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Archive for December, 2018

I was listening to some music early this morning and came across this song, one that I hadn’t heard in a number of years. Thought it might be a good one to share if only to show the painting that adorned the album cover from which it came.

The painting is from Pieter Bruegel the Elder from 1559. It is titled Netherlandish Proverbs and contains depictions of at least 112 proverbs or idioms used by the Dutch at the time. Some are still in use, such as “Banging your head against a brick wall” which you can see in the bottom left hand corner. Others have faded from usage, like”Having one’s roof tiled with tarts” which indicates that one is very wealthy.

If you go to the Wikipedia page for the painting there is a great list of the the proverbs along with the imagery for each. I am enjoying it as I work my way through the list. Even without the list, looking closely at a Bruegel painting is always a great pleasure.

The painting was used on the cover of the Seattle based Fleet Foxes‘ self-titled 2008 first album. The song is White Winter Hymnal which works well for this time of the season. The lyrics are actually kind of nonsensical but the song is lovely and the video is interesting. The song has also been covered by the acapella group Pentatonix.

So, take a look at the painting and hopefully you will enjoy the song and video. Have a good day.

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In a way Winter is the real Spring – the time when the inner things happen, the resurgence of nature.

Edna O’Brien

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Today is the Winter Solstice. It is the day in which the Earth, tilting on its axis as it makes its way around our sun, reaching its maximum tilt, giving us the shortest, darkest day of our year here in the northern hemisphere.

It is a day that fits well symbolically into our current state of affairs. At the moment, I am not sure that it will not spin right off it axis.

Here, the darkness of the day fits, as well. While unseasonably warm, it is exceedingly dark and rainy. Grim, really. Especially here in the woods where I have reverted from being a creature of ice into once again being a mud person.

Every move outside is a trek traveling through are what seems like endless trenches of mud. Even the trail through the grass that chipmunks have made through the years from a nearby rock pile to our bird feeders has turned into a muddy trench.

But despite the absolute criminal lunacy (this solstice does comes with a full moon, by the way) of what is taking place within the executive branch of our government, despite the grimy and endlessly gray muddiness surrounding me, despite the anxiety of an upcoming holiday, despite it all– I am comforted by the day.

Perhaps it is because, as the great Irish novelist Edna O’Brien says, it is the time when the inner things happen. For me, this has been the truth of my life for the past twenty years or so. I am comforted by knowing that once I get past the next week or two, I will be willingly locked in a creative cocoon. It is very much an internal period, one that has generally been a highly productive time for my work.

So, in the darkness of the solstice, I gird myself for what new horror today’s news cycle will reveal and for the distractions and responsibilities that comes with the holidays, prepared for the worst and hoping for the best.

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River

Didn’t really want to write anything today and was listening to some music this morning. This song came on so I checked to see if it had played  recently on the blog. After all, it does have a holiday theme, in a mournful sort of way. Found that it had been a number of years and liked the post that accompanied it so I decided to repost it along with the song. Have a good day.

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There are some pieces in my studio that will always be with me, some because they are very personal pieces, virtual parts of my memory. Others because they are somewhat lacking and I wouldn’t want them out in the world. Then there are some that stay simply because I want them here. The painting below is one of those. It hangs above the large windows at the front of my studio and probably will for some time to come.

It is painted on a piece of our old upright piano, the lid that opened on its top. It’s about 8″ tall by 62″ long. You might think that this painting is about the heavy clusters of Red Roofs but for me this is a piece about escape. That cool blue ribbon of water that cuts through this painting, shown only in snips, is freedom to me, a rushing current to carry me away from the noise and chaos of the gathered village. Or better yet, I could become the river and move easily and forever– hopefully– through the land, joined with the other waters of the world.

I find myself thinking a lot when I look at this piece, which I do most everyday as it is mounted above the large window in my studio. It gives me pause and makes me think about being quiet internally, stilling the spinning wheels.

But most of all, it makes me wish I was that river.

I call this piece Wish I Was a River, sort of after the Joni Mitchell song, River. However, her chorus goes “ I wish I had a river…”  Maybe I’m being greedy here but I want to be the river, just running through and in the winter, frozen over and seemingly still while continuing to flow below. If Joni wanted to skate away on my icy surface, that would be fine with me.

Here’s the song from Joni Mitchell.

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Virgil and Dante in the Circle of Traitors- Gustave Doré Engraving

I came across the image above from an article in The American Conservative from September of 2016, written by a writer, Rod Dreher, who is labeled as a leading conservative intellectual. Neither the magazine nor the author are in my regular reading rotation and I might not find substantial common ground with either on may issues but the article was an interesting read. The article had to do with the current resident of our White House in the run up to the 2016 election and his historic inability to keep his vows in all aspects of his life.

Here are two paragraphs that stood out for me:

One of the themes in Dante’s Commedia is the terrible political consequences that result when people break their vows. Dante the poet was exiled through the constant strife in Florence, and throughout Italy. In his fictional person, a pilgrim through the afterlife, Dante learns that so much of the violence and discord that has torn Italian society apart has to do with the inability of people to trust others to be true to their word. In the Inferno, the lowest level of Hell is reserved for Traitors, the worst of whom — those whose treason had wide social consequences — are immobilized in a lake of ice for eternity. In Dante, punishments fit the crime. For Traitors, who lived with no ultimate loyalties except to themselves, because that preserved the absolute freedom of their will, the just punishment was to be frozen in place forever.

Why are Traitors the worst of all sinners, in Dante’s scheme? For one thing, they make social and communal life impossible. If you cannot count on people to honor their vows, you never know what is real, and who is trustworthy. For another, as the pilgrim Dante learns in Paradiso, free will is God’s greatest gift to a man. To make a vow is to make a gift of God’s gift — that is, to pledge one’s sacred liberty, to a cause, person, or institution, out of love. If vows are tossed aside lightly, love is cheapened, and the order of the entire universe is weakened. By breaking vows, we weaken the power of love and goodness in the world. This is how our free will, the gift most precious to God, the gift that tells us the most about His nature, becomes a source of disharmony and debilitation within ourselves and the community.

Dreher later goes on to make a prediction about the election saying that if the Republican candidate ( I just cannot write that name!) won, his presidency would be, using terms from Dungeons & Dragons, at best neutral evil and at worst, chaotic evil. This is a conservative thought leader speaking, certainly not a Democrat or liberal voice.

His prediction  has turned out to be prescient in, unfortunately for us all, in his prophecy of chaotic evil.

But is the president* a traitor to more than his vows?

Hearing the word Treason yesterday come from the mouth of Judge Sullivan in the Michael Flynn sentencing hearing was a seismic shift in the ongoing Mueller investigation. To hear it in the clear air was a stunning thing, a movement of the whole affair into a new sphere that everyone had been dancing around for some time now. I know that the words, treason, along with its running mate, traitor, have been running around the perimeter of my mind for some time now.

For those of you who don’t follow this, you might think I am peddling conspiracy theories or just plain crazy talk. Maybe you’re right but every day seems to reveal more and more of a large criminal conspiracy. Like me, there are those of you who have been watching and trying to amass all the data points, all the massive amounts of information that are being dutifully exposed, on an internal flow chart that would take up the wall of a gymnasium in reality. You folks are most likely nodding in agreement.

Now is the time for us all to pay attention, like it or not. We may be on the verge of the exposing of a large circle of traitors, actors of treason who, along with a foreign adversary, have sowed division and violence among their fellow citizens for political power and personal gain.

We must now all serve as witnesses.

I do not know where this leads but if it leads to a band of traitors forever encased in a lake of ice at the lowest level of Hell, so be it.

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All that is necessary to paint well is to be sincere.

–Maurice Denis

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In my opinion, sincerity is a huge part of how an artist’s work comes across, perhaps even more than the actual ability of the artist. Sincerity carries the emotion, the sensation, of the work of art.  It is the part of art that moves and speaks to you.

I guess that is why I was drawn this morning to the simple quote above from painter Maurice Denis (1870-1943). I’ve been an admirer of his work for some time and for some reason have yet to mention him here. He was not one of the bigger names of art in his time but was important in that era that encompassed the transition from traditional representation to impressionism then on to modern art. He was part of Les Nabis which translates from both Hebrew and Arabic as The Prophets. It was a group of young French artists who followed in the artistic footsteps of Paul Gauguin.

As Denis wrote about Gauguin’s influence:

We learned from Gauguin that every work of art is a transposition, a caricature, a passionate equivalent of a sensation which has been experienced. He freed us from all restraints which the idea of copying naturally placed on our painter’s instincts. All artists are now free to express their own personality.

That basically deals with the same sort of sincerity mentioned at the top f the page.

Denis had a long career that moved through a number of different phases, all done well and with sincerity. There is much in his work that speaks to me, things that I wish to carry into my own work. Things I have already used, in some cases. I urge you to check out his wiki bio or some other reference sites to find out more.

A parting line from Denis:  Don’t lose sight of the essential objectives of painting, which are expression, emotion, delectation; to understand the means, to paint decoratively, to exalt form and color. 


 

 

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We are at a crucial time in this country and, maybe as well, the world as a whole. I think even those who refuse to pay attention are beginning to see that something very wrong has taken place and there is an effort to find the truth behind it. If this situation were a painting, it began with an underpainting of a scene based on lies. But each new day brings more and more strokes and color in the form of facts and truths that expose the underlying falsehood, the illegitimacy of the scene painted for us two plus years ago.

With each day, the final painting is becoming clearer and clearer.

I could go on but that would most likely be overkill. Too pedantic and preachy.

Instead, I thought I would share some of my favorite quotes– I do love a good quote— dealing with lies and liars. A page of lies. Actually, not lies but about lies. As a liar myself, I can attest to the veracity of most of these but you would have to take my word for that. And, believe me (the liar’s favorite phrase, by the way), you don’t want to do that.

Though I think these are all pertinent, the most applicable to the current situation might be the last from Ray Bradbury‘s dystopian classic Fahrenheit 451. Most people will not be told, will not dare to extrapolate into the future. They only see the present moment and even then, it is seen with a subjective sort of vision, the kind that only sees and knows what is in its immediate reach. But once the fallout from this hits them, they will ask how this could have possibly happened, even though they themselves enabled it with their lack of attention.

The Albert Camus quote is also a favorite. The projection of self by the liar is most illuminating.

But don’t trust me, take a look for yourself.

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I normally don’t rerun posts on Sunday which is when I feature a musical selection. But this week I thought the chosen song matched up well with this post and the painting in it, which is one that feels very personal for me.. So, here’s a post from a few years back accompanied by a selection,On The Nature Of Daylight (Entropy), from contemporary composer Max Richter. It’s a beautiful piece of music.

Have a good Sunday…

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GC Myers- CandleThere are two ways of spreading light… To be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.

–Edith Wharton

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This is a new piece,  8″ by 10″ on paper, that I am calling Candle. Working on this painting, I determined that I wanted to keep the composition very simple and stark. There was so much energy in the radiating forms that adding anything beyond the blue panel at the bottom would change the whole feel of the piece as I was seeing it. The blue provides contrast and forms a horizon line that gives the whole image a measure of inward depth without detracting from the simplicity of the image, which I see as being essential to the strength of this painting.

Simplicity, as is often the case, translates as grace. And grace of some form was what began to show in this piece as it unfolded. I was reminded as I worked on this of the great (in my mind, the greatest British artist) JMW Turner‘s reputed dying words: The sun is God. There is a spiritual element in how the sun is depicted in his work and I often feel that I am representing something more than a source of physical light and energy when I paint these sun orbs in my work.

Perhaps that something more is a presence beyond the physical.

I don’t know. But for a moment, my uncertainty is relieved and I feel connected with the warmth and light from the presence that is the sun in this piece.

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