DISTINCTIONS WITHOUT DIFFERENCES
"A chicken ain't nothin' but a bird."
The paintings are displayed in pairs, each of the pair very like but not identical to the other. The title of each painting is the opposite of its mate. Each pair is accompanied by a quotation from a philosopher of the historical/cultural period referenced in the paintings that posits the underlying unity and wholeness of our experiences in life.
Mark-making, at first random and chaotic, is pushed to the edges in all but the first paintings to become a border, making way for the development of order and form. The forms are alphabets - the basis of human language, the means of communication and connection, a way to dissolve separation and difference. The alphabets are joined to symbols of particular historical periods and cultures. There are no visible chickens or birds, but the series visually recreates my experience of "A chicken ain't nothin' but a bird."
The meaning of the phrase has puzzled me most of my life as I've heard my father apply it to completely disparate situations. I believe he intended to caution against arrogance, against a narcissistic vision of the self as the dramatic center of the universe. Now, sixteen years after his death, I comprehend a more profound meaning in the phrase. Existence is integrated and every aspect is of equal importance. There are no distinctions between the opposed aspects of all contraries. It is all the same. We are all the same. Our perceived differences need not cause tragic suffering. In all cultures in all times wise men have proposed an underlying unity which integrates life and mitigates our sense of separation and alienation. In other words, 'A chicken ain't nothin' but a bird."