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Archive for August, 2017

“The end of a melody is not its goal: but nonetheless, had the melody not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either. A parable.” 

 Friedrich Nietzsche

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Today is the last day that my solo show, Self Determination, hangs at the West End Gallery in Corning.

It’s been a great show by all metrics. Many paintings have found new homes. Many people have come through the gallery to see the work. We had a full house for the Gallery Talk that went with this show.

Personally, beyond seeing people take the work home with them, it was a very rewarding show in the recognition and acceptance of my own voice. As paintings came off the wall and were replaced by work that the gallery had on hand, there wasn’t a loss of constancy between the new and older works. I had been a bit worried that the older work would stand out but it fell together seamlessly. There were paintings that were a couple of years old that felt reborn among the newer paintings.

And that pleased me, confirming my belief and hope that I was really working in my own creative voice. This work was who I am. It wasn’t forced, wasn’t contrived. It was real.

And for me, that is what I have been seeking. I have always wanted the work to speak to the viewer in plain and simple terms, like a conversation with a friend where you are absolutely yourself, with no pretense or posturing. With an openness that allows free expression of deeper emotion. And to my eyes and senses, that was what I was feeling with this group of work.

I want to thank everyone who came out for the show during its run, especially those of you who chose to make some of these paintings part of your life. Your support and your eyes are a constant source of encouragement.

And special thanks, to Jesse and Lin at the West End Gallery for your belief, your acceptance and your always honest representation of my work. I cannot fully express how much that has meant to me personally and professionally.

So, that being said, if you want to see the show, today is your last day. Hope you can make it.

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I have been working on some new small pieces. When I finished this piece, which is 2″ by 6″ on paper, and was trying to read what I was seeing in it, I immediately thought of the blog entry below from several years back. The article and the painting both deal, as I see them, with how we often look for answers from far outside ourselves and fail to see the riches and possibilities that surround us in plain sight. I call this painting In the Gem Fields.

“The more intensely we feel about an idea or a goal, the more assuredly the idea, buried deep in our subconscious, will direct us along the path to its fulfillment.”

—Earl Nightingale

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It’s funny sometimes what you take from an experience in your life.  At one point in my life I was in the retail car business, working at a Honda dealership both as a salesman and a finance manager.  In order to keep their sales staff engaged and excited about pushing their product, the management there would periodically send us to seminars with industry-specific motivational speakers and would also have sets of motivational tapes from other speakers that they would encourage us to listen to in our free time.

One of the sets of tapes was from a famed motivational speaker named Earl Nightingale who had a deep and engaging voice that added a serious dimension to whatever he said.  As I listened to his tapes, it was easy to feel my interest growing as he told his little tales and his lessons began registering within me.

One of his stories was a short retelling of a classic lecture  called Acres of Diamonds from Russell H. Conwell (1843-1925), an interesting fellow who was a baptist minister, a lawyer, a philanthropist and the founder and first president of Temple University.  The lecture, one that Conwell delivered over 5000 times during his lifetime, made the point that the riches we seek are often right in our own backyards.  His tale is of an African farmer who sells his farm in order to go in search of diamonds and finds nothing but failure that ends with his suicide.  Meanwhile, the man who took over the farm found an abundance of diamonds and ended up with one of the largest diamond mines in Africa.

There were a lot of lessons to be learned from this tale but primarily  what I took away  was that I must leave the car business–it was not my backyard.   It was the place to which I had come in search of my own diamonds.  I had not even, at that point, began to search my own backyard. I am not sure if that was the message that management had been hoping would sink in.  Or maybe it was.

The other part of Nightingale’s message was that you had to set a course, aim for a destination.  Everything was possible if you knew where you wanted to go and truly set your mind to it.  He gave a laundry list of great human accomplishments that were achieved once we put our minds and wills in motion towards their fulfillment.  That resonated strongly with me.  I had seen many people over the years who seemed deeply unhappy in their lives and most had no direction going forward, no destination for which they were working.  Aimless, they drifted like a rudderless boat on the sea, going wherever the strongest current took them without having any influence over this motion.

If you can name it, you can do it in some form.

As I said, it’s funny how things influence you.  It’s been about twenty five years since I heard those words but they still resonate strongly with me, even now.  I try to be always conscious of the goals I set, knowing that the mind and the universe will always try to make a way for the possibility of achievement.

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I’ve written about some of the orphans,  as I call those paintings that find their way back to me eventually, never finding a permanent home after showing in most of the galleries that show my work. Fortunately, it’s a fairly small group so I can recall most of the details about each of these pieces, even the older ones. But the painting above has been floating around in my space like a mysterious satellite for so many years now that I have lost all recollection of it.

In fact, I can find nothing about this painting in any of my files. No title. No numbering or date. No photos.

Nothing.

It has been living in a horrible frame that I would be embarrassed to show in public, one that I tried to transform by adding layers of gold paint. That was a bad idea. It made the whole thing, painting included, look absolutely awful. I am relatively sure I never exhibited this painting as a result of how it looked in that terrible frame. At least, there are no records of it being shown.

It’s a 16″ by 20″ canvas and I think that it is from around the year 2000. I say that because it doesn’t have my normal layers of textured gesso under the paint and it is done in oil paints rather than acrylic, which would have been from that timeframe.

I had avoided this painting for years in the studio. I kept it facing away in a small stack against a wall so that I wouldn’t be forced to look at the monstrosity it was in that frame. But recently, curiosity had me pull the piece out. I tried to separate the painting from the frame in my mind but the stink of the frame still overwhelmed me.

If I was going to actually see that painting I had to take it out of that frame.

And I was pleasantly surprised when I did that. Oh, it’s not like I found a lost masterpiece. But freed from the shadow of the unsightly frame, I recognized that it was a good piece, one that would definitely fit within the tone and scope of my work from the time in which I believed it was painted.It wasn’t ugly at all. In fact, I began to grow quite fond of it in its liberated state.

It was like turning over a photo that has been face down in a drawer for years and seeing something that surprises you in a pleasant way, reconnecting you with something you had pushed deeply into the recesses of your memory.  It’s that image that has been hidden for many years where you get to see it anew with a different perception based on personal growth and change.

It’s the same image from the same time but you see it differently.

So I brought it out into my painting space and I look at it now and again. And it pleases me to know this orphan once again.

 

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Just a reminder that Self Determination, my solo show at the West End Gallery, comes down after this coming Thursday, August 31.

It’s been a great show thus far and I send out appreciative Thank You’s to all of you who have taken time to see the show. So, there still a few days yet to get into the gallery if you want to see the show and haven’t been able to find the time.

Hope you can make it!

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I don’t know…

I would guess that I’ve said that phrase a couple of hundred thousand times in my life. Or maybe even a million times. But then again, I don’t know.

As years pass, I am constantly fascinated by how little I know despite consciously trying to obtain more knowledge. It turns out the only thing I really know is that there are an awful lot of things out there that I will never know.

That doesn’t make me happy but I have learned to live with it and take some comfort in knowing that I am not alone. I don’t think any of us really knows as much as we let on. Oh, some speak with absolute certainty and and an air of confidence but that’s just bravado or a simple failure to recognize their lack of knowledge. I do know that.

From personal experience, unfortunately.

So I cringe a bit now when I spot that arrogant certainty in the declarations coming from myself or others. Then I cast a doubtful eye towards these claims, my own included.

What does this have to do with the price of a gallon of milk in Kokomo? I don’t know. I’m just blabbing in order to set up this week’s Sunday morning music. It’s from the Irish singer Lisa Hannigan  and is titled, fittingly, I Don’t Know.  I particularly like this version shot in a Dingle pub. Lovely.

Have a good day and be wary of those who seem a bit too certain. Or not.

I don’t know.

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We here in the US often tend to be a little narrow in the scope in which we regard art. We often don’t take enough time or make much of an effort to seek out the art that is not purely westernized, not European or American in its origin. But there is a world of expression out there and much of it is remarkable and universal in what it has to convey to us. And, most likely, we are not aware of it.

Take for instance Indian painter Satish Gujral. Born in 1925, Gujral is a painter, sculptor, muralist, graphic designer, writer and architect. He may be India’s best known living artist. And he did it all while suffering from deafness caused by an illness at age 10. His deafness was later, at age 72, reversed by surgery.

There is a lot to tell about him including him as a young man with no knowledge of English or Spanish and an inability to hear either, traveling to Mexico in the early 50’s to study with Diego Rivera. Or the fact that his brother became Prime Minister of India. Or the social commentary behind his work. I will leave finding more on the particulars of his life up to you.

For me, it was the pure and broad appeal of his work that drew me in. I love his imagery, his use of color and form in his paintings. He has had a long and varied career producing a large body of work in many fields but through it all, his voice is consistent– of his culture but in a universal tongue that speaks to all. Take a look at the images and video below to judge for yourself.

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I was going through my files, looking at some work from several years ago. It’s something I do on a pretty regular basis as a way to charge my batteries. I see things in these older pieces that reignite ideas that have been swept away to the folds of my brain. Sometimes an idea, like a new composition, comes in a flash that seems exciting, something that tells me that I need to followup on it. Then hours later it is gone or has turned hazy, replaced by the work at hand.  

Oh, sometimes I write them down, rough sketches on loose bits of paper but more often than not they go into that heap that resides somewhere deep inside me. Sometimes they come back on their own, happily for me. Other times, they need a little coaxing, a prod of my memory that sometimes takes place when I revisit older work. Seeing this earlier work in sequence, grouped together, kicks off memories and these older ideas sometimes jump forward. Old friends.

I had that feeling just this morning. I wasn’t going to write anything, was just going to get to work on some things that needed finishing and maybe start a new piece with the hope that the work would create its own inspiration. That is often the case. But I came across a piece from a group of work that I did back in 2011, sepia toned interiors with landscape seen distantly through windows. It excited me on many levels to see the whole group together and I had flashes of other ideas that had either been hiding or were newly forming. It energized me greatly.

Here’s one of those pieces from back in 2011 and what I wrote at the time:

This is a painting I recently finished, a small piece, only 4″ square on paper.  It’s a mix of landscape and very uncomplicated still life with stark but distinct elements throughout.  There’s a simplicity that runs through this scene that covers a depth of feeling, a pang from the heart.

I sat this aside for a day or two after finishing it and found myself coming back to it.  There was a familiar tone to it that reminded me of something that I couldn’t quite identify until this morning when I walked into the studio.  I looked at it as I sat down and instantly said to myself, “Far From Me.”

It was the old John Prine song from his first album which came out forty years back, in 1971. There was something in this piece that filled me the feeling of Prine’s lyrics of gradual loss:

And the sky is black and still now

On the hill where the angels sing

Ain’t it funny how an old broken bottle

Looks just like a diamond ring

But it’s far, far from me

This piece will probably always be that song now for me, a personal avatar for a song buried deep inside and often forgotten.  Funny how things work…

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