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Archive for the ‘Favorite Things’ Category

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and i had a cold one at the dragon
with some filipino floor show
and talked baseball with a lieutenant
over a singapore sling
and i wondered how the same moon outside
over this chinatown fair
could look down on illinois
and find you there

–Tom Waits, Shore Leave

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I have things to do today so I will keep this short. I just wanted to share the painting above, Navigator, that is part of my show, Moments and Color, that is hanging at the West End Gallery, along with an old favorite of mine, Shore Leave, from Tom Waits. They seem to go together well. I think the moon in the painting could very well be the same moon in the song. Okay, I know that it obviously would be the same moon since we only know our one moon. But I am talking metaphorically here, about it being in a particular moment in time and space.

Oh, forget it. I am off to work and wish you a good day.

 

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John Sloan- The Wake of the Ferry I 1907

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You can be a giant among artists without ever attaining any great skill. Facility is a dangerous thing. When there is too much technical ease the brain stops criticizing. Don’t let the hand fall into a smart way of putting the mind to sleep.

John Sloan

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I am a fan many of the Ashcan painters of the early 20th century, such as John Sloan, 1871-1951, whose work is shown here. The painters in this group obviously had technical prowess but you get the feeling from their work that they often operated in that danger zone outside their facilities, relying as much on instinct in the moment as their skill to create their paintings.

As Sloan points out, technical ability is a wonderful thing but also dangerous  for the artist. I love his description of the hand’s ability putting the mind to sleep.

I know that feeling.

I often feel my best work comes from not knowing exactly how the work is going to proceed or where it will end. That sense of danger, that nervous feeling the painting is in peril of becoming included in the next garbage pickup, is a great indicator for me that my instincts are engaged., that my brain is not in the off position.

This is when good things happen, when breakthroughs are achieved, where the work moves beyond you and becomes something of its own.

But it’s all too easy to fall under the spell of your ability, to let your mind doze while your hand takes over.  But obtaining that ability takes years of work and is actually a goal. Why wouldn’t you let this gained knowledge carry your work? That’s a great question and I think every artist has to look at it on their own terms.

I look at this gained ability as tool that I have learned to use. Now, even though I know how to use this tool in a normal, predictable manner, sometimes I need to use it in way for it wasn’t intended. That’s not always the safe way to go but sometimes you find a new way.

And that’s a good thing.

John Sloan- Travelling Carnival, Santa Fe

John Sloan- The Wake of the Ferry II 1907

John Sloan- The City From Greenwich Village

John Sloan- Hairdresser’s Window 1907

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Fallin’ into your passing hands
Please don’t destroy these lands
Don’t make them desert sands
Come tomorrow, will I be older?
Come tomorrow, may be a soldier
Come tomorrow, may I be bolder than today?

Yardbirds, Shapes of Things

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Running late this morning and feeling a little gauzy. Is that a thing? It’s kind of like hazy but not that far. Distracted? Just plain tired? I don’t know. I searched for a while and couldn’t find anything for this week’s Sunday morning musical interlude until I came across this classic track from the Yardbirds back in 1966.

It’s Shapes of Things with some great guitar work from Jeff Beck. It helped me burn off a layer of gauze and I feel a little more fleshy. Is that a thing?

The painting at the top, Tangled Light, hangs in my studio. It’s what I consider a personal piece and it hangs with another similarly done piece. Together they make up one of my favorite pairings. They make me feel fleshier, I guess?

Have a good day,

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Got up late this morning and thought I’d save some time by rerunning an older post that has a piece of music.

I grew up in a time without computer screens, smartphones, video games or much of anything else in the way of distraction.  I’m not saying that we used to go down to the quarry to throw rocks at the dinosaurs but, compared to the multitude of options available to a kid today, it was relatively spartan. We lived in the country where for years we only had two TV channels and FM radio was in its infancy, at least in our area. I’m not sure we even had an FM radio. So, the local AM radio stations filled the bill.

At that time, our local AM channels were one-size-fits-all affairs, playing every genre of music in a grand mishmosh. You might go from hearing the Rolling Stones or the Doors to Nat King Cole to the Temptations to Patsy Cline and back to Chuck Berry in a matter of twenty minutes. It made for very eclectic listening.

The one I usually listened to was WENY and at the time my favorite DJ was a guy named Paul Leigh, who also hosted a late Saturday night movie on  WENY’s sister TV channel. On that, Leigh played his alter ego, the Undertaker, and played schlocky monster movies. He was entertaining for a 12 or 13 year old kid and had a pretty sharp wit for a DJ in a small market. He was always running call-in contests and on one night I was lucky (and persistent) enough to be the 20th or whatever caller.  I won a stack of 25 albums and picking them up at the station, I thought I was in pig heaven.

Of course, they were just getting rid of all the promos albums from record companies that had come their way. Almost all of them never made it on the air, most being pretty bad while some were just not the taste for a teenager. I remember there was an Ornette Coleman LP that was a very conceptual jazz thing that sounded like squawks and buzzes to my ears at the time.  Actually, it still sounded that way to me every time I’ve pulled it out over the years. But there were a few gems in there.

One was this self-titled first album from David Bromberg.  It was produced by George Harrison who appears on the very enjoyable song below, The Holdup.  Several of the songs are Bromberg’s interpretation of blues and traditional classics mixed in with some wonderful originals, including the strange and haunting Sammy’s Song. I still listen to it on a regular basis and it has always held up through the many years.

Bromberg’s an interesting guy, a folk guitar wiz who basically quit the business for several years in the 1990’s to learn the art of violin making. He returned to playing and touring but still maintains a violin shop in Wilmington, Delaware. He seems like a  man who lives life on his own terms. A rare and wonderful thing.

Give a listen to The Holdup and have a good day.
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The other day I wrote about going up into the wood to my quickly deteriorating old studio where I found a cache of older works tucked behind a  stack of old frames.The reason I had decided to head up there was that I have an upcoming show in late August at a small public gallery, the Octagon Gallery, in the historic Patterson Library in Westfield, NY. It’s a village in Chautauqua County out near the shores of Lake Erie. It’s an area known for its vineyards filled with the Concord grapes that have been made into Welch’s Grape Juice at a plant there since 1897. The library is a gorgeous Beaux Arts structure from the early 20th century and the gallery is, as its name implies, a large octagon shaped space.

I wasn’t planning on doing the show at first but decided it would be a good venue to show some of my more private work, pieces that I would never sell. It’s called Exiles and Icons and has all of the pieces from these series that I have in my possession.

I began going through these pieces last week. Even though I have taken them out and looked at them a number of times over the years, this was the first time I was putting them together and really doing a type of inventory of them. As I looked them over, I realized that a vital piece from the Exiles series was missing. It was the piece shown at the top, Exiles: Quartet, a group of four of the Exiles characters assembled and matted together to make one piece.

I was positive it was somewhere here in the studio, having distinct memories of taking the unframed four pieces out of the mat and discarding the mat, folding it and shoving it in the garbage. This set off a search in the studio that had me going through every shelf, drawer, box, crack, and crevice in the place. I was frantic. I went through this studio several times over three days, examining folders and bins time and time again thinking I might have somehow overlooked these four paintings.

Nothing.

The next move was to go look through the old studio space. Maybe I had a failure of memory, maybe I had somehow overlooked these paintings from the very beginning and had believed they were always there with me in the new studio. After tearing apart my current studio, that was the only possibility outside of me having sold the paintings and then forgotten this. But I knew that was not the case after going through my records.

So, I went through the wreckage of the old studio and found the cache of older paintings including one that was finished on the day my mom died back in 1995. I found a few other things but the Exiles paintings were nowhere to be seen. I took my found pieces and headed down the hill, thrilled just to have rediscovered these paintings.

Later that evening, I began to think that if I had missed these pieces when I was clearing it out all those years ago in 2007, maybe it was possible that I had missed the Exiles pieces as well. Maybe they were still there. The next morning, I headed back up the hill and began another search in the rubble.

I spent about an hour looking, sifting through wet debris under pink insulation hanging from the gaping hole in the roof and moving anything that might hide these pieces.

Nothing.

Ready to give up, I went to a little storage space in the back of the studio. The floor beneath it was racked severely, dropping a foot or more in a short span so that the side wall separated from the floor, leaving a gaping hole of maybe six inches going to the outside. The questions of how much weather and how many vermin had ran through this spot jumped to my mind. I began sifting through a stack of old cardboard.

I went through once. Nothing. Okay, these pieces were either lost or tucked away somewhere I might never find.

But I decided that I would do this pile again. Most of the way through and still absolutely nothing. I decided that the search was futile and done. But near the final sheet, a piece of white cardboard  that laid flat on the floor next to the hole in the wall, I noticed that there was a white sheet attached to its surface that almost blended perfectly with it, camouflaging it from my first inspection. I reached done and pulled it up away from the white sheet of corrugated cardboard.

There they were, the whole quartet looking up at me from their original matting. They had been waiting there for more than 12 years for me to find them, to release them from their musty cardboard prison. I took them out into the light and was amazed at how well preserved they were after all this time in these conditions. The acid free matting had protected them in great part and there was a minimum of mildew and foxing on them.

Exiles: Quartet is safely with me now and getting ready to be shown publicly for the first time in almost 25 years. I am dumbfounded at having found it and, of course, greatly relieved. This series means a lot to me, having been done over the time my mom was suffering through the final months of her struggle with lung cancer. This particular piece was important to the series as well as a favorite of mine. Finding it felt like gaining some part of myself long lost.

It’s funny how your mind and memory sometimes plays tricks on you. I thought all this time that these pieces were here. I had even formed a memory associated with it. That was either a false recollection or one confused with a different piece where I took the pieces from their mat and discarded it. Don’t know if I will ever know the answer to that but I am happy enough just to have this bit of my past, this bit of living memory, back with me.

 

 

 

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Thought I’d take it easy this morning and just share a song, as I do every Sunday morning. The painting here is a favorite of mine, Le Cirque from Georges Seurat, which is I believe is considered to be the last painting from the great French Pointillist.

I am not a big fan of circuses now but as child I had a slight fascination with them. I have distinct memories of watching lion tamers, acrobats and high wire walkers on a television show that used to be on Friday nights in the early and mid 1960’s. It was called International Showtime hosted by Don Ameche, featuring filmed performances from European circuses. I think my interest in the circus was mine alone in my family because I seem to remember watching this show alone.

It’s one of those things I moved past. I began to have a great dislike for animals (or children, for that matter) in cages and gained an understanding of the hardships and tragedies of the lives of many of the circus people. The glossy fascination of childhood dulled and the clowns that once made me smile now make me slightly sad.

But I still like this song very much. It has wonderful imagery that rekindles the lure of the circus a bit though it points out the seedier aspects that I didn’t notice as a 6 year old but which ultimately made the circus less appealing. This is a live performance of Wild Billy’s Circus Story from Bruce Springsteen from way back in 1973.

Sigh.

Have a good Sunday.

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I want to live alone in the desert
I want to be like Georgia O’Keeffe
I want to live on the Upper East Side
And never go down in the street

Splendid Isolation
I don’t need no one
Splendid Isolation

–Warren Zevon, Splendid Isolation

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Over the next several days I will be showing paintings from my upcoming show, Moments and Color, that opens Friday, July 12, at the West End Gallery. Today is a piece called Pondering Solitude, a 24″ by 24″ canvas, that was a favorite of mine during its time here in the studio.

Like much of my work, I can’t exactly put my finger on any one thing in this painting that makes it hit the mark for me. Maybe it’s something as simple as the color combinations or the way the light flows within the composition. Or just the simplicity of it as a whole. Or the feeling of warm solitude it emotes.

Again, I don’t know. That probably sounds strange to some of you. After all, I painted it so shouldn’t I know the entire what and why of a piece I have created? You would think so, wouldn’t you?

Oddly enough, in my best work–or at least what I feel is my best work– I have no answers. And that makes sense to me because the work is for me a way to get enough clarity to understand enough to be able to ask questions. Then, hopefully, answers emerge.

It’s hard to find answers when you don’t really know the questions.

And that is kind of the story of this piece. I see it as the Red Tree feeling a need for clarity and light, answers to questions that it can’t articulate, and finding solace in the light and warmth of its solitude.

There is more likely than not more to say here but I think I am leaving it at that for now.

I used some lyrics from the song Splendid Isolation from the late Warren Zevon above. Here is the song.

 

 

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