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Horace Pippin- Amish Letter Writer

 

 

 

Not surprisingly, I have a real affinity for self-taught and naive painters. Among my favorites is American Horace Pippin who lived from 1888 until 1946.  He only produced about 140 paintings in his relatively short life but they are real gems, displaying a wonderfully sophisticated and more mature form of naivete. He achieved a pretty high level of recognition in his short career, being championed by a number of critics as well as artist N.C. Wyeth. The bulk of his work is now held in museums.

Though born in West Chester, PA, Pippin grew up in Goshen, NY, which interests me because I have three grand-nephews living there.  Goshen was where he began his artistic journey after winning art supplies in a newspaper contest, using them to make drawings of the jockeys and horses at the famed Goshen racetrack. He was wounded in World War I, serving in the famed Harlem Hell Fighters, and turned to art in a more serious manner to strengthen his damaged right arm.

He married and moved back to West Chester and his work began to draw notice, appearing in numerous exhibits in museums and galleries alongside some of the giants of the art world. In 1946, he suffered a stroke and passed away.

As I said, he produced a fairly small number of paintings, many depicting the African American experience of the time along with a number of biblical and historical paintings, John Brown and Abe Lincoln being favorite subjects. They are a rich American treasure.

Here’s a nice video of much of his work with Ella Fitzgerald’s great Cry Me a River backing it.

Horace Pippin- Milk Man of Goshen

Horace Pippin- Domino Players

Horace Pippin- Abe Lincoln Good Samaritan

Horace Pippin- The Trial of John Brown

Horace Pippin- Sunday Morning Breakfast

Horace Pippin- John Brown Going to His Hanging

 

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Have a lot on my plate this morning, a lot of things needing to be done. But I came across this video by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, the late Townes Van Zandt, and thought I would share it. It’s called Big Country Blues and the video features the photos of primarily working class Americans from the great Richard Avedon.

It’s a compelling video, given this time in this country. I watched it twice this morning just to fully take in the imagery and Townes’ music never lets me down. I wish he were around just to hear his take on these times. He could write some sad songs, after all.

Give it a look and a listen.

 

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Several years ago I wrote about a spectacular illuminated book called Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. It was a Book of Hours created for a French Duke in the 15th century filled with prayers, calendars, timetables and the like. It also included some of the most extraordinary paintings that illustrated the text, including twelve pages that showed each month in proper seasonal context. I came across the film below that focuses on these beautiful pages, showing them in some detail.

After hitting the start arrow on the video below, you have to click on the link to go to YouTube to watch the video at the request of its creator.  But it’s well worth a look to start out your week on such a calm and lovely note.

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Limbourg Brothers- Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry FebruaryOne of the great pleasures in being fairly ignorant is the thrill that comes from stumbling across something that is absolutely spectacular without any knowledge of its existence beforehand.  Of course, the flip side of this experience is the depressing realization that sets in when you realize how little you really know.  I know this from experience.

The other day,  while searching for images of medieval snow scenes for the previous post, I also came across a beautiful image taken from a 15th century illuminated manuscript called the Tres Riches Heures.  It was a gorgeous winter scene, very Dutch looking, with a astronomical chart with beautiful blue lapis bands arching across the top of the page.   I was immediately taken in by the image.

Limbourg Brothers- Anatomical Man- Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry FebruaryDoing some quick research I discovered that this image was but one of over 130 painted images in the Tres Riches Heures, many of which were done by a trio of Dutch siblings, the Limbourg Brothers, between 1412 and 1416 for the French Duke du Berry.  The Tres Riches Heures is a book of hours which consists of prayers and devotional exercises along with  timetables for specific prayers and calendars for feast days and other days of note in the liturgical year, along with some customized additions.  This particular book of hours was the most spectacular ever produced.

Of course, something this incredible never comes easily.  The Limbourg Brothers, unfortunately, all died within the year of 1416, most likely from the plague, leaving the Tres Riches Heures incomplete.  It was worked on for many years by an unknown intermediate painter, most likely a court painter for French king Charles VII, who had attained the unfinished group work in the years after the Limbourgs died.  Finally, between 1485 and 1490, the work was completed by artist Jean Colombe.

Limbourg Brothers- Hell- Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry FebruaryToday, this considered arguably the most valuable book in the world– a book filled with 130 beautiful Dutch paintings, a book that took nearly eighty years to complete.

As I say, I was thrilled to come across it, having no prior knowledge of it or the magnificent work of the Limbourg Brothers or Jean Colombe.  But then I was a bit taken aback by the realization that I had such a gap in my knowledge, especially of a work of such grandeur.  But, that’s the way it goes.  You trudge forward, a blind squirrel periodically stumbling across a nut.

Now I know…

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I’ve been revisiting a lot of very old work lately here in the studio, taking little walk down memory lane. Some of the memories  are pleasant enough with “oh, yeah, I remember that” coming up periodically in my mind. Some are  cringeworthy, making me glad I moved past that time. Some please me greatly and some make me smile. Such is the case with this  little piece done in 1994.

Called Rockin’ Billy, it was done quickly in crayons. It’s rough-edged and kind of crude but has movement. I think I was listening to a bunch of old rockabilly at the time. Johnny Burnette, Warren Smith, Jerry Lee Lewis, that kind of stuff– rough-edged and a little crude with some real movement.

But I am pretty sure that this piece was a direct result of Billy Lee Riley and his distinct guitar playing, especially in a couple of my faves from that time, Flying Saucer Rock and Roll and Red Hot. Every time I stumble across this piece I have to break out the rockabilly for at least a few songs and that’s how it is on this Sunday morning. Here are those two songs from Billy Lee Riley.

Oh, what the hell, let me throw in Johnny Burnette’s Rock Billy Boogie. I can see Rockin’ Billy dancing across the stage now. Hope this helps you have your own rockin’ good time today.


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Busy morning here in the studio but I wanted to replay a post from over eight years ago about a painter whose work always dazzles me, Joseph Stella. I’ve added a few images from the original post as well as a video that shows the wider range of his work over his lifespan. Just plain great work…

When I see the paintings of Joseph Stella, particularly his modernist work, I am immediately engaged. They seem dense and complex, almost manic in their compositional content, yet the color and symmetry have an effect that I find calming.  I often wonder how Stella viewed this work, what he felt from it. Not in an artspeak sense. Not academic jargon. Just how it made him feel.

Stella (1877-1946) was an Italian immigrant to this country who has often been linked with several movements- modernism, futurism, and precisionism among them.  There is a contradiction in this in that everything I find about him points to someone with an outsider’s mentality, someone who never felt himself a part of any group  and with an “antipathy for authority” as it has been described, with which I strongly identify.  Joseph Stella Brooklyn Bridge

Maybe that’s what I see in the work.  I don’t know. I do know that I am drawn to the boldness and beauty of it. The strength of the lines. The depth of the colors. The sheer visceral bite of the  image that when taken in as a whole seems to engulf you. Gorgeous stuff. Work that makes me feel smaller, even tiny, for a moment yet inspires me to want to move my own work further ahead. To grow and expand.

Maybe that’s how I classify other’s work in my head- by how much they make me want to do better, by the way their work’s impact becomes an endpoint for me, a goal that I hope to achieve.

The work of Joseph Stella is definitely such an endpoint. Now I must work…
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joseph stella old brooklyn bridge

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It’s kind of last minute, but I will be doing one more solo exhibit this year.  It will be called Sensing the Unseen and will open Friday, December 1, hosted once more by my friends at the Kada Gallery. The show will run through the end of the year.

I said that it’s kind of last minute because even though I had been tentatively planning on an event at the Kada Gallery, we weren’t sure it would come about due to  health concerns on the part of the owners of the gallery, Kathy and Joe DeAngelo, which limited many gallery activities for much of the past year. As much as I wanted to have another show there, I really didn’t want it if it created an overly stressful workload for either of them.

The Kada Gallery was the first gallery outside my home area to represent my work, back in the first months of 1996. Over the past nearly 22 years, Kathy has been a fervent advocate for my work and has created an inviting landing spot for my work in an area that is probably off the radar of many artists. She takes the work very seriously and her earnest excitement for the work comes through loud and clear when she speaks about it. She has hosted a number of extremely successful shows for me and some of my most avid collectors have started their collections in this gallery.

But more than that, Kathy and Joe treat me like family there which makes me want to do even more for them in my work and my shows for them. So, I view this show as an important thing for my friends there and myself, one that gets my full attention. I am excited for this show and think it will live up, and hopefully exceed, past shows. I have a few things up my sleeve that I think will do just that.

So, pencil it in on your calendar: Sensing the Unseen opening December 1 at the Kada Gallery. Hope you can make it!

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There are sensory perceptions that we carry throughout our lives.  It might be a sound, a smell, an image that once brought to mind brings forth the atmosphere and feeling of the time in which they first entered our consciousness.

The smell of a cooking turkey instantly returns me to my childhood and the farmhouse where we lived. It would be Thanksgiving and  I can see Mom’s old formal dining table with the heavy chairs that surrounded it. It’s a long table with all the extending leafs in place and it’s surface is covered with the bounty of Thanksgiving, the mashed potatoes, canned cranberry sauce, stuffing and so on. Just the tiniest whiff of a roasting turkey always — and I mean always–sends me hurtling through time back to that table.

The same is true with certain songs. Take for instance, the song In My Life from the Beatles. Hearing those opening chords always sends me back to same big old farmhouse that played such a big part in my formative years. I can see the old floral wallpaper in the living room and there’s a big console record player with cloth covered speakers on its front and two sliding panels on top that uncover a turntable on one side and the controls for a radio on the other. Those opening chords have me immediately standing in front of that record player with the light from the large windows in that room filtering through Mom’s frilled white cotton curtains. On the wall there was a reproduction of a schlocky painting — I think it was a red covered bridge–printed on thick cardboard that was bought at the Loblaws grocery store.

It’s a good memory. I felt safe in that place, free to imagine places and adventures I hoped for in the future. It was a good place to foster some of the thoughts and observations that direct my paintings to this very day.

That’s my intro for this week’s Sunday morning music. I thought instead of playing the original Beatles version of In My Life which is understandably a favorite of mine, I would opt instead for one from Bette Midler with a beautiful accompaniment on ukelele from uke wizard Jake Shimabukuro. The feeling of his playing on this song works for me as much as the original in bringing back that earlier time and place.

Give a listen, think about some of those sensations that trigger your own memories and have a good Sunday.

 

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