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“A Time For Leaving”- At the Principle Gallery, Alexandria, VA



My famous last words
Could never tell the story
Spinning unheard
In the dark of the sky

–If This Is Goodbye, Mark Knopfler



I don’t feel like saying much today so let’s move right on to the music selection for this Sunday morning. I wanted something to fit with the painting above. A Time For Leaving, which is headed down to the Principle Gallery for their upcoming small works show. I went through a lot of music but nothing jumped out at me.

There were two finalists in my mind. One was from the wonderful collaboration between Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris, If This Is Goodbye. The other was a track, Leaving the Table, from Leonard Cohen‘s great final album, You Want It Darker. Both did the job for me so I decided to share both.

If you’d like, give a listen. If not, move on. Either way, try to have a peaceful day.





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“The Paragon’– Headed to the Principle Gallery



Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.

-Ian Maclaren



The quote above is often misattributed to Plato but was actually the product of Ian Maclaren which was the pen name used by Scottish minister Dr. John Watson (1850-1907) when writing his works of fiction which were highly popular in his time. Regardless of whether it was first uttered by Plato, Ian Maclaren or Peewee Herman, it’s darn good advice and applicable to any time or place. 

No matter how low you fall in your life there is inevitably someone in a far worse situation. I know from my own experience that what seems the bottom depths to me might seem a ceiling for others. Life is hard for many of us at some point in our lives but it can be extraordinarily harsh for some other folks on a regular basis, often for reasons beyond their control.

The flipside of this thought is equally as potent a piece of advice. It’s something I keep in mind constantly in loose partnership with the advice above. It would most likely be phrased: Be kind and humble, because there is always both someone worse off than you and someone far greater than you out there.

Just as there is always someone facing greater challenges than you, there is always someone who possesses more talent and ability, more intelligence, more everything than you. 

You may never know what the person in front of you in line at the supermarket is going through in their life, what struggles they might be fighting or what their special gifts might be.

So, be kind and humble. It takes so little effort, it doesn’t cost a thing, and doesn’t take anything away from yourself. In fact, it adds to who you are as a person and makes your small part of this big world a little better place.

Kindness often begets kindness, after all. And we could all use a little more kindness these days.

Amen. End of sermon.

So, let’s have a Be Kind Friday, okay?

Now kindly get out of here and have a good day. 

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You thought the leaden winter
Would bring you down forever
But you rode upon a steamer
To the violence of the sun

And the colors of the sea
Blind your eyes with trembling mermaids
And you touch the distant beaches
With tales of brave Ulysses

Eric Clapton/ Martin Sharp, Tales of Brave Ulysses



Today, I thought I’d share the new small piece above, The Voyager, which is headed down to the Principle Gallery for their annual show of small works for the holiday season. These small boat pieces are among my favorites to paint and this particular painting fits in with that trend. There’s something in the simplicity of the compositions that makes it even more fulfilling when emotion is evoked from just a few simple forms and colors.

Like a visual haiku.

For this week’s  Sunday morning music, I sought something that would pair up with this piece and decided that we would go back in time a bit, back to 1967. I thought we’d listen to some Cream this morning, from their classic Disraeli Gears album. As some of you may know, Cream was the first supergroup with members– Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker— all coming together from other highly successful bands. With their strong personalities, they only lasted a short time but produced some great and lasting music, including today’s song, Tales of Brave Ulysses

Here’s a little trivia about this song: This was earliest use of the wah-wah pedal by Clapton and the song was a collaboration between Clapton and an artist neighbor who lived in the the same building, Martin Sharp. Sharp heard that Clapton was a musician ( he wasn’t yet a legend at that point) and told him that he had written a poem that he thought might make a good song. Fortuitously, Clapton had been working on some music that was based on a current hit song that was among his favorites. The song was, surprisingly enough, Summer in the City from the Loving Spoonful.

I had to go back and listen to see if I could see the influence. It doesn’t jump out at you but it’s there, after all.

Anyway, this song became the B-side to Cream’s Strange Brew and has become a classic bit of rock history. And today it’s floating along with the The Voyager at the top. I threw in their Sunshine of Your Love from the same album mainly because it’s a favorite of mine. But it could fit this panting as well. For that matter, Strange Brew might also fit. You be the judge.

Enjoy your own voyage and have a good Sunday.



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“A Time For Reckoning”– At the West End Gallery



“For now she need not think of anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of – to think; well not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others… and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures.”

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse



I gave a Virtual Gallery Talk in late August from the West End Gallery where the primary theme was the aloneness required for the creation of art. Well, at least, in my experience.

I thought I did a credible job but coming across the paragraph above from Virginia Woolf in her classic To the Lighthouse made me think I could have been a lot more concise in my explanation of the concept. Just a beautiful piece of writing. And it encapsulates in a moment what I struggled to describe over the course of a half hour.

I am humbled by own inarticulateness but equally happy just to somewhat share the same idea of which she so eloquently wrote. It makes me want to just shut up and recede into being that wedge-shaped core of darkness, as she put it, and seeking those strange internal adventures on which art is built.

Sounds like a plan. Have a good day.

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“A Time For Reckoning”– At the West End Gallery


Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.

Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember

 


I think the hardest part of the last four years has been the lack of unified joy in this country. This void comes from the top where we have a president*** who lacks whatever gene is responsible for finding joy in this world. The closest thing to joy is the pleasure he finds in the obsequious praise of toadies. In fact, he is annoyed by the joy of others. Have you ever heard him praise anyone without somehow trying to take part of their success for himself?

He is, as the late Mr. Rogers might have said, disabled in that way.

And while our joy should not be incumbent on his behavior, it sets a tone that has seeped through our society. His way of crudely dismissing the joy and potential of others is becoming the prevailing sentiment. He doesn’t look at a person and see their story of what they have went through or what they may become. He see’s only what they can do for him. Those voters in their red hats and American flags with his face adorning it are only valuable for the time being as voters and a fawning chorus.

They will never find joy through him or his hollow lies. Only his bitterness and his eventual dismissal of them as well when they are no longer useful.

His disability will become theirs.

The poet Elaine Griffin Baker put it very well with her observational lines below on the last few years of this president***. As she writes: We are rudderless and joyless.

Below it is an effective reading of a large part of it by Bruce Springsteen.

Have a good day.

Vote. Vote so that we might someday soon find joy again. Just vote.


“I’ve been wondering why this entire country seems to be under a cloud of constant misery.
Why we all seem to be Russians waiting in line for toilet paper, meat, Lysol.
Hoarding yeast and sourdough starter “in case we can’t get bread”,
Buying stamps so that one of our most beloved institutions might survive.
Why we all look like we are in bad need of a haircut, or a facial or a reason to dress up again and go somewhere. Anywhere
There is no art in this White House.
There is no literature or poetry in this White House. No music.
No Kennedy Center award celebrations.
There are no pets in this White House. No loyal man’s best friend. No Socks the family cat.
No kids science fairs.
No times when this president takes off his blue suit-red tie uniform and becomes human, except when he puts on his white shirt- khaki pants uniform and hides from Americans to play golf.
There are no images of the first family enjoying themselves together in a moment of relaxation.
No Obama’s on the beach in Hawaii moments, or Bushes fishing in Kennebunkport, no Reagans on horseback, no Kennedys playing touch football on the Cape.
I was thinking the other day of the summer when George H couldn’t catch a fish and all the grandkids made signs and counted the fish-less days.
And somehow, even if you didn’t even like GHB, you got caught up in the joy of a family that loved each other and had fun.
Where did that country go? Where did all of the fun and joy and expressions of love and happiness go? We used to be a country that did the ice bucket challenge and raised millions for charity.
We used to have a president that calmed and soothed the nation instead dividing it.
And a First Lady that planted a garden instead of ripping one out.
We are rudderless and joyless.
We have lost the cultural aspects of society that make America great.
We have lost our mojo. Our fun, our happiness.
The cheering on of others.
The shared experiences of humanity that makes it all worth it.
The challenges AND the triumphs that we shared and celebrated. The unique can-do spirit Americans have always been known for.
We are lost.
We have lost so much
In so short a time.”

Elaine Griffin Baker


 

 

 

 

 

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Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.

Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina


 


GC Myers- Tower of Lies
How long can you stand on a tower of lies?
How long can you endure on a tower built with  lies for posts and boasts for beams ?
How long before you see the folly in reinforcing one lie with another?
How long before the foundations come apart and fail?
How long before truth comes as gravity to pull this tower down?
How long can we tolerate you standing brazenly atop your tower of lies?
How long until the inevitable collapse comes?
How long until we begin to tally the casualties from the fall?
How long before we begin to build a straighter and stronger tower?
How long can you stand on this tower of lies?

The post above ran back in February of 2017. That seems like an eternity ago now. It asks how long you can stand on a tower of lies.

We may be coming to an answer, at last. The past 3 1/2 years has seen the most remarkable amount of lying and deceit ever to spew from an administration. It is without equal in our history.

Not even close.

The whole administration is a tower built from lies, deflections, spittle, tape and hairspray. It is as weak as the fool atop it.

And now the “Good Germans” who continue to shore up the foundations of this rickety horror show now make no pretense of honesty, openly and shamelessly lying for all the world to see. Their words, their ethics, their moral compasses are worthless trinkets now.

It is obvious they will and plan to do absolutely anything needed to maintain power. There are a number of scenarios floating out there that outline sheer power plays right out of the fascist/authoritarian playbook that might be in play soon. As hard as it is to imagine these things ever coming to be in this land, we have to at least look at them, be aware of them.

I know that four years ago, in September of 2016, I worried that the scenario we’re experiencing might be a possibility with the election of the orange creature. But I felt that my imagination was just running wild and that the institutions, our Constitution, the balance of power would surely  be strong enough to hold back the onslaught.

So now, I hope for the best outcome but pledge to be prepared for the worst.

Be aware and prepare.

Here’s another song from people who were in such a situation. It’s Bella Ciao, a resistance song from the Italian partisans, the anti-fascists who fought the underground battle against Mussolini and Hitler during World War II.

Bella Ciao was originally a rallying song for the women who labored in the rice paddies of northern Italy in the 19th century. Their jobs were backbreaking and they were treated poorly which resulted in strikes and riots and the violence that accompanies such things. This was their rallying song. Bellla Ciao translates as Goodbye Beautiful.

This version is from Marc Ribot‘s 2018 album Songs of Resistance 1942-2018 and features the unmistakable vocals of the great Tom Waits. It is a powerful version of a powerful song that still stands as symbol of resistance to authoritarianism to this day.

Let’s hope we don’t have to adopt this song as our own. Be aware and prepare.

 

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“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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“The Timeout” At West End Gallery

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Why do you so earnestly seek
the truth in distant places?
Look for delusion and truth in the
bottom of your own heart.

― Ryōkan Taigu (1758-1831)

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Do the deluded know the truth of who and what they are?

Or has their delusion replaced the truth at the bottom of their heart?

Can truth and delusion coexist within the heart of a person?

Or is truth a form of delusion in itself?

I think if we could figure this out, a lot of the problems of the world might fade away. Well, at least, not not seem quite so dire.

But that’s just the deluded opinion of one person…

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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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“One way or another, all the bridges between that time and this one have been burned. Time’s a reach, too, you know, just like the one that lies between the islands and the mainland, but the only ferry that can cross it is memory, and that’s like a ghost-ship – if you want it to disappear, after awhile it will.”

Stephen King, Dolores Claiborne

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I call this piece, at 16″ by 40″ on canvas, Carried Across. Included in my current annual show at the West End Gallery, it’s a painting that brims with potential interpretations for me. The ferry between the living and the dead is the one that jumps out, of course.

But the one offered up above, taken from a Stephen King novel, probably meshes best with my personal view of this painting.

We are always losing people as age takes its toll. Apart from just the loss of that person and all that that entails, we also lose a bridge to their experiences and the memories they held of them. Personal histories, lesser known details and larger myths are often lost in the void as this bridge collapses.

That came to mind in a very personal way the other day as I was able to visit my father for the first time in four months.His nursing facility had instituted a process that allowed one family member to visit a resident under very strict guidelines and I was able to see him in an outdoor courtyard, under an open tent. The process has since been put on hold as a staff member tested positive for the virus.

But sitting there with him was difficult. He was in a large reclining wheelchair and his head was bandaged in a turban-like manner to cover the wound and infection on the side of his head. He was way gone from the fentanyl and morphine he is given to ease the pain, his eyes only fluttering open for milliseconds at any given time. The nurse tried to point me out but he wasn’t able to move his focus my way.

I sat there for a bit just watching him. His hands went to his head covering in a rhythmic way, running his fingers lightly over the cotton mesh that held it in place. At one point he removed his mask and, with eyes completely closed, held it out in front of him while neatly folding it up. He then tried to out it in his pocket under the blanket that covered him. He then checked his wristwatch which was completely covered by the protective arm coverings he wears to prevent him from picking at the sores on his arms. He did this, too, without opening his eyes but seemed to be satisfied and let his head drop back to the one side where fell naturally.

I chuckled lightly at that. But having him there in front of me, still alive but so very far away at the same time, reminded me of all the stories and memories that are lost to us now. The good and bad, the funny and the tragic, the day to day reminiscences– all gone and inaccessible. I have known this for some time as we have witnessed the progress of his dementia but there was a finality in that visit.

It was like I had made that crossing on that ferry and had returned with a still empty chair.

Over the years, I have often regretted the lost opportunities in seeking out the stories and memories that bind us to our preceding generations. This is made especially clear when I work on genealogy and come across episodes or people that I would love to know more about. How they really were, how they talked, the little foibles and details that made them human that can’t be captured in documents or news reports.

That is the stuff of memory.

Maybe that should be the subtitle for this piece– Carried Across ( The Stuff of Memory).

Okay, here’s a song to go along with this painting, an attachment I made yesterday when the song came up on my playlist. It’s The Passenger from the godfather of punk, Iggy Pop. It’s a great tune, one that seems to be a staple for every alt-rock singer that comes along to cover.

Iggy Pop is an interesting and often downplayed character in the annals of rock music. One of my favorite memories of him was his appearance in 1977 on the Dinah Shore show where he sat down with the always hospitable Dinah Shore, David Bowie and Rosemary Clooney to talk about cutting himself with a broken bottle as part of a performance. It came out years later that he and Dinah Shore– who had an extremely long list of relationships and hookups through the decades– were an item for a bit. But seeing him on a show singing Fun Time on the same show where Rosemary Clooney sings Come On-a My House is everything you could hope for on a 1970’s daytime talk show.

One more little factoid: The sons of comedian Soupy Sales were members of Iggy’s band at that time. Younger readers are probably asking who the hell is Soupy Sales. Ask your parents or grandparents before those bridges burn down.

Anyway, here’s The Passenger. Have a good day if you can.

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