Archive for September, 2010

Old Stuff

At the gallery talk I gave a few weeks back at the Principle Gallery, I referenced my early work, before the Red Tree emerged in my work and the landscapes were less centered on a central figure.  Whenever I talk about how the work evolved over the years I always turn and look at the paintings of mine that are hanging and try to find something that has some sort of equivalency and never really see anything there that fits the bill. 

I was reminded of this yesterday when I was going through some old work on the computer and came across this scan of a small piece from about 15 years back.  It’s about 4″ by 5″  on a piece of illustration board and is very emblematic of the work I was trying to produce at the time.  It was all about blocks of color and their relationship to one another and how atmosphere and feeling  was created by them.  They were extremely quiet, almost mute.  Stoic.

There is always a part of me that wonders, when seeing examples of this early work, what my work would be now if I had chosen to stay in that mode of expression, if I had not been sparked by the energy of the red tree.  Would the work have grown in a different way, with a different feel and appearance? 

 Perhaps it’s not wise to ask such questions.  I suppose we are what we are at this point in time and to reflect back with such questions serves no purpose. 

But looking at this work, I can see the beginnings of what has become my work.  I see the point where I was at that time in the progression of how I mix colors and how the paint is applied.  I can see the things in this piece that would spark other pieces which would contribute to the work’s evolution.  That’s one of the aspects of painting I seldom talk about – how work begets work, how each piece is a step forward in the evolution of a body of work.  It’s a process of constant change and adjustment, always moving hopefully ahead.

Maybe that’s the purpose in looking back on earlier work- to see if one has truly changed or grown.

I don’t know…

Read Full Post »

There was a terrorist threat in Paris yesterday with a bomb scare at the Eiffel Tower.  Any thought of the Eiffel Tower for me always triggers memories of scenes from one of my favorite movies, Ninotchka.  It is a film from that legendary year in moviemaking, 1939, starring Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas and a wonderful cast of supporting character actors.

Ninotchka (Garbo) is a Soviet civil servant sent to Paris to expedite the sale of Russian royal jewels confiscated in the Communist Revolution, which has been held up by the three Soviet agents sent there previously who will do anything to slow the process so that they can further enjoy the luxuries and pleasures of Paris.  Ninotchka is a no-nonsense, stern woman who is meticulous in detail.  In Paris, she encounters and falls in love with Douglas before realizing he is the agent for the Russian countess whose jewels they are attempting to sell. 

 That’s all I will say except that it is a charming movie with wonderful lines  and performances.  If you’ve never seen Garbo, this is a great place to start.  She was a mega-star at the time and to see this, one understands why.  She is radiant on the screen.  Melvyn Douglas gives a great comic performance as do  the three actors portraying the bumbling agents (Sig Ruman, Felix Bressart and Alexander Granach.)

Just great moviemaking from director Ernst Lubitsch and writer Billy Wilder.  Technically, several of the scenes are one-shots, meaning that there are no editing cuts in the scenes and that the whole scene is shot with one camera.  It’s a small detail but it adds a lot to the appearance of the film and the feeling of continuity and unity throughout.  It’s one of those films, like Casablanca, that I can watch at anytime from any point in the film.  Good stuff.

Anyway, that is my trigger memory whenever I hear mention of the Eiffel Tower.  Here’s a taste of Ninotchka:

Read Full Post »

Every Man a King

One’s only rival is one’s own potentialities. One’s only failure is failing to live up to one’s own possibilities. In this sense, every man can be a king, and must therefore be treated like a king.

——-Abraham Maslow


I really like this quote from Maslow, who was the prime mover behind humanistic psychology before his death in 1970.  His work centered on self-actualization, which is based on  the individual reaching his own personal potential for satisfaction.  One’s own potential creates its own set of goals which are not dependent on anyone else’s goals or expectations.  In this mindset, the most humble of us can be as satisfied with their lot in life as the most powerful or successful in our society.  Every man is a king.

This seems to be a concept that is lacking in our society at this point and one that contributes greatly to our problems.  We base success and failure not on our own internal expectations and potentials but on a set that is based on outside influences.  We compare everything in our life to those of someone else.  Instead of asking if what we have satisfies our needs and desires we ask how it compares to our friends or colleagues.  Are we doing better than them?  Is what we have better than what they have?  Are we making more money than them? 

 It’s a sad commentary that we think our own happiness is based on surpassing someone else in material means.  I wrote a while ago about the hedge-fund trader who said that the tens of millions he had made were not enough because someone else is making more than him.  Or the whining well-to-do’s that claim they are not doing well enough because someone else is making 10 times their income and has a bigger home.  These are people who have lost their center, their capacity for happiness.  They do not appreciate the bounty of their lives, do not see that satisfaction is within reach.

I don’t know how things can change from this culture of attainment.  It would be nice if Maslow’s theories could resurface and become epidemic throughout our society but they make a fragile structure before the force of greed and selfishness.

For me, I will focus on who I am and my own level of satisfaction.  Not on what I am not or what you have.  If I can do that, peace and happiness are mine and I will indeed feel as a king.


Just a quick addenda:  I realize that I usurped Huey Long’s catchphrase for this post and that it has nothing to do with the populist movement that Long started.  They had some really interesting concepts and might have been a powerful force in our country.  However, greed and demagoguery, as is usually the case, did them in.  Great catchphrase though!

Read Full Post »

Monday morning and the world is still spinning, at least it seems to be there outside my windows. 

Last week on CBS Sunday Morning, there was a segment with Ben Stein doing a monologue with him bemoaning the fact that though he is in the highest tax-bracket  he is not rich and that he feels he is being punished for being successful by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire or by letting the cuts continue for only those making less than $250,000 per year.  It’s nagged at me for the past week and I wanted to comment on this new surge in whining by those in higher tax brackets that seems to be popping up more and more these days. 

But this morning I find myself just tired of the whole thing.  There is just so much data out there to counter all this whining and doomsaying by those who say that a return to the tax rates of the 1990’s would be apocalyptic that it just seems like an exercise in futility.  I want  to point out an article from the NY Times this past weekend by Richard Thaler  and another article on Tax.com from David Cay Johnston that provide a lot of content about the negative effects on the economy from the actual Bush tax cuts.

But that’s it this morning.  I think I will stick with what I do, which is paint.  Just paint and let the world spin outside my window this morning. 

To that end, here’s a song called Favorite from one of my favorites, Neko Case.

Read Full Post »


I was looking for a small painting I had done a number of years ago to illustrate this post but came up empty in my search.  It was an image of a barn on fire in one of my landscapes.  A bit of an oddity for me but a striking image.  So, I decided to change my subject and in its place I chose this masterwork, The Burning of the House of Lord and Commons, from the great  19th century British painter JMW Turner.  To me, his work is so unlike anything of its time.  It is at its best when it is fluid and wild and free.

I looked at a lot of Turner when I was first starting to paint.  He single-handedly transfromed watercolor into an accepted artform and the tales of the extremes he went to with his media and paper to achieve the incredible effects in his watercolors inspired me.  His oil paintings were often done in washes of color that was absent in the more restrained and formal paintings of the era and seemed so forward thinking to me.  He was a leading edge of modern painting.

I don’t have a lot to say except that Turner remains a favorite.   I am humbled and inspired to want to be better whenever I see his work.

Read Full Post »

Strange Days Indeed 2005

I came across this piece while searching for images for the request mentioned in yesterday’s post.  It’s called Strange Days Indeed and is a small work on paper, measuring only 5″ by 7.5″, from 2005.  This painting always catches my eye.  The rhythm of the rolling fields flows so effortlessly into the blowing leaves of the red tree above that it makes the whole piece feel in motion.  It has a real ease about it that makes the sight of a blue sun in the sky seem almost natural.

When I looked at it yesterday, I wondered where it was now and how its owner looked at the painting.  Did they even see that blue sun and if so, how did their mind rationalize it, make it translate as normal?  Or did they see it and enjoy the oddity of it set against the scene below?  When I look at it now, even though I can see and recognize that the blue sun is out of the ordinary, it is indistinguishable in my mind from any other representation of a sun that I might incorporate in a painting.

For me, the strange thing is that others do as well.   But I wonder about this painting and its owner.  What is the primary thing they see when they look at it?

Read Full Post »

Summing Up

I had an inquiry yesterday from a museum, asking for more photos and information on my work in order to give them a well-rounded sense of my work.  So, I sat down and began going back through my work over the years, trying to determine how I might encapsulate what I do in a condensed manner that gives them a complete look and satisfies me.

I struggled with the task.  Choosing work that sums me up was difficult.  Can I sum up my work in one or two or twenty or a hundred images?  How do you define yourself at what you yourself consider a midpoint? 

For me, it all feels the same, as though it is part of a continuum.  I see differences through the years but I know that each painting was done with pretty much the same mindset and the same critical eye during the process which makes them equal in my mind which gives them the consistency for their audience that I seek.  Maybe it’s that word egalitarian coming up again, but I want  there to be no difference in the quality and emotional impact between the smallest, most affordable painting and the largest, more expensive work. 

And then there are the series I’ve done through the years.  Obviously, the ubiquitous Red Tree.  But there is also the Red Roofs.  Red Chairs.  Archaeology.  And many other less organized, recurrent groups of work featuring sailboats, cityscapes and small, lone figures.  Or the other figurative work featuring what I call the Outlaws or the early Exiles.  How many of these pieces fall into the category of rounding out an overview of the work?

How do you completely sum up yourself in the most condensed way?

 I had this come up a few years back in nother way.  After a very nice, well written article in the local newspaper, I was contacted by the producers of a national talk show set in NYC on one of the major news networks.  They had seen the article and the host felt I would be a perfect fit for the show which featured a panel of guests from various fields in a fast-paced, short sound bite-y format.  The host would shoot out a question and go quickly to a guest who would have 15 or 20 seconds to give a full answer. 

So, the producers interviewed me separartely then finished with about 20 minutes of the main producer pretending to be the host and throwing questions at me quickly. After we had been doing this for the 20 minutes, with her constantly urging me to be faster with my responses, I was pretty frustrated and finally asked her what she wanted from me.

She said she wanted to summarize what my career was about in 15 seconds. 

 That pretty much ended the interview and, needless to say, I didn’t go to NYC for the show.  I was actually relieved but it made me wonder how someone could adequately sum up themselves in such a short manner.  I still haven’t figured it out and I guess I’ll have to think about this some more.

Read Full Post »

Harvest Moon

Up very early this morning.  Sleep evades me and the light shining through the windows is like a rooster’s crowing, urging me to rise.  I stagger out the door into the cool air and head through the woods toward the studio in the speckled light cast by the moon.

The harvest moon. 

It shines bright as it heads on the downward side of its arc towards the western horizon.  A fairly rare occurrence, the full moon appearing on the autumnal equinox.  It’s shining on fall now.  Browns and grays will soon replace the greens and yellows of summer.

As I walk the narrow path in the still of the woods, there are patches of light and shadow that are cast in a pale blue.  It reminds me of the colors of some blue glass marbles I had as a child.  Cool and light-filled.  It takes the tiredness away and fills me with a wonderful calm.  The harvest moon’s light seems to wash away the worries and concerns that sometimes nag at the back of the mind.  Even if it’s only for a moment, it is transcendent.

Here’s a little Neil Young to fit the moment.

Read Full Post »

Page 10 of Walker's "Plan"

Oh, Wisconsin.

First, the Republican candidate for Governor, Scott Walker, recently released a 68-page plan for economic recovery in Wisconsin.

Impressive, huh?

Well, maybe not.  You see he released his in response to his Democratic opponent Tom Barrett’s 67-page plan, which was a serious outline to help jumpstart the struggling economy in Wisconsin.  So Walker outdid him with a stunning 68-page plan.  One page more–it must be better!

Unfortunately for the people of Wisconsin, Walker doesn’t take the problems of economic recovery there seriously and instead took this opportunity to act like a high school sophomore.  You see, his 68-page plan is done in a huge font that, when condensed to a typical font, actually covers less than 4 pages.  The plan is is full of slogans and fluff without any real depth of thought or planning.  Walker was more interested in acting like the class clown than a chief executive.  It is both idiotic and deceitful.   Apparently, that is what the folks in cities and towns of the Badger State want in theeir governor.  Walker is ahead of Barrett by 8 points.

Oh, Wisconsin.

And now there is the revealing of a plot involving the Wisconsin Republican Committee, the Koch Brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity and various Tea Party groups there to engage in the practice of voter caging in the upcoming elections.  Voter caging involves targeting minority and student voters– typically Democratic voters– in certain areas and challenging their residency eligibility at the polls on election day.  This forces the voter to then submit a provisional ballot which requires follow-up by the voter on the day after  the election.  It provides a false barrier that the voter must go over in order for their vote to be counted and as a result, many of the votes would go uncast.  There is an on-going investigation into this episode.

Funny how the Tea Party which claims the Constitution (well, their interpretation of it) is the basis for their whole movement would try to deny and steal the right to vote of the citizens of Wisconsin.  Sounds very un-American to me.  Sounds like the oposite of freedom and liberty.

Oh, Wisconsin.  I don’t mean to pick on your state.  I know your situation is no different than most states in the country.  It’s just your’s seems so typical of what is happening all over the country.  Simpletons with nothing more than talking points, populist rhetoric and little substance leading in the polls.  People like the Koch’s who manipulate the population like pawns on a chessboard and when that doesn’t seem enough, seek to steal the rights of those who might oppose them.

Let’s wake up, folks.  Democracy is not a spectator sport.  Put down your gadgets and toys and pay attention for once.  There is a lot at stake here and you need to be part of the process.

Read Full Post »

Show Date Change

The best laid schemes of Mice and Men
oft go awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

—Robert Burns


I decided to go with the less Scottish version of this verse.  Trying to decipher “gang aft agley” (which is shown here as “oft go awry“) into something coherent this early in the morning just seemed cruel.  But the verse is here to remind us that plans often change desspite our best efforts and intentions.

We had originally planned the show, Toward Possibility, at the Kada Gallery in Erie, Pennsylvania for October 23 but found that there was a very big event at a local museum that would be in direct conflict.  So, at almost the last minute, we switched it to the 16th.  Unfortunately, over the weekend we discovered there were other unforseen conflicts that made the doing the show at that date very difficult.

So, we put our heads together and have settled on a final show date for the Kada show:  November 6.  It’s also a Saturday opening starting at 7 PM.

For me, it’s not a problem to switch the show date to a later date.  It gives me extra time to fine tune the details of the work and possibly have new pieces that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.  The earlier date had me hustling around to meet the deadline.  On the other hand, I feel this is a really strong group of work and  would like to have it in front of people as soon as possible.  But the extra time is good and I feel very comfortable with date of November 6.

So, if you have any plans for seeing this show, make a note of the date change.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: