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Into Forrest Bess

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Addison Parks reprises his 1982 article Into Bess: The Paintings of Forrest Bess.

Parks writes: "The space of the Bess image moves like a lawless dream. This kind of space is called conceptual because it can be flat, deep, massive, upside-down, bird's-eye, and backwards all at the same time. It answers to form and not to gravity. It is a look through the looking glass into a world that was more vast and exciting than that sleeping world Bess found around him. From these open plains he gave pasture to images which filtered up into his eyelids. If his paintings were to him a key to his infinite and primordial unconscious, they are keyholes for us, views into the interior where few go.

Bess did not let his paintings paint themselves, letting the unconscious flow ally with paint, hand, and eye to give color and shape to whatever whispered in his ear. Instead, he let his inspirations paint his paintings for him, giving complete control over to the prescriptions of his unconscious. He had no choice, and given the alternatives, they were at least the one thing he could trust. He could feel sure of something that burned such a strong impression in his imagination. Bess had an inspiration, and he didn't have to fret about it. It was there, he saw it, and he painted it, much in the same way a still life or landscape painter might attempt to be true to nature. The difference is that these were private images, internal and original."

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