Passion & Tragedy

Jackson Pollock, Number 1(Lavender Mist),1950, oil, enamel, aluminum, National Gallery, Washington D.C.

Jackson Pollock, Number 1(Lavender Mist),1950, oil, enamel, aluminum, National Gallery, Washington D.C.

Jackson Pollock was a major American 20th-century Abstract Expressionist who was known for “gestural abstraction”—large scale canvases consisting of drips of paint spattered in random, spontaneous, rhythmical patterns. He would unroll his unstretched canvas across his studio floor so he could view and apply paint from all sides and angles. His technique was a mixture of control and chance---his body movements, gravity, and the flow of paint from the tool he chose to use. “When I am ‘in’ my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing…the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through…the source of my painting is the unconscious.”

Standing in front of Pollock’s gigantic canvas, “Number 1”, I am mesmerized by the pigments that he dripped, poured, and flung. The painting exudes passion. My eyes are lead around the canvas by thick and thin lines, layer upon layer of paint, and colors that blend and contrast. I see variety. I feel intensity. The dense sheet of color of white, black, blue, pink, silver, and orange paint on the canvas emits a glow of lavender, even though the color lavender is not present. This glow feels lyrical. In this sophisticated painting, Pollock even reverted to basic, simple art by dipping his hands in paint and leaving an imprint of his hands in the upper left and right corners of the painting (This served as his signature). Pollock did not title his paintings, opting for a number, hoping the viewer would make the experience personal.

How wonderful to be so passionate about something that allows you to lose all sense of time and all sense of what is going on around you. Complete absorption. Passion is something that everyone can experience through a creative outlet, time with friends and family, and time alone. I fully understand what it means to be completely in the moment. I often sit alone on a park bench that overlooks the turquoise-colored waters of the Pacific Ocean and listen to the rich, raw notes of Aretha Franklin burst from my headphones. Time completely evaporates.

I cannot shake the feeling of “angst” as I view “Number 1”. Pollock’s personal frustrations and inner torments surface on the canvas. He has created a chaotic composition with no beginning and no end. He shows an enthusiasm for sensations as he tries to find a balance between the unconscious and conscious as well as thought and action. Pollock battled addiction and depression throughout his life. He sought help through therapy and psychoanalysis but his personal problems caught up with him. He stopped painting in 1955. In 1956, in an alcoholic-fueled rage, he drove his car into a tree at 80 mph and died at the age of 44.