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Archive for January, 2020

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The world was on fire and no one could save me but you
It’s strange what desire will make foolish people do

Chris Isaak, Wicked Game

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Another piece headed to the West End Gallery for their annual Little Gems exhibit, opening next Friday, February 7. It’s called Wicked Game after the title of the Chris Isaak song from 1989. Wow, hard to believe it’s been that long. But that opening line– The world was on fire…— was the first thing that came to mind when I finished this little piece.

It fit the painting.

As does the second line– It’s strange what desire will make foolish people do…– which fits the time, this particular moment in history as we watch a Republican party so fixated on their desire to maintain power that they will turn a blind eye to the corruption of our system that has taken place in the open for us all to see. The question of whether they will ever stand up for truth and justice, against those wrongs we know have been done and those we expect will be done in the future, seems to leaning toward a big and emphatic NO.

Doing that which is right even when it doesn’t personally benefit you or goes against your personal interests is a noble and honorable thing.

Don’t expect to see such a thing anytime soon.

Like the song says: It’s strange what desire will make foolish people do. Put on your seatbelts, folks. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Here’s the original from Chris Isaak.

 

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Yesterday, Alan Dershowitz ,the attorney for the president***, stated:

“If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.

Reading this with the most benign interpretation, you might have a scintilla of reasonable argument. The president very well may do things that are in the public interest that also make him look better just because he’s did his job. Signing trade deals, for example.

But that’s not what we’re looking looking at here. And if you look at what Dershowitz claims in practical terms shows it for the insanity it is.

In short, anything the president*** does to be reelected is not illegal or impeachable so long as he believes his reelection is the best thing for the nation.

It’s a throwback to Richard Nixon‘s response in his David Frost interview when asked about the illegality of his actions: “Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.

This argument places the power of the president above all law.

It also opens a Pandora’s Box for behaviors that could well push a nation into authoritarianism.

By Dershowitz’s logic, if the president*** believed (just believed with no evidence) that the election of the Democratic candidate for president would not be the best thing in the public interest, he could unleash all sorts of attacks with the full power of all the governmental agencies at his disposal.

Anything he did toward this end would be permissible. Anything.

And because of this current sham trial and the expected acquittal being gifted to the president*** by this craven and cowering group of GOP senators, there will be no oversight, no method of stopping him from crushing anyone who stood up to him. Even his cover ups and his refusal to provide documents or allow testimony become legal because, in his mind, it is in the public interest.

His interest becomes the public interest.

His grievances become the public’s grievances.

And he is a man with more grievances than any other man alive.

That’s scary territory, folks. Especially when you’re dealing with the kind of personality we know is possessed by this person.

We will have no guarantees of fair elections or of fair justice. There are so many scenarios– and all of them are awful– that wait for us if we throw open the lid of this Pandora’s Box.

And many of them will affect average citizens in a very real and negative fashion. It won’t just be high profile politicos.

There will be an acquittal. We all know that. Short of new new impeachment proceedings (he can be impeached again and again) brought about by even more overwhelming evidence, we will only have one chance to slam this lid shut.

And that is to Vote Blue in overwhelming numbers up and down the ballot in this year’s elections.

Don’t wait. Make sure you’re registered to vote now. Make sure your friends and families register and vote.

To do anything less is insanity.

 

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Marc Chagall- Paris Through My Window 1913

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If a symbol should be discovered in a painting of mine, it was not my intention. It is a result I did not seek. It is something that may be found afterwards, and which can be interpreted according to taste.

–Marc Chagall

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I love that a painter like Marc Chagall whose work is seemingly teeming with symbols never painted them with the intention of becoming such. It seems hard to believe but I believe him and understand what he’s saying. So often something in a painting gets picked up on by a viewer who infuses personal meaning onto it.

It becomes something more.

And even after it has attained symbolic status, it is stilled created in later iterations without that in mind. At the moment of creation, it’s just about giving the vision a sense of completeness. It is simply what it is at that moment and becomes something else afterward.

Another favorite of mine, Richard Diebenkorn, said pretty much the same thing: I trust the symbol that is arrived at in the making of the painting. Meaningful symbols aren’t invented as such, they are made or discovered as symbol later. 

Basically, the artist paints first then translates after the fact.

Hey, symbols happen.

That works for me and I think this is the case for most artists. I don’t really know for sure. I am sure there artists who wouldn’t agree with this, especially those who deal in allegorical work which is symbolic by design, and that’s fine. Everyone has their own mode of operation that hopefully works for them.

That being said, this is just an excuse to look at some Chagall paintings and the symbols in them.

Marc Chagall- La Vie 1964

Marc Chagall- The Night the Sun Rose

Marc Chagall Over Vitebsk 1915-20

 

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Yesterday, we observed the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp near the end of World War II. an event which made clear the horrors that the Nazis had perpetrated on the Jews and other groups. One of the survivors of Auschwitz was Viktor Frankl, who went on to become an eminent psychiatrist and author.

His book, Man’s Search For Meaning, is one of my favorite books, one that brought more insight to the world of those who lived through the Holocaust. The lessons from it also helped me through the tough times in my life. The post below from several years back discusses the lesson of that book.

I urge you to read the book. You can even listen to the entire audiobook freely on YouTube. I have included it at the bottom along with a video presentation that gives a brief synopsis of some of the takeaways from the book. It’s short and well done. There is an ad for the Great Courses which takes up the last minute but it’s worth watching.

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GC Myers- The Moment's Mission 2011Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity.

——Viktor Frankl

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The words of Viktor Frankl, the WW II concentration camp survivor who went on to greater fame as a psychotherapist and author, seemed to ring true for this square painting after I finished it. I saw the Red Tree here as one that finally saw its uniqueness in the world, sensing in the moment that with this individuality there came a mission that must be carried out.

A reason for being. A purpose.

I think that’s something we have all desired in our lives. I know it was something I have longed for throughout my life and often found lacking at earlier stages. I remember reading Frankl’s book, Man’s Search For Meaning, at a point when I felt adrift in the world. I read how the inmates of the concentration camp who survived often had  a reason that they consciously grasped in order to continue their struggle to live. It could be something as simple as seeing the ones they loved again or finishing a task they had set for themselves. Anything to give them a sense of future. Those who lost their faith in a future lost their will to live and usually perished.

At the time when I read this, I understood the words but didn’t fully comprehend the concept. I felt little meaning in my life and didn’t see one near at hand. It wasn’t until years later when I finally found what I do now that I began to understand Frankl’s words and saw that I had purpose in this world as a husband, an artist and a person of feeling.

We are all unique beings. We all have unique missions. The trick is in recognizing our individuality and trusting that it will carry us forward into a future

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I myself incline to drift, to accept a lesser situation rather than strive for a greater, and yet, I know that character in life and art is only made by an effort that is quite beyond one’s ordinary everyday acceptance of things as they are. 

–Lawren Harris, Letter to Catherine Whyte

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Came across this quote from one of my favorites, the painter Lawren Harris, and it really stood out for me on a couple of fronts.

Personally, it was a reminder that an artist’s character is developed by continuing to push beyond what they know they can do. To become more and not settle for the situation as it is. It’s easy to do what you know is possible but trying to do what you are not sure is within your grasp builds confidence, builds character. That is what moves the needle.

That’s an important thing for any artist to have in mind. I know I have to kick myself on a regular basis to not lull myself to sleep by doing what I know I can do and not attempting to do that new thing that seems too much for me to handle.

But on a larger scale, Harris’ words speak to where we are as a nation at this very moment, We are in a crucial moment and what happens in the coming days and weeks will determine both where we are headed as a nation and what makes up our collective character. Do we take the easy way that just accepts things as they are? Or do we pull from deep within our character and do that which is right even though it might require true effort and perhaps even sacrifice?

I wish I could say which way it will go but I don’t know. I believe that there is so much more that will be soon uncovered that to maintain the status quo will be untenable and there will be big change.

That the character we aspire to as a nation will finally come forward.

But that’s just my belief. Like all beliefs, without effort, it’s not worth much.

I thought the painting at the top, Light House at Father Point, was a great symbol for this post. The light house is a warning device, one that alerts sailors that they are approaching an area where they must proceed with caution.

We are at such a point as well. If we don’t pay attention we could end up on the rocks.

Let’s heed the warning from our own light house and not just take what is at hand as being the way things should be.

Let’s make an effort.

Let’s be more.

Let that define our character.

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Going Back Home

Have things to do so I am going to be short with this this morning. It’s that time of year and I have to get out of the lazy funk that has hung on me for the last few months and get back to doing some real work.

It’s funny how you can drift away from the thing that makes you feel best. But coming back to it is like coming home.

And that’s where I am headed.

So this morning, for this week’s musical choice, I am going with Tuba Skinny, a group out of New Orleans and their street performance of Going Back Home. Just feels right this morning.

Give a listen. Dance around a bit. Have a good week.

 

 

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This is a new piece, Walking Blues, that is headed to the West End Gallery for the annual Little Gems exhibit, which opens on Friday, February 7. As I have mentioned here before, the Little Gems show occupies a special place in my heart. The 1995 show was the first time my work was ever shown to anyone outside of my family and a very few friends.

It was a life changer for me, the first real big step in moving from what felt like an old life into a new and altogether different life.

And it felt like that at the time. It was abundantly evident for me. It wasn’t one of those things that happens without you really feeling the gravity of what is taking place. I didn’t know where this path would lead me or if I could even stay on it for long. But I knew it was a new path that had, if I was willing to really commit and work for it, the potential to change my life in some way.

And it has.

While this coming show is actually my 26th Little Gems show, it marks 25 full years of doing this, of transforming my feelings into paint, embedding thought into material. Standing at that first one back in 1995, anxiously watching to see if anyone even looked at my work let alone showed interest, there was no idea that it would lead here.

Like so many things, I just didn’t know.

But I am glad for it. And thankful.

Hopefully, I will be reminiscing about that first show on the occasion of my 50th Little Gems exhibit, 25 years (well, actually 24 years) from now.

I don’t know but we’ll see.

Here’s a version of the great blues classic, Walkin’ Blues, whose title I pinched for this painting. It originally recorded by the legendary Robert Johnson but I thought this very unique performance by contemporary bluesman Guy Davis amidst the stark beauty of the snow and ice of Uummannaq, Greenland, 369 miles north of the Arctic Circle fit this little gem of a painting pretty well.

Have a good day.

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