Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Early Paintings’ Category



Got to be honest, this wasn’t the blog entry I thought I’d be writing this morning. Had something completely different in mind.

I was going to talk about an old piece from my earliest painting days. Not the one above, which is a pretty early painting from around 1996 or 1997 that is called Faust’s Guitar. I did several versions of this painting in the first few years that I was showing my work publicly. I’ll save the other older painting for another day.

I came into the studio early this morning, about 5:30 AM. Still dark outside. And cold, only 10º. After flipping on the computer and hooking up to the interwebs, I went to the YouTube to look for a song that might accompany the other older painting. As I scanned down the list of various titles their algorithm had selected for my viewing pleasure, one title jumped out at me:

Dracula Hates Killer Icicles.

I couldn’t resist. had to click on it. I mean, come on– it’s Dracula Hates Killer Icicles. If it was Dracula Loves Banana Bread, I most likely don’t watch. But this has Killer Icicles, folks” Killer Icicles!

I watched and laughed at the sheer goofiness of it. I decided that something that had me laughing aloud at 5:50 AM deserved a post of its own.

This song, Dracula Hates Killer Icicles, is from a surf band  from St. Petersburg, Russia called Messer Chups. They play 1960’s style surf/ psychobilly instrumentals with a lineup that feature Igor Gitaracula (yeah, that rolls off the tongue)  on the guitar and Zombierella on the bass. The drums are provided by Rockin Eugene who is not seen in the video.

They also have featured the theremin, that electronic device that made that weird sustained woo-ooh sound was a staple of old 1950’s horror films, in several of their songs. I wrote about the theremin here many years back. It fits their profile well.

All in all, it’s just goofy, stupid fun. Nothing more. And on a cold Monday morning, is there anything wrong with listening to a Russian surf band playing a kitschy tune?

So, without any further ado, here’s Dracula Hates Killer Icicles. Who doesn’t? 

PS The video is from a video show Domino’s Batcave which is hosted by Domino Barbeau, a burlesque queen turned horror show host. That’s a career path every parent desires for their child, right?



Read Full Post »

I wasn’t going to comment on the current controversy swirling around the six Dr. Seuss books that are slated to be removed from publication. But hearing so much outrage and misinformation about culture wars and cancel culture from the right who portray this as some act of big government or some other unseen they who controls everything. It made me want to at least point out a few things.

The six books have been pulled from printing by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the foundation that oversees his estate and legacy. There is no they making them do this nor is there censorship taking place. In fact, the company that publishes and distributes the books has stated they would still publish them if Dr. Seuss Enterprises so wished. It was a move endorsed by the Geisel family ( Dr. Seuss’ name was Theodor Geisel) who felt that this was the proper time to take these particular six books out of print because of the racial insensitivity of the stereotypical images that each contained. All were from early in the career of Dr. Seuss as a children’s book author at a time when he was transitioning from having been an editorial cartoonist. At that time, much of this imagery was still, unfortunately, regularly seen through the pages of newspapers across this land. As Geisel aged, his views became more and more progressive and he himself regretted those images though no malice had been implied originally.

Things change through time. Just because certain viewpoints were once widely seen and accepted doesn’t mean that they will stand the test of time. The fact that there was a time not so far in the past when we widely believed that owning another person was okay, that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote, that children doing dangerous work in mines and factories six days a week was fine and dandy, that being gay was a mental illness, and so on doesn’t give any validation to those viewpoints.

We evolve, hopefully in a better direction.

This doesn’t detract from the popularity, influence, or availability of Dr. Seuss. The Grinch will still try to ruin every Christmas in Whoville. Sam will still be yakking about his green eggs and ham. They will still hopping on Pop.

Little has changed. It was a small change meant to protect his legacy made by his company. As is their prerogative. Nobody forced them to do this. No cancel culture. No cancellation nor censorship. 

In fact, it was actually a pretty savvy business move since the huge overreaction from those who don’t take a moment to really understand the situation has them rushing out to buy Dr. Seuss books before they are all cancelled. A huge group of his books have surged to the top of the bestseller lists. Much like gun sales surge when any mention is made of gun regulation.

I might have to claim that my work is being cancelled. Not a business strategy I had contemplated before but who knows? Who would I talk to about that?

So, take a deep breath, take in the facts and please try to refrain from being instantly outraged and frustrated at any sort of change. Kind of like a Neanderthal trying to use an ATM.

Oops. Sorry to all my Neanderthal friends out there. You know who you are.

Dr. Seuss’ work has been a part of my world for much of my life and his influence shows through every so often in my own, mostly in a subconscious way. Here’s a post from back in 2010 about a painting that I see every day here in the studio and have for about 20 years now.



Yesterday’s post about the 50th anniversary of Green Eggs and Ham  by Dr. Seuss made me think about a piece that I’ve had hanging around my studio for the past decade. It’s a painting that I did in 2001 that I call Red, Hot and Blue.  It’s an oil on panel piece that is pretty big, almost 5 1/2′ tall in its frame. It could be a small door. It showed in a few galleries after it was first painted and never found a home so it retired to my studio, to keep me company.

I mention it  because it was been called the “Dr. Seuss painting” by several people who saw it when it was hanging in the galleries. They saw something in the way the trees were shaped and colored that gave them the appearance of a Seuss character. I had no thought of Seuss when I painted the piece but when I heard these comments I began to see it. 

The expressive sway of the trees as though they were dancing. The bright primary colors- the red of the foliage and the bright blue of the trunk. Even the two trees in the background added to the Seuss-y feel.

The foliage actually looked like the endangered Truffala trees from Seuss’ cautionary fable about the environment, The Lorax

It was not intended but it made sense. Seuss’ books were about communicating by giving strange creatures and other things we often see as objects, such as trees and flowers, human qualities.  His characters moved with a rhythm that made them feel alive. Just what I was trying to do with my painting.

I’ve often felt that we best see and better understand things that possess human qualities. I remember being taught that the Native American tribes in the area where I grew up gave names to local hills based on the human qualities they had. It made an impression and started me looking for the human form in all things. 

The curve of a tree trunk. The roll of the land. The fingers of clouds in the sky.

To communicate.

So, while it was never intentional, this painting was very much a product of the influence of Dr. Seuss and others. When I look at it today, I don’t see the name I gave it.  I see it as that “Dr. Seuss painting”.

Read Full Post »

 



Whenever I go through my oldest work I always stop at this little piece. It’s a goofy small painting on paper that has the title Red Laser Hits the Big City written across the bottom of the small piece of paper on which it is painted, along with the date from November of 1994.

I usually don’t give it much thought beyond the fact that it makes me smile but this morning I stopped a little longer and tried to remember more about it or, at least, try to understand it a bit better. 

It was just an experiment at the time at a time when I was still trying to figure out what I was as a painter. Or if I was even a painter since I wasn’t an exhibiting artist at that point.  This was painted several months before I even began showing my work in public the following year, at the 1995 Little Gems show at the West End Gallery

I remember painting this piece and a similar one with that red line that I called the Red Laser. I believe I actually sold the other piece but wouldn’t swear to that in court. Time has faded that memory but I have a vague recollection of being surprised at it selling  plus I can’t find it so that might well be the case. 

Looking at it now, I find it interesting because it showcased the color blocks more than much of my other work at that time. It’s a technique that I still use extensively in my work to this day, a signature part of my wet work. I think this use of the block makes it feel somewhat more current, even more evolved, than some of the other work from that time.

I remember seeing the laser with its odd offshoot of a leg as a figure walking down a street. Hence, its title. It’s not a great piece but it still has the ability to make me smile. And even though I have always discounted it in my mind, it does have its own feel, its own life. Those are the things I always look for in my work so maybe I have been too harsh on the Red Laser.

My bad. That dude’s always getting a bad rap. Sorry, Red Laser.

Here’s a little song for the Red Laser. It’s the great Jimmy Reed and his Bright Lights, Big City. I think the Red Laser was singing this to itself while it strolled down those big city streets. It has the right kind of swagger.



Read Full Post »

To tell the truth, I had nothing in mind this morning for the blog. I was thinking that I would be too busy plowing but we didn’t get nearly as much of a snowfall as had been anticipated. We got a few inches but most of the precipitation came in an icy rain that coated everything. Not terrible, at least at my place, like some of the scenes I have seen from where the storm dropped larger amounts of icy rain that brought down wires and trees.

So, not having to get out there early to plow I found myself wondering what to talk about this morning. I went back through the archives and came across an entry from over ten years back. It’s about a piece that is in the possession of my sister. It might be my favorite among several she has , one that I always look forward to seeing when I visit her. With the pandemic, there haven’t been any visits so I haven’t had a chance to visit this piece recently. So, I thought I ‘d share it along with a little music at the end that seems to fit, at least in my head, some of the great Son House playing his wonderful Delta blues. Take a look at Big Foot Stomp, painted around 1995. And have a good day.



 

Singing and Mending– Robert Gwathmey



I was looking through a book containing many of the works of the painter Robert Gwathmey when I came across an image that reminded me of a small piece that I had painted several years back. Gwathmey’s painting was titled Singing and Mending and featured, like many of his paintings, a depiction of African-American life from the rural South.

This piece had a man in overalls playing a guitar while a woman mended a piece of clothing. It was the man playing the guitar that caught my eye. Perhaps it was the overalls or the position of the guitar or the bare feet but all I could think of was a similarity in its nature to a small painting that I had painted a few years ago and which now hung on my sister’s wall. It is a little oddity, a favorite that I always look at with interest whenever I go to her place. I call it Big Foot Stomp.



 



It was an experimental piece, a revisiting of another earlier foray in paint when I was just starting  years before. I can’t quite recall what my initial intentions were with this piece. I remember that I laid down the splattered background with spray bottles of paint, masking the lighter center with a piece of matboard as I did the darker outer edge. But I don’t think I ever had this figure in  mind when I began to paint in that center. But I’m glad that he came out in this way.

I recall painting the head first, just laying down a silhouette of paint then trying to make something from it. I remember liking the way the dark paint seemed to pop from the lighter background, making me think this was a black man and that I wouldn’t lighten it any more. It was right as it was.

The rest is hazy in my memory except for a slip in my brushstrokes that affected the size of his feet and for the decision to leave out the parts of his clothing that would normally be visible. For me, these two elements really make this little guy special. There’s something about the white space where his clothing would be that brings a spiritual element to this piece for me, as though his playing and the rhythm of his large feet on the floor are taking him to a place beyond the here and now. I think the way he rests in the splattered background enhances this.

I’ve never painted another piece like this. Maybe he was just meant to be one of a kind. He certainly feels that way. But at least in the Gwathmey piece I have found a spiritual relative to this lone guitar player.



Here’s Son House (1902-1988) and his Levee Camp Blues. House influence on the blues and, by extension, rock music, is huge. He is often cited as an influence on two other giant influencers, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. It don’t get much more real than that.



Read Full Post »



You can climb a mountain, you can swim the sea
You can jump into the fire but you’ll never be free
You can shake me up or I can break you down
Oh, oh
We can make each other happy
Oh, we can make each other happy
We can make each other happy
Oh, we can make each other happy

Harry Nilsson, Jump Into the Fire



First Sunday of the new year. This coming first week of 2021 may well be one of the ugliest and most dangerous and undemocratic in our history. There is a lot of treachery at hand from those who would abuse our system and rile deadly passions among the populace for purely selfish gains. While I don’t know what might happen in the coming days, I believe we will survive this stress test. We may take some dings and who knows what lasting damage might be done, but we’ll get through.

We’re at a point where words from anyone, let alone mine, won’t have much effect so lets play the first Sunday song of the 2021. Fittingly, it is Jump Into the Fire from the late great Harry Nilsson.

The complete lyrics are above in all their glory. Among his many talents as a songwriter, Nilsson had a genius for taking simple songs and making them memorably powerful. For example, his CoconutYou put de lime in de coconut, you drink ’em bot’ togedder/ Put de lime in de coconut and you feel better— is a one chord song.

One chord. Even a musical moron like me could play it.

Anyway, here’s the song. The little triptych at the top is from way back in 2002 and is called Waiting For the Fire, a not so subtle commentary on the coming weeks.

Have a good day.



Read Full Post »

Thought I’d rerun this post from last year. I can always listen to The Revelator and it seems appropriate to the moment.


 

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

Darling remember, when you come to me
I’m the pretender; I’m not what I’m supposed to be
But who could know if I’m a traitor?
Time’s the revelator

Gillian Welch, The Revelator

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

I came across an image of the painting at the top, a piece from 2006 called What Is True that holds a lot of meaning for me, and it set me thinking.

Truth is patient. It waits for the light of a sun that sometimes travels through the vastness of space and time, millions and millions of light years, to shine on it.

Time always finds truth at some point and when it shine its light upon it, there is revelation.

Every day is filled with revelation, so it seems.

Time and truth are coming together.

Here’s a favorite song of mine from Gillian Welch, The Revelator.


Read Full Post »

 

 


“Anxiety was born in the very same moment as mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it—just as we have learned to live with storms.”

― Paulo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra


I wasn’t planning on writing about angst this morning. I think most of us are all worn to nubs from the anxiety of this time so unless I have come up with some sort of therapy or special salve that will take it away, my words will have little effect.

Might even make it worse.

But an item popped up on my alerts that piqued my interest and it had to do with angst. Well, angst in the form of one of my paintings. I clicked on the link and there was YouTube music video with a painting that was very recognizable to me as the image illustrating it.

It was from Lithuanian-born musician/composer Žilvinas Smalys for a short composition of his called Growing Angst For 2 Bassoons. It was written and recorded on October 11, 2020 so it is most likely his take on the anxiety of this time in his part of the world.

Angst knows no boundaries.

I am not surprised that he chose this particular painting, The Angst, to accompany his composition. It is one of my personal pieces, a keeper, that has been with me for the past 25 years or so. Whenever I show it, it gets a lot of attention. It was even used in a college level textbook a few years back. It even shows up on the Google search for “angst paintings” right under Munch’s The Scream.

And it works well with this compsotion.

Žilvinas Smalys is a performer, teacher and composer who was, as I wrote, born and raised in Lithuania. His training as a classical musician throughout Europe has been extensive and he has played with orchestras around the globe. He currently resides in Santiago, Chile, serving since 2008 as the principal bassoonist at Teatro Municipal de Santiago as well as being a professor of bassoon and chamber music at Universidad Mayor de Santiago

Smalys has a nice YouTube page that features many of his compositions. I urge you to take a look. His music is lovely. Below is Growing Angst and another short piece, Lament For 2 Bassoons.

Hopefully this will help free up your own angst and you can move on to have a good day.


Read Full Post »

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

“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”

William Butler Yeats, The Land of Heart’s Desire

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

When my solo show, From a Distance, opens next week at the West End Gallery, a couple of the included paintings will not be new work. There are a couple of pieces in this show that are older and have an interesting provenance.

One is the painting shown above that I call The Dance. It was painted sometime around late 1996 or 1997. When I painted it, I determined that it didn’t fit in with the face of the work I was putting out at that time. It was too sloppy, too raw. It seemed to be moving in a different direction from the the path I was following. I decided to put it aside, unshown to the world.

But 23 or so years later, it is this very rawness that makes me want to show it.

The interesting thing is that in the intervening years, this piece disappeared from my sight. When I moved from my old studio up in the woods which I had worked in from around 1996 to 2007 to my current studio, this painting, along with several other paintings, were carelessly overlooked in the move. They had been bundled together and this bundle had somehow been misplaced.

I wrote about this episode last year, when I was looking for a group of lost pieces from my Exiles series for an exhibition, heading up to the old studio to search for them. The old studio had suffered greatly in the decade since I had last worked there. A tree had fell on its roof, breaking through to the inside in one small area and the rain and snow had taken a great toll on it. The whole building was now racked and reeling and one side of the studio’s floor held piles of dark rotting debris from the roof and ceiling.

On a rack of old frames in that space, only several feet from the hole in the ceiling and the mound of dark debris on the floor, there were several sheets of old cardboard all pushed together among the frames. I had been looking for awhile at this point and was getting ready to call it a day when I decided to pull out that stack of cardboard.

Nothing.

Behind the cardboard, there was a piece of old plywood pushed up against the end of the shelf. Frustrated, I pulled out the plywood and, lo and behold, there was a bundle of sheets of watercolor paper pressed against the end of the shelving. I pulled them down and found a spot amo0ng the wreckage where I could examine them.

The paintings were 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 easily addressed. Obviously, using the acid free cotton watercolor paper and having them bundled together had provided a degree of protection.

Kind of like wearing a mask, people!

Each piece was thrill as I shuffled through them. Most were pieces that I remembered distinctly, some very good and one or two that were what I would consider failures that should have been destroyed long ago. This piece was wonderful to see when I came to it. I was giddy with being reunited with this work that I hadn’t even realized I was missing.

But the very last piece in the bundle 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. The memory of working on that painting and the emotions of that time flooded back to me.

So, this piece lived in dark peril, lost and forgotten for more than decade. I think it was just waiting to be unleashed so that, in its raw exuberance much like the character in Yeats’ verse at the top, it could dance upon the mountains like a flame.

I am glad to see it dance once again.

 

Read Full Post »

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

In my picture of the world there is a vast outer realm and an equally vast inner realm; between these two stands man, facing now one and now the other, and, according to temperament and disposition, taking the one for the absolute truth by denying or sacrificing the other.

–Carl Jung

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

My annual show at the Principle Gallery each June is normally made up of solely new work. But I think we can all agree that this year is anything but normal. There’s been a little bit of everything thrown at us. I think that if a swarm of Bigfoots — or is it Bigfeet?— suddenly descended upon us from every mountaintop, we would just shrug it off as being just the next shoe to drop.

So, this being such an unusual year, I chose to change things up a bit and include a group of vintage pieces of my work in this year’s show. My only criteria was that they had some sort of link to the theme of the show which is, as the title states, Social Distancing.

Many of us are new to the concept of social distancing but for me it’s something I’ve been practicing for much of my life, even if I didn’t use that particular phrase. I have, especially for the last twenty five years, kept to myself, more or less. I have tried to simultaneously live in two worlds, the outer and the inner. Much like the view Jung takes in the words above, I have tried to straddle both of these worlds and have found that Jung’s observation is pretty close to the bone. The more and more time I spend in that inner world, the more real and expansive it becomes. I then find myself willing to sacrifice more and more of my connections to the outer world.

Reading that last paragraph just now, I realize that it doesn’t sound exactly healthy.  But even so, it seems to suit my temperament and disposition, to use Jung’s words again. Plus, in my inner world, it’s not considered unhealthy.

Two of the vintage paintings from this show that I think relate directly to this straddling of worlds are shown here today. The one at the top is a piece called Flower Shadow, that was painted back in June of 1995, twenty five years ago. It was never shown publicly but was always a favorite when I went through my older work, a piece that always made me stop for a few extra moments to consider it.

While part of me is attracted to it because of how it connects me to that early work, there’s something in it that speaks directly to me. Maybe it’s the idea of this rough flower, inside looking wistfully out a window. Living in two worlds, the inner and the outer, with an air of lightly wistful melancholy around it. It still speaks clearly to me, twenty five years later.

The other vintage piece is from ten years later, in 2005, and is from a limited series from that time that I called In the Window, which featured interior spaces with a window looking out on a landscape, which was the focal point of these pieces. This particular painting, In the Window: Dream Away, shown here on the right, was one of the first from that series.

Initially, this series was intended as a means to present my landscapes in a different way, like placing a gem in a different setting in order to highlight that gem. But as time passed, this concept of two worlds became more apparent to me in this work. I believe this particular piece, with its clarity and clean expression, exemplifies both of those concepts, the gem in a new setting and the being existing in two worlds.

I am really pleased to show these pieces now, though I do not being able to get some in person reactions like those normally received at a reception. But, as noted, these are not normal times so I will just put them out there and hope they speak clearly for themselves.

Hope you can make it to the Principle Gallery in Alexandria for Social Distancing, my annual solo show that opens there this Friday, June 5.

 

Read Full Post »

I started writing an angry screed here about the whiny, weak Karen occupying the white house and all the Karens who take their cues from his persistent behaviors of entitlement and victimization, about how it enables more and more racism and hate.

But I had to stop. It was making me too crazy. And most likely you didn’t come here to read my morning rant.

Let’s move on to something more in line with the premise of this blog: Art.

So, let me talk a little about my upcoming show, Social Distancing, that opens next Friday, June 5, at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA. Normally, I would be adding the times for the opening reception on that day but due to the covid-19 restrictions, there won’t be a regular reception. I know I wouldn’t be comfortable in such a setting at this point and can imagine that most of you would equally uneasy in a crowd as well.

It’s a weird feeling, having such a show and not being there to interact with the people who come to see the work. This is my 21st solo show at the Principle Gallery and something like my 56th or 57th solo exhibit overall and I have attended the opening of all of them. It’s a chance to talk about the work with new and existing collectors, to catch up with folks who have been attending the shows for years and to spend a little time with my friends in the gallery. I get a lot of great feedback and enthusiasm from these receptions and often bring that back with me into the studio.

so not having that same experience this year certainly feels like a palpable loss.

In the beginning, thinking that this was a possibility ( and the pandemic itself) made it difficult to find focus for the show. But as I adapted to the new circumstances, I found a nice groove, seeing parallels between the current situation and the themes that are the mainstays of my work. Solitude and quietude set against an underlying uneasiness are regular themes in my work and they came to the forefront for the general population, even fr those not seeking solitude or isolation.

I think much of the new work for this show speaks to this situation well.

I also felt that this was a perfect time to include a group of what I call vintage work, a group of early paintings that date from before I was publicly showing my work in the mid-1990’s up to to about 2007. The thought was that they would serve as a before to the after of the current work since we are going through a time that will certainly leave us with memories of what thing were before this and how things will be after. The time just seemed right to offer this work.

Two of those pieces are shown here, both watercolors from the early part of 1995. The one at the top of this page is called View From the Lonely Steps. It is a good example of my early work and the cobalt blue watercolor in the sky does a neat and lovely job of settling in the depressions of the paper, an effect I very much like.The steps that make up the left side of the foreground forms a close mound that creates an illusion of depth and are some of the earliest use of that element in my work. It’s something I use on a regular basis in my compositions now. I also noted on the sheet of watercolor paper on which it is painted that I painted it on April 1 of that year. I don’t date things like that anymore but it was common for me to do so back then. I like having that date. It gives it greater context for me, as far as where it comes in the continuum of my work, which makes me think I should reinstate this practice.

The piece at the bottom is from January of 1995 and is called I Can’t Remember the Moment. This is another fine example of the style of work that marked my early days with two blocks of color set one above the other separated by a thin white unpainted strip. It is simply put and lets the two forms and the effects of and in their colors play off each other. At the point that this piece was painted I was still signing the pieces in pencil, albeit in the same style that I have used for my whole career.

Though I have gained experience and ability well beyond that which I possessed then, there was something pure and real in the simple expression of these pieces that I can’t replicate now. My joy and wonder is expressed in different terms now and find myself envying this work, recalling the excitement that came with the new discoveries revealed to me as they were painted. I still get those feelings now but they are more hard fought for now and more sporadic. Back then they felt as though they came on an almost daily basis, each giving me an almost giddy feeling as though I had uncovered some great secret treasure.

That feeling is so wonderful and so hard to get across, let alone find. But these pieces are filled with that feeling for me.

Hope you will get a chance to see these pieces at the Principle Gallery.

Finally, an apology to all the Karens I know. It is unfortunate that your name has became a social media buzzword for spoiled, ugly, hateful, entitled, and stupid behavior. I know several Karens and Karyns and they do not display these behaviors at all. I wouldn’t want to know them if they did.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: