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Archive for October, 2015

Monster Movie MatineeThis is a repost of one of my more popular posts.  I still get people contacting me who have come across this and have memories of Monster Movie Matinee, the Syracuse-based show that ran for many years at 1 PM on Saturdays.  In the years since this ran back in 2009, a documentary has been made which chronicles the show and its effect on the many kids who found themselves glued to the couch watching classic (and not so classic) horror films.  More clips and photos have come to light including the intro at the bottom.  If you are interested in the documentary you can get more info at its Facebook page, Monster Mansion Memories.

Hope you have a very scary Halloween! Or not– it’s not necessarily a holiday suited to everybody’s taste.

Monster Movie Matinee 1With Halloween falling on a Saturday this year, my mind switches back to past Halloweens and all the things that go with them.  Part of my normal Saturday routine growing up was to be in front of the TV at 1 o’clock to watch Monster Movie Matinee, a show out of Syracuse that ran for a couple of decades and showed classic ( and not so classic, as the years went by) horror and sci-fi movies.

It was a great kitschy broadcast.  It would start with the camera panning in over an obvious model of an haunted-type mansion on a hill as eerie monster movie music played.  It was hosted by Dr. E. Nick Witty (I think this is supposed to be funny but it eludes me) and his assistant, the wretched Epal.Epal on Monster Movie MatineeYou never saw anything of Dr. Witty but his long emotive fingers.  His voice was kind of a bad Bela Lugosi copy that played perfectly for this type of show.  Epal, played by the station’s longtime weatherman who also played other characters (his other main character,Salty Sam, introduced me to Popeye cartoons) on a number of other shows, was covered in rough-edged scars and wore an eyepatch.  He seemed to constantly erode as the years passed.

They had storylines that they used as they introduced the films, little vignettes that ran from week to week.  Goofy stuff but fun.  They let the movies they showed be the real stars and I saw most of the greats through them.  All the Frankenstein, Dracula and Wolfman movies were in regular rotation in the early years mixed in with a plethora of lower quality, monstery B-movies, which kind of took over in the later years.

215px-Creature_from_the_Black_Lagoon_posterI remember one wet and dark Halloween Saturday back then spending the afternoon watching one of my favorites with Dr. Witty and Epal.  It was The Creature From the Black Lagoon.  It was a movie that was shown at least a few times a year so it became part of the kid memory bank.  It was the story of a group of geological researchers sent to explore a fossilized skeletal claw-like hand found up the Amazon where they encounter the Creature, a rubber-clad Gill-Man who makes repeated attacks on the research vessel, finally abducting the babe girlfriend of the main scientist.

Originally in 3-D in the theaters, was a pretty stylish 50’s monster movie.  Pretty good quality, actually.  The Creature was a great costume, very sleek and somewhat believable- at least to the kid sitting on the couch with the Fig Newtons.  It had nice underwater photography of the Creature gliding after his prey and also had great sound and music that really enhanced the story.  It wasn’t the scariest but it kept you involved with the story.   I always felt more of a connection with the Creature than I did with the crew of researchers and actually felt myself kind of rooting for him at times.  Much like King Kong, he seemed sadly alone.

That wet and dark Saturday many years ago seems to come to life now whenever I think of the Creature or Halloween, for that matter.  I remember the light.  The smell of that living room. Funny how certain things, even the smallest trivialities, imprint on the memory  when coupled with something important, as Halloween was to a kid.

Today I’m thinking of that day and that lonely Gill-Man and Dr. Witty…

 

 

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Van Gogh Still Life- Blue Enamel Coffeepot, Earthenware and Fruit 1888When I came into the studio this morning there was a question waiting for me in my inbox.  In response to yesterday’s post, a blogger, JM Nowak, asked : I wonder what van Gogh would have thought? What would he think now about the popularity and sales rate of his Art? Would it make him feel more confident and self-assured…I wonder?!

The question set my mind in motion.  Would have recognition in his time affected Van Gogh’s work?  Would it have changed the arc of his evolution as we know it?  Would his style have changed to meet the will of the market if he had started to sell his work at the time?

These are hard questions.  Part of me is selfishly glad that we will never know, happy in the fact that his work came about in just the way it did, relatively uninfluenced by the market or the words of critics.  Though I do have to confess that I wish he had found some sort of satisfaction or happiness in knowing that his work became so loved and revered.

But his work evolved in much the same way as outsider and folk artists who toil for the absolute necessity of self expression, without any outside affirmation.  There is a sort of pristine purity in this that presents an interesting dichotomy:  established artists crave this purity that they can no longer have and the artists with it often desire the acknowledgment that the established artists receive.

Can the line between the two be walked?

It makes me wonder how my own work would have evolved without the galleries or patrons who have supported me these many years now.  Would my own arc or direction be the same as it is now?  I think it would be different if only for the assurance that  that the knowledge that there are waiting eyes to see your work brings.  That in itself propels the work forward at times.

But it would undoubtedly be different.  But whether it would be better or worse is debatable.  It might be narrower in scope just because I might be more tempted to follow an even more personal and esoteric path.  But I’m not really sure about that because the real question would be how long would I be able to continue without some outer affirmation for the work.  Would I be able to maintain the passion or would I abandon the work or continue to follow Van Gogh down that  vortex of madness which he ultimately followed?

A lot to ponder at 6 in the morning…

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Paul Gauguin- Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?What still concerns me the most is: am I on the right track, am I making progress, am I making mistakes in art?

Paul Gauguin

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At one of my gallery talks a year or two ago, I was asked about confidence in my work.  I can’t remember the exact wording but the questioner seemed to imply that at a certain point in an artist’s evolution doubts fade away and one is absolutely certain and confident in their work.

I think I laughed a bit then tried to let them know that even though I stood up there and seemed confident in that moment, it was mere illusion, that I was often filled with raging doubts about my voice or direction or my ability.   I wanted them to know that there were often periods when I lost all confidence in what I was doing, that there were days that turned into weeks where I bounced around in my studio, paralyzed with a giant knot in my gut because it seemed like everything I had done before was suddenly worthless and without content in my mind.

I don’t know that I explained myself well that day or if I can right now.  There are moments (and days and weeks) of clarity where the doubts do ease up and I no longer pelt myself with questions that I can’t answer.  Kind of like the painting at the top, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, the masterpiece from Paul Gauguin.  Those are tough questions to answer, especially for a person who has little religious belief.

And maybe that’s the answer.  Maybe my work has always served as a type of surrogate belief system, expressing instinctual reactions to these great questions.  I don’t really know and I doubt that I ever will.  I only hope that the doubts take a break once in a while.

There was another quote I was considering using for this subject from critic Robert Hughes:

The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is given to the less talented as a consolation prize.

I liked that but it felt kind of self-serving, like saying that being aware aware of your own stupidity is actually a sign of your intelligence.  I would really like to believe that all those times when I realized I was dumb as a stump were actually evidence of my brilliance. I think many of us can  claim that one.

Likewise, if Hughes is correct  then I may be one of the the greatest artists of all time.

And at the moment, I have my doubts…

 

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Lawren Harris- Isolation Peak -1931

Lawren Harris- Isolation Peak -1931

I received a copy of the new catalog for the Lawren Harris show that is currently showing at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles before moving to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in the spring of 2016.  The show, curated by comedian/actor/ avid art collector Steve Martin , is the first major show in the US for the Canadian artist, who passed away in 1970 at the age of 85.  It’s a fabulous looking show if the catalog serves as any kind of indicator.

I’ve written a couple of times about his paintings and my consternation that they were somehow not known to us south of the Canadian border.  In his intro Martin writes very much the same thing.  We have embraced so many Canadians as our own in many other fields– Neil Young, Joni Mitchell,  Jim Carrey,  and so many others that it would difficult to list them all– yet for some reason we have either not embraced Canadian painters or Canada has not been willing to share them with us.

I guess I could understand the latter.  After giving us so many musicians, comedians and actors without so much as a thank you note from their neighbors to the south, they might want to keep something that they can call their very own.  Something that speaks of its Canadian identity, its roots and sensibility.

But that may be coming to an end.  You see, great painting, regardless of its origin and subject, transcends boundaries and speaks in a universal tongue.  And the Canadian painters I show here do that.  We may have been shielded from them for a hundred years or so but once they trickle through it will soon be a torrent.  And I’m only talking about a group of painters from the early 20th century.  Who knows what treasures are waiting to be discovered in that land to our north?

Maybe we will see them if we just show them a small bit of appreciation.  Let me be the first to say “Thank You” for sharing your richness with us.

Arthur Lismer-Bright Land -1938

Arthur Lismer-Bright Land -1938

Arthur_Lismer-Olympic with Returned Soldiers

Arthur_Lismer-Olympic with Returned Soldiers

Franklin Carmichael - Autumn in Orillia-1924

Franklin Carmichael – Autumn in Orillia-1924

Franklin Carmichael -Jackknife Village-1926

Franklin Carmichael -Jackknife Village-1926

Franklin Carmichael-Mirror-Lake-1929

Franklin Carmichael-Mirror-Lake-1929

Frederick Varley - Night Ferry Vancouver -1937

Frederick Varley – Night Ferry Vancouver -1937

Tom Thomson- The Jack Pine -1917

Tom Thomson- The Jack Pine -1917

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GC Myers-Dimming of the DaySometimes on a Sunday morning I find myself surfing around on YouTube trying to find a song that strikes me just right, something that wants  to be shared  as my Sunday morning music.  Today it started in one spot that had me listening to 60’s music then the blues and prison songs from the 1920’s and 30’s that influenced them then back to other newer versions.  Then I somehow found myself listening to funk and acid jazz— actually, a term I had never heard before so I couldn’t resist at least a short listen.  It wasn’t for me so I moved on and before I knew it I was back at one of my favorites, Richard Thompson.

I chose one of his classics, Dimming of the Day, a song that has been covered many times by a multitude of artists.  Just a beautiful song.  This version is from its original incarnation when he was still recording with his then wife Linda Thompson.

But looking for an image to accompany the post my eyes fell on the painting shown at the top.  Originally titled Fragments, it was back in the studio after a few years making the rounds of the galleries.  It’s one of the pieces that I feel strongly about  but doesn’t find a home quickly.  There have been a few of these through the years and this one always made me wonder what it was about it that kept it from finding that home.  But looking at it while this song played made me realize that it needed a different title, one that perhaps fit it a bit better.  And Dimming of the Day seemed so right for it, both in tone and meaning.  Why not?  So I changed the title this morning and this painting is now  the same as the song.

And it feels complete  to me now.

Here’s the song from Richard and Linda Thompson. The track finishes with a beautiful instrumental track, Dargai.  Enjoy and have a great day.

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Three-Musicians-By-Pablo-PicassoFor those who know how to read, I have painted my autobiography. 

-Pablo Picasso

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True.  Enough said.

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Edward Burra

Edward Burra-Cornish Landscape With Tin Mines 1975I can’t remember how I came across the painting above but it really caught my eye then jammed itself into my memory.  It was just a picture that mad me want to look at it– the subjects, the colors, the contrasts and composition all created an interesting form.  It was from the late British painter Edward Burra, who lived from 1905 until 1976.  It was yet another name that seemed new to me.  Looking at some other images of his work, I wondered how it could be that I had never heard of Edward Burra.

Doing a little research I found that I wasn’t the only one.  In a 2007 British newspaper review of a biography of his life, Burra was described  as  forgotten and neglected.  I don’t know how much that has changed in the past few years but the work is truly compelling.  He is best known for his scenes of the seedier side of urban life including  Harlem of the 1930’s along with war scenes and macabre scenes of cavorting skeletons.  Working primarily in watercolor and ink,  there were also quiet landscapes.  All in all, it is a wide and varied body of work, one that provides a truly unique vision.

I certainly hope he gets his due recognition.  There is a film, I Never Tell Anybody Anything :The Life and Art of Edward Burra,  that is available for viewing on YouTube.  I am hoping to get to it today.  Meanwhile, take a look at some of his work below.  

Edward Burra Cabbages Springfield Rye 1937 Edward Burra Zoot Suits 1948 Edward Burra Skeleton Party 1952-4 Edward Burra -Newport Docks 1971Edward Burra Harlem 1934

Edward Burra- Dancing Skeletons 1934

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