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  • Rob Will

Impressions of a Revolutionary Flower

Updated: Mar 29, 2023

I paint flowers because they make people smile”- Deepal Kilewala (2/18/16)

The more I paint the more I like everything”- Jean-Michel Basquiat

If music is truth then John Coltrane is a dialectical mystic sage. If music is love then Coltrane very well may be Eros incarnate. Some Coltrane is on right now and the eurythmic flow of his sax is taking my mind to a place where music and art are intertwined and inseparable…

And I am reminded of conversations I was having with my artistic comrade, Obie D., back when I was working on the painting, Impressions of a Revolutionary Flower. We both had just read Miles Davis’ autobiography in which he speaks about Coltrane- about how he was totally devoted to the art of music. So much so that when they would rehearse and play together, all of the other Jazz musicians would be dressed in their flamboyant Jazz-style finery, spending much time drinking and flirting with women. But Coltrane? He would be there in regular clothes just playing, playing and playing, lost in the music…

Every day we were talking about art in just about every psychosociopolitical matter imaginable when a mirage-like vision appeared. A seeming impossibility: a brilliant little flower-like plant rising up out of the concrete in the “outside” recreation cage. This cage is a bland, drab place. Thirty foot tall concrete walls, two feet wide that are crowned with thick, impenetrable steel beams that obscure most of the natural light. And there it was in the corner. We noticed this brave little plant and it became our god for a week- we chanted to it and dropped spoken word poetry in honor of it over a Jazz rhythm. Life, beauty and inspiration in an impossible place. A statement of perseverance, a Tupac Shakurian “Rose That Grew from the Concrete”. A beautiful little flower, a natural work of art, something we have only seen that one time in 15 years.

St John of the cross spoke of flowers as images of the virtues of the soul. Love, harmony, and purity. Throughout history flowers have been pleasures for gods and men and inspiration for writers, poets, musicians and artists. In the Hindu tradition, Lakshmi, the goddess of good fortune, happiness and prosperity is always depicted with a lotus flower (which symbolizes all these things). This little flower rising up out of solitary confinement concrete with graceful defiance was all this to us and more.

For a week we went to the outside rec cage as much as we could to vibe on the awesome energy of our little flower. This revolutionary plant that rose proudly through concrete that we have both bled on during SWAT team Uses of Force. Then one day after staying up all night working on art, I did not go to the rec cage but Obie D. did. He came back and his voice was filled with sadness and rage as he told me of the fate of our flower: another prisoner had torn it from the concrete, ripped it from the Earth, and left it laying there. Obie told me that he had to bring the flower back with him, he just had to.

I asked him if I could have the flower and at first he did not want to give it to me. But when I told Obie what I wanted to do with it, he did. I told him that I wanted to add another chapter to the fate of our revolutionary lotus of inspiration and immortalize her in paint. I did just that with the painting Impressions of a Revolutionary Flower. Though she was essentially colorless, a drab brownish-green, I used color to interpret the beauty of her energy. Knowing that I could not keep such a thing for any length of time in this high security prison, I crushed up pieces of the flower and embedded them in the paint.

From a little 2 inch brown weed to a large, colorful, 30 x 40 inch painting; this piece is a statement of beauty and truth - a declaration that even in the midst of pain, sadness, death and despair, one can live truth and beauty. We all can, no matter what we face. It just takes effort but the effort is well worth it. The ever-insightful George Orwell said that telling the truth in a time of universal deceit is a revolutionary act. This place, this prison, this death camp exists on a foundation of lies, deceit and half-truths. But with art we can tell our own truths and let the power of artistic expression be a truly revolutionary act.

Rob with Obie D. in 2015

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