Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Biographical’ Category

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

“…that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain.”

–Ray Bradbury, The October Country

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

Every so often you come across something from your distant past that has long passed from memory.  It could be a book, a song, a photo or some small insignificant memento, something once cherished but now tucked away in the piling up of time. Coming across such a thing after so many years illuminates how much that thing meant to you. In some cases, being able to look back at the years allows  you to see that it actually influenced your way of thinking and, therefore, your life.

That’s how I felt this morning when I came across the short prologue, shown here at the top, to the 1955 book of short stories from Ray Bradbury, The October Country. I probably read this book last in the late 1970’s at a time when I devoured most of Bradbury’s books. They were all great and interesting reads and Bradbury had a poetic nature to go with his active imagination, one that sometimes found feelings of isolation and fear at the edges of the mundane.

I don’t know how I reacted when I read the words above forty years ago but reading them now, I felt like he was describing me. Or at least, describing the occupants of the world I depict in my paintings, those folks who, by extension, are built from parts of myself.

They are definitely the autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts.

Lingering in twilight, tucked in dark niches inside, facing away from the sun.

The painting at the top, Dark Eye of Quiet, is a new painting that is part of my current show at the West End Gallery. When I read Bradbury’s prologue to The October Country, I could see in this piece how his words, perhaps unbeknownst to me, had stayed with and filtered through me over the time. It’s a painting that aptly illustrates this point, from its title to the doorless and windowless houses that reside in shadow, seeming to be avoid the gaze of the dark sun. It has the wistful isolation of a Bradbury story.

I went through a stack of old paperbacks in a closet and dug out my dog-eared copy of the The October Country. Leafing through it, I saw a few titles in the list of contents that I had circles eons ago. I don’t remember doing this, of course, but I obviously saw something in it that made me do this. One was titled The Wind and turning the pages to that story I was greeted by a black and white illustration for the story from artist Joe Mugnaini.

I didn’t recognize or remember it but even so, it had a familiarity that made me smile.

I found an image of it online and am sharing it here. Maybe it was not only Bradbury’s words that influenced me forty some years back?

The mind works in weird and wonderful ways, eh?

 

 

Read Full Post »

Got up late this morning and thought I’d save some time by rerunning an older post that has a piece of music.

I grew up in a time without computer screens, smartphones, video games or much of anything else in the way of distraction.  I’m not saying that we used to go down to the quarry to throw rocks at the dinosaurs but, compared to the multitude of options available to a kid today, it was relatively spartan. We lived in the country where for years we only had two TV channels and FM radio was in its infancy, at least in our area. I’m not sure we even had an FM radio. So, the local AM radio stations filled the bill.

At that time, our local AM channels were one-size-fits-all affairs, playing every genre of music in a grand mishmosh. You might go from hearing the Rolling Stones or the Doors to Nat King Cole to the Temptations to Patsy Cline and back to Chuck Berry in a matter of twenty minutes. It made for very eclectic listening.

The one I usually listened to was WENY and at the time my favorite DJ was a guy named Paul Leigh, who also hosted a late Saturday night movie on  WENY’s sister TV channel. On that, Leigh played his alter ego, the Undertaker, and played schlocky monster movies. He was entertaining for a 12 or 13 year old kid and had a pretty sharp wit for a DJ in a small market. He was always running call-in contests and on one night I was lucky (and persistent) enough to be the 20th or whatever caller.  I won a stack of 25 albums and picking them up at the station, I thought I was in pig heaven.

Of course, they were just getting rid of all the promos albums from record companies that had come their way. Almost all of them never made it on the air, most being pretty bad while some were just not the taste for a teenager. I remember there was an Ornette Coleman LP that was a very conceptual jazz thing that sounded like squawks and buzzes to my ears at the time.  Actually, it still sounded that way to me every time I’ve pulled it out over the years. But there were a few gems in there.

One was this self-titled first album from David Bromberg.  It was produced by George Harrison who appears on the very enjoyable song below, The Holdup.  Several of the songs are Bromberg’s interpretation of blues and traditional classics mixed in with some wonderful originals, including the strange and haunting Sammy’s Song. I still listen to it on a regular basis and it has always held up through the many years.

Bromberg’s an interesting guy, a folk guitar wiz who basically quit the business for several years in the 1990’s to learn the art of violin making. He returned to playing and touring but still maintains a violin shop in Wilmington, Delaware. He seems like a  man who lives life on his own terms. A rare and wonderful thing.

Give a listen to The Holdup and have a good day.
*****************

Read Full Post »

Light of Day

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

I always have a curious sort of feeling about some of my things – I hate to show them – I am perfectly inconsistent about it – I am afraid people won’t understand – and I hope they won’t – and am afraid they will.

–Georgia O’Keeffe

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

I came across this quote from Georgia O’Keeffe and it made me smile. I think I know exactly what she meant.

An artist is always in constant state of self-editing, constantly putting out to the world the work they believe best represents them. It is their public face. But this public face usually can’t fully represent the artist as a whole because in this self-editing there is always work that falls into the territory to which O’Keeffe referred.

I think every artist has work they may never show to the world. Some is flawed, some is just plain crap and some is just too personal, showing aspects of the artist that don’t necessarily coincide with the public face they have worked diligently to create. I know that I have a lot of this work, much of it in the flawed and plain crap categories. More than likely, most of it will never see the light of day.

But the longer I do this, I understand that it is all part of who I am as an artist. I become less wary of showing the good and the bad of what I do and have done. Take the piece at the top. It’s another found piece from my old studio, about 17″ square on paper.

At the time I painted it, I made the decision that it didn’t fit in with the face of the work I was putting out then. It was too sloppy, too raw. But almost 20 years later, it is this very rawness that makes me want to show it.

I can see plainly the urgency that was present when it was painted. It shows in the bellies that jut out from each side vertical edges, from the masses of spews that burst from its top. Even the surface of the tree shows me signs of this urgency.

It’s a flawed painting but it is fully alive and that’s all I am looking for in the work. Why wouldn’t I want to let it see the light of day?

 

Read Full Post »

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.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

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

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great day!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: