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Archive for the ‘Painting’ Category

 


I was tempted this morning to comment on the horror show taking place in the people’s white house. Every day reveals even more new lows. It’s like an unending fountain of plain badness. So it’s understandable that I might want to say a few words about yesterday’s revelations that began with the discovery that government lawyers admit that they can not locate the parents of 545 migrant children separated from their families at the border, effectively making them orphans. Or that I might want to discuss the uncovering of a bank account in a Chinese bank that was not disclosed on his public financial forms, one that saw $15+ millions flow through it in 2017. Or the fact that he paid tremendously more in taxes to China over the last few years than he did in America while his daughter raked in multiple Chinese trademarks that were fast-tracked in the same year.

I was also tempted by his backhanded insult to the people of Erie, PA last night, when he said at a rally there that he wouldn’t have come or even have to be there if it weren’t for the pandemic. I have been fortunate to know the people of Erie for over twenty five years and know the great pride they take in their hometown so I could easily riff on the absolute hurt in those words.

But I can’t this morning. The awfulness that is currently in place is all too self-evident and becomes even more apparent with each new day.

Hell, with each new hour.

So, today I just want to share a beautiful couple of paragraphs from an essay by the great poet/essayist/environmentalist Wendell Berry. I was looking for something to go along with the painting at the top and as soon as I came across his essay I knew it was a perfect fit for this piece and what I see in it.

The painting is Solitude and Reverence, a 24″ by 36″ painting that was painted in 2015. It’s one of those pieces that have a sense of completeness and fulfilled purpose that often make then standout for me. I know this has been a favorite since I put my brush down after finishing it. For me, the message is that this world, this life, is a gift and we have stopped treating it as such. We show little appreciation for the bounty that this planet has gifted us while allowing us to spend our short time upon it.

We treat it like we were spoiled children with no awareness of the advantages and good fortune bestowed upon us. We only feel entitlement.

Gosh, sounds like I am getting around to criticizing the president*** again, doesn’t it?

Well. maybe that’s why I am so drawn to this piece this morning. It is the antithesis to the ugly attitude that has swept across the nation in recent years, the same that elevated him* to office.

It is peace. It is cooperation. It is shared sacrifice. It is humble. It is reverent.

It is understanding.

It is all I ask of my place in this world.

Is that too much to ask?

Here’s a bit from the Wendell Berry essay. Have a good day.


“We have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. And this has been based on the even flimsier assumption that we could know with any certainty what was good even for us. We have fulfilled the danger of this by making our personal pride and greed the standard of our behavior toward the world – to the incalculable disadvantage of the world and every living thing in it. And now, perhaps very close to too late, our great error has become clear. It is not only our own creativity – our own capacity for life – that is stifled by our arrogant assumption; the creation itself is stifled.

We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and to learn what is good for it. We must learn to cooperate in its processes, and to yield to its limits. But even more important, we must learn to acknowledge that the creation is full of mystery; we will never entirely understand it. We must abandon arrogance and stand in awe. We must recover the sense of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For I do not doubt that it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it. ”

Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays


 

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Inertia


“Nothing is more obscene than inertia. More blasphemous than the bloodiest oath is paralysis.”

Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer


The painting at the top hangs in my studio and has been a favorite of mine since it was painted five years back. Every day, I find myself often looking over at it. There’s something in it that satisfies or completes something in me. It’s 24″ by 24″, so it’s not a small piece, but I think it’s not large enough to fully transmit what is has to offer. I often wonder how it would feel as a much larger painting, say 6′ by 6′ or even larger.

These thoughts went through my head this morning before 6 AM as I found myself, coffee in hand, turning to gaze at this piece. I realized then that I couldn’t remember the title of this painting that I look at with intention each and every day. I don’t think of it in terms of its title given to it years ago.

Now, it just is. It exists free of words for me. It is defined by the moment and the circumstance in which I am seeing it.

But I had to get up this morning and go over to it and peek at the back of the painting to see its given name: October Sky.

How fitting, I thought. It’s what I might have called it this morning. That mood that produced it back in 2015 was here in 2020, as odd as it is to think that anything could be similar in any way in this most unusual year. 

I went back to my desk and continued to stare at October Sky, thinking that I should be working on a larger version, if only for myself. I could start it today.

But I probably won’t.

I’ve been ensnared in a state of inertia for a while. Been hard to get started and even harder to finish things. I have personal projects around the studio and home to still finish, commissions to work on, new work to begin and a plethora of other things in the hopper. But getting up a head of steam to simply take that first step seems so difficult right now. It feels like paralysis of some sort, one that paralyzes the mind and not the muscles.

I can’t fully pinpoint the cause behind this though there are certainly a lot of possible contributing factors. Just opening your eyes these days is an existential threat to one’s peace of mind. I don’t even think I need to find the cause.

I just need to take that first step forward and I know from past experience that the dullness of mind and body will quickly fade. It’s just getting to the point of taking that step. It’s like I am waiting for something to happen right now and am afraid to be distracted even if that distraction is my own wellbeing.

Now, that sounds more ominous than it is, I am sure. I know I will soon be past this and the work will be flowing, that the synapses will be snapping and shooting off like fireworks. In fact, I think just writing this indicates that I am nearing the end of this malaise, this paralysis of the soul.

I am signing off now. I want to look again at October Sky. Maybe today’s the day I start a larger version. Or just take a first step toward something, anything else. I think there’s something pretty damn good in there just waiting to come out so maybe it’s time to get moving.

Sounds like a plan. Let’s get to the day and make it count.

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Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.

Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina


 


GC Myers- Tower of Lies
How long can you stand on a tower of lies?
How long can you endure on a tower built with  lies for posts and boasts for beams ?
How long before you see the folly in reinforcing one lie with another?
How long before the foundations come apart and fail?
How long before truth comes as gravity to pull this tower down?
How long can we tolerate you standing brazenly atop your tower of lies?
How long until the inevitable collapse comes?
How long until we begin to tally the casualties from the fall?
How long before we begin to build a straighter and stronger tower?
How long can you stand on this tower of lies?

The post above ran back in February of 2017. That seems like an eternity ago now. It asks how long you can stand on a tower of lies.

We may be coming to an answer, at last. The past 3 1/2 years has seen the most remarkable amount of lying and deceit ever to spew from an administration. It is without equal in our history.

Not even close.

The whole administration is a tower built from lies, deflections, spittle, tape and hairspray. It is as weak as the fool atop it.

And now the “Good Germans” who continue to shore up the foundations of this rickety horror show now make no pretense of honesty, openly and shamelessly lying for all the world to see. Their words, their ethics, their moral compasses are worthless trinkets now.

It is obvious they will and plan to do absolutely anything needed to maintain power. There are a number of scenarios floating out there that outline sheer power plays right out of the fascist/authoritarian playbook that might be in play soon. As hard as it is to imagine these things ever coming to be in this land, we have to at least look at them, be aware of them.

I know that four years ago, in September of 2016, I worried that the scenario we’re experiencing might be a possibility with the election of the orange creature. But I felt that my imagination was just running wild and that the institutions, our Constitution, the balance of power would surely  be strong enough to hold back the onslaught.

So now, I hope for the best outcome but pledge to be prepared for the worst.

Be aware and prepare.

Here’s another song from people who were in such a situation. It’s Bella Ciao, a resistance song from the Italian partisans, the anti-fascists who fought the underground battle against Mussolini and Hitler during World War II.

Bella Ciao was originally a rallying song for the women who labored in the rice paddies of northern Italy in the 19th century. Their jobs were backbreaking and they were treated poorly which resulted in strikes and riots and the violence that accompanies such things. This was their rallying song. Bellla Ciao translates as Goodbye Beautiful.

This version is from Marc Ribot‘s 2018 album Songs of Resistance 1942-2018 and features the unmistakable vocals of the great Tom Waits. It is a powerful version of a powerful song that still stands as symbol of resistance to authoritarianism to this day.

Let’s hope we don’t have to adopt this song as our own. Be aware and prepare.

 

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The Anvil

“The Durable Will”- Currently at the Principle Gallery, Alexandria


The Anvil

Stand like a beaten anvil, when thy dream
Is laid upon thee, golden from the fire.
Flinch not, though heavily through that furnace-gleam
The black forge-hammers fall on thy desire.

Demoniac giants round thee seem to loom.
‘Tis but the world-smiths heaving to and fro.
Stand like a beaten anvil. Take the doom
Their ponderous weapons deal thee, blow on blow.

Needful to truth as dew-fall to the flower
Is this wild wrath and this implacable scorn.
For every pang, new beauty, and new power,
Burning blood-red shall on thy heart be born.
Stand like a beaten anvil. Let earth’s wrong
Beat on that iron and ring back in song.

–Alfred Noyes


This sounds about right. There are days when I certainly feel like an anvil that’s being hammered on. I

have a feeling there are many more of those days ahead.

Let’s hope we can forge something brighter and better.

Have a good day.

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“Magistrum”- You Could Win This Painting at Saturday’s Virtual Gallery Talk!

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“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

T.H. White, The Once and Future King

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At a size of about 11″ by 15″ on paper and under glass, this painting is the second of the paintings that will be awarded as part of a free drawing at the end of my Virtual Gallery Talk this Saturday, August 22. It is titled Magistrum which is the Latin word for teacher or master.

It’s fitting that the snip I am using to start this post is from The Once and Future King from T.H. White. Reading was a big part of my childhood, a connection to the wider world and the key to unlocking the secrets of it. Books were the teacher, the master, I never had in any one person and I remember it well when I first came across this book. The story of the education of the young King Arthur by Merlin, it was delightful tale that really excited my imagination and, with its emphasis on learning and observing, reinforced my own quest to learn.

Merlin is correct, learning is the best thing for being sad. It changes the mind, building new structures upon it that make the whole thing so much stronger. In these days where, as Merlin points out, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, it is indeed a good thing to not wallow in sadness. Best to learn something new, expand that mind and see the world with wiser eyes.

That’s kind of what I see in this painting. The Red Tree here is the teacher urging its students to come out into the light, emerge from their state of blueness.

So, if you feel blue these days, open your mind and try to learn something unknown to you. Read something new. Look at things closer. Imagine the world through the eyes of others.

It’ll do you a world of good. That I can say with certainty.

Now the Virtual Gallery Talk from the West End Gallery takes place this Saturday, August 22, from 1-2 PM EST. Tomorrow, we will be posting the information on how to preregister for the Talk with Zoom. You do not have to have a Zoom account but you will need to register to participate and view. Though the Talk will be open to all, the drawing for the two paintings will be limited to the first 100 registrants. The chosen winners will have to be present (online!) at the Gallery Talk to claim their prize.

So make sure you get your name in when we roll out the info tomorrow. Good luck!

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“Heart of Light”- To Be Awarded At This Saturday’s Virtual Gallery Talk

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“A fight is going on inside me,” said an old man to his son. “It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other wolf is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The same fight is going on inside you.”

The son thought about it for a minute and then asked, “Which wolf will win?”

The old man replied simply, “The one you feed.”

Wendy Mass, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life

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This is a battle that I know well. I don’t know about you but I suspect many of you have witnessed this same conflict within yourselves.

Experience has taught me that, indeed, feeding and nurturing one wolf makes it stronger so that the other one that is not fed slinks into the background. That other evil wolf remains always just far enough away in the shadows, however, waiting for a sliver to fall its way that will strengthen it, allowing it to once more fight for dominance.

Which wolf are you feeding today?

This is a roundabout way of getting to the painting shown at the top, It’s a 12″ by 12″ piece on canvas called Heart of Light. and is one of the 2 paintings to be given away at the end of my Virtual Gallery Talk that will be streaming online from the West End Gallery this coming Saturday. The Talk begins at 1 PM EST and runs until 2 PM. Details on registering for the drawing will be forthcoming tomorrow or Wednesday.

I would like to think I am feeding my good wolf with this but it seems pretty arrogant to call this annual giving away of a painting an act of generosity.

And that is feeding that evil wolf.

Maybe I believe I am feeding my good wolf because it brings me joy to express in this small way the gratitude I feel for those folks out there that have allowed me to have this life an artist, one that allows for my many shortcomings.

Who knows?

Good wolf or bad, I know that this painting will be given away on Saturday. Hope you will be there.

In the meantime, feed your good wolf well. I will try to do the same.

 

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“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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