Posted in Influences, Painting, Recent Paintings, tagged Alexandria VA, Archimedes, Eureka, GC Myers, Native Voice, New Painting, Principle Gallery, Red Tree on May 26, 2015 |
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I am in the final days of prep work for my upcoming show, Native Voice, at the Principle Gallery, which opens next Friday, June 5. This will be my 16th show at the Alexandria gallery so my routine in finishing up in these few last days is pretty set. Even so, it’s a hectic rush to get everything done. For instance, even as I am framing I am still finishing up my final photography of the work.
For instance, just this morning I shot the 24″ by 30″ painting on canvas shown at the top. I had photographed it before but the lighting coupled with the blue tones made it a less than desirable photo, not really representative of the actual painting. But this one seems to hit the mark, capturing the blues in their actuality.
I call this painting Eureka. The word is from the Greek, meaning “I have found it ” and was most famously attributed to Archimedes who upon sitting in a hot bath noticed that his body displaced an equal volume of water which meant that the volume of irregular objects could then be accurately measured. That was not an easy thing to do around 250 BC.
But over the years, the word eureka has come to signify any great moment of discovery. California uses it as their state motto after its use in the gold strikes of the mid 19th century.
In this painting, the bursting light which forms a corona around the Red Tree signifies a moment of great recognition of some heretofore hidden truth, a discovery that forever alters one’s perspective of the world and their place in it. It was not painted with this intent but the fact that the light is bursting from out of the blue of the sky is no small coincidence. That is how these eureka moments normally reveal themselves– unannounced with little forewarning.
I’ve been fortunate to have one or two of these moments. Well, one for sure. And in that instance, I certainly felt like I was suddenly standing ablaze in the darkness that had surrounded me. This piece really captures that instance for me.
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I came across this poem from author Wendell Berry on Maria Popova‘s wonderful site, Brain Pickings. It’s a lovely rumination that could apply to any creative endeavor or to simply being a human being. I particularly identified with the final verse that begins with the line: Accept what comes from silence. I’ve always thought there was great wisdom and power in silence, a source of self-revelation. Perhaps that is why so many of us shun the silence, fearing that it might reveal our true self to be something other than what we see in the mirror. Berry’s words very much sum up how I attempt to tap into silence with my work.
At the bottom is a recording of Wendell Berry reading the poem which gives it even a little more depth, hearing his words in that rural Kentucky voice. It’s fairly short so take a moment and give a listen.
HOW TO BE A POET
(to remind myself)
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill — more of each
than you have — inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.
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Caspar David Frederich- Abbey Among Oak Trees
A picture must not be devised but perceived. Close your bodily eye, that you may see your picture first with the eye of the spirit. Then bring to light what you have seen in the darkness, that its effect may work back, from without to within.
–Caspar David Frederich
I find myself identifying strongly with the words and work of the 19th century German painter Caspar David Frederich (1774-1840). His work often takes a symbolic stance with expansive landscapes that overwhelm the human presence in them and much of it moves toward the metaphysical. He , along with his British contemporary JMW Turner, were at the forefront of the movement from Classicism to work that reflected the inner emotional reaction of the individual to the world around them.
It was said of Frederich that he was “a man who has discovered the tragedy of Landscape.” I see this in his often moody and contemplative work. It is not painting of only a place or scene– it is more a painting of emotion, of some inner vibration triggered by what is before the painter. His brilliance is in capturing that inner element and revealing it to the viewer. It’s a rare thing, one that I think most painters aspire to obtain in their own work. I know that I do.
Frederich’s work fell from favor in the latter stages of his life but the coming of modern art movement whose many painters were greatly influenced by Frederich, brought him back to great recognition through the first few decades of the 20th century. Unfortunately for Frederich, in the 1930’s, his work was associated with the Nazis who mistakenly saw his work as being nationalistic in its symbolism. I know that the piece shown here on the right, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, is often associated with Friedrich Nietzsche‘s idea of the Übermensch or Superman. Even though Frederich died years before Nietzsche was born and almost a century before the Nazis usurped his art, it took several decades before his work regained the stature it lost due to this association.
But the inner message of his landscapes persevered and his paintings still resonate with their timeless qualities today. As they should.
Caspar David Friedrich- Monk by the Sea
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Posted in Favorite Things, Influences, Motivation, Neat Stuff, Quote, Video, tagged Bill Moyers, Joseph Campbell, Matthew Winkler, PBS, TED-Ed, The Hero With a Thousand Faces on May 1, 2015 |
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I’ve been a fan of the late mythologist Joseph Campbell for many, many years. In his many books on myth, including his classic The Hero With a Thousand Faces, as well as a great PBS series, The Power of Myth, with Bill Moyers , Campbell documented myths from around the world but more importantly showed how intimately they related to our individual lives. Campbell showed us that we all had lives that very much followed the patterns that ran through the classic myths of all cultures.
In short, we are all, in our own way, heroes. We may not slay dragons or find great treasures, but we all at a point experience some form of the hero’s journey.
There’s a wonderful animated short film called What Makes a Hero? from TED Ed and educator Matthew Winkler that succinctly illustrates Campbell’s premise, including the eleven stages of the hero’s journey. It’s a delightful short that will hopefully help you to begin to see the mythic elements that make up your own life.
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It’s funny how you sometimes come across things.
I had heard the song Budapest from George Ezra recently and had decided to share it on my Sunday music interlude. It just has an infectious sound that seemed like a good way to start what looks to be a beautiful day. Plus I liked the fact that he lists Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly as influences– kind of unexpected from a 20-something Brit.
So I began looking for something visual to accompany this lead-in to the music and punched in Budapest painting into my search engine. Up came many lovely watercolor-y images of the beautiful grand riverfront along the Danube. They were nice but tucked in among them was a rougher, more modernistic cityscape that really stuck out to me.
Red roofs. Simple forms and dark linework. A path leading in and up. Even the tree that divided the upper right section of the scene looked familiar. It looked like something that could have easily been tucked away somewhere in my own body of work.
The painting, shown above was titled Taban Cityscape in Budapest and the artist was listed as Sandor Galimberti. Looking deeper, there was little info on Galimbert’s life except that he was Hungarian, born in 1883. From a rough translation on a Hungarian site, I gleaned that he studied with Matisse and had began to achieve notoriety for his work around Europe before World War I. Married to another artist, he lived in Paris then finally Amsterdam before returning to Hungary to enlist in the army during the early days of the war. In 1915, Learning that his wife had contracted lung cancer, Galimberti returns from the battlefield and his wife then dies. Hour later, he takes his own life at the age of 32.
Yet another tragic story of what may have been an epic career cut short. Looking at his work online (including his final work, Amsterdam, shown at the bottom) I am impressed on so many levels and can only imagine what may have come from an artist just reaching his maturity in the aftermath of the war. We might be talking of him in the same terms as Matisse and Picasso and other modern masters. But a tragic fate intervened and he is little known outside of a few certain circles.
So what began as a simple search for an image gives me a new artist to wonder at and study- perhaps my Hungarian cousin? So many hidden treasures in this world. Enjoy the song, enjoy the day and be glad for those things that bring you joy.
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This excerpt from On Modern Art, the 1924 treatise from the great Swiss artist Paul Klee is a bit more than a quote but since this is about art we’ll be a little flexible in our definition. And that, I believe, would please Klee, whose works often defied definition.
I know for me, he was a big influence if only in his attitude and the distinctness of his work. I always think of his work in terms of the color– sometimes muted yet intense and always having a melodic harmony to it.
It always feels like music to me.
I like his idea that the world is in the process of creation, of Genesis, and that it is not a final form. It allows for visionary work, for imagining other present worlds that extend beyond our perception because, as he writes, “In its present shape it is not the only possible world.”
And to me, that is an exciting proposition.
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In yesterday’s blogpost, I talked a bit about the influence that stained glass had on my work. Deep color, the luminosity and lines defining the forms within are all attributes that have found their way into my work. It was never a conscious decision, one where I said to myself that I was going to try to emulate the look and effect of stained glass. It was just one of those things that I took in and integrated into my personal aesthetic. Just something I liked to look at. And that somehow synthesized into the work.
In fact, I wasn’t even aware of the similarity until a few years into my career when several people pointed it out to me, asking if stained glass was a big influence. I think I always answered yes to the question. I mean, I liked it a lot so it had to have been an influence on some basic level.
Looking around the studio at the group of new work that is growing for my upcoming June show, Native Voice, at the Principle Gallery, there are a number of paintings that you can easily see the influence of stained glass. The piece shown above, From Out of the Blue, really has that feel for me, with the geometry of its puzzle-like pieces in the foreground and the brightness of its sky. I see that sky in glass as hundreds of small, sharp shards of varying sizes and colors, all radiating outward.
But maybe it being a painting and not stained glass is the attraction for me. Each medium has its limitations and being able to borrow attributes from one medium and integrate them into the vocabulary and process of another is exciting in itself. It is painting’s spontaneity that draws me to it, where instinctual moves can be made within moments that change the whole piece. I don’t know that I could get that with glass and could easily see a piece like From Out of the Blue becoming a contrivance in stained glass. Too thought out. Too worked over. Too clean.
Definitely not from out of the blue— which is how I like it.
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