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Archive for the ‘Recent Paintings’ Category

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end

Homer, The Odyssey

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Last week I showed a painting in an early stage.  It’s composition was all blocked in with red oxide and the sky was partially laid in. I wrote about the decisions that were in front of me and how I was seeing how it might go from that point on.

Well, at the top of this page is the nearly finished painting, one that I am calling Dawn Invocation. At that earlier point I thought that this painting might go in a much different direction, one slightly darker in tone.

It turns out that my vision for it and the final product differed a bit. That’s not a judgment on how I am feeling about this piece because I find myself very pleased with this painting in its present state. It was just a matter of the process leading me to add a bit more light and color, even though the colors are a bit more muted and tonal than my typical choices.

The resulting piece is more open and inviting than the one I originally saw in the underpainting. Calmer. More resolved.

There are still a few touches that need to be placed, some that I see just now as I write this. They are small adjustments but sometimes these little strokes here and there add much more to the overall feel of the painting than you might think.

So, it goes back on the easel for a short time. This is one of those pieces that carry a lot of small lessons as I move forward which makes it memorable for me, well beyond my own affinity for the painting itself.

And that’s a good thing on any day.

 

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I thought that since today is Earth Day I would show this newer painting, an 18″ by 24″ canvas, that I am calling Sanctus Terrae, which translates as sacred land.

Sacred Land.

We like to claim that we hold a certain reverence for the world in which we live and see it as the living organism that supports us. But it seems as we have short memories and forget that all too often we have treated the earth with disdain, carelessly and selfishly using its resources with complete disregard for the consequences.

Think about the industrial pollution that plagued this country in the 60’s and 70’s.  Remember the thick brown clouds of smog that hovered over our cities. Don’t forget our indiscriminate use of pesticides such as DDT or the widespread water pollution that poisoned the ecosystems of so many of our rivers, killing all sorts of fish and wildlife. Or Love Canal. Or the acid rain that swept in from industries of the midwest to adversely affect my beloved Adirondack Mountains, killing great swathes of trees and making the lakes there practically uninhabitable for the native species of fishes. It still affects the area and it is estimated that by 2040 there will be no fish in any Adirondack lakes.

But we have made some great strides.  Cleaner energy reproduction is on the rise, lowering the cost of energy and creating a huge number of jobs. Most American cities today look radically different than they did in the middle of the 20th century,  Take Cleveland for example. My earliest memories of Cleveland came from a family trip that took us through that city in 1967 or 68. I remember the horror I felt at the yellow/brown skies that lingered over Lake Erie and the acrid sulphur stench of the air.

This was before the vastly polluted Cuyahoga River famously caught fire there in 1969. Actually, 1969 was just the worst of the fires on that river–it had been on fire a number of times over the years.

To me at that time, it felt like a hell on earth. That image of the city still jumps to mind. But go there today and that city shows little evidence of that past. It skies are clear, the lake and rivers run clear, and the sulphur smell has departed. It feels relatively clean and green and is a pleasant place in which to live or visit.

But we are at a point with this administration where they view the regulations that brought about these positive changes as some sort of restraint on the rights of large corporations, that their right to make profits supersedes their responsibility to the land or its inhabitants. They seem hellbent on reversing every forward stride made toward cleaning up our environment, forgetting that most regulations that are in place came about to address a real problem or concern.

Just because the problem has been alleviated (most likely as a result of the regulation) doesn’t mean that we should revert to the old way of doing something.

So on this Earth Day, we have to stand up for this, our sacred land. If you’re old enough take a moment and remember what the past really looked like.  If you’re younger, do some research and check out the ecological past of your area. Then take action. Act responsibly with your own interactions with this land. Vote.

Just don’t think that you can ignore it by sticking your head in the sand– you don’t know what might end up being down there.

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I’m not a religious person and wasn’t raised with any religion in my life. Growing up, Easter was just another excuse to gorge myself on candy and boiled eggs.

But the idea of resurrection that this day represents is a potent theme, one that resonates deeply with me. I am not talking about actual resurrection, the rising from the grave type of thing. But the idea of rebirth, of washing away the past and beginning anew has always struck a chord within me.

Maybe that’s why I am a morning person. Each day is a personal resurrection of sorts. There is a new start each day the sun comes up, a new chance to redeem yourself in some way. So, in a way, Easter is just part of a continuum of  constant rebirth, one that transcends personal religion.

For this Sunday morning music I am choosing a song that concerns itself with a more literal form of resurrection. It is Ain’t No Grave (Gonna Hold This Body Down) which was written in 1934 by Claude Ely. He was twelve years old at the time and was stricken with tuberculosis. His family is said to have prayed for his health to return and in response, he spontaneously performed this song.

I can’t attest to that part of the story but it is a pretty well known gospel standard now. This version is from the great Odetta.

The newer painting above is a small 8″ by 8″ panel that I call Resurrection. It feels very Easter-y to me.

Have a good Sunday.

 

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A child in India grows up with the idea that you have to make choices that will create a better future. In fact, your whole life is a continuum of choices, so the more conscious you are, the greater your life will be.

Deepak Chopra
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I don’t think many of us spend much time in considering the many choices that we make each day that make up our life. Indeed, the many choices we make that form our personality and our character.

And that’s a shame because we do have a great deal of control over who we are and how we live.  More control than many of us would believe, especially those of us who make a choice not to choose, to live an unconscious life that takes little notice of the possible consequences of our decisions.

I see this new painting, an 18″ by 24″ canvas that I call The Choice, as a representation of those who decide the course of their lives. Clarity, light, and color make up this painting for me and I would like to think that is the same for those people who choose their own way.

Of course, there are bad decisions made after much deliberation. That is our But it seems to me that knowing why or how something has gone wrong makes the decision in how one deals with the consequences that much simpler. And being conscious of our decisions and actions makes it more likely that we can make adjustments as we move forward. Adjustments that will help us find the feeling represented in this piece.

I wrote this off the cuff this morning so maybe it won’t sound that good later today.  But even so, there’s something about this piece that really appeals to me and pulls me in.

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The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.

Friedrich Nietzsche

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I am calling this new painting, a 30″ by 24″ canvas, Maverick. I hesitated about using that particular word for a bit, as it seemed a bit tainted for me by a certain past vice-presidential candidate from outside the lower 48 states. But it’s too good a word to let that person’s use of the word spoil it. A maverick is just a consciously active nonconformist, someone who makes the choice to separate themselves from the herd.

I think many of us would like to think of ourselves as nonconformists or mavericks. But I don’t know how many of us ever really deserve that label.

I know that I certainly don’t see myself as one, at least in the true sense of the word. I find myself all too often bending to the will of the crowd and staying in line. Oh, I still try to have my way and to do what I want in the manner that I want but I try to keep it low key without flaunting it or unnecessarily stepping on toes.

Maybe if you were able to use an adjective in front of the word. An anxious nonconformist or a fretting maverick. Maybe then I would put myself in that category.

And even then, probably not. I mean, what kind of maverick cares what they are called? They just want to do their thing without any hassle and the opinions of others be damned.

And that’s kind of what I see here with the Red Tree on a rocky outcropping away from the other multi-colored entities that seem to be primarily focused on the issues of themselves and their neighbors. Looking at the lower part of this piece reminds me of a microscope image of the endoplasm of an amoeba as it pulses and churns. It all seems inward and involved only with what is around it. It can’t see much beyond its own cell walls whereas the Red Tree, having freed itself from those struggles, is able to focus on other matters- the sea, the sky, the sun, and its place in that realm. A perspective that encompasses things well beyond itself.

Well, that’s my opinion. If you’re a maverick you most likely won’t give much of a damn what I think. Good for you.

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The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities.

James Allen, British Author  (1864-1912)

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I’ve had this new painting in the studio for the past few weeks and my eyes keep coming back to it. Not in a questioning way where I am looking for what might be lacking in it.

No, it’s a satisfied look. Instead of me looking for what I can add to it to make it better, I am looking to see what it can add to me to make myself better.

It has that kind of feel to me. More than the sum of its parts.

I am calling this piece, a 24″ by 36″ canvas, Flight of Angels. I take that title from that feeling that there is something hidden in there that is trying to assist me and from the shape of the space running up the river and into the sky. It has the silhouette of an angel, one that just jumps out at me. I’ve altered the image a bit in the image at the bottom of the page to better illustrate what I’m talking about.

Now, I am not sure that I truly believe in angels or can even pretend to know how they would act or move or interact with us. But if I were an angel – and that’s very big if– I could imagine myself flowing in the cool air above rivers and seas, always moving towards the light of the sun.

After all, wouldn’t the angels fly near where the earth, the waters and the skies converge?

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We may never never meet again, on that bumpy road to love
Still I’ll always, always keep the memory of

The way you hold your knife
The way we danced until three
The way you changed my life
No, no they can’t take that away from me
No, they can’t take that away from me

–George and Ira Gershwin, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, 1937

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I was looking at the new painting shown at the top, 10″ by 30″ on canvas, trying to determine what it was saying to me.  For some reason, those lines from a favorite Gershwin song kept popping into my mind–We may never never meet again, on that bumpy road to love/Still I’ll always, always keep the memory of…

The more I thought about it, the more I liked the way the song tied to the image. I think I’ll keep it that way in my mind. You can’t take that away from me.

The song, You Can’t Take That Away From Me, was written by the Gershwins and first performed by Fred Astaire in the 1937 movie Shall We Dance. George Gershwin died two months after the film’s release. Since that time the song has become one of the great entries to the American songbook, performed by a seemingly endless list of jazz and pop singers. There are so many great versions of this song by some of the greatest vocalists of all time that it’s hard to pick one that might stand out for everybody.

For myself, I always come back to the Billie Holiday covers. She started performing the song in 1937 and I like those early performances but the one below from 1957 is a favorite, a great version with top notch players backing her.

Give a listen. And pay heed to those deep memories that no one can take away from you.

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