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Archive for the ‘Painting’ Category

“The Fulfillment”- Now at the West End Gallery

 

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“To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.”

Robert Louis Stevenson, Familiar Studies of Men and Books

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I was organizing one of the rooms in my studio this weekend, shuffling around boxes and stacks of books and papers, trying to make it look less like  a tornado had touched down in that room. I came across an old journal with only a few pages that contained any writing. It was from about thirty years ago, from a time when I was going through a lot of things in my little world.

I read the few pages that were there and it was painful. It was like looking back at another person, one who was deeply flawed and recognized some of these flaws. A person who desired a future but was lost and couldn’t see a way of getting there. This person knew they were lacking something but didn’t even know what that was which was an agony for them.

It would have been painful reading the words of this person, even if I didn’t know that they were my own words, my own predicament.

Nearly thirty years have passed and that person seems like a distant memory on most days now. I don’t think I would ever want to go back to that time or to be that person, even with youth and the accompanying energy and health it would bring.

You grow. You learn. You gather bits of insight. You come to recognize your flaws and strengths.You realize that you have power over your reactions, that they are your decisions to make.

You change and hopefully move toward a state of fulfillment.

It takes time and real effort.

I suppose there are those who choose not to change, those who are always perfectly at ease with who they are or have been at any point in their life. Maybe they are the lucky ones.

Or maybe they are the unfortunate ones.

As always, I don’t know for sure. I know that I am grateful for the past thirty years and the changes that have come my way after the time and effort expended. I hope for thirty more and wish that the me at that time will look back on these words and say, “Oh, how much I have changed!

Wishing you all fulfillment. Have a good day.

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“Always having what we want
may not be the best good fortune
Health seems sweetest
after sickness, food
in hunger, goodness
in the wake of evil, and at the end
of daylong labor sleep.”

― Heraclitus, Fragments

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“Blue Moment” – Now at the West End Gallery

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The true person is
Not anyone in particular;
But, like the deep blue color
Of the limitless sky,
It is everyone, everywhere in the world.

— Eihei Dogen, 13th Century Japanese Buddhist Priest/Poet

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Every color has its own feel, its own set of meanings that it forever carries with it. It reaches out and forms a bond with the viewer based on these sensory associations. I know, for myself, that blue carries a wide and deep set of such meanings with it, almost all positive by nature.

Soothing. Eternal. Placid.

Limitless.

I could go on with a list for quite some time. That’s probably why I usually find myself always returning to it in my work, find myself just staring not at the subject of a painting but at the color of the surface. The feel of it on my senses.

As Dogen saw in the blue of a sky, maybe there something Zen in the color, some connection to an infinite field of energy that is omnipresent, everywhere.

I don’t know for sure but I am willing to ponder the color blue a bit more this morning. Here’s a song from a while back from Chris Isaak that focuses on one facet of the blue spectrum.

Here’s Forever Blue. Have a good day.

 

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“One way or another, all the bridges between that time and this one have been burned. Time’s a reach, too, you know, just like the one that lies between the islands and the mainland, but the only ferry that can cross it is memory, and that’s like a ghost-ship – if you want it to disappear, after awhile it will.”

Stephen King, Dolores Claiborne

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I call this piece, at 16″ by 40″ on canvas, Carried Across. Included in my current annual show at the West End Gallery, it’s a painting that brims with potential interpretations for me. The ferry between the living and the dead is the one that jumps out, of course.

But the one offered up above, taken from a Stephen King novel, probably meshes best with my personal view of this painting.

We are always losing people as age takes its toll. Apart from just the loss of that person and all that that entails, we also lose a bridge to their experiences and the memories they held of them. Personal histories, lesser known details and larger myths are often lost in the void as this bridge collapses.

That came to mind in a very personal way the other day as I was able to visit my father for the first time in four months.His nursing facility had instituted a process that allowed one family member to visit a resident under very strict guidelines and I was able to see him in an outdoor courtyard, under an open tent. The process has since been put on hold as a staff member tested positive for the virus.

But sitting there with him was difficult. He was in a large reclining wheelchair and his head was bandaged in a turban-like manner to cover the wound and infection on the side of his head. He was way gone from the fentanyl and morphine he is given to ease the pain, his eyes only fluttering open for milliseconds at any given time. The nurse tried to point me out but he wasn’t able to move his focus my way.

I sat there for a bit just watching him. His hands went to his head covering in a rhythmic way, running his fingers lightly over the cotton mesh that held it in place. At one point he removed his mask and, with eyes completely closed, held it out in front of him while neatly folding it up. He then tried to out it in his pocket under the blanket that covered him. He then checked his wristwatch which was completely covered by the protective arm coverings he wears to prevent him from picking at the sores on his arms. He did this, too, without opening his eyes but seemed to be satisfied and let his head drop back to the one side where fell naturally.

I chuckled lightly at that. But having him there in front of me, still alive but so very far away at the same time, reminded me of all the stories and memories that are lost to us now. The good and bad, the funny and the tragic, the day to day reminiscences– all gone and inaccessible. I have known this for some time as we have witnessed the progress of his dementia but there was a finality in that visit.

It was like I had made that crossing on that ferry and had returned with a still empty chair.

Over the years, I have often regretted the lost opportunities in seeking out the stories and memories that bind us to our preceding generations. This is made especially clear when I work on genealogy and come across episodes or people that I would love to know more about. How they really were, how they talked, the little foibles and details that made them human that can’t be captured in documents or news reports.

That is the stuff of memory.

Maybe that should be the subtitle for this piece– Carried Across ( The Stuff of Memory).

Okay, here’s a song to go along with this painting, an attachment I made yesterday when the song came up on my playlist. It’s The Passenger from the godfather of punk, Iggy Pop. It’s a great tune, one that seems to be a staple for every alt-rock singer that comes along to cover.

Iggy Pop is an interesting and often downplayed character in the annals of rock music. One of my favorite memories of him was his appearance in 1977 on the Dinah Shore show where he sat down with the always hospitable Dinah Shore, David Bowie and Rosemary Clooney to talk about cutting himself with a broken bottle as part of a performance. It came out years later that he and Dinah Shore– who had an extremely long list of relationships and hookups through the decades– were an item for a bit. But seeing him on a show singing Fun Time on the same show where Rosemary Clooney sings Come On-a My House is everything you could hope for on a 1970’s daytime talk show.

One more little factoid: The sons of comedian Soupy Sales were members of Iggy’s band at that time. Younger readers are probably asking who the hell is Soupy Sales. Ask your parents or grandparents before those bridges burn down.

Anyway, here’s The Passenger. Have a good day if you can.

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“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

Maya Angelou, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes

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This painting, Nestledown, 18″ by 26″ on paper, is part pf my current show at the West End Gallery, It has the feel of some of my older work with its simple design and spew lines at the edges where the paint has broke free of the picture plane. This gives it a feeling of finding a place of comfort in my eyes, one of security where you can let down your guard a bit.

This feeling is enhanced for me by the multicolored patches of color in the foreground. While they remind me of a patchwork quilt there is something else in the quality of the color that heightens the feeling, something I couldn’t put my finger on for quite some time after I painted this piece. It came to me the other day when I was looking at a book of work by the painter Egon Schiele.

This piece reminded me of one of his paintings, Agony, from 1912, shown here on the right. It shows a person wrapped in a patchwork quilt with a monk laying next to them, his own robe serving as blanket of comfort. As soon as I saw this piece I saw how the oranges, yellows, and reds of its quilt related to the colors in my painting. They provided much the same service in both paintings, creating warmth and security.

I wasn’t surprised by seeing this link. I have long admired the work of Schiele, especially the way he treated his colors, imbuing even the brightest colors with dark undertones. This creates a depth and gravity of feeling that transcends the color itself. This is something I attempted to adapt for my own process many years ago, something that I consider a major turning point in the evolution of my work.

This painting wasn’t consciously in mind when I painted Nestledown but it certainly echoed somehow in memory. And finding comfort in times of trial and agony is a thread that runs through this show. It’s something that hits close to home  both as a nation, as we suffer through the multitude of ills that plague us at present, and as an individual as my family deals with the last days of my father’s life.

We all just want to find a bit of comfort, a place where we can nestle down.

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Well, the show at the West End Gallery opened yesterday.

Out of an abundance of caution, I was not there. I wasn’t going to be able to be there for the whole opening which was spaced over seven hours, allowing only ten attendees at any one point. I decided it would be better to free up the space so others could see the show in safety. It wasn’t an easy decision and I fretted over it all day, on a day– the opening of a show– when I normally fret at a pretty high level. It made for a hard day on an already difficult day.

It just seemed like one of those days where everything is out of rhythm, down to the smallest details. Several things in the household were out of whack as well. I am not going to bore you with my whining on all the details. I’ll just say that yesterday was like the emotional letdown I typically experience in the weeks after a show compressed into a few hours, all taking place before the show’s opening was even complete.

Then I heard that Ruth Bader Ginsburg‘s cancer had reemerged and she was undergoing treatment. This as unmarked forces in combat gear were deployed by the DHS on the streets of Portland, Oregon, and were forcibly abducting and removing protesters in unmarked vehicles. These were not raging riots in any form. This was just intimidation and use of undue force all under the guise that they were there to keep people from tagging federal buildings with graffiti. The head of the DHS later told NPR that planned on employing this strategy of putting troops on the streets of American streets all around the country soon. It’s a treacherous ploy that allows them to skirt the objections of mayor and governors with the excuse that they are protecting federal property.

Then I later discovered that Congressman John Lewis, an eloquent advocate and giant of the Civil Rights movement had died.

The day just kept giving its awful gifts.

I am hoping today is a better one indeed. It’s got to be, doesn’t it?

I am employing another painting from the West End Gallery show. It’s called Angels Reach. I am not going into what I see in it or what is has to offer me. I will  just come out and say that this is a favorite of mine and this morning I really need to see something that makes me feel good.

Well, if not good at least a bit better than yesterday.

Many thanks to those of you who came out to the West End Gallery yesterday. And special thanks to Jesse and Linda at the gallery who have put in many, many hard hours of work in making the gallery work in these difficult times. I can’t express the gratitude I feel for you all.

Even though there are three Red Trees in this painting, I attach this song, a longtime favorite, to this painting in my head. Maybe that’s why I call this painting a favorite, as well. Give a listen and try to make your day a good one.

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“Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?”

Lawrence Durrell, Justine

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I have found that this painting serves me as a reminder to seek silence. To stay silent. To quiet my inner voice. To slow down and listen to the silence.

I know all this but have to be reminded. Life speeds you up, makes you raise your volume in order to be heard. And your inner voice gets even louder in frustration.

You forget to be quiet. Forget to read the silence.

We went up the hill last night to a spot away from the forest that swallows us and only gives a partial view of the night sky. Up on the hill the night sky opened for us and we were able to finally spot the Comet Neowise as it hurtled across the sky. Once found, you could see it faintly in the dark sky but when you looked through the binoculars you could see it plainly with its tail a slash of bright light behind giving it a sense of great speed.

Standing in the dark stillness, I got a sense of having seen a time machine cut through my world. Who might have stood in this place 4000 or so years ago and seen this comet? Or who might stand in this spot 6800 years from now, when it is next scheduled to appear here, and wonder that same thing?

It was a beautiful sight and there was the feeling of being able to see the magnitude of the universe set against our own smallness. It was sobering in the silence and the black of night though it was not sobering in a scary way. There was almost comfort in simply knowing our place, in knowing that we were part of this great puzzle, however small a piece we may be.

The feeling I find in the painting above is much the same.

This piece is titled Tempus Quietis, Latin for a time for rest, and it is sized at 18″ by 24″ on paper. It is, of course, part of my show, From a Distance, that opens tomorrow at the West End Gallery.

I am going to take a hint from this piece and stay quiet. Have a good day.

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“There’s a sin, a fearful sin, resting on this nation, that will not go unpunished forever. There will be reckoning yet … it may be sooner or it may be later, but it’s a coming as sure as the Lord is just”

Soloman Northup, Twelve Years a Slave

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My show, From a Distance, opens this Friday, July 17, at the West End Gallery. This year marks the 25th that I have been showing my work with the gallery and in all that time there have been many shows, both in group exhibits and as a solo artist. Without checking, I believe this is my 18th or 19th solo show there.

There have been shows in the aftermath of terrorist attacks. Presidential impeachments. Economic meltdowns. Historic presidential elections.

A lot of history in those 25 years.

But this year’s show is different from any of those previous shows. It feels like those eventful years have been moving us in an unalterable arc toward this moment, this time of reckoning. I know it certainly showed in my work for this show. Some were depictions of the time and some were escape routes away from it. The piece at the top, A Time For Reckoning, definitely feels like a mirror for this time for me.

A reckoning, as you may know, is an archaic term that means a settling or balancing of accounts. Kind of like karma, I suppose. This certainly feels like a time when accounts of all sorts may be brought back into some sort of balance.

Again, karma.

Without getting into a screed here, that’s what I see in this painting. There comes a point in the lifetime of everything that has gotten out of balance where there is a reckoning. Things must be brought back into balance or they will no doubt crash and burn. It could be something as simple as a wheel on a car or it could be a person at the crossroads of their life or a country finally facing the darker side of its history, as Mr. Northrup predicted in the words at the top from his moving autobiography.

When things are out of balance, there eventually comes a time for reckoning.

I hope you can get out to the West End Gallery for this show. It was a difficult show to put together but I think it’s a really good show, one of which I am proud.

Have a good day.

 

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“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”

― Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist

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These words above from an Oscar Wilde prose piece seems to fit this new painting, To the Far Reaches, perfectly. Well. at least, in my eyes.

Those who dream often take journeys that carry them beyond the far reaches of our reality. Guided by their imagination like sailors are led by the light from the sun and moon, they are rewarded by wonders in these fantastical worlds that only they will ever see.

But this same imagination that gives them such rewards, also allows them to foresee the far reaches of reality before it actually comes to bear in this world. While mingling their imagination with a bit of knowledge of the world and its patterns to foresee the potential outcomes of the near future can sometimes be a reward when those future skies are bright, it can be a great punishment in times ahead that fall under dark skies.

It may cause the dreamer to question their own vision, their own imagination. They may stop telling others of their vision and may try to quell their journeying altogether. Or perhaps go even further beyond the far reaches of reality, into a world of pure imagination.

Or they may stay true to their imagination and speak even louder with the hope that they can avoid the darkness ahead and that they will once again be rewarded with new and brighter dawns ahead.

That’s the choice I would prefer they make– to keep speaking of what they see ahead and to keep pushing forward because as Carl Sagan once said: “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.

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This painting, To the Far Reaches, 8″ by 24″ on canvas, is part of this year’s edition, From a Distance, of my annual solo show of new work at the West End Gallery. The show opens this Friday, July 17. The show is hung and in place so you can stop in at the gallery now to get a preview of what I think is a very strong show.

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“That is how I experience life, as apocalypse and cataclysm. Each day brings an increasing inability in myself to make the smallest gesture, even to imagine myself confronting clear, real situations. The presence of others — always such an unexpected event for the soul — grows daily more painful and distressing. Talking to others makes me shudder. If they show any interest in me, I flee. If they look at me, I tremble. I am constantly on the defensive. Life and other people bruise me. I can’t look reality in the eye.”

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

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The painting above is from my new solo show, From a Distance, that is now hanging at the West End Gallery. The show officially opens Friday, July 17, but can be previewed beforehand. Jesse and Linda are doing a marvelous job in maintaining a safe yet welcoming environment for those that come to the gallery during these times. They have been extremely conscientious and have fastidiously followed the most stringent protocols to ensure the safety of their patrons so if you can, please stop in to see the show.

This piece, 22″ wide by 36″ high on wood panel, is titled In These Times. I think most people will see an air of warmth and friendliness in this painting that is welcoming. The sun here gives this painting a sense of communion, a sense of certainty, with the greater powers of the universe. There is comfort to be found in this piece but there is also an accompanying darker edge that lulls underneath everything. Maybe this comes in the  treatment of the sun’s rays, those squiggly fragments of radiating lines that counter the certainty of the sun with an uncertainty and foreboding. It creates a sense of remoteness, one that keeps the viewer at a distance even as they attempt to get closer.

At least, that’s how I am seeing this piece. It feels easy and simple at its surface but it has many undercurrents. Hard to get a handle on. I think that’s how I came to the title, In These Times. It seems to echo the feelings of this complex and treacherous time for myself and it makes it perhaps the most autobiographical piece in the show, the one that mirrors most my current state of being.

These is a time of great trial that is sending many of us to the far reaches of our personalities. Every trait in us, good or bad, seems to respond at amplified levels. There is little middle ground remaining for anything and we retreat to our own zones of comfort.

I know when I read the passage above from the great Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, who I wrote of last year, I saw in it my own reaction. My default reaction to the world is one of withdrawal but I normally tolerate and enjoy many interactions. But these times have amplified that feeling of withdrawal in myself and Pessoa’s words echoed very much my current feelings. The remoteness seems deeper now with an added layer of defensiveness and, like Pessoa, I find myself much more uncomfortable speaking with people.

Even writing this brings on an increased level of anxiety. So, I am going to stop now.

As I said, this is a painting that has much more going on than you might ascertain with a cursory glance.

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We starve, look at one another short of breath,
Walking proudly in our winter coats,
Wearing smells from laboratories,
Facing a dying nation of moving paper fantasy,
Listening for the new told lies with supreme visions of
Lonely tunes.
Somewhere, inside something, there is a rush of
Greatness.

— The Flesh Failures ( Let the Sunshine In), Hair

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The new painting above, World O’Wonder, is part of my new show at the West End Gallery that opens this week. It’s a 36″ by 36″ canvas that has a lot of oomph, a bold presence on the wall that proclaims the day. For me, I see it as a symbol of innate strength, the Red Tree serving as a fearless greeter of the new, one who see the beauty that abounds even in times of great difficulty.

I think it might be one of the more optimistic pieces from the show. Having works that have a forward looking stance, a sense of hope despite the prolonged battering we’re enduring at present, was important, both for my vision of the show and for my own attitude in the studio. Like anybody, I need to believe that, even though each day seems to bring a wave of foreboding darkness, there is some form of good, now and in the future. Something that tells me that we have the strength to endure the forces of hatred, cruelty and ignorance that seem so publicly on display in recent times.

I do believe we have that strength and I see it all over this painting. Beauty and goodness exists in this world, much more than the ugliness that rules the day. Like the lyrics above say: Somewhere, inside something, there is a rush of Greatness.

Before settling on this week’s Sunday morning music, I did the normal run down the rabbit hole, going through all sorts of artists,genres and time frames before finally coming to this song, The Flesh Failures ( Let the Sunshine In) from the 1968 Broadway hit, Hair. It matched up well with what I was seeing in World O’Wonder.

It’s an interesting song for me. It’s such a powerful song yet it hasn’t been covered by other artists nearly as much as many other songs from the Hair soundtrack. There are only a few covers out there and none match the original for my tastes. When I was reading the lyrics along to the song it struck me that David Bowie would have crushed this song. The cadence,rhythm, and phrasing of it sound as though it could have been one of his songs. Too bad we’ll never get to hear that.

Anyway, keep your eyes to the beauty around you, stand strong and actively fight for a better future. And have a good Sunday. Give a listen.

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