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Think about
Think about how many times I have fallen
Spirits are using me larger voices callin’
What Heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten

Southern Cross, Stephen Stills, Rick and Michael Curtis

 



I have a lot to do this morning so this will be brief. At least, that’s my intent. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.

Just wanted to show a new small piece at the top, Steady As She Goes, which is headed to the West End Gallery for their annual Little Gems show which opens on February 12. I love doing my boat pieces even though I am not a sailor. And even though the romance of sailing free on the wide expanse of the ocean under endless skies is powerful, I know that will not be a sailor in this lifetime.

My loss, no doubt.

But the boats themselves offer great symbolism for me that translates well in paint and speaks to the non-sailors like myself who understand and envy those who respond to the lure of the open sea.

I thought that a fitting song would be the Crosby, Stills and Nash song, Southern Cross, especially with a video that features the lyrics. Interestingly, Stephen Stills wrote this song with the Curtis Brothers, Rick and Michael, basing it on an existing song from the Curtis Brothers called Seven League Boots, which they had recorded several years before with members of Fleetwood Mac.

Stills explained how their collaboration on Southern Cross came about:

“The Curtis Brothers brought a wonderful song called ‘Seven League Boots,’ but it drifted around too much. I rewrote a new set of words and added a different chorus, a story about a long boat trip I took after my divorce. It’s about using the power of the universe to heal your wounds. Once again, I was given somebody’s gem and cut and polished it.

Well, he did a fine job in polishing it and I like how it attaches to this painting.

Give a listen and have a good day.



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In the beginning
You really loved me, oh
I was too blind
I could not see, now

But now that you left me
Ooh, how I cried out, I keep crying
You don’t miss your water
‘Till your well runs dry

You Don’t Miss Your Water, William Bell



The painting at the top is a new piece, 9″ by 12″ on canvas, that is headed to the West End Gallery for next month’s annual Little Gems show, which opens February 12. After it was completed, I was really looking deeply at it as I tried to discern what it held so that I could title it. I felt that the scene in it was from the dawn  of the day, the start of the new day.

I normally see this time symbolically as a beginning filled with great potential and optimism, brimming with energy. But there was something else in this piece that didn’t seem to be looking forward. Instead it felt almost remorseful, looking back. For me, I sense this in the Red Tree’s posture toward the rising sun and in the tone and density of the sky’s color.

It’s like the character represented by the Red Tree is trapped between the duty of the coming day and lure of the past and what has been lost.

The feeling of this piece brought to mind a favorite song of mine from Otis Redding, You Don’t Miss Your Water. The first verses are at the top and the first 10-15 seconds of the recording, after the distinct opening chords when Otis first sings “In the beginning,” always sends chills down my spine. Glorious chills.

That’s where the title for this painting originated for me.

The song was originally written and recorded for Stax Records by William Bell in 1961, four years before the Otis version. Bell’s version is wonderful but Otis took the song to another dimension. Interestingly, Bell wrote the song in NYC and it was actually more about his homesickness for his Memphis home than lost love.

And maybe homesickness and the remorse for what is lost in the past plays a part here in this painting. I can’t say for sure and only time will reveal it’s true meaning. Maybe it will take on a whole new demeanor as time passes, as sometimes happens.

That’s the way of art. It is often never fully one thing forever.

But in the beginning…

Anyway, here’s the immortal Otis Redding and You Don’t Miss Your Water.

Have a good day. Keep hope alive.



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Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.

-Jorge Luis Borges



It’s that time of the year when the young build up their stores of memories and the older folks delve into their own storage for past remembrances from this same time many years ago.

The memories that the young will bank this year will be so different from our own memories of holidays past that many of us may pull out this week or the next. And how could they not be different? The world is forever changing, for good or bad. But the relationships of families and friends remain constants so while circumstances and surroundings may change, the base on which memories are built remains much the same.

So these memories being formed in the next week or so will likely be as rich for these young people fifty years from now when they find themselves watching the youth of that time creating their first deep memories. These may end up being the richest they know because this year with all its awfulness created hardships that in many cases illuminates the good that is embedded in our lives, good that is often overlooked in the rush of life.

This year gave us time to reflect on such things and to see that our time here is all we really possess.

If you’re looking for a silver lining to a very dark cloud, maybe that’s it. Maybe time is, in the end, that substance, as Borges writes, of which we are made, that thing that sweeps us along and inevitably consumes us.

This seems a little more evident this time of year as I revisit my own richly detailed memories of this season from many decades ago. There are many remembrances from the intervening years but they most often lack the depth and detail of those early ones and some even have faded into seeming non-existent. Some are there but remain hazy, as though they don’t belong to me, like I am looking at the memories from another life. Like I was a different person at that point.

And maybe I was. Perhaps that’s another thing that comes with being made from time– it changes and as a result, we cannot help but change, as well.

Time…

Here’s a song about time. It’s not a holiday song but it is a great, great song from Tom Waits. I feel a bit sacrilegious in playing anything other than Waits’ iconic version but this one is lovely. Plus to add a festive touch, it is performed by a giant tragic clown who strokes his sleeping French bulldog as he sings. It’s a nice performance by Puddles Pity Party of a song that always slows my heartbeat a bit. I particularly always seem to hear the line And the things you can’t remember tell the things you can’t forget/That history puts a saint in every dream even when the song is playing in the background.

Have a good day. Enjoy your time here.



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“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.”

― Edgar Allan Poe, Eleonora



This is another new small piece that is headed to the West End Gallery this weekend. I am finally hitting some responsive chords in my work and feeling a new creative flow building which is reassuring. This recent work has felt great coming out, free and easy without having to stuggle, and I think it shows in the work itself.

It’s all work that appeals to my own sense of what I want to see. 

Maybe what I need to see right now.

That I can’t answer. But this feels good and right so I am pretty happy in the moment.

I am calling it Hold Back the Night after a  favorite song from the 70’s, a cover by Graham Parker and the Rumour of the song of that title which was originally recorded by the Trammps a few years earlier. Very upbeat which matches my current view for my work in the near future.

As I said, pretty happy in the moment.

Of course, tomorrow might be a different story. So, for today, I am going to take in the colors and forms and sing along with Graham. Hope you’ll do the same. Have a good one but be careful out there.



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Felt like some real seasonal music that went beyond the typical radio fare this morning. This took me back to a post from several years back that features one of my favorite Bruegel paintings. Win-win. Take a look and have a good day.



Bruegel, Pieter the Elder- Hunters in the Snow (Winter) 1565



I was looking for a medieval image of a scene in snow that would fit a piece of medieval seasonal music. In this instance, or most any other for that matter, you can’t go wrong with a painting from Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The Flemish painter, who lived from around 1525 until 1569, has long been a favorite of mine with the gorgeous colors of his peasant scenes as well as their elaborate and harmonious composition.

This is one of the more famous of the 45 or so known remaining paintings from Bruegel, titled The Hunters in the Snow from 1565. The contrasting darkness of the trees and the hunting party against the lightness of the snow and the atmosphere just make this piece memorable for me. It is of its time but it feels as though you could step into it, be part of it.

The piece of music I wanted this to accompany is Gaudete, a well known piece that comes from the 16th century which means that it, like the Bruegel painting, are not really medieval since that period ended with the 15th century. But both feel as though they have that medieval feel and, besides, Gaudete is based on truly medieval Latin lyrics. The song is a Christmas carol that opens with the line Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus which translates to Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born. Gaudete is Latin for rejoice. While I do not practice any particular religion, this is a beautiful piece of music and a wonderful expression of the meaning of the season.  

There are all sorts of performances of this song out there. Steeleye Span, the British folk/rock group, had a minor hit in the UK with this song in the 1970’s, and it has been performed by many choral groups. I like the version below from Choir of Clare College Cambridge and London Cello Orchestra. It’s probably the drum backing that does it for me but regardless, it’s still a wonderful recording.

Anyway, give a listen and have a fine day out there.



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Hey, A Charlie Brown Christmas is on PBS tonight!

I grew up with this seasonal special from Charles Schulz and his beloved band of characters who felt like childhood companions. Its soundtrack from Vince Guaraldi has become part of the genetic makeup of generations of kids and for many such as myself there’s a visceral response upon hearing any of the compositions from it.

One of my favorites is Skating with its bright, cool, and clean lines. It both evokes memory from the past and feeling in the present moment, gliding seamlessly between the two. Maybe that’s the mark of a timeless piece of art?

I don’t know.

So, for this Sunday morning music, let’s give a listen to Skating from Vince Guaraldi. Can’t think of a better way to skim into the day. Have a good one.



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Scene from “A Matter of Life and Death”



Taking a small break this morning without mentioning the Supreme Court decision from yesterday, which speaks for itself. But I did want to mention that TCM is playing a favorite movie of mine, A Matter of Life and Death, tonight at 8 PM

Released in 1946 as Stairway to Heaven in the UK, it was created by the collaboration of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger along with legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff. I am a huge fan of this team which made extremely interesting and thought provoking films– The Red Shoes, Parallel 49, Black Narcissus and so many others– with storylines that were well outside the norms of traditional cinema storytelling of the time, featuring spectacular visuals often filled with gorgeous saturated color and groundbreaking effects. This film very much fills all those boxes. 

It is a fantasy about a WWII British flyer who inexplicably survives the plane crash that was supposed to end his life which basically causes a rift in heaven. He falls from the sky and is found on an English beach by a US Army nurse. They form an instant bond which is the basis for the rest of this film as the flyer attempts to fend off the efforts of the heavenly agent sent to retrieve the wayward soul. It is said to be a metaphor for the revival of the British nation as well as the PTSD that was affecting so many returning troops in the post-war era.

It’s a beautiful film with scenes that alternate between great examples of Technicolor, black and white and super saturated color, each designating a different phase of the flyer’s experience. Film is, as with all arts, a subjective experience and I imagine that many folks will not find this to their liking. But for me, it’s a masterpiece. If you’re interested in great filmmaking, take a look tonight.

Here’s a link to an interesting article on this film from the Criterion Collection as well as the trailer, below, which was made for it’s recent restoration and theatrical re-release.



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Say the word and you’ll be free
Say the word and be like me
Say the word I’m thinking of
Have you heard the word is love?

It’s so fine, it’s sunshine
It’s the word, love

— The Word, The Beatles



There’s a lot of things I could comment on today. The pandemic is raging with over 200,000 new cases a day the new norm and 3000+ deaths per day in its sights. We have a lame-duck president*** who ignores his responsibilities to whine endlessly and claim without a shred of evidence that he was defrauded in the election even though his attorneys have admitted several times in court that they are not alleging or showing evidence of fraud. Instead of accepting defeat graciously and doing his duty, he cries and blusters about an election in which he was defeated by 4.4% of the vote, a landslide amount in any election.

The current count shows him trailing by about 7,000,000 votes. To put that amount in perspective, it’s the combined number of voters– from both parties– in West Virginia, South Carolina, Kansas, Wyoming, South Dakota, and North Dakota. That’s a lot of folks.

But I digress. I don’t want to talk about that. Let’s talk about something more upbeat, say, the fact that the album Rubber Soul from the Beatles was released on this date back in 1965. It was their sixth album and marked the beginning of a remarkable four album arc — Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and the White Album— that both ignited and marked a sea change in pop and rock music.

It is a great, great album that still stands up well after 55 years. Every song is a winner. I want to share a song but with every track being so memorable, it’s tough to choose one to highlight. Any one would be a solid choice but I am going with The Word this morning.

Give a listen — say the word and you’ll be free–then have a good day. Be careful out there.



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“There is a time in the life of every boy when he for the first time takes the backward view of life. Perhaps that is the moment when he crosses the line into manhood. The boy is walking through the street of his town. He is thinking of the future and of the figure he will cut in the world. Ambitions and regrets awake within him. Suddenly something happens; he stops under a tree and waits as for a voice calling his name. Ghosts of old things creep into his consciousness; the voices outside of himself whisper a message concerning the limitations of life. From being quite sure of himself and his future he becomes not at all sure. If he be an imaginative boy a door is torn open and for the first time he looks out upon the world, seeing, as though they marched in procession before him, the countless figures of men who before his time have come out of nothingness into the world, lived their lives and again disappeared into nothingness. The sadness of sophistication has come to the boy. With a little gasp he sees himself as merely a leaf blown by the wind through the streets of his village. He knows that in spite of all the stout talk of his fellows he must live and die in uncertainty, a thing blown by the winds, a thing destined like corn to wilt in the sun.”

― Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio



“Suddenly something happens; he stops under a tree and waits as for a voice calling his name.

I’ve only read bits and pieces of the writings of Sherwood Anderson but the paragraph above always knocks me out. It feels like he was somehow following me from his distant past and witnessed me stopping under ten thousand trees through the years, waiting for that voice to call out my name. He saw the uncertainty that marks my living days and saw my early recognition of our mortality, that those living days must someday end.

I want to say that I like this bit of prose simply because it’s a beautiful piece of writing but even now, my own uncertainty won’t allow that. How do I know what is good or beautiful?

It just feels that way to me because it comes so close to the bone, leaving me cut to the core.

Maybe that’s the definition of beauty.

Who the hell knows?

Anyway, just wanted to share it today along with a song from Glen Hansard that has that same close to the bone feel. Here’s his Say It To Me Now from the film, Once. The small painting at the top bears that same title, not by accident, and is at the West End Gallery. Have a good day.



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Rockwell Kent- Clover Fields



President-elect Joe Biden is on a path that will show him winning close to 51% of the votes with what will most likely be a margin of over 6 million votes. It is, objectively speaking, the largest electoral rebuke of a sitting president since FDR unseated Hoover in 1932.

It seems that the people have clearly spoken. Even so, with a sitting administration that seems more hellbent on undermining our democracy than even pretending to address the pandemic that is now fully out of control across the country, it seems like a lot of folks need reassurance that the will of the people will be carried out. To that end, I felt that this post from a few years back, written at the time of the damaging government shutdown of early 2018, still applies.

Plus, I was needing to see some Rockwell Kent paintings this morning. That always does me some good.

Believe in reason and have a good day.



 

Rockwell Kent- The Trapper

 



Force against reason: reason, because it has the power of enlisting forces to fight for it, will win. From the recognition of that truth has come democracy.

-Rockwell Kent



There are a lot of things that could be said this morning, especially with a governmental shutdown taking effect overnight. This shutdown is the symbolic culmination of the political attitudes of the past twenty years that have led us away from compromise and reason as a means of governance. I am not going to go into my own grievances here.

I’ve done that enough.

But I will say that for all the anxiety this government produces as it tries to force itself closer and closer to some form of autocratic authoritarianism, I am somewhat optimistic. And that may be because I agree with the premise of the quote above from one of my favorite artists, Rockwell Kent.

I do feel that we are in struggle right now between force and reason, that the direction in which we are being directed via deception and fear-mongering– the force here–goes against the ideals and virtues that we have long professed as the basis for our democracy– reason.  The idea that reason is enduring because it has the ability to enlist those who will fight for the truth of it is reassuring to me and seems to be backed by history.

What we are experiencing is reminiscent of the way other empires have ended, when the beliefs that grew these empires are set aside by rulers who see themselves as being above those ideals and virtues. But I believe we are still a nation with enough reasonable people to resist the forces of greed and nativism that have descended upon us.

And that gives me hope, even on these days that seem so dark.

So, thanks for reminding me of that, Mr. Kent. Here’s a video of some of Kent’s landscape work, primarily of some of my favorite landscapes from the Adirondacks, Vermont and Greenland. The format of the video is a little cutesy for my taste but it shows a lot of great work from Kent and features the music of Edgar Meyer and Joshua Bell. Can’t go wrong with that combo.

Have a good day and stay reasonable.



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