Gardens, Painting, and Amulets of Memory

summer garden andrew conti

There is a feeling I’ve gotten in gardens before. As much a memory as a feeling – of hot summer days in the family garden. A feeling of hot hot stillness. Dry soil and grass clippings like hot sand at my feet, and the smell of heated vegetation lingers in a layer of atmospheric soup. Things are dried and curling up to escape from the suns waves. But it’s also humid, sweat pours out of us creating our own clouds of body. Sweat rolls into our eyes salty and stinging. The air is still and the sun is an invasive ether filling up everything. The soundtrack is of course the buzzes and beatings of insects.

It’s the kind of memory that hangs around in my mind, making an appearance when I awake on hot sunny mornings.

I have memories like this for all seasons. Small glimpses of a moment. Visceral recollections of feelings and places, emotions and environment. internal and external, real and unreal. Each season, whether it is the 4 most noted, or other less talked of, but somehow understood divisions of the year. Each of these reverberates with its own moments, memories, and apparitions.

Somehow though it is Summer’s memories that always seem to stir with tremendous energy. The heat of Summer transferring to the mind all the energy and life of summer itself. Igniting within us the pull to move and act and be alive.

These memories are for me the compelling starting point of a painting, of an object in paint. Glimpses that hold in the mind. Nerves and senses responding to the stirrings of chemistry in the brain. Connected and combined, the internal and the external, summer and the mind in summer.

It’s not enough for me to paint the leaves, the garden, the heat, and the insects. It has to be everything at once, the moment itself as it forms in the mind. It has to be an object, a symbol, an amulet of memory to keep with us when other memories or ideas fail us.

An object on the wall (less window, more portal) that reminds you that the wall is just a wall, and that the place you are in is just a moment, just a place. You could be pulled from it, transported, transformed in any moment. An object that moves you from wherever you are now to wherever you could possibly be.

Like perhaps into a garden. Into summer heat, or into everything all at once.