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Archive for June, 2018

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Every good picture leaves the painter eager to start again, unsatisfied, inspired by the rich mine in which he is working, hoping for more energy, more vitality, more time – condemned to painting for life.

John French Sloan (1871-1951)
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As I get ready for the upcoming West End Gallery show, I am nearing the point that artist John French Sloan describes above. In the weeks just before an exhibit there always seems to be a point where that rich mine of inspiration is finally reached. The work flows easily and before one work is off the easel, another is forming in the mind. It’s a time that is invigorating, brimming with the energy and vitality that Sloan mentions.
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Intoxicating.
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And like anyone with an addiction, taking away the intoxicant induces a form of withdrawal. That’s where I am now. The brushes must be put down and other parts of the process– framing and such– demand attention. I do it but all the time I am wistfully looking at the empty canvasses and the tubes of paint.
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That deep mine still has a lot to yield and I want to go back in before I forget exactly where it was and have to start digging all over again. Yeah, I am that condemned painter. And I am thankful for it every day.

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I am in the midst of a crazy busy week as I put the finishing touches on work for my yearly show at the West End Gallery in Corning, NY. This year’s show is called The Rising and opens a mere two weeks from today, FridayJuly 13.

I primarily chose the title because the focus of many of these pieces in this show rested on the rising of the ball-like suns and moons in them. Add to that the posture of the Red Tree in a number of these paintings where it has seemingly climbed to the top the nearest mound and appears to be attempting to rise up to merge itself with the sky.

To transform itself from the worldly to the ethereal.

Ultimately, that is what I want my work to accomplish.

That’s a big jump, I know. And maybe I am foolhardy in thinking I can find it in my work. Certainly, to rise up above the baseness of the earthly and move into a spiritual realm comprised of higher ideals and virtues seems a far reach for any artist. But shouldn’t we attempt to reach beyond our grasp?

Shouldn’t we always aspire to be better?

It’s that quality of aspiring to be better that I hope comes through in this show. The painting at the top shares its title with the show, The Rising, and I hope lives up to it.

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Again, my new show, The Rising, opens Friday, July 1, at the West End Gallery with a reception that runs from 5-7:30 PM.

Plus, pencil in the date for my annual Gallery Talk at the West End takes place Saturday, August 4, beginning at 1 PM. There are more details on that to come but I can promise I will do my best to make it a good one. Like I said, shouldn’t we aspire to be better?

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Leger/ Color

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Man needs colour to live; it’s just as necessary an element as fire and water.

Fernand Leger

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Braque/ Ideas

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Painting is a nail to which I fasten my ideas.

Georges Braque

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Gauguin/ Color

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Color! What a deep and mysterious language, the language of dreams.

Paul Gauguin
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“When someone is seeking,” said Siddartha, “It happens quite easily that he only sees the thing that he is seeking; that he is unable to find anything, unable to absorb anything, because he is only thinking of the thing he is seeking, because he has a goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: to have a goal; but finding means: to be free, to be receptive, to have no goal. You, O worthy one, are perhaps indeed a seeker, for in striving towards your goal, you do not see many things that are under your nose.” 

― Hermann HesseSiddhartha

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The painting at the top, The Questioning, is part of Haven, my solo show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA. The show is nearing the end of its run there so if you would like to see the work please stop in.

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Mama may have
And your papa may have
But God bless’ the child
That’s got his own…

–Billie Holiday, God Bless the Child

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I have a painting on the easel that I really want and need to get at this morning so I am going to make this short and get right to this week’s Sunday morning music. It’s gray and rainy outside here and my first instinct was to choose Gloomy Sunday from Billie Holiday.

It’s a tremendous song but I thought it was just a little too gloomy and grim for this morning so I opted for another favorite of mine from Billie Holiday, God Bless the Child, written by her in 1939. This is a wonderful version from 1956, just a few years before her death in 1959.

I will let the song speak for itself this morning and refrain from editorializing. You read what you want into it. But give a listen and have a good Sunday.

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Big Bang

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“Astronomers… say there was a primordial explosion, an enormous bang billions of years ago which flung all the galaxies into space. Well let’s take that just for the sake of argument and say that was the way it happened.

It’s like you took a bottle of ink and you threw it at a wall. Smash! And all that ink spread. And in the middle, it’s dense, isn’t it? And as it gets out on the edge, the little droplets get finer and finer and make more complicated patterns, see?

So in the same way, there was a big bang at the beginning of things and it spread. And you and I, sitting here in this room, as complicated human beings, are way, way out on the fringe of that bang. We are the complicated little patterns on the end of it. Very interesting.

But so we define ourselves as being only that. If you think that you are only inside your skin, you define yourself as one very complicated little curlique, way out on the edge of that explosion. Way out in space, and way out in time.

Billions of years ago, you were a big bang, but now you’re a complicated human being. And then we cut ourselves off, and don’t feel that we’re still the big bang. But you are. Depends how you define yourself. You are actually—if this is the way things started, if there was a big bang in the beginning—you’re not something that’s a result of the big bang. You’re not something that is a sort of puppet on the end of the process. You are still the process. You are the big bang, the original force of the universe, coming on as whoever you are.

When I meet you, I see not just what you define yourself as—Mr. So-and-so, Ms. So-and-so, Mrs. So-and-so—I see every one of you as the primordial energy of the universe coming on at me in this particular way. I know I’m that, too. But we’ve learned to define ourselves as separate from it.”

― Alan W. Watts

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Stay Human

 

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“If you can feel that staying human is worth while, even when it can’t have any result whatever, you’ve beaten them.”

George Orwell, 1984

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I hate to say this and it seems hard to believe but I think we, as a nation, have a ways to go before we hit the bottom of wherever the current leader is taking us. But we will hit bottom hard at some point in the near future.

The question is: Will we care?

Or will we even notice? That’s hard to say with so many of us already dull-witted and hypnotized from the administration’s propaganda machine that seems right out of Orwell’s 1984 with their own Newspeak in the form of Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting and Doublethink in the form of their alternate facts.

The Thought Police are will soon emerge in some form, no doubt.

Something as seemingly innocuous as the leader’s wife wearing a slogan of apathy and dispassion– I Really Don’t Care. Do U?— on her jacket while on the way to visit immigrant children in traumatic situations takes on greater symbolic meaning in this environment. Some try to say it was just an overlooked fashion choice but that is disingenuous at best. These people know that their every word and action makes a statement. If not, then we are dealing with a stupidity and fecklessness that is beyond the pale.

Myself, I think it may have been the most honest expression yet of this administration.

They really don’t care.

They don’t care about immigrants, especially those who happen to be non-white.

They don’t give a damn about coal-miners or autoworkers or farmers or any of the many other group whose asses they pretend to kiss while begging for votes. They don’t about you or me or humanity in general.

They care only about power and all that comes with that power.

Orwell put it chillingly well in 1984:

“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”

The answer?

Care. Now more than ever, stand up and be a goddamn human and care.

 

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Perhaps I am doomed to retrace my steps under the illusion that I am exploring, doomed to try and learn what I should simply recognize, learning a mere fraction of what I have forgotten.

Andre Breton

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I was looking at this painting, Rest Stop, here in the studio this morning just before I came across the quote above from the French writer and founder of Surrealism Andre Breton. The two things, the image and his words, merged for a moment in my mind.

I saw the Red Chair, as I often do, as a form of memory, a place to stop in order look back in time and retrace my steps just as Breton wrote. The idea that I might be searching for lessons and meaning from the past that somehow escaped my recognition in those past moments sounds right as well.

Maybe more than the future or the present, the past and our perceptions of it are great fodder for an artist who is searching for meaning in this life and in their work. They see the present and the future as ultimately products of the past. Some lessons have been learned and some mistakes repeated, but the past seems to always echo forward in time for that artist.

And that’s what I see in this painting. The Red Chair is at a small clearing where it can stop to consider the path it has already traveled as well as the path that is ahead. The trunks of the trees surrounding it obstruct its view so that it has no idea of where it may be headed. The Red Chair uses the present as a rest stop to try to envision a future scouring its memory of the past for clues that might help it imagine and structure that future.

This painting, for me, is very much about that part of the artistic process which means, at its core, it is part of the human process. We all formulate our futures with our memories of the past. Most of us do it without much conscious thought, assuming that the lessons of the past have already been incorporated into our present. Hopefully, some of us will take the approach of the Red Chair and sit for a short rest in the present to consider the past and the future as one.

Perhaps there are lessons still to be learned and messages still unrecognized. That is certainly what I am seeking as an artist.

 

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