More and more of my town is looking empty. Businesses are closing down, retail properties are losing their tenants. While painting this picture, I considered putting the words, “Rent This Space,” or “This Space For Rent” on the billboard. Finally I decided to leave it blank. Atlanta has many blank billboards now, advertising nothing at all.

Oftentimes in the media, newspeople talk about the economic crisis as though it were a natural phenomenon, like a drought or a flood. They speak about it as though no one really caused this to happen, as though it were not a human invention. But it is, of course.

It’s just one of those things to be categorized as an “institutional truth.” You know, the things that are only true because we all agree that they are. The economy, the scale of human worth, money itself… all of these things are figments of our collective imagination.

When I get too wrapped up in these fictions, I often look to the sky. THERE is something real. Gigantic natural forces at work, bigger and older than all of us: things that have long existed before any of us human beings, and will continue to exist long after we are all gone.

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Buddy, what a wonderful painting! I somehow missed that you live in Atlanta. I’ve been there many times and I can’t imagine it quiet–it’s such a vibrant city. A blank billboard is indeed so forlorn and mute, but mute in a loud way.

I like what you wrote about looking up at the sky. Several years ago I was going through a bad time, and I read something by a wonderful teacher, a Buddhist nun named Pema Chödrön. I highly recommend her books. She said that when she is feeling overwhelmed or anxious to look at the sky. It really works.


Buddy, you have one of the most amazing senses of artistic vision I have ever seen. The placement of the billboard far off to the side was brilliant. It’s a haunting, almost ominous image and yet it is moved to the periphery by the eternal and larger sky. Both aspects are equally “real.” Neither is dismissed or even minimized.

The thought that went into the painting is as important as the painting itself. You have a gift with words that equals your talent with a brush. Every word and every stroke is well-chosen. There’s not a single superfluous one.

That is art.


kes, sometimes I really miss the fanning option…!!


I hear you, Truth! But the silver lining of that is that we’re compelled to put our appreciation into words, no?


Certainly true, kes – but then I was too floored to find words…. 😉


Art can definitely have that effect!


Beautiful painting and very poignant and eloquent words. I didn’t realize that Atlanta was going through that. It was a fast growing city while the Rust Belt cities like Detroit and Cleveland emptied out.


Buddy, This is the first thing I came across here this AM and I’m so glad I did.
Your observations about “institutional truths” was worth the ride.
Some call these the matrix, others the paradigm. But it was welcome for me to have the reminder that no matter what it’s called it’s illusory and man-ufactured all the same and hardly worth the constant focus we seem to provide it to the exclusion of all else.
There is only one sky however whether siren or tempest and it’s a fantastic reference point to break the fun house mirror in order to begin one’s day on a good footing with something solid. And to think that most of us see the sky as something empty and void provides the often needed splash of duplicity to wake us from our waking slumber.
Thank you for the grounding and the start of a great morning!


Wonderful picture and wise words.


I agree.The billboard as bright as the future of the middle class.
I am a big ‘Sky’ person.
Our skies are often graced with ospreys, and eagles.
Majesty is a part of our skies.. and I am always thankful for the blessing of being here.
The beauty of FL is in the skies and our coastlines, but unfortunately, vultures are in our skies as well.
It feels like they are winning.
hmmmm.. maybe that’s why we’re the ‘death by lightning’ capitol of North America.


Buddy, Good choice leaving it blank. It’s real. I don’t have to drive too far to see the exact same thing. A blank billboard is a fan-fucking-tastic analogy my friend. Well done, again.