiteness covering canvasses. I excavate them by lathering on color until the painting waiting below bleeds thru like palimpsest. And if it speaks some foreign tongue I can’t decipher, I go on painting until it turns into vernacular. When I share some vision dug up like artifact and someone is interested enough to describe it back to me, I feel alive. Vindicated. Loved.
Sam Shepard once said he writes to find out what he’s thinking; I paint to find harmony in conflict. Or meaning, where I fear there is none. I paint to escape the impenetrable mystery of being. I paint to allow my mind go away and play among the Stars.

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