Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Neat Stuff’ Category

Arthur Dove- Fire at the Sauerkraut Factory

**********************

We cannot express the light in nature because we have not the sun. We can only express the light we have in ourselves.

-Arthur Dove

**********************

I liked this quote from the Modernist painter Arthur Dove (1880-1946) and while searching for an image of one of his paintings to accompany it, came across this painting. I liked the painting itself but it was the title that really caught my attention. It’s called Fire at the Sauerkraut Factory and was painted around 1936.

It made me wonder where this sauerkraut factory was and when it burned. Dove was born in Canandaigua, NY,  and raised in Geneva, NY, at the north end of Seneca Lake, whose south end is just a short drive from this studio. In those areas around Canandaigua and Geneva are large fields where cabbage is grown. There are, as a result, several factories in the area for the production of sauerkraut. I am not sure if it still applies but at one time this area and one village in particular, Phelps, was the sauerkraut capital of the world.

Just makes me wonder if Dove was basing this painting on a fire from the home of his youth. I was able to find an account of a large sauerkraut factory fire in that area in November of 1917. This story of the fire mentioned that the fire was fought solely with chemicals which might account for the multiple colors of the flames in Dove’s painting.

It also mentioned railroads tracks next to the factory which encumbered the firefighters. I believe the fence-like structures at the lower part  of the painting are actually railroad tracks.

Perhaps Dove, who was living in NYC at the time was visiting either his or his wife’s parents and witnessed the fire or was told about it, with the person telling the story mentioning the wild colors of the fire as the chemicals mixed with the flames.

It’s one of those tiny questions in small stories that may never have an answer. But I like to think that this might have been the story behind this painting that I like and chose to accompany a quote that I also like from the artist.

 

Read Full Post »

**************************

For how can you compete,

Being honor bred, with one

Who were it proved he lies

Were neither shamed in his own

Nor in his neighbors’ eyes;

William Butler Yeats,

From To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing

*************************

I can’t say that I am a big Bill Kristol fan, the conservative political analyst, but yesterday he deftly used the excerpt above from a W.B. Yeats poem to describe the Mueller hearing of the day before. It so well described an honorable man dealing with the current occupant of the white house* and his minions in congress* that I wanted to know a bit more about that particular piece of verse.

It turns out that the poem from which those lines come is titled To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing that was included in a small volume of poems called Poems Written in Discouragement 1912-13.

The poem is at the bottom of the page and at first I thought it referred to someone in Yeats’ universe, a writer or artist or playwright, who had put their all into their work for years and years only to never be recognized for that work while others– who this person at least equals in talent and effort– gain greater recognition. That seems like a logical interpretation.

Turns out there is a different story behind the poem.

It has to do with an Irish art dealer named Hugh Lane who was trying to establish a public art gallery that would bring modern art of that time to Dublin at the beginning decades of the 20th century. He proposed to give the city his collection of 39 modern masterworks from Renoir, Manet, Degas, Monet, Daumier, Pissarro and Morisot so that they might establish a museum/gallery. The painting at the top from Renoir, The Umbrellas, was part of his collection.

To that time, Dublin had yet to display the new art of the age and its city fathers and religious leaders were not swayed by the offer. They viewed the new art as being decadent and with an air of libertinism to it. This turned into a heated public battle in which Yeats and others in the Irish artistic community fought to bring the new art culture to the country. They eventually lost and the collection ended up in the possession of the National Gallery of Great Britain after Lane died in the sinking of the Lusitania by German U-boats in 1915. He was returning from NY where he had sold two great pieces to what would become the Frick Collection. The Lusitania was only eleven miles from the Irish coast.

The battle for Hugh Lane’s collection has been fought continuously for the past century between the National Gallery and the Irish government. There are a lot more details so I am not going to get into the whole affair here. There is great article in the Guardian that goes into everything that transpired.

I just find it interesting how Yeats could turn a poem that dealt with the loss of a public debate about art and philanthropy into a poem that feels like it could be applied to many people who are in creative fields and may never realize the recognition their work may well deserve.

Or to a prosecutor dealing with shameless liars.

Here’s the whole poem:

To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing

 

Now all the truth is out,

Be secret and take defeat

From any brazen throat,

For how can you compete,

Being honor bred, with one

Who were it proved he lies

Were neither shamed in his own

Nor in his neighbors’ eyes;

Bred to a harder thing

Than Triumph, turn away

And like a laughing string

Whereon mad fingers play

Amid a place of stone,

Be secret and exult,

Because of all things known

That is most difficult.

–William Butler Yeats, Poems Written in Discouragement 1912-1913

 

 

Read Full Post »

Received a small package the other day. On my first glance at it, I couldn’t tell where it was from. It was in packaging that was reminiscent of those used by my longtime friend in Northern Island but the hand lettering on the address was a bit more legible. The return address didn’t help. It listed a city and a postal code but no country or state.

It wasn’t until I spotted the lettering on the affixed stamps– Kiwi Stamp— that I knew from where it originated.

Ah, New Zealand.

It turns out that I had been approached a while back with an inquiry as to whether a New Zealand magazine called Tui Motu InterIslands, an independent Catholic magazine, could use one of my paintings for an upcoming issue. I had consented and had put it in the back of my mind until it appeared on Saturday.

I was pleased to see that this edition dealt with the search for truth. In fact, the title of the painting, Seeking Truth, was the same as the headline used on the cover along with its Maori equivalent, Te Rapu I te Tika. My image accompanied an article that dealt with the use of critical thinking to find truth in the flood of opinion and falsehoods that we are faced with on a daily basis. The author, Paul Tankard, makes a great point in saying that the skepticism that many people hold for journalism of any sort is as naive as those who have a blind acceptance of what they read online or in print.

The name of the American president* was mentioned several times through the issue which was not a surprise given that the subject was truth. Obviously, this manchild’s tenuous relationship with the truth ( and his love affair with misstatements, half-truths and outright lies) obviously has had a rippling effect on the rest of the world, one that has them concerned about the future viability of truth.

As the writer, Binoy Kampmark, of another article on the effects of unchecked lies stated: The tissue that binds communities matters; the untruth tears it. And a community unable to detect lies is, according to renowned US journalist Walter Lippman, one without liberty.

From here in the US to every far point on this planet, we are at a dangerous point in history. The folks in New Zealand understand this. How we see and determine the truth may well determine our future. Real engagement along with critical examination is needed more than ever if we are going to have a future based in truth.

Truth is righteousness.

So, let’s make seeking truth our mission. As my friends in New Zealand put it–Te Rapu I te Tika.

Thanks to Tui Motu InterIslands for including my work in your fine magazine. Nice to see the Red Tree in that context.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Well, the season is upon us. I am, of course, talking about the annual appearance of multitudes of tiny toads around our property. Every year around this time, a new generation of toads emerges from our pond and begins a migration with an instinctual drive that drives in a radiating arc from the pond. These little guys, maybe about 1/4″ in size, are suddenly everywhere, thousands and thousands of them.

Maybe millions. All racing blindly to some unseen destination. I often wonder how they know when to finally stop to make a new home.

It’s really something to see, this frantic drive to survive come to life in the form of these little hopping creatures. There’s something joyful in the whole thing. On the flipside, it makes you appreciate what these toads have to endure to wind up living under a fallen tree in the woods. They are the target of a host of predators who see them as being shrimp in nature’s all you can eat buffet. There are spots where I can see several crows on the ground along our driveway next to the pond for most of the day, along with our resident flock of wild turkeys.

Plus, these tiny toads have to simply survive crossing the driveway. Going up and down our driveway becomes a long slow journey this time of the year as we creep along in our vehicles, hoping to give the little guys a chance to avoid the crush our tires. Walking to the studio starts to feel like I am walking through a minefield. As I begin to lower my foot, the ground beneath it suddenly comes alive with a bunch of these guys bouncing in all directions. The short walk through the woods becomes a halting slow slog.

I guess I could just look straight ahead and let the chips(or toads in this case) fall where they may. But I appreciate their journey, their will to survive and the benefits of the natural pest control they provide by eating so many insects. When I come across a large mature toad now, I have a lot of respect for it, knowing how much it has endured to get to this place.

Actually, on another subject, the term toady has been in the news lately as the G20 Summit is taking place in Tokyo. Our representative, the president*, has forsaken our normal role as the leader of free democracy in the world since WW II and taken a more subservient role to the autocrats and dictators he encounters. He jokes about interfering in our elections and getting rid of journalists with Vladimir Putin, a man who heads a regime known to be responsible for the deaths and disappearances of journalists as well as overt cyber warfare– an actual act of war– on our election system. He kowtows to the Saudi prince, defending him against the UN charges that he is responsible for the gruesome death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And he tries to rekindle his sophomoric bromance with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by offering to meet him for a handshake with him at the DMZ between North and South Korea.

Maybe they should meet on top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day?

So, you can see where toady might come up. It’s a term that comes from the 19th century when charlatans were traveling around the countryside peddling questionable tonics and remedies. The medicine man would first have an assistant eat a toad because they were widely believed to be poisonous. He would then drink the tonic to show it’s wondrous ability to stave off the toad’s poison.

Thus, the term toady was born.

Synonyms for the term include: sycophant, obsequious, creep, crawler, fawner, flatterer, flunkey, lackey, truckler, groveler, doormat, lickspittle, kowtower, minion, hanger-on, leech, puppet, stooge and spaniel.

They all seem to fit our fearless leader in Tokyo.

Sorry to editorialize this morning. Now, I am off to work. Or maybe I will go out and watch these tiny toads. Either way, it’s better than being a toady.

Read Full Post »

***************

I pursue no objectives, no systems, no tendency; I have no program, no style, no direction. I have no time for specialized concerns, working themes, or variations that lead to mastery. I steer clear of definitions. I don’t know what I want. I am inconsistent, non-committal, passive; I like the indefinite, the boundless; I like continual uncertainty.

-Gerhard Richter

***************

Gerhard Richter, the contemporary German artist born in 1932, is one of those artists whose thoughts about his work have made me appreciate to his work much more fully. He has a way of putting things in terms that are accessible, not just balloons filled with pompous artspeak that says very little.  More than that, much of what he says aligns with how I see art and the purpose of art, even though our work manifests itself in very different ways. I often come something he has said or written that very much echoes my own thoughts, often in a a very similar way. For example, he speaks about the rightness of art, something I to which I also often refer.

His work has moved around through the years through his iconic abstractions to photography and photorealism painting. I tend to gravitate and think of his work in terms of his abstract work, the Abstraktes Bild series from the 1980’s and the 2010’s. I thought I’d share a few of those pieces along with some his thoughts.

At the very bottom is a piece of music from guitarist Bill Frisell. It is from a project that combined Richter’s work, specifically a large book of his art, along with an album from Frisell titled Richter 858. Each track on the album correlates to a piece of Richter’s art. The piece of music below corresponds to the painting directly above it, Abstrakte Bild 858-3. Interesting concept.

 

***************

I believe that art has a kind of rightness, as in music, when we hear whether or not a note is false.

-Gerhard Richter

***************

My paintings are wiser than I am.

-Gerhard Richter

***************

****************

I would like to try to understand what is. We know very little, and I am trying to do it by creating analogies. Almost every work of art is an analogy.

-Gerhard Richter

***************

I believe that the quintessential task of every painter in any time has been to concentrate on the essential.

-Gerhard Richter

***************

The desire to please is maligned, unfairly. There are many sides to it. First of all, pictures have to arouse interest before people will even look at them, and then they have to show something that holds that interest – and naturally they have to be presentable, just as a song has to be sung well, otherwise people run away. One mustn’t underrate this quality, and I have always been delighted when my pieces have also appealed to the museum guards, the laymen.

-Gerhard Richter

***************

Gerhard Richter- Abstraktes Bild 858-3

Read Full Post »

I wrote the post below about Earl Kerkam about five years ago. He is an enigmatic character, a painter praised by many of the giants of modern art yet vastly underappreciated by collectors and the general public. I thought I would revisit it today (along with adding a few more images) after going through some auction records of his work from recent years and finding that he is still tremendously undervalued. As I sometimes point out, the artist can only control his creation of the work, not how it is perceived by the outside world. Earl Kerkam is a fine example of that.

earl-kerkam1891-1965-1361546399_orgI am very interested in the painter’s painter, those artists who garner the respect and  admiration of other artists while often not attaining the same sort of attention from the general public. I try to figure out where the disconnect comes in how these artists are perceived so differently by these two groups. I recently came across a prime example by the name of Earl Kerkam, a NY painter who lived from 1891 until 1965.

Kerkam trained in some of the finest art academies here and abroad, studying for a while with Robert Henri. He showed his work in important shows alongside some of the greats of the early 20th century. His work is included in some of the great museum collections of this country. In the aftermath of his death, modern artists of huge stature such as Mark Rothko and Willem  de Kooning proclaimed Kerkam to be one of the finest painters to ever emerge from America.

earl-kerkam1891-1965self-portrait-1361546314_bYet his work is basically unknown outside a handful of art insiders. His work sells at very modest, even low, prices at auction and I doubt if anyone who reads this will have ever heard the name.

There could be many reasons for this relative anonymity. Perhaps his work is too esoteric, too caught up in the dogma of style or too personally narrow in its range of emotional impact. Perhaps his work was caught between eras, never really falling into a classification where he would be swept to the forefront of a wave. This might have something to do with it because, while his work is modern, it never really moved into the realm of the abstract expressionism that was the rage of the day.

I don’t really know and looking at his work I found myself torn between liking it in some instances and being indifferent to others. I can see how both sides, artists and the  general public, might take opposing views on his work. His work remains an enigma to me and I don’t know if I will ever see enough of it, or at least a single piece that could be called a masterwork, to make me say that he deserves to be among the beacons of mid-20th century painting or if he was simply a fine painter who garnered just the attention his work deserved. But for now, the name Earl Kerkam is at least on my radar and I will be open to finding other works from him that will move my perceptions.

Read Full Post »

 

James Ensor- “Intrigue”

*******************

The mask means to me: freshness of color, sumptuous decoration, wild unexpected gestures, very shrill expressions, exquisite turbulence.

–James Ensor

*******************

As has been pointed out here, I have been working recently on some new work with large groups of faces, heads, masks, multitudes or whatever one sees in them. It has been exhilarating, with the work pulling me back into a rhythm where I am eager to see what the next work brings. While that is a great feeling in itself, I am still deliberating over where the work might take me, still trying to decide if it is work that is just meant to cleanse the system or if it is a new path to follow in some way.

I turn for a bit of advice from art history going back to James Ensor (1860-1949), who I featured here a few years back with a post about his famed  painting Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889.  Ensor was well known for his paintings featuring groups people wearing contorted and strange, even grotesque, masks. Many were based on the masks seen at the carnivals and festivals of the time in his native Belgium.  But seen out of context, they were pretty controversial, as you might imagine, in the late 1800’s, given the subject matter and the rough method of much of his painting. This was around the time that the work of the Impressionists was still considered scandalous so you can imagine how the image of a soldier with a skull for a face embracing a maiden with a gigantic nose mask might play.

It’s fascinating work. Wish I could tell you more but the images themselves tell me a lot and inform my own work by providing fresh inspiration for new work. Just looking at this work this morning has me itching to get to the easel.

Take a look at some of the work of James Ensor and see if it does anything for you.

Ensor- “Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889”

Ensor- “Portrait of the Artist Surrounded by Masks”

James Ensor- Squelette Arretant Masques

James Ensor- Old Lady with Masks

James Ensor – ” Death and the Masks”

James Ensor- “Strange Masks”

James Ensor- “Masks Confronting Death”

James Ensor- “The Despair of Pierrot”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: