Archive for February, 2021

Finally finding a groove in the studio and need to get back into it so I just want to play a song this morning. Little comment and more work. The song is from the late blues legend John Lee Hooker, a longtime favorite who I haven’t played here in a while. The song is This Is Hip.

The painting at the top has nothing to do with this song. Obviously no banjo in John Lee’s work. It’s just a piece that caught my eye this morning. It’s one of my Icon paintings that represent ancestors I came across while doing genealogy. This is Joe Harris who was my gr-gr-great grandfather. He died in 1922 at age 88, and fought in the Civil War. He was also at one time in the late 19th century the United States Champion Banjo Player. At least, that’s what the headline for the article about his death in the local paper said.

For some reason, this painting just stuck with me this morning. Maybe Old Joe was pretty hip in his time.

Anyway, give a listen. Do something today. Make it a good day.

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Every time I start a picture… I feel the same fear, the same self-doubts… and I have only one source on which I can draw, because it comes from within me.

–Federico Fellini

I know that Fellini was talking about starting a film production in the quote above but it translates pretty neatly to the beginning of almost every painting for me.

There is always some level of self-doubt involved. I find myself doubting my abilities, my imagination, my drive, my vision, and even the quality of my paint or the amount of light in my studio, among a hundred other things.

Anything that gives me some sort of reason me to not do what I know I need to do.

And like Fellini points out, the only answer to this doubt is within myself. I can look to other creators and see how they have overcome their own doubts but, like so many things in art, every artist has a truly unique set of circumstances. The only thing all have in common is the desire and need to create, to express their vision and voice.

So, you learn to trust that desire and need. Trust that you are good enough. Trust that what you will do next will move you closer to realizing that vision and voice. Trust that there is real emotion and feeling behind what you are attempting.

That last one is a big one for me.

I have found that when I put concept before feeling, my attempts most often fail miserably.  By that I mean if I start a painting with a strong visual idea in mind but one that is not formed in emotion or doesn’t have some real personal feeling attached to it, sometimes it fails to take on real life. It might carry out the concept but it just lies there like a dead fish.

I have some of those dead fish here in the studio. I look at them and remember the original idea that I had when I first embarked on them. I also remember the feeling of deflation when I realized that I had no emotional attachment to them, sometimes early in the process. Things just don;t come together in the way I thought they might. There is flatness and shallow where I saw richness and depth in my mind.

Dead fish.

However, there is a caveat. Sometimes, when starting on a concept piece, things fall into place and momentum and feeling build. Attributes that were not seen in the original thought process appear and those I hoped for emerge stronger and more vibrant than envisioned.

The excitement of creation transforms into real feeling and the fish that looked like it might be dead begins to come to life on the surface of the painting. 

The feeling of seeing your work come to life, or at least the prospect of it, might be enough to overcome that initial doubt for me.  The words and advice from other artists might offer comfort but my own need to do what I do and to experience that thrill of creation are what get me past the hesitancy and dreadful doubt I face each time I stand before my easel or painting table. 

Okay, got to go. There are dead fish waiting for me. I think I might be able to put a little life in them if I just can get started.

Have a good day.

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The other day, I wrote about a new piece, Shadow of the Red Eye. I wrote that the feeling I was getting from the painting was very much like the tone of my recent dreams. Almost like a premonition of some sort.

This prompted a response from a friend who wrote about how his work in construction  often has him having strange and troubling dreams that take place in worksite settings, often dealing with huge problems arising in the middle of a building project. He said he would wake in a panic then go back to sleep only to reenter the same dream. He said he usually could shake them off after finally fully waking but this very morning of the post about dreaming premonitions he had such a dream, one that had him rattled, one that he couldn’t just shrug off.

He wanted to know if I had such dreams about my painting, Maybe one where everything goes awry, where nothing works. It made me think.

I certainly know the kind of dreams he was experiencing. I think anyone who has waited tables has had those recurring nightmares of waiting on an ever expanding section of a full restaurant where you don’t know where anything is located or how anything there works, all the time more and more tables being seated in your station. I hated those dreams. I actually had one several months ago and in the middle of the actual dream I found myself saying that I I wasn’t a waiter anymore, that I didn’t have to put up with this. I woke up and laughed then went on to sleep soundly.

I am sure I had them but don’t remember my dreams, good or bad, when I ran my swimming pool business. Any nightmares I would have had most likely paled to the reality I was living. I was working 100+ hours a week and was usually so exhausted and frazzled by the time I went to be that dreams of any sort didn’t register much.

There have been other freaky, scary dreams through the years, many that lingered with me for decades– most of my life, actually– and reside within me even now.

But painting dreams?

There have been painting dreams but few have been of that frantic, things-going-wildly-wrong sort that he was having. The closest thing  was a dream I had abut a year before I went fulltime as a painter. The dream even had a name– the Van Gogh Spiral. Set in a darkened museum-like space, I came in the dream to a doorway at the center of the space. I was warned not to enter it by a person who I couldn’t make out. They warned that behind the door was the Van Gogh Spiral. As I entered, there were these bursts of rich, deep colors that all came together in the form of a downward spiral, and I descended the spiral as one might go down a large spiral staircase. As I came around the bend in each new layer, imagery would flash before my eyes becoming stranger and stranger the further I descended. I saw it as a sort of symbolic descent into some sort of madness, some nether region, perhaps an place that had drawn Van Gogh in his final days.

It was a strange and troubling dream that felt like a warning of some sort. Still don’t know what to do with this but it remains pretty vibrant with me even nearly 25 years later. 

But for the most part, my painting dreams are usually somewhat good dreams, showing me paintings that I feel I need to paint, paintings that feel perfect to me. The problem is that usually the moment I awaken, that image is gone. The memory of dreaming it  and responding to it is still there but the image itself is absent. Frustrating, to say the least. But it makes me feel like it is still in there if I can somehow work it out. 

Some painting dreams have to do with showing my work. Some are positive, with the work there beyond what I have done to this point. Again, images gone when I wake up. Some are not as good, with me struggling to get people to look at my work on the wall as they walk by with total indifference. I guess that would be as close to a bad work dream as I get.

Now, the painting at the top, Not Quite an Island, from 2013, was the result of a dream. It came to me one night and I woke up a little before 4 AM with its image in my head. One of the rare times when the image lingered. Instead of going back to sleep, I headed over to the studio and was soon working on it in the early morning darkness. It actually came out very much as I dreamed it which in itself is an oddity as any pre-visions I have of a painting seldom match up with the final work.

The conscious mind usually edits the subconscious. It’s sometimes good, sometimes not. I am trying to stop this process.

In this case, the subconscious persisted.

That, along with its symbolic implications, might be why this painting holds a lot of meaning for me. Plus, the folks who gave it a home are some of the best people I know.

If all my painting dreams could be like this one, then  would be very happy.

Okay, got to work on a non-dream painting now. Wish me luck and have a good day.

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They (Republicans) didn’t start thinking of the old common fellow till just as they started out on the election tour. The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover was an engineer. He knew that water trickled down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will reach the dryest little spot. But he didn’t know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands.

–Will Rogers, Newspaper Article 1932

I wasn’t going to comment on this today but listening to the arguments in recent days from GOP politicians has pricked a nerve. The current federal minimum wage for non-exempt employees (like farm workers and tipped employees) is $7.25 per hour. It has been at that level since being 2007 though in fact it didn’t become a reality for workers until July of 2009. 

There is a movement to include a raise to the minimum wage in the current Covid Relief bill with the rationale that the people most affected by the pandemic have been low income workers who are, even in good times, struggling to get by. Work stoppages and interruptions therefore have a greater impact on their lives. 

I am not here to argue whether the minimum wage should be raised in this bill. That’s a whole different argument that is more about politics than the well being of the American worker or small business owner.

For my part, I think it should be raised no matter how it comes about. There are plenty of reasons.

First of all, the effective minimum wage— the dollar amount the lowest wage earners in every business everywhere in this country currently make per hour–is right around $12/hour. That is the level that employers have discovered is the minimum they must pay to attract sufficient workers for their businesses. Even in the states where they have not raised the minimum wage at the state level from $7.25, the effective wage is closer to this $12 figure.

This fight to suppress the wage is actually just performance art that plays to the biases and fears of the GOP base and props up the myth of trickle-down economics.

Yesterday, a proposal was unveiled by Republican senators Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton that would raise the fed minimum rate to $10/hr over the course of four years. Four years. To illustrate how disingenuous this proposal is, you only have to look at Senator Cotton’s home state of Arkansas. where the current minimum wage is $11 per hour.

I am not well versed on the economy of Arkansas but I don’t believe it is the economic engine driving this nation. If a worker in Little Rock deserves $11/hr at a minimum, why should a worker in the same position in city or town in another state earn less? Or maybe Sen. Cotton wants to cut some of his constituents income?

Maybe that’s Arkansas Exceptionalism.

Then, also yesterday, GOP Senator John Thune from South Dakota, speaking against raising the minimum, unveiled a personal anecdote that he felt illustrated how the raise was not necessary. He said that when he was a kid he worked at a restaurant starting at $1/hr and worked his way up to making $6/hr as a cook. He said that raising the rate now would cripple small businesses.

Well, his argument makes the opposite point.

He’s 60 years old so he was working as a kid in the mid to late 1970’s in that restaurant. In that time period the federal minimum wage was $2.30/hr so, let me tell you, $6/hr was big bucks. I worked in the late 1970’s in an A&P factory and worked my way up to a skilled position as a candy cook where I was making $6.35/hr. I was able to make a house and car payment on that income at that time. 

That $6/hr that Thune was earning then was a living wage at that time, one that would be worth approximately $25/ hour today. If his employer in that restaurant was paying a kid, as he termed himself, the equivalent of $25 in the 1970’s, then $15/hr should not be a problem now. 

Another example of how ludicrous Thune’s argument is is to simply look at the income of a US Senator in 1977. It was $44,600 per year. The salary for a US Senator is currently $174,000 per year. By my calculations, that’s roughly four times what it was in 1977.

That $6 from the 1970s doesn’t look the same in 2021, does it? I am sure Sen. Thune wouldn’t be too pleased working for that 44K today in the same job. If his income deserves to go up simply because of cyclical inflation over time, why shouldn’t a worker on the lower end of the spectrum deserve the same?

Part of the problem that we’re facing is forty plus years of having the GOP shove supply-side economics down our throats. Supply-side is a cleaned up way of saying trickle-down. which is the idea of giving most of the financial assistance and tax breaks to those folks at the top of the financial pyramid who own businesses and employ workers with the hope that all this cash will flow down to all the less affluent folks below. It was first called trickle-down — as a derogatory term– by the great humorist Will Rogers who spoke of it in newspaper article he wrote in 1932. The excerpt at the top sums it up perfectly.

Money is not water. It does not flow down. Money flows up. Low wage earners more than likely will spend any extra income and, as he says, it will end up in the hands of those at the top soon enough.

But that money passing through the hands of people who need it and will spend it will build up the economy and enrich small business owners. After all, most small business owners need customers with cash to spend and the more people with available income to spend, the better it is for them.

And for folks who make more than the minimum wage who complain that someone making $15/hr somehow diminishes their own oncome and status, perhaps they should be asking themselves why their incomes have been stagnant for so long, why they are working much harder for what seems like less money. Their income, or lack of it, is actually directly tied to keeping the minimum wage low. The low wages of others justifies their own low wages.

Higher minimum wages would ultimately result in higher wages for most wage earners. It would also raise the self esteem of those who work these jobs. Knowing that they might be able to actually live a life beyond scrimping for every small bit every day on poverty level wages is a life changer.

But we still battle the specter of trickle-down economics. It has been yelled at us by the GOP for so long that there are generations of working class citizens who have absorbed this fantastical concept that the rich will somehow benevolently pass the wealth down as fact. The GOP has used this create division. A working class voter is angrier about the occasional welfare queen, that racist concoction of the GOP, getting a few bucks here and there than they are about corporate bigwigs raiding the country’s coffers on a regular basis.

Many have bought into this charade, never knowing a life that was any different. I have lived most of my life in this system but remember a time when there was more income equality. It’s funny but most of the angry people on the right want to return to what they perceive was a better time in the past and many cite the booming 1950s. But they do this without realizing that was a time when there was much greater income equality, with a true middle class, more government spending on infrastructure, and more taxation of the wealthiest among us.

And you know what? There were still plenty of wealthy folks then. Maybe they didn’t have three or four yachts. Maybe only one or two. But they were still rich.

And you know why? Because money flows up.

Repeat that again and again. Then do it again until it is burned into your brain.

Money flows up.

Listen to Will Rogers. The wealthy still end up getting all the money in the end but we all benefit along the way with a better standard of living and more opportunities for a greater number of people to escape poverty and every negative aspect that comes with it.

Let’s get rid of this trickle-down madness, okay? 

I could say a lot more but I have went on too long this morning. Sorry for the length of this rant. Even so, I know that I missed a lot of points that I wanted to make ( such as that areas with the lowest effective minimum incomes tend to be those that struggle most economically overall which bleeds out into that area in the form of lower levels of education, higher levels of poverty, higher crime, and on and on) and didn’t address every argument or maybe even make the points I thought I made. This is all off the top of a jumbled brain so please keep that in mind.

Have a good day, okay?

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“What appears to be definite and precise does not belong to any acceptable reality. It is only the experiences, the queer previsions, the fleeting premonitions, that are real. Vague and insubstantial though they may appear to be, compared with anything else in the mists and shifting lights of Time theory, they loom up like mountains of iron ore.”

― J.B. Priestley, Man and Time

This painting is titled Shadow of the Red Eye and is part of the current Little Gems show at the West End Gallery. It’s a painting that really spoke to me when I was working on it, as well as after. It just seemed to have something to say to me the whole time.

It’s been out there in the ether for weeks now and I am still wrestling with its meaning. Some pieces are like that. Some immediately let me know what part of me, what part of my psyche and internal world, they are displaying. Positive emotions usually show themselves quickly.

Others take awhile.

They are usually darker in tone. And while their meanings may not jump out, there is a sense of certainty and reality in them. I may subconsciously try to avoid putting meaning to these pieces, not wanting to face the possible darker realities they may represent.

Maybe realities is not the right word. Or maybe I should include the word possibilities as an accomplice to realities. That would align well with the Priestley quote above which I read as being about how each of our personal realities is not just a timeline of facts and tangible data. It is not black and white. No, our reality is in shades of grays and subtle tones of black and white. It is a compilation of personal emotions and feelings in the present, interpretations and reactions to our past, and premonitions of our future. That is the reality in which we reside.

And that might be where this paintings fits in. It coincides with darker dreams I have been experiencing in my sleep lately, dreams that are a bit uncomfortable and worrisome. I wake in the morning with pangs of anxiety from them, fearful that they are some sort of premonition. Perhaps, a call out to my outer self from my inner self to pay heed to the clues it has taken notice of in the patterns and movements of the outer world. 

I am still taking this piece in so I am not really sure what it means. I hope it is not a pure premonition but is maybe more of a simple reflection of my own worries for the future. But it has a real attraction for me and maybe that comes because it feels real to me, that is has something of true meaning in it for me.

Even with my own personal uncertainty, it seems to have certainty.

Like a mountain of iron ore.


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Been thinking about what drives people to extremism, about how seemingly normal people can take on attitudes and perform actions that seem completely out of character for them. The kind of thing we’ve seen in recent years here where people retreat into online venues that echo back their fears and prejudices in a way that magnifies them beyond all reality. That online virtual world of fear and hatred eventually finds its way out into the real world and an extremist mob is formed. Such was the case on January 6.

This all reminds me of a post from back in 2009 that I reran in 2017. It seemed like a good time to run it again. It features Henry Fonda who, for me, is the voice of the American conscience on film. His characters in Young Mr. Lincoln, The Grapes of Wrath, 12 Angry Men, My Darling Clementine, Mr. Roberts and the film featured below, The Oxbow Incident, were men of character, principle, and great conscience.

They tried to do what was right even when it went against the mob. Even when its futile.

I urge you to watch the short clip from the film. It speaks volumes. Then and now.

The Oxbow IncidentI don’t like crowds.

Maybe it’s just some sort of neurosis like agoraphobia or maybe it’s just having developed a sense of uneasiness from seeing how individual people could react differently after becoming part of a group.

It always confounded me from an early age how the dynamics of a group could change the behavior of an individual person, bringing out characteristics that might be undetected in one-to-one interactions. It’s as though the protection of the group brings out extreme attitudes that would otherwise be stifled. The whole moral compass is pushed further from the center and whatever sense of conscience that is present becomes diluted.

I was reminded of this feeling when I saw a short film about the actor Henry Fonda that talked of the parallels between his character’s experience  in the movie The Oxbow Incident , where his character was the lone voice of reason against a mob that lynches three men without evidence of their guilt and those of a being witness to a horrific episode as youth in Nebraska.

As a 14 year-old boy in Omaha, Nebraska in 1919, he witnessed a mob storm the courthouse that was located across the street from his father’s printing business. They  were inflamed by allegations made by a white woman that she had been assaulted by a black man. A suspect had been taken into custody and was in the courthouse. The mob, whose size was estimated to be between 5000 and 15000 people, exchanged gunfire with police in which two of the mob were killed.

The mayor of Omaha tried to intervene  and was beaten and himself lynched before being saved. The suspect was not so lucky.

The accounts of this mob rule are horrific. Fonda carried this memory with him for the rest of his life and it informed many of the roles he had over his career. In The Oxbow Incident his character confronts the lynch mob afterward in a bar and reads them a letter written by one of the hanged men to his wife.  I could go on and on but I think the clip says it all…

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Arnold Bocklin- Isle of the Dead

I was working in the studio yesterday with the television on in the background. Born Yesterday, the 1950 film that featured the Academy Award winning, tour-de-force performance of Judy Holliday as a ditzy mobster girl friend who discovers she has a brain was playing. It’s a great film to work by, easy to follow without watching closely thanks to great writing from Garson Kanin and the very distinct voices of its main  characters– Holliday’s snorts, squeaks, and honks, Broderick Crawford‘s rough barks and William Holden‘s smooth, educated eloquence.

I have seen the film several times over the years but had missed, or at least overlooked, one part that jumped out at me yesterday. It was  scene where Holden, who is a journalist paid to educate Holliday so that she can better mingle with the DC power crowd that mobster Crawford is looking to buy into, recites a portion of a famous essay from orator Robert G. Ingersoll. This caught my ear this time because I have recently become aware of Ingersoll and have wrote about his once celebrated but now fairly forgotten life here, back in September.

Ingersoll interested me because, for one thing, his childhood home and a museum dedicated to his life is not too far from me. Once this pandemic is in the rearview I look forward to visiting it. But I am also interested in people who are widely celebrated and have great influence in their own time but seem to fall into the darkness with each new generation. Ingersoll certainly falls into that category.

This particular essay, After Visiting the Tomb of Napoleon, was wildly popular in its time. It was written in 1882 and was recorded via the new technology of voice recording– invented by Thomas Edison, a big Ingersoll fan– by Ingersoll himself and other famed public speakers. It was sold on gramophone recordings so that families could hear the words of Ingersoll in their homes, a wild concept at the time.

It goes a s follows:

After Visiting the Tomb of Napoleon
by Robert G. Ingersoll, 1882

A little while ago I stood by the grave of Napoleon, a magnificent tomb of gilt and gold, fit almost for a dead deity, and gazed upon the sarcophagus of black Egyptian marble where rests at last the ashes of the restless man. I leaned over the balustrade and thought about the career of the greatest soldier of the modern world.

I saw him walking upon the banks of the Seine contemplating suicide; I saw him at Toulon; I saw him putting down the mob in the streets of Paris; I saw him at the head of the army of Italy; I saw him crossing the bridge at Lodi with the tricolor in his hand; I saw him in Egypt in the shadows of the pyramids; I saw him conquer the Alps and mingle the eagles of France with the eagles of the crags. I saw him at Marengo, at Ulm and Austerlitz. I saw him in Russia, where the infantry of the snow and the cavalry of the wild blast scattered his legions like winter’s withered leaves. I saw him at Leipsic in defeat and disaster, driven by a million bayonets back upon Paris, clutched like a wild beast, banished to Elba. I saw him escape and retake an Empire by the force of his genius. I saw him upon the frightful field of Waterloo, when chance and fate combined to wreck the fortunes of their former king. And I saw him at St. Helena, with his hands crossed behind him, gazing out upon the sad and solemn sea.

I thought of the orphans and widows he had made; of the tears that had been shed for his glory and of the only woman who had ever loved him pushed from his heart by the cold hand of ambition.

And I said I would rather have been a French peasant and worn wooden shoes. I would rather have lived in a hut with a vine growing over the door and the grapes growing purple in the kisses of the autumn sun. I would rather have been that poor peasant with my loving wife by my side, knitting as the day died out of the sky, with my children upon my knee and their arms about me. I would rather have been that man and gone down to the tongueless silence of the dreamless dust than to have been that imperial impersonation of force and murder known as Napoleon the Great.

And so I would ten thousand times.

The essay talks of visiting Napoleon’s grave and recalling all the highpoints of his celebrated life. But after taking it in, including all the human suffering that took place due to this man, Ingersoll decides that he would rather live the life of a French peasant that lived a poor life but one that had love and family in it.

Hearing and reading this brought two things to mind. The first was a conversation I had while walking down King Street in Alexandria with another artist, many years ago now. This artist was much more celebrated than me, his work selling for much higher sums than mine which made it appealing to those in power, both in government and in the corporate world. He rubbed elbows with that crowd much more than I. As we walked, he talked about the proximity to power there in Alexandria, how you could almost feel it in the atmosphere.

He asked if being that close to it made me wish that I could access that kind of power. I didn’t even think a bit about it, answering no immediately. I knew that I was an artist for just that reason, that I didn’t want to feel the weight of responsibility that I knew I would take on in such a position. If I were to change people’s lives it would have to come on my terms, as a gentle influence and not with the power of force and will that has the potential for death and destruction in the lives of others.

To the best of my knowledge, my painting has never killed anyone nor caused anyone to lose their homes or livelihood. That sounds like a goofy thing to say but it has great comfort for me. I already worry about so much that to add the wellbeing of a whole constituency would be a burden I couldn’t bear. 

My answer surprised my companion who seemed much more open to the idea of having power. This morning, this memory along with the Ingersoll essay made me think about the 500,000 Americans who have died in the past year due to covid-19. It’s a figure that is most likely at least 10% higher when you consider excess mortality figures and take into the fact that the mitigation efforts put in place for covid-19 have more or less eradicated deaths normally seen from the seasonal flu.

But even if the figure is right, half a million folks dead and half a million families affected is a sobering thing. To be somehow responsible for even a portion of those lives would be a burden I certainly would not want to bear. I think of the former president** and his administration’s laissez-faire response and it rings a bell similar to those lines from Ingersoll. To have such a thing take place under one’s watch and to only selfishly concern yourself about one’s own desires– the cold hand of ambition as Ingersoll called it– would be Napoleonic, to say it one way.

Criminally cruel and negligent is another way.

No, I wouldn’t want the life of Napoleon or our former president. I would rather gladly live the life of a French peasant with wooden shoes. Or a simple artist painting away as the snow fell outside his studio  in the woods. 

And I would ten thousand times.

Have a good day in whatever position you are.



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Austin Texas February 2021

There could be only one result . . . If men insisted on being free from the burden of a life that was self-dependent and also responsible for the common good, they would cease to be free at all. Responsibility was the price every man must pay for freedom. It was to be had on no other terms.

Edith Hamilton, The Echo of Greece [1957]

I was looking for a song to play for this week’s Sunday Morning Music and I stumbled across a Chris Rea song from the 1980’s, from an album of his that I listened to quite often back in the day. I searched the blog’s archives to make sure I hadn’t played it before or too recently.

I found that the last time I used a Chris Rea song here was last April. It was the title song, The Road to Hell, and it was used in a blog post about how people were using the word freedom in those early days of the pandemic as an excuse for refusing to accept any responsibility or accountability to their fellow citizens. For example, their right to get their hair cut–or wear a mask, god forbid!– was greater than any responsibility they held for the safety and welfare of those folks that they came in touch with.

In that post I employed some quotes from the late Classicist scholar/mythologist Edith Hamilton that described the lack of responsibility and accountability that marked the downfall of the Athenian empire. There was the quote at the top along with this:

When the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.

Her words really struck me last April in that it was the same shirking of duty and responsibility that we have been experiencing here in recent times, a trend that really stood out during our time of greatest need. People wanted to say they were free but only with the implication that it meant that they were free from all, responsibility, accountability, empathy, or conscience. 

That might be some sort of libertarian wet dream but that ain’t freedom, folks. At least, not for a country as wide and as varied as we are.

I’ve said it before: Freedom ain’t free.

Reading this blog post from last year reminded me of the situation that has been taking place in Texas. Now, I don’t claim to know all the intricacies of Texas power ( or political power) system so I can’t really make any informed commentary but it sure seems like what took place in recent times there pretty much lined up with Edith Hamilton’s words.

Put plainly, people entrusted to provide necessary services grabbed all the cash they could while doing as little as possible to maintain or improve the system or to accept any sort of personal responsibility for the citizenry they served.

The privatized power system was a cash cow that was there to be milked until it fell over and died. Then they thought they could simply walk away, buckets of cash in hand.

That’s how it looks to me but like I said, I don’t jack about what really goes on down there. But privatizing something so important as the power system without having a mechanism for accountability seems like a recipe for disaster. And this disaster, while labeled as a natural disaster, was more of a man-made disaster, one of great negligence.

I don’t think this is the same sort of freedom that Texans think they were told that this would provide.

End of commentary. Well, close to the end.

Anyway, this post reminded me of another Chris Rea from that same album, a song called Texas. It’s about a guy in, I Believe, Ireland who dreams of Texas, fantasizing about its size and wide open spaces. He sees it as a place of escape. A place where a man can be free. 

Hopefully, his idea of being free is not the same sort of freedom that we’re seeing come to fore at the present. 

Anyway, here’s the song Texas set to a wonderful slideshow of the natural beauty and wonders that make Texas an exceptional place. That exceptional is code for one of my Texas friends. He’ll get it. 

To my friends in Texas, glad to see the cold weather moving past you now. Now comes the hard work of cleaning up and restoring some sense of normalcy. Let’s work on our empathy and our responsibility to those around us so that we can all weather the next storm.

 After all, freedom ain’t free, my friends. Have a good day.


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“Memoir” – At the West End Gallery

As machines become more and more efficient and perfect, so it will become clear that imperfection is the greatness of man.

—Ernst Fischer 

I’ve wondered about the concept of perfection for some time, given the way some folks are always going on about it and seeking it.

Not me, of course. Quite some time back, I came to that conclusion that perfection is not a human quality, that we are defined by our imperfections and how we cope with them. How we adapt and compensate for all the area in which we are lacking.

And that’s somewhat what the quote above says, as I read it.

When I read it, it struck me at once but I had never heard of the writer, Ernst Fischer.  Looking him up, I found him to be an Austrian Marxist writer/journalist born in 1899 who waved the banner for Stalinist policies for many years but in his later years– he died in 1972– Fischer came to regret his past. His memoir of his life began with a chapter that was titled Was That Me?, indicating his astonishment at looking back and seeing the many phases and changes he went through in his life.

I think most of us could start our own memoirs with that same first chapter title.

I know I could, even though I feel that I am very much the same at the core now as I was in my earlier days. However, my actions were not always consistent with that core and didn’t really reflect well on me. I did some things that were–how should I put this?— less than perfect. I was then, and am now, a walking exhibition of flaws, imperfections.

As are we all. At least, that applies to everyone I know.

Maybe it’s when we recognize what sort of person we want to be that we begin to alter and align our actions to what we are at our core. Then life becomes somewhat easier to swallow and our imperfections become less evident, not worn on our sleeves for all to see.

I’m not talking about trying to acquire perfection. No, I mean that we just try to recognize the flaws that make up each of us and to accept them. Life is in toleration- of others as well as of ourselves. And in adapting to and overcoming our shortcomings.

Please bear with me here. One of the negative aspects of doing a daily blog is that I often post things as though I were writing them in a journal, unedited and just as they fall out of the mind. They are not always fully realized thoughts or ideas and will soon be questioned in my own mind.

It’s like reading an old journal written when much younger and wondering, “What was I thinking there?” or, echoing Fischer, “Was that me?”

You hope that, as we age and gain experience, that this is a less frequent happening in our lives.  But writing in this public forum, forcing out words each day, it sometimes reappears. One’s imperfections become apparent.

Phew!  I don’t know what I just said here and I don’t really want to reread it so I’ll let it hang out there for now, flawed though it may be. Someday in the near or distant future I just know I’ll read it and ask myself, “Was that me?”

This post first ran back in 2010. Some things never change.

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I too am not a bit tamed,
I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp
over the roofs of the world.

Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

I finished this smaller piece the other day (it is headed to the West End Gallery today) and with the Red Tree appearing to hover above the Red Roofs both near and far, all I could think of were the lines above from Uncle Walt. That’s Walt Whitman, actually, but I always think of him in familial terms not that he was anything at all like my own uncles.

These lines from Song of Myself have rang in my ears for decades and are at the core of my desire to paint and in the formation of my voice as an artist.

Before I even thought of beginning to paint, I tried my hand at wood carving. I did a number of bas-relief carvings that were fairly crude in a folksy kind of way. I was untrained and just went at it, much as I did later on with my painting. I believe that the painting worked out much better but the carving had a part to play for me at the time.

One of the first things I carved was a rough-hewn face with the four lines– poorly executed– from Whitman next to it. It was nothing to write home about, carved as it was from the end of an old 2×12 pine board. I am not particularly proud of it as a piece of art but it has great meaning to me and stays near me in the studio.

I have described what these words have meant to me in the past like this:

…the four lines above have been a guiding beacon for me throughout the past 25 years as I have tried to be an artist. These words instructed me to be only myself, to openly and boldly express my feelings without fear or shame. To not hide my scars, my fears or my weaknesses because they are part of my wholeness and keep me in balance. To not be underestimated or devalued by myself or anyone else. To claim a foothold in this world and bellow out the proof of my existence in my own voice:

Here I am.

There are paintings that I do that are meant to represent this thought, paintings that are meant to be plainly expressions of that Here I am. I consider them icons in my body of work, pieces that fully represent my work and what I want from it. This painting definitely falls in that category. It’s simply put but not a simple expression.

When I look at this painting I personally see myself and all my hopes and aspirations, all that I am or desire to be.

What I hope for this painting is that someone else sees that same here I am in it for themselves, that they see in it those things that make them a whole and perfectly imperfect person with a place in this world and a voice that demands to be heard.

Is that asking too much?

I immediately thought looking at this new painting that it fit into this category, that the Red Tree here represented my own need to let out my barbaric yawp, to announce my existence in this world. I am calling it I Sound My Barbaric Yawp.

It might not be quite as roughly finished as the carving but the yawp is the same.

Sound your own yawp in the world today. Have a good one.

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