Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth — more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid … Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.
I was looking at the painting above, a newly finished 12″ by 12″ canvas, trying to ascertain what it was saying to me. I was picking up all sorts of symbols from it and was seeing it in from all sorts of perspectives but finally it came clear to me what I was seeing in this piece. It was the freedom to create our own worlds, to define our own way of seeing and experiencing that world. That freedom, that need to create my own world, is what always drew me to creative outlets. It is certainly what drive me in my painting.
I didn’t always like what I saw in the outer world of reality and was usually powerless to change it. But in my thoughts I could create an inner world that had reason and empathy or at least what I saw as reason and empathy. It would be a place where these better thoughts could live and grow without the fear of being crushed by thoughtless others, people shackled to ideologies and beliefs that they accept and follow without questioning. Without thinking.
That’s what these blood-red rows in the fields and the teal mound and the cascading colors in the sky say to me. This is my world and there, these all make perfect sense. It is a place where one is always free to think what they might. I think that’s why I chose the quote above from Bertrand Russell. We all too often choose to not think, to just float along with the prevailing thought of others, never trusting our own thoughts enough to fully live by them. I know I certainly have fallen into that category in the past.
But we all have our own private worlds of wonder inside of us if we dare to simply think.
Posted in Motivation, Painting, Quote, Recent Paintings | Tagged Bertrand Russell, New Painting, Quote | 2 Comments »
Steampunk Breathe Pendulum Clock- Erin Keck
My solo show this year at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, Virginia, for which I am in the midst of preparations, is scheduled for Friday, June 6th. This show, which I am calling Traveller, will be my fifteenth solo show at the Principle, something which sets my mind reeling with all sorts of thoughts. I had no idea when that first show, Redtree, took place back in 2000 that it would continue for so many years. To be truthful, I had no expectations of any sort.
I just didn’t know then. Just as I don’t know now.
Thinking of this show makes me wonder at the fact that I am now in my twentieth year as a professional artist. While I had no real endpoint to which I was aspiring in the beginning, I was nonetheless impatient to get there. The intervening years have taught me a bit about respecting time and patience, about plodding ahead incrementally and setting aside certain anxieties. Or at least, coming to terms with them so that they don’t paralyze me.
Time is also a great revelator of who one really is. You can’t fake who you are through twenty years. No, you can’t endure twenty years of creating without revealing your own personal truths.
I think my body work over this time is ample display of that. It is flawed and imperfect. It is rough around the edges at times yet delicate, almost fragile, at other times. It is sometimes loud when it should be quiet and quiet when it should be loud. It is confident and bold yet filled with uncertainties and apprehensions. It tries to be plain-spoken and easily accessible yet not simple or frivolous.
Unapologetically, it is what it is.
I could easily describe myself with all of these. I am my work and my work is me and together we travel in time.
The cool timepiece at the top right is from artist Erin Keck of Mechanicsburg, PA. She does some creative and wonderful steampunk pieces. Check out her online store by clicking here.
Posted in Biographical | Tagged Alexandria VA, Biographical, Principle Gallery, Time | 2 Comments »
Every so often I try to break things up with my work, go a bit away from my typical subject matter. Usually these are pieces that are mainly for myself, pieces that give me a different sort of satisfaction. They’re not always my best work but just the process of painting them and the pleasure they give personally give me makes them some of my favorite pieces. Such is the case with the painting shown here, a smallish 4 1/2″ by 6″ work on paper that I finished yesterday in the studio.
I have done a number of guitar pieces through the years. While I think it has to do with my love for guitar music, I think it has as much to do with the shape of the instrument and the manner in which it is held, almost in a loving embrace. As I have noted here in the past, the guitar has been a frequent subject of artists through the ages for just this reason. So yesterday, while trying to clear my artistic palette a bit, started my day set on painting a small guitar painting, I had no idea how it would proceed or even the feel that it would hold. I just started with the idea of a guitar.
It wasn’t until late in the game that it broke free and became a dancing piece, mainly because I came to a point where I wanted to have the entire figure, feet included, in the frame. Without this , it would be too stiff, too formal, and the manner in which the guitar was painted was anything but that. It’s cartoonish, more like a cardboard prop, especially in the way it was being held. But in order to get the feet in frame I would have to have them askew, in motion.
He suddenly became another Rockin’ Billy, like the oil crayon piece here on the left that I did for myself many years ago. and featured here several years back. At this point, my memory of this piece kicked in and I even modeled the feet in the same fashion. I also kicked up the colors a little more to create a little higher contrast, making it more stylized. It reminds me of a cartoon or a stained glass window.
As I said, it’s not my typical work and probably won’t leave the studio. But I find great enjoyment in this type of work, finding purpose and direction in them that propels me ahead in my other work. I think that makes these pieces memorable for me, makes them stick with me. Plus, it gives me a chance to play a song from Johnny Burnette, one of the early Rockabilly kings, probably a little less remembered than some others. Here’s a song and frantic video that would make my Rockin’ Billy dance, called Train Kept A Rollin’.
Posted in Favorite Things, Music, Painting | Tagged Johnny Burnette, Rockabilly New Painting, Rockin' Billy | 2 Comments »
Armin Landeck- Cat’s Paw 1934
I have often featured the work of artists here who work in black and white, mainly printmakers who work in forms of etching or lithography. For myself, I like seeing the pattern and rhythm of these compositions without the influence of texture or color. Probably because I am always looking for a new way of looking at the normal and these give me a clear view of their construction, their bones. There’s something very pure in that.
Last week I wrote bout Martin Lewis who achieved some success with his wonderful etchings in the 1930′s only to fade into obscurity in the 40′s until the end of his life. Today I want to feature a contemporary as well as an associate of Lewis, Armin Landeck. Born in Wisconsin in 1905, Landeck came to New York City in the 20′s to study architecture at Columbia University. He and his wife traveled to Europe from 1927 until 1929 where he studied art and became interested in printmaking, producing his fist body of prints there. Returning to the states and not being able to find work as an architect, Landeck turned his complete attention to printmaking.
Armin Landeck- Pop’s Tavern 1934
Like Lewis, he documented the New York of the early 30′s, the tonal nature of his black and white etchings creating a perfect atmosphere for the gritty urban landscapes. The nature and popularity of their work eventually brought Lewis and Landeck together. Together they opened The School for Printmakers in 1934 but it quickly became a victim of the Great Depression, closing in 1935. As I noted, it was during this time that Lewis left NY and work soon fell from favor in the post-war years as Abstract Expressionism and other new trends in art took over the city. Lewis never regained his footing.
Armin Landeck- Chair and Table 1980
Landeck, on the other hand, let his work be influenced by the new atmosphere in the art world, adopting more and more elements of abstraction in it. Without really altering his own unique perspective, his work continued to expand and evolve, remaining vital until his death in 1984.
I like that while I love this work there is also a lesson to be learned here about allowing new influences into your work, not simply cutting yourself off or settling at a plateau at a certain point in time. I will ponder that while I continue to look at Mr. Landeck’s beautiful work.
Posted in Favorite Things, Influences | Tagged Armin Landeck, Columbia University, Etching, Great Depression, Martin Lewis, New York City, Printmaking, The School for Printmakers, Wisconsin | 1 Comment »
According to Buddhist tradition, Shambhala is name given to what they consider the Pure Land, a utopia of sorts whose reality is as much spiritual as it is physical. A place where everyone achieves a state of enlightenment and peace and tranquility. Author James Hilton morphed the name into Shangri-La for his novel Lost Horizon which describes a group of Westerners who find themselves the guests in a small idyllic nation of this name tucked away in a protected Himalayan valley.
Whatever you call it, the idea of a place of enlightenment and peace seems pretty attractive to me these days, given the many events going on in the world being driven forward by such negative factors as greed, hate and fear. That tranquil inner place is what I see in this new painting, an 18″ by 36″ canvas that carries this name, Shambhala. The road , for me, represents the search that leads to this elusive state and the sun a blissful guide with a warm lure that radiates throughout the sky. The Red Tree is on a small peninsula set into a calm body of water, still attached to the world but in an ethereal space. It is in a state of being where it is firmly in the moment, having set aside the past and disregarding the future. Just absorbing the now.
That’s what I see and that is what I imagine how that moment might feel but I am still on that path, looking ahead for a sight of that hopeful destination.
Posted in Influences, Painting, Recent Paintings | Tagged Buddhism, Himalayas, James Hilton, Lost Horizon, Recent Painting, Shambhala, Utopia | 4 Comments »
“If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing.”
- Coco Chanel
There is a new website, Other Cool Birds, out there in the inter-tubes that has all forms of artwork– visual, musical, performance and literary–that features a bird as its central theme. It is a unique labor of love from multi-talented writer Lafayette Wattles, who also maintains an eponymous and entertaining website devoted to his own writings. There is also a character always hovering around Lafayette named Dave DeGolyer who I first came in contact with a year or two back when he interviewed me for another website. Lafayette took parts of my interview and has put it to good use as he has graciously selected me to be the first Featured Artist on the Other Cool Birds site, an honor for which I am highly appreciative.
I urge you to visit this site and the Lafayette Wattles site. Both are entertaining and informative, plus if you are (or aren’t) an artist, writer, photographer, dancer or musician of any sort, Lafayette is always looking for another cool bird to include in his gallery. Let your wings show!
I’ve gotten accustomed to having some music on Sunday mornings so here’s one of my favorites from the bluegrass kings, Flatt & Scruggs. I just finished watching the film Bonnie and Clyde after waking way too early and the strains of their Foggy Mountain Breakdown had me digging for a version of a Bob Dylan song they covered years ago, Down In the Flood. I probably have a soft spot for Flatt & Scruggs because of their appearances on The Beverly Hillbillies but this is a great version and shows off the versatility and willingness to venture outside their own neighborhood.
Hey, have a great Sunday!
Posted in Biographical, Music, Neat Stuff | Tagged Bluegrass, Bob Dylan, Bonnie and Clyde, Dave DeGolyer, Flatt & Scruggs, Lafayette Wattles, Music, Other Cool Birds, The Beverly Hillbillies | 6 Comments »
I saw a Martin Lewis etching years ago and was transfixed by the crisp contrast of its darks and lights and the easy moodiness it gave off. I knew nothing of the artist but it was obvious that he was masterful in his etching and in his artistic eye. I had largely forgotten this artist until I came across a group of his etchings that are coming up for auction. Seeing them rekindled that same feeling I felt years ago. Mainly images from New York in the 20′s and 30′s, they often capture a feeling of urban anonymity and isolation, mining the same vein of emotion in which Edward Hopper worked in his paintings. This is probably not a coincidence since Lewis and Hopper were friends, Lewis having taught Hopper the art of etching around 1915.
Martin Lewis was born in Australia in 1881 and ran away from home at age 15, working rough jobs for a few years as he travelled and sketched his way through Australia and New Zealand. He ended up in Sydney where he studied and did illustrations for a local newspaper. He migrated to the US around 1900, arriving in San Francisco where he painted backdrops for the presidential campaign of William McKinley before finding his way to New York City.
Inspired by the dynamism of the city at that time, Lewis worked as an illustrator and painter. It was a 1910 trip to England, where he was introduced to the printwork of English artists such as James MacNeil Whistler, that inspired him to take up etching. However, it was an 18 month stay in Japan in 1920 that set the groundwork for his signature work which captures light and air and mood so well. He was active and increasingly successful from 1925 until about 1935. However, the Great Depression brought a downturn to his popularity and by the 1940′s his work was out of favor. His work never really took hold after that and he died in 1961, largely unknown. In fact, just finding some of the details on his life for this short blog post took some doing.
I think his work is wonderful and evocative and find it amazing that his work ever fell out of favor. But such is the nature of art. But the etchings of Martin Lewis will persevere through the fickle cycles because they capture something elemental and personal. And that is what real art does.
Posted in Favorite Things, Influences | Tagged Australia, Edward Hopper, Etchings, James MacNeil Whistler, Japan, Martin Lewis, New York City | 6 Comments »