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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

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All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, 1908

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This little snip from The Wind in the Willows seems to capture that same feeling of a conscious sense of wonder that I see in the new painting above. Titled I Stand Before You, it is 12″ by 36″ on canvas that is part of my solo exhibit, Red Tree 20: New Growth, at the Principle Gallery that opens this Friday, June 7.

I have been showing at the Principle Gallery since the early days of 1997. In the first few years there, I had been included in a group of five painters– Tom Buechner, Marty Poole, Tom Gardner, Rudy Gyr, and myself– from my home region that the gallery termed The Finger Lakes School. That group had two successful annual shows before I was moved out on my own with a solo show in 2000 called Redtree. That was a very successful show and its momentum has, in many ways, carried me through the past two decades.

This year’s show marks my 20th solo show at the Principle Gallery and if I had to use a term to describe what I wanted the work from throughout that time to convey, I might very well use the term sense of wonder. Just being able to witness small bits of this world around me, to see the green of grass and leaf, the ruffle of feathers or the mottle of light on the forest floor, brings about a feeling that I am experiencing all the wonder of this world.

And more than that, this past twenty years has allowed me to maintain that sense of wonder. Part of me expects that sense to diminish as I age but, if anything, it has expanded with through the years. The simplest pleasures, ones that I might well have overlooked in a youthful exuberance to see bigger and grander wonders, now seem like rare and privileged glimpses into the inner workings of the universe.

This very moment, I tuned my head and in the distance I watch two wild turkeys walking up the drive with broken light flashing off their iridescent  feathers. I can’t tell you what a wonder that seems to me and how it makes me appreciate the life I am privileged to live.

As I have pointed out many times before, I am not an overtly religious person. But perhaps this sense of wonder, this sense of awe, fills that same void for me. I don’t know but I am pleased I still wonder about such questions, that I don’t take these simple things that fill me with awe for granted. Maybe that’s a form of prayer.

Who knows?

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Red Tree 20: New Growth opens Friday, June 7, at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA, with an opening reception that runs from 6:30 until 9:00 PM. Hope to see you there.

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Truth has no continuity. It is the mind that wants to make the experience which it calls truth continuous, and such a mind shall not know truth. Truth is always new; it is to see the same smile, and see that smile newly, to see the same person, and see that person anew, to see the waving palms anew, to meet life anew. 

― Jiddu Krishnamurti, The Book of Life: Daily Meditations with Krishnamurti

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I was looking for some words to put with this new painting that is part of a group of work that is going with me to my Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery next Saturday, September 15. I came across the words above from the late Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti and at first kind of scoffed at the idea that truth has no continuity. I immediately thought that truth, above all things, has continuity. It’s this idea that truth is some sort of nebulous form, always changing and never set, that has us in the situation we now face as a nation.

I believed that truth- especially objective, fact-based truth- was a straight unwavering line running from its inception until the end of time.

But the truth he describes is a different sort of truth. It’s a subjective truth based on our perceptions. How we see the world around us. To see truth, especially these subjective truths, as something set in concrete closes off the mind. We begin to look at the world with blind eyes and a mind filled with the truths of yesterday. We fail to see the beauty and freshness of the renewed truth that is before us in every present moment.

We may have seen yesterday’s sunrise and that has its own truth, its own set of conditions. Today’s may seem to have the same truth but it is always different, slightly changed. The same goes for each of us. We were one person yesterday but in some small and almost imperceptible way  we have changed. We may feel a bit older. A bit wiser. A bit happier or sadder or any number of different things. But we are not the same today as we were yesterday.

Our truth has changed.

And there is something wonderful in that. Oh, I know we would often like things, our truths of the past, to remain the same as we remember them. There’s reassurance in those static touchstones that clutter our memories. But today is a new truth under a new sky and a newly changed sun. The world is freshened and made new. It has a new truth of its own and it is our task, our hope and our joy to discover it anew.

I find that thought to be a fine basis for this painting, an 18″ by 36″ canvas that I call The Freshening. Winter is a perfect example of this idea of constant renewal. The falling snow creates a new truth, alters our perceptions of the world we see. It creates a new truth. And its melting creates yet another revelation of truth. As does the rising of the new day’s sun.

Maybe that seems a naive way of looking at the world in these complex times where truth means something different to so many different people. But there are simple truths  that make up our existence and looking at them in a simplified manner might not be such a bad thing.

Like looking at the world in the first light of day after a snowfall– freshened and new.

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My Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria takes place on Saturday, September 15, beginning at 1 PM. There will be a painting giveaway, some other prizes, surprises, good conversation and puppets. Lots of puppets. Okay, that last part isn’t true. But you won’t know for sure unless you come.

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 “People like you and I, though mortal of course like everyone else, do not grow old no matter how long we live. What I mean is we never cease to stand like curious children before the great Mystery into which we were born.”

Albert Einstein, Letter to Otto Juliusburger, September 29, 1942 

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This is a new painting, at 30″ by 10″ on canvas, that is part of my current West End Gallery show, The Rising. I have titled this painting Eye to Eye and was considering at one point adding to Eye to Eye to Eye to Eye, et cetera.

In my mind, the idea of looking out at the stars in the night sky feels sometimes like looking into a multitude of eyes looking back at us, the flash of the whites of their eyes creating the starlight that we see. It is a benign feeling, not tinged with animosity or congeniality.

They are just there, dispassionately looking back at us. Perhaps they are seeing the flash of the light from our sun that reflects on our moon as being our eyes looking out at them. Who knows?

The sense I get from this painting is one of having this connection with the universe even in those times when we might feel absolutely alone in this world. Maybe the connection is in understanding that the Great Mystery, as Einstein calls it, may very well be the same throughout the cosmos. Whether here on Earth or a billion light years away, the night presents us with tangible evidence of this Great Mystery and our desire to know our place in it creates the curiosity that Einstein mentions.

And maybe that curiosity, that feeling that there is always more to learn from this Mystery, is the key in maintaining a youthful mind.

Who knows?

I used the words from Einstein above as they originally appeared in a letter to a colleague. The gist of his words were later paraphrased by others as this popularly quoted piece of advice:

Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the Great Mystery into which we were born.

I like it better in its original form, not as advice but as simply an observation between friends.

 

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I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here. I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell.

― Richard Feynman

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I have been greatly intrigued by this new painting, a 24″ by 24″ canvas, for several weeks in the studio, regularly stopping in front of it. Maybe it’s the color or the texture or the simplicity of the way it’s put together but something compels me to stop and try to find an answer.

Looking at it made me believe that it was about asking for guidance in some way. Perhaps a prayer, a plea sent out into the darkness, by someone who is uncertain of their own faith and wisdom in this world but stands in wonder of the sky and the vast universe beyond.

This world is ruled by those with absolute certainty, however unfounded that certainty might be, and can be a troubling and puzzling place for those who possess much less.

That I can say with certainty.

Asking for guidance and clarity from outside the miasma of this world seems appropriate. That the only answer received might be the silence and calmness of the scene might be appropriate as well.

I call this painting Please… which I chose over a A Prayer of Uncertainty.

It is part of my solo show The Rising which opens next Friday, July 13 at the West End Gallery.

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Big Bang

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“Astronomers… say there was a primordial explosion, an enormous bang billions of years ago which flung all the galaxies into space. Well let’s take that just for the sake of argument and say that was the way it happened.

It’s like you took a bottle of ink and you threw it at a wall. Smash! And all that ink spread. And in the middle, it’s dense, isn’t it? And as it gets out on the edge, the little droplets get finer and finer and make more complicated patterns, see?

So in the same way, there was a big bang at the beginning of things and it spread. And you and I, sitting here in this room, as complicated human beings, are way, way out on the fringe of that bang. We are the complicated little patterns on the end of it. Very interesting.

But so we define ourselves as being only that. If you think that you are only inside your skin, you define yourself as one very complicated little curlique, way out on the edge of that explosion. Way out in space, and way out in time.

Billions of years ago, you were a big bang, but now you’re a complicated human being. And then we cut ourselves off, and don’t feel that we’re still the big bang. But you are. Depends how you define yourself. You are actually—if this is the way things started, if there was a big bang in the beginning—you’re not something that’s a result of the big bang. You’re not something that is a sort of puppet on the end of the process. You are still the process. You are the big bang, the original force of the universe, coming on as whoever you are.

When I meet you, I see not just what you define yourself as—Mr. So-and-so, Ms. So-and-so, Mrs. So-and-so—I see every one of you as the primordial energy of the universe coming on at me in this particular way. I know I’m that, too. But we’ve learned to define ourselves as separate from it.”

― Alan W. Watts

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