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Solitude is independence. It had been my wish and with the years I had attained it. It was cold. Oh, cold enough! But it was also still, wonderfully still and vast like the cold stillness of space in which the stars revolve. 
― Hermann HesseSteppenwolf

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I understand very well the sentiment behind the words above, spoken in the voice of Hermann Hesse‘s character Harry Haller in his novel, Steppenwolf. It is the story of a man who sees himself as both man and wolf, divided by his desire to be part of man’s society yet driven by his wolf’s need to be a solitary, instinctual being. There is a constant inner conflict between the two opposing forces.

Yeah, I understand that very well. I think that many of us do.

I, too, have seen solitude as independence and, like Harry Haller, have sought and to a great degree attained it. Yes, there have been points when it was the stillness that he describes, like soaring through the cold blackness of space. A wondrous vast and empty dome of space.

But with time, that same solitude begins to feel less cold, warmer and more comfortable. It is as thought the time spent alone in that expansive space has drawn you to the gravity of a distant sun. Sharing its light and warmth, it becomes a silent yet reliable and amiable companion. Solitude feels less lonely and begins to feels like a natural condition, comfortable and even homey.

To a great extent, that is how I have found myself. I am grateful for the warmth that solitude now provides. It is a friendly and welcoming place now. Paradoxically, it is when I am among crowds of people that I feel most alone and untethered, like I was desperately floating without direction in the coldest and darkest parts of space.

The new painting above, a 16″ by 12″ canvas that I am calling A Warmer Solitude, represents this sentiment for me. It has an inviting and warm presence with the air of solitude around it.

All I ask.

This piece is part of my solo show, Self Preservation, that opens July 14 at the West End Gallery, which has represented my work for 22 years now. This is my 16th or 17th solo show with them and I may be more excited about this show than any other that I can remember. I hope you can make it to the gallery for this show that will be hanging until the end of August.

 

 

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The title for my show opening July 14 at the West End Gallery is Self Preservation. The title also applies to the painting above, a 24″ by 36″ canvas, which is included in the show.

The title comes from how I have come to view the current state of this world over the past several years. Decades of insulating ourselves via the internet, content in our own little echo chambers where we are constantly pushed further away from others by figures hidden in the shadows of the web who profit by exploiting our division, have brought us to a state where misinformation is more prevalent that fact.

Where belief, however unfounded it may be, has an equal value with truth.

Where every event is recorded with multiple sets of alternate facts allowing each person to justify their point of view and belief.

Where every word and sentence is parsed to detect which way that person leans in their belief.

Where intolerance is tolerated.

Where rational discussion has been thrown over for a constant uncivil cacophony of screamed biases and opinions, a virtual Tower of Babel where there is a constant sound and fury yet no one hears a word being said but their own.

It is a maddening time, one that truly challenges our sanity, personally and as a whole.

It leads me to the question: How does one weather such a time, hows does one hold on to what they see as their own truth– who and what they are at their core– without being swept up in the ill winds that rake this world?

What does one hold on to for self preservation?

I don’t know that I have an answer that applies to anyone other than myself. But it’s all I have and, for now, that will have to suffice.

Self preservation for me comes in the inner world I visit in my paintings.

I see it as a place where truth and belief come together. It is place where there is an inherent sense of rightness, of calm rationality, of harmony, and of little anger.

And it is without hatred or prejudice. While it is my world and it is a place of tolerance, excluding no one.

I am free in this world. Safe. At peace. Part of a universe that understands me, that hears my voice and responds to my prayers and desires.

Oh, I don’t have to be told how foolish it all sounds. I know that it is an escape from the harshness and insanity that the world offers us at the moment. But it is a world in which I have lived happily for many years, more sane and content than I ever was before that world came to be.

Perhaps that is an answer that will work for others– to find that inner world for yourself where you can periodically retreat, even for a moment, to experience calmness and a sense of self.

I don’t know for sure. I just know that is has been a place of self preservation for me for decades now.

Excuse me, I have to head over there now…

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Self Preservation opens July 14 at the West End Gallery in Corning, NY.

 

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If we are always arriving and departing, it is also true that we are eternally anchored. One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.

Henry Miller
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We often search and search, moving from place to place, trying to find that certain something that we can’t quite name. We have it in our minds that it is a physical place, a tangible object, that will satisfy our need to wander.

New people to meet.

New streets to explore.

New landscapes to surround us. New hills to climb.

But maybe what we seek is just a new way of seeing ourselves, of a new opportunity to unleash the person we desire ourselves to be. Or, more likely, a chance to see ourselves as we really are, something that becomes obscured in the familiar. Being anchored, as Miller infers above, in the repetition of  day to day life has us showing ourselves always in the same light. We lose touch with aspects of who we are that are never allowed to come to light.

The search allows us that new perspective. While we remain the same we see ourselves from new angles, new vantage points, allowing us to feel new. Different.

Sometimes it is good and sometimes it is not, exposing perspectives on ourselves we would rather not see and may have hidden for a long time. But hopefully unveiling the truth of all that we are will somehow  make us feel comfortable in our wholeness.  Knowing our shortcomings as well as our strengths make us more real, more human.

What we seek is always with us.

You might not view it the same way but that’s what I am seeing in this new painting, an 8″ by 16″ canvas, that I call Destination Seen. It is headed to the West End Gallery for my upcoming show, Self Determination, which opens July 14.

 

 

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My Buddy Chase in front of the work

Back in the studio after Friday’s opening of Truth and Belief at the Principle Gallery. Without hyperbole, I am saying it was a good show and a good trip. As smooth and easy and satisfying as any of the previous 17 shows there. Just plain good. Good crowd. Good conversations with good people. Good feelings about the work.

So when we left yesterday, I can honestly say I felt pretty good about the whole thing. Still do, which is new territory for me. Usually by this morning I am filled with second thoughts about things I could have done differently, words I could have said differently and so on. But for now, I am standing pat with the whole of what happened.

It was good.

I have to send out heartfelt thank yous to everyone at the Principle Gallery. They are a very special group of people. Affectionate thanks to Michele, Clint, Pam, Pierre and Haley for their friendship and encouragement. There’s so much I could say but I think they know how we feel about them.

Plus super thanks to my canine friends, Ash and Chase, who always brighten my visits with their high energy.

I think this show was as honest and transparent an expression of what I hope to be as an artist and a person as I could have mustered. I don’t feel like I am masked behind the work, that I am presenting a facade that misrepresents me. I am hoping that means I am closing in on some elusive and unconscious goal. Can’t say I will ever truly reach it. Might not even know if I do. But for now, the mask feels like its off.

For this week’s music, I have chose a song that sort of fits with that last sentiment.  It’s This Masquerade written and performed by the late great Leon Russell. It is probably best known for the George Benson version that was a huge hit across all of the charts. But I like this version from Leon alone with his piano.

Enjoy. Have a good day.

 

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“As I Wander”- 12″ x 6″ on canvas

Getting ready for Friday’s opening of “Truth and Belief,” my solo show at the Principle Gallery. As I wrote the other day, I was a little anxious in the first day or so after delivering the show. My confidence lagged a bit.

Thankfully, that has passed and I am actually feeling very good about this show.  From a superstitious standpoint, I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing but I am truly convinced that this is a good and strong body of work. And from a few images the gallery shared with me yesterday as they were hanging the show that feeling is reinforced.

It has that feeling of rightness that I try to describe so often. And that’s a good thing.

Truth and Belief opens Friday, June 2, at the Principle Gallery in Old Town Alexandria, VA. The opening reception begins at 6:30 and runs until 9 PM. I hope you can make it. If you do, please feel free to introduce yourself or ask questions. It’s my pleasure to be there at your service.

I put together a short video/slideshow of the paintings in the show. It’s a simple and short glimpse of each piece that I hope gives an idea of how the show fits together. Take a look…

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This is a painting that is part of my Truth and Belief show that begins this Friday, June 2 at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria. It is 16″ by 20″ on panel and is titled Called Home.

This was one of the first paintings started for this show many months ago, actually back into 2016. It was also one of the last pieces finished in just the last couple of weeks. The two blocks of color, the graded blue-green of the sky and the dark red of the foreground, that make up the bulk of the picture were in place and in my mind the piece felt complete, already communicating emotion.

The interaction between the two large elements and their textures and colors already satisfied me. It was very much like a lot of my earlier work that solely relied on these factors.

I set it aside many months ago and would look at it day after day. I was hesitant to move beyond where it was by adding anything, fearing that it would alter the strong feeling it already emitted for me. I wanted to add elements that would complement that feeling and make it more apparent and accessible for the casual viewer.

I thought about going to my default icon, the Red Tree, that has a variety of meanings in itself.  But it just didn’t seem right for this piece. I settled on one of the Red Roof structures but a taller and more angular version, one that would seem to be trying to break the grip of gravity and reach upward toward infinity. The Red Chair and the path pulled a narrative together for me, one that very much falls in line with how I was seeing the painting in its early stages.

The new elements actually seem to fortify that feeling for me and now when I look at this painting, where I once only fixated on the sky and the foreground, I now see the unity of all the elements in pushing forward an emotional feeling that resonates for me.

It’s all I can hope for in my work…

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I thought for this Memorial Day a replay of the post from this day last year was appropriate and says exactly what I wanted to express this morning. We are living in strange times with a leader with little if any impulse control and a need to achieve his desired outcome regardless of the means needed to do so. I am of the opinion that if push comes to shove ( and with his knack for alienating and shoving, it’s a real possibility) he would not hesitate to spend the lives of  many of our soldiers to protect his interests. And there is a building doubt as to whether his interests are our interests.

I think that is why this Memorial Day takes on special significance. We must remember the horror of war that brought about this holiday and not gloss it over. It was not meant for glorification of war. It was a day of grieving and remembrance of souls taken much too early. Give it a thought today.

Memorial Day weekend.  It’s become the symbolic starting point for summer, a time of barbecues and partying.  Fireworks. In those rare instances when we do take the time to consider the day, many of us tend to think of it in terms of patriotism and nationalism.

But it was created from the loss and sorrow of a civil war that ripped this country and many families apart.  It was meant to alleviate the grief of the many families who suffered the ultimate loss, to let them know that the nation shared their sorrow in the memory of fallen family members.

In the nearby Woodlawn National Cemetery, where my mother, along with both my grandfathers and several uncles, is buried, there is a section that contains the nearly 3000 graves of Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War in the Elmira, NY prison camp.  Whenever I look at those stones and think of those men of the south, I always think about their families who may not have even known that their sons were suffering in a cold Northern prison.  They were mothers, wives or children who would never see or hug their sons and husbands and fathers again. People whose loss forever left a hole in their lives.

And this sacrifice was for what?  An idea, the preservation of an ideology that probably didn’t affect their day to day lives in the first place? The financial interests of the planters and plantation owners, the wealthy ruling class?

Why are we so easily stirred to war, so willing to sacrifice our own kin and their futures?

There are no easy answers.  Maybe that’s why the holiday has transformed into what it is today– it’s too terrible an image to bear when we look in that mirror and ask those questions.

So for this Sunday’s music on a Memorial Day weekend, I thought I’d play a song that asks for peace on earth with the hope that fewer families in the future will have to see this earth absorb the blood of their sons and daughters.  I know that sounds like a pipedream, a world without war.  But I have to ask  myself: Why not peace?

Here’s U2 and Peace on Earth.  Have a great Sunday and a great holiday.

NOTE: The image here on the left is a new painting, The Kinship, that is part of my show that opens this coming Friday, June 2, at the Principle Gallery.  There is a sense of remembrance in this piece for me that jibes with the real spirit of this day.

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