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Archive for the ‘Favorite Things’ Category

It’s Easter, again. Since I have never had a religion, Christian or otherwise, even as a child, the holiday probably doesn’t hold the same significance for me than it might for many of you. But I do know and enjoy many of the stories and lesson of the religions.

Among them all, the Resurrection is certainly one of the most potent, even if only in symbolic terms. The idea of rebirth and redemption is a powerful concept, one that many of us who have wronged in the past seek in our own lives.

I am hoping for such a resurrection in this country, one that sees us returning to a code of ethics and a rule of law which finds no one above it. One that places what is best for the most of us over what is best for a chosen few and where we seek to help the neediest rather than the most fortunate among us. One that holds those who hide behind lies and falsehoods responsible for their words and actions. One where those who represent us in our government understand their obligation to serve country rather than party or moneyed interests.

Is that too much to ask?

Maybe. But it sures seems that we, as a nation, are at a point where such a restoration of honor and sanity is sorely needed. Hopefully, the findings revealed this past week will set us on the path to such a thing.

Anyway, for this Easter Sunday, I have selected a song that doesn’t really have anything to do with the day. It’s Nobody Knows (The Trouble I’ve Seen) performed by the great Sam Cooke. It’s a different interpretation of the African-American spiritual that came from the slave era and it soars. I am also sharing the magnificent Mahalia Jackson which has a second gear that is truly uplifting. And that fits this day, doesn’t it?

Hope you have a good day.


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I was at the easel even earlier than usual this morning. It was just after 6 AM and there was something I needed to do on a large piece. something that felt like it had to be done immediately or it would blow up my brain. I took care of that pressing issue and thought I would try to write a blogpost.

Turns out that doing that one thing led to another and, even as I sit here, that painting is loudly demanding more attention. Sometimes they are like infants crying out for attention, for nurturing. So, it’s time for to slap some more paint on my baby.

Here’s song that I haven’t heard on many years from Rory Gallagher, the late great Irish guitarist.  You don’t hear much about him anymore–he died in 1995– but he was a big influence on many rock guitarists of a certain age. This is one his songs that is a favorite of mine, A Million Miles Away. Maybe I can use that title for the painting on the easel. It certainly feels like I am a million miles away when I am working in it.

Have a great day.

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Fauvism was our ordeal by fire… colours became charges of dynamite. They were expected to charge light… The great merit of this method was to free the picture from all imitative and conventional contact.

-Andre Derain (1880-1954)

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Les Fauves translates from French as the Wild Beasts. Fauvism was an art movement in the early 20th century that focused on color, line and a painterly surface, breaking away from both traditional representational painting and the Impressionist movement of that time that maintained many of the same values as traditional realism. It was a short lived movement, lasting only a few years, but its influence down through the years has been great. It was led primarily by Henri Matisse and Andre Derain, both artists who I greatly admire.

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“You must study the Masters but guard the original style that beats within your soul and put to sword those who would try to steal it.”

El Greco

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These words from El Greco (1541-1614) certainly were reflected in the influence his work had down through the ages. Many artists through the ages have appropriated his compositions and rendered them in their own original styles. Picasso, for example, was influenced by the elongated figures of El Greco. His View of Toledo is considered one of the first paintings solely focused on landscape, as well as the first cityscape. Below, you might be able to see a connection between it and Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

For myself, in the painting here at the top, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, a massive painting that is about fifteen foot tall, I was struck by the gold clad figures (St. Stephen and St. Augustine) at the bottom who are lowering the dead aristocrat into his tomb. The colors and positions of the figures had me seeing them as figures in a Gustav Klimt painting.

Looking at the detail below, I could see them as being influences on his The Kiss. I don’t know whether they were an influence, but it certainly jumped into my mind. If so, kudos to Klimt for translating it into his own original style that beats within his soul, as El Greco may have put it.

And that is what influence should be. It is not trying to replicate, to copy, another’s work. It is in taking it in and synthesizing it using one’s own unique voice. I think every artist does this in some form. You just may not immediately notice it in the very good ones.

Detail from “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz”

“View of Toledo” and “Starry Night”

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I have a large painting on the easel I want to get to this morning. It’s at a point of transformation which is always exciting and just looking at it now, I am eager to see where it goes. But I wanted to share a post from back in 2012 about a painting done in 1997 or 1998 that has occupied an important place in my heart and mind for a long time. I think it’s a good example of the how an artist’s work often lives with the artist after it has found a new home.

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I was going to write about something different but came across this older image and completely lost my train of thought, this piece replacing everything that I had been thinking. Some pieces have that effect. It’s a smaller painting, maybe 6″ square, that sold many years ago when I was first showing my work at the Principle Gallery in the mid-1990’s. Though not large, this painting has lived in a larger sense in my thoughts ever since.

It’s titled Beauty Scorned and is a relatively simple piece. But there’s something in the washed out quality of the colors and in the the bend of the twisting tree trunk that really speaks to me in a very poignant way, as though it is a pure physical expression of some deep emotion.

Beauty and sorrow.

For me, I see this as being about perceptions of beauty and acceptance. About how we often conform, like the other trees which are so much alike here, and step back from that which is different, seeing not the beauty in it but scorning it because it is unlike us.

The beauty is in its difference.

I remember when I did this piece, feeling that this was symbolic of my own work at that time. It was often quite different from the work of other painters with which I showed and I was still unsure of the validity of my own voice, often feeling that my work was somehow inferior because it wasn’t painted in the same manner, didn’t have the same look as these others. At the time, I felt like my work and my voice was truly tied to this twisting tree and those who dismissed it because it had a different look were missing the beauty and emotion that it may hold.

Just seeing it again summons all of these thoughts in a rush of feeling. It remains a potent piece for me for this reason. It also has a sad memory in it.  When I see this piece I am always reminded of the couple who purchased it and were avid and encouraging collectors that I always looked forward to seeing at shows. They had a knack for choosing work to which I was most keenly attached. This couple later divorced and the wife would still come to the shows, always so happy for and encouraging of my work. Tragically, she passed away in a plane crash this past year [2012] and now, instead of seeing the scorning of beauty in this piece as I once did, I now see the beauty of this young lady’s spirit.

It’s a different painting for me now but no less potent.

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Floyd and Lucille Burroughs; Walker Evans (American, 1903 – 1975); 1936

 

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Whether he is an artist or not, the photographer is a joyous sensualist, for the simple reason that the eye traffics in feelings, not in thoughts.

Walker Evans

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I am a big fan of the photos of Walker Evans. Some of my early Exiles paintings were inspired by his Depression era work, many of which were captured in a landmark book, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,. Written by James Agee, the book is a document of the two men’s journey through the American south during that trying time.

I came across this quote from Evans and it made me appreciate his work even more. The idea that the eye traffics in feelings and not in thoughts is a simple one but it cuts right to the truth as any artist knows it to be. Art, whatever medium in which it takes place in, comes far before thought. It is that reaction, that feeling that hits you before your brain even begins to fully process what you are seeing that is the engine of art.

It is the feeling that bring on real thought afterwards. Allan artist can hope for their work.

I like seeing it put that way. And Mr. Evans certainly trafficked in feelings as the artist and joyous sensualist he was.

Here are just a tiny bit of his works.

 

Digital Photo File Name:DP264548.TIF
Online Publications Edited By Michelle Ma for TOAH 11_23_15

 

 

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A tree against the sky possesses the same interest, the same character, the same expression as the figure of a human.

Georges Rouault

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Georges Rouault (1871- 1958) has been a favorite of mine for a long time and the quote above certainly falls in line with my own feelings about the image of a tree. I have used the tree, the Red Tree to be more exact, for the past twenty years as a surrogate for the human figure in my paintings. You could pretty much insert a human figure in place of the Red Tree in many paintings and not lose much of the emotional content of the painting.

It would be a different painting, that’s for sure. The presence of the figure would focus everything on the specific human aspects portrayed in it. Is it a man or a woman? A child? Tall or short? Thin or wide? The interpretation of the painting becomes much more narrowly defined.

Using the Red Tree, on the other hand, allows for a broader reading, allows the viewer to see it in whatever terms they desire. It can be their own surrogate in the landscape. Or it can take on the characteristics of someone with meaning for them or someone expressing feelings that they share.

Or it can simply be a tree.

So, while I like being able to give the viewer those choices,I see the trees in my work, as Rouault says, as having the same interest, the same character, the same expression as the figure of a human.

Wouldn’t have it any other way.

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