“Manifest Destiny”: An Introduction


"Howdy" self portrait with Stampin Kid oil on panel 48x31


This is the first self-portrait in a series of self-portraits that I am calling Manifest Destiny. I’ve heard it said that every painting is a self-portrait. In this case it is certainly true as I have attempted to portray myself and my horses in almost all of these paintings, usually at a moment of crisis fraught with fate.

Manifest Destiny is a title proposed by politicians in the mid-19th century for the expansion of the United States across the North American continent. I’ve chosen the theme of “Manifest Destiny” because of its major role in the forming of America and the collision between the various cultures and the trauma in human lives caused by this grand endeavor. My goal with this exhibit is to use this topic as a lens to take another look at the people we have become and the man that I am.

Several of the paintings in this series are studies or ‘meditations’ on Baroque and Renaissance old Masters. As I have copied the old Masters and the stories they tell, I painted myself as some of the characters and contrived the settings in the American frontier. The paintings and the stories they describe, the myths, lies or truths they tell are also part of our European heritage and play a role to compose our culture. Placing myself in the middle of the action causes me to reflect, “Would I really do this?” especially when I’m pitted against another culture that says, “You are wrong!” And in hindsight I can consider what their rational legitimate argument was.

“… I am a man of unclean lips; and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips…” No one gets to choose the culture into which he is born. The lies and the truth are all jumbled together. We must wade through our cultural heritage cluttered with paradigms based on lies and prejudice or truth and love, or take without question what we have inherited from our culture. I hope we have some choices left to us about how we live, but ultimately are we victims? Is it all predestined? Is this manifest destiny?

“…I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.

And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me”.”

Isaiah 6:1-8

This entry was posted in Manifest Destiny. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *