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Damn Straight Lines!

The straight line is godless and immoral. The straight line is not a creative line, it is a duplicating line, an imitating line.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser
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I was originally drawn to the work of painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000) by his use of color and the organic feel of his forms. Every line has a natural curl and arc and even those lines meant to replicate the straightness of a man-made object quiver and waver a bit. It all creates a world that feels natural and alive. Organic is the word that always jumps to mind although maybe spiritual is a better fit in that it seems to depict a world that is comprised not of the human body but of its soul and spirit.
I maintain a similar relationship with straight lines, viewing them as something to be avoided at all cost. The man-made feeling that comes with a straight line is something that I do not want to see in my work with the possible exception of the horizon line as seen on a body of water. Consciously painting that straight line is a real task, an ordeal of concentration.
As hard as it is to draw a straight line, it’s harder than you might think to not draw a straight line, especially after you have spent years drawing and painting, gaining a certain proficiency with pen and brush. I sometimes have to really focus on not painting a straight line or the stroke will unconsciously go straight and true. When that happens, it irks me to no end and I find my eye constantly going back to that straight line in the composition.
I think there is something in our brain that makes our eye seek out straight lines as though we are always searching for signs of humans, perhaps as some sort of survival mechanism. And a very straight line is almost always a man-made thing.
So, I am going to practice not painting some straight lines this morning with Hundertwasser’s words echoing in my ears. And eyes.
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Lee Krasner

Lee Krasner- Night Creatures

My own image of my work is that I no sooner settle into something than a break occurs. These breaks are always painful and depressing but despite them I see that there’s a consistency that holds out, but is hard to define.

Lee Krasner

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I’ve been in a funk with my work lately, one that makes it hard to even want to pick up the brushes. It reminds me of the one I felt at this exact time ten years back. My Archaeology series emerged from the depths of that funk so even though there is general sense of blah, I am optimistic.

Part of my process in clawing out of a funk is looking at work– my own and others– and reading on the experiences of others. I came across the quote above from the late artist Lee Krasner (1908-1984) and it spoke to how I have been feeling as of late. I spent a little time looking at her work and chose several that sparked my interest immediately.

Now, I am not well schooled on Abstract Expressionism so I am able to speak with any authority on her work or on her place in art history. But I do like these and a number more by her, finding something in them that inspires me with their rhythm, forms and composition. Born into a Jewish family in what is now the Ukraine, many scholars find elements of Hebrew script in the forms of some of her works.

Most of you, if you know her name at all, recognize her as the wife of Jackson Pollock.  It’s unfortunate that she is mainly known in this way because her own work has had an enduring power that has been sometimes overshadowed by Pollock’s notoriety. She is an interesting figure in modern art. Take a look sometime. Here is short video with much of her work.

Lee Krasner- Untitled (Little Image)

Lee Krasner- Noon

Lee Krasner- Composition 1949

Lee Krasner- Promenade

MLK/ Silence

Silence is not neutrality.

Silence is not a shield.

Silences relinquishes your voice and opinion to others, enabling those who seek power through division, disunity and deceptions.

Silence is the approval that allows dark deeds to exist in this world.

Silence is complicity to the darkness.

In things that matter, silence is surrender. 

 

 

Lot to do this morning, mainly trying to start a tractor that balked at waking up in the -10 degree temps. Not something I want to do but at least it’s beautiful out there. Deadly cold but gorgeous.

Before I bundle up and head out I thought I’d share this week’s Sunday morning music. It’s one that I’ve been waiting to play for some time and today seems like the perfect day for a variety of reasons. It’s an old Aretha Franklin song, Runnin’ Out of Fools, that is covered here by Neko Case. The original Aretha version is great but I also love this performance.

Give a listen, stay warm and have a good Sunday.

 

Now We Know

This quote from the poet Maya Angelou has been floating around for some time. I think it’s a pretty powerful statement of a universal truth, especially on this particular morning.

Though there was never much doubt, we all positively now know what we are dealing with in this country.

Call it what you will– racism, nativism, moral bankruptcy and an ignorance of history along with a general lack of intelligence– but it sure as hell isn’t patriotism. No, this morning the mask is completely off and the barely disguised dog whistles have become megaphones.

And those that respond to the call of that megaphone can no longer claim they don’t know. By standing with this administration, they are revealing who they really are.

And when they show me who they are, I will believe them.

No doubt at all.

Hokusai’s Dot

At seventy-three I learned a little about the real structure of animals, plants, birds, fishes and insects. Consequently when I am eighty I’ll have made more progress. At ninety I’ll have penetrated the mystery of things. At a hundred I shall have reached something marvelous, but when I am a hundred and ten everything I do, the smallest dot, will be alive.

Katsushika Hokusai

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I really like the bit of wisdom above from the great Hokusai, both for his optimism on aging as well as the idea that as he continues to progress his work will reach a point where everything he paints– even something as simple as a dot– has a life force within it.

Attaining that life force, where the painting transcends what you have put into it, in any one piece is a rare and difficult thing for any artist to achieve. But that idea that you might one day reach a point where your work has moved from a product of thought and craft to a transcendent expression of the spirit is something that seems beyond our reach or even our aim.

But perhaps we should keep it as an aim in our mind, along with the idea that we will continue to progress as we age, even if it is stored in rarely visited corner.  If we hold on to it perhaps we will subconsciously find our way to that goal. And when we are a hundred and ten, the dots we paint will have that same life force as those created by Hokusai.

It’s something to hope for…

I’ve included a few of Hokusai’s paintings beyond his famed wave and landscapes. I love his fish pieces and the raven is wonderful. Enjoy!

Max Ernst- The Entire City

Every normal human being (and not merely the ‘artist’) has an inexhaustible store of buried images in his subconscious, it is merely a matter of courage or liberating procedures … of voyages into the unconscious, to bring pure and unadulterated found objects to light.

Max Ernst
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Max Ernst- Nature at Dawn Evensong

Max Ernst- Temptation of St. Anthony

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