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Archive for May, 2019

Another Memorial Day weekend has come. Not going to ramble on much this morning about the meaning of the holiday. Just going to show a photo and play a song, Fortunate Son, that is about the injustice of wars where the young and the poor pay the price by fighting and dying in wars waged by rich old men who shelter their own children from having to pay that same price.

The photo above, from the National Library of Medicine, feature five Civil War veterans who lost limbs in combat. I guess in their own way, they are fortunate in their own way by simply being able to come out of the war only missing limbs. That was probably small comfort to them.

Here’s the 1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival song, Fortunate Son, performed by John Fogerty along with Dave Grohl and the Sound City Players. It’s a very good version and a message that still resonates after 50 years.

Have a good day.

 

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Wasn’t going to write anything today as I have a full schedule in prepping work for delivery of my June Principle Gallery show combined with my visit to see my dad at the local nursing facility where has lived with his dementia for most of the last three years. But I began listening to some music and when Heroes from David Bowie came on, it made me scroll back through some older posts and I came across the one below.

Heroism is a term that has been warped a bit by our fascination with comic book heroism. On a Memorial day weekend, we should be reminded that many of the people who we memorialize for their service and sacrifice didn’t have superhero qualities. They were no different than anyone else when faced with adversity and danger– scared, confused and wishing it was all over. But heroism comes in fighting through these emotions and simply doing the task that is required of them. To simply do the right thing and take responsibility for those things before them that they can control. To unselfishly serve in the moment.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Doing one’s duty without giving thought to how the outcome might affect you is a rare thing. I guess that is why we celebrate holidays devoted to service and heroism.  And it’s especially rare in these perilous times where a single, simple act of heroism from a small handful people in congress could completely change the direction in which this country is headed.

That might be too much to ask of them. Heroism is not for everyone, I suppose. But for the rest of us, let us put aside our selfish concerns and serve someone and something greater than ourselves. Just do what is right. Then we can all be heroes.

Here’s the post from several years back:

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Arthur Ashe HeroismKeeping up the theme that was the subject of an earlier post this week, I decided that for this Sunday morning’s musical selection I would play a lovely version of Heroes from David Bowie. It’s an acoustic version (with Gail Ann Dorsey accompanying him on vocals and bass) from a 1996 performance at the Bridge School Benefit, an annual concert began by Neil Young to benefit the Bay Area school that helps kids with severe speech and physical impairments. In that context, the song takes on additional layers of meaning as you see the many parents in the audience with their children, many cradling them.

Heroism.

Looking for an image to illustrate this post, I did an image search by punching in the word hero. It was all superheroes and warriors which saddened me because I know that heroism is something far more than that. It’s about doing those things that need to be done, about taking responsibility in order to serve a purpose beyond your own needs. We think of it as a rare thing but it is evident every day in the actions of those people who give so much of themselves to others.

For me, an example of this came to me in a very personal way. When my mother was struggling in the last months of her battle with cancer, I visited her for  last time. Her and my father had been together for about 46 years at that point, years which could be described as turbulent at best. For such a long married couple, they had an odd love/hate relationship which had them always on the edge of huge screaming  battles that were fraught with violence. They were terrible things to see and even as a child I often wondered why they remained together. But they did and as she neared the end of her life, Dad became her cook, her maid, her nurse, and her driver to the many treatments that made up the last months of her life. Her everything.

When I made my last visit, I noticed a photo on her bedside table. It was photo of the two of them together from several years before, standing at some Florida site drenched in sun. On the cheap little frame, underneath my father was a word formed in simple block letters, those kind of press-on letters that you rub on from a sheet.

It was the word Hero.

Now, at that point in my life I didn’t see my father in heroic terms. Far from it. No, he was and is a very flawed human being with many traits that are far from any definition of heroism. But in this case, he took on the form of a hero for my mother and in that moment, looking at that photo, for myself as well. I realized that the word was not about great accomplishment but rather about following that need to serve another and just doing the right thing in a moment of need.

So it can be for everyone, as the song says :

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day

I finally came across the  quote at the top from the late Arthur Ashe that seemed to best fit the thought .

Have a great Sunday. Be a hero to someone today.

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It seems at times I should be a composer of sounds, not only of rhythms and colors. Walking under the trees, I felt as if the color made sound.

Charles E. Burchfield

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I have featured the work of one of my favorite painters, Charles Burchfield, here a number of times. He is one of those artists whose work attracts me in a very big way yet I never feel that I am able to pull anything from it that will end up in my own work. It’s that distinct in its voice.

My affinity for his work also extends to his thoughts on his work, including the words above. Like Burchfield, I often equate color and form with sound and vice versa. What I might consider my best work has, for me, the quality of music. I don’t know if it’s apparent to anyone but me but I often see some of my paintings as songs with rhythm and lines of melody. I am pretty sure Burchfield felt the same.

Much to do this morning getting work ready for my Principle Gallery show so I am cutting this short. But please take a stroll though some of Burchfield’s work. Listen well because there is music to be heard.

 

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The mantra becomes one’s staff of life, and carries one through every ordeal. It is no empty repetition. For each repetition has a new meaning, carrying you nearer and nearer to God.”

–Mahatma Gandhi

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I wanted part of my upcoming June show at the Principle Gallery to feature not only new growth, as the show’s title implies, but a few nods of acknowledgement back to my older work. The new painting above, one that I finished just yesterday and am calling Mantra, is such a nod.

I have periodically used multiple images in my work through the years. Some were quite large back in my earlier days, some having as many as 60+ images making up the piece. I am attracted by the look of these piece but also by the mindset required when painting them, one with a blank concentration, one that produces a repetition of thought and form.

This repetition of thought and form produces small incremental changes in each cell. Each is the same but slightly different.

That could be the mantra for my work.

Over the past twenty years of these shows, the work has always changed in small increments. Changes in colors and tones. Changes in strokes and textures. Additions and subtractions in elements and forms. Each is the same but slightly different.

Again, the mantra.

I guess that is why I chose that word mantra for the title. As Gandhi points out above, it is no empty repetition.

Each repetition is new and has its own meaning even though it is seemingly the same. Each is its own moment in time, its own coordinate on the grid of time and space.

Whether this repetition takes one closer to god, as Gandhi adds, I cannot say. I don’t know what that even means. But if it means that it brings one closer to understanding and a sense of unity with this world, then I agree heartily and this painting, this mantra, says everything I need to know.

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My new solo exhibit at the Principle Gallery , my 20th annual show there, is titled Red Tree: New Growth and opens June 7, 2019 at their Alexandria, VA gallery.  The painting above, Mantra, will be included in this show.

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Do not try to paint the grandiose thing. Paint the commonplace so that it will be distinguished.

William Merritt Chase (1849-1916)

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Love these words from the great American painter William Merritt Chase. I echo the sentiment whenever I get a chance to speak with art students, telling them to focus less on subject and more on how they render whatever they choose to depict. Most of the greatest paintings are of very common things, people and places. It is how they are painted that lifts and distinguishes them.

Chase was one of the dominant figures of American art in the late 1800’s. He was a prolific and renowned painter and among the first American Impressionists as well as an influential teacher who established a progressive art academy in NYC, The Chase School, that today is the Parsons School of Design.

Some of Chase’s best known work is a great example of his words above. He painted the gamut of subjects– landscapes, portraits and still lifes– and is well known for each of these fields. His still life paintings with fish were among his favorite subjects, one that he often employed for painting demonstrations for his students. These pieces were done in a fast, wet into wet technique that relied on extreme contrasts of dark and light , setting aside detail for gesture and impression.

I don’t know how many of these fish pieces Chase painted but it appears to be quite a large figure. A number of years back, the Principle Gallery had one of his fish pieces in the gallery for sale and I remember being very impressed because whenever I thought of Chase his fish paintings always came to my mind.

Here are just a few examples.

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“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,

There is a rapture on the lonely shore,

There is society, where none intrudes,

By the deep sea, and music in its roar:

I love not man the less, but Nature more”

Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

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This another new painting, coming in at 24″ by 24″ on canvas, that is headed to the Principle Gallery for my annual solo show there. The show,my 20th solo effort at the Alexandria gallery, is titled Redtree: New Growth and opens on June 7. This painting is titled Solitude’s Rapture.

I don’t know if solitude is for everybody. Some people might look at this painting with a little discomfort, seeing in it isolation and loneliness. But for myself, it represents a total freedom of the self, one that allows one’s absolute truth to emerge. A freedom that allows one to experience clear glimpses of our connection with all being.

The lines above from Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage express this feeling well. Alone on a shore, one can begin to hear and converse with nature. The lap and roar of the sea becomes language as does the light of the sun and moon as it sifts through clouds above. It is in these conversations that we come to better understand that we are both small and large, insignificant yet integral.

Of  course, this is not a practical matter for most of us. I have my own little island of solitude here in my studio but I am not isolated. My regular life has me out in the world, interacting with people on a regular basis. But knowing that I will soon be back on my island where the only conversation taking place is in myself.

Hermann Hesse put it well in the excerpt below from his book, Reflections. He mentions it as being a way of bitter suffering. I suppose initially, for those who have been always in the society of others and seldom alone, this may be the case when faced with solitude. But, as he points out, when you get past that discomfort, the rewards of solitude are rapturous.

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“We must become so alone, so utterly alone, that we withdraw into our innermost self. It is a way of bitter suffering. But then our solitude is overcome, we are no longer alone, for we find that our innermost self is the spirit, that it is God, the indivisible. And suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of the world, yet undisturbed by its multiplicity, for our innermost soul we know ourselves to be one with all being.”

Hermann Hesse, Reflections

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I pursue no objectives, no systems, no tendency; I have no program, no style, no direction. I have no time for specialized concerns, working themes, or variations that lead to mastery. I steer clear of definitions. I don’t know what I want. I am inconsistent, non-committal, passive; I like the indefinite, the boundless; I like continual uncertainty.

-Gerhard Richter

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Gerhard Richter, the contemporary German artist born in 1932, is one of those artists whose thoughts about his work have made me appreciate to his work much more fully. He has a way of putting things in terms that are accessible, not just balloons filled with pompous artspeak that says very little.  More than that, much of what he says aligns with how I see art and the purpose of art, even though our work manifests itself in very different ways. I often come something he has said or written that very much echoes my own thoughts, often in a a very similar way. For example, he speaks about the rightness of art, something I to which I also often refer.

His work has moved around through the years through his iconic abstractions to photography and photorealism painting. I tend to gravitate and think of his work in terms of his abstract work, the Abstraktes Bild series from the 1980’s and the 2010’s. I thought I’d share a few of those pieces along with some his thoughts.

At the very bottom is a piece of music from guitarist Bill Frisell. It is from a project that combined Richter’s work, specifically a large book of his art, along with an album from Frisell titled Richter 858. Each track on the album correlates to a piece of Richter’s art. The piece of music below corresponds to the painting directly above it, Abstrakte Bild 858-3. Interesting concept.

 

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I believe that art has a kind of rightness, as in music, when we hear whether or not a note is false.

-Gerhard Richter

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My paintings are wiser than I am.

-Gerhard Richter

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I would like to try to understand what is. We know very little, and I am trying to do it by creating analogies. Almost every work of art is an analogy.

-Gerhard Richter

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I believe that the quintessential task of every painter in any time has been to concentrate on the essential.

-Gerhard Richter

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The desire to please is maligned, unfairly. There are many sides to it. First of all, pictures have to arouse interest before people will even look at them, and then they have to show something that holds that interest – and naturally they have to be presentable, just as a song has to be sung well, otherwise people run away. One mustn’t underrate this quality, and I have always been delighted when my pieces have also appealed to the museum guards, the laymen.

-Gerhard Richter

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Gerhard Richter- Abstraktes Bild 858-3

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