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Sweet Little Angel

Don’t have much of a chance this morning to write a proper post. Busy in a good way. But I came across this image above from the late painter Romare Bearden who lived from 1911 until 1988. I was going to say African-American painter as it does in most of his biographies but that kind of bugged me in the same way that bios often point out that an artist is a woman. Seems like they are creating a distinction and putting them into a sub-category for no reason at all, especially when the person in question is creating great work.

So I am just calling Mr. Bearden a painter.

And a fine one at that, one whose work always jumps into my eyes. Just plain good stuff.

Anyway this image has been sticking in my mind for about a week now and I thought it would be a great companion to some music for this Sunday Music by the one and only B.B. King. Especially since the central figure in the painting looks a little like B.B. King. I somehow have only played one song by him in all these years on this blog and it is definitely time to correct that oversight.

I came across his Live at the Regal album as a teenager and it just destroyed me. It was a live performance from the Regal Theater in Chicago from 1964 and it is one of the great live recorded performances ever put down on vinyl, regardless of genre. It just reels and rocks and is filled with classic after classic tunes from B.B., Lucille–the only guitar whose name you probably know– and a band that kicks it big time. As with Romare Bearden’s painting, it’s just plain good stuff.

Take a listen to the great Sweet Little Angel and have yourself a good–no, a great– Sunday.

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Windows

 “A house without books is like a room without windows.” 
― Horace Mann

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For many years now the houses in my paintings have had no doors or windows. People often comment on this and ask why that is. But there was a period of time in the early 2000’s when there were a group of pieces that had houses sporting windows and a few doors.

The houses in these paintings had a different feel than my typical houses. They seem warmer and more human, less anonymous and less inward turned. These houses with windows most likely fit the quote above from the 19th century American educator Horace Mann, appearing to be open to the world, outward looking and conscious of and at peace with their place in the world. Most likely, there are shelves filled with books and inquisitive, reasoning people in those houses.

The presence of these windowed houses often changes the focus of the painting. Take for instance the piece at the top, Riverspirit. The Red Tree perched on a mound above the river would normally be the center of this painting’s attention.  But in this iteration, the windowed cottage takes centerstage. The emotion of the piece is directed from the point of view of the house rather than the Red Tree, strong as it might be.

It was interesting putting together this small group. The similarities in warmth and contentedness is striking. I found myself personally drawn to these pieces and wonder why more windows don’t find their way into my current work.

Maybe they will soon but for now I will enjoy these pieces for bit longer.

Heartland

Where Serenity Dwells

Where Chaos Ends

Streaming Nostalgic

The Strangest Dream

Story’s End

 

Colours

There are a lot of things swirling around in my mind this morning, most of them well outside my little inner world of color and form. But distant as they are they all have reverberations that shake my safe haven. For instance, there is the pissing match taking place between two spoiled, erratic, impetuous egotists that imperils the safety and stability of the world. I’m talking, of course, about Kim Jong Un of North Korea and that other guy from America.

Or take the impending senate vote on healthcare, the Graham-Cassidy bill. It is a total trainwreck of a bill, one that will strip coverage from those who can least afford to lose it and one that is opposed by literally hundreds of professional groups representing doctors, nurses, patient advocates, insurers and those seeking to fight deadly diseases such as the American Cancer Society. The scoring on it thus far has been atrocious and there is scant evidence of it having any positive effect yet it still somehow has a chance of passing mainly to people (and I use that term lightly here) like Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa who said in a call with the Des Moines Register:

“You know, I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered. But Republicans campaign on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign.That’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill.”

So, he is saying that, despite the fact that he knows how egregiously this bill affects millions of citizens now and in the future or how it is being recklessly rushed through the process, it is more important to just pass something so that he can tell a small group of core supporters that they did something. Even something so damaging and senseless that many of those same supporters will no doubt be hurt deeply by this action.

I don’t think that will go into the textbooks as a prime example of statesmanship.

I didn’t want to write about this crap this morning. It’s too maddening but it can’t be ignored. We have done that for far too long, letting those who have been paying attention take over the writing of the script that we are all forced to play out.

So, while I am angrily paying attention I found myself focusing on the painting above from the late Will Barnet, who died in 2012 at the age of 101. It’s an earlier work of his titled Old Man’s Afternoon from 1947. I just loved the rhythm and color of it. Plus, it immediately took my mind off those things above.

Maybe it will work for you. Plus, to accompany it, here’s the song Colours from Donovan from way back in 1965. It can’t be over 50 years old, can it. Geez…

Have a great day.

 

Bluemner Recalled

“When you feel colors, you will understand the why of their forms.”–Oscar Bluemner

I’ve written several times about Oscar Bluemner, an early and relatively obscure Modernist painter. Since stumbling across him a decade or so ago, I have an affinity to his work and much of his outlook on it. He worked mainly with color and shape but didn’t work in pure abstraction, believing that the subject must be based on the real world in order to fully communicate with the viewer. And the subject itself not nearly so important as the color and forms employed and the emotions they depicted. Those are things that ring with me.

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I look at the work of a lot of artists and usually see something I can relate to in much of it.  It might be the way a color sings or the way the painting is put together or in the expressiveness of a line.  Or just in simple emotion.  But very seldom do I stumble upon the work of an artist who I immediately feel as though I am sharing the same perspective.

Such is the case with Oscar Bluemner.

I came across his work a few years back.  I saw an ad for a piece of his in an art mag and was captivated.  There was something very familiar to me in it which made me want to know more.  But I could find little about Bluemner.  This was strange because he was in the right circles where one would think he would get some attention even if only by association.  The German-born painter, who was born in 1867 and moved to the US in 1893, was part of the Modernist painters group of the early 20th century represented by Alfred Stieglitz , famed photographer/gallerist and husband of Georgia O’Keefe.   His work hung in solo shows at Stieglitz’s famed NYC gallery and in the fabled Armory Show of 1913.  You would think there would be no shortage of material on him or that his name would raise the image of some piece of his work.

But Oscar Bluemner had a knack for failing.  He was trained as an architect and designed the Bronx Borough Courthouse.  However, he was not paid for his services and the seven year court battle that ensued drove him away from  architecture and into the world of art,  where his paintings never garnered the attention or lasting reputation of his contemporaries.  He sold little and lived in abject poverty, which is said to have attributed to his wife’s early death and ultimately to his suicide in 1938.

But there is something in his work that I immediately identify with when I see it.  It’s as though I am seeing his subjects in exactly the same way as he did and would be making the same decision he made when he was paainting them.  His trees feel like my trees is the way they expressively curve and his colors are bold and bright.  His building are often windowless with a feeling of anonymity.  His suns and moons are solid presences in the sky, the focal points of many of his pieces.   In this piece to the right, Death,  he uses the alternating abnds of color to denote rows in the field as I often do and has his twisted tree rising from a small knoll in the forefront of the picture.

I find myself saying to myself that I could very easily have painted these same pictures.  It’s odd because it’s not a feeling that I’ve experienced before even with the artists whose work I think has most influenced me and with which I feel a real connection.  And it feels even odder because I didn’t become aware of Bluemner’s work until long after I had established my own vocabulary of imagery.

There are finally a few things out there online about Oscar Bluemener.  You can see more of his images now than you could even a few years back.  The Whitney in NYC had a retrospective of his work in 2005 (here’s a review) and that seemed to raise awareness of his work.  So maybe a few more people, a new generation, will finally see what I see in Bluemer’s work.
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I wrote about Lotte Reiniger on this blog several years ago.  In this world that is filled now with fantastic computer generated  animations, her work still has the power to amaze me. The idea that this person armed with little more than a pair of sharp scissors and some paper could create these worlds of wonder is thrilling to me, an incredible manifestation of the creative vision. I thought I’d rerun the post from back in 2010 and add another of her films, Daumelinchen, from a bit later in her life. Made in 1955, it tells the story of Thumbelina. Take a look and try to remember that these are just papercut silhouettes.

The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)

I first saw a film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed,  from Lotte Reiniger several years ago in a series about early silent films.  It was made in 1926 Germany and was one of the first animated films made.  It’s a form of animation that Reiniger pioneered and mastered, based on Eastern shadow theatre.   Using silhouette figures, each is painstakingly cut and hinged then  filmed in small movements with time lapse photography to produce motion in the film.  This film took three years to complete.

Lotte Reiniger At Work

In this telling of the Arabian Nights stories, I was immediately struck by the beauty and movement of the colors in the film.  Each cell was tinted by hand to produce intense bursts of color that gave the film a gorgeous surreal quality.  The movements of the figures in the film are smooth and natural,  very subtle.  I found myself so taken with watching the movements and changes that I found myself not following the story.  But I didn’t care.  It was beautiful to see and sparked the imagination.

Lotte Reiniger (1899-1981), born in Germany and living most of her post-WW II life in Britain,  left quite a body of work from a career that spanned over 50 years, including one of the first film versions of Hugh Lofting’s Doctor Dolittle. She’s pretty much unknown in popular culture which is a great shame.  Her work is marvelous and deserves to be seen.

Here’s a small clip of Prince Achmed:

And here is Daumelinchen or Thumbelina.

Workshop Reminder

The Studio Barn at Sunny Point

As had been mentioned here in the recent past, I will be leading a workshop next week at Sunny Point on the shores of beautiful Keuka Lake here in the Finger Lakes of New York. Sponsored by the Arts Center of Yates County, this is a two day workshop that runs from about 9 AM until 4 PM on September 28 and 29, Thursday and Friday of next week.

This is my third workshop here and in the first two years we focused on my watercolor based method which is what I call a reductive process. You put paint on then take much of it off, creating the edges and transparency that define this style. It was a lot of fun and a little messy.

This year we are going to be working on what I call an additive process which starts with a dark surface, in this case a textured canvas with a layer of black paint. Layers of paint are added, each layer defining form and creating light. The piece at the bottom is an example of the kind of work we’ll be doing. It’s typically a bit slower process with a little more control, more meditative in approach. But we are going to be moving along at a pretty good pace which should make for some interesting work.

It should be a good couple of days in a great environment with the lake just paces away and the glorious fall foliage ablaze on the surrounding hills. All that with some hard work, good fun and a few surprises along the way. I don’t know how many more times I will be doing this type of event so if you would like to share some time painting with me, come on up.

More info can be had by clicking here.

House of the Rising Sun

I am kind of at ease this morning. It’s nice to not have any big obligations directly ahead of me after finishing yesterday’s Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery. It lets me unwind from the anxiety that those kind of events create, the kind that is always there even though I try to appear at ease when speaking in front of groups of people. Fortunately, the folks who come to my talks are really good people who make it as easy as possible.

I want to thank everyone who came out on such a gorgeous day with so many other things going on to spend a little time with me at the talk. It was wonderful speaking with so many friends that I only get to see once in a great while and to meet so many new people. It was a good day all the way around and I hope everyone there felt that the time was spent well. I’ve said this before but their willingness to open themselves to me makes it easy to open myself up to them.

And that is a gift to me.

Speaking of gifts, of course, the highlight of the talk came at the end when I get to share a gift or two with them. I can’t explain how much pleasure I get out of this part of the talk. I’m sure other artists think I am crazy for giving away my work but the way I look at it is that it’s just a small pay back for all they have given me. Without their support, without their encouragement and interest through the decades, there is no telling where I would be or what I might be doing. Of if I would even be at all.

So, in my eyes I am playing with house money and just sharing a bit with my friends. Thank you so much to everyone at the talk yesterday and thanks to my good friends at the Principle Gallery– Michele, Clint, Pam, Taylor and Pierre– for allowing me to be a part of their wonderful gallery. I am so grateful–thank you.

Now for this Sunday’s musical selection I was looking at the new painting above, Back in Time, and wanted an old song. While shuffling through older music I settled on the old folk tune, House of the Rising Sun. This version from the great Odetta came late in her life and delivers to the song great weight and grace. Just a great performance.

Enjoy and have a great day.

And thank you…

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