This is one of ReeL’s first paintings of 2017, titled, World Without Walls, photographed here in his Up Front Street studio, with his wife and muse, Rhonda P. Hill.
A couple of days before this photo Rhonda and Erik had participated in a local demonstration that was part of the demonstrations world-wide on the day the million women marched on the nation’s capital. The demonstrations had been full of song, peace, and much sister/brotherhood. The day of this shot, it was atypically cold and wet. What should they call this painting, they asked themselves; this celebratory painting, painted during such a moment of universal goodwill, hope, benevolence, a moment of celebration of diversity and strength? World Without Walls immediately came to mind, for wasn’t that what they were aiming for? To celebrate a world without walls?
But it was a protest, too, a protest against all that is evil, restrictive, a protest against the looming possibilities of a government that conceives of itself as essentially a police state, with a vilely debased vision of who the American people are. We are the people and we speak for ourselves, ReeL says. It is an affirmation that is not to be forgotten, nor neglected. It is in affirmation that we conquer fear and intimidation and prejudice. Thus this is a painting ultimately about affirmation and the celebration of who we are. It says we are beings of light who affirm ourselves against all governments and forces that seek to hide that light.
The painting itself, though somewhat large, has a subtlety, intimacy, and presence that is nearly impossible to capture in a photograph. ReeL seems, once again, to work against the internet/digital age and produce a significant work that is essentially impossible to digitize, that insists on being witnessed and experienced directly, live. In spite of our time’s insistence on the death of numinous presence, ReeL continues to create work that is all too numinous and present. So in this sense, the painting is a protest on several levels, and in keeping with the ongoing critique of the machine-made and the artificiality of contemporary life that pervades ReeL’s work.