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I know perfectly well that only in happy instants am I lucky enough to lose myself in my work. The painter-poet feels that his true immutable essence comes from that invisible realm that offers him an image of reality… I feel that I do not exist in time, but that time exists in me. I can also realize that it is not given to me to solve the mystery of art in an absolute fashion. Nonetheless, I am almost brought to believe that I am about to get my hands on the divine.

–Carlo Carra

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The Italian painter Carlo Carrá (1881-1966) was one of the leading figures in the Futurist and Metaphysical movements of the first part of the 20th century.

Like many artists with long careers, Carrá went through other phases in his work. While I am showing only a few images of his work that really strike  a chord with me, I am also drawn to most of his other work. Maybe it is the simplicity of form and composition or the quality of his colors. I can’t really say except that it seems to be work that jibes with my own way of seeing things. And I suppose that is how artist attracts eyes, by creating work that speaks in a way that is both understandable and meaningful to the viewer. Hmm…

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Will Barnet/Age

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Painting is almost like a religious experience, which should go on and on. Age just gives you the freedom to do some things you’ve never done before. Great work can come at any stage of your life.

–Will Barnet

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I have known the work of Will Barnet for many years and usually immediately recognize his work. But what I didn’t know was that the work that I associate with him is only the most recent work from a career that spanned eighty years.

Yeah, eighty years spread over nine decades.

To give an idea of the span of his career, as a child automobiles and aeronautics were in their infancy and he actually saw John Singer Sargent working on the murals at the Boston Public Library. At his death, we were on the verge of private space flight and self driving cars. Imagery is now transmitted instantly around the globe via the internet.

A small computer chip can practically hold all the content of the Boston Public Library.

Barnet, born in 1911 and died in 2012 at the age of 101, knew from an early age that he wanted to be an artist. What I admire is that his career followed a series of radical transitions throughout his career, constantly changing but always maintaining his own voice and maintaining a high level on consistent quality.

But more than that was need to continue his work. On the day he died, he had worked on a large ambitious painting of his granddaughter.

It’s a fascinating evolution, one that greatly interests me at the current stage of my career. Seeing painters such as Barnet painting to such an advanced age while still evolving is inspiring, giving me hope that I can continue on the path I am on for decades to come.

Obviously, I am showing only a tiny portion of his work here. Below is a video of the work that first made me aware of Barnet. The others are a selection from various periods just to give a sample of the range his career encompassed.

Will Barnet- Martha and Her Cats- 1984

Will Barnet

Will Barnet- Abstract Composition – 1957

Will Barnet – Big Duluth- 1960

Will Barnet- Early Spring- 1977

Will Barnet- Father and Parrot- 1948

Will Barnet- Play- 1975

Will Barnet- Children Drawing- 1946

Will Barnet- Idle Hands- 1935

Will Barnet- February- 1980

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Last week a notification came up on my Facebook feed of a painting of mine that was being offered for sale locally. It wasn’t the best of photos but I immediate recognized the painting. It was from back in 1999 and was titled Black Opal Night. The price was very reasonable and I immediately contacted the seller, offering to buy the painting back.

In our back and forth, she asked why I was buying this painting back. It seems that artists buying their work back is not a normal thing.

I replied that it was from the years between 1996 and 2000, a five year period that was pre-Red Tree and an evolutionary step to my subsequent work. It was also a time from which I have practically no remaining work and would love to have a few more pieces. I have been very fortunate in that almost all of the work from that time have found new homes. The few that remain with me are pieces that most likely should have never left the studio in the first place. They have major flaws– poor color quality, composition balances that seem off a bit and so on– which I would now consider disqualifying, that would keep me from showing it publicly.

I may have been a little less discerning in earlier times.

This piece, from what I could see in the photo and could glean from my memory of it, didn’t seem to fall into this category.

Another part of wanting to acquire this piece was that my documentation at the time was pre-digital and spotty. I most likely have slides of this piece but the slide itself is most likely poorly shot. And a poorly photographed slide is still a poor image when transferred to a digital format, which is still an iffy process for me. It would be good to see a painting from the time and get proper photos. I have to admit that the photo here was taken through glass so it is not a perfect image. But it works.

So I picked this up over the weekend and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. First, the image itself looked new even though the frame, a blue-green color that I no longer use, was a bit less fresh looking. It was definitely of the time. I could see where I was at the time from a process standpoint, how I was still embracing techniques that are now deep embedded.

I often speak at gallery talks about the 60 or 70 thousand hours spent in the studio over the past two decades. This piece was from the beginning of that time and offered a glimpse of how the work had evolved and changed. This piece was pushing at the edges of my abilities at the time which gives it an excited feel. I can almost feel my excitement in painting it from the time. There are surface flaws that are integral to the energy of this painting that give it a rawness that I think was a big part of the strength of that early work.

That rawness is something I don’t see as much in recent work. Oh, the excitement is still there but the expression of it is more refined, more controlled. And looking at this painting makes me wonder if I am pushing myself enough. Am I staying too far inside the lines? How do I regain that raw energy?

And maybe the answers to these questions are the real reasons for me re-acquiring this painting. Even though it’s simply an older painting in my body of work, it has given me so many things to ponder.

Let’s see where it goes from here.

 

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Art lives and dies in the unique heart of he who carries it, just as all feelings only live and expand in the souls of those who feel them. There is no history of art — there is the history of artists.

Marianne von Werefkin

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Marianne von Werefkin is a name that often catches my eye when I am digging around for art online. It always stands out even though I don’t have any knowledge of her work so at some point I finally looked closer at her work. And, like so many little known artists that I come across, I have to say I was pleased by the work I found.

Marianne von Werefkin Self Portrait

She was born in Russia in 1860 and died in Switzerland in 1938. Throughout her life she was associated with several important painting groups and movements in Europe though she never achieved widespread recognition for her work, certainly nothing close to that of her peers such as Kandinsky and Klee. It was difficult for a woman to stand out in the male dominated world of art at that time. Fortunately, that has been changing over the past century though I am sure not as quick as it should.

I am very taken with much of her work, especially the compositions and the way in which she expresses her self in forms. I also have enjoyed a few quotes and other writings she left behind, which like her compositions line up with my own viewpoints.

Here are a couple of other examples;

All bores me in the world of facts, I see an end, a limit to all things and my heart thirsts for the infinite and for eternity.

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The artist is the only one who detaches himself from life, opposes his personality against it, he is the only one who orders things as he wishes them to be in place of things as they are. Thus, for him life is not a fait accompli, it is something to remake, to do again.

I know I am not giving you a lot of info here today outside a few quotes and images. But take a look and in it strikes you, dig a bit deeper for yourself. I think you will be rewarded. I see her work as just good stuff. And for me, that is a high compliment.

DGA510708 The Black Women, by Marianne Werefkin (1860-1938), gouache on cardboard, 1910; (add.info.: The Black Women, 1910, by Marianne Werefkin (1860-1938), gouache on cardboard.
Artwork-location: Hanover, Sprengel Museum Hannover (Art Museum)); De Agostini Picture Library / M. Carrieri; out of copyright

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Painting is neither decorative amusement, nor the plastic invention of felt reality; it must be every time: invention, discovery, revelation.

–Max Ernst
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I like this quote from Surrealist painter Max Ernst. It seems that a painting that follows this described route– invention, discovery, revelation— takes on the sense of timelessness that makes it art.
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The invention comes in the actual composition and the initial execution of the painting. Discovery comes in allowing the painting to build in itself, to follow directions that arise during the process. Revelation is recognizing something more in the painting than the subject itself suggests.
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There’s a lot more that could be said on all three of these elements but the shorthand version suits me at the moment. Take that for what it’s worth.
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The painting above is The Sea, Watched from artist Jamie Wyeth. I came across the quote from Wyeth that is  below the image and it really struck a nerve with me, especially in the moment.

Being back in the studio after the Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery, I am conflicted by two desires. One is to just be bone lazy and do nothing, to simply enjoy the good feelings generated by the talk and my own sense of my work at the moment. The other is to dig back in with even greater fervor, to move the goalposts ahead and begin the next step towards reaching those goals. What exactly those goals are is yet to be determined but I do know they are there.

I do feel that I do have to move forward, to not be lazy and rest on the work that is out there at this point. Part of that comes from doing these talks and getting real feedback on what I have done. I don’t want to come before these folks next year and have nothing new, no advancement in the body of the work, to point to.

That is the one of the addictive parts of this painting thing– a fear of falling short.

But sometimes the lazy part is appealing. I look at the work so far and I feel good about it. I tell myself to take it easy. Relax. Coast for a while. That would certainly be easy to do.

But part of me knows that’s the wrong way to go. If for some reason my career ended today, I can’t say I would be satisfied with what I have done. I don’t feel that my story is completely told yet, that the work hasn’t yet revealed all that it has to yield.

So, I dig back in.

I was asked after the talk the other day if I planned to retire and I laughed. First, I said I couldn’t because all of the paintings I have given away at these talk represented my retirement funds. But I said I couldn’t imagine not doing this to the day I either die or become incapacitated in a way that would prevent me from picking up a brush and making a mark.

Realistically, I figure I have a good twenty five years in which to be productive. And if I am fortunate and take care of myself, maybe thirty. I notice more and more older artists working into their 90’s and beyond, producing new work that are exclamation points on long careers.

That would be good. But it won’t happen if one lets laziness creep too much into the equation. Fortunately for me, the credo, “Live to work, work to live,” is not a scary or depressing idea.

So, that being said, I’ve got a lot of work to do. Have a great day.

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Creative scientists and saints expect revelation and do not fear it. Neither do children. But as we grow up and we are hurt, we learned not to trust.

― Madeleine L’Engle

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This new painting is called Found Truth. It is a larger piece, 36″ by 36″ on canvas, and is part of the group of new work that will be traveling with me on Saturday down to the Principle Gallery for my Gallery Talk there.

This is a painting that very much speaks to me personally. Its scale and the initial impression it makes whenever my eyes look its way give it a sense of strength, of bold statement. And I think that is exactly what it is for me– a statement piece.

Maybe that is why I see it having a title that deals with the idea of the revelation of truth. It could the revelation of one’s inner truth or any number of other truths that make up our reality. Or maybe it is all of them because perhaps all truths are part of one larger truth.

I don’t really know. I’m still waiting for that moment of revelation.

I’m no saint so maybe I am a creative scientist, as Madeleine L’Engle writes above, because I do not fear it and do expect it. Oh, there are days when I revert to a more closed off stance, stepping back from that mound where the Red Tree stands, that spot where I have been completely exposed and vulnerable. The problem is that in order to receive revelation you have to make yourself vulnerable. In this open state you are susceptible to being hurt but, more importantly, you are in position to recognize and accept revelation.

That place of vulnerability is a spot many of us avoid, certainly as L’Engle points out, because of being hurt once or maybe many times before and the distrust this has fostered in us. None of us wants to be hurt and exposing yourself to the world creates that possibility.

So we harden our attitudes and our hearts, closing ourselves off. But in the process we also pull back from the light that nurtures us, that feeds our growth. The light that reveals the truth that we once sought and expected.

That’s how I see this painting, the Red Tree being exposed and vulnerable atop that mound. The clouds represent the perils of being there but beyond them is the light of self revelation– the reward of persevering one’s own vulnerability.

This all somehow makes sense in the small space of my mind. Hope you see it somewhat the same way in your own.

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Reminder:

Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA this Saturday, September 22 at 1 PM.

Painting(s?) Giveaway, Prizes, Good Conversation, Some Stories and Some Laughs.

 

 

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