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“The highest reward for a man’s toil is not what he gets by it but what he becomes by it.”

–John Ruskin

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John Ruskin (1819-1900) was yet another of those 19th century British jack-of-all-trades. He was an accomplished artist, social commentator, philanthropist and the leading art critic of the Victorian Age. He was also a prolific writer on a wide variety of subjects, from archaeology to ornithology and everything in between. He also wrote stinging polemics calling for needed social change in Britain at that time. He was the British equivalent of a renaissance man.

Born into a wealthy merchant family, Ruskin may not have experienced much physical labor in his life but he obviously toiled in other ways to have achieved so much in his time on this planet. I think his words above on how we are changed from toil have a certain ring of truth.

I believe there are rewards for hard work that go far beyond the immediate material compensation we receive. It forms our behaviors, our tolerances and our perception of our place in the world. It teaches us what is important and what is not. It gives us focus and discipline and the experience that may one day transform into wisdom. It gives us identity and  purpose.

And it applies for everyone, from clerks to plumbers to scientists to housekeepers. Even artists.

Hard work has been a recurring theme in some of my work over the years. It’s definitely the theme of the painting at the top, Toil’s Reward, which is included in my Moments and Color show now hanging at the West End Gallery. There’s a richness and warmth in the colors of this piece that feels like a reward in itself.

If you come out this Saturday, August 17, to see it at the West End Gallery, say around 1 PM, you can take part in my annual Gallery Talk. I promise you I will be working hard. Maybe even sweating profusely. But hopefully, you will be the one being rewarded, maybe even taking home the original painting that will be given away. Even if you don’t win the big one, there are some other smaller prizes that you have a pretty good chance of getting. And besides that, it’s usually an entertaining time.

Like they say, it’s not hard work if you like what you’re doing.

See you Saturday!

 

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The wind is blowing; those vessels whose sails are unfurled catch it, and go forward on their way, but those which have their sails furled do not catch the wind. Is that the fault of the wind? Is it the fault of the merciful Father, whose wind of mercy is blowing without ceasing, day and night, whose mercy knows no decay, is it His fault that some of us are happy and some unhappy? We make our own destiny. His sun shines for the weak as well as for the strong. His wind blows for saint and sinner alike. He is the Lord of all, the Father of all, merciful, and impartial.

–Swami Vivekananda

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This new painting in my Multitudes series is a 36″ by 24″ canvas and is titled Saints and Sinners. It’s headed out to the West End Gallery this weekend to be part of my solo show, Moments and Color, that hangs there until the end of August.

I came across the words above today from Swami Vivekananda, a 19th century Hindu monk/mystic, and they seemed an appropriate fit for this painting. Looking at this piece, the faces seem to form a sail of sorts, something I hadn’t noticed before this morning.

The imagery of our lives as being boats appeals to me. Like sailors on boats, our decisions set our course. Two boats on the same body of water may react differently on the water due to the actions of the sailor aboard each. Sometimes these are small and subtle actions. Similarly, the differences between the saint and the sinner are often small and subtle.

The saint may let go of anger where the sinner holds fast to it. The saint may see hope where the sinner sees despair. The saint may give mercy where the sinner might seek vengeance. The saint bears responsibility for their own decisions while the sinner places the blame on others for their own mistakes.

Written down, the differences seem greater than they do to the eye. The saint and the sinner may be indistinguishable at first glance. And maybe that is as it should be. We have the possibility of each– saint and sinner– within us. We have all made bad decisions but we live with the hope that we may make better ones in the future.

Like Oscar Wilde said: Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.

Or in the words of Nelson Mandela: I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.

Or maybe there are neither saints nor sinners. Just simple sailors in boats, some running fast and some foundering in their wake.

Hope you’ll stop out and see this new piece.

You can see it if you come to my Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery on Saturday, August 17, beginning at 1 PM. I’m sure it will be part of he discussion and maybe you’ll take home a prize! Details coming soon!

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Well, the opening for Moments and Color, this year’s edition of my annual solo show at the West End Gallery, is here. The reception begins tonight at 5 and runs until 7:30 PM at the gallery on Corning’s Market Street.

The show hangs in the gallery from tonight, July 12, until August 30. I hope you can make it tonight but if not, there’s plenty of time to see this show.

My annual Gallery Talk at the West End is on Saturday, August 17, beginning at 1 PM. There will be plenty of details on the Gallery Talk in upcoming weeks. It’s always a popular event and one that I think is a lot of fun. That’s just my opinion but folks keep coming back so maybe I’m not too far off base with that assessment. While there will be snacks and prizes, I am thinking of doing this year’s talk completely in yodels so take that into account when making your plans.

I want to take a moment to thank Jesse, Lin and John Gardner (and Tom Gardner who gave me a critique that changed my life) at the West End. It has been my pleasure to be part of the gallery now for what will be 25 years next February. Without the start they gave me and without the encouragement they have offered over the years, my life would certainly be much different than it is at the present time. For example, you most likely wouldn’t be reading my blog– unless you are prone to reading the blogs of a Walmart greeter.

I thank them for welcoming me into a world that I could barely imagine at the time and for allowing me to grow on my own terms. All an artist can ask for. Hopefully, we will be able to work together for many more years ahead. That would be a wonderful thing.

That being said, I believe this exhibit might be near the top of all the shows I’ve done at the West End, especially in terms of variety and consistency. I think this show has a real presence– each piece with its own evident vibrancy and life– in the space.

Again, all an artist can ask for.

Hope you can make it in.

 

 

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“You say I am repeating 
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own 
And where you are is where you are not.”

― T.S. Eliot, East Coker

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This is a another painting from my upcoming solo show, Moments and Color, at the West End Gallery that opens Friday. It is called Meditatio and it is a painting I have shown here before. It was painted last year but as it sat here in the studio awaiting this show, I saw things in it that made me want  to change the painting a bit.

I lightened the center of it with a few small additions of new paint to the moon and Red Tree, giving it more light. That very much changed the attitude of the piece but it transformed even more when I changed the plain black band that had surrounded the central image to a bronzed burgundy. This new band color altered the experience of the painting, giving the whole thing a warmer glow.

I thought it was strong painting before, one with a meditative presence that definitely stood out in my mind. But these seemingly small changes transformed it greatly. It still feels meditative, as the title implies, but in a more welcoming way.

I see these words above from T.S. Eliot’s East Coker as part of a conversation between the Red Tree and the rising sun/moon, who points out that it repeats its lesson with each new rise. And though it is repetitive, it is no less meaningful and instructive.

I will let you read into it what you will but I particularly love the last line here– And where you are is where you are not.

That could very well sum up my work.

Hope you get a chance to see this piece at the West End Gallery. The opening is Friday, from 5-7:30 PM.

 

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“And He will judge and will forgive all, the good and the evil, the wise and the meek . . . And when He has done with all of them, then He will summon us. ‘You too come forth,’ He will say, ‘Come forth ye drunkards, come forth, ye weak ones, come forth, ye children of shame!’ And we shall all come forth, without shame and shall stand before him. And He will say unto us, ‘Ye are swine, made in the Image of the Beast and with his mark; but come ye also!’ And the wise ones and those of understanding will say, ‘Oh Lord, why dost Thou receive these men?’ And He will say, ‘This is why I receive them, oh ye wise, this is why I receive them, oh ye of understanding, that not one of them believed himself to be worthy of this.’ And He will hold out His hands to us and we shall fall down before him . . . and we shall weep . . . and we shall understand all things! Then we shall understand everything! . . . and all will understand” 

Fyodor DostoyevskyCrime and Punishment

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This new painting is an 18″ by 36″ canvas that is included in Moments and Color, my annual show of new work at the West End Gallery that opens this coming Friday. It was completed for quite some time before I finally settled on a title for it. Every title that came to mind seemed too trite or too well worn for this piece.

The Red Tree and its placement here give me the impression of someone standing before a group while delivering some sort of moral or spiritual instruction. Sermon on the Mount sort of stuff. The setting here has a placid feel and the location of the Red Roofed houses give the impression that they are rapt listeners.

It all gives this piece a feeling of great serenity.

With this in mind, I finally settled on The Homily as a title. A homily is a story that is often part of a religious sermon that demonstrates a moral or spiritual lesson in practical terms and contemporary settings. And I can see that here. Without it espousing the tenets of any religion, it has a spiritual feeling for me, one that serves as a practical illustration of peace and acceptance. It’s as though the Red Tree is calmly telling those around it to see the beauty and tranquility that surrounds them even in times of chaos.

There’s a sense of certainty to this piece that feels religious to me. It’s the kind of certainty I never had for myself or fully understood in others. But looking at this now, I can almost understand that certainty. Its actually beyond religious. I see it more as an inner belief that one has that allows them to remain calm in dire times, knowing that they have the ability to persist.

That even though the world around them changes, that they can adapt and prosper because their core values remains intact.

And maybe what this, a representation of those core values, whatever it is that brings us inner peace and serenity.

It’s early and my eyes and mind are still trying to focus so these few paragraphs may not be a homily. But they are an attempt, like this painting, to point out our need for peace, for those moments of tranquility that allow us to continue onward in a world that often seems out of our control.

Maybe its the understanding that Dostoyevsky speaks of at the top.

Hope you find it for yourself.

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This painting, The Homily, is part of Moments and Color, my exhibit of new work now hanging at the West End Gallery in Corning. There is an opening reception this Friday, July 12, running from 5-7:30 PM. Hope to see you there.

 

 

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Let the New Day Begin- at the West End Gallery Now

The work for this year’s edition of my annual solo show, Moments and Color, is now hanging in the West End Gallery, all ready for the opening this coming Friday, July 12. I put together a video slideshow of the work from the show which is below.

This was an interesting project, in that it was hard setting the lineup for the images in this video. I couldn’t frontload the video with what I might consider the best pieces because I couldn’t rank them. There’s great consistency across the board that made deciding difficult. Each time I tried to move a piece up or down in the lineup, it didn’t seem to make a difference in the quality or feel of the video. I think you could watch this backwards and would get the same visceral experience from it.

And I like that. That consistency has always been a point of pride for me. I like to think that every piece, from the smallest and simplest up to the largest and most complicated, has the same level of consideration and effort.  After all, big or small, they all represent me out in the world and to skimp on one in effort or any other way diminishes them all.

This show has a lot of facets, a lot of familiar and new looks, but it just hangs together well. It’s a show that gives me a lot of satisfaction on a number of levels. Please take a look at the video and if you’re in the Corning area, please stop in for the opening on Friday, from 5-7:30 PM. I look forward to seeing you there!

 

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Stopped in at the West End Gallery yesterday to see how the work from my new show, Moments of Color, looked on the walls.

I was pleased.

You can only get a small sense of how the work for a show will hang together when it’s still in the studio. The paintings are scattered all over, some in different rooms and some obstructing others. Almost none of them are in frames. I never get to see them fully presented, hanging clearly in direct relationship to one another.

So it’s always interesting to see how the show comes together on the walls, to see if a unifying theme emanates, and to see what pieces jump forward. In this case, the color mentioned in the show’s title is made abundantly clear. It is a show filled with color.

I’ve written here before about coming to painting because I wasn’t seeing the paintings I wanted to see, wasn’t experiencing the colors I wanted to feel. This  show comes close to meeting that desire for color, especially the fully saturated deep tones. They show themselves well on the gallery walls and actually serve as the unifying theme for the show. Even in the Multitudes pieces that feature masses of faces, it is the color of those pieces that binds them to the other works in this show.

One of the pieces, along with so many others, that seemed to jump off the wall for me was the piece shown above, La Belle Vie. That translates from French as the good life or the beautiful life. Either works for me. With its clarity of line and color in its skies, hills and flowerbeds along with its size, 36″ high by 18″ wide, it is a piece that has a real presence on the wall for my eyes.

As an artist, sensing that presence in a piece is an extremely gratifying feeling. It’s a feeling of completeness, as though I have done as much as I am capable of in this piece at this point in time. And that makes it a statement of who and what I am as an artist– and a person– at this point. I guess that kind of sums up my feelings on this painting.

Jesse and Lin have done a tremendous job hanging this show. Hope you can make the opening reception at the West End Gallery this coming Friday. It begins at 5 and runs until 7:30 PM. If not, hope you can stop in and take a look.

For this Sunday morning music, I have chosen a song called Beautiful Tango sung by Hindi Zahara, a Morocco born singer that is based in Paris. Love the feel and pace of this song. It seems to jibe well with La Belle Vie above. I could see the Red Tree dancing a tango here. Give a listen and have a good day.

 

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