Secrets and Dogs
When I was in graduate school in NYC, I had a part time job transporting Jack Russell Terrier puppies to Madrid. I’d be flown to Spain first class with a satchel of puppies under my seat. It is the only time in my life that I’ve ever flown first class and yes I did sip the complementary champagne. Once in Madrid, I’d travel with the pups by military style open-air jeep to a ranch outside the city owned by a Spanish don with a penchant for these dogs. At the ranch, I would sleep under a Zubaran painting. Upon returning to Madrid, I would be put up at The Ritz in a splendid room that overlooked the Prado gardens. I loved wandering through the Prado on these surreal excursions.
There are many masterpieces at the Museo Prado, however Francisco Goya’s “The Dog” was the painting that brought me to my knees. The haunting simplicity of this dog’s head, gazing hopelessly upwards into emptiness hit me at bedrock. (Strangely, she looks a lot like my current dog Captain.) It is one of Goya’s Black Paintings. He painted them on the walls of his home between 1819 and 1823 and never intended for them to be exhibited. They were secrets. Secret work.
These paintings are Goya’s most haunting and bleak. They reveal an uncensored glimpse of a painter, deaf and in his 70s, wrestling with his own mortality and the state of the world he lived in. These paintings were never publicly seen in his lifetime.
I suspect many artists have work that they never intend to show anyone. I know I do. Whether it is a sketchbook full of intimate inspirations or a body of work that comes from a place beyond your own understanding, a secret practice can be a way to create without inhibition. There is no exhibition or destination. No evaluation or critique. Never showing the work can create potency. Is this a purer form of art?
Perhaps there is a place for secret work. It may yield art that transcends what anyone ever expected of us. Until next time, make something you never intend on showing anyone. CREATE.