Archive for October, 2012

It’s been hard to not watch the coming of  Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath over the last few days.  Locally, we pretty much dodged the worst of the storm, mainly suffering through some strong winds though not as damaging as we had feared.  But it’s been sad to see how Sandy has affected the coast here in the Northeast.  I know that it doesn’t in any way rival the devastation of Katrina, thankfully, but its been hard to see how much damage has been inflicted on regions that are so familiar.  Maybe it is the fact that this type of destruction is so uncommon in these areas that makes it so startling.  I don’t know.  Time will soon tell if this is indeed  the result of climate change  and unusual storms like Sandy will become more and more common.  Our Governor Cuomo here in NY commented recently about how 100 year floods now seem to come every 2 years.

Ah, the wrath of Mother Earth.

Here’s a little music  that warns about taking our relationship with Mother Earth too lightly.  First recorded by cult rockers Sparks in their Glam phase in the 70’s, Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth, is covered here by my favorite, Neko Case.

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This is  a very famous photo by Edward Weston of a nautilus shell that is considered one of the jumping off points for the Modernist movement in art back in the first quarter of the 20th century and one of the great photos of all time, selling a few years back at auction for over a million dollars.  It’s a beautiful and simple image that transcends itself.  I came across it recently along with a mention as to how it came about  when  Weston, on a trip to California,  encountered a painter whose work, particularly in some close up pieces of shell, greatly stimulated him.  Her name was Henrietta Shore.

It was not a name I had encountered  and doing a quick Google search came across a number of striking images that reminded me of Georgia O’Keeffe.   It turns out that she was a contemporary of O’Keeffe and  it was said that Shore’s work had eclipsed O’Keeffe’s when they were exhibited together, something which happened a few times.  Shore also had an incredible painting pedigree, training with the likes of William Merritt Chase, Robert Henri and even John Singer Sargeant.  She had lived in London and New York before moving to California, settling in Carmel around 1930.  Once there, she didn’t show her work much outside of the Carmel/Monterey region  and never really gained the notoriety that came to O’Keeffe.  It was another one of those cases where I have come across amazing talents who have fallen off the wider map for some reason that remains a mystery to me.

There is great sensuality in her work, for instance the human-like twist and feel of her Cypress trees, that I found really appealing, something I try to work into my own paintings.  Looking at Weston’s body of work, I can see the similarity in how he portrayed many of his subjects, finding wonderful beauty in simple twists and curves.

I also liked that she stopped dating her paintings because she  didn’t want them categorized into time frames in her career because she viewed her work and her life as being part of a continuum  that transcended time.  Again, something I hope for in my own work.  How had Henrietta Shore escaped my notice for all these many years?

There’s not a lot of data out there about Shore, at least with a quick search.  She didn’t have a long list of exhibitions after the 30’s and those that she did have were in the Monterey area, so became a sort of regional painter which doesn’t take anything away from her great talent.  It only deprives the rest of us from finding her and finding something for ourselves in her work.  Thankfully, modern technology and the web allows us to stumble across such a wonderful painter long after she has faded from the national stage, even though her work will always live on in the continuum.  Just plain good stuff…


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I’ve been listening to and enjoying the music from the CD, Lowe Country, that I mentioned here a week or so back when I discovered that one of my paintings was featured on its cover.  The album features performers from the genres of Country and Americana music doing their interpretations of songs written by the great Nick Lowe.  I’ve been a big fan of Nick Lowe’s since the late 70’s since he was writing songs like Cruel To  Be Kind and (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding, the latter  famously covered by Elvis Costello.  Lowe’s work with Rockpile also made a deep impression with me with  their album, Seconds of Pleasure, being one of my all-time favorites.   When I Write the Book from that album is a song that many people will recall.

For me, one of the standouts, among many,  from the Lowe Country album is a version of Lowe’s I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass  performed by Amanda Shires.  Her version pares down the original’s late 70’s arrangement and highlights the simple flow and beauty of the lyrics and is softened by the addition of her violin.  Just lovely stuff.  Give a listen and have a great weekend.

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While writing yesterday’s post on Adolphe Valette, I came across a photo that stopped me in my tracks.  It was a photo by early British photographer Robert Howlett of a man in stovepipe hat and dress of the 1850’s  standing in front of an immense spool of chain comprised of links that were a couple of feet in length.  The man’s hands were jammed in his pockets and a cigar jutted from the corner of his mouth as he leaned in a jaunty manner against the chain.  This man had confidence. And rightfully so.

His name was Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a name that I was sure I hadn’t heard before because I would certainly have remembered it.  But my ignorance of the name couldn’t hide the achievements of the man.  Born in 1806, Brunel was a n engineer who designed and built some of the great structures and projects of his age.  He designed and built numerous bridges and tunnels, built and innovated  railroads and engineered some of the greatest ships of that era.  The photo above is of him in front of the launching chains for the ship The Great Eastern.   At first named Leviathan, The Great Eastern was  the biggest of its time, over 700′ in length and  with a capacity of over 4000 passengers.  Although a commercial failure as a passenger ship after its launch in 1860, it was used for laying trans-Atlantic cables and remained the largest sea-going vessel for over 40 years.  The great photo below, also by Robert Howlett, is a wide shot of the Great Eastern being built.

I think that both of these photos are remarkable images, perfect documents of the scale and power of the Industrial Age.  The cocky confidence of Brunel as he stands dwarfed by the great chains and the huge ship towering above the ant-like workers represent to me our ability to do great things.  Big things.  To see possibility and find solutions to the hurdles that stand between us and that possibility.  It’s a quality that I sometimes feel is lacking today for most of us.  We could all use a little of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s vision and confidence.

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Adolph Valette- Albert Square 1910

I’m always interested in how artists of all kinds use their influences, about they evolve their own style from the sources of their inspiration.  Back in August, I wrote here about the British painter L.S. Lowry, the man best known for his matchstick men figures and the urban landscapes of his native Manchester.  He is generally considered a self-taught painter despite the many years he spent taking evening classes at the Manchester Municipal School of Art while he worked his days as a rent collector. It’s even more surprising that the critics still attach this self-taught tag to Lowry once you begin to look at the work of the primary influence on him, Adolphe Valette.   In looking at Valette’s paintings, you can see how Valette’s style and eye had a tremendous influence on Lowry.

Valette was a Frenchman who arrived in England in 1904, carrying with him the influence of the Impressionist movement that was in full bloom in France at the time.  He eventually ended up in the north of England, to Manchester, a city at the center of the British industrial revolution.  It’s smoke-filled and foggy landscape provided the perfect inspiration for the hazy and  evocative paintings of Valette and his student, Lowry.  Valette taught for many years there until returning to France in 1928, where he died in 1942 at the age 0f 66.

I’m  surprised that Valette didn’t gain more notoriety for his work , that his name and work wasn’t well known before Lowry’s popularity brought him to light.  The images that I can find are beautiful and strong, rivaling much of the work of his better known Impressionist contemporaries.  I suppose that painting and showing in Manchester in the early 1900’s didn’t provide much access to the salons and museums of the greater art world.  At least Lowry’s recognition has pulled him into the present, giving his influential works greater influence and making them the subject of study.

As it should be.



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After the Show

Well, the show, Inward Bound,  opened at the Kada Gallery  this past Saturday evening and , despite the rain that pelted Erie, some folks turned out.  Many thanks to all of those who showed up and to Kathy and Joe DeAngelo for the wonderful job they have done once again.  Kathy always hangs the work with such thought that each painting is shown to its very best advantage,  really making the group of paintings glow as a whole in the gallery.

The evening began with a gallery talk that kicked off the opening reception and my performance was a bit rocky, especially at the beginning.  I’ve done dozens of these talks over the years but I was somehow more nervous at the beginning of this talk than any other I can recall.  I don’t know why but it gave the talk a halting, stop-and-go feel that probably bothered me more than those in the audience who had not been to other talks.  As a result, I felt as though I missed touching on a number of points I had hoped to express.  I beat myself up a bit after the show for this but , in the grand scheme of things, my self-critique didn’t take away from  a lovely evening.

Again, many thanks to everyone who came out on Saturday.  It is most appreciated and it is always my pleasure to meet those who have found something to enjoy in my work.  I always come back to the studio inspired by some of the stories that are shared with me.  That’s one of the hidden perks of this job and one that might be my favorite. For that, I am truly thankful.

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The work has been done, the paintings delivered and hung  and all that has to be done is head out in a while for Erie for tonight’s opening reception for  Inward Bound, my new show at the Kada Gallery.  The opening begins at 6 PM with a short gallery talk which is the first that I’ve ever given at the Kada.  We have talked about doing a talk there for several years but it never came about so when we were planning this year’s show we decided to add a  talk at the beginning, one where I would give a brief overview of my career and work with the question-and-answer period that would normally follow flowing into the reception.  So, if you’re somewhere around Erie tonight , please stop in at the Kada Gallery and join in.  I look forward to seeing you there.

The painting shown here is Home and Heart, a 24″ by 30″ canvas that is part of the show.

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As this week winds down toward the opening  of my show Saturday night at the Kada Gallery in Erie, I am reminded of how I first came to show my work there.  I’ve been working with owners Kathy and Joe DeAngelo  for well over 16 years now meaning that they have seen my work evolve from the very first incarnations.  They have offered nothing but encouragement over the years, always eager to see any new developments.  Just good people.  But I probably would not have found them had it not been for a chance meeting that would lead me to them.  It was a bit of true serendipity.   I wrote about  this fortunate event on this blog  back in August of 2009 in a post that featured a painting, Interloper [shown here],  from about the time I first encountered the folks at the Kada. 

It’s not my best writing but here’s how I came to show at the Kada Gallery:

It was in  late summer of 1995 and I had been showing at the West End Gallery for several months which was my first experience exhibiting in public.  I was still waiting tables at the local Perkins Family Restaurant full-time, working on building our house and painting every other available minute.  Man, I had a lot more energy then!  I still had no idea that I would or could have a real career as a painter.  My work at that time was very small in size for the most part and was just starting to gain some notice locally but I really didn’t know if it would ever transfer outside our local area.

One Saturday morning, I was at my job waiting tables when a family with a daughter about 10 or 11 years old sat in my station.  They were very nice, smiling and talkative.  Typical chit-chat.  I took their order and that was that.  After a bit, as they were eating I was going through my station checking on each party and I stopped at their table.

The daughter, Hillary,  asked, “Are you a painter?”

I was a little taken aback by the question.  Nothing was said about painting or art, to them or any of my other tables and that was the last thing on my mind at the moment.

“Well, yeah. I am.”

“My mother said you were.  She said that anyone that happy doing their job had to be a painter.”

I just stood there with nothing to say.  How do you respond to that?

It turned out that the mother was a painter as well who lived, for the time being, in our area.  Her name was Suzi Druley and she was on their way out to a gallery that sold a lot of her work in Erie, Pennsylvania.  They had me run out to their vehicle to take a look at her work, which was very interesting, particularly for our area.  It had a sort of Southwestern/Native American feel with with vivid, deep colors and a lot of symbology.  Turns out she was from Texas originally and they had moved here for a job her husband had taken.  She asked what my work was like, saying she would like to see it.

A few weeks passed and I decided to take her up on her offer and went out to their home.  I took photos and some pieces and she really seemed excited by the work.  She said I should show the work to Kathy at the Kada, that she would really like it.

Long story short, she called Kathy and a visit was arranged.  I hauled my bits of paint and paper out there and I’ve been showing with them for going on 14 years.

I’m glad I was in a good mood that Saturday morning at Perkins- I most certainly would not have found made my way to the Kada Gallery without Suzi’s simple observation that I must be a painter.


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Really busy this morning, trying to wrap up some things here in the studio before my show at the Kada Gallery, Inward Bound,  that opens this coming Saturday evening with a reception that begins at 6 PM with a short gallery talk and runs until 9 PM.  Normally, the week before the Kada show is kind of easy in the studio as it’s the last show of  my year but this year is a bit different as I have one more big event after this.  As a result, my work schedule is a bit more full than it normally would be.  But this is actually a good thing in that it allows me to focus on things other than the upcoming opening and the angst that always accompanies it.

It seems to be working as I don’t feel nearly as anxious as I often do a day or so before the opening.  Maybe it’s the distraction of the work I’ have in front of me or maybe it’s the confidence I have in the strength of the work in this show.  I think this is a really strong group of work, including the piece shown above,  Cool and Free,  and  I know that it will hang beautifully in the gallery.  I feel as though I’ve done my best and I’ve learned through the 35 or so solo shows that I’ve done over the years that  no amount of anxiety will change that.  So, I put thoughts of the show out of my mind and get back to work.

Here’s a little bit of music to work by.  It’s Uncle Tupelo’s cover of  Give Back the Key to My Heart, which was originally recorded by Texas legends The Sir Douglas Quintet featuring Doug Sahm, who sings on this track.  Younger readers probably have no idea who Doug Sahm is but his She’s About a Mover will most likely ring a bell with most older readers.

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I am a bit busy  and wasn’t planning on writing this morning but wanted to pass on a link to a blogpost from Linda Leinen, who recently submitted the winning title, Shedding Daylight,  for this year’s Name That Painting! contest.  In her blog, The Task At Hand, Linda talks at first about my work then segues into how she came to the title, weaving a wonderful essay on how the symbolism of the painting fit so well with her mother’s attitude as her life neared its end .  It’s a beautifully written post that gives both the title and the painting an added layer of depth that I never anticipated.

Thank you again for the wonderful title, Linda, and for this lovely essay.  It is most appreciated.

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