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Archive for the ‘Quote’ Category

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Love, whether newly born, or aroused from a deathlike slumber, must always create sunshine, filling the heart so full of radiance that it overflows upon the outward world.

–Nathaniel Hawthorne

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A few choice words for this Valentine’s Day from Nathaniel Hawthorne, who is not someone who normally comes immediately to mind when one thinks of love and romance. But creating sunshine and filling the heart with radiance,as he put it, is not the province of any one writer.

I have plenty to do so I am going to keep this short today. Here’s a wonderful version from the immortal Nat King Cole performing the classic Embraceable You, written by George Gershwin back in 1928. Enjoy your Valentine’s Day. Or if the holiday doesn’t really move you, enjoy your Friday. Either way, it’s a win.

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Artists who live and work with spiritual values cannot and should not remain indifferent to a conflict in which the highest values of humanity and civilization are at stake.

–Pablo Picasso

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I always worry about alienating people who come to this blog to read about art and are greeted with my opinions and beliefs on the world. But reading the words above from Pablo Picasso this morning reminds me that my art is a product of all that I am and all that I witness in this world. I like to think that the work is about the human spirit and emotion. As such, I can’t remain indifferent or ignore those things that set off my emotional alarms nor those that eat away at what I see as the collective human spirit that we all share.

Thinking this made me look for another blog entry that I wrote just a couple of years back that featured some other words from Picasso as well the painting above, his masterpiece Guernica.

Here it is:

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Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.

Pablo Picasso

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Many of my favorite artists worked and produced their greatest works in times where the world was under great stress. Two World Wars only decades apart and– in the case of Picasso– the Spanish Civil War in between. Here, we had the Great Depression. Times of social transformation and spiritual upheaval. Even when the work didn’t overtly deal with the events of the day, much of the work reflected on the collective consciousness of that time.

I think that is so because art is, just as Picasso so succinctly states, a lie that makes us realize the truth.

Artists fabricate, often creating work that is on its surface pure fantasy with little relation to the world as others might observe it. But their fabrication is made up from everything that impacts them– their knowledge, their observations, their opinions and emotions. Artists take in the world and create something that seems like a pure fabrication.

A lie.

But what seems the lie often proves to be built of ultimate truths, just constructed in a manner that allows others to see this truth clearly.

I don’t know that we artists always succeed. I certainly don’t feel that I do as often as I would  like. But when a piece succeeds and shows us something far beyond what its surface represents, it is a true revelation.

Believing that, so long as we feel deeply and continue to create our lies, we will at some point reveal a truth.

Got to get to work now…

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Peter Doig- Swamped 1990

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I sometimes wish I had never had to sell a painting. Every painting you make represents the time it was made and how you were feeling and what your influences were… You are never going to feel that way again, so you can never repeat it…

–Peter Doig 

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I shouldn’t make such a blanket statement but I doubt that most of you out there know the name of the contemporary artist Peter Doig. I know that I wasn’t fully aware of him until a decade or so back and even then only on a passing basis where I would stop and examine his work when I would come across it in an article. The piece at the top always made me stop and look a bit closer.

But the fact of the matter is that the Scottish born Doig (b. 1959) is perhaps the most sought after living artist working today with works selling for the tens of millions at auction. Of the 9 paintings shown here, only one sold for less than $10 million at auction. The most expensive sold for over $ 28 million. I won’t tell you which is which. There were many others on the auction sites that sold for between 1 and 4 million that I didn’t include.

These prices always open up a debate with lots of questions on the relative value of artwork. What makes a work worth $28 million? Does the auction value of the work determine its importance or does its importance determine its value? Is the working and thinking process of this artist that much different than that of an artist that sells for tremendously less?

You might think from the direction this seems to be heading that I am decrying Doig’s work selling for what I believe are ludicrous sums. I am not. I very much like and admire his work. I can see those elements in it that make it distinct. It is good and great work and might very well be among the most important work from this time. If his work can bring in that kind of money, I applaud him.

I am, if anything, criticizing myself for not having the ability– or knowledge or audacity– to command such prices. I know that the price of a piece of art sometimes determines how serious collectors view it and that a great piece can be overlooked simply because it is too inexpensive, at least by the standards of collectors.

That has happened to me at times.

In some galleries, my works sits at the top end of their market and in others, in the middle or near the bottom of their price ranges. While I am satisfied with that, I firmly believe that my work is greatly undervalued across the board, that it should be demanding much higher prices.

Now, that sounds like confidence, doesn’t it? Maybe even overconfidence?

Actually, it is the opposite of that. It is a lack of confidence and a bit of fear that keeps the prices of my work in the range where they are and have been. While I have the belief in the relative value of my work, I just don’t have the guts to make that jump.

I have been poor in my life and it wasn’t that long ago that I was dead broke and I think that tempers my ambitions, as far as pricing my work is concerned. I like to have my work sell and make a living from it. I take pride in being able to live off of the product of my own thoughts and imagination. And I find a sense of security in being able to provide what I consider high quality work at prices that make it obtainable for more people than if it were in a much higher range– it’s undervaluation generally means that the work will sell eventually.

Maybe I am too comfortable and seeing Mr. Doig’s prices just nudges me a bit, telling me to be less comfortable, to be more proactive.

I don’t know. Just thinking out loud this morning. I wrote this because much of what I have read about and from Doig jibes with my own experiences, including the quote at the top. For all the talk about prices, every real piece of art represents a certain time and place for that artist, one that is distinct and not repeatable. I know that I will sometimes look at a piece and remember the days I spent in front of it while painting it. That time, that thought process is burned into my psyche and will never happen again in the same way.

Anyway, lets’s push aside thoughts of money for now and just look at the paintings of Peter Doig a bit more.

Peter Doig- Rosedale 1991

Peter Doig– Red House 1995

Peter Doig– Island Painting 2000/01

Peter Doig– Grasshopper 1990

Peter Doig — Daytime Astronomy 1998/99

Peter Doig– Charley’s Space 1990

Peter Doig– Forestia 1996

Peter Doig– Almost Grown 2000

 

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Frantisek Kupka – The Black Idol (Resistance) 1903

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“In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”

Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956

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Cautionary words from a man who experienced the results from a nation that went in the direction in which we seem to be moving. Much like yesterday’s post, a warning that we shall reap the amplified consequences from the evil we have sown with the silent compliance contained in our acceptance of it.

As they say, ’nuff said.

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When men sow the wind

it is rational to expect

that they will reap the whirlwind.

–Frederick Douglass

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Amplified consequence.

In his 1892 essay, Lynch Law in the South, Frederick Douglass used the proverb from biblical book Hosea, to illustrate how man often sets things in motion that have results that extend far beyond– and often in stark opposition to– their intended goals. Douglass wrote that the deadly violence being shown against the black citizens of the south at that time would eventually come back to haunt those that perpetrated the deed or stood idly by, complicit in their silence.

The biblical proverb in Hosea was about how the the citizens of Israel of that time ( ca 725 BC, I believe) took to idolatry, the worship of false idols, and how their actions brought down upon them the wrath of God. In that book the author uses the concept of farming to make his point, that a  a single seed of grain sowed by a farmer returns to him many times over.

An amplified consequence.

Of course, the farmer can usually tell what the result of his sowing will be. X amount of seed will allow him to reap Y amount of grain at harvest under normal circumstances. Predictable.

But that same degree of predictability doesn’t apply to all other actions man sometimes sets in motion. While we might initially think we control the outcome, we sometimes put actions into motion — sow our seed– that we cannot control, that return to us with such amplification and intensity that we are overcome and sometimes decimated by the result.

One small, seemingly insignificant action, such as not paying attention to a rising dangerous wind, can sometimes turn into a maelstrom of destruction that we never saw coming.

Take that for what it’s worth, given the events in recent days in this country.

The painting at the top is called Into the Winds of Change and is part of the West End Gallery‘s annual Little Gems show that opens tonight with an opening reception from 5-7:30 PM. Hopefully, like the Red Tree here, we can stand against and overcome the whirlwind that may soon be upon us.

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I myself incline to drift, to accept a lesser situation rather than strive for a greater, and yet, I know that character in life and art is only made by an effort that is quite beyond one’s ordinary everyday acceptance of things as they are. 

–Lawren Harris, Letter to Catherine Whyte

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Came across this quote from one of my favorites, the painter Lawren Harris, and it really stood out for me on a couple of fronts.

Personally, it was a reminder that an artist’s character is developed by continuing to push beyond what they know they can do. To become more and not settle for the situation as it is. It’s easy to do what you know is possible but trying to do what you are not sure is within your grasp builds confidence, builds character. That is what moves the needle.

That’s an important thing for any artist to have in mind. I know I have to kick myself on a regular basis to not lull myself to sleep by doing what I know I can do and not attempting to do that new thing that seems too much for me to handle.

But on a larger scale, Harris’ words speak to where we are as a nation at this very moment, We are in a crucial moment and what happens in the coming days and weeks will determine both where we are headed as a nation and what makes up our collective character. Do we take the easy way that just accepts things as they are? Or do we pull from deep within our character and do that which is right even though it might require true effort and perhaps even sacrifice?

I wish I could say which way it will go but I don’t know. I believe that there is so much more that will be soon uncovered that to maintain the status quo will be untenable and there will be big change.

That the character we aspire to as a nation will finally come forward.

But that’s just my belief. Like all beliefs, without effort, it’s not worth much.

I thought the painting at the top, Light House at Father Point, was a great symbol for this post. The light house is a warning device, one that alerts sailors that they are approaching an area where they must proceed with caution.

We are at such a point as well. If we don’t pay attention we could end up on the rocks.

Let’s heed the warning from our own light house and not just take what is at hand as being the way things should be.

Let’s make an effort.

Let’s be more.

Let that define our character.

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The Seven Social Sins

1- Wealth without work.
2- Pleasure without conscience.
3- Knowledge without character.
4- Commerce without morality.
5- Science without humanity.
6- Religion without sacrifice.
7- Politics without principle.

–Frederick Lewis Donaldson, Westminster Abbey sermon, March, 1925

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The list above has been attributed for years to Mahatma Gandhi who published this same list later in the year in 1925 but it first came from a sermon given by Anglican priest, Frederick Lewis Donaldson, at Westminster Abbey in March of that year.  Gandhi published it in his newspaper, Young India, in October, stating in a very short commentary that the list was sent to him by a “fair friend,” adding “Naturally, the friend does not want the readers to know these things merely through the intellect but to know them through the heart so as to avoid them.”

Though Gandhi may not have originated the list, his reputation sent the message worldwide.

Reading the list early this morning, I was struck that the entirety of the list could be applied to many of those who wield the power of government, most notably the person(?) who sits in our white house. He is devoid of all the positive social attributes on the right side of this list, existing without conscience, character, morality,humanity, or principle. Nor is he unwilling to work or sacrifice anything of his own to make the world better for those beneath him in the social pecking order.

Based on his comments stating that traumatic head injuries suffered by our soldiers weren’t real wounds, I think you can throw empathy and a few other positives into the list of things missing from his being.

In short, he is a hollow man.

A husk.

And the more we follow his lead, giving in to his twisted and selfish worldview, the more hollow we become as a nation. You can easily see it in the way he has affected the republican party which has many members in power who, like him, are crossing off more and more items on the list above. They have become a husk of a political party, one without conscience or principle or shame of any sort, all too willing to carry the water for the hollow man.

As a result, he is going to be acquitted in this trial. That’s a forgone conclusion.

As Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote over two thousand years ago: “Here is a man whose life and actions the world has already condemned – yet whose enormous fortune…has already brought him acquittal!

Some things remain the same. That doesn’t make it right nor does it undo the harm already done and the damage yet to come.

And the more hollow we become as a nation, the more of these sins that we normalize, the less able we will become to recover when that damage fully arrives.

We must ask more of our leaders. And ourselves.

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