I’ve been very busy recently and haven’t had chance to write as fully as I would like. I’ve been doing this long enough that writing the blog has become habit and I feel a little guilty when I think I’m not attentive enough. But I have tried to alleviate some of my guilt by sharing some things that I do like. Like the video below of the work of Marc Chagall set to the music of Mozart’s Piano Concerto #23 Adagio.
I’ve always been a fan of Chagall’s work. It’s hard to not let myself get caught up in the world of Chagall’s paintings. It’s easy to happily absorb yet you’re never quite sure what it is that you’re taking in. Something magical and mystical there.
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I was going to write something this morning about the craziness going on in the current administration. But after a while I began to think that there was no point in it. Those of you who see things as I do with me would nod in agreement.
And if you still believe there is a single bit of honesty, decency, empathy, or any other positive qualities residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, then you most likely will never be swayed by my opinion. If you honestly believe that this person cares about anything but himself and the fortunes of a few friends and family members, then you and I reside on two different planets, my friend.
So, to spare myself the aggravation, I decide to focus on an old favorite who I’ve neglected in the last year or two, blues legend John Lee Hooker. I wrote the following here back in 2008 and didn’t include any of his music. I was new to this blog thing and didn’t even know how to embed a video at that point. So, here’s that post with the music.
Have a good day, if you can.
I remember coming across an old John Lee Hooker album at a used record shop on Market Street in Corning, NY in the 1970’s. It was a beaten piece of vinyl titled Folk Blues. I was just a kid and had no idea who John Lee Hooker was but the album cover had a certain gritty, real feel to it and besides, it was only a buck.
It was from the early 60’s, scratched and worn, and I remember the pops and crackles when I first put down the needle. Didn’t sound hopeful but when his guitar and rhythm section kicked in on songs like Bad Boy and Rock House Boogie ( both tracks from the early 1950’s) it was pure magic. It was simple, direct and raw. The guitar sound was like downed power lines arcing in a storm.
I was hooked by Hooker.
To the casual listener, Hooker’s music could seem repetitive and narrowly focused but to me that was the genius of it. His reexaminations of certain grooves revealed nuance and subtlety that could be easily lost in the distraction of an insanely hypnotic rhythm.
I view my work at times like Hooker’s music. There is sometimes repetition of form, of compositional elements but that is by design. Because I am working in a defined form it allows me to spend more creative effort on nuance– texture, color subtlety and quality of line. The result is a piece that fits easily into the body of my work but has its own feel, its own life. Its own groove.
As John Lee would say, boogie, chillen…
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I wrote the post below back in 2009. I’ve revisited the use of multiple images a few times since but only on a limited basis. Maybe once or twice a year. But it’s a concept that appeals to me and just seeing these images again always sparks something.
I was looking through some older images on my computer, searching for a painting that I had completed several years back. As I scanned through the paintings, I noticed several pieces through the years that were different from most of the work I’ve been doing recently. They were multiples, such as Peers, shown here. They were paintings with several windows with a new scene in each, although most of the scene were very similar to the others.
It was a format in which I really enjoyed working and one that I have not revisited in a couple of years. I really don’t know why. They have a very graphic appearance and really stand out on a wall, making them pretty well received as a rule. I guess in the past few years I’ve been focusing more on working on texture and heightening the color, as well as working in the Archaeology series, so that I haven’t even thought of revisiting this format.
I remember some of the early ones very well. One had 48 cells and had a great look, the result of overlaying the paint with layers of chalk and pastel. Another was the same number of cells with 48 individual small paintings, each window having a separate opening in the mat. It was a pretty difficult piece to mat and frame but it also popped off the wall. I will have to go through my slides from that time (pre-digital) and see if I can wrangle up a few shots. I would like to see them again to see how they really hold up against my memory.
Maybe I will revisit the multiples sometime soon. I often run across things that have slipped from the front of my painting mind when I go back looking for something else. It may be a format such as these multiples or may be a small compositional element. It’s always interesting for me to try to re-insert this older element into the new work, to see how the inevitable evolution of the work will change this older concept. We’ll have to see what this brings…
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For this Sunday morning music, it’s got to be Chuck.
The great Chuck Berry died yesterday at the age of 90. In the Pantheon of the gods of rock and roll, Chuck is without a doubt the true father of the genre, the wellspring that fed all others. His music is practically written in our DNA and permeates our culture. It is part and parcel of who we are.
You might think you can’t name a Chuck Berry song but I will bet that you know at least a dozen. In fact, one of his greatest hit albums is called The Great Twenty-Eight and almost every song on it is a rock and roll classic. When that sound comes out of the speaker it is instantly familiar and distinct. You may not have heard the song for forty years but you know the words and melody instinctively.
Oh, you know it.
Like many people, I have probably taken Chuck Berry for granted for many years now. But now that he’s gone I feel a definite sense of loss. Maybe it’s that we are in a period of time where we are struggling for a definition of who we really are as a people, where we seem poised at a juncture that will take us in two very different directions. He was that part of America that drew people here with his Everyman point of view and a sound that was forever young and vigorous.
So, like I said, this morning it’s got to be Chuck. I’ve been listening for about an hour and a half to Chuck and can’t even come close to choosing. I listen to one and go, “Oh, Yeah!” then I hear the next song and do it again. So I’m playing two that just feel good to me. One is Back in the USA and the second is Havana Moon, a quieter, moody song from Chuck that just clicks for me.
Have a good day and if the spirit hits you, as Chuck might say, let it rock.
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Lately, when I have been very busy, I’ve been sharing some videos of artists’ work set to music. For example, I’ve shared videos of the works of Edward Hopper and Thomas Hart Benton in recent weeks. It’s always interesting to see artists work set to music, especially when they seem to complement one another.
Well, I am busy again today but want to share a nice video featuring the work of Gustav Klimt put together by a Brazilian musician, Juliano Cesar Lopes, who creates musical scores for films under the name JCSL Studio Recording. He has produced a number of short films like this one as a showcase for his skills. I like his work on this short film and hope you will as well.
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Last week I shared a couple of videos of the paintings of Edward Hopper set to music. I thought that I’d do the same this week for the work of another of my favorites, the great American Regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton.
I’ve always loved the rhythm and movement of the elements in Benton’s paintings, in even his most remote landscapes. They seem to be filled with potential energy and the landscape becomes a living, breathing figurative element in his work. That is a trait that I try to emulate in my own work.
This video features his paintings set to the music of late American composer Walter Piston‘s Symphony #6, Movement #4 as performed by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra as directed by Leonard Slatkin. It has that sound of youth, motion, and energy that is often associated with America in the late 19th/early 20th century. Plus it has Benton’s work.
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Another Sunday morning which means it’s time for a little music. I thought that for this week’s choice I would go with something a little further off the beaten track, going all the way up to Regina, Saskatchewan to grab this tune from the group The Dead South.
The song, In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company, is a song that I stumbled across awhile ago. I thought it was catchy and found the video engaging and fun. I’ve listened to it several times since and thought it would be a good song for today.
The accompanying painting is titled Confession and is from my Outlaws series. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a decade since that group was painted. It was a relatively small and short lived series but I find myself going back to this group on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s just to look at the imagery and other times it’s to see how the narrative that I see in the image has changed over time.
There are pieces in the group where the narrative remains constant and others like this piece are a bit more ambiguous and open to new interpretations. This little painting always make me think.
Anyway, take look, give a listen and don’t worry if you think you’re going to Hell– there will be plenty of good company. Have a good day.
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