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“I was a man who thrived on solitude; without it I was like another man without food or water. Each day without solitude weakened me. I took no pride in my solitude; but I was dependent on it. The darkness of the room was like sunlight to me.”

Charles BukowskiFactotum

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A bit of beauty from Ella on a cool gray morning as I bask in the solitude that serves as my sunlight. Have a great day.

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If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.

-Emile Zola

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The show is hung in the gallery. I am relieved and anxious, same as always. It’s been twenty years of doing this, of sweating out–or maybe it’s bleeding out –work for my annual show at the Principle Gallery. It’s always hard but I don’t want to imply that it’s harder than any other job. Every job, every career has its good and bad parts.  You can only hope that the good parts far outweigh the bad.

I think my job does, most times.

I was asked this past week in an interview for a regional magazine how and why I came to be an artist. I think I said that I just wanted to have my voice heard in this life. I wish I had added that I wanted to do all I can to put out work that will hopefully live beyond the limitations of my own worldly life, as well. Just so someone somewhere someday will know that I existed and thought and felt. That I laughed and cried.

That I had a voice that needed to be heard at times.

Maybe that’s what Zola meant by living out loud– needing to be heard.

These kind of thoughts always populate my mind when my shows roll around because in so many ways, I feel exposed and vulnerable on those walls. Defenseless against all judgement and criticism.

But after so many shows, I am almost numb to these fears and doubts. I know my own voice now and trust that it is real. It’s all I have to offer of value and it is that that allows me to live out loud. Like Georgia O’Keeffe said: I have already settled it for myself so flattery and criticism go down the same drain and I am quite free. 

That said, I think this is a very strong group of work, one that carries my voice well enough to remind me that I truly exist.

Hope you can make it to the show. Whether you can or can’t, below is a slideshow preview of the show.

There is also a very nice article and interview at PrincipleArtTalk, the blog of the Principle Gallery, about this show and some of the new work. You can go to that article by clicking here.
Celebrating 20 Years of the Red Tree

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My show at the Principle Gallery is in place, adorning the walls of the Alexandria gallery. I got word yesterday in the form of a few images that really put to rest a lot of my apprehensions.

It looks good. Very good.

I go through a cycle with every show where I have peaks of excitement over the work as it builds in the studio. But near the end of prepping for every show or after the show has been delivered and is out of sight, I begin to second-guess my own judgement of the work. The excitement I once held turns to a fear that I have been seeing the work through magic goggles that give the work qualities that really aren’t there.

Thankfully, most of the time these fears have been unfounded. But even so, this year gave me an extremely high level of excitement for the work which translated to an even greater dread in the last week or so. Much of it has to do with the fact that this is the 20th solo show at the Principle Gallery, the significance of this being something I have written about here in recent weeks.

Add to that the inclusion of my new Multitudes series that consists of masses of faces, such as the piece, The Following, here on the right. This group of work makes up a significant part, almost 25%, of the show and is untested in the marketplace. But Michele and her great staff– Clint, Taylor and Owen– have done a masterful job of hanging this work, interspersing it with the other work in a way that shows it as an extension of the prior work and not an exception.

Plain and simple, it all really fits together well. And that bring back to me a level of excitement. But that just makes me wonder if I put my goggles back on.

I guess you’ll have to be the judge. You can borrow my goggles, if you want.

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The show is hung for previews and the opening for Red Tree 20: New Growth is this Friday, June 7, beginning at 6:30 and running to 9:00 PM. Hope to see you there!

Taylor in the Front Gallery

 

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“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

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Above is a new painting, a larger one at 30″ by 48″ on canvas, that is part of Red Tree 20: New Growth, my annual solo show that opens this coming Friday at the Principle Gallery. With its size and deep coloring, it presents a strong and striking image in person. Along with that strength, looking at it, the feeling that came to me was one of hope. There’s a sense of journey in this, a movement through dark and possible peril towards light and the possibility of tranquility. That brought about the title To the Gardens of Hope.

In short, hope is the thing that drives us through the dark.

In dark times we must hold on to hope, to have a goal of light that drives us to action. Too often we think of hope and dreams in passive terms. But hope without action is futile, a lazy daydream that will never grow in the gardens of light.

Hope combined with action is a potent force.

Maybe that is why the words above from the first book of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy seem to mesh so well with how I see this painting. That story certainly had existential peril and darkness. But throughout the tale there was always an end goal that gave hope. And plenty of action was required to get to that goal, to overcome the darkness with light. This concept was not in mind during the painting but now that I think of it, this could be from one of the kingdoms or shires of those books.

That concept can also be summed up in four short lines below from the poet Langston Hughes. Without hope and dreams, we have no will to act and are, as he describes, broken-winged birds.

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     “Hold fast to dreams,     

For if dreams die    

                    Life is a broken-winged bird,     

That cannot fly.”     

       ― Langston Hughes

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So, in perilous times, when darkness seem pervasive, hope has a place for those willing to step forward and move toward the light.

That’s only my take on this painting. You might well see it in different terms and that is, as always, as it should be.

This painting along with the rest of the show will be hung today in the Alexandria gallery. Hope you get a chance to stop in and see it. If you’re around Old Town Alexandria on Friday evening, I will be at the gallery for the opening reception which runs from 6:30-9:00 PM. Come in and say hello. I look forward to it.  

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This morning, I was looking for a piece of writing that I could pair with this new Multitudes painting, a 12″ square canvas that I call Facing the Crowd, that is part of my upcoming show at the Principle Gallery. I came across the poem below from the late poet Charles Bukowski and before I even read it I had a feeling that it might work. These paintings have a kind of Bukowski feel to them, as though each of these faces might inhabit a dark corner of his seedy world. If I look close enough I am sure I can find Bukowski’s timeworn face somewhere in there.

I was originally going to call this Welcome to my TED Talk or just Public Speaking. But I felt that Facing the Crowd described it better because I didn’t really see it as being about standing in front of crowd once in a while, even though I have given a talk or two where I definitely felt like this. Actually, I saw this as being willing to face the scrutiny and judgement of the crowd in order to be the person you desire to be.

Too often we choose to stifle our own voice and desires and instead blend in with the crowd, getting swept along in a force that overcomes all our individual efforts. The choice of the crowd becomes our choice, without nuance or depth of understanding. We lose our voice in the din of the many.

We become the din.

To choose to turn and stand before the crowd, to speak our own words in our own voice is a scary thing for any of us. But more than that, it is an act of bravery, an act of liberation from a crowd that is most often driven by the lowest common denominators of our character.

Well, that’s what I get from this. You might see it in altogether different terms and maybe even dislike this piece immensely. And I celebrate that because that is how it should be. Art allows us great liberty if we listen to our own reactions rather than becoming part of the crowd.

Anyway, here is Bukowski’s poem:

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“The Genius of The Crowd

 

there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average

human being to supply any given army on any given day

 

and the best at murder are those who preach against it

and the best at hate are those who preach love

and the best at war finally are those who preach peace

 

those who preach god, need god

those who preach peace do not have peace

those who preach peace do not have love

 

beware the preachers

beware the knowers

beware those who are always reading books

beware those who either detest poverty

or are proud of it

beware those quick to praise

for they need praise in return

beware those who are quick to censor

they are afraid of what they do not know

beware those who seek constant crowds for

they are nothing alone

beware the average man the average woman

beware their love, their love is average

seeks average

 

but there is genius in their hatred

there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you

to kill anybody

not wanting solitude

not understanding solitude

they will attempt to destroy anything

that differs from their own

not being able to create art

they will not understand art

they will consider their failure as creators

only as a failure of the world

not being able to love fully

they will believe your love incomplete

and then they will hate you

and their hatred will be perfect

 

like a shining diamond

like a knife

like a mountain

like a tiger

like hemlock

 

their finest art”

 

― Charles Bukowski

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The mantra becomes one’s staff of life, and carries one through every ordeal. It is no empty repetition. For each repetition has a new meaning, carrying you nearer and nearer to God.”

–Mahatma Gandhi

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I wanted part of my upcoming June show at the Principle Gallery to feature not only new growth, as the show’s title implies, but a few nods of acknowledgement back to my older work. The new painting above, one that I finished just yesterday and am calling Mantra, is such a nod.

I have periodically used multiple images in my work through the years. Some were quite large back in my earlier days, some having as many as 60+ images making up the piece. I am attracted by the look of these piece but also by the mindset required when painting them, one with a blank concentration, one that produces a repetition of thought and form.

This repetition of thought and form produces small incremental changes in each cell. Each is the same but slightly different.

That could be the mantra for my work.

Over the past twenty years of these shows, the work has always changed in small increments. Changes in colors and tones. Changes in strokes and textures. Additions and subtractions in elements and forms. Each is the same but slightly different.

Again, the mantra.

I guess that is why I chose that word mantra for the title. As Gandhi points out above, it is no empty repetition.

Each repetition is new and has its own meaning even though it is seemingly the same. Each is its own moment in time, its own coordinate on the grid of time and space.

Whether this repetition takes one closer to god, as Gandhi adds, I cannot say. I don’t know what that even means. But if it means that it brings one closer to understanding and a sense of unity with this world, then I agree heartily and this painting, this mantra, says everything I need to know.

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My new solo exhibit at the Principle Gallery , my 20th annual show there, is titled Red Tree: New Growth and opens June 7, 2019 at their Alexandria, VA gallery.  The painting above, Mantra, will be included in this show.

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“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,

There is a rapture on the lonely shore,

There is society, where none intrudes,

By the deep sea, and music in its roar:

I love not man the less, but Nature more”

Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

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This another new painting, coming in at 24″ by 24″ on canvas, that is headed to the Principle Gallery for my annual solo show there. The show,my 20th solo effort at the Alexandria gallery, is titled Redtree: New Growth and opens on June 7. This painting is titled Solitude’s Rapture.

I don’t know if solitude is for everybody. Some people might look at this painting with a little discomfort, seeing in it isolation and loneliness. But for myself, it represents a total freedom of the self, one that allows one’s absolute truth to emerge. A freedom that allows one to experience clear glimpses of our connection with all being.

The lines above from Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage express this feeling well. Alone on a shore, one can begin to hear and converse with nature. The lap and roar of the sea becomes language as does the light of the sun and moon as it sifts through clouds above. It is in these conversations that we come to better understand that we are both small and large, insignificant yet integral.

Of  course, this is not a practical matter for most of us. I have my own little island of solitude here in my studio but I am not isolated. My regular life has me out in the world, interacting with people on a regular basis. But knowing that I will soon be back on my island where the only conversation taking place is in myself.

Hermann Hesse put it well in the excerpt below from his book, Reflections. He mentions it as being a way of bitter suffering. I suppose initially, for those who have been always in the society of others and seldom alone, this may be the case when faced with solitude. But, as he points out, when you get past that discomfort, the rewards of solitude are rapturous.

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“We must become so alone, so utterly alone, that we withdraw into our innermost self. It is a way of bitter suffering. But then our solitude is overcome, we are no longer alone, for we find that our innermost self is the spirit, that it is God, the indivisible. And suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of the world, yet undisturbed by its multiplicity, for our innermost soul we know ourselves to be one with all being.”

Hermann Hesse, Reflections

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