Wednesday, November 13, 2019

November Elegy

Contrails, oil on panel, 12 x 16,  private collection
Copyright Peter Bougie 2012

     The last of the leaves are falling. Yellows and oranges recently splashed the hillsides; now they have smoldered into deeper reds, the embers of last decline, and many-fisted winter advances, promising blows. Tall grasses turn wan and fade. Their seeds fall.  Lord, You cover them over and number every resting place in the decomposing soil, the spirit abiding and awaiting water, light and osmotic warmth, when after months have passed, Advent and waiting, the Earth turns toward the sun again.
      O Lord, summer is ended, and You keep it hidden, but You will raise it up again when its time comes. Insects in their billions have withdrawn into burrows and hives, cocoons and piles of leaf litter, in places unknown to us. They crawl under the bark of a billion trees, into every crevice and knot, into the joints between the boards on the sides of a hundred million houses times twenty, between the sashes and the glass where putty has dried and crumbled, into warm interiors; You know them all, every single place there is. You traverse every pitched and fallen bit of debris, every crevice unseen, every gallery of space under the arc of a fallen, withered leaf. You can distinguish, in the mold and litter of the soil, where worms burrow deep to avoid the frost, what is the dry fragment of a disintegrated flower and what is the particle of a leaf stem broken multiple times under plodding feet, and whose feet they were, and where they were going, and what good or no-good they were up to.
     You sent the birds on their way, they are gone. Some will return, some never will. You know which will mate and nest, which nests will be robbed by crows or knocked down in target practice by boys, eggs shattered, hatchlings stranded on the ground, sport for cats. You know which will be food for hawks, which brought up short by exploding shot, which diving swallows will be smashed against windshields and which will pirouette aside just in time, pursuing the food You send them; you know which songbirds will end stuck with skewed feathers in the plastic grill going before some person rushing in pursuit of vanity, inches from a near-boiling radiator. You alone grieve completely and with full knowledge all of nature groaning under the consequences of the fall; our human will, our puny self-assertion, our highways and proud bridges, broken arches, roofless abbeys, bombed out cities and buried ruins. You know my seeking after the love and approval of other fallen creatures, my seeking to appear fit and capable before them, my secret approval of that falsity, my pride in despising the pride of others, my vanity in opposing their vanity. (For man it is impossible, but for You all things are possible.) You offer Yourself to us, but we prefer ourselves, the favor and consideration and glances of others. When such is withheld by us from each other – for often the heart of the lover is most beloved to itself – you remain faithful, for you cannot be otherwise. You are above and below, north and south, left and right; I squeeze my eyes shut, You are behind my eyelids, Your thumbprint is glowing.
Blaze, oil on panel, 11 x 14, private collection
Copyright Peter Bougie 2007
     I am at Your feet; I do not dare to raise my eyes. I hang between heaven and earth, on the cross of all the nothing which I dread, of every false aspiration and hope; everything I desired other than You blown away like fat cruising clouds on a summer afternoon, or the dissipating contrails of swift jets speeding high above the earth to…somewhere else, where I hope I will somehow no longer be what I am. You are complete and have already given me everything I could possibly offer back to You, none of which You need, in any case. You offer me yourself and I wail, “Not now (I am no saint)! Leave me Lord; you are I AM, but I am sinful.” I would rather have things go my way. I would rather possess vainly for a little while that home, that brief fortunate time, those loved ones, that embrace that was the sun of desire around which my life revolved but which is now extinguished. You know where that went too; You are the God of the living and not of the dead, and You are present to all, be they present to You, or not.
     You love me, whether I love you, or not. I am at Your feet; I do not dare to raise my eyes. “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!”
     You reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”
     “Lord” I say, “I want to see.”
     You answer, “Do you want to see? Can you bear to see what I see? The millions and billions surging and groping; murder and fornication hand in hand, - every single incident of it, hurried, hidden and lied about. Children prostituted, every one of them and every moment of their lives. Lies propagated as if there will be no accounting for it. Whited sepulchers and the tombs of the prophets. ‘Where is God’ you say, as you stack abominations, ‘why doesn’t He stop me?’ Abandoned children, abandoned women, abandoned men. Ruined, raped and brutalized – whole families, communities, nations. You see just one or two by the roadside begging, and you avert your eyes because the sight makes you squirm. You continue along your way, following after your thief, while the Son of Man walks the road to Jerusalem. Can you bear to see what I see? Can you bear to love as I love?”
     Lord, the slave of all, You attend me; You lead me, Your cross goes before me; I am ashamed. You teach me by thorough ways. Woman, behold your son; son, behold your mother. You discipline me and You bind my wounds. You leave silver for me with the innkeeper, and pledge to return and make good any debt. You give me viaticum. “Peter, son of Jerome, do you love Me?” You ask. “Get up and eat, or the journey will be too much for you.”

Repose, 12 x 16, oil on panel, private collection
Copyright Peter Bougie 2011

Some of the scripture passages referenced:
Psalm 139; Romans 8:22; Matthew 10:29; Matthew 19:26; Luke 20:28;  2 Timothy 2:13; Mark 12:27; Mark 10:47; Matthew 20:22; Luke 22:34; Psalm 42; Psalm 50:18; John 15:13; Hebrews 12:11; Luke 5:8; Matthew 20:18;  Psalm 136:25; Luke 10:25-37; John 21:15; 1 Kings 19:7; Matthew 15:14; Matthew 23: 27.

Sunday, June 9, 2019


The Annunciation
oil on linen, 32 x 24
Copyright 2019 Peter Bougie
Author's Note: This post originally featured a photograph of The Annunciation painting in progress. That has been replaced above with a photograph of the finished painting. A detail of the work in progress is still included at the end of the post. --P.B.

           The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is related in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1, in twelve verses, 26 – 38. The angel Gabriel, sent from God, appears and offers the salutation “Hail, full of grace” (“to whom grace is given, favored one”).[1] “The Lord is with you.”  Mary was troubled and did not know what the appearance of the angel or his greeting meant. The angel announces that she has been chosen to conceive and bear a son who will be named Jesus, and that he shall be great and called “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). She is astonished, and asks “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” (Luke 1: 34) Gabriel reassures her that the power of the Holy Spirit will come upon her and that the power of the Most High will overshadow her; conception will not take place by ordinary means. He notes a connection to another miraculous event, that Mary’s elder cousin Elizabeth has also conceived a son and is in her sixth month. Then Mary consents, saying, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.” The Catholic Encyclopedia provides a succinct summary of this moment: “Mary may not yet have fully understood the meaning of the heavenly message and how the maternity might be reconciled with her vow of virginity, but clinging to the first words of the angel and trusting to the Omnipotence of God”[2] she consented.
            In this painting in progress, I have endeavored to show the moment of Mary’s meeting with Gabriel. She has raised her head from her book and turned it to look at him. She is in the process of understanding what he is saying. Her hand lingering over the vicinity of her heart indicates the intimacy of her devotion to the Lord, and also her effort to grasp what is being told her. That it is suspended there, for a moment, indicates that an effort of her will was required in her choice. The book is the single prop I have chosen to include, and it represents Jesus “the Word” (John, 1:1). Mary is our model of humility and consent to God’s will. Years later, at the wedding in Cana, she tells the serving people to do whatever Jesus tells them to do, in regard to the water and the wine. This remark is recorded because we are meant to understand that she always points the way to Jesus.
Study for Annunciation, detail
Charcoal and chalk
Copyright 2019 Peter Bougie

            There is some difference between the expression and the tip of the head in the charcoal study and in the painting. I also altered the hand from the study to the painting. It seems to me the expression in the study is more indicative of her first response to Gabriel, “How can this be?”, and the painting more indicative of her consent. I painted the head directly from life, but when my model Katie’s time was up, I continued working, making some corrections from the drawing and striving to imitate the expression of the study. However, after several sessions I put the brushes down and stepped away from the work, as I regularly do, and upon returning endeavored to see what I was doing with a fresh eye. At that moment I realized the expression I had painted might be more suitable than the one I had drawn. The grace of God can only work if we don’t get in the way.
Annunciation painting in progress
Copyright 2019 Peter Bougie
          I want to emphasize again that this is a work in progress. I began work on the charcoal and chalk study about the end of February (2019). Mary’s face and hands are mainly finished. My model was available until the end of April, so naturally I concentrated on those parts of the work. The veil and robe now adorn a mannequin. The drapery and the background in these photos are at an intermediate stage. The photos are not professional, merely my own snapshots, and do not represent the color very well.
            Thanks to Joan T., for making the veil, the robe and the sash for my model to wear; and thanks to my model, Katie D., who posed well and diligently for many hours in the veil and the robe for this project. By way of consolation, and distraction from the tedium of posing and of me, she had the music of Palestrina, Bach, Vivaldi and Mozart, among others.

New website & Podcast Interview with Emilio Longo

Please check out our new website, courtesy of Nora’s talent and hard work, at:
Some corrections and tweaking remain to be done. Many thanks to Nora.

You may also hear a podcast interview with me here:
This interview was conducted in January 2019 by Emilio Longo of Skill Based Art. Mr. Longo is based in Melbourne, Australia.