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Archive for the ‘Quote’ Category

Francis Bacon- Study after Velázquez Portrait of Pope Innocent- 1953

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Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.

–Sir Francis Bacon

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There are two very different characters from history that carry the name Francis Bacon. Both are British, one a famous 20th century painter and the other a Renaissance man from the Age of Elizabeth in the late 16th/ early 17th century. The latter generally carries the Sir before his name. As I said, very different though I sometime come across a quote and have to do some checking to make sure one is not the other.

The painting Bacon was Irish born and lived from 1909 until 1992. He is best known for his dark figurative work that often contorts the features of the subjects of the work. I wrote about his studio (seen below) in an early post here. It was a spectacular mess, with piles of papers and paints and all sorts of detritus. Whenever I think my studio is an unworkable mess, I think of Bacon’s studio and suddenly mine doesn’t seem all that bad. His studio was such a spectacle of disarray that it was moved from where had been in London to a Dublin museum space, The Dublin City Gallery. There it was meticulously reconstructed to its former fabled jumble.

Francis bacon- Reece Mews Studio

Now, the other Francis Bacon, Sir Francis Bacon, lived a life of great achievement from 1561 to 1626. As a statesman, he served as the Lord Chancellor and Keeper of the Great Seal for Elizabeth I. He is perhaps better known as a philosopher and scientist, considered the father of the modern scientific method as well the father of empiricism.

One of the more famous stories of his life revolve around his death. While traveling, he was supposedly having a debate with a companion over his theory that animal meat could be frozen as a means of preservation, something unheard of at the time. Stopping at a farm they were passing, Bacon is said to have contracted the pneumonia which caused his death as the result of trying to freeze a chicken by stuffing its carcass with snow and ice.

What a way to go. But next time you pull your Swanson Chicken Pot Pie from the freezer, you might want to thank (or curse– it’s a frozen pot pie, for god’s sake) Francis Bacon. I mean, of course, Sir Francis Bacon.

The next time you have a nightmare with a screaming Pope, you can thank the other.

 

Francis Bacon- Three Studies Of George Dyer, 1966

 

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Between, Again

GC Myers- Between

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A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover through the detours of art those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.

-Albert Camus

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These lines above are from an essay, Between Yes and No,  written by the late French Nobel Prize-winning writer Albert Camus. It basically states, in sometimes grim detail, his belief that art “exalts and denies simultaneously.” In short, truth, and life in general, operates somewhere in the middle, never a binary choice, never absolutely in yes or no.

To put it in visual terms– that’s my job, after all– life is never fully black or white. We live in shades of gray.

Yes or no is generally an oversimplified view for existentialists like Camus. The enigma of this world, this life, comes from forever living with both the yes and the no.

Shades of gray.

While I may not fully understand all the subtleties of Camus’ essay, I do fully agree with the premise as I see it in my own simplified way. I think that art communicates best when it contains both the yes and the no— those polar oppositions that create a tension to which we react on an emotional level. For example, I think my best work has come when it contains opposing elements such as optimism tinged with with the darkness of fear or remorse.

Yes and no.

I guess it’s this thought that brought the title for the piece ( 4″ by 4″ on paper) at the top which I call Between. Simply put, I see it as the Red Tree being torn between the nebulous  desire of the Moon’s promise set against the security of its earthly home, represented by the patchwork quilt-like look of the surrounding landscape. Between the unknown and known.

Somewhere in between the yes and the no…

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The post above ran back in 2015. I’ve edited it a bit for a little more clarity, to make it a little less gray.

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The only quality that endures in art is a personal vision of the world. Methods are transient: personality is enduring.

–Edward Hopper

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Felt like a little Edward Hopper this morning and realized that, in all the years of doing this blog, I had never shown his most famous painting, Nighthawks, above. Can’t say why I had failed to display it. Maybe it just felt so obvious that it overshadowed other works from his career that also moved me. Regardless, it remains a defining painting, one that never fails to be striking.

His words just below the painting above are equally striking for me.

I often write about artists trying to find their voice. By that, I am talking about painting (or working in any other medium) in a manner that matches up with and captures the artist’s point of view, their thought process, and the many facets of their personality. Not every method or style jibes with every artist, allowing them full expression of the truth of their own personality.

And method alone only goes so far. Method is transient and without endurance, as Hopper points out, without personality.

How does this happen, this insertion of personality into one’s work?

I can’t really say. I guess it starts with having a point of view, an opinion, an emotion, a thought. I tell high school and college students that technique is important but it is even more vital to have a base of other knowledge to draw from. Art is not technique or method, it is expression of the self so have a fully realized self to express.

Don’t know if that’s right for everybody but, hey, it feels right for me.

Work on that and get back to me, okay?

 

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Dark Gives Way

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“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

Plato

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You can interpret this to suit your own perceptions, either of current events or your own situations.

For myself, I see it taking shape in the form of the Republican party, both in its members of congress and just plain old members of the party, who are frantically bending themselves (and the truth) into pretzels trying to avoid the light from illuminating what has really taken place.

This is a tragedy for these people who are sacrificing their integrity and honor to keep off the light from touching an abhorrent creature of darkness who would never do anything near the same for them.

It is also a tragedy for this country and the rest of the world because, in doing so, they are sacrificing the security and well being of of us all. They do so by gutting whatever trust and belief we had in our system of governance.

Yes, it is a time of  tragedy.

These men want to hold back the light that comes with truth and fact. They know that in a world of darkness, those who hold the hammer, the power that comes with governance, dictate truth and fact as they desire it to be, as it best serves their own interests.

Yes, it is a time of tragedy.

Bring the light and the dark will give way.

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I came across the painting at the top this morning and it really struck me in a way that had me writing of this post. It’s from back in 2003 and, fittingly, the title is Dark Gives Way. I like that I am reading it in much the same way as I did all those years back.

 

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Marc Chagall- La Vie – 1964

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If all life moves inevitably towards its end, then we must, during our own, colour it with our colours of love and hope.

–Marc Chagall

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Well, I feel that you can never go wrong by showing a painting or two from Marc Chagall. His work never fails to make me stop to examine it, to try to read what it has written in its colors and forms.

There is always something there.

There is music and dance, grace and movement. There is myth and memory all intertwined. So much is there. But in it all are the warm colors of love and hope, much like the ones he mentions in the words at the top.

I can only hope to live out my life like a Chagall painting.

That would be a good thing for any of us.

Marc Chagall- L’Âne Musicien à Saint-Paul- 1975

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If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.

–Emil Zatopek

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The words above are from Emil Zatopek, the immortal Czech runner who was called the greatest runner of all time by Runner’s World Magazine.  Zatopek wowed the sports world at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki by winning both the 5000M and 10000M races then entering at the last minute and winning the marathon. It was the first marathon he had ever competed in.

I think he must be correct in his quote. Running is one thing, something most of us can do for short intervals. But committing to and running marathons are a whole different thing. It takes real focus and dedication– a compulsion — to run marathons at a high level. It requires altering your diet to get the most from the least. It takes the willingness to sacrifice the time for training, putting in endless miles running alone. Mastering that solitude is a special skill in itself.

I know that it’s something I will never do which is perhaps why I admire those that take on this hard task.

One person I know who does this is my nephew, Greg. He’s been running most of his life in some form. A little cross country in high school. Running just to stay fit as he aged. Casual stuff for the most part. He trained for and ran his first NYC Marathon in 2005, I think it was. He was in his early thirties at the time and his time was respectable.  In the years since, with some time away from competitive running to be a great dad to three active sons, he has slowly become a committed marathoner, doing all the things I described above.

Fittingly, the work and time he has dedicated have shown up in his results. His times have consistently improved even as he has aged. At age 47, he is consistently in the top 2% of both all runners and his age group. In yesterday’s NYC Marathon, he established a personal best for that race coming in at 2:56:16.

It’s been fun watching Greg’s continuing progress as a runner. Seeing his dedication and hard work rewarded is a lesson that I hope his sons absorb and use in their own lives. I am pleased for Greg and proud of his hard fought efforts.

Great run, Greg. Keep up the good work and looking forward to you establishing a new personal best in Boston in 2020, if that’s in your plans.

Here’s a favorite of mine from the Velvet Underground in honor of your race. It’s, of course, Run, Run, Run.

 

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“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

― Carl SaganThe Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, 1995

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Earlier this year, I used another passage from this same book by Carl Sagan that decried the dumbing down of America and the celebration of ignorance that he was witnessing at that time, in 1995. As most of us have noticed, if things have changed at all, this celebration of ignorance has only grown.

The passage at the top is an understandable explanation of those who still somehow, beyond all explanation, defend the behavior of trump- the unending lying, the blatant corruption, the sheer amorality, the rampant criminality and the traitorous disloyalty to the office and the nation.

They just don’t want to admit they were bamboozled.

They still believe there is some sort of redemption ahead, some move by trump that will miraculously explain the vast array of lies and corrupt actions that have rained down on us nearly every day for the past three years. Personally, I can’t point to any single moment, any words or actions, any evidence of any kind that has me asking myself if maybe this guy is being somehow unjustly persecuted.

No, he is getting what his actions warrant. That is, if the pillars of our democracy hold.

The bamboozle isn’t over yet. The charlatan is still at work.

For this Sunday morning music, I am presenting a different sort of bamboozlement. There are two videos below from Puddles, the 6′ 8′ clown with the Pagliacci manner and a beautiful baritone voice, and his Puddles Pity Party. He has taken two songs, Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues and the Who’s Pinball Wizard and mashed them together, switching the lyrics from one to the music from the other.

Both are terrific. It’s like two of  my favorite musical artists had weird but fun children. This should be the only sort of acceptable bamboozling.

Give a listen, hopefully enjoy and have a good Sunday.


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