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Archive for the ‘Favorite Things’ Category

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I have made a great discovery. I no longer believe in anything. Objects don’t exist for me except in so far as a rapport exists between them and myself. When one attains this harmony, one reaches a sort of intellectual non-existence, what I can only describe as a sense of peace, which makes everything possible and right. Life then becomes a perpetual revelation. That is true poetry.

Georges Braque

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Just about anything I read  from Georges Braque (1882-1963) makes me stop and think. I am still trying to digest this. In one moment it makes perfect sense and aligns with my own thoughts while the next it confounds me, like I’ve turned down a street that is totally unrecognizable. Not sure which way to turn.

But there is something in the pondering that makes me think it might be worthwhile.

Braque had a pretty amazing career, moving from Impressionism to Cubism to Fauvism and Expressionism with his own unique voice. Here are some of my favorites.

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Another gray, wet, cold Sunday morning here in paradise. The sun lately seems like a stranger who, on those rare occasions when it appears, I have a vague recollection of once seeing. It’s grim and has me gazing out my window, hoping that the ghost of Tom Joad, like he had somehow stepped right out of The Grapes Of Wrath, might emerge out of the darkness set against the distant pines. This weather puts me in that mood, that grim feeling of that we need somebody to stand against the darker forces of this world.

Tom Joad, as dark and ill-fated a character as he seems, still gives me hope that there are still people out there who won’t turn a blind eye to injustice and inequality. People who haven’t been numbed by their own self-interest and comfort. They don’t have to be heroes, just plain people with a sense of decency and an unwillingness to turn their back to the wrongs they witness.

We sure could use some more Tom Joads.

Here’s my Sunday morning music. It is, of course, The Ghost of Tom Joad, from Bruce Springsteen. Have yourself a day– good, bad or indifferent– and if you see Tom Joad, tell him I am looking for him.

 

 

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I call this painting Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a title I used for a few paintings from my early Exiles series, in which this piece is included. I seldom show this piece and am not sure if it has ever appeared here. While I like this piece for a variety of reasons– for instance, I love the sky and hill colors– I never felt it was up to the same level as the other work in the Exiles series. I felt that it was more flawed than the others and too forced, not as organically formed as much of the other Exiles.

But every time I pull this piece out I feel a small sense of satisfaction in it and maybe that it needed to be aired out. I want to play a song today and thought this would be a good opportunity to let this little guy get out a bit. We’ll see.

The song is Work Song. It was written by the brother of jazz great Cannonball Adderly and was originally performed by him as an upbeat  jazz piece. But it has been interpreted by a number of artists over the years, some to great effect. Others, not so much to my taste. But one of my favorites is from one of my  guilty pleasures, Tennessee Ernie Ford.

He certainly doesn’t seem like a “cool” choice if you remember his public persona in the 50’s and 60’s as the goofily naive but affable hick from Bristol, Tennessee. I enjoyed that caricature as kid it was his music that hooked me. He had a deep and mellow voice and a knack for choosing songs and arrangements that fit him perfectly. His series of country boogies were great and his 16 Tons is a classic. His version of this song is a great interpretation, spare and deep felt.

I couldn’t find a decent video of this song so here is the track alone:

Here’s another version that is a different interpretation from a band called The Big Beats with vocalist Arlin Harmon. I don’t have a lot of info on either though from what I can glean Harmon was a highly esteemed singer out in the Northwest. It’s a solid rocking performance with a different flavor. Give a listen.

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I know perfectly well that only in happy instants am I lucky enough to lose myself in my work. The painter-poet feels that his true immutable essence comes from that invisible realm that offers him an image of reality… I feel that I do not exist in time, but that time exists in me. I can also realize that it is not given to me to solve the mystery of art in an absolute fashion. Nonetheless, I am almost brought to believe that I am about to get my hands on the divine.

–Carlo Carra

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The Italian painter Carlo Carrá (1881-1966) was one of the leading figures in the Futurist and Metaphysical movements of the first part of the 20th century.

Like many artists with long careers, Carrá went through other phases in his work. While I am showing only a few images of his work that really strike  a chord with me, I am also drawn to most of his other work. Maybe it is the simplicity of form and composition or the quality of his colors. I can’t really say except that it seems to be work that jibes with my own way of seeing things. And I suppose that is how artist attracts eyes, by creating work that speaks in a way that is both understandable and meaningful to the viewer. Hmm…

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“America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, ‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.’ It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: ‘if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?’ There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand – glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register.

Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say Napoleonic times. Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.”

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five, 1969

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The above was written almost 50 years back by Kurt Vonnegut. I first read my now worn copy of Slaughter-House Five about 45 years ago and re-read it a number of times in the years that followed though it has been decades since I last read it. When I came across the excerpt above this morning I realized how much it informed and shaped my views on the world.

And how little this country had changed in the 50 years since.

If anything, this loathing of the poor or just those who may not be doing as well as ourselves has accelerated as the sheer numbers have grown due to a population that is now roughly 70% larger than in 1969. It provides some explanation for how the poor and middle-classes could somehow stand behind that thing now lurching around our White House. He is everything they would normally detest: a privileged, loud, rude elitist who flaunts his good fortune and mocks and derides those he sees as being beneath him. Who brags about dining and playing golf with the wealthiest people and hates to shake the hands of the common folk out of fear of their germs. An amoral man who is a known liar and a cheat, especially when it comes to bullying those with little sway who have worked for him.

The why of this is in Vonnegut’s words. It’s the same dynamic that allows people to get angry at the supermarket when they see someone in line ahead of them, especially a person of color, using food stamps. You can see them seething, almost mouthing the words welfare queen. These same people would have no problem with a man, especially a white man in an expensive suit, accepting billion dollar checks as a bail-out for the mistakes of these same men.

Maybe that is what we are seeing, common folks glorifying their betters, as Vonnegut put it. Except this person, this so-called leader, is not their better. He is a glaring symbol of the very worst of their qualities. He is well beneath them if they would only look beyond the cheesy gold patina.

To put it crudely: a gold-plated turd is still just a turd.

And even more than that, he is compromised and beholden to several other nations now.

And these same folks, by extension, are compromised as well. They have forsaken their principles and beliefs for empty promises that were never meant to come true. They would turn their head to corruption and possibly murder so that a wealthy man in a nice suit could make some more money.

It was true in 1969 when Slaughter-House Five came out. It’s true today.

Time to read the book again.

Art here tomorrow. Promise.

 

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Going to keep it simple this morning and just play this week’s Sunday morning music. It’s off the collaborative albums , Mermaid Avenue, from Wilco and Billy Bragg, where they took never recorded Woody Guthrie lyrics and set them to music. I’ve played a number of the songs from these albums over the years but somehow missed this favorite. It’s about a Hesitating Beauty named Nora Lee and I’ve included the lyrics below. The painting above is a piece from 2003 called Rarity of the Moment that seems to have that same feeling of unfulfilled desire as the song.


 

“Hesitating Beauty”

 

For your sparkling cocky smile I’ve walked a million miles

Begging you to come and wed me in the spring

Why do you my dear delay

What makes you laugh and turn away

You’re a hesitating beauty, Nora Lee

 

Well I know that you are itching to get married, Nora Lee

And I know how I’m twitching for the same thing, Nora Lee

By the stars and clouds above we could spend our lives in love

You’re a hesitating beauty, Nora Lee

 

We can build a house and home where the flowers come to bloom

Around our yard I’ll nail a fence so high

That the boys with peeping eyes cannot see that angel face

My hesitating beauty Nora Lee

 

Well I know that you are itching to get married Nora Lee

And I know how I’m twitching for the same thing Nora Lee

By the stars and clouds above we can spend our lives in love

If you quit your hesitating, Nora Lee

 

We can ramble hand in hand across the grasses of our land

I’ll kiss you for each leaf on every tree

We can bring our kids to play where the dry leaves blow today

If you quit your hesitating, Nora Lee

 

Well I know that you are itching to get married, Nora Lee

And I know how I’m twitching for the same thing, Nora Lee

By the stars and clouds above we could spend our lives in love

If you quit your hesitating, Nora Lee

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Will Barnet/Age

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Painting is almost like a religious experience, which should go on and on. Age just gives you the freedom to do some things you’ve never done before. Great work can come at any stage of your life.

–Will Barnet

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I have known the work of Will Barnet for many years and usually immediately recognize his work. But what I didn’t know was that the work that I associate with him is only the most recent work from a career that spanned eighty years.

Yeah, eighty years spread over nine decades.

To give an idea of the span of his career, as a child automobiles and aeronautics were in their infancy and he actually saw John Singer Sargent working on the murals at the Boston Public Library. At his death, we were on the verge of private space flight and self driving cars. Imagery is now transmitted instantly around the globe via the internet.

A small computer chip can practically hold all the content of the Boston Public Library.

Barnet, born in 1911 and died in 2012 at the age of 101, knew from an early age that he wanted to be an artist. What I admire is that his career followed a series of radical transitions throughout his career, constantly changing but always maintaining his own voice and maintaining a high level on consistent quality.

But more than that was need to continue his work. On the day he died, he had worked on a large ambitious painting of his granddaughter.

It’s a fascinating evolution, one that greatly interests me at the current stage of my career. Seeing painters such as Barnet painting to such an advanced age while still evolving is inspiring, giving me hope that I can continue on the path I am on for decades to come.

Obviously, I am showing only a tiny portion of his work here. Below is a video of the work that first made me aware of Barnet. The others are a selection from various periods just to give a sample of the range his career encompassed.

Will Barnet- Martha and Her Cats- 1984

Will Barnet

Will Barnet- Abstract Composition – 1957

Will Barnet – Big Duluth- 1960

Will Barnet- Early Spring- 1977

Will Barnet- Father and Parrot- 1948

Will Barnet- Play- 1975

Will Barnet- Children Drawing- 1946

Will Barnet- Idle Hands- 1935

Will Barnet- February- 1980

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