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It’s hard to believe that we are screaming toward the end of 2017. When I was a kid that seemed like a date from some science fiction book or movie with all of us buzzing around with personal jet packs or in cars that were shaped in the fever dreams of industrial designers, all swoopy and elegantly curved. And we would all be wearing jumpsuits made from sort of shiny fabric while cooking dinner with the flick of a finger like Jane Jetson.

But somehow we slogged through the years and found ourselves here in 2017, living in a much more mundane future than we had envisioned all those many years ago. Oh, there are wonders that we didn’t foresee clearly, like the smartphone. I don’t remember seeing anything that predicted the prevalence of these devices, how we are glued to them or how any photo of a crowd seems like a sea of lit screens recording the moment.

But overall, things are very much the same with many of the same concerns,worries and joys. But sometimes when I see how people of the past envisioned this time, I would like to be living in their future if only for a short while. Maybe tool around on the futuristic motorcycles and cars from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s shown here.  Then maybe pop a meal pellet and zip off to Mars for a long weekend.

I guess this is all leading up to this week’s Sunday song. I think this calls for Living in the Future from John Prine in 1980. I’ve been singing this chorus for the past 37 years:

We are living in the future
I’ll tell you how I know
I read it in the paper
Fifteen years ago
We’re all driving rocket ships
And talking with our minds
And wearing turquoise jewelry
And standing in soup lines
We are standing in soup lines

Have a great Sunday…


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The Deer

Sun-bleached bones were most wonderful against the blue – that blue that will always be there as it is now after all man’s destruction is finished.

-Georgia O’Keeffe
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It’s the first day of deer hunting season here. I watched two young bucks a few minutes ago in front of the studio. One was very young and small with two prongs jutting from its head while the other was older and heavier. His rack was larger, 8 points, I think. There was a familiarity between them and they bumped heads in the way bucks do when they joust for dominance except that this was gentle and almost instructive. The little guy jumped backward and the larger one went back to grazing.

Then a third buck appeared, heavier through its shoulders and neck with a rack that was thicker than the buck that was already here. This newcomer immediately took umbrage at the little guy and chased him around a bit and finally up into the pine forest that surrounds my studio. He paid no attention at all to the other buck. He came out of the forest with a twiggy branch tangled in his rack, dangling out in front of his head.

He then looked at the lone doe on site as she grazed with her hind quarters to him. He slowly advanced towards her in a comical manner. If this were a cartoon he would be tip-toeing towards her with that branch acting as some sort of goofy camouflage. But she took notice and ducked under one of my large rhododendron bushes, leaving him there alone. He put down his head to eat at the grass and the branch dropped free.

I look out now and he’s still there, looking around. I silently send him my best wishes for the next few perilous weeks. There is always a little anxiety at this time of the year for these ones that I know so well. I have seen so many of these deer on a daily basis for years that I recognize some quite well, having watched many of them grow from tiny fawns to strong bucks and does. And I think they recognize me as well and have a certain comfort level with me and this place.

It makes me feel a bit protective of these beautiful creatures. Be careful out there and stay safe, my friends. I’m talking to the deer, of course, but if you are a hunter the same advice goes out to you.

Mutual Admiration

This is a new painting for the upcoming Kada Gallery show that I am calling Mutual Admiration. It’s small ( 4″ by 8″ on paper) and simply constructed but it has what I feel is a very large presence.

It feels bigger than its size to me.

Maybe it’s the immense sense of calm it emits for me. It’s a meditative, tranquil feeling. I feel my blood pressure drop and my heart rate slow just by spending a moment or two looking at this piece.

And that’s a rare thing these days.

The Mutual Admiration comes from the two main elements in this picture. The Red Tree seems to be considering the rows of violet and green, which in turn appear to be returning the admiration as their rows converge near the base of its trunk.

Each sees the beauty, the wonder of the other.

Together, they turn their mutual admiration to the light of the sky that feeds them both and gives them a sense of something greater beyond their own beauty. And in that moment, there is a unity as though the universe recognizes their beauty as its own and embraces it wholly.

And for the time I spend looking at it, I feel a bit better. Comforted. Embraced.

That’s a lot to see in this small piece and maybe you won’t see it that way at all. That’s certainly okay. That is the nature of art.

Blood and Bones

 

This painting below is heading with me to the Kada Gallery as part of my upcoming show. Titled Blood and Bones, it has been shown before and has always drawn a lot of attention and commentary yet has never found a home. For me, it’s a piece that has always resonated deeply, always creating a strong response within me, one that feels deeply primal.

The blood in the title refers to the red of the ground and the way we tie ourselves to a place. The bones refer to the bare trees of winter, symbols of a passing of time and of age, that poke out of the blooded ground. An empty chair represents the ancestral memory that ties it all together.

Maybe it represents my own view on aging now, of my own desire to remain in this world even as I clearly recognize my own mortality, understanding that my remaining time here is limited.

I don’t know if I can briefly explain what I mean. But I think the poem below from Ezra Pound captures what I see and what I think this painting clearly says to me.

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Ancient Music

Winter is icummen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm.
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Sing: Goddamm. 

Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham.
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damn you, sing: Goddamm. 

Goddamm, Goddamm, ’tis why I am, Goddamm,
So ‘gainst the winter’s balm. 

Sing goddamm, damm, sing Goddamm.
Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM. 

Ezra Pound

The Lantern Is Lit

“No one lights a lamp in order to hide it behind the door: the purpose of light is to create more light, to open people’s eyes, to reveal the marvels around.”

-Paolo Coelho, The Witch of Portobello

***********************

This is a new painting that is headed to the Kada Gallery in a couple of weeks for my show there, opening December 1. I call it The Lantern Is Lit and it is an 18″ by 24″ canvas.

Light is a big part of being a visual artist. You deal with the nature of light, using light and dark to create images. Color itself is light. There is also the symbology of light with the contrast of light and dark representing many things– good and evil, beginnings and  endings, life and death, etc.

Light in this painting is very much a symbol, one of a revealing of wonders. It symbolizes an awakening from a darkness in which we have spent much of our time sleepwalking, just following others and bumping along without much consideration of our own will and desire. We simply take what is directly in front of us in the darkness.

The lantern here is a rising sun that reveals an expanding world beyond our own closed-off one that exists in shadow. Those field rows we have mindlessly worked for so long finally move out to a far horizon with distant hills and fields that have yet to be worked, have yet to be shaped. To a place that allows for expansive thinking, a place to remake ourselves, a place to see the wonders of the world in a bright and direct light.

That’s what I see in this painting– a revealing of light that pulls us from out of shadow.

Color Vibration

Color which vibrates just like music, is able to attain what is most general and yet most elusive in nature.

– Paul Gauguin

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I came across this line that Gauguin had written in a letter to the poet Andre Fontainas and it reminded me of how I often compare painting to music, how I try to find that  rhythm, maybe the vibration to which Gauguin alludes, in my work that has the same effect on the viewer’s unconscious mind as does music. That thing that would make my work, like music, communicable across all boundaries. Something that would easily be absorbed as an emotional response without first having to dissect it intellectually, like music that you hear for the first time and react to without thinking, often finding it still vibrating in your mind for days and weeks afterward.

It’s a grand aspiration and I am never sure if I ever reach that goal. But I do keep hoping and trying.

I chose the painting above to illustrate this post because I like the simplicity and harmony of it. Titled Ever, it’s a 15″ by 18 ” piece on paper that is as much an abstraction, with its spare forms and lines, as it is a depiction of reality. My hope is that the color and harmony of this piece creates a vibration or rhythm that overcomes the unnaturalness of it, allowing it to make an emotional  contact before the mind finds some intellectual objection.

Again, a grand aspiration.

Reading back over this, I have to say that I don’t sit before my easel or table and ponder these concerns before I start to work. I often only think about these matters when I come across a quote or a line like the one above from Gauguin. These words often make me wonder about my own aspirations for my work, what they are and how they compare to the painters of the past whose work I admire. I guess I am looking for a commonality in our views that connects us somehow, even though our work may not reflect this bond.

Another grand aspiration.

The entry above was first posted here back in 2011. I chose to run it again today because as I prepare for my show that opens in a bit over two weeks I find myself seeing the importance of  color in my work, even more than form and subject. It has it’s own feeling, its own rhythm and harmony– the vibration described above. It propels the work and makes certain pieces resonate like visual music.

Omega Tree

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. 
Seneca

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Every beginning has an end. Every end is a new beginning.

Those are the thoughts that come to mind for me when I look at this new painting that I am calling Omega Tree which is part of my show, Sensing the Unseen that opens on December 1 at the Kada Gallery.

It’s a paradoxical feeling, one that is saddened by the ending of one thing yet also gladdened by the start of another. And I see that here as my eye moves upward from the bottom. There are bare purplish mounds that would normally support other trees in much of my work, something that hints of something missing. Something has happened that has taken away those other trees.

Going up through the picture, the ground is covered with snow. Wintry and cool, the end of the growing year and the precursor to the coming spring. And atop the highest mound stands a single tree that has persevered. It is an evergreen whose end has not yet come and it is a beginning to something new in this place.

And at the top is the moon/sun that seems to us endless. Yet we know that it also has an ending at some point well beyond our own. For now, it witnesses our new beginning in this place.

It’s an odd little piece, this 16″ by 8″ canvas. It feels like a warning of some kind of environmental catastrophe while simultaneously reminding us that we have a place in the cycle and rhythm of the universe. A cool foreboding of an end along with a warm greeting to a new beginning.

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