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Archive for the ‘Quote’ Category

“Center of Gravity” Now at the West End Gallery

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In the center of an irrational universe governed by an irrational Mind stands rational man.

― Philip K. Dick, Valis

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You could possibly substitute the word country for universe and it wouldn’t much change the meaning of this quote. At least, not here in a land that feels more and more Kafkaesque with each passing day.

For those of you not familiar with the writings of Franz Kafka, Kafkaesque is described in Wikipedia this way:

The term “Kafkaesque” is used to describe concepts and situations reminiscent of his work, particularly “The Trial” and “The Metamorphosis.” Examples include instances in which bureaucracies overpower people, often in a surreal, nightmarish milieu which evokes feelings of senselessness, disorientation, and helplessness. Characters in a Kafkaesque setting often lack a clear course of action to escape a labyrinthine situation. Kafkaesque elements often appear in existential works, but the term has transcended the literary realm to apply to real-life occurrences and situations that are incomprehensibly complex, bizarre, or illogical.

As suggested by the painting above, Center of Gravity, I am going to shelter in place for the day and simply let the world turn on ts own.

And that’s enough for today.

Stay centered, folks.

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All adventures, especially into new territory, are scary.

–Sally Ride

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This year’s Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery was originally scheduled for this coming Saturday. It is obvious now that this year’s talk just can’t happen in the same way as in the past. As much as I enjoyed the one from last year, one where we jammed as many people as was possible into the gallery, the idea of replicating it seems downright crazy in the time of the virus.

I am not willing to risk my own health to do such a thing and am even less willing to put anyone else in harm’s way.

To be clear, this year’s Gallery Talk ain’t happening, folks.

At least, it can’t take place in the way we know it.

I am working with Jesse and Linda at the West End Gallery on a way of doing some type of online Gallery Talk, something through Zoom or other web meeting service. It would actually be more of a Studio Talk, a visit to my space and maybe a little tour. It would still have some of the same elements as the normal Talk–the annual giving away of a painting, to be exact– and would be missing others. That would be a live crowd.

There are plenty of pros and cons on doing this.

The pros for doing it are:

  • It would be safe and convenient–No crowds and no having to find parking
  • Everybody gets a seat! Unless, of course, you feel like standing in front of your computer
  • Because there are no space limitations, more people could participate  and it would allow people who are not able to normally get to the Talk, people from out of the area, to participate. We might be able to go international?
  • It would be a different experience, a changeup from the norm and that’s a good thing once in a while
  • No Masks needed, though I might wear one just to cover my face
  • I could show some stuff from my studio that I can’t easily do at a regular Gallery Talk
  • It would shame me into straightening up my studio
  • If someone doesn’t like it and wants to leave, they can just turn it off. That sure as hell beats having to worry about how they could creep out of the gallery during the talk.

The cons are:

  • No living, breathing people. Well, they will be out there, living and breathing. Just not in front of me. I don’t get to see immediate reactions and react to those. It makes any attempts at humor a bit harder for me.
  • No oohs and aahs. I can’t overstate the impact of the oohs and aahs.
  • My own ineptitude with technology and inexperience with online broadcasting. I would have to bone up on doing this in the right way so that the experience is not painful– for you and for me.
  • I lose the ability to interact one-on-one with folks before and after the talk, which I very much enjoy. I get to just talk with folks I might not have seen in some time plus it loosens me up beforehand and eases me down afterwards.

There are most likely many more pros and cons that will come to mind. If you think of any not on this list, please let me know. Any additional info or opinion I can get will be helpful.

I have to admit, I am more than a little nervous about doing this. Worried about technical glitches. Plus, I’m not used to talking in this manner and am afraid I am going to be left hanging in the breeze at some point. You know, where your mind goes absolutely blank. During a normal talk, I can turn to someone in the audience and make a comment and that sets off a whole new line of reaction and discussion. Alone in my studio in front of a camera, I won’t have that luxury.

The whole thing scares me a bit.

But it’s like late astronaut Sally Ride said: All adventures, especially into new territory, are scary.

Of course, she was talking about being strapped inside a damn rocket to the stars. I am just talking about sitting in my studio and talking into a camera. I guess I better just quit whining, put on my big boy pants, and just do it.

So, keep an eye out for details. We are going to work on this in the next few days and will hopefully have something to announce next week. If you have suggestions, hints, ideas, questions or even just crackpot comments on this, please let me know. I can use all the feedback I can get on how to do this right.

Have a good day!

 

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In Radiance

“In Radiance”- Now at the West End Gallery

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Change the focus of the eye. When you have done that, then the end of the world as you formerly knew it will have occurred, and you will experience the radiance of the divine presence everywhere, here and now.

–Joseph Campbell
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Change the focus of the eye.
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Is that the purpose of art? It makes sense. Through the years, many artists have talked about painting beyond what is there, painting the invisible, the intangible.
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To make the viewer see the ordinary in a new or extraordinary way.
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Sounds easy enough, right?  Well, it can be done but you don’t always find the divine radiance of all things. That can be frustrating and unfulfilling. But on those times when you do, you understand what Joseph Campbell was describing. And it drives you on.
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Change the focus of the eye. It most likely applies to life in general, as well. I will have to try that.

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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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“Sovereign Solitude”- Now at the West End Gallery

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“10 percent of any population is cruel, no matter what, and 10 percent is merciful, no matter what, and the remaining 80 percent can be moved in either direction.”

― Susan Sontag

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I was going to talk about some current events– the Portland protest moms, the opening of baseball and its integration of protest within it, the return of the term Death Panels in some areas to determine who gets or doesn’t get covid-19 treatments, and so on, maybe even share comedian Sarah Cooper’s brilliant treatment of the absurd Person*Woman*Man*Camera*TV episode– but I just can’t do it this morning.

Instead, I am thinking about the words above from author Susan Sontag and it has a ring of truth for me. Some are going to respond with cruelty in any situation– we all know someone like that, don’t we?— while some will always express a form of mercy and care. The rest of us hover somewhere in the middle, sometimes going back and forth toward the two extremes.

And so long as this stays in some sort of balance, that large groups of us don’t start moving toward the side of cruelty, it remains  a tolerable situation. Livable.

I worry that the acceptance of cruelty and the rejection of mercy has become too easy a choice for too many. Too many react without empathy, without the thought of others’ struggles and without considering how their own demeaning of others ultimately demeans themselves.

I would like to say if I am not merciful that I at least lean toward the side of mercy. Maybe just being aware of these poles of reaction is a start toward a world with a bit more mercy.

As always, I don’t know.

And the world keeps turning…

Here’s a lovely piece of new music from composer Max Richter that is custom made for this discussion. It includes a thought provoking video that I conclude must have been produced before the pandemic. I think we all notice things like people riding subways without masks or people hugging a little more now.

Anyway, please take a few moments and give a listen. It might help a bit.

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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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“We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.”

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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I wasn’t going to use the Goethe quote above because I couldn’t locate the source for it. But it made me both chuckle and nod in agreement so I thought I would go with it as is. It would, after all, explain so much of what is taking place at the moment.

The idea that we are a mental asylum and that perhaps those crafts we call UFOs are merely flying rubber rooms on the way to deliver some new batch of lunatics to us answers so many questions. If you watched the Chris Wallace interview with the president*** over the weekend, you might well believe that Goethe was on to something, such was the level of insanity on display. How someone could watch that, especially in the context of what is currently taking place in this country, and not feel that we are on the brink of sheer madness is beyond my comprehension.

The inmates have taken over the madhouse.

And adding to the situation is the fact that the madhouse is on fire. There’s an overwhelming summer heat all over the country that feels even more intense when you add to it the fires of anger and passion that are lighting up the streets of this country.

It certainly sets the tone for the events that will likely take place in the coming months. I am not looking forward to it but it can’t be avoided or ignored. In fact, doing so will only make it worse, will empower the inmates who have taken over the now burning madhouse to act even crazier. Nothing worse than a lunatic being egged on to even greater lunacy.

Yeah, this madhouse is on fire and the inmates in charge have no plans or desire to put it out.

So, I am sitting in the heat dreaming of coolness and hoping that there’s not a fleet of UFOs on the way to drop off a new batch of  crazies on us. The painting shown at the top, Fire and Ice, helps somewhat. It’s from my current West End Gallery show and is a piece that really helps me cool the heat from my own fires.

I will definitely need it.

Now let’s go back to a calmer time, say 1968. Nothing much happening back then. Here’s a song from that time that year that made sense then and sure seems to fit in at this point. It’s Fire from The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. If nothing else, this slice of vintage video from the British TV program the Top of the Pops will make you smile.

It’s on fire out there. Try to stay cool. In all ways.

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“There’s a sin, a fearful sin, resting on this nation, that will not go unpunished forever. There will be reckoning yet … it may be sooner or it may be later, but it’s a coming as sure as the Lord is just”

Soloman Northup, Twelve Years a Slave

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My show, From a Distance, opens this Friday, July 17, at the West End Gallery. This year marks the 25th that I have been showing my work with the gallery and in all that time there have been many shows, both in group exhibits and as a solo artist. Without checking, I believe this is my 18th or 19th solo show there.

There have been shows in the aftermath of terrorist attacks. Presidential impeachments. Economic meltdowns. Historic presidential elections.

A lot of history in those 25 years.

But this year’s show is different from any of those previous shows. It feels like those eventful years have been moving us in an unalterable arc toward this moment, this time of reckoning. I know it certainly showed in my work for this show. Some were depictions of the time and some were escape routes away from it. The piece at the top, A Time For Reckoning, definitely feels like a mirror for this time for me.

A reckoning, as you may know, is an archaic term that means a settling or balancing of accounts. Kind of like karma, I suppose. This certainly feels like a time when accounts of all sorts may be brought back into some sort of balance.

Again, karma.

Without getting into a screed here, that’s what I see in this painting. There comes a point in the lifetime of everything that has gotten out of balance where there is a reckoning. Things must be brought back into balance or they will no doubt crash and burn. It could be something as simple as a wheel on a car or it could be a person at the crossroads of their life or a country finally facing the darker side of its history, as Mr. Northrup predicted in the words at the top from his moving autobiography.

When things are out of balance, there eventually comes a time for reckoning.

I hope you can get out to the West End Gallery for this show. It was a difficult show to put together but I think it’s a really good show, one of which I am proud.

Have a good day.

 

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“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”

― Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist

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These words above from an Oscar Wilde prose piece seems to fit this new painting, To the Far Reaches, perfectly. Well. at least, in my eyes.

Those who dream often take journeys that carry them beyond the far reaches of our reality. Guided by their imagination like sailors are led by the light from the sun and moon, they are rewarded by wonders in these fantastical worlds that only they will ever see.

But this same imagination that gives them such rewards, also allows them to foresee the far reaches of reality before it actually comes to bear in this world. While mingling their imagination with a bit of knowledge of the world and its patterns to foresee the potential outcomes of the near future can sometimes be a reward when those future skies are bright, it can be a great punishment in times ahead that fall under dark skies.

It may cause the dreamer to question their own vision, their own imagination. They may stop telling others of their vision and may try to quell their journeying altogether. Or perhaps go even further beyond the far reaches of reality, into a world of pure imagination.

Or they may stay true to their imagination and speak even louder with the hope that they can avoid the darkness ahead and that they will once again be rewarded with new and brighter dawns ahead.

That’s the choice I would prefer they make– to keep speaking of what they see ahead and to keep pushing forward because as Carl Sagan once said: “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.

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This painting, To the Far Reaches, 8″ by 24″ on canvas, is part of this year’s edition, From a Distance, of my annual solo show of new work at the West End Gallery. The show opens this Friday, July 17. The show is hung and in place so you can stop in at the gallery now to get a preview of what I think is a very strong show.

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“That is how I experience life, as apocalypse and cataclysm. Each day brings an increasing inability in myself to make the smallest gesture, even to imagine myself confronting clear, real situations. The presence of others — always such an unexpected event for the soul — grows daily more painful and distressing. Talking to others makes me shudder. If they show any interest in me, I flee. If they look at me, I tremble. I am constantly on the defensive. Life and other people bruise me. I can’t look reality in the eye.”

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

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The painting above is from my new solo show, From a Distance, that is now hanging at the West End Gallery. The show officially opens Friday, July 17, but can be previewed beforehand. Jesse and Linda are doing a marvelous job in maintaining a safe yet welcoming environment for those that come to the gallery during these times. They have been extremely conscientious and have fastidiously followed the most stringent protocols to ensure the safety of their patrons so if you can, please stop in to see the show.

This piece, 22″ wide by 36″ high on wood panel, is titled In These Times. I think most people will see an air of warmth and friendliness in this painting that is welcoming. The sun here gives this painting a sense of communion, a sense of certainty, with the greater powers of the universe. There is comfort to be found in this piece but there is also an accompanying darker edge that lulls underneath everything. Maybe this comes in the  treatment of the sun’s rays, those squiggly fragments of radiating lines that counter the certainty of the sun with an uncertainty and foreboding. It creates a sense of remoteness, one that keeps the viewer at a distance even as they attempt to get closer.

At least, that’s how I am seeing this piece. It feels easy and simple at its surface but it has many undercurrents. Hard to get a handle on. I think that’s how I came to the title, In These Times. It seems to echo the feelings of this complex and treacherous time for myself and it makes it perhaps the most autobiographical piece in the show, the one that mirrors most my current state of being.

These is a time of great trial that is sending many of us to the far reaches of our personalities. Every trait in us, good or bad, seems to respond at amplified levels. There is little middle ground remaining for anything and we retreat to our own zones of comfort.

I know when I read the passage above from the great Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, who I wrote of last year, I saw in it my own reaction. My default reaction to the world is one of withdrawal but I normally tolerate and enjoy many interactions. But these times have amplified that feeling of withdrawal in myself and Pessoa’s words echoed very much my current feelings. The remoteness seems deeper now with an added layer of defensiveness and, like Pessoa, I find myself much more uncomfortable speaking with people.

Even writing this brings on an increased level of anxiety. So, I am going to stop now.

As I said, this is a painting that has much more going on than you might ascertain with a cursory glance.

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