Paintings are glimpsed in the midst of life, they are caught by the eye living. It is the quality of a kind of frozen flux, what stays ever in place, unmoving, yet is turbulent beneath the surface with life. Those paintings that possess the throb of life are better than those that don’t. What distinguishes good paintings from great ones is the degree to which that throb of life is felt or perceived by the viewer— Actually, no. What distinguishes good paintings from great ones has nothing to do with the viewer, the viewer is passive, except insofar as receptivity is a positive action. (That statement disavows years of my insisting on the collusive act between artist and audience—years of insistence! But I am in the mood to disavow much that has come before today! Therefore, my first disavowal: The viewer of a painting is a passive actor! [Except insofar blah blah blah...]). What distinguishes good paintings from great ones begins and ends with the painting itself. How much life does it possess? How clearly does it communicate the quality of its liveliness, how forcefully does it push it forward into the skin of the world, how spirited is it, how unignorable? Have we caught it mid-stride, as it were, in the midst, as I say, of living? Can we feel its breath on us, the heat of its exertion of existence? I have in my studio many paintings. I create these paintings, I live with them and they with me, we are one life. I do not know whether they have discussions among themselves regarding the quality of liveliness within me (I would not fare well in anybody’s judgement of that!), but I am easily able to discern that quality within them. I have been looking at this question for several days now, due to the side-by-side placement of two paintings, both figurative. I would say they are both great paintings, but one of them has something more, something indefinable by nature. Both have soul, both have spirit, both have life, both are caught in the flux of living, they are glimpsed as they breathe. And yet, and yet the one communicates itself out of a deeper reservoir—but what is in this deeper reservoir, is it emotion? Is it heart? Is it history? It is all these things and more, I am sure. It is the great mystery, it is the greatest of mysteries what makes a thing transcend the coarse materials it is made from, what makes it reach for God. But there it is, a thing born out of and/or into the Spiritus Mundi, a thing in possession of its own vibratory songful life, a thing that stays in place and doesn’t move—it is, after all, a painting, it does not bestir itself and walk around the studio—yet confronts you every time with a vitality so pure and forceful that it steals your breath and shifts the rhythm of your blood.