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Michael Hafftka


Michael Hafftka
  • Date: 2016 - 2016; Brooklyn, New York, United States  
  • Style: Figurative Expressionism
  • Genre: figurative
  • Media: oil, linen
  • Dimensions: 198 x 254 cm

Artist's Statement

When I was a child before the age of 10 I had a reoccurring nightmare that woke me up in a cold sweat shivering with fear. The nightmare was that I was on a railroad handcar pumping relentlessly going in all directions simultaneously at the speed of light and at any moment I would be completely obliterated. I never told my parents about the nightmare but every time it happened I was overwhelmed by it. Then one night I decided that I am not going to wake up I am going to continue in the car and see what happens. The most astonishing thing happened, the experience turned to pleasure. In fact, it was so desirable I tried to recreate the feeling over and over again.

Recently I read this quote by Joseph Campbell from Sukhavati: Place of Bliss: A Mythic Journey.

We're in a freefall into the future. We don't know where we're going. Things are changing so fast, and always when you're going through a long tunnel, anxiety comes along. And all you have to do to transform your hell into a paradise is to turn your fall into a voluntary act. It's a very interesting shift of perspective and that's all it is... joyful participation in the sorrows and everything changes.

One of my most formative experiences, when I was beginning painting in 1975, was the realization that every painting presents a point at which I have to risk everything. There is much good about the painting so far but there is also something incomplete, something still not right about the whole. It is at that moment that I must dive in, even if it risks all the good that is there, I must. I found that this approach works for me, that choosing to dive in transforms everything and in the process, I find the way.

Joseph Campbell's quote reminded me of my experience with the nightmare. I realized that my willingness to risk everything when I paint was learned from that experience. My painting 'Memory' is about my childhood nightmare. An acquaintance with a familial background similar to mine told me that many of her relatives tried to escape the Nazis on railway handcars and perhaps my nightmare was a transgenerational memory. “Whatever does not emerge as Consciousness,” Carl Jung said, “returns as Destiny."

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