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Archive for the ‘Recent Paintings’ Category

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Beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm. Philosophies fall away like sand, creeds follow one another, but what is beautiful is a joy for all seasons, a possession for all eternity.

Oscar Wilde

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This is another new painting, a 24″ by 24″ canvas, slated to be part of my show, Redtree 20: New Growth, at the Principle Gallery, opening June 7.

I call this painting Meet Me in the Garden (At the End of the World). I know that sounds like an ominous title but I loved the way it came off the tongue with a rhythm that feels like it comes from a song. It works for me and I believe it aligns well with the painting and with the words above from Oscar Wilde.

Even though there might be nothing left to us but desolation and wilderness, even though our time here might seem at an end, beauty remains a constant.

It is a reminder of all that is meaningful in this world after everything else is stripped away.

It is our bond with both our humanity and whatever spiritual presence that might exist in the universe. To feel it, to be moved by beauty, is to be in communion with both.

Those who do not recognize or feel beauty, or deny beauty, live only partial lives, like half-filled glasses. I pity those people. They are missing the best part of this life.

Pontificating about something as subjective as beauty might be a lot to put out there before 7 AM and later in the day I may want to change these words in some way. But I believe, for the most part, that the greatest gift we receive as humans is to be emotionally moved by the beauty we witness in the world around us as well in the arts and literature we produce.

This painting reminds me that my time here is limited and being so, what better way should it end than when I am surrounded by the beautiful colors in a garden of flowers?

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Life is too short to be little. Man is never so manly as when he feels deeply, acts boldly, and expresses himself with frankness and with fervor.

Benjamin Disraeli

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I gave a talk last week with a local arts group, the Elmira Regional Art Society. There was also a  painting demonstration where I first laid out a composition in red oxide then laid in a few preliminary layers of color on an 18″ by 36″ canvas. The thought was just to give an idea of how the process progresses in a condensed timeframe. As a result, I painted very fast, much quicker than I normally do.

But the demo turned went well and I was fairly pleased with the end result, shown here. Quite honestly, going in I had planned on painting over the demo image and reusing the canvas. But this had good rhythm and the first layers of colors pointed me in a good direction, one that made feel I should keep working on this piece.

So, over the weekend I went at it.

I spent some time looking at the piece and didn’t feel too good about the way the central mound rose out of the field rows. It had the effect of stopping my eye so I went back in and extended it to the bottom of the canvas. This also had the effect of giving the field with the rows more dimension and depth into the picture plane, which is something I am often looking for in these pieces. There is a side by side at the bottom which shows the change in the composition as well as how the colors evolved.

Along with brightening parts of sky, finding a harmony in the colors was the biggest part of the remaining work on this painting. Some forms took on  new color and some were deepened and highlighted.

The final move came in placing the Red Tree which focused the whole piece. It has the feel of a flame for me, with the sky behind it reflecting its light. I call this painting Fire on the Mountain.

I am pleased how this piece emerged, given how it began and the fact that there were no expectations for it. Sometimes that happens.  Thanks for everybody from ERAS who attended the talk. With your questions, comments and good humor, you all had a part in making this piece work.

 

 

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The moon, like a flower

In heaven’s high bower,

With silent delight

Sits and smiles on the night.

—William Blake

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Finished this new painting just the other day. It’s a very quiet, almost meditative piece that I am calling Moon Flowers.

It’s a piece that I find myself looking at a lot these past couple of days. While it is simply constructed, there are some there things taking place in it that keep my eye occupied. The relationships between the beds of flowers, for example, with their individual color vibrations and shapes. Or the relationship between the moon and the path below. There seems to be a connection between the two.

These relationships and the organic quality of the lines within it give it an abstract quality that I like very much. If I just let my mind go where it desires, it allows me to move beyond what seems to be represented and see something quite different.

Or rather, feel something quite different.

And ultimately, that is what I hope for in my work– to move the viewer beyond the representation of the image presented. How that’s done, I do not know. Maybe the answer is somewhere on that path under that moon. Maybe that is what I am seeing in this picture that is pulling me in.

Only time will tell.

So, for this Sunday morning music let’s go with a piece with an apt title, Moonflower, the title track of a 1977 album from the great Carlos Santana. Hard to believe this piece is over forty years old now. Time!

Have a great day.

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There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.

-Anais Nin

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I see in the new painting above, Illumination, a moment when all the fragments of that mosaic, as mentioned in the words of Anais Nin, come together. That moment when we are no longer seeing only individuals pieces of the mosaic, those bits and pieces of acquired information and observations we gather over a lifetime. That moment when we suddenly see those gathered bits as a complete image of a greater truth in all its wholeness.

That moment which reveals the why of the universe after a lifetime of showing us only the whats.

Does such a moment ever come to us, do we ever receive true illumination?

I certainly don’t have that answer.

I am still in the process of gathering bits of the mosaic as I see it. Some days, the various pieces I’ve put together seem to show a glimpse of a pattern of the image of a greater whole. Those are inspiring and hopeful days.

But often, I can’t find that same pattern on the next day. Those days have less hope and have me questioning whether all these mosaic pieces ever come together to create a fuller image. Is there a purpose to this all?

Again, I can’t say. But I’ve got too many mosaic pieces before me now to not want to keep moving forward. Too many to not keep trying to assemble them in the hopes of receiving some sort of illumination that gives me the peace that comes with understanding.

And that may be the purpose of art– gathered bits of a mosaic that allows us to see a greater whole and gain some vestige of understanding.

Hmmm. Sounds good right now. Ask me in 15 minutes and I may see it in a different light. But for this moment, I feel hopeful in simply looking at this painting.

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“Our civilization is flinging itself to pieces. Stand back from the centrifuge.” 

Ray BradburyFahrenheit 451

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I have completed a number of paintings in my Multitudes (or Masks or Faces or whatever the hell I am going to call them) series in the past couple of months and I still can’t quite put my finger on what they truly are or what purpose they serve for myself. As I’ve said, many of these faces have lived with me for most of my life.

They are absolutely familiar. Maybe even going to the base of the word, they seem like family.

The overall effect from these pieces for myself is not a stirring of one single emotion. They are a compendium of feelings. Some are benign and some are very kind faces. Some are worried and fearful. Some seem lost in thought and some just seem lost. Some are angry and some even contain a bit of menace and hatred.

The massing of them tends to balance the emotions for me.

This seems less so in the piece shown above, an 18″ by 18″ canvas that I originally called The March. It’s a piece that I find very appealing in so many ways, especially in the glow its colors produce in any kind of light. The colors, especially the orange/red of the flags, seem to pop off the surface and at a glimpse it seems almost festive. Maybe a celebratory parade?

But the more I look, the more it frightens me, seemingly capturing some innate dread of mine. I see in it a reflection of some of the craziness that is in great abundance around the world at this juncture in time. Waking this morning to hear of the 49 people slain by a white supremacist as they worshipped in their mosques in New Zealand only reinforces this sense of dread and looking at this piece, I see in it the willingness of people to join in, to sacrifice self and sense to become part of a mass movement to march under a banner that divides more than it unites.

The joy and snap of the banners that I first saw in this painting have become something else. They now represent a emboldened expression of feelings and beliefs that is sanctioned by the crowd. Most had been rightfully restrained in shame for decades and centuries but have now been unleashed. They now seem to me like banners of ignorance and stupidity, of racial hatred and blind allegiance to dead ideals.

It was never intended to be so. I just painted it as it came to me, delighting in the colors and forms as they came together. It came easily and freely, giving me great pleasure and joy as I painted it.

But now when I look at the faces and bodies with their uniform shade of color, I see a parade of old white men marching to protect that which they see as their god given sense of entitlement. Even the poorest among this crowd believes that the earth is their’s alone, that they reign supreme over all races and species. In it I see this crowd as believing this is their last ditch effort to maintain this imagined supremacy. That now is the time to take this world back.

And in the world outside this painting, I sense the same. It is a worrisome and dangerous time. We must be vigilant against this parade of fools. And after writing this this morning, maybe that is what the title should be.

Parade of Fools– that will be its title, after all.

Funny how the perception of a piece can change with time and circumstance.

 

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There are in every man, always, two simultaneous allegiances, one to God, the other to Satan. Invocation of God, or Spirituality, is a desire to climb higher; that of Satan, or animality, is delight in descent.

–Charles Baudelaire

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The words above from the poet Baudelaire sum up the paradox of our existence, at least in the way it seems to me. We are creatures forever torn between opposing forces.

Good and evil. Love and hate. Desire and indifference. The physical and the spiritual.

It’s something that I try to represent in much of my work in terms of contrasts of dark and light. The warmth and coolness of colors. High and low tones.

Showing the contrast of the light of hope alongside the darkness of despair.

This newer piece, an 18″ by 24″ canvas, seems to follow Baudelaire’s words quite literally. Titled The Calling Out, the Red Tree here seems to have climbed to the loftiest point to appeal to a higher source as represented by the light emanating from the sun. There is a great, enveloping warmth in this painting but  for me, it is the underlying darkness that makes this piece effectively come alive.

Even the sun has a darker tone than the light it emits. This unnatural sun gives the piece an almost ominous feel but it is that same contrasting light coming from it that brings a redeeming sense of hope to the painting. It lives firmly between the darkness and light much like man according to Baudleaire’s words.

And that is where I want my work to live: Seeking the light but ever aware of its own darkness.

That, of course, is just how I see it. You might well see it in different terms and that is, as always, as it should be.

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“The muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited.”

Stephen KingBag of Bones

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Finished this piece up a week or so back. The final product was never imagined beforehand. It was intended to be a canvas filled with faces but somewhere along the line something changed. Maybe, like the Stephen King words above, it was the uninvited act of a ghostly muse that caused this painting to form.

Who knows?

I do know that when I stepped back feeling that I was done, the whole of it surprised me very much. Mainly because it very much attracted me and raised so many questions, both about what the painting was and where it fit in my body of work.

I could even say it perplexed me. Part of me felt that it wasn’t even my painting, that it belonged to someone else’s mind. It was so unlike my other work that I wondered if this simply a one off event, something that pops up, maybe with the help of some vaporous muse, and never comes around again, or if it was a new direction that had pushed its way into my consciousness.

I can’t say but it sure keeps me looking its way.

It has some size at 24″ high by 30″ wide which gives it even more oomph in the room. I know that in a studio that is filled with new work, it dominates my eye every time I turn its way. There is a confectionary quality to it that passes on a delight of sorts to myself as I look at it. But it also has an ominous feel that makes me wonder where this ship is going and from where it came.

It feels as though there is a lot of mystery here, questions that will never be answered.

It’s been a struggle trying to pin down a title for this piece. I am leaning towards Ghost Ship. Thinking of a boat floating aimlessly on the sea that is empty but for the host of spirits of past travelers that hang on, their stories waiting to be told. Sounds right to me at the moment.

All in all, it pleases and perplexes. I am glad to have it with me for the next few months so that I can better consider its meaning for myself. It might be one of those pieces that is meant only for me.

Who knows?

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