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Archive for the ‘Quote’ Category

Was looking through some images of work from around 2006 and 2007 and came across this painting, The Middle Way. It really jumped out at me so thought I’d share it along with a blogpost from back in 2009 about a Henry Miller essay. The painting and the essay seem to fit together well.

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    From the very beginning almost I was deeply aware that there is no goal. I never hope to embrace the whole, but merely to give in each separate fragment, each work, the feeling of the whole as I go on, because I am digging deeper and deeper into life, digging deeper and deeper into past and future. With the endless burrowing a certitude develops which is greater than faith or belief. I become more and more indifferent to my fate, as a writer, and more and more certain of my destiny as man.

      – Henry Miller, Reflections on Writing

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This is a fragment of an essay, Reflections on Writing, from a book of essays, The Wisdom of the Heart, by Henry Miller, the great and controversial author. When I was young his books such as Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn were still being characterized as “smut” and many libraries didn’t have them on their shelves for fear the morality police would swoop in and raise a fuss. Probably many only know the existence and influence of his books from their use in a memorable Seinfeld episode, the one with Bookman the library cop whose hard-boiled dialogue still makes me hoot.

For me, I wasn’t so much attracted to his books by the raciness of the stories but rather by his way of speaking through his words and expressing views that I found at once to be compatible with my own. He observed and said the things that I  wished I could say with a voice and power I wished I possessed. I can pick up one of his books and open to a page anywhere in the book and read and be fascinated without knowing the context of what I’m reading, just from the sheer strength of his writing’s voice.

I see a lot of things in this particular essay that translate as well for painting or any other form of creation. It opens:

Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery. The adventure is a metaphysical one: it is a way of approaching life indirectly, of acquiring a total rather than a partial view of the universe. The writer lives between the upper and lower worlds: he takes the path in order to eventually become that path himself.

Substituting artist for writer, I was immediately pulled in. The path he refers to is the path I often refer to in my paintings, the path we all walk and struggle along on, trying to find the middle way between these upper and lower worlds.

It’s a good essay and one I recommend for anyone who creates in any form and struggles with the meaning of their work beyond its surface. For anyone seeking that path…

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In these gaudy times, we think we will shortly reach the point where everything is known, but the fact is we are ignoring the essential, which is love of all living things, of all beauty both visible and hidden.

–Georges Rouault (France, 1871- 1958)

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Looking at the work of Georges Rouault, I am as excited by it now as when I first encountered it many years ago. It is fearlessly painted and brimming with the fervor with which he imbued all his work. It makes me want to do better, makes me want to make marks that are absolute expressions and proof of my being in this world.

Inspiring stuff, indeed.

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When I read the line above taken from the journal of the great Canadian artist Emily Carr (1871-1945), it really hit close to the bone for me. I thought about my early forays in my youth when I believed I wanted to be a writer.

I loved the words and their power, their ability to create emotion and reaction in the mind of the reader. But I cared little about creating narrative, about the details, the nuts and bolts, involved in storytelling. It was the essence of things that interested me, the atmospheres of silence and distance and empty space.

It was all too heady for an uneducated and inexperienced kid. I didn’t know what to do with writing that evolved into what seemed to be ethereal nothingness. More and more, it became a frustrating exercise.

And I think that is where painting came in for me, at a time when I truly needed it. I found that painting, especially landscape painting, was less about narrative and more about that essence, about capturing moments of atmosphere and perceived emotion and spirit.

The unwordable and the unformable, as Emily Carr put it.

I definitely see this evocation of essence in the work of Emily Carr and can only hope to find the same in my own.

 

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Kay WalkingStick- New Mexico Desert 2011

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Avoid methodology. If what you’re doing is about technique, that’s not art.

–Kay WalkingStick

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Very much agree with this quote from contemporary landscape painter Kay WalkingStick. Soon to be 84 years old, Kay WalkingStick is a member of the Cherokee Nation who was raised in Syracuse and was an art professor at nearby Cornell University for a number of years. She incorporates Native American symbols and patterns in her work, which are often executed in diptych forms.

Even though there has been a physical proximity. I don’t know a lot about her work. I would love to see it up close to examine the surfaces, to see how the pieces speak in person.

Her advice about not tying yourself solely to process is a most valuable lesson for all artists. I think you need to live in the fringes of technique, always ready to stray into territory of material use that is new to you as an artist. You need to feel a bit lost so that you react intuitively, using what little you do know in new ways.

That is where the magic sometimes happens, where art takes place.

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“The price of greatness is responsibility.”

― Winston Churchill

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I saw an idiot* on television yesterday say, “The buck stops with everybody.”

Inspiring stuff. A new chapter in Profiles in Courage.

But, even though this pains me to say, the moron* was right.

Well, right in a way, not in the instance of which he was speaking, where he was trying to relieve himself of all responsibility for the particular situation in which he finds himself. No, the fool* is the primary bearer of the responsibility for that.

I am saying the buck stops with us all right now. We have allowed and enabled this whole ugly situation to take place. We have willingly given a looter a flamethrower and we are now witnessing how much damage can be done as he flees the scene.

And he* is very much a looter.  Think about it.

A looter comes riding in on a wave of chaos and confusion, grabbing whatever he can as he runs through the mayhem. He thrives on the bedlam taking place around him because his only concern, his only focus, is on himself alone. He carelessly pushes people aside to get where and what he wants. Not a bit of care for the damage being done or the losses suffered from his actions. Not a single thought for those hurt as he tramples through.

And when it looks like the authorities are closing in, the looter* uses his flamethrower and sows even more confusion. When the whole city is ablaze, you focus on putting out the fire. The looter* focuses only on moving himself to safety.

It is now time for us all to understand that this is our responsibility to end this chaos, to extinguish the fires and take the flamethrower out of the tiny hands of the looter*. We must make our presence felt and our voices heard. Hit the phones and keyboards. Take to the streets and do it now. We can’t depend on anyone else doing it for us.

It is our responsibility.

If we want to continue to be considered a great nation, this is the price we must now pay. Because as Winston Churchill states above, responsibility is the price for greatness.

Or as a reality TV show nitwit* once said, “The buck stops with everybody.”

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Is there not some chosen curse, some hidden thunder in the stores of heaven, red with uncommon wrath, to blast the man who owes his greatness to his country’s ruin?

– Joseph Addison, Cato, 1713

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As much as I want to, I am not going to comment on the ridiculous speech, if you want to use that word for this thing that aired on our nation’s airwaves last night. The speech and the “crisis” to which it referred were nothing more than a calculated distraction from the constant flow of emerging information that is providing more and more clarity in the investigation into the current squatter who resides in our White House.

Yesterday, a clerical error by the lawyers for Paul Manafort, the onetime campaign manager for this squatter, provided yet another puzzle piece, one that filled out the overall picture a bit more, letting us see that we may indeed be dealing with actions that are truly traitorous to this nation.

It is now well beyond anything we have dealt with at this level of our government at any point in our history. We are in uncharted territory.

Treacherous territory.

I wrote about the possibility of this type of treasonous behavior here a few weeks back in a post called Circle of Traitors. The painting at the top, which reflects the subject of that post, Dante and Virgil in the Ninth Level of Hell, is from Gustave Dore who is better known for his popular engravings.

I am not going to go on anymore this morning. I just want you to consider the actions of traitors and how they have been viewed through history. The line at the top from Joseph Addison has Cato, the noble defender of the Roman republic and its people, railing against the coming tyranny of Julius Caesar, whose actions ultimately led to the downfall of the Roman Empire.

The person who would willingly betray the interests of the people they have sworn to serve in order to fulfill their own egotistical desires does not fare well in the end.

Nor does the country or empire that allows such a creature rise to power.

Keep your eyes open, folks. The circle is coming closer.

 

 

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My days, my years, my life has seen up and downs, lights and darknesses. If I wrote only and continually of the ‘light’ and never mentioned the other, then as an artist, I would be a liar.

–Charles Bukowski

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This is a painting, Sleepwalk, from back in 2002. It is part of what I call my Dark Work which was when I first began working on a black painted surface. The idea was to make the blackness part of the painting, to give the painting the darkness against which I could set the contrast of the light.

Like the poet Charles Bukowski says above, I felt that in order to be honest as an artist I had to incorporate my own darkness in my work. Utilizing the darkness kept the perceived optimism of the work from wandering into the territory of cockeyed Pollyanna-ism. It provided contrast in the form of a sense of reality, a basis for validating the optimism of the light and the color.

Light needs dark, plain and simple.

The Dark Work was very important for me and I continue to paint using the same process and techniques I developed in that time. This particular piece has lived with me for many years now and I love pulling it out to study it from time to time. There always seems to be something new to focus on. A brushstroke. A section of the texture. The transition of one color into another.

It provides lessons that memory has long forgotten as I continue my own sleepwalk through this life.

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