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Archive for the ‘Painting’ Category

As the next couple of days are crazy busy for me as I get ready for a Gallery Talk and a show delivery, I wanted to share another little seen piece that will be part of  Icons & Exiles, my exhibit that opens next Friday at the Octagon Gallery.

The piece is Two Sides, shown here on the right. It’s from my Outlaws series from back in 2006 and is one of my favorites from that series. There is something about the dark and light of this piece that gives me a sense of the yin and the yang symbol, the idea that we all have opposing polarities within ourselves.

Two sides.

The Outlaws series introduced the element of a handgun into my work. It wasn’t meant to show the gun in any heroic form. Rather, the gunmen in these paintings seem to be, for me, all possessed with a deep and mortal fear.

The gun in these paintings is a sign of weakness, not strength. They fear something they can’t see, something that they don’t know or understand.

This particular painting has hung within my sight in the studio and it helps me a lot personally. When the events of the world–outer and inner– get to me and I feel anxiety building, I look at this piece and it reminds me that my anxiousness is all built on fear. In that moment, I see I am that guy grasping tightly to my gun looking out at nothing, imagining unseen monsters that are coming for me.

Just naming it as fear makes it subside a bit, brings everything into a more practical and manageable form. I can choose to be scared of bogeymen or can move on with a degree of confidence that I will be capable of handling anything that comes my way.

Fear is a powerful thing, a weakness that alters our perceptions and enables poor decisions and actions.

Fear is the darkness and courage is the light. Holding onto that gun keeps this person in the darkness, in the grip of fear.

That’s what I see in this piece.

You can see this piece and many more like it at the Icons & Exiles exhibit, opening next Friday, August 23, (opening reception 7-9 PM) at the Octagon Gallery at the Patterson Library in Westfield, NY. The exhibit runs until September 20, 2019 and I will be giving an Art Talk there on Thursday, September 12, at 6 PM.

And this Saturday, August 17, there is my annual Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery, beginning at 1 PM. Good talk, some laughs and, best of all, PRIZES! See you there!

Here’s one of my favorites from Richard Thompson, an acoustic version of his classic Shoot Out the Lights.

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“The highest reward for a man’s toil is not what he gets by it but what he becomes by it.”

–John Ruskin

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John Ruskin (1819-1900) was yet another of those 19th century British jack-of-all-trades. He was an accomplished artist, social commentator, philanthropist and the leading art critic of the Victorian Age. He was also a prolific writer on a wide variety of subjects, from archaeology to ornithology and everything in between. He also wrote stinging polemics calling for needed social change in Britain at that time. He was the British equivalent of a renaissance man.

Born into a wealthy merchant family, Ruskin may not have experienced much physical labor in his life but he obviously toiled in other ways to have achieved so much in his time on this planet. I think his words above on how we are changed from toil have a certain ring of truth.

I believe there are rewards for hard work that go far beyond the immediate material compensation we receive. It forms our behaviors, our tolerances and our perception of our place in the world. It teaches us what is important and what is not. It gives us focus and discipline and the experience that may one day transform into wisdom. It gives us identity and  purpose.

And it applies for everyone, from clerks to plumbers to scientists to housekeepers. Even artists.

Hard work has been a recurring theme in some of my work over the years. It’s definitely the theme of the painting at the top, Toil’s Reward, which is included in my Moments and Color show now hanging at the West End Gallery. There’s a richness and warmth in the colors of this piece that feels like a reward in itself.

If you come out this Saturday, August 17, to see it at the West End Gallery, say around 1 PM, you can take part in my annual Gallery Talk. I promise you I will be working hard. Maybe even sweating profusely. But hopefully, you will be the one being rewarded, maybe even taking home the original painting that will be given away. Even if you don’t win the big one, there are some other smaller prizes that you have a pretty good chance of getting. And besides that, it’s usually an entertaining time.

Like they say, it’s not hard work if you like what you’re doing.

See you Saturday!

 

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“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

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The painting shown above is Light and Wisdom, part of my show, Moments and Color, that is currently on the walls of the West End Gallery. It’s a personal favorite of mine and one that I think sometimes get overlooked by other work that is larger or brighter. Maybe it’s just that I see a lot of personal symbolism in it. The background of the sky resembles a maze which symbolizes the search for something, for example. And it has my recurring symbols of the Red Roofs, the path that runs toward a distant point, the guide trees that frame the scene, the far horizon and, of course, the Red Tree arriving at a moment of realization in the form of the light from the rising sun.

It’s a meaningful piece for me and my hope is that others will see that in it as well.

I love the lines below it from T.S. Eliot, feeling that they express so well what I see in this painting. Life often feels like a constant search for some vaguely defined object– knowledge, wisdom, love, experience, etc.– that will make us somehow whole. Yet, as is often the case, we only reach wholeness within ourselves, in that place where the journey began. Maybe that is why I chose this painting for this bit of verse from Eliot– it has a sense of wholeness that has been ultimately fulfilled by realizing that the answer was in itself.

The answer, the light that illuminates our meaning, is always near, always just waiting for us to really see it for what it is.

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You can see Light and Wisdom at the West End Gallery where I will be giving my annual Gallery Talk this coming Saturday, August 17, beginning at 1 PM. As mentioned here before, the Gallery Talks always features some great conversation, some laughs, occasional tears and the pièce de résistance, a drawing for an original painting — or maybe two?–along with some other pretty neat prizes. Hope you can make it there!

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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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“…that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain.”

–Ray Bradbury, The October Country

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Every so often you come across something from your distant past that has long passed from memory.  It could be a book, a song, a photo or some small insignificant memento, something once cherished but now tucked away in the piling up of time. Coming across such a thing after so many years illuminates how much that thing meant to you. In some cases, being able to look back at the years allows  you to see that it actually influenced your way of thinking and, therefore, your life.

That’s how I felt this morning when I came across the short prologue, shown here at the top, to the 1955 book of short stories from Ray Bradbury, The October Country. I probably read this book last in the late 1970’s at a time when I devoured most of Bradbury’s books. They were all great and interesting reads and Bradbury had a poetic nature to go with his active imagination, one that sometimes found feelings of isolation and fear at the edges of the mundane.

I don’t know how I reacted when I read the words above forty years ago but reading them now, I felt like he was describing me. Or at least, describing the occupants of the world I depict in my paintings, those folks who, by extension, are built from parts of myself.

They are definitely the autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts.

Lingering in twilight, tucked in dark niches inside, facing away from the sun.

The painting at the top, Dark Eye of Quiet, is a new painting that is part of my current show at the West End Gallery. When I read Bradbury’s prologue to The October Country, I could see in this piece how his words, perhaps unbeknownst to me, had stayed with and filtered through me over the time. It’s a painting that aptly illustrates this point, from its title to the doorless and windowless houses that reside in shadow, seeming to be avoid the gaze of the dark sun. It has the wistful isolation of a Bradbury story.

I went through a stack of old paperbacks in a closet and dug out my dog-eared copy of the The October Country. Leafing through it, I saw a few titles in the list of contents that I had circles eons ago. I don’t remember doing this, of course, but I obviously saw something in it that made me do this. One was titled The Wind and turning the pages to that story I was greeted by a black and white illustration for the story from artist Joe Mugnaini.

I didn’t recognize or remember it but even so, it had a familiarity that made me smile.

I found an image of it online and am sharing it here. Maybe it was not only Bradbury’s words that influenced me forty some years back?

The mind works in weird and wonderful ways, eh?

 

 

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In the entry here last week where I wrote about old works I had discovered hidden away in my old studio, I mentioned that I had found that the old studio was deteriorating quickly in a visit to it last year. The roof had been breached and the pilings were beginning to fail at that time but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it was after year of exposure to the elements.

In that post I failed to mention that when I was in the studio that time I had also uncovered some other old pieces. As I scanned the damage, I went to a tall counter in the corner that was covered in debris from the collapsing ceiling and roof. Under it was a large cardboard box filled with scrap matboard. I dragged it out and discovered that behind it was a group of plywood panels bundled together.

I pulled them out and turned them around to see their surfaces. I recognized the work immediately. They were from around 1998 up to perhaps early 2000. I had bought a bunch of scrap lauan plywood from a bin at my local hardware store. They were all about 16″ by 36″ and I had sealed them with a wood primer/sealant–Kilz I believe it was– and then a layer of gesso. I had done a bunch of work on this material and many had turned out very well, making their way out of the studio and into galleries. Almost all had found homes.

But this group of four for some reason never made it out of the studio. Don’t think I ever showed them publicly, actually. And looking at them now, I can’t figure out why. Even though they showed some damage from their time under that wet counter– for example, the piece at the top shows some dark spotting on its surface that I have yet to address– these seem like strong pieces from the time frame in which they were created.

I like these four pieces. Maybe its my own personal nostalgia more than an objective evaluation of the work that makes me feel this way. For myself, I can sense the excitement I felt at the time in which I was creating this work, that feeling of discovery in each new piece. Each individual block of color seemed to have its own feel, its own voice and each piece had its own lesson to teach me.

Each day then seemed filled with new discoveries. It was an exciting time for me and I felt like an open conduit, the work pouring easily through me.

It’s a bit different now. The work doesn’t flow endlessly through my conduit now. It comes in surges, fits and starts. But it still surges on a regular basis. Most likely, the experience of having done this for so many years and the knowledge I have absorbed has tempered my response but I still feel giddy excitement and still discover new things within the work and its processes on an almost daily basis. And that is a good thing.

Maybe that is the purpose of this work now– to remind me what it was that I desired and needed to pull from my work then.

And now.

 

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Joy is everywhere; it is in the earth’s green covering of grass: in the blue serenity of the sky: in the reckless exuberance of spring: in the severe abstinence of grey winter: in the living flesh that animates our bodily frame: in the perfect poise of the human figure, noble and upright: in living, in the exercise of all our powers: in the acquisition of knowledge… Joy is there everywhere.

 

—Rabindranath Tagore

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The painting at the top is part of Moments and Color, my solo exhibit currently on display at the West End Gallery. It’s titled An Exuberant Life and is a 24″ by 24″ canvas.

I don’t know that we are living in a time of joy at this point in history. At least, not in a way where one day we as a people will look back and remember it as a golden age filled with good will and There’s certainly an abundance of anxiety, ignorance, anger and about any other negative attribute you can come up with.

I believe that in times like these, we have to actively seek and identify the joy and exuberance that exists in this world. We take so much that surrounds us for granted as we bounce along the bumpy road we’re on at the moment. We find ourselves often blinded by our outrage or so inwardly turned in a defensive pose that we lose track of our surroundings.

Forget to see simple things. A ray of sunlight. The beauty in a tiny paused moment of silence. Tasting the pleasant bitterness of coffee on the tongue.

I could do a long laundry list of my own small pleasures, things that give me a sense of the joys in this world. But they are mine alone. You must find your own. Your list of joys must be your own sanctuary in these times. You’ll know them at once from the feeling of peaceful satisfaction they instill in you.

Maybe finding the exuberance of your own life will influence others to seek their own.

That would be a good thing.

And that’s kind of what I see in this painting– finding one’s joy and affecting the world with it. That is certainly something we could use in these times.

 

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