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Archive for the ‘Quote’ Category

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“Living right in the heart of Tokyo itself is quite like living in the mountains – in the midst of so many people, one hardly sees anyone.”

― Yūko Tsushima, Of Dogs and Walls

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This is a new painting, a 24″ by 24″ canvas, that was inspired in part by the older painting I showed here last week, Raise Your Eyes.  Unlike my normal Red Roof structures which have a closed off feel without doors or windows, these cityscapes are all doors and windows.

All eyes, ears, and mouths.

But as the late, esteemed Japanese writer Yuko Tsushima described in the words above, even with the presence of so many buildings filled with so many people, there is often a sense of anonymity. Perhaps it is the scale of the buildings which sometimes seem like looming mountains that overshadow anything beneath them. Or maybe it is the sheer number of people, so many that the faces and shapes blend into an amorphous blur in passing.

I’m not sure exactly what it is that gives this sense of anonymity but I find the paradox in it fascinating. Maybe that’s one reason why I enjoy painting these pieces so much. The main reason I believe is in the focus required in putting these together. Starting at the bottom of the canvas with no predetermined endpoint in mind, the picture rises slowly with each new structure leading to the next, all the while trying to ascertain how each new move changes the weight and feel of the whole.

Every stroke is a solution to one problem and the beginning of the next.

For me, the result is kind of like looking inside my head. It resembles a jumble, sometimes sloppy and tangled. But somehow, through the mess, it is always trying to create a sense of wholeness, of rightness.

Trying to find order in chaos.

Sometimes, I find it. Sometimes, I don’t.

I am still not sure this painting is finished. I am calling it for time being Around the Clock but for a time had considered calling it Witnesses or Hit and Run. I saw it with a body on the pavement of the intersection at the bottom right of the piece. and maybe a silhouette or two in the windows that look out on it. But I am not sure that I want to add that narrative thread, not sure that I want to change what I am looking at now in that manner.

So, I will dwell on it for a bit before I do anything. Or don’t.

We shall see…

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“ATTENTION, WALMART SHOPPERS…”

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Blessed are the hearts that can bend; they shall never be broken.

― Albert Camus

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We’re wrapping up Gratitude Week on Black Friday. So instead of fist-fighting over a cheap TV in front of Walmart with some creepy toothless guy who looks like he just came from cooking his last batch of meth, why not avoid it altogether and focus on those things you already have.

There’s a pretty good chance you already have everything you really need in your life. And if not, you’re not going to find it in a Black Friday swarm.

So take this time to step back and be grateful for the blessings you possess.

Like the song says: Be thankful for what you’ve got…

Here’s that song, one of my all-time faves from Billy DeVaughn. Be of good heart and have a good and peaceful Friday.

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Thankful

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The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.

― Henry Ward Beecher

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Hoping your hearts are thankful today and that you recognize the blessings that surround you. Have yourself a Happy Thanksgiving.

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“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” 

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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I thought for this installment of Gratitude Week, I would start with the quote above from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

The name might be familiar. I featured him a post last year, On Stupidity, that has been pretty popular, consistently getting quite a few views each week. He was the German pastor who spoke out against the Nazi regime throughout the 1930’s, later being sent to a concentration camp before being sent to his death on the gallows in the last days of the war. On Stupidity described the sort of blatant ignorance that led to the rise of the Nazis and seems to exist here today in forms. Bonhoeffer also coined the term Cheap Grace which also seems abundant these days. It’s a post that is worth another look.

But the words above from Bonhoeffer offer a different and positive thought, that we receive much more from this life than we ever give in return. Understanding this concept and living with a sense of gratitude gives our lives a richness beyond material wealth.

In that vein, I want to point out that there is a political/economic philosophy that has been out there for some time now, one that has led to the increasing disparity of wealth between those at the top and those in the middle and at the bottom.

It basically labels people as Makers and Takers. In the eyes of those at the top, the Makers are those who control the wealth and means of production and the Takers are everyone else. They believe that no matter how integral a person might be in assisting the Makers amass their wealth, they are only there to take from them.

They see the world as a zero sum scenario where there are only winners and losers. Those at the top are winners and anyone below them are losers. The loser Takers are tools at best to be used in their view. When their usefulness has went away, they are nothing more than dead weight.

It’s a distressing idea, one that I would love to say couldn’t exist, but there is ample evidence to support that this belief is flourishing.

I would like to offer a counter-thought.

In my eyes I see the Makers described above as the real Takers. By doing all they can to gain and gain at the expense of others, they extract joy and compassion from this world, along with dignity,respect, and honor. They take away from the humanity of all people with an extreme selfishness that creates a world of solely winners and losers.

But in my worldview anyone can be a Maker because wealth is not the only factor that makes for a better world. Anyone who acts to better people’s lives is a Maker. Those who inspire, those who teach, those who heal, those who put their own lives on the line to rescue those in harm’s way, those who come to the aid of others in need, those who give what little they have until it strains their budgets, those who volunteer, those who work to least the least among us a voice, those who stand up to power so that our air is clean and our food safe, along with so many others—these are the people who make this world a better place, who bring a sense of dignity to all people.

These are the true Makers. These are the people who create the richness of this world.

Please understand that what you have in this world is the result of being assisted by others. You may be the most fabulous, self-sufficient being in the universe but you have done nothing absolutely on your own.

We are the beneficiaries of the work and care of others.

Let us acknowledge that and be grateful. Be a Maker.

 

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Practically all great artists accept the influence of others. But… the artist with vision… by integrating what he has learned with his own experiences… molds something distinctly personal.

-Romare Bearden

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This morning, I came across this quote from Romare Bearden, a favorite of mine. It reminded me of a conversation I had with another artist last night at the opening for the Masterpieces exhibit at the West End Gallery.

This artist, who has a formidable talent level that was obvious to see in their past work, is in the midst of breaking loose creatively in a way that is establishing a distinct voice. It’s exciting to see the work blossom, thrilling to see an artist take their toolbag of acquired skills and transform them into something unique and personal, something that moves them out and away from their teachers and influences.

It is interesting to witness this artist’s enthusiasm for the new work balloon in a way that creates even more enthusiasm. Each new piece pushes the next forward and forms more and more energy. And that personal voice becomes stronger.

It’s a rare thing to experience and a hard thing to describe. But it is certainly fun to watch when it does happen.

To go with the Bearden piece at the top, Jazz II, from 1980, I thought I’d share the Miles Davis classic So What. Seems like a good way to start yet another dark gray Saturday.

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Art has always been my salvation. And my gods are Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Mozart. I believe in them with all my heart. And when Mozart is playing in my room, I am in conjunction with something I can’t explain — I don’t need to. I know that if there’s a purpose for life, it was for me to hear Mozart. Or if I walk in the woods and I see an animal, the purpose of my life was to see that animal. I can recollect it, I can notice it. I’m here to take note of. And that is beyond my ego, beyond anything that belongs to me, an observer, an observer.

–Maurice Sendak

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Amen to these wise words from the late great Maurice Sendak.

Thought it might be nice to share some of his work beyond Where the Wild Things Are. It is equally as wonderful.

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Diego Rivera- Zapatista Landscape 1915

 

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As an artist I have always tried to be faithful to my vision of life, and I have frequently been in conflict with those who wanted me to paint not what I saw but what they wished me to see.

–Diego Rivera

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Big fan of the work of Diego Rivera (1886-1957), the great Mexican painter/muralist and husband of Frida Kahlo. There is much I love in his work such as the way his colors harmonize and soar off the surfaces, the sheer brilliance of his compositions, the scale and breadth of his murals and the fact that his work was beautiful and powerful in whatever genre or style he chose at any given moment. He was also fearless in expressing his political and philosophical beliefs in his work, often becoming a strong element in his work.

I also admire his absolute devotion to his own voice in his work, as noted in the quote above. He painted his own vision, not what others desired him to see. That’s a big thing for any artist and not something easily done. Too often artists try to work for the approval of other eyes, for people who want their work to remain as they have always known it.

It’s understandable from the perspective of a viewer to want an artist to remain in that space that first attracted the viewer. They know and like the work as it is and perhaps can’t imagine it becoming more than it is if it somehow evolves or changes. Or they fear it will become less or something that doesn’t speak to them in the same way. As I said, it’s understandable.

But from the artist’s point of view this present a threat in that this may stop them from expanding their creative vision. They begin to be afraid to go off their own beaten path, to try new things, to move out of their comfort zone to challenge themselves, and to grow their self-created universe. They remain in a known space and may never know how expansive their vision might be if they only tried.

From what I know, Diego Rivera always moved to new creative spaces with his work. He painted with his own voice, even in his commissioned murals. I still stumble on pieces of his that surprise me.

A true inspiration.

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Diego Rivera’s Mural at the City College of San Francisco

Detroit Institute of Arts Mural Segment

Diego Rivera- Flower Seller

Diego Rivera- The Alarm Clock

Diego Rivera- Nocturnal Landscape 1947

Diego Rivera- Symbolic Landscape 1940

Diego Rivera- View of Toledo 1912

Detroit Institute of Arts Mural Segment

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