Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

*************************

“The untold want, by life and land ne’er granted,

Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find.”

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

*************************

A little short on time this morning (what’s new?) but I wanted to share this new song from an upcoming album by a favorite of mine, Rhiannon Giddens. She has one of those voices that always seems absolute and powerful. A beautiful rarity. I felt that this particular song fit right in with the theme behind much of my work, especially in the line in its chorus :

Don’t know where I’m going but I know what to do

Does anyone really know what they’re looking for in this life? Just doing the right thing and being honest with ourselves is all we can do as we search.

So, give a listen and keep on seeking, folks. Have a great day.

*********
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4Xlyi8Is98

Read Full Post »

*************************

The moon, like a flower

In heaven’s high bower,

With silent delight

Sits and smiles on the night.

—William Blake

**************************

Finished this new painting just the other day. It’s a very quiet, almost meditative piece that I am calling Moon Flowers.

It’s a piece that I find myself looking at a lot these past couple of days. While it is simply constructed, there are some there things taking place in it that keep my eye occupied. The relationships between the beds of flowers, for example, with their individual color vibrations and shapes. Or the relationship between the moon and the path below. There seems to be a connection between the two.

These relationships and the organic quality of the lines within it give it an abstract quality that I like very much. If I just let my mind go where it desires, it allows me to move beyond what seems to be represented and see something quite different.

Or rather, feel something quite different.

And ultimately, that is what I hope for in my work– to move the viewer beyond the representation of the image presented. How that’s done, I do not know. Maybe the answer is somewhere on that path under that moon. Maybe that is what I am seeing in this picture that is pulling me in.

Only time will tell.

So, for this Sunday morning music let’s go with a piece with an apt title, Moonflower, the title track of a 1977 album from the great Carlos Santana. Hard to believe this piece is over forty years old now. Time!

Have a great day.

Read Full Post »

She turned to the sunlight

    And shook her yellow head,

And whispered to her neighbor:

    “Winter is dead.”

 

― A.A. Milne,

    When We Were Very Young

*************************

It’s just another reminder of who’s in charge from Mother Nature this morning as the temps here again sit at zero. There’s bright sunshine out there with the angle of the light making your mind believe that Spring is at hand and that, like the words of A.A. Milne in the bit of verse above, Winter is dead.

Stepping out into it, you realize that it was just another cruel trick. The air is sharp like a fresh razor blade. More so because your mind was telling you it would be warmly caressing your skin instead of biting at it.

Well played, Mother Nature. You got me again.

But Spring is coming and the seemingly endless wait will make the arrival of green grass and the first peeks of bulbs breaking the ground all the more special. The beauty of contrast.

The painting above is an old piece from about 1994 or 1995. It was among a small group painted at that time that was meant to have an object serve as a pole bisecting the picture plane with the light seeming emanating from it. Kind of in a Georgia O’Keeffe manner. I did a few of these pieces with imagined flowers or tree trunks.

Don’t know why I didn’t continue following this path because I am generally very pleased with them when I come across them. They have the sense of completeness and color interest that I still seek in my work. But at that point, every day of painting brought so many new discoveries and ideas that it was sometimes hard to decide which way to turn next. I had so many sparks being generated in my head that it would not have been possible to follow them all.

That changes over time, of course. New discoveries are fewer and farther apart. Sparks still come, many with the same intensity, but they create a low banked fire now instead of the roaring blaze that it seemed like when everything was new.

When everything was new…

And that brings us back to Spring. Maybe that’s the attraction, trying to tie one’s own personal renewal to that of the Earth. If so, I will be green again soon.

And that is a good thing.

Read Full Post »

*********************

Walt Whitman: Song of Myself, Part 51

 

The past and present wilt—I have fill’d them, emptied them.

And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.

Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?

Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,

(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)

Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.

Who has done his day’s work? who will soonest be through with his supper?

Who wishes to walk with me?

Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?

 

*******************************

The image shown on the right is another new painting, a 36″ by 18″ canvas that is part of a new group that has drawn a great deal of my attention lately in the studio. They are large groups of faces that are painted in an almost subconscious manner, with little if any forethought given as to how they relate to the surrounding faces. They emerge from dashes of paint and quickly rendered shapes that cause me to simply find human form in them.

It is very intuitive work. It reminds me very much of the process involved in painting the subterranean artifact layers in my Archaeology series. Just make a mark then transform it into something tangible, something possible.

I have known most of these faces for forty or fifty years. They have lived in me, have emerged periodically on bits of paper, on journal pages and in the margins of the newspaper. Some have shown themselves individually in some of my work through the years– the Exiles, Outlaws and Icons series for example.

But they all seem familiar to me. Some possess a pleasant and friendly aura and others much less so. Some are ugly and bitter in appearance. Some even seem evil and worry me a bit, causing me to ask if they are all just variations of my own self.

I don’t really know.

Part of me says yes. I was instantly reminded of the line from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself  (shown above):  Do I contradict myself?/Very well then I contradict myself,/(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Whitman’s grand poem had him speaking as the voice of the collective consciousness of mid-18th century America, a voice that encompassed all sorts of people and attitudes that make up the stewpot that is this country, then and now. As an artist, the hope is that your own work taps into that same vein, that it speaks to connects with the wider spectrum of people. So, in doing this, in attempting to access this collective multitude, to pull them all from your own inner self.  To do so, you have to find that part of yourself that is part of all of them.

Can it be hope and love? Fear and anger? Or just the emotion of being?

I don’t really know.

What I do know is that there is something in this work that seems right for the moment.  Seeing these groups of faces had me wondering how this had slipped by me for so long. It feels natural, like it should have been part of my work for some time now.

So how had I not did this before? I think the answer is that I needed to develop the skills and visual vocabulary to do these pieces in a way that used the faces in the most impactful way. If I had did this years ago, I think it would have been lacking the color, rhythm and forms needed to make them effective. Those are all things that have come from years and many tens pf thousands of hours in the studio. For me, these paintings are a great coupling of subject-these crude faces– and those elements– color, rhythm and form. I find myself attracted as much by the colors and shapes as I am by the individual faces.

I am considering calling this group Multitudes from the line from Uncle Walt. Or it might still be Masks from the for the appearance the faces have with their dark eyelessness.

I am still trying to figure this out so excuse this off the cuff writing. There are a lot of thoughts emerging and growing even as I write this so I reserve the right to change to contradict myself at some later point. Like Walt, if I contradict myself, so be it — I am large, I contain multitudes.

 

Read Full Post »

The Sail

*************************

“He in his madness prays for storms, and dreams that storms will bring him peace”

― Mikhail Lermontov  (1814-1841)

*************************

Maybe you didn’t see it yesterday and if not, good for you. It was an awful and uncomfortable thing to behold.

Witnessing madness always is. And that is what we were watching and experiencing.

It brought to mind the line above from the 19th century Russian (fitting, I guess) poet, Mikhail Lemontov, speaking of the sailor who believes that since the calm always follows the storm that the calm only comes because of the storm.

That’s the sort of logic with which we are dealing. One that believes that chaos brings order.

Hopefully, we can ride this storm out safely until there is calm.

Or until someone capable can wrest the wheel from the hands of a mad captain who seems bent on continuing to ride into storms.

The line above is actually a translation from the Russian that is often attributed to Leo Tolstoy since he included it in his The Death of Ivan Ilych. I believe a character was quoting the Lermontov line and people over time have come to believe that Tolstoy originated the line.

The line comes from a Lermontov poem, The Sail. There are many translations and not all use the exact wording though the meaning is much the same in all. Here’s one tranlation:

 

The Sail

Gleams white a solitary sail

In the haze of the light blue sea.—

What seeks it in countries far away?

What in its native land did leave?

 

The mast creaks and presses,

The wind whistles, the waves are playing;

Alas! It does not seek happiness,

Nor from happiness is fleeing!

 

Beneath, the azure current flows,

Above, the golden sunlight streaks:—

But restless, into the storm it goes,

As if in storms there is peace!

 

Read Full Post »

Just one of those days that calls for a Shel break. By that, I mean a few short poems from the late Shel Silverstein. They are often labeled as being for kids, most likely for their simplicity in their messaging and the cartoon-like quality of his line drawings. But there is wonderful wordplay and a layer of maturity in them that usually makes me smile as well as think just a bit. I think the best children’s works have that quality that gives them an appeal beyond the kids.

Take the two pieces at the bottom, Losing Pieces and Zebra Question. They both play with how we speak and how we see things. Simple, sure. But interesting and a just a bit thought provoking.

And I can sure use a little bit of Shel this morning. My head feels like it has hinges and someone has opened it, scooped out everything and left me little to work with.

Got to go find some good stuff to put in it.

Read Full Post »

The American poet Mary Oliver died yesterday at the age of 83. I can’t claim to know much about poetry but I always found her work engaging and enlightening. There was a plain-spoken quality to her work that gave her musings the feel and clarity of newfound wisdom. She is gone but her voice will carry on. Here’s a post from a couple of years ago that was about the relationship of a painting of mine to one of her better known poems, Wild Geese.

**********************

GC Myers- The Singular HeartYou do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver

****************

A while back, a person interested in my work sent me the poem above, Wild Geese.  It was written by the esteemed Pulitzer Prize winning poet Mary Oliver. This person wanted to know if I would be interested in translating this poem into into one of my paintings for them. I replied that when I had some time I would gladly do that as I think the poem strikes a chord that very much resonates in my work.

After a short while, this person contacted me again and said they had been looking at my work and had found a painting that they felt captured the spirit of the poem. The painting is the one shown at the top, The Singular Heart.

I was thrilled by the choice. It had the feeling and message of the poem without being absolutely literal.  It’s exactly how I wanted to portray it. And the message and title of the painting fell perfectly in line with Oliver’s poem.  The Red Tree stands, singular and alone, with the realization that it has a unique place, as does every being, in the family of things.

I told this person a bit about this painting and an experience I had with it that stuck with me.  Once it hung in my home area gallery, the West End Gallery, and I met with a local college art class there. One of the questions was which of the pieces there was my favorite. I normally don’t answer that question because I have always felt that any painting that I decide to show has something unique to it, some quality that makes it special to me. Kind of like a parent with their kids.

But on this occasion I didn’t hesitate and pointed at this painting.  I told them if I were to try to describe in one painting what I wanted to say with the body of my work and what I hoped for myself as a person, that this piece would summarize it perfectly.

I told this person that I felt it was perfect choice and was pleased when they chose this painting to represent the poem in their home. It means a lot when any painting finds a home but is even more special when I know that it resonates on many levels with its owner, that it goes deeper than the surface.

Here’s a clip of Mary Oliver reading her poem, Wild Geese:

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: