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Archive for April, 2010

I spent a lot of time writing a post on the oilrig blowout and leak in the Gulf of Mexico but ended up deleting it.  Didn’t want to make some quick-to-the-draw, reactionary comments, which I sometimes do.  Well, which I always do although I try to keep them out of this blog.

I don’t want to comment on the impact to the wildlife or the habitat of the affected area, which will be immense.  Don’t want to comment on the silence of those have been chanting “Drill, Baby, Drill!”  or those who are always saying goverment regulation is stifling private enterprise.  Or those, like Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu who as recently as last month, claimed the risk and effect of such an event as minimal.  Don’t want to comment on the economic impact to the fishing and tourism industry of the area.  Or the economic impact to our economy in general.

You’ll be hearing about these from other sources…

My only comment is to ask if perhaps we should use this as catalyst to move more quickly into alternative energies.  While there are limitations and dangers, could a disaster anywhere near this serious ever happen in the solar or wind industry?  Are there any circumstances where anything even remotely close to this could happen in these industries?

This may be the sign that we really need to act now to move away from our addiction to oil and gas. This need for this energy is causing us to risk more and more, in economic and environmental terms,  in order to satisfy it.  And if we can’t change our behavior, the cost of this disaster will seem tiny to what may come next…

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There’s new exhibit that opens at the West End Gallery in Corning next week.  It’s titled The Process- Start to Finish and features the gallery’s roster of artists showing sketches and studies for finished pieces of work.  The idea is to give the viewer a better understanding of how a piece of art evolves through the process. 

Now, I never really do studies and very little sketching for my paintings so this didn’t really seem like a show fitted to my process.  But I remembered that a couple of years ago, at a point when I was floundering a bit and somewhat lost direction, I did a series of sketches (actually, I call them doodles) that eventually evolved into my Archaeology series.

Archaeology: New Day

Done on 12″ by 24″ sheets of watercolor paper with a finepoint Sharpie marker, which I liked to use because it forced bold lines and better simulated the way I used a brush as a drawing device when I painted.   They were basically exercises where I would start at any given point on the sheet with a mark and simply fill the space with shapes and lines.  Kind of  a stream of consciousness thing.  There was no intent .  I was just trying to find something that would fire my then faltering imagination. 

I did this for about a week, filling a number of these sheets until I began to realize that this sketching  process could lend itself well to a different type of painting for me.  One that combined my typical landscapes and iconography with areas of this intuitive doodling.  Thus came the Archaeology series.

So I guess I do have a sketch of sorts for this show.  The piece shown here, Archaeology: New Day, was one of the first in the series.  You can see this by way the underground elements are formed in the same marker-like manner as the sketches as opposed to later pieces in the series where each element is painted as though it is almost floating in an underground basin.  This piece, which remains a personal favorite,  will be at the West End for the show. 

This exhibit opens May 7.

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Names From the Past

I’ve written in the past about my attraction to cemeteries and walking around them, reading the names on the stones and trying to form an idea of the lives of the people behind them.  I suppose that’s one of the attractions I find in searching in genealogy as well– finding interesting names and wondering about their owners.

There are always the typical biblical names.  In my family lines there are plenty of Ezekiels, Jedidiahs, Zachariahs, Zephaniahs and Abners.  Even a few Abels.  No Cains thus far.

Some sound biblical and may well be.  Names like Jerusha, Philena, Sylvanus, Mehitabel and Uzel.

There are names of virtues.  Names like Thankful, Temperance and Mercy.  My favorite of this sort is Blessed. 

Some are named after presidents or other famous people.  We have a Ulysses Grant and a Christopher Columbus in our family.

Some just sound neat off the tongue.  Names like Ichabod and Lulu and Lola.  Freelove.  That one always make me think of what it represented in the 1790’s when it was the first name of an ancestor.

My wife has some great names in her lines.  Her grandmother was Carmelita Badger which simply evokes a femme fatale in pulp fiction.  Then there’s one of the saddest names I came across:  Lowly Lola Foote.  I can’t really tell how people reacted to their given names in the the early 1800’s when Lowly Lola lived or if there is any cultural significance in  the name but I know I feel almost profound sadness whenever I come across that name.

So, I’ll continue to stroll through time, perusing names and wondering about how their owners carried them through their lives.  Did their titles fit?

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I’m not sure if Strange Affair is going to be the title of this piece.  I’ve had this painting, an 8″ by 18″  image on paper, done for several weeks now and I’ve been waiting for a title to come.  Something that speaks of it’s starkness of detail and stillness.

Then I heard a version of a Richard Thompson song, Strange Affair, sung by June Tabor accompanied by Martin Simpson on the guitar, and this piece came to mind.  It was as though the character in the painting might very well be playing this very song.  Really evocative.

You be the judge…

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As I walked in semi-darkness down the driveway this morning, I began to think about what I wanted for my work today.  I do that sometimes.  I don’t know if it’s a matter of starting the new week with a new focus or if there’s a part of me that is still surprised at the fact I paint for a living.  Still needs reassurance that my work has meaning in some small way.

But what I decided I wanted to do with my work at this point is to appeal to a better instinct that I believe is common across all human barriers.  That is to say, create work that has universal themes and creates commonality rather than division.  This world is so so pulled apart by divisions in race, religion and ideology that we seem to lose sight of our commonality.

That’s where art, at it’s best, has a part to play.  It can transcend language and cultural differences, can reveal emotions and feelings that are basal to us all as humans. It is then all inclusive and allows anyone from anywhere to sense something intangible yet recognizable as being part of them. 

Is that too much to ask?  Too lofty a goal?  It may be. And perhaps by even acknowledging it, it becomes unobtainable, lost in efforts that become unnatural and forced.  Perhaps.   But why not aim higher?  Why not aspire to have your work reach it’s highest purpose?

Shouldn’t we hope that for everything we attempt?  For every aspect of our lives?

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Reminder-  Name This Painting!  Contest Continues–

 

Just a reminder that the annual Name This Painting! Contest is still open to entries until May 16th.  It’s a simple contest so if you’d like to win a set of limited edition prints, check out the details by clicking on the painting to the right and start thinking of a fitting title. 

Good luck!

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I Am Not Alone

The night, it is deserted
from the mountains to the sea.
But I, the one who rocks you,
I am not alone!

The sky, it is deserted
for the moon falls to the sea.
But I, the one who holds you,
I am not alone !

The world, it is deserted.
All flesh is sad you see.
But I, the one who hugs you,
I am not alone!

     –Gabriela Mistral

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Another newer piece.  This smaller painting, a little over 5″ by 10″ on paper, is painted in the style of my earlier work.  More subtle. More restrained.  Simpler compositions and more space creating a greater coolness and airiness. 

To me, the feeling of solitude.

I came across this poem by the great Chilean poetess and Nobel Prize winner, Gabriela Mistral,  and felt it fit this piece, and many others of mine, very well.  The sense of being alone yet not lonely is an important element in the way I look at my work and one that I sometimes struggle with for fear that it may alienate some who see being alone as only loneliness and not solitude. An important distinction and one that is often misunderstood. 

But we who relish our solitary time understand.

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Bea Arthur as the original Lucy Brown

It’s one of those cases of one thing reminding you of something else.  I heard Bobby Darin’s swinging version of Mack the Knife yesterday and there’s a line that ends with and Lucy Brown.  One of those parts of a song that your mind is somehow attuned to and always hears whenever the song is played.

Anyway, it immediately reminded me of  seeing Bea Arthur, of Maude and Golden Girls fame, a number of years back in a one-woman show on Broadway of personal stories and song.   Going in, I knew only a little of her career outside the TV roles so I didn’t have high expectations.  I was pleasantly surprised by a great show.

 I didn’t know much of her Broadway career and didn’t know she originated the role of Lucy Brown in the original Broadway version of The Threepenny Opera back in the ’50’s.  She told several great tales about the show and then did a stirring version of the The Pirate Jenny.

I’m embarassed to say that I didn’t know much about The Threepenny Opera or Brecht or Kurt Weill.  Had never heard the The Pirate Jenny and it’s story of a cleaning woman who daydreams of rising from her life of powerless drudgery to become a powerful and cruel pirate.  Great song with great imagery and Bea Arthur’s version was wonderful.  Angry.  You could feel her desire for retribution for every time she was wronged by those who simply overlooked her and  took her for granted.  It was a very powerful song and one that became and remains a personal favorite.

Anyway, here’s a very good version of The Pirate Jenny from singer Anne Kerry Ford:

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