JM is lending this painting to Ed’s memorial art exhibition. It’s a landscape which he bought a few years back, shortly after reconnecting to Ed and their friend Wali. JM thinks he bought the painting because it reminded him of a photo of his wife, Cassandra, on a path curving to the right and disappearing. She is walking on the path and looking back to smile at the camera and maybe the cameraman.
One of Vincent van Gogh’s last paintings – maybe his very last – entitled, Wheatfield with Crows (1890), depicts a path disappearing into a field of wheat and then a flock of crows rising from the field. On first glance the painting appears simple enough with its elements countable on one hand: wheat field, sky, path, ascending crows. However, Van Gogh attempted to kill himself in a wheat field shortly after creating the painting, so there have been many words written on the painting’s symbolism. For a good article on various interpretations of perceived symbolism, read this: Vincent van Gogh, Wheat field with Crows.
JM believes that in art, often a path is just a path. The word expresses a fairly basic concept as do all the concept’s different designations: road, highway, trail, route, course, track, street. It’s useful when one starts philosophizing about life being like a journey, the straight and narrow path, easy street, happy trails, and so on. While that concept is simple enough, human psychology, at least to JM, is very complex. And when artists begin to question the meaning and value of life, such as van Gogh did while suffering from deep depression, JM finds it ironic these artists often utilize some of the most elemental symbols to express their mental anguish. But that was van Gogh’s wheat field and path, whatever his mental state and whatever he expressed in his landscape. In contrast, Ed seemed to be in a happy and contented phase of his life when he painted his landscape with a path.
Another reason JM loves Ed’s path painting is because it is of the very best of California en plein air style of artwork, a style he greatly admires. Not everyone would recognize the painting as particularly Californian, but it is. He painted it in the countryside outside of Lemon Grove (Ed was an ardent booster of Lemon Grove and loved San Diego environs in general).
There are also Ed’s beach paintings done in the coastal environs of San Diego. All of Ed’s friends from the old neighborhood know that Ed, growing up in Point Loma and Ocean Beach, loved the beach, the ocean, the sea cliffs. Even in his later years, after beating back skin cancer, he came to the beach with John and JM. He had to cover up, of course, but he risked the sun exposure to be somewhere he greatly enjoyed.
It can be assumed that van Gogh held many loves in his heart. It shows in his loving depictions of simple life going on around him. Again, it is ironic and odd that someone who holds so much love for the real world would suffer from bouts of depression. And again, it is a strange fact of our human existence that we have such complex human psychologies built upon such basic elements; that the human heart can hold simultaneously so much love and so much darkness.