The 16th-century Dominican philosopher Giordano Bruno suggested that God was a living essence that flowed through and permeated the universe — i.e., God is not remote but dwells within us. You may scoff at such hippie-dippy huggermugger, but the Holy Roman Empire was so freaked by Bruno’s ideas about cosmic interconnectedness that they burned him at the stake.
Nobody’s accusing Oregon artist Kyle Lind of heresy, though this hardly diminishes the revolutionary implications of his ideas about art and the creative process. That process — called, sure enough, process art — is not an identifiable quantity; for instance, you can’t point to a Lind painting and say, “Ah, yes, that’s process art,” at least not in the same way you can peg a canvas from, say, Picasso’s Blue Period. In fact, the very idea of categorizing art, of pinning it down like a butterfly, is antithetical to what Lind’s process is all about. Process art says: Be the butterfly, not the net. Nor the pin. Not even the display case.
Lind has spent the past four decades living and working in seclusion on an island near the Oregon Coast in Florence. “I don’t want to leave the cabin,” Lind says of his feelings about coming ashore. “I love it. When I work I feel like I’m about 30.” For Lind, there is nothing better than waking up on an islet where there are “no other human beings and I’m outside and I’m nude and I love it. And I leave and it’s hell.”
But at last, in truly mythic, celebratory and, for Lind, daunting fashion, the 72-year-old artist is coming down from the proverbial mountain (OK, island) in order to reacquaint himself with so-called civilization. More importantly, Lind is re-emerging as the visionary artist he is, presenting to the world a selection of his work culled from a half-century of nearly continuous artistic activity.
Eugene will get a rare opportunity Dec. 7 to meet Lind and view an exhibit of his work at the First Friday ArtWalk when Eugene Magazine hosts a reception for the release of Lind’s new book, GodArtMeFun, a gorgeous, 350-page retrospective put together by the artist.
Lind accepts the thornier commercial side of art, albeit reluctantly, though he obviously thrives on meaningful contact with new people; his eyes light up when he starts talking openly about his work and his life. And what a life: Despite his long years of solitude, Lind’s bio sounds like an intimate tour of 20th-century counterculture — he knew or worked with the likes of Salvador Dalí, Jim Morrison, Krishnamurti, Frank Zappa, Francis Ford Coppola and Timothy Leary. And once you set eyes upon the exquisite artistry of Lind’s work, you come to realize that, if his name is less recognizable than some of his peers, it’s not for lack of raw genius. Lind is the real deal. In person, he radiates a charisma that is equal parts sage and childlike.
Many of the works in Lind’s upcoming show — including infinitesimally detailed pen-and-ink drawings, impressionistic self-portraits, haunting wood sculptures and dizzyingly diverse paintings on canvases of all types and sizes, including one on a plastic tablecloth — were literally decades in the making. Each one captivates. One doesn’t eyeball a Lind painting; rather, you tumble into it, become enveloped in a melodic universe of styles and meanings.
According to Lind, the goal of process art is to demolish all goals — to invert ends and means, relocating the joy of art in its creation. It’s not about the destination; it’s the journey. Lind is to art what Giordano Bruno was to Catholic orthodoxy, and the implications are just as profound and unsettling: The process gently upends the framing of art as mere commodity, substituting the marketplace hunger for end products (movies, books, etc.) with an expansive spiritual journey that never ends. This echoes the teachings of Eastern mysticism, Lind says. The process artist seeks to enter and express the infinite flux of existence — to express the existential buzz and howl of objects at both their grandest and most minute level, the churning of atoms, the sweep of season, the circle of life and death. Art and life are drawn together to the point of merging: Art is life is art.
“It’s instructive; it’s important,” Lind says of process art, which he describes as a form of continual self-teaching. “The real goal of education is to learn about love. It’s important that art is real.”
Lind’s work is grand, magnificent and completely unfettered by any orthodoxy of form. No two pieces look alike, and a single canvas, upon close perusal, can contain several styles: the precise representations of the Middle Ages, the mythic figurations of Etruscan urns, the paint splatters of Pollock, the intense pointillism of Chuck Close and the mad surreal fancy of Dalí.
When asked if it’s difficult to move among so many styles and media, Lind responds with a smile: “No, because it’s all the same.” This is neither coy nor smug; it’s of a piece with process art, and Lind is perhaps its seminal, and certainly its most enduring, practitioner. “It’s the artistic process of becoming,” he explains. “I want to describe the process of life, the process of becoming. Like when heaven comes to earth and creates spring.”
Kyle Lind shows 6pm to 10pm Friday, Dec. 7, at Eugene Magazine, 1255 Railroad Blvd.