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Archive for April, 2017

“Can anything be imagined so ridiculous, that this miserable and wretched creature [man], who is not so much as master of himself, but subject to the injuries of all things, should call himself master and emperor of the world, of which he has not power to know the least part, much less to command the whole?”

Michel de Montaigne (1532-1592), Apology for Raymond Sebond

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Dominium is the title of this new painting, a 24″ by 24″ canvas that is part of my annual solo exhibit at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA. The show opens June 2.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time looking at this painting in the last several weeks and have found that it is an easy piece in which to withdraw. Even though there are paths coming into the picture, which normally denotes the presence of people, it is the absence of humans that is the message that I get from this piece.

We have no dominion over this world. It is the land that holds sovereignty for no matter how badly we abuse and squander the bounty that this world provides, it will no doubt persist in some living form well beyond the very short time our species will litter its surface. We are not the owners of the land or its creatures nor treat this planet as though we were. No, we should act only as caretakers and custodians of this world, for that is the only way we can extend our tenuous time in this bountiful place.

Maybe this is snapshot of a time beyond ours. Or maybe it is a hopeful example of how we should coexist with our environment.

I don’t know which. I do know that it makes me feel better to just stare at it for a while and that’s a good thing these days. It’s far too easy today to cynically believe that the hubris, stupidity and selfishness that is so prevalent in our species will prevail. All available evidence points in that direction.

But this piece gives me a bit of peace of mind and with that comes the possibility for hope. And that hope at least makes possible the opening of one’s mind which leads to the possibility of obtaining wisdom. And wisdom gives us a chance to use our limited knowledge and abilities to the greatest benefit, to possibly avert destroying our world.

Save the world. That’s a lot to ask of a simple painting. But maybe that is a major purpose of art– to save us from ourselves, to bring light to the darkness.

Okay, in that same vein, this week’s Sunday morning musical selection deals with the ecology.  It’s the classic Mercy Mercy Me from Marvin Gaye. That’s two Sundays in a row for Marvin but it just felt so right.

Give a listen, have some hope and with that, a great day.

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I am in the midst of a painting and I am at a point where I want to get at it as soon as I can. Plus I am not thinking in words this morning so it will be easier to move on with the day once I am painting. I know that sounds goofy, not thinking in words, but there are mornings, a lot of them lately, where I find myself just blankly staring at the screen. I have no words but do feel shapes and colors and patterns that can’t be verbally expressed.

Even writing that seems ridiculous when compared to what I am trying to describe.

So, instead I will share a video of the work of painter Stuart Davis who lived from 1892 until 1964 and was at the forefront of Pop Art. I like this video because it displays work from the different phases of his career, showing his stylistic evolution from realism to abstraction. Oddly enough, even though Davis’ work is mainly associated with jazz, the backing track of Ravel’s Bolero works pretty well.

Anyway, those are all the words I can muster today. Enjoy the Stuart Davis and the Bolero. Have a great day.

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Several years back, I wrote here about the late Croatian painter Ivan Generalic (1914-1992). I don’t really know how his work is categorized. He mixed folk art, rural Eastern European village life and folklore, and allegory in a painting style that was richly colored and inviting. It was most often painted on glass which increased its vibrancy and glow. It had a certain charm that reminded me of the jungle paintings of Henri Rousseau.

I thought I’d share a video this morning that features his work set to music, “Raindrops Prelude” by Grupo Pedagógico Infantil. It’s a nice and interesting watch. I urge you to take a few minutes and give it a look and a listen.

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Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end

Homer, The Odyssey

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Last week I showed a painting in an early stage.  It’s composition was all blocked in with red oxide and the sky was partially laid in. I wrote about the decisions that were in front of me and how I was seeing how it might go from that point on.

Well, at the top of this page is the nearly finished painting, one that I am calling Dawn Invocation. At that earlier point I thought that this painting might go in a much different direction, one slightly darker in tone.

It turns out that my vision for it and the final product differed a bit. That’s not a judgment on how I am feeling about this piece because I find myself very pleased with this painting in its present state. It was just a matter of the process leading me to add a bit more light and color, even though the colors are a bit more muted and tonal than my typical choices.

The resulting piece is more open and inviting than the one I originally saw in the underpainting. Calmer. More resolved.

There are still a few touches that need to be placed, some that I see just now as I write this. They are small adjustments but sometimes these little strokes here and there add much more to the overall feel of the painting than you might think.

So, it goes back on the easel for a short time. This is one of those pieces that carry a lot of small lessons as I move forward which makes it memorable for me, well beyond my own affinity for the painting itself.

And that’s a good thing on any day.

 

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I have a lot going on this morning but I thought I’d share a lovely video that features the work of John Singer Sargent, focusing on his work, primarily his watercolors, painted in Venice. He visted the city a number of times in his life and held a certain fascination for it which certainly shows up in this work.

I am a fan of most of Sargent’s work but it was his work in watercolor that really hooked me.  His work is filled with light and the looseness of the painting makes it feel immediate and in the present, not as though it were painted 125 years ago. That looseness and the vibrancy of his colors give it an urgency and life. Just plain good stuff.

Take a look and enjoy the light.

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Another Sunday morning and I am ready for a little music. I was looking at some of the Nocturne paintings of James McNeill Whistler that I so much admire, like the one shown above from  1877, and thought I’d use that as the theme for this week’s music.

There are a lot of songs that use night as a theme but I settled on the classic Night Life written by Willie Nelson back in the late 1950’s. It has been covered by a lot of folks over the years, some good and some not so much. But  for me  while Willie’s version remains the truest and best of the bunch, I am partial to this performance by the great Marvin Gaye. He inserts his own special feeling into the song and the night life he creates is indeed his life. Good stuff.

Give a listen. Enjoy. Have a great day…

 

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I thought that since today is Earth Day I would show this newer painting, an 18″ by 24″ canvas, that I am calling Sanctus Terrae, which translates as sacred land.

Sacred Land.

We like to claim that we hold a certain reverence for the world in which we live and see it as the living organism that supports us. But it seems as we have short memories and forget that all too often we have treated the earth with disdain, carelessly and selfishly using its resources with complete disregard for the consequences.

Think about the industrial pollution that plagued this country in the 60’s and 70’s.  Remember the thick brown clouds of smog that hovered over our cities. Don’t forget our indiscriminate use of pesticides such as DDT or the widespread water pollution that poisoned the ecosystems of so many of our rivers, killing all sorts of fish and wildlife. Or Love Canal. Or the acid rain that swept in from industries of the midwest to adversely affect my beloved Adirondack Mountains, killing great swathes of trees and making the lakes there practically uninhabitable for the native species of fishes. It still affects the area and it is estimated that by 2040 there will be no fish in any Adirondack lakes.

But we have made some great strides.  Cleaner energy reproduction is on the rise, lowering the cost of energy and creating a huge number of jobs. Most American cities today look radically different than they did in the middle of the 20th century,  Take Cleveland for example. My earliest memories of Cleveland came from a family trip that took us through that city in 1967 or 68. I remember the horror I felt at the yellow/brown skies that lingered over Lake Erie and the acrid sulphur stench of the air.

This was before the vastly polluted Cuyahoga River famously caught fire there in 1969. Actually, 1969 was just the worst of the fires on that river–it had been on fire a number of times over the years.

To me at that time, it felt like a hell on earth. That image of the city still jumps to mind. But go there today and that city shows little evidence of that past. It skies are clear, the lake and rivers run clear, and the sulphur smell has departed. It feels relatively clean and green and is a pleasant place in which to live or visit.

But we are at a point with this administration where they view the regulations that brought about these positive changes as some sort of restraint on the rights of large corporations, that their right to make profits supersedes their responsibility to the land or its inhabitants. They seem hellbent on reversing every forward stride made toward cleaning up our environment, forgetting that most regulations that are in place came about to address a real problem or concern.

Just because the problem has been alleviated (most likely as a result of the regulation) doesn’t mean that we should revert to the old way of doing something.

So on this Earth Day, we have to stand up for this, our sacred land. If you’re old enough take a moment and remember what the past really looked like.  If you’re younger, do some research and check out the ecological past of your area. Then take action. Act responsibly with your own interactions with this land. Vote.

Just don’t think that you can ignore it by sticking your head in the sand– you don’t know what might end up being down there.

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