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Archive for July, 2019

The other day I wrote about going up into the wood to my quickly deteriorating old studio where I found a cache of older works tucked behind a  stack of old frames.The reason I had decided to head up there was that I have an upcoming show in late August at a small public gallery, the Octagon Gallery, in the historic Patterson Library in Westfield, NY. It’s a village in Chautauqua County out near the shores of Lake Erie. It’s an area known for its vineyards filled with the Concord grapes that have been made into Welch’s Grape Juice at a plant there since 1897. The library is a gorgeous Beaux Arts structure from the early 20th century and the gallery is, as its name implies, a large octagon shaped space.

I wasn’t planning on doing the show at first but decided it would be a good venue to show some of my more private work, pieces that I would never sell. It’s called Exiles and Icons and has all of the pieces from these series that I have in my possession.

I began going through these pieces last week. Even though I have taken them out and looked at them a number of times over the years, this was the first time I was putting them together and really doing a type of inventory of them. As I looked them over, I realized that a vital piece from the Exiles series was missing. It was the piece shown at the top, Exiles: Quartet, a group of four of the Exiles characters assembled and matted together to make one piece.

I was positive it was somewhere here in the studio, having distinct memories of taking the unframed four pieces out of the mat and discarding the mat, folding it and shoving it in the garbage. This set off a search in the studio that had me going through every shelf, drawer, box, crack, and crevice in the place. I was frantic. I went through this studio several times over three days, examining folders and bins time and time again thinking I might have somehow overlooked these four paintings.

Nothing.

The next move was to go look through the old studio space. Maybe I had a failure of memory, maybe I had somehow overlooked these paintings from the very beginning and had believed they were always there with me in the new studio. After tearing apart my current studio, that was the only possibility outside of me having sold the paintings and then forgotten this. But I knew that was not the case after going through my records.

So, I went through the wreckage of the old studio and found the cache of older paintings including one that was finished on the day my mom died back in 1995. I found a few other things but the Exiles paintings were nowhere to be seen. I took my found pieces and headed down the hill, thrilled just to have rediscovered these paintings.

Later that evening, I began to think that if I had missed these pieces when I was clearing it out all those years ago in 2007, maybe it was possible that I had missed the Exiles pieces as well. Maybe they were still there. The next morning, I headed back up the hill and began another search in the rubble.

I spent about an hour looking, sifting through wet debris under pink insulation hanging from the gaping hole in the roof and moving anything that might hide these pieces.

Nothing.

Ready to give up, I went to a little storage space in the back of the studio. The floor beneath it was racked severely, dropping a foot or more in a short span so that the side wall separated from the floor, leaving a gaping hole of maybe six inches going to the outside. The questions of how much weather and how many vermin had ran through this spot jumped to my mind. I began sifting through a stack of old cardboard.

I went through once. Nothing. Okay, these pieces were either lost or tucked away somewhere I might never find.

But I decided that I would do this pile again. Most of the way through and still absolutely nothing. I decided that the search was futile and done. But near the final sheet, a piece of white cardboard  that laid flat on the floor next to the hole in the wall, I noticed that there was a white sheet attached to its surface that almost blended perfectly with it, camouflaging it from my first inspection. I reached done and pulled it up away from the white sheet of corrugated cardboard.

There they were, the whole quartet looking up at me from their original matting. They had been waiting there for more than 12 years for me to find them, to release them from their musty cardboard prison. I took them out into the light and was amazed at how well preserved they were after all this time in these conditions. The acid free matting had protected them in great part and there was a minimum of mildew and foxing on them.

Exiles: Quartet is safely with me now and getting ready to be shown publicly for the first time in almost 25 years. I am dumbfounded at having found it and, of course, greatly relieved. This series means a lot to me, having been done over the time my mom was suffering through the final months of her struggle with lung cancer. This particular piece was important to the series as well as a favorite of mine. Finding it felt like gaining some part of myself long lost.

It’s funny how your mind and memory sometimes plays tricks on you. I thought all this time that these pieces were here. I had even formed a memory associated with it. That was either a false recollection or one confused with a different piece where I took the pieces from their mat and discarded it. Don’t know if I will ever know the answer to that but I am happy enough just to have this bit of my past, this bit of living memory, back with me.

 

 

 

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Looking From Above Old Studio, Circa 2007

The studio I built over 20 years ago and worked in for over 10 years is deteriorating and slowly collapsing up in the woods.

I am not surprised by this fact. Out of necessity, it was built quickly with little money.  It was not built to last and I knew that eventually Mother Nature would more than likely reclaim that space as its own.

And she is doing just that.

I went up to see it the other day, taking the short hike up the hill that I had done thousands of times before in the years when I worked there 12 hours a day for 7 days a week. I had avoided it in recent times, mainly because I knew this collapse was imminent. A tree had fallen against it years ago and while it looked like it had only did a little damage to the overhang of the roof, a small branch had breached the roof. In the years that followed rain and snow had did their worst work and last year I found it with a gaping hole in the roof. That along with the rapid decay of a couple of the wood pilings I had employed as a foundation which caused the floor to heave and the doors and windows to rack made this building a total wreck.

It’s sad to see it in this condition, this place that had such a large effect on my life and my work. I know that I failed in many ways by not planning better in its initial construction and for not maintaining it in recent years.

But my failures are not the story I want to focus on here today. There’s actually a positive note here.

I went into this old studio a few days ago to see if I had left anything in here that should be removed. Going through a rack of old frames, some which I would take out later to see if the wood could be salvaged, I came across a piece of plywood pressed against the end of the top shelf. I don’t know why I looked behind it but I pulled it out, revealing a bundle of several large sheets of watercolor paper.

I pulled it out and found a spot where I could examine it. Flipping over the first sheet, I felt like I was slapped. It was a painting from the late 1990’s, one that I distinctly remember. I continued to the next and the next and they all were immediately recognizable pieces. Some were what I would consider good examples of my work at the time and one was a failed piece that I remember well. It was an oil on paper where the color never came together in the way I wanted.

It was all in oddly good condition, given that only several feet away there was gaping hole where all sorts of weather were free to fall. There was some foxing and a little grime but it wasn’t terrible and could be addressed. Obviously, using the acid free cotton watercolor paper and having them bundled together had provided some protection.

But it was the last piece in the bundle that made me tear up. It was a landscape and it had a title and a date at the bottom of the sheet. It was painted on November 9, 1995 and its title was The Sky Will Never Forget ( Hoping For Light). My mom from cancer died later that night, in the first few hours of November 10.

We knew at the time it was coming and it occupied my mind much of that time, often showing itself in my work. My Exiles series is based on that time and her death. How I had lost track of this piece, my most personal document of that time, is beyond me. Another failure. But finding it safely in the wreckage felt like a triumph, a calling out to me from the past.

Like I said, I found myself with tears in my eyes while standing in a wasteland of rubble.

There’s more to this story that connects it further to the Exiles series. That story will have to wait to be told in the days ahead.

Here’s that piece. It needs a little cleaning and a better photo but this captures it.

The Sky Will Never Forget (Hoping For Light) 1995

 

 

 

 

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Received a small package the other day. On my first glance at it, I couldn’t tell where it was from. It was in packaging that was reminiscent of those used by my longtime friend in Northern Island but the hand lettering on the address was a bit more legible. The return address didn’t help. It listed a city and a postal code but no country or state.

It wasn’t until I spotted the lettering on the affixed stamps– Kiwi Stamp— that I knew from where it originated.

Ah, New Zealand.

It turns out that I had been approached a while back with an inquiry as to whether a New Zealand magazine called Tui Motu InterIslands, an independent Catholic magazine, could use one of my paintings for an upcoming issue. I had consented and had put it in the back of my mind until it appeared on Saturday.

I was pleased to see that this edition dealt with the search for truth. In fact, the title of the painting, Seeking Truth, was the same as the headline used on the cover along with its Maori equivalent, Te Rapu I te Tika. My image accompanied an article that dealt with the use of critical thinking to find truth in the flood of opinion and falsehoods that we are faced with on a daily basis. The author, Paul Tankard, makes a great point in saying that the skepticism that many people hold for journalism of any sort is as naive as those who have a blind acceptance of what they read online or in print.

The name of the American president* was mentioned several times through the issue which was not a surprise given that the subject was truth. Obviously, this manchild’s tenuous relationship with the truth ( and his love affair with misstatements, half-truths and outright lies) obviously has had a rippling effect on the rest of the world, one that has them concerned about the future viability of truth.

As the writer, Binoy Kampmark, of another article on the effects of unchecked lies stated: The tissue that binds communities matters; the untruth tears it. And a community unable to detect lies is, according to renowned US journalist Walter Lippman, one without liberty.

From here in the US to every far point on this planet, we are at a dangerous point in history. The folks in New Zealand understand this. How we see and determine the truth may well determine our future. Real engagement along with critical examination is needed more than ever if we are going to have a future based in truth.

Truth is righteousness.

So, let’s make seeking truth our mission. As my friends in New Zealand put it–Te Rapu I te Tika.

Thanks to Tui Motu InterIslands for including my work in your fine magazine. Nice to see the Red Tree in that context.

 

 

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Thought I’d take it easy this morning and just share a song, as I do every Sunday morning. The painting here is a favorite of mine, Le Cirque from Georges Seurat, which is I believe is considered to be the last painting from the great French Pointillist.

I am not a big fan of circuses now but as child I had a slight fascination with them. I have distinct memories of watching lion tamers, acrobats and high wire walkers on a television show that used to be on Friday nights in the early and mid 1960’s. It was called International Showtime hosted by Don Ameche, featuring filmed performances from European circuses. I think my interest in the circus was mine alone in my family because I seem to remember watching this show alone.

It’s one of those things I moved past. I began to have a great dislike for animals (or children, for that matter) in cages and gained an understanding of the hardships and tragedies of the lives of many of the circus people. The glossy fascination of childhood dulled and the clowns that once made me smile now make me slightly sad.

But I still like this song very much. It has wonderful imagery that rekindles the lure of the circus a bit though it points out the seedier aspects that I didn’t notice as a 6 year old but which ultimately made the circus less appealing. This is a live performance of Wild Billy’s Circus Story from Bruce Springsteen from way back in 1973.

Sigh.

Have a good Sunday.

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Last Night…

Many, many thanks to everyone who made it out to last night’s opening for Moments and Color at the West End Gallery. It had a wonderful turnout and there were many folks who I didn’t get a chance to speak with, unfortunately. And that was with me staying at the gallery until almost 8:30. My apologies to anyone who I didn’t get a chance to get to.

There were plenty of new faces and many old friends, some who came in from quite a distance. I can’t express my appreciation for their willingness to make the effort and take the time to travel to the gallery opening.

Thank you so much.

Of course, the Multitudes paintings got a lot of attention, particularly the boat pieces shown here at the top. I was pleased by the overwhelmingly positive response to this new work. But I was also happy with the equally enthusiastic response to the other work in the show.

It was a good show and a good evening. Many thanks…

The show hangs until August 30 and on Saturday, August 17, there will be the Gallery Talk that accompanies this show. There will plenty of details shared here on that event in the weeks to come. Hope you can make the talk.

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Well, the opening for Moments and Color, this year’s edition of my annual solo show at the West End Gallery, is here. The reception begins tonight at 5 and runs until 7:30 PM at the gallery on Corning’s Market Street.

The show hangs in the gallery from tonight, July 12, until August 30. I hope you can make it tonight but if not, there’s plenty of time to see this show.

My annual Gallery Talk at the West End is on Saturday, August 17, beginning at 1 PM. There will be plenty of details on the Gallery Talk in upcoming weeks. It’s always a popular event and one that I think is a lot of fun. That’s just my opinion but folks keep coming back so maybe I’m not too far off base with that assessment. While there will be snacks and prizes, I am thinking of doing this year’s talk completely in yodels so take that into account when making your plans.

I want to take a moment to thank Jesse, Lin and John Gardner (and Tom Gardner who gave me a critique that changed my life) at the West End. It has been my pleasure to be part of the gallery now for what will be 25 years next February. Without the start they gave me and without the encouragement they have offered over the years, my life would certainly be much different than it is at the present time. For example, you most likely wouldn’t be reading my blog– unless you are prone to reading the blogs of a Walmart greeter.

I thank them for welcoming me into a world that I could barely imagine at the time and for allowing me to grow on my own terms. All an artist can ask for. Hopefully, we will be able to work together for many more years ahead. That would be a wonderful thing.

That being said, I believe this exhibit might be near the top of all the shows I’ve done at the West End, especially in terms of variety and consistency. I think this show has a real presence– each piece with its own evident vibrancy and life– in the space.

Again, all an artist can ask for.

Hope you can make it in.

 

 

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The piece above is called Mountain Etude. It’s a new 24″ by 30″ painting on canvas that works on a couple of levels for today’s blog post.

First, it is included in my solo  show, Moments and Color, that opens tomorrow, Friday, July 12, at the West End Gallery. It is one of a group that includes a new element in the form of the multi-colored flower beds along with the more recognizable Red Tree and Red Roofs.

Second, it is a nice illustrative point for a new article that came out this week in one of my favorite regional magazines, Mountain Home. I wrote about Mountain Home here back in 2010, describing the great quality of the writing as well as the journalistic pedigree of its founders and publishers, Theresa and Michael Capuzzo. They do a top notch job in covering the interesting aspects of this region which includes the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania and the Finger Lakes of New York.

They did a story on my work for the July issue. Jennie Simon, a writer based in Ohio with roots and connections in this region, did a phone interview with me and also visited the Kada Gallery in Erie, PA and the West End Gallery in Corning. Jennie had space limitations to deal with but produced a an article with a lot of info in a very concise manner.

Thank you, Jennie, for doing a bang up job. I truly appreciate it.

The magazine should be in outlets this week but you can read the article online by clicking here. Please take a look at the rest of the issue as well. Much to my liking, this month’s issue has articles about a local connection to major league baseball and the Bare Knuckle Hall of Fame out in Belfast in Allegany County. That area of western NY is now very rural and sparsely populated but just over century ago it was a hotbed of activity.  It was the center of a lumber boom as well as being adjacent to the oil boom taking place just to the south in northern Pennsylvania.

With its large population of young men in the lumber and oil fields and few distractions to occupy them in their off time, it became a center of sporting activity with boxing and wrestling matches taking place regularly between nationally known athletes. It’s a fascinating era and one that strikes close to the bone for many local residents. I know that, in both my family and that of my wife, there were a number of ancestors involved in the lumber field in this region. I had a great-great uncle who played in a band in one of the many hotels that sprung up to serve the oil field workers of that time.

While he didn’t travel as far west as Belfast for his matches, my grandfather, Shank Myers, had a professional wrestling career in the early part of the 20th century that coincided with this boom. In fact, one of the men enshrined in the Bare Knuckle Hall of Fame, Ed Atherton, has ties to my hometown and my grandfather. Atherton is an interesting case and I thought I had shared his story here before but cannot find it this morning. I will write more on him at some other time.

Anyway, please take a look at all of the current issue of Mountain Home. And please stop in at the West End Gallery anytime to see the show or spend a few minutes talking with me at the opening reception tomorrow night. It is open to all and runs from 5-7:30 PM on Friday, July 12, at the West End Gallery on Corning’s historic Market Street.

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“You say I am repeating 
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own 
And where you are is where you are not.”

― T.S. Eliot, East Coker

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This is a another painting from my upcoming solo show, Moments and Color, at the West End Gallery that opens Friday. It is called Meditatio and it is a painting I have shown here before. It was painted last year but as it sat here in the studio awaiting this show, I saw things in it that made me want  to change the painting a bit.

I lightened the center of it with a few small additions of new paint to the moon and Red Tree, giving it more light. That very much changed the attitude of the piece but it transformed even more when I changed the plain black band that had surrounded the central image to a bronzed burgundy. This new band color altered the experience of the painting, giving the whole thing a warmer glow.

I thought it was strong painting before, one with a meditative presence that definitely stood out in my mind. But these seemingly small changes transformed it greatly. It still feels meditative, as the title implies, but in a more welcoming way.

I see these words above from T.S. Eliot’s East Coker as part of a conversation between the Red Tree and the rising sun/moon, who points out that it repeats its lesson with each new rise. And though it is repetitive, it is no less meaningful and instructive.

I will let you read into it what you will but I particularly love the last line here– And where you are is where you are not.

That could very well sum up my work.

Hope you get a chance to see this piece at the West End Gallery. The opening is Friday, from 5-7:30 PM.

 

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“And He will judge and will forgive all, the good and the evil, the wise and the meek . . . And when He has done with all of them, then He will summon us. ‘You too come forth,’ He will say, ‘Come forth ye drunkards, come forth, ye weak ones, come forth, ye children of shame!’ And we shall all come forth, without shame and shall stand before him. And He will say unto us, ‘Ye are swine, made in the Image of the Beast and with his mark; but come ye also!’ And the wise ones and those of understanding will say, ‘Oh Lord, why dost Thou receive these men?’ And He will say, ‘This is why I receive them, oh ye wise, this is why I receive them, oh ye of understanding, that not one of them believed himself to be worthy of this.’ And He will hold out His hands to us and we shall fall down before him . . . and we shall weep . . . and we shall understand all things! Then we shall understand everything! . . . and all will understand” 

Fyodor DostoyevskyCrime and Punishment

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This new painting is an 18″ by 36″ canvas that is included in Moments and Color, my annual show of new work at the West End Gallery that opens this coming Friday. It was completed for quite some time before I finally settled on a title for it. Every title that came to mind seemed too trite or too well worn for this piece.

The Red Tree and its placement here give me the impression of someone standing before a group while delivering some sort of moral or spiritual instruction. Sermon on the Mount sort of stuff. The setting here has a placid feel and the location of the Red Roofed houses give the impression that they are rapt listeners.

It all gives this piece a feeling of great serenity.

With this in mind, I finally settled on The Homily as a title. A homily is a story that is often part of a religious sermon that demonstrates a moral or spiritual lesson in practical terms and contemporary settings. And I can see that here. Without it espousing the tenets of any religion, it has a spiritual feeling for me, one that serves as a practical illustration of peace and acceptance. It’s as though the Red Tree is calmly telling those around it to see the beauty and tranquility that surrounds them even in times of chaos.

There’s a sense of certainty to this piece that feels religious to me. It’s the kind of certainty I never had for myself or fully understood in others. But looking at this now, I can almost understand that certainty. Its actually beyond religious. I see it more as an inner belief that one has that allows them to remain calm in dire times, knowing that they have the ability to persist.

That even though the world around them changes, that they can adapt and prosper because their core values remains intact.

And maybe what this, a representation of those core values, whatever it is that brings us inner peace and serenity.

It’s early and my eyes and mind are still trying to focus so these few paragraphs may not be a homily. But they are an attempt, like this painting, to point out our need for peace, for those moments of tranquility that allow us to continue onward in a world that often seems out of our control.

Maybe its the understanding that Dostoyevsky speaks of at the top.

Hope you find it for yourself.

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This painting, The Homily, is part of Moments and Color, my exhibit of new work now hanging at the West End Gallery in Corning. There is an opening reception this Friday, July 12, running from 5-7:30 PM. Hope to see you there.

 

 

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Let the New Day Begin- at the West End Gallery Now

The work for this year’s edition of my annual solo show, Moments and Color, is now hanging in the West End Gallery, all ready for the opening this coming Friday, July 12. I put together a video slideshow of the work from the show which is below.

This was an interesting project, in that it was hard setting the lineup for the images in this video. I couldn’t frontload the video with what I might consider the best pieces because I couldn’t rank them. There’s great consistency across the board that made deciding difficult. Each time I tried to move a piece up or down in the lineup, it didn’t seem to make a difference in the quality or feel of the video. I think you could watch this backwards and would get the same visceral experience from it.

And I like that. That consistency has always been a point of pride for me. I like to think that every piece, from the smallest and simplest up to the largest and most complicated, has the same level of consideration and effort.  After all, big or small, they all represent me out in the world and to skimp on one in effort or any other way diminishes them all.

This show has a lot of facets, a lot of familiar and new looks, but it just hangs together well. It’s a show that gives me a lot of satisfaction on a number of levels. Please take a look at the video and if you’re in the Corning area, please stop in for the opening on Friday, from 5-7:30 PM. I look forward to seeing you there!

 

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