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Archive for June, 2019


I am moving right along with my prep work for my new solo show at the West End Gallery, Moments and Color, that opens in a little less than two weeks from now. I deliver the show early this week, before the July 4th holiday on Thursday, so this weekend has been a busy one as the work goes into their frames and mat and glass are cut.

I think I’ve probably described this final prep time preceding a show before. Even though I can easily imagine how a painting will appear, actually seeing the work fully presented in their frames brings a fuller dimension to each piece. It also gives me a better idea of how the show will coalesce and hang together on the gallery wall.

Hopefully, it’s a very satisfying feeling. And with this group of work, it definitely is, leaving me eager to see it on the wall.

Anyway, got lots to do still and I am a little frantic. Thought this Sunday morning’s musical selection should reflect that. It’s a neat version of the Ramones punk classic I Wanna Be Sedated from Tim Timebomb, whose music I featured here just a week or so back, along with Lindi Ortega. It’s kind of an unexpected take on the song and one that I find highly entertaining. There are two versions below, the first being the full version and the second containing just the instrumental track, which I liked enough to include here.

The image at the top is a new small piece, The Soloist, that I just finished for this show. Moments and Color opens Friday, July 12, with an opening reception from 5-7:30 PM, at the West End Gallery in Corning.


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Well, the season is upon us. I am, of course, talking about the annual appearance of multitudes of tiny toads around our property. Every year around this time, a new generation of toads emerges from our pond and begins a migration with an instinctual drive that drives in a radiating arc from the pond. These little guys, maybe about 1/4″ in size, are suddenly everywhere, thousands and thousands of them.

Maybe millions. All racing blindly to some unseen destination. I often wonder how they know when to finally stop to make a new home.

It’s really something to see, this frantic drive to survive come to life in the form of these little hopping creatures. There’s something joyful in the whole thing. On the flipside, it makes you appreciate what these toads have to endure to wind up living under a fallen tree in the woods. They are the target of a host of predators who see them as being shrimp in nature’s all you can eat buffet. There are spots where I can see several crows on the ground along our driveway next to the pond for most of the day, along with our resident flock of wild turkeys.

Plus, these tiny toads have to simply survive crossing the driveway. Going up and down our driveway becomes a long slow journey this time of the year as we creep along in our vehicles, hoping to give the little guys a chance to avoid the crush our tires. Walking to the studio starts to feel like I am walking through a minefield. As I begin to lower my foot, the ground beneath it suddenly comes alive with a bunch of these guys bouncing in all directions. The short walk through the woods becomes a halting slow slog.

I guess I could just look straight ahead and let the chips(or toads in this case) fall where they may. But I appreciate their journey, their will to survive and the benefits of the natural pest control they provide by eating so many insects. When I come across a large mature toad now, I have a lot of respect for it, knowing how much it has endured to get to this place.

Actually, on another subject, the term toady has been in the news lately as the G20 Summit is taking place in Tokyo. Our representative, the president*, has forsaken our normal role as the leader of free democracy in the world since WW II and taken a more subservient role to the autocrats and dictators he encounters. He jokes about interfering in our elections and getting rid of journalists with Vladimir Putin, a man who heads a regime known to be responsible for the deaths and disappearances of journalists as well as overt cyber warfare– an actual act of war– on our election system. He kowtows to the Saudi prince, defending him against the UN charges that he is responsible for the gruesome death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And he tries to rekindle his sophomoric bromance with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by offering to meet him for a handshake with him at the DMZ between North and South Korea.

Maybe they should meet on top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day?

So, you can see where toady might come up. It’s a term that comes from the 19th century when charlatans were traveling around the countryside peddling questionable tonics and remedies. The medicine man would first have an assistant eat a toad because they were widely believed to be poisonous. He would then drink the tonic to show it’s wondrous ability to stave off the toad’s poison.

Thus, the term toady was born.

Synonyms for the term include: sycophant, obsequious, creep, crawler, fawner, flatterer, flunkey, lackey, truckler, groveler, doormat, lickspittle, kowtower, minion, hanger-on, leech, puppet, stooge and spaniel.

They all seem to fit our fearless leader in Tokyo.

Sorry to editorialize this morning. Now, I am off to work. Or maybe I will go out and watch these tiny toads. Either way, it’s better than being a toady.

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“A man must dream a long time in order to act with grandeur, and dreaming is nursed in darkness.”

― Jean Genet

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I came across this quote and it made me stop. When he said that dreaming is nursed in darkness, was Genet saying that we must sleep more in order to be able to dream more? That didn’t sound right to me.

More likely he saying that we must stumble through much darkness, not sure of where we are or where we are headed, in order to achieve our dreams. Maybe it is this time spent maneuvering in darkness that gives us the courage to act on our dreams.

That makes more sense. Following that dream for a long time, never seeing it fully in the darkness, makes that elusive dream more precious and gives one a sense of urgency in achieving it. When the possibility of the dream coming to fruition is finally upon them they are not afraid to take action. They can then act with grandeur, as Genet put it.

That sounds better but what do I know? It’s 6 AM, I am tired to the point I can feel the dark rings under my eyes, and I am thinking about Jean Genet and dreams. Even the tiniest act of grandeur doesn’t seem too probable at this point.

But I think I understand this struggle to follow our dreams, to become what we truly want to be. It’s easy to lose sight of our dreams when we are stumbling in the inky darkness. Once they move away from us, they often are lost forever.

That’s sort of what I am sensing in the new piece above that is included in my upcoming West End Gallery show. It’s a smaller painting, 6″ by 10″ on paper, that I am calling Dream in Sight. It’s one of the pieces from this show that are a nod back to my earlier work. Perhaps the moon represents the dream here, rising and falling through the darkness. Sometimes it doesn’t show at all. Other times, it only shows a smaller part of itself.

And it always seems so distant yet so near.

Hmm, I have to think on this. Or take a nap and dream a bit more.

Have a great day.

 

 

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I recently saw an article about classic album covers and it made me think of some of my favorites. Albums like Quadrophenia from The Who, the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Led Zeppelin’s first album with the burning Hindenburg all jump immediately to mind. While I was thinking about this my eyes settled on another album resting on a table in the studio, my own small contribution to album cover art.

It’s from a 2012 album, Lowe Country. It was a tribute album by various artists, mainly alt-country and Americana, covering the songs of Nick Lowe. It features a piece of mine from about 1998. As you can see, it is before the Red Tree emerged.

At the time, I didn’t realize my artwork was being used on the album and was alerted to it by the son of a gallery owner friend who lives on the west coast. He had seen it in a record store and immediately identified the album cover as my work. Turns out the painting used on the cover was purchased years ago by the owner of the record company, Fiesta Red. He properly credited me on the cover and sent me a few CDs and a vinyl version with what I believe to be a pretty nice cover.

Looking at it pleases me. I am also pleased in knowing that it is, more that likely, in Nick Lowe’s record collection as well. Big fan here.

Here’s a track from the album from Lori McKenna who is a singer/songwriter and a two time Grammy winner, most notably for her song Girl Crush. I don’t know much about contemporary country but even I have heard of that song. This is Nick Lowe’s What’s Shakin’ on the Hill.

Have a great day!

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There is just way too much to do this morning as I am finishing up work on my upcoming July show at the West End Gallery. But even though my time is spent on this work, the events taking place in this country occupy my mind a lot of this time. I am not going to go into it at this point but I wanted to share a video that speaks to it in a way.

It is from one of my favorites, the ultra talented Rhiannon Giddens, and was produced in the aftermath of the Charleston, SC church shooting in which 9 church members were murdered. It’s probably hard to remember, there have been so many mass shootings in the years since that we barely notice anymore when only 3 or 4 or 5 people are killed.

The song is Cry No More and the words at the top appear at the end of the video. They serve as a powerful reminder that we get what we put up with and that to be silent is to accept this status quo. All the tears in the world accomplish nothing unless they are followed with a powerful and unified voice.

So, cry no more. Know your history. Know your mind. Speak up. Be loud.

 

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And now the mystery masked man was smart
He got himself a Tonto
‘Cause Tonto did the dirty work for free
But Tonto he was smarter
And one day said, “Kemo sabe
Kiss my ass I bought a boat
I’m going out to sea”

Lyle Lovett, If I Had a Boat

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The painting at the top is a new one, a 12″ by 24″ canvas, that I am calling Breakout. It’s headed to the West End Gallery as part of my upcoming solo show, Moments and Color, that opens in a couple of weeks, on July 12.

These boat paintings might well be my favorites to paint. I think it’s the simplicity in the design that makes this so. There are so few elements that I have to really focus on subtleties of color and shape to create a sense of motion and emotion in the work. Everything has to be right, has to be properly harmonized with the whole.

That sounds kind of nebulous, I know. But a line straying here or there can make you question the credibility of the whole thing and keep you from allowing your mind to fully embrace the piece. For example, while I don’t know a thing about how waves  break on the sea, I feel that the curves of the wave have to make sense. They must have that sense of rightness that I often mention here, the one that allows your brain to easily absorb what is being communicated.

Wow, that sounds even more nebulous.

Let’s just leave it as this: I like these paintings and the exhilaration of freedom they possess. I am not a sailor but I certainly understand the primal appeal and romance of feeling yourself in harmony with the great forces of the wind and water.

Here’s a favorite song from so long ago. God, it’s hard to believe it is over thirty years old. It’s If I Had a Boat from Lyle Lovett‘s wonderful 1987 album, Pontiac. It’s a song that has always had a great calming effect for me and it pretty much fits the feeling I get in this painting.

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reading with disgust about our treatment of children being detained at our southern border. Watching federal lawyers trying to defend this mistreatment made my skin crawl, especially after reading about things like the dog pounds and freezers being implemented at these “camps.” One man, formerly held hostage for 30 months by Somali pirates, said he was treated better by his captors than these children are being treated by our government.

These places are not meant to be mere detention centers. They are cruelly meant to be places of punishment and dehumanization. It is our shame. And if we allow it to continue, it will be our crime.

We can do better. We must demand that we do better. This is being done in our name and we can’t pretend it isn’t happening. If we turn a blind eye to this now, what will be the next and most likely greater atrocity?

It made me think of a post from 2015 that detailed  happenings here during World War II when over 400,000 foreign fighters were in this country as POWs. Even as our stated deadly adversaries, they were treated much better than a toddler in one of these camps. It’s a fascinating episode in history and one that raises many questions abut who we have become as a people here in this country.

POWs Marching to camp in Aliceville Alabama

POWs Marching to camp in Aliceville Alabama

Fear sometimes produces acts of courage and honor.  Unfortunately, more often than not it brings out the worst in people, producing acts of shameful stupidity that stand out in history. Watching the many US state governors over the last couple of days, all spouting about how they will not allow Syrian refugees into their states (even though they don’t have the power to do so)  brought this thought to mind. NJ guv Chris Christie even went so far as saying he wouldn’t accept a 3 year old Syrian orphan. Classy move for a classy guy.

But I shouldn’t be surprised. This behavior is not new to us here in the States. In the beginning years of WW II in Europe, public opinion here was heavily against accepting any Jewish refugees fleeing the war there.  We even went so far, in 1939 when the Holocaust was underway, as barring the MS St. Louis, a German freighter carrying Jewish refugees, from entering our country when they came to our ports. Our ships even went so far as firing warning shots to keep them from docking. The same went for Cuba and Canada.

The refugees from this voyage of the damned were returned to Europe where a number died in concentration camps.

Again, another classy move that we try to keep swept  under the rug of history.

I wonder what these governors would do if they were faced with the situation that took place here in WW II with the Prisoners of War (POWs) who were brought to this country? A lot of you probably aren’t even aware that there were POWs on our shores during that war.

But they were. And not just a handful.

I first became aware of it years ago when I was working as the finance manager at a Honda dealership. An older lady that I was working with said I reminded her of her late husband who was an Italian who came from the area of the Italian Alps. I asked how she had met him and she told me that she first saw him when he was marching down the street of her hometown in Alabama. He was a POW heading to the camp outside of town where she later met him at a event there. Maybe he was even one of the POWs from the photos shown here.

Imagine that happening today.

But imagine the outrage today if we were faced with bringing over 425,000 POWs here. That’s right over 425,000 foreign fighters were here during WW II. Most were German but here were also Japanese and Italian troops. The same troops who were responsible for many of the millions upon millions of troop and civilian deaths that took place during the war were just down the street in Anytown, USA.

POWs in UtahAnd not just down the street. There were about 700 camps located in all but a few states and most of these allowed the POWs to be hired as workers in all fields except those that dealt directly with the war effort. They were out and about in many communities. It is reported that great deal of the slack caused by a shortage of manpower lost to the war was taken up by POWs, especially in the field of agriculture.

And it wasn’t slave labor. They were paid the same wage (paid in scrip that could be redeemed at stores within the camps) as our own troops would have been paid. In fact, they were treated just like our own troops. In fact, their accommodations and food were often superior to the those being experienced by our troops still in the heat of battle. And better than our own citizens who were people of color who were still experiencing segregation and open discrimination.

And definitely better than our citizens of Japanese heritage were being treated at the internment camps where they were held during the war. Another shameful, fear-based move.

POW Theatre Production at Aliceville Alabama Camp WW II

POW Theater Production at Aliceville Alabama Camp WW II

There were classes, art studios, gymnasiums, camp newspapers and musical and theatrical performances put on by the POWs. Throw in an activity director and you’ve got yourself a kind of Aryan Catskill Resort. In one bizarre incident, Adolph Hitler even sent payment to sponsor an art exhibit at one camp.

Think about that. During the worst war in the history of mankind, the greatest enemy ever known to mankind sent a check to the US for an art show for his troops. If there had been a Fox News (or television, for that matter) at the time, I can only imagine all of the talking heads that would be exploding all over the screen.

Some of those POWs stayed here and integrated into our country and some went home to try to rebuild their own countries. There is a lot more that could be told and it’s a great story. I urge you to learn more. Below is a great story from the wonderful RadioLab from earlier this year [2015] called Nazi Summer Camp. It’s about a half hour long but if you have time you will find it informative and entertaining. It’s a half hour that will not remind you of the shameful behavior of some of our leaders.

https://www.wnyc.org/widgets/ondemand_player/radiolab/#file=%2Faudio%2Fxspf%2F455649%2F

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