And I, too, felt ready to start life all over again. It was as if that great rush of anger had washed me clean, emptied me of hope, and, gazing up at the dark sky spangled with its signs and stars, for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe. To feel it so like myself, indeed, so brotherly, made me realize that I’d been happy, and that I was happy still.
—Albert Camus, The Stranger
It’s a time that very much feels like something out of a piece of dark literature, something torn from the pages of Camus’ The Plague or The Stranger or Kafka’s The Trial. There is something coldly oppressive in the atmosphere. The prevailing logic and language of the world seems alien and indecipherable. The world at large is indifferent to the lessons of the past. Or facts.
The world seems plainly out of rhythm.
Yet standing beneath the moon and the stars at night I feel a strange kinship, like Camus’ character in The Stranger, with the indifference of the universe to this all. It simply stares at us without pity, anger, sympathy or any feeling at all.
It just is.
And even though we might burn this planet to the ground so that it might one day flower again, it will always be.
That is a truth we cannot change.
I think that is what is behind this new small piece, 5″ by 7″on paper, I recently finished. It’s one the first things I’ve done in several weeks.
I think I will call it The Stranger.
Posted in Quote, Recent Paintings | Tagged Albert Camus, Franz Kafka, New Painting, The Stranger | 6 Comments »
I came across an image yesterday online of a painting from the late artist Morris Hirshfield. It prompted me to go back to a post I had written about him about 4 years ago. It is regularly one of my most popular posts, getting a fair number of views each day. I thought it might be worth sharing his work again.
There are so many artists out there, both now and from the past, that I’m not surprised when I come across an artist with which I am not familiar whose work knocks me out. But sometimes I come across work that is so strong and consistent in its vision that I just can’t understand why the name is not known to me. That’ happened recently when I was browsing through a book on the collection of the American Folk Art Museum and came across the name Morris Hirshfield. The name didn’t ring a bell but the work was so wonderful. It had a naive feel in the rendering of the figures but there was a sophistication in the composition and coloring that made me feel that it was anything but folk.
I definitely had to find out more about Morris Hirshfield.
But there’s little to learn about the man. Not a lot is written, only a few mentions in books. That surprised me. But his story is pretty simple.
He was born in Poland in 1872 and came to America around 1890 at the age of 18. Like many many of the Jewish immigrants of that time who settled in the New York area he began working in the garment industry. With his brother, he opened a coat factory that evolved into a slipper factory which was very successful. Morris encountered health problems and retired in 1935, at which point he took up painting, following up on an artistic urge he had as a child but had put aside long ago.
Within four short years, his work had attracted the attention of collector and art dealer Sidney Janis, who used two Hirshfield paintings for an exhibit he was putting together in 1939 for the Museum of Modern Art, Contemporary Unknown American Painters. MoMA , at that time, was committed to collecting and showing the work of self-taught artists. In 1941, MoMA purchased two of Hirshfield’s paintings for its collection and in 1943 gave Hirshfield a solo show. He had only painted 30 pieces up to that point in his career. There was great controversy over the show at the time and the critics of the era savaged it. It was, according to Janis’s biographer, “one of the most hated shows the Museum of Modern Art ever put on.” It led to the dismissal of the museum director at the time.
But Hirshfield survived and painted his paintings of animals and the occasional figure for a few more years until his death in 1946. His career spanned a mere 9 years over which he produced only 77 paintings.
I don’t really understand the controversy of the time or why Hirshfield hasn’t inspired more writers or artists. Or maybe he has and I just can’t find much evidence of it. When I clicked on the Google image page for him, I was immediately smitten. There was that sense of rightness that I often speak of here. Just plain good stuff. Just wish Morris Hirshfield had been around longer so there might be more to see.
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Robert Henri- The Beach, Concarneau 1899
Strokes carry a message whether you will it or not. The stroke is just like the artist at the time he makes it. All the certainties, all the uncertainties, all the bigness of his spirit and the littlenesses are in it.
I like the idea of this thought from the great artist and teacher Robert Henri, that the strokes on the surface of a painting unconsciously capture the artist as they are at that moment. This really plays into what I aspire to with my own work even though, to some, the end result may seem like nothing more than a picture made from pleasant colors that appeals to the viewer on a surface level.
That is fine but more than that, I want it to carry my own fullness forward, want it to proclaim my existence in this universe. Even the smallnesses, flaws and imperfections that pockmark me as a human. They, as much as the greater attributes to which I aspire, are a part of that existence.
Every visible edge on a thick stroke carries me forward, has meaning and content beyond that surface. It reflects what I am feeling about what is on the surface before me as well as who and what I am as a person at that moment. There are moments when I run my hands over the finished surface of a painting and I feel like I am a blind person reading something in Braille. The bumps and edges have meaning for me that goes beyond is seen.
As Henri so well put it: All the certainties, all the uncertainties, all the bigness of his spirit and the littlenesses are in it.
Posted in Painting, Quote | Tagged Quote, Robert Henri | 3 Comments »
I was talking with a friend recently about old music. You know, those groups that we used to listen to but kind of faded to the background through the years for one reason or another. The subject of Dan Hicks came up and I remembered this post from quite a few years back. It’s been gnawing at me for days and this morning I wanted to hear some Hot Licks. So I thought I’d share.
I was thinking of Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks the other day. I’ve got a couple of his albums from the early 70’s and periodically some of his songs pop into my mind. It’s hard to categorize his music but their was always an eccentricity factor with it. He’s been around for something like 50 years or more but probably achieved his greatest success with his early work and his appearances on popular TV variety shows of the time.
One such appearance was on The Flip Wilson Show in 1972 which I’m showing here. I was going to show only this clip, given that it’s such a great snapshot of that time in popular culture, but I thought it would be interesting to also show him a few years later to show the evolution. Somewhat.
Anyway, here are a couple of Dan Hicks’ songs for your consideration. The first, By Hook or By Crook, is from 1972:
The second, I Scare Myself, is from around 1990 from the short-lived late night show Night Music with David Sanborn…
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Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worst kind of suffering.
― Paulo Coelho, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept
I was looking at this older painting from years ago this morning. It was a late entry into my Outlaws series back in 2006 and I think I only showed it for a very short time in one gallery. It has floated around the studio for the past decade, never really finding a place of its own in which to dwell.
I wouldn’t call it a great piece. Maybe not even a good piece but it has a lot of meaning for me. Every so often I pick it up and find myself captured in the moments that I see in it.
I see myself in it, those early mornings when I find myself wide awake at 4 AM with the wheels in my minds spinning furiously. Sometimes it is a good thing with something positive and creative emerging from this pent up energy. Other times, it is sheer angst and I find myself much like the figure in this painting, staring out the window waiting for the dark to recede and be replaced by the first dim light of dawn.
On the good days that light is full of high hopes for what is coming. It’s exciting. On the not so good days it is just a painful wait for what seems to be nothing but the possibility of having enough light to wash away the darkness and maybe spark something to move ahead on. It is a dull and drab ache, a suffering that I am reminded of in the words at the top from author Paulo Coelho.
So you can see that this painting, though it may not be among the finest of my work, has real meaning for me. So perhaps in a small way, even in a way that only applies to me, it is somehow a good piece.
Posted in Biographical, Painting, Quote | Tagged Outlaws, Paulo Coelho, Quotes | Leave a Comment »
gnossienne – n. a moment of awareness that someone you’ve known for years still has a private and mysterious inner life, and somewhere in the hallways of their personality is a door locked from the inside, a stairway leading to a wing of the house that you’ve never fully explored—an unfinished attic that will remain maddeningly unknowable to you, because ultimately neither of you has a map, or a master key, or any way of knowing exactly where you stand.
–The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
I don’t have much to say this morning. I just wanted to share a little music from the French composer Erik Satie, someone whose work has always spoken to me in its elegant spareness. It was a great influence on some of my earliest works. In fact, I even titled an early piece or two after the composer but I can’t locate the images at this point.
I thought I’d share his Gnossienne no. 1 as played in this fine video from the contemporary Italian pianist/composer Alessio Nanni. The word gnossienne was created by Satie. He sometimes created new terms or appropriated terms from other fields to describe his compositions. Gnossienne is generally thought to simply denote a new form although I like the definition at the top from the website The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. It seems to fit the composition very well.
Anyway, give a listen to Satie’s beautiful sounds and have a great Sunday.
Posted in Favorite Things, Music, Quote, Video | Tagged Alessio Nanni, Erik Satie, GC Myers, Music, Red Tree, Sunday Morning Music, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows | Leave a Comment »
Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.
Quotes on the internet have become something like the fake news stories that have infected that same space. Many of the quotes are completely false and have never been uttered by the people to who they are attributed.
You can sometimes easily pick out the fake ones. The language is just wrong for the time frame in which the speaker lived, for example. There’s a good article from The Atlantic from a few years back that examines how a fake quotes grows in stature and how people hold fast and defensively, to it even after it has been made clear that they were not the words of who they thought had spoken the quote originally. Sounds very much like people reactions to fake news– they believe and hold on to it because they want it to be so,
Anyway, I came across this quote from historian Will Durant, the author (along with his wife Ariel) of the momentous The Story of Civilization,and I really liked it. I thought it would pair well with an Archaeology painting of mine from several years back. It was perfect.
Actually it sounded too perfect.
So I decided to run a check to find the source and quickly found several sites that said that it was indeed a fake quote. I was ready to toss the whole thing aside when at the last moment I stumbled on a site that definitively did source the quote to Durant. According to the Will Durant Foundation, these words first appeared in print in an article, What is Civilization?, Durant wrote for the Ladies Home Journal in 1946. They also stated that it was line that he had used in lectures for many years going back to 1933.
So I am pleased to use this quote knowing that it is not part of the awful cycle of misinformation to which we are so often subjected.
Oh, and by the way, when the Earth has decided that it has had enough of our shenanigans, ain’t nothing we can do about it.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged Quotes, The Story of Civilization, Will Durant | 2 Comments »