Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Biographical’ Category

Charles C Mulford Grave Alexandria VA National Cemetery

I am very busy getting ready for my annual show at the Principle Gallery. Unlike the prior 20 shows, this year’s show will be different in many aspects, from the many precautions that I will have to take in delivering the work to the fact that there won’t be an actual opening reception this year. There’s a lot I am going to miss from this year’s show. But as I prepare, I am reminded of an entry I wrote  about a small family connection with that city that was revealed to me several years back. Felt like it was worth replaying on this Memorial Day.

I’ve been going to Alexandria, VA, a lovely and historic town that hugs the Potomac River just a few miles below Washington DC, for a long time, often several times a year. Outside of my link with the Principle Gallery and the relationships that have grown from that, I never thought I had a connection of any sort with that area.

Col. Eleazer Lindsley

Col.Eleazer Lindsley

But, as many of you who read this blog on a regular basis already know, I am an avid genealogist. I have documented some of my ancestral discoveries in a series of paintings, Icons, like the one shown here on the right, that I hope to get back to soon. While going through one of my lines earlier this year I came across a great-grand uncle by the name of Charles C. Mulford, who was the great grandson of Colonel Eleazer Lindsley who is my 7th-great grandfather, shown here in the Icon painting on the right.

Mulford was born in nearby Lindley in 1821 and lived a quiet life as a farmer until the Civil War broke out. Serving for the 6th Regiment of the NY Heavy Artillery, he saw combat in battles at Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, the Wilderness, Totopotomy and Petersburg.  At the Battle of Petersburg, Mulford was shot in the upper  thigh and, during his hospitalization, contracted typhus and died in early July of 1864.

It was the same sort of tragic ending that many of my ancestors met while serving this country. But the interesting detail in the account was that he had died in Alexandria at the Fairfax Seminary hospital and was buried in the National Cemetery not too far from the gallery.

So Friday morning when I went out for coffee at a local cafe that I frequent when I am  in town I decided to seek out my great-grand uncle. Under threatening skies, I strolled the few blocks to the cemetery that is tucked quietly among neighborhoods filled with townhouses. It only took a few moments to find the grave, sitting in the first row facing a  stone wall.

The marble headstone was well weathered as you can see at the top of the page. I stood there for quite a while. I wondered if any others had looked closely at that stone in recent years, had uttered the name over that grave.

It’s a small thing but just standing in front of that stone for  a few minutes was very calming for me, especially on the day of an opening when I am normally very anxious. Just knowing that he and I shared a tiny bit of DNA and a common beginning had meaning for me, connecting to me to my family, our history as a nation and to Alexandria, as well. I felt like I belonged in so many ways.

And there was great peace in that moment.

So, besides the many paintings that I know populate the homes of Alexandria and the friends that I have made there, a small part of my past will always reside in that city. I finally feel truly connected there.

Some extra info:  Charles Mulford was the first cousin of  General John E. Mulford (my first cousin 6 generations removed) who was President Lincoln‘s Commissioner of Exchange which meant that he arranged for the exchange of prisoners during the war. He is shown below in uniform in a photo from Matthew Brady.Gen John E. Mulford Matthew Brady Photo Richmond VA

Read Full Post »

I was going to write today about Memorial Day since we are in that holiday weekend. But something last night set me thinking about our old beagle, Mae Belle Brown, and I thought I would memorialize her in some small way here instead.

I have mentioned that my home and studio is set at the edge of a forest which means that we are daily witnesses to a constant parade of wild creatures of all sorts. It’s a virtual Peaceable Kingdom, if you’re familiar with the famous folk paintings of Edward Hicks. On any given day, we see dozens of different sorts of birds, waterfowl and large and small animals.

Just yesterday, I watched three adorable and fluffy fox kits rolling around after they emerged from under a shed of ours above our house in the woods. Then I watched as several wood ducks from our pond came down my studio driveway to munch on a handful of corn I had thrown out  for the wild turkeys, of which one tom stood several yards away from the ducks, his feathers all puffed out and his wattle fully expanded in regal display. And just a few more feet from the ducks stood a mother doe who was nibbling at the same bit of corn.

Just a short while earlier, this doe had rousted two small young bucks who regularly relax and drowse in the juniper bushes next to my studio window. I call them my studio interns and they are very young, most likely recently evicted from their family unit when the new fawns arrived. In time, as the fawns get stronger, they will rejoin the family unit. But for now, they are just biding their time, feeling a little untethered as they are not really sure what to do.

It might have been this same mother doe who I had watched, earlier in the morning, with her newly born fawn in our front yard. As she nursed her fawn, another equally young fawn emerged from the woods. The doe sniffed at the fawn. But it was pretty obvious this was not her own baby and the fawn moved on into the brush at the edge of the woods. A short bit later another doe came through searching for it.

Later in the day, at this same spot, we watched as one of these does pursued a raccoon on the ground. The raccoon moved quickly to a tree and scurried several feet up on one side of a larger tree while the doe waited on the other side of it.  She moved around and the coon went a bit further, just out of reach. When the doe moved around to the other side, the coon descended and headed through the brush. The doe was quickly right behind it and the coon went up another tree. This went on for a while, with the coon holding tight to the tree as the doe stood waiting patiently below it, a kind of Mexican standoff between the two. Eventually, the raccoon was able to make a getaway.

Watching this reminded me of a similar incident that occurred with our old beagle Mae Belle Brown many years before. It was in this same spot that she had encountered a similar mother deer. Unfortunately, unlike the raccoon, she couldn’t climb a tree.

Now, Mae Belle was a beagle we had rescued a few years prior to this incident. A friend had told me that there was an old beagle at the local shelter that I should see as she knew I had a fondness for beagles. When I went to the shelter and asked about the dog, the caretaker said she was somewhere around the place, just wandering on her own in the hallways between the kennels. Just then she came around the corner and I was stunned at her appearance.

She was the most pitiful thin I had ever seen.  The was small and old, very very gray, all the beagle colors washed almost completely out of the her face and back. And that back, it was so swayed downward, the weight of her little bulbous belly dragging it low. This was all set on four tiny skinny legs that gave her the appearance of a short bratwurst sausage set on four tiny chicken legs. No, not even chicken legs. More like chicken wings or quail legs. What a pathetic sight it was to see this gray little sausage on quail legs waddle down the hall.

They had found her behind a local Pizza Hut, snuffling around the dumpster and nobody had come forward to claim her. She smelled almost as bad as she looked, the kind of odor that came with rot and decay. I left and went home, pretty sure this wasn’t the girl for me. But the thought of that poor little thing just gnawed at me through the day. I came to the conclusion that if we didn’t take her in, nobody would. I told myself that she was in such poor shape we would most likely act as a sort of hospice for her. Maybe we have her for six months or a year.

So, that afternoon she came home with me. We found that her teeth were a horror show, mostly rotted to the gums which were also in terrible condition. In fact, there were points where you could see completely through the rot in her gums to the roots of her teeth and beyond into her mouth. The roof of her mouth was rotting as well. It was a wreck.

After a bit, after unsuccessfully trying to treat her with antibiotics, we went to another vet who convinced us that she was in good enough condition, despite the fact that they estimated her age at 11 or 12, to undergo dental surgery. They extracted all her teeth except for her 8 molars that were in decent condition and one single lower canine in the front. It was a great success. Her mouth cleared up well and the odor went away forever. There was an article on dental surgery for dogs in the local paper that featured her story. Our little star.

Through the years we had her, she had all sorts of setbacks. She had come to us with infections in her ears that resulted in pebbly concretions that would periodically give her small seizures. We were able to clear those up. Then once she has an episode where she somehow sprained her little rat tail. She couldn’t wag her tail without extreme pain and when she had to defecate, it was a horrible experience. She would squat and squeal as she released her load. The vets said there was little to be done but give it time so for weeks we watched helplessly as this poor little girl would squeal each day.

That brings us back to her encounter with the mama deer. It was in early June. Mae Belle was in the yard just snuffling around as she had often done before. She seldom ventured more than fifty feet from the house. In fact, she was normally eager to get back to her bed. We were reading the paper that morning when suddenly there was terrible wail from outside. Going to the door I could see Mae Belle down in the yard in front of our house, on a wide path between two patches of woods that led to our pond. Maybe 100 feet away. She was on her back and a deer was jumping up and down on top of her, trying to stomp her into the ground. I ran screaming at the deer and was within ten feet or so before she sensed my coming. At that point, I was afraid I was going to have to tackle her but thankfully, she fled into the woods.

Mae Belle was again a wreck. Her belly was cut open and she was in shock. We wrapped her up sped her to the emergency vet. They were able to stabilize her and bandage her up cuts. She had twelve breaks in her ribs. When we took her home the next day, she was sore but able to move around. She recuperated surprisingly fast, open sitting at the open doorway of our home with her bandage her midsection, growling lowly whenever a deer cut through the yard.

I did some research and found deer attacks on dogs are surprisingly common. especially in the spring when the does are protective of their fawns. In fact, that same day, a friend who lives several miles from us, watch as their neighbor’s dog was chased and cornered by their garage by a deer. No injuries in that case but it happens on a regular basis. So, watch your dogs if there are deer around your home this time of the year.

Despite all her physical problems and injuries, Mae Belle had a great five years with us. She actually seemed to get younger with each passing year and displayed more and more vigor, joy, and satisfaction as the time went on. She would do a little dance of joy when being fed, where she would dance and bounce from side to side on those little chicken wing legs, a big grin on her toothless mouth.

What a baby doll. It hurt like hell when we had to put her down after a chronic illness quickly knocked her for a loop. But that time we had initially thought would be a short time to comfort her turned into a wonderful five years for us both. One of my favorite memories of her sleeping next to me with her little chicken legs wrapped around my thigh.

If you get a chance to someday adopt an older dog, do it. Their love and gratitude is such a tangible thing that it far overshadows the inevitable sorrow that comes with their passing.

All that came back to me yesterday watching that deer harass that poor raccoon not ten feet from where Mae Belle had been attacked. I know that Memorial Day is about honoring those that have given their lives in service to our nation but today I am honoring Mae Belle for all that she gave to us. The photo at the top is Mae Belle near the end of her time with us. That sweet little snausage.

Have a good day.

 

Read Full Post »

I posted this photo of my studio cat, Hobie, yesterday and she drew quite a bit of attention on social media. Thought I would say a few words about this girl who has been my studio assistant for somewhere around ten years now.

Like I said in the posting, she is a perfect assistant. She is undemanding in every aspect except her occasional need for periodic rubs and a treat or two throughout the day. She is also neat and has never once taken to scratch at any of the canvasses or frames scattered around the studio.

She is thoughtful. When I come into the studio each morning, if she has caught a mouse she leaves it as a love gift for me in front of my easel. That’s the first place I check when I come into this space. Stepping on a dead mouse is not a pleasant experience, certainly not  something I want to do again anytime soon.

I call her presents love gifts because she absolutely loves me. When I first enter the studio kitchen each morning, the first thing that occurs is our ritual greeting. It consists of me getting down on the floor and laying with her with her  for several minutes. She circles me and rubs against me then flops on her side in front of me for an extended pet, a tremendously loud purr emanating from her all the time.

I usually serenade her with a song at this point, which she also seems to like for some reason, even with my awful voice. A longtime favorite has been the version of She’s Some Kind of Wonderful from Grand Funk. She’s also partial to Cole Porter tunes.

I was going to tell how she came to be a full time live-in assistant and house cat that no longer goes outside but it’s a longer story than I am willing to tell right now. She doesn’t even seem to want to go out side now, like she knows how tough it is to be on your own out there in the woods and fully appreciates what sweet gig she has now. One where she can demand rubs and kisses and tasty treats. One where she can roll on any pile of papers that she finds.

As I said, she’s perfect for the situation. She’s super smart, understanding, undemanding, affectionate and fully satisfied with her life now. Just a great girl and a wonderful companion.

I am including a song, Walking My Cat Named Dog, from the 1960’s from folksinger Norma Tanega. I came across it when I was looking up the name of the song that opens the TV show What We Do in the Shadows which is a goofy mockumentary style show about a group of real vampires living on Staten Island. It’s based on a film of the same name from filmmaker Taika Waititi who also made a favorite movie of mine, JoJo Rabbit. It’s a show that often makes me laugh out loud but the opening theme always catches my attention. It has a great sound.

Looking it up, I found that it’s  called You’re Dead from Norma Tanega. Looking her up, I found that she was discovered as a singing camp counselor in the Catskills and is best known for the song Walking My Cat Named Dog. It’s a song that I can’t quite remember but it sounds familiar, definitely a product of mid 60’s radio. But more than that, it reminds me of Hobie who I have often felt had a dog vibe to her. Maybe it’s her unconditional love and she doesn’t seem seem as aloof as some other cats. I don’t know why but I often think of her as my dogcat. My cat named dog.

Anyway, here is that song along with You’re Dead. Pet your cats and dogs. And your fish and your snakes and your turtles. And your horses and llamas.  Goats and pigs, too. Whatever. Have a good day.

*************

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4jUZ-Ex1k0

Read Full Post »

I came across an article this morning that had been forwarded to me by a friend several years ago in response to a blog post.  Appearing in the online magazine Psyche, it was written by three researchers ( Julia Christensen, Guido Giglioni, and Manos Tsakiris) and was largely about how creativity and wellness were often boosted by allowing the mind to wander. It’s an interesting article that discusses the neuroscience behind their research into the wandering mind.

While those that daydream have often been chided through history as being lazy and counterproductive, there has also been a school of thought that encourages random thought and rumination. The Germans had a phrase for this, ‘die Seele baumeln lassen,’– ‘let the soul dangle.

One part of the article that struck a chord with me discusses how art causes biological responses and often serves as a prop for emotional catharsis. As they put it:

“…art can help us adapt to the immediate source of pain by acting as a prop for emotional catharsis. We all know the strange, pleasurable, consoling feeling that comes after having a good cry. This experience appears to be precipitated by the release of the hormone prolactin, which has also been associated with a boosted immune system, as well as bonding with other people. The arts are a relatively safe space in which to have such an emotional episode, compared with the real-life emotional situations that make us cry. Even sad or otherwise distressing art can be used to trigger a kind of positive, psychobiological cleansing via mind-wandering.”

I immediately responded to this point as this is something that I experience on a regular basis. I often am moved to tears by artistic stimulus while in the studio, most often in the form of music, film or the written word. It is such a common occurrence that I have come to use this response as a barometer for how emotionally invested I am in the work I am doing at that time. I have found that the work that I feel is my best comes at times when I am on this edge of induced emotional catharsis. I feel most immersed in the work at that time, both open and receptive, even vulnerable. And that is normally when I produce my best work.

It’s something that has taken place with me for decades now and it’s interesting to see that there might be a neurological component behind my response. I think I am going to go now and see if I can produce some more prolactin this morning.

Click here to go to this article. It’s a relatively short read plus there is a an audible version available on the page if you would rather listen.

**************

The painting accompanying this post is a small piece that I call The Daydream. It is part of my solo show, Social Distancing, that opens June 5 at the Principle Gallery.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Was going to write something new today for Mother’s Day but decided to replay a post from five years back about my own mom, who died close to twenty five years ago now.

*************

I thought I would take the opportunity on this Mother’s Day, to dedicate this week’s Sunday music to my late mom. It’s hard for me to believe but later this year will mark twenty years [25 now] since she passed away after a short but brutal battle with cancer. Needless to say, I miss her very much and wish she could have seen the things that came in the years after she died, such as how well her grandchildren grew up and the great-grandkids she never got to meet or dote on.

For my parts, she never lived to see my work hanging in a gallery or museum, never got to see how it has grown over the years. Looking at two large pieces on easels next to me at this moment, I realize that there is a whole different world of mine she never got to witness.

But I think she would be pleased to know that things worked out okay, that I found something to ease my mind and give me something of a purpose. I would hope she would like the work I’ve done. I know she liked the earliest pieces, the only ones she would know, like the piece at the top. It was one of my earliest efforts in early 1994, long before I had experienced any kind of creative breakthrough. It was gift to her on Mother’s Day of that year and it hangs in my studio now, always reminding me of her.

So, for this bit of Sunday music, I thought I would play one of the songs I know to be a favorite of hers. She always loved Eddy Arnold‘s voice and I have specific memories of this song coming from our old stereo console. The title and the song itself,  Make the World Go Away, just seemed to fit Mom so well. For that matter, looking at the alternative world that surrounds me here in the studio, I guess it fits me as well. I am my mother’s child, after all.

Have a good Mother’s Day.

Read Full Post »

Last July, I wrote here about going up the hill to the old studio that I had worked in everyday for over ten years before moving into my current digs. It was in pretty bad shape back then, with a gaping hole in the roof and the floor heading in several different directions, none of them level. It was a mass of decay and debris but I had found several paintings tucked away that I had overlooked when I was cleaning it out years ago.

There were some I remembered well and had wondered where they were before finding them. It was great finding these pieces, most of them in pretty good shape considering the exposure to the elements– and critters of all sorts– they had faced.

I wandered back up the hill yesterday. There were still a few things there that I needed to bring back down the hill plus I wanted to see how the old structure had fared during this past winter.

Well, the structure was in even worse shape, the walls and floors beginning to part company at some spots and the hole in the roof expanding to let in even more of the weather. Mother Nature was quickly reclaiming everything she could. I gingerly moved through the tilting doorway and picked around in the debris, finding the items I was looking for. As I prepared to leave, I stopped by group of three or four old paintings that I had left last year. They were not good in any way. Kind of embarrassing , actually. Plus, I didn’t even want to waste the time to carry them back down the hill.

But I went through them again and while I agreed with my decision from last year to leave them, there was one that grabbed my attention. It’s the piece at the top. It was painted about 25 years ago and I remember, even then, not knowing what it was meant to be.

It was an enigma even when I first painted it. I may have painted it but I still don’t get it, don’t fully understand what it’s supposed to say. But I do remember painting it and liking things about it. The colors of the sky the mass of the crowd behind the glowing figure that seems to be reclining on a cross. Not nailed. Like it was his decision to be there.

Maybe it’s saying that we choose the crosses we bear?

I don’t know.

Perhaps it was just the contrast between its colors and the destruction around it, but this piece seemed to ask to be freed from the wreckage. It’s in rough shape from a decade or more of exposure and neglect. It was painted on a cheap canvas panel and the cardboard backing that was now deteriorating and falling apart. But something in it sparked my imagination, made me want to look at it again. Made me save it for another day.

So, I brought it back down to my current studio. It’s been propped up on a chair and I have stopped to examine it several times over the past day. And even now, I am still mystified by it and how I came to paint it.

I am pretty sure I didn’t have a title for it back then and maybe it doesn’t deserve one now. Like I said, I still don’t know what to make of it. But if I were to give it a title I might call it You Can Have the Crown, taken from the title of a Sturgill Simpson song. I think the guy on the cross might understand. Give a listen and see if you do as well.

***************

Read Full Post »

***********************

“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.”

― Elbert Hubbard

***********************

The painting above is called Endless Time, from back in 2008. It’s what I might call one of my Big Quiet paintings. Just color and forms. No central objects to garner the focus. No Red Trees or Red Roofs or Red Chairs. Not even a far point that seems like a destination.

I am not passing through, not heading anywhere past this point nor concerned with paths to follow.

In this piece, I’m just there. Now.

It’s a place without words. Pure silence.

The Big Quiet.

I would try to describe it further but unless you know or seek the Big Quiet yourself, as Elbert Hubbard points out above, you probably won’t understand.

Silence and quiet is a subjective thing as our recent isolation has proven. For some, it is a glorious thing without the sounds of traffic and crowds. For others, it is horrifying, maybe a reminder of the stillness of the grave.

We all experience the silence differently.

I think you know where I stand on the Big Quiet.

Enough said.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: