Archive for August, 2011

I can’t say I’m a fan of Ted Nugent in any way.  His music certainly has seldom excited me (Cat Scratch Fever? Gimme a break!) and his act as the ultra-conservative bowhunting badboy dressed in camo is just aggravating.  But he has his fans.  Over the years I have locally encountered graffiti of his name scrawled on buildings, overpasses and any other sort of public space you can think of.  Shown here is a painting by one of my favorites, Dave Higgins, called, of course, Ted Nugent which features the name emblazoned on an old garage.  There was a reservoir overflow on the highway near Corning that had the name in huge letters across it for quite some time until it was finally painted over.

I don’t know if it was the same guy in every instance who sprayed the name or if a cult of sorts has formed that inexplicably worship the aging rocker.  I found one example of this graffiti online from a site that concerns itself with the canal towpaths of England so perhaps this is not as local as I had thought.

There was one Ted Nugent song that I did like, from his early days with the Detroit based Amboy Dukes when he was barely out of high school in the 60’s.  The song is The Journey to the Center of the Mind.  With it’s thinly veiled drug references ( Nugent says he never knew what the song was about!)  it’s the sort of song that could be used as one of those songs used in a movie to define the timeframe for the scene in which it’s used.  I like this video and the lead singer’s British Invasion influenced garb.  Give a listen before you go spray Ted Nugent on the side of your local Wegman’s.



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At First, Fury

I am still looking for a title for this new painting,  a piece that is about 8″ by 26″on paper.  It’s done in the same tones as my recent interior pieces, mainly a coppery sepia with small bits of color.  The color ( or lack of  color) of this piece sets the tone and gives it the sense of drama that the scene suggests. 

I am, of course, focused on the tree and its motion as I try to find that part of the painting that will reveal this piece’s title.  I see a sort of defiance in the bend of the tree trunk and the way the limbs and leaves respond to and resist the wind that buffets the landscape.  I don’t know if the tree is viewing the sun that breaks through the clouds as a savior to take away the strain of this wind or if it is railing against the sun, seeing it as a vengeful power who allows such suffering.  There is a sort of fury implied here, at least in the way I see it.

I step back and try to see it in a different way, perhaps a gentler,  more placid light,  but my mind only sees it in that way now, full of fury.  Fuuny how the mind grabs onto one aspect and refuses to let loose of it.   But I’m hesitant to fully follow that interpretation without a bit more time to perhaps see this painting in a diiferent light with a different feel.  I just think there’s more to it than I’m seeing at first blush.

I’m pleased that this piece raises this ambiguity in myself, that it sparks conflicting emotions.  That suggests that there’s something beyond what I might have tried to consciously insert in it, that it has that certain something that I could never produce with intent.  All I could hope for my work.

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The Longshoreman Philosopher

Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many.  Hatred, malice, rudeness, intolerance and suspicion are the fruits of weakness.

–Eric Hoffer  ( The Ordeal of Courage  1963)


Read the above quote and was captovated by the idea behind it and tried to fit its content into what I observe.  There was a certain resonation and I wanted to know more about its writer, Eric Hoffer.  I am ashamed to say I knew nothing of his life or his work, this man who died in 1983 known as the longshoreman philosopher.  But thanks to the internet, there is a wide array of available resources including several sites who focus solely on the work of Hoffer.  Below is the short bio from the website of The Eric Hoffer Project:

Former migratory worker and longshoreman, Eric Hoffer burst on the scene in 1951 with his irreplaceable tome, The True Believer, and assured his place among the most important thinkers of the twentieth century. Nine books later, Hoffer remains a vital figure with his cogent insights to the nature of mass movements and the essence of humankind.

Of his early life, Hoffer has written: “I had no schooling. I was practically blind up to the age of fifteen. When my eyesight came back, I was seized with an enormous hunger for the printed word. I read indiscriminately everything within reach—English and German.

“When my father (a cabinetmaker) died, I realized that I would have to fend for myself. I knew several things: One, that I didn’t want to work in a factory; two, that I couldn’t stand being dependent on the good graces of a boss; three, that I was going to stay poor; four, that I had to get out of New York. Logic told me that California was the poor man’s country.”

Through ten years as a migratory worker and as a gold-miner around Nevada City, Hoffer labored hard but continued to read and write during the years of the Great Depression. The Okies and the Arkies were the “new pioneers,” and Hoffer was one of them. He had library cards in a dozen towns along the railroad, and when he could afford it, he took a room near a library for concentrated thinking and writing.

In 1943, Hoffer chose the longshoreman’s life and settled in California. Eventually, he worked three days each week and spent one day as “research professor” at the University of California in Berkeley. In 1964, he was the subject of twelve half-hour programs on national television. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983.

“America meant freedom and what is freedom? To Hoffer it is the capacity to feel like oneself. He felt like Eric Hoffer; sometimes like Eric Hoffer, working man. It could be said, I believe, that he as the first important American writer, working class born, who remained working class-in his habits, associations, environment. I cannot think of another. Therefore, he was a national resource. The only one of its kind in the nation’s possession.” – Eric Sevareid, from his dedication speech to Eric Hoffer, San Francisco, CA, September 17, 1985

I think I have found some new reading material for the winter…

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You Can’t Go Back

While following the path of Hurricane Irene as she sweeps up the East Coast ( best wishes to my friends in those areas affected by the storm– hope everyone is safe and sound) I came across Ron Paul’s statement about FEMA’s response to the storm, saying that the federal response was unnecessary, that the states and local authoriites should be able to take care of it for themselves. 

“We should be like 1900…” he stated.

This seems to be the refrain and goal of the smaller government set of which Paul, a government official since 1978, is part.  I understand the desire to return to a state of self-sufficiency as an individual but to return to 1900 is a ridiculous goal for any political movement hoping to govern this country in 2010.  If you’ve ever browsed the newspapers of that time you’ll recognize that the time was not idyllic in any sense of the word.  Diseases we consider benign today were rampant and deadly.  The same problems we decry today were still there and their effects were sometimes greater dues to a lack of regulation. 

Take for instance fires.  Building codes (yes, evil government intervention)  were lax at best in most areas and it wasn’t unusual for entire sections of towns to burn to the ground.  The town of Forestport in the southern part of the Adirondacks was a boon time due to the lumbering there in the 1890’s and two times within five years it had catastrophic fires that destoyed its entire downtown section.

There was no government tracking the weather and warning the population in 1900 either.  Perhaps Paul might like to at least maintain this part of 2010 when he returns to 1900 when thousands ( estimates run from 8-12 thousand) were killed in the great hurricane of that year that hit Galveston, in his district.

It was not a perfect time in any way but the biggest difference between then and now is that we as a nation were still an agricultural society then.  The US population in 1900 was just under 76 million ( less than a 1/4 of today’s population) and the farm population was around a whopping 29 million which means that almost 40% of our population lived on farms. 4 out of 10 Americans lived on a farm.  Self-sufficiency was part of who we were at that time.  Farmers accounted for 38% of our labor force.  By 1990, the US farm population had dropped to 2.9 million, about 10% of what is was in 1900!  It only accounted for 2.6 of our labor force in 1990 and in 2010 farmers are less than 1% of our work force. 

We have become less and less self-sufficient as individuals and more and more interconnected to the infrastructure.  I am not decrying this– it’s just a fact.  That being the case,we can not simply adopt the same form of governance that ruled a more rural and certainly imperfect time such as 1900.  It’s a simplistic call to arms by pols such as Paul that appeals to those who foolhardily see themselves as not being connected to the great web of commerce and government of which we are all part, like it or not.  We live in 2010 not 1900 and that time is thankfully long gone.  God help us all if it ever comes back around.

Sorry for the Sunday morning vent.  Have a great day!

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4 Windows

I like to do pieces containing multiple images periodically.  I like the repetition of form and the way the individual pieces play off each other, forming a new rhythm that is new and different.  This is one of those pieces, called 4 Windows.  It is built from four individual  5″ square paintings, each very similar in content and color.

  Each is an interior scene with a window with exterior scene, a red chair and the corner showing of a piece of artwork hanging on the wall.  There are small differences in each piece.  One has a table’s edge appearing. The scenes in the windows have differing elements– two have red trees with banded fields and the others have suns and bony tree trunks.  The red chair is shown with only the two rungs of its back in one piece.

The way the individual pieces are placed within this also has an effect on the overall feel of the whole.  I moved them around into every possible combination until I came to this arrangement which creates  the same sense of balance I look for in individual pieces.  A sense of solidness.

I really like the sense of contemplation in these four windows, as though it reflects four separate individuals mulling similar thoughts even though they are not connected.  That, combined with the nostalgic feel of the sepiatone walls, makes these pieces feel full in undirected emotional content.  By that I mean, it doesn’t overtly describe what that emotion should be that is being created. 

 That comes from the individual experience of the viewer.


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Cool, wet Thursday morning and I’m ready to get to work a little before 7 AM,  I’m in the midst of several paintings and am thinking about where they’re headed, how they’ll finish.  Iam pretty focused this morning and don’t feel like taking the time away from this sometimes elusive drive but want to at least put something up on the blog.  I’ve been at this for almost three years and it has become a part of my morning ritual to the point that when I don’t post something I feel as though I am shirking my responsibility.  Or at least straying away from the discipline that this requires, which is part of the attraction of doing this. 

There’s something gratifying at doing something every day, even something as sometimes trivial  as this blog.  The idea of doing a small task each day and seeing it build becomes almost obsessive for me, something that I very seldom can do in other aspects of my life.  Maybe I’m hoping this discipline will spill over into those other parts.  Time will tell.

Time is the revelator.

Which brings me to one of my favorites, Gillian Welch, who has a recently released CD called The Harrow & The Harvest .  Here’s a taste from an appearance on Conan.

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Autumn Sparse

This is a  piece I recently completed, part of a series of  small paintings (this one is only 4″ square) of interiors with windows.  There’s something in the geometry of these pieces, in the way the simple elements react with each other in the available space that really attracts me. 

There’s also a very contemplative feel inherent in these scenes.  There seems to be a direct reaction or at least a relationship to the outside scene by the objects inside, as though they somehow relate to their experience.  I think this gives these pieces a certain amount of self-propelling life, allowing them to say more than the individual elements could when taken alone.

I haven’t titled this piece yet but the term Autumn Sparse came to mind.  There’s a real spare quality in both the insterior and exterior scenes here that reminds me of autumn, both the season and that of  the middle-age period of humans.  The leaves have fallen from the trees and there’s a cool air feel in the open window and clean lines of the interior.  A time to brace  for coming winter…

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