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“Exile on Main Street”- At the Principle Gallery



When you’re drunk in the alley, baby with your clothes all torn
When your late night friends leave you in the cold gray dawn
Whoa I just seen so many flies on you
I just can’t brush ’em off

The angels beating all their wings in time
Smiles on their faces and a gleam right in their eyes
Whoa, thought I heard one sigh for you
Come on up now
Come on up now
Come on up now

May the good Lord shine a light on you
Yeah, make every song you sing your favorite tune
May the good Lord shine a light on you
Yeah, warm like the evening sun, ah-nah-nah yeah

— Mick Jagger/Keith Richards, Shine a Light



I am in the beginning phases of my preparation for my annual shows at the galleries that represent my work. This is always a difficult period, trying to find a thread to grasp and follow. You never know where it will lead and what sort of work it will produce. That uncertainty is agonizing for me. Because so much of my livelihood depends on how these shows shake out, deciding what form the work will take is a big move.

I don’t gamble anymore but in some ways, it’s like placing a large bet. I am betting that my choice in moving ahead and the work it will produce will provide the income I need to live and will allow me to maintain my status as an artist deserving of future shows in the galleries that represent me. This decision puts a knot in my gut every year at this time. That awful feeling is the reason I don’t gamble anymore. This is the only bet I am willing to make now.

Getting to that point where I have decided what direction the work will follow is not really a process at all. It’s more like panicked examination of past work and new influences, trying to find something that grabs me, holds my limited focus and can perhaps inspire me. It can be maddening at times but it’s sometimes fun to roll back through the work from the past, to see what clicks as strongly now as it did then. There seems to always be something in doing this that reminds me of things, traits in my work, that I have put aside and no longer employ in my current work. That sometimes leads to revisiting those traits. Sometimes the results are enlightening, making me want to make it part of my process again, and sometimes I discover that the things I was doing then just don’t translate to the current moment.

That’s where I am. Seeking. Looking for a light that shines.

That brings me to today’s title.

While going through some past work, I noticed that one of my favorite pieces from the past year, Exile on Main Street, was still at the Principle Gallery. It was one of the cityscapes that were part of my annual show there, last year’s show being titled Social Distancing. I loved doing this work as well as the resulting pieces. This, as I said, was a favorite from that group. There is warmth and distance, Quiet and tension. Things I tend to see and look for  in my better works.

Naming it, I borrowed the title from the classic 1972 Rolling Stones album, Exile on Main Street. I thought a favorite song of mine from that album would fit my current process– Shine a Light. It’s credits list Mick Jagger and Keith Richards from 1972 as the songwriters but it was actually a collaboration with the late Leon Russell that came from 1968.

The song’s title was then (Can’t Seem) To Get a Line on You and dealt with the problems caused by the drug addiction of Stones’ guitarist Brian Jones. It was recorded as such for inclusion in a 1970 Leon Russell album but not released until the 1990’s. The Russell version (which included the Rolling Stones) is very similar and strong but the version from Exile on Main Street is more formed, more powerful.

I thought the song fit my process and also added a little more to the painting this morning. Give a listen and have a good day.



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That millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make these people sane.

― Erich Fromm, The Sane Society



Wow. Just wow.

There are a lot of different connotations for the word crazy.

It’s used to describe pathological insanity.

Or used to describe situations that are wild and excessive, beyond the norm. That party was crazy!

Or it can describe enthusiasm. I’m crazy about pie. And I am crazy about pie, by the way.

Or it can describe foolishness. I was crazy to think there would be pie.

Or annoyance. Your talking about pie all the time is driving me crazy!

There are probably more. But almost any use of it could be applied to the phone call that was released yesterday. I am not going to get into details, which are all over the news if you’re not yet aware, except to say this is not pie crazy.

It is crazy crazy. Dangerously crazy. Criminally crazy.

The terrible thing is that it’s been this way for the last four years and way too many people have twisted themselves into pretzels and diminished their own integrity in trying to explain, justify, and rationalize their continued backing of this man* and his administration. But the craziness of the revelations of this weekend provide a strong and fitting exclamation point to mark the end of this presidency.

Those who continue to back and believe this man* and the multitude of conspiracies associated with him at this point might want to pause and examine their own state of mind and their personal motivations.

Perhaps ask themselves, “Do I want my name forever associated with this kind of crazy?” They might want to take note of the words at the top from Erich Fromm

History will note their decision.

Unfortunately, this is not yet the absolute end and exclamation point to this presidency***. There are still fifteen days of escalating craziness ahead as this man* tries to hold onto the power and protection of the office. If you don’t think this is a dangerous moment, note that yesterday’s crazy antics overshadowed the release of a letter signed by the 10 living former Secretaries of Defense stating that the elections have been decided and that the military should not under any circumstance be involved in any effort to overturn the results. Not something you see under more normal and saner circumstances.

Yeah, crazy days still ahead.

Here’s some good crazy– no, it’s not pie— to cleanse your palate. A little Patsy Cline with her legendary rendition of the Willie Nelson classic, Crazy.



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You can climb a mountain, you can swim the sea
You can jump into the fire but you’ll never be free
You can shake me up or I can break you down
Oh, oh
We can make each other happy
Oh, we can make each other happy
We can make each other happy
Oh, we can make each other happy

Harry Nilsson, Jump Into the Fire



First Sunday of the new year. This coming first week of 2021 may well be one of the ugliest and most dangerous and undemocratic in our history. There is a lot of treachery at hand from those who would abuse our system and rile deadly passions among the populace for purely selfish gains. While I don’t know what might happen in the coming days, I believe we will survive this stress test. We may take some dings and who knows what lasting damage might be done, but we’ll get through.

We’re at a point where words from anyone, let alone mine, won’t have much effect so lets play the first Sunday song of the 2021. Fittingly, it is Jump Into the Fire from the late great Harry Nilsson.

The complete lyrics are above in all their glory. Among his many talents as a songwriter, Nilsson had a genius for taking simple songs and making them memorably powerful. For example, his CoconutYou put de lime in de coconut, you drink ’em bot’ togedder/ Put de lime in de coconut and you feel better— is a one chord song.

One chord. Even a musical moron like me could play it.

Anyway, here’s the song. The little triptych at the top is from way back in 2002 and is called Waiting For the Fire, a not so subtle commentary on the coming weeks.

Have a good day.



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It’s New Year’s Day. We’ll attempt to shake off the stink and wreckage of the Year 2020, as difficult as that may be, and move into the new year. We see 2021 coming at us all clean and shiny with that new year smell. An optimistic outlook and a year filled with endless possibilities.

Well, that’s the popular belief, what we hold onto in order to get through the day.

Yes, there are brighter days ahead but there are some darker ones as well, especially in the next few months. But we must maintain faith in who we are as a people, believing in truth, equality, and justice. We must have the willpower to reject the ignorance, selfishness, misinformation, and nativist hatred so much on display in recent times. 

Yes, we are off-balance and wounded as we come into this new year. But we have the balance and strength to withstand troubles and if we maneuver the coming days with grace and wisdom, perhaps our optimism will become more tangible and less wishful thinking.

The song, New Year’s Prayer, is from the late Jeff Buckley, who in his short life left us a remarkable version of the Leonard Cohen song, Hallelujah, and much more. This song has a mantra-like feel to it with the phrase … feel no shame for what you are… as a refrain. It doesn’t look forward or back with any hope or regret– it is just in the moment. And that’s how I feel about the turning of this year. What will be, will be.

Wishing you all a good New Year with the hope that feel no shame for what you are.

What we are.



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And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been, full of work that has never been done, full of tasks, claims, and demands; and let us see that we learn to take it without letting fall too much of what it has to bestow upon those who demand of it necessary, serious, and great things.

― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke, 1892-1910



Gosh, I wish Rilke was sending me letters. I always seem to find something in his collected letters that speaks directly to me, something that helps me better understand my own place in the world.

Give me his letters and the Peanuts comic strip and I am all set for advice on how to live my life.

Rilke’s words above on the New Year speak loudly this year. Let us look at 2021 as a clean slate, a tabula rasa, that that is filled with new potential. The time ahead may be filled with hard work and stressful times but we should use every available minute of it in attempting to make 2021 far better than its predecessor. 

I know that these words can sound like empty platitudes but I truly hope they ring true this year and that we don’t waste the gift of time we are given.

Have a happy and quiet New Year’s Eve. Stay safe and perhaps next year at this time, we can truly celebrate the end of a wonderful year.

For those of you who don’t buy into my hopeful look forward and plan on partying your brains out tonight, here’s a song from Wynonie Harris, the great blues shouter who many consider the father of rock and roll. His style, his stage moves and provocative hip gyrations were swiped and adapted by Elvis, who some thought was the G-rated version of Wynonie Harris. His stuff really rocks and this song, Don’t Roll Those Bloodshot Eyes at Me, reminds me of the best work of Louis Prima, which is pretty high praise.

So, enjoy and bid goodbye to 2020 tonight in whatever way you see fit. May we all have a happy New Year in 2021.



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The past slips from our grasp. It leaves us only scattered things. The bond that united them eludes us. Our imagination usually fills in the void by making use of preconceived theories…Archaeology, then, does not supply us with certitudes, but rather with vague hypotheses. And in the shade of these hypotheses some artists are content to dream, considering them less as scientific facts than as sources of inspiration.

-Igor Stravinsky, Poetics of Music in the Form – Six Lessons



I was looking through some older posts and came across the quote and painting above which caught my eye. It was probably because the painting, Archaeology: The Golden Age, was the last piece I had painted in the Archaeology series and may well be the last of that series.

It is one of those pieces that still live with me here in the studio, having never found a home. While I want it to find a place where it can satisfy someone other than myself, I am happy to have it here. From the time it was completed, I considered it one of the stronger pieces in the series. That might even be the reason it has continued to be the last in the Archaeology series.

Maybe the series had reached its potential, its endpoint, with this painting. I don’t know.

I also was captured once again by Stravinsky’s thoughts on the artistic process, how we use our imagination and what little knowledge we have to fill out the blank spots among our scattered fragments of memory to create something new. He equated it to archaeology which is a similar process, taking bits and pieces from the past and filling in the blanks with imagination and knowledge to create a theory of what might have been. 

As he says archaeology does not supply us with certitudes. There are too many voids to fill before one can deal in absolutes.

And so it is with art. Art seldom deals in strict factual representation. Art comes together as a mixture of the facts of the work, the imagination and process of the artist, and the emotions and imagination of those who take it in. 

It’s as much alchemy as it is archaeology.

Whatever it is, I am happy to deal in this strange world of imagination, one that often offers me more questions than answers.

Reading the older post this morning also reminded me of an old Jethro Tull tune that I haven’t heard or thought of in many years. Probably decades. Here’s a blast from the past, as the old AM deejays used to say. This is Living in the Past.

Have a good day.



 

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“Sublime”– Now at the Principle Gallery



Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
The battle outside ragin’
Will soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

–Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin’



I’ve heard this Bob Dylan song hundreds of times over the decades since it first came out in 1964 and a particular line in it always jumps out at me, even in idle listening. The line is: Don’t stand in the doorway/Don’t block up the hall/For he that gets hurt/Will be he who has stalled.

I have always read it as being about the inevitability of change and that those who try to stand in its way rather than trying to adapt are the losers in the end. The fact that it is used in a verse that refers to senators and congressmen makes it pointedly topical, especially in times when the present Senate Republican majority leader has been heard telling a group of big donors in recent days that he will oppose and stall every bill put forward by the Democrats, even bills he considers good bills. He said he would not allow them any victories.

That means he also will not allow the American people any victories, any gains, as he darkly tries to stall progress and change. We have seen this act before and have suffered from his mean-spirited intransigence.

But try as he might, change will come, in one way or another. It can be slowed or stalled but it is only temporary and eventually it bursts through all obstacles, usually obliterating them in the process. Like the lines from the Dylan song.

So, for this last Sunday in this monumental and often awful year of 2020, I thought it fitting that I play a version of this song, probably one you haven’t heard before. It’s from a 1969 album called Dylan’s Gospel from a group called The Brothers & Sisters of L.A., which was a group of L.A. based studio backup singers organized to record an album of Dylan covers in a gospel format. The group included some pretty high profile studio singers including Merry Clayton who I have wrote about here in the past. She is best known for her searing vocals on Gimme Shelter from the Rolling Stones. She is the lead on today’s song and knocks it out of the park.

The album was not a commercial success so this was the only effort from the group but it left behind several powerful versions of Dylan’s songs including The Times They Are A-Changin’.  So, let’s wrap up this year with some gospel firepower, brush aside the barriers and let the times a-change as they surely must.

Have a good Sunday.



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And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Christmas Bells



The lines above are the last two stanzas of a poem Longfellow wrote in 1863 during the height of the American Civil War. Several years later, in 1872, the poem was incorporated into the Christmas carol we know as I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

I am hoping that the last three lines hold true for us going into the future.


I ran the short bit above several years ago on this day, Christmas, in the pivotal year of 2016, just after a new president*** had been elected and there was still uncertainty as to what he would turn out to be.

As for the poem which later became the carol, there is a little more to add to the story which I thought I would add this morning.

At the time it was written, Longfellow was still deeply grieving the tragic death of his wife in July of 1861. She caught on fire while using sealing wax on an envelope and despite Longfellow’s efforts died the next day from her burns. Longfellow also suffered severe burns, to the point that he was unable to attend her funeral. It also left scars on his face which prevented him from shaving so that he wore a full beard until his death in 1882. 

After his wife’s death, Longfellow suffered extreme depression, turning at times to using laudanum to ease his sorrow. In the winter of 1863, as he began writing the verses above, he was deeply depressed by his continued grief, his worry over the war that raged between the states, and the fact that his son had been severely wounded in combat. As he wrote, he heard two church pealing for the holiday and he felt his demeanor changed by it, feeling hope that indeed wrong would fail and that right would prevail.

It made for a powerful bit of verse. This morning, I am filled with the hope that right has indeed prevailed and will continue to do so. Let’s hope that this Christmas day, taking place under the dark clouds of pandemic and disorder, offers us the light of hope on the horizon.

Below is a nice version of the carol with lyrics from the late folksinger and damn fine actor, Burl Ives.

Merry Christmas to you all. May you have a good and loving day. Peace.



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We’re so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past, like ancient stars that have burned out, are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about every day, too many new things we have to learn. New styles, new information, new technology, new terminology … But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone.

― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore



Murakami’s words above are a continuation of yesterday’s theme, how early memory embeds deeply and remain with us forever. It’s one of those obvious truths that becomes more and more evident as the years pile up. I’ll probably revisit some deep recollections today, as I usually do around this time every year.

Polishing the touchstone.

Here’s a warm wish to all of you for a happy holiday. May you assist your young ones in creating their own touchstones of happiness or even create a new one for yourself.

Here’s a Christmas tune that goes back to the basis for the day, Christmas Must Be Tonight, from The Band. As with most everything they did, it feels right.

Stay safe out there. Merry Christmas.



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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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