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The value of the prototype does not consist in the rarity of the object, but in the rarity of the quality it represents.

–Victor Vasarely

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I have to confess up front that I am not a big fan of Victor Vasarely (1906-1997) or the Op-Art movement of which he is at the forefront. It’s not that I am denigrating it. I have seen a number of pieces that I do like and I can certainly see people being intrigued by its color and forms and how it can reverberate in certain environments.

If I had a mid-century home with lots of glass and chrome, I might think about hanging this type of work. But I live in a cabin in the woods.

It’s just not to my particular taste, that’s all.

That being said, I immediately nodded in agreement when I read the quote above from Vasarely. As I read it, it jibes well with my own views on the intrinsic value of art and how the artist behind it affects the artwork’s value beyond that of a mere object.

When I have spoken with students in the past I try to impress on them that while they must learn their craft, they should also focus on making themselves fully rounded humans with an individual voice that reflects their uniqueness and individuality.

I urge them to read more, listen more, and to look at more things, all preferably outside their own known preferences.  I believe it creates a sense of fullness that will extend into their work, giving their work a greater sense of that quality that takes a piece beyond being a mere object of decoration.  And today, when there are more artists than at any other time at any point in history, its that rare sense of this quality that can make the difference in how seriously an artist’s work is viewed.

I don’t know if that ever gets through to these kids or if it even holds true in reality, but it seems right to me. I personally try to view each piece as a combination of skill, experience, acquired knowledge and influences, and the flaws and strengths of my own character–hopefully, the better parts of it.

Sometimes it works and at those times I see the quality represented by it that Vasarely described. When it doesn’t, I see a mere object that lacks the fullness that I am trying to put in it. I can see that I have somehow withheld some part of myself from that work and I try to figure out how to overcome that deficiency.

But most of all, I keep trying to find that rare quality…

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I do not believe in the art which is not the compulsive result of Man’s urge to open his heart.

–Edvard Munch

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Edvard Munch, the Norwegian painter who lived from 1863 to 1944, is best known for his painting The Scream. Unfortunately, that’s the only painting of his most folks can recall. But he had a long and very productive career, creating work that was often dark and filled with anxiety. But it was always his own, pulling deeply from his own inner life and emotions.

His work may not resonate with you– not all of his work hits the mark for my own tastes–but there is no denying that it has the emotional power that can only come from an opened heart that seeks meaning in life, his ultimate goal as an artist.

Or as he said: In my art I have tried to explain to myself life and its meaning. I have also tried to help others to clarify their lives. 

 

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I was recently going through some old work and came across some paintings from 2002 that had slipped my mind. There were several done in the same style as the piece shown here, Night Blossom, with chunky, mosaic-like skies in deep blues and greens.  They had a dark, moody tone and a sense of weight in them that really drew me to them when I pulled them up on my screen.

It made me wonder why it was a path that I didn’t follow a bit further at that time. Maybe I felt it was too reminiscent of stained-glass. It does have that feel in the way it goes together.

Or maybe I just was headed in another direction that had a little more pull on me at the time. I was in the midst of my Dark Work in the aftermath of 9/11 which took me directly into my Red Roof series so perhaps that is the main reason for not doing more in this vein.

So, it may be as simple as it turning out to be that there is not enough time in the day to follow up on all the flares that are sent off in one’s head sometimes. Who knew?

But seeing this again and examining it closely re-ignites that flare and I see this as a new possibility in a larger scale done with skills that have evolved in the past 16 years.

And that is exciting for me.

Whether it turns outs to be what I see in my head is another thing. Sometimes those things I envision turn out much different in reality and not always in a positive manner.

We shall see…

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Like everything genuine, its inner life guarantees its truth. All works of art created by truthful minds without regard for the work’s conventional exterior remain genuine for all times. 

Franz Marc

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Franz Marc is not one of my favorite artists but that is not to say I am not a fan of his. I like many of his paintings and some do little for me. And that’s okay.

But I greatly admire the fact that he created an impressive body of work in a short period of time– he was only 36 years old when he was killed in the Battle of Verdun in World War I in 1916— that has survived and prospered during the last hundred years. Under Hitler’s Nazi Third Reich, his work was labeled as degenerate art and was subject to destruction. But his work persisted.

I also admire the fact that he chose to carve out his own niche, creating work that is instantly identifiable as his. His use of bold primary color, the animal subjects that populated many of his pieces and the use of Cubist elements make his work easy to distinguish when you come across one. Many of you are probably familiar with his famous yellow cow or his blue horses.

I also admire and am in agreement with many of his writings about art. We both tend to look at art as having an inner life of its own so long as the artist allows that truth to manifest itself and creates the work with true emotion and feeling.

His desire to create work that remains genuine for all time is mine as well. The idea of connecting and communicating with future generations is deeply appealing. You always hope your work speaks beyond time or language or place.

So, while I may not number Franz Marc among my favorite artists, he is nonetheless a great influence on my work.

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I was going through some older posts this morning and came across this one on artist Amedeo Modigliani. I don’t know if coincidences have any meaning beyond being interesting things to ponder but the coincidence of the date for this post and today’s date, along with the same date back in 1920 as mentioned in the post made me think I should rerun this post. I’ve added a video of Modigliani’s work if you would like to take a look– it’s very calming.

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You wouldn’t know it to look at the work of Amedeo Modigliani, but it was quite an influence on my painting. Modigliani’s work through his short, self-destructive life consisted primarily of stylized portraits and  nudes. The heads of his subjects were long and oval, often set at an angle atop an overly extended long neck. The eyes are almond shaped and the nose pinched. Hardly words to describe great beauty yet they maintain a graceful allure that is immediately recognizable as the work of Modigliani.

His instant recognizability of his style and subjects from across large galleries was striking and was the great message I took from seeing Modigliani in museums over the years. You couldn’t mistake it for the work of anyone else and as a painter early in my career, still seeking the direction of my work, this was an invaluable observation. With each Modigliani I came across, the idea that my work should be somehow unique and have a quality of instant recognition was reinforced in my mind.

Also, his limited subject matter made an imprint. The idiosyncratic nature of his portraits and nudes made the repetition of his forms seem like a moot point, making the viewer easily enter the picture plane and focus on the unique qualities of the piece in the colors and forms. It wasn’t the subject that mattered but the way in which it was painted. Another valuable lesson.

Fortunately for me, I didn’t learn the lessons of the other parts of Modigliani’s life. His drug and alcohol addictions, combined with tuberculosis, led to an early death at the age of 35. Even more tragic is the story of Jeanne Hebuterne, the model for the paintings shown here and the common-law wife of the artist.  She was the subject of at least 25 of Modigliani paintings. The day after the artist succumbed to death in Paris in January of 1920, a distraught and pregnant  Jeanne threw herself out the window, killing herself and her unborn child. She was 21 years old.

Coincidentally, her death came on this date, January 25. I didn’t realize that until I just looked it up.  Hmmm…



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I stop every time I go back through old posts on the blog and come across this photo. It makes me think about how we constantly take in information in many forms and what we do with that input– how it affects our perception and vision as we move forward. As an artist, this is the fuel that feeds my furnace. 

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I was listening to music this morning as I read email and puttered around. My iPod was docked and in random mode so anything could come on.  At first one of my favorite pieces, Tabula Rasa from composer Arvo Part, played. It’s a modern classical piece that I have always identified with. Tabula Rasa translates as empty slate and was actually very influential in a lot of my early painting, helping me visualize the feeling of wide space as I painted.

Next up was Highway Patrol from Junior Brown, which is worlds away from Tabula Rasa. It’s clunky and chunky and throttles along on Brown’s deep twangy voice and his unique guit-steel guitar licks. I began to think about how the mood shifts so quickly between the two selections, how the mind is suddenly thrown from silence to chaos and how in the vacuum of that contrast something new is being formed

Something very interesting in this contrast. I began to wonder if this has an effect on my painting, on strokes and color selection.  Am I looking for different things in my work when different types of stimuli are present? It’s something I’ll have to examine further.

The picture shown is of a visual/psychological phenomenon called the contrast triangle. Just above the reflected light on the water is a dark triangle in the sky, tapering from the area above the lit reflection on water up to the moon/sun in the sky.

This triangle is not really there.

If you cover the water, the darkness fades away. Go ahead, try it.

The triangle only exists in our eyes and minds. Our reaction to the reflected light creates something new, a different form. Don’t know why I put this in today except that maybe this little area of created vision is similar to the influence of other stimuli on a person’s creative work.

I don’t really know.  I am working off the cuff here, you know.

Here was the next song that came up this morning, perhaps the third leg in my own personal contrast triangle.  It’s another favorite, Gillian Welch performing with her husband David Rawlings, with Miss Ohio.  What this triangle will produce in my eyes is yet to be seen but I am sure it is something.  We’ll see…

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The power of imagination makes us infinite.

John Muir

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The image above was taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft of the tops of the clouds surrounding Jupiter. I find myself constantly staring into it this morning with a mix of awe and dejection.

Awe at the sheer beauty and power of it. It is spectacular on a visual level in so many ways, at least to my eyes. The force of its rhythm is immense and the enhanced colors capture an emotional tone that rivals the work of the greatest painters. Looking at it, I see the ghosts of Van Gogh– I mean, this image is Starry Night taken up to the next several levels— Picasso, Goya, Chagall, Bosch and so many more.  With my last glimpse I saw Munch and Dali and an image of the Minotaur. And Thomas Hart Benton. I think any of these painters would look at this and find inspiration, would see that intangible force in it that begs to be painted.

I know that I feel that way but that is where the dejection enters the picture. It inspires but in a way that seems far beyond my meager talents and my simple mind. It’s like being a Golden Retriever watching his master, let’s say it’s Einstein, pondering the Theory of Relativity at his chalkboard. I know there’s something there because it seems so important to my master and I want to help but all I can do is bark and wonder what the hell I am looking at.

I am like a frustrated dog trying to describe the power of the universe.

But it’s early. I’ve only been looking at this for forty minutes or so. Maybe the dejection will pass and the longer I look, the more I will move myself into those swirls of cloud and color to find a rhythm, or even a trace of one, that aligns itself with the simpler ones that run within myself.

And maybe something will come of it. You can never tell what the end product, if any, will be from any point of inspiration. Maybe it will set off a series of thoughts and ideas that takes you galaxies away from the original inspiration. But an image like this has an effect in some way, even if it does show up right away.

I feel the need to look a little more. Take a deeper look for yourself.

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