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“The Solace of Light”- Now at the Principle Gallery

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… I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope

For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love

For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith

But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:

So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

-T.S. Eliot, East Coker, The Four Quartets

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Whenever I read this passage from T.S. Eliot, I am inevitably moved by his words. The interesting thing is that while my response is always strong, my my personal interpretation of it, how I relate it to my own experience and knowledge, sometimes varies wildly.

And I suppose that is much like looking at a work of art. The day, the moment, the circumstance and context in which we see it– these things and more often dictate our response and our relationship to art.

I find this true for the painting shown above, The Solace of Light, which hangs at the Principle Gallery now as part of my current show there. It seems as though each time I look deeply at this piece, my relationship with it changes or, at least, moves to a different place within me.

Sometimes it feels superficial as though I am responding solely to the colors. Other times, it is deeper and I feel drawn into the forms of the scene, barely recognizing the colors. I am in and of that place in those instances.

Closer to where I want to be. Or think I want to be.

Okay, off to work. Maybe I will get there today.

 

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Build a House

“The Quarantine House” – Now at the Principle Gallery

 

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Thought I’d just play a song from one of my most favorite artists, the super talented Rhiannon Giddens.  It marks Juneteenth, which was yesterday, and was written in the last week or so. She collaborates on it with the great Yo-Yo Man– from a distance, of course. The song premiered on YouTube yesterday. Enjoy and have a good day.

This is what Rhiannon had to say about the song: “This song came knocking about a week ago and I had to open the door and let it in. What can I say about what’s been happening, what has happened, and what is continuing to happen, in this country, in the world? There’s too many words and none, all at once. So I let the music speak, as usual. What a thing to mark this 155th anniversary of Juneteenth with that beautiful soul Yo-Yo Ma. Honored to have it out in the world.”

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Build a House

You brought me here to build your house, build your house, build your house
You brought me here to build your house and grow your garden fine

I laid the brick and built your house, built your house, built your house
I laid the brick and built your house, raised the plants so high

And when you had the house and land, the house and land, the house and land
And when you had the house and land, then you told me “go.”

I found a place to build my house, build my house, build my house
I found a place to build my house since I couldn’t go back home

You said I couldn’t build a house, build a house, build a house
You said I couldn’t build a house, so you burned it down

So then I traveled far and wide, far and wide, far and wide
And then I traveled far and wide until I found a home

I learned your words and wrote a song, wrote a song, wrote a song
I learned your words and wrote a song to put my story down

But then you came and took my song, took my song, took my song
But then you came and took my song, playing it for your own

I took my bucket, lowered it down, lowered it down, lowered it down
I took my bucket, lowered it down, the well will never run dry.

You brought me here to build a house, build a house, build a house
You brought me here to build a house. I will not be moved.

No, I will not be moved. No, I will not be, I will not be, I will not be moved.

Rhiannon Giddens

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Amsterdam, Netherlands – BLM Protest June 2020

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Don’t you know
They’re talkin’ ’bout a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
And finally the tables are starting to turn
Talkin’ bout a revolution
Yes, finally the tables are starting to turn
Talkin’ bout a revolution, oh no
Talkin’ bout a revolution, oh no
Talkin’ bout a revolution, oh no

Tracy Chapman, Talkin’ Bout a Revolution

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Though concerned about the potential health ramifications from the lack of social distancing, it was heartening to see the crowds that filled the streets of this country over the last two weeks, culminating in a massive turnout yesterday. Even more striking were the crowds who gathered in the streets and squares of cities around the world, both in support of the American protests and against the growth of white supremacy and police brutality that is taking place in their own countries. Scenes similar to the one at the top from Amsterdam took place in virtually every major city around the globe, from London to Seoul to Sydney to Mumbai, all calling for real and lasting change.

I don’t want to pontificate or lecture this morning but I do have to cite the 2006 FBI report about how the culture and organizations of white supremacy had heavily infiltrated law enforcement nationally. It stated that if this was not addressed, it would eventually present a danger to our national security. Well, it wasn’t taken care of then and now does seem to present a real danger. There are a ridiculously high number of examples of the brutality that is being protested just from the protests alone, when they must know that the eyes of the world are on them.

Maybe an unrelenting presence on the streets will finally bring about the change that is so needed.

Maybe that time is now, finally. Not somewhere down the road.

I do want to pose a question to the few of you who might read this who find themselves getting angry at the protests and the protesters. I am not talking about the looters. Looting and protesting are two separate entities, just like the difference between proper policing and police brutality– one is legal and one is criminal. I am just talking about their demands for change.

What about this makes you angry? Ask yourself why is this so.

Okay, for this week’s Sunday morning music I am going back to 1988  to hear Tracy Chapman sing her Talkin’ Bout a Revolution. I saw her perform this at an Amnesty International show at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia back in 1988. On a night that saw memorable performances from big names like Peter Gabriel, Sting (with Branford Marsalis) and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, it was Tracy Chapman’s simple performance with her guitar and potent voice and message in front of 75,000 people that made the biggest impression on me.

Give a listen. Have a good day and let’s keep moving towards something better.

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Exile on Main Street- At the Principle Gallery as Part of “Social Distancing”

I’m on the road today, delivering the work for my upcoming show, Social Distancing, to the Principle Gallery down in Alexandria. As I’ve done for the last 21 years, I drop off the show pieces on the weekend before the opening date, which for this year’s show is next Friday, June 5. Under normal circumstances we would head back down later in the week for the opening reception.

Of course, there is very little that remains normal this year.

Even making the trip to deliver the work feels so different this year. Definitely not normal. I can almost count on one hand the number of times that I have been away from my home and studio over the past three months so the idea of suddenly traveling three hundred miles takes on a much more ominous feel than usual, especially when you factor in the social upheaval and unrest that is gripping this country.

It’s going to be odd to drop off the work and not get the opportunity to see it hanging in the gallery space, to get the feel of the show assembled in its entirety.

But that’s the way things are for the time being.

So, this morning I am traveling through the same landscape that I have for the past twenty-some years. But this year, the world is slightly askew and  my mind is a bit more troubled than in more normal times.

Even so, I wanted to play a bit of music to at least bring some form of normality to the day. The song I chose is from the immortal Sam Cooke who was shot and killed back in 1964 at a motel in LA. I don’t want to go into the official story put forward by authorities or the conspiracy theories that have abounded in the years since but the circumstances of Cooke’s death were unusual, to say the least. That aside, Sam Cooke was an enormous talent, a gifted songwriter with a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind voice.

This song is [Somebody} Ease My Troublin’ Mind. Something we could all use these days. Have a good day.

 

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Marc Chagall- Paris Through My Window 1913

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If a symbol should be discovered in a painting of mine, it was not my intention. It is a result I did not seek. It is something that may be found afterwards, and which can be interpreted according to taste.

–Marc Chagall

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I love that a painter like Marc Chagall whose work is seemingly teeming with symbols never painted them with the intention of becoming such. It seems hard to believe but I believe him and understand what he’s saying. So often something in a painting gets picked up on by a viewer who infuses personal meaning onto it.

It becomes something more.

And even after it has attained symbolic status, it is stilled created in later iterations without that in mind. At the moment of creation, it’s just about giving the vision a sense of completeness. It is simply what it is at that moment and becomes something else afterward.

Another favorite of mine, Richard Diebenkorn, said pretty much the same thing: I trust the symbol that is arrived at in the making of the painting. Meaningful symbols aren’t invented as such, they are made or discovered as symbol later. 

Basically, the artist paints first then translates after the fact.

Hey, symbols happen.

That works for me and I think this is the case for most artists. I don’t really know for sure. I am sure there artists who wouldn’t agree with this, especially those who deal in allegorical work which is symbolic by design, and that’s fine. Everyone has their own mode of operation that hopefully works for them.

That being said, this is just an excuse to look at some Chagall paintings and the symbols in them.

Marc Chagall- La Vie 1964

Marc Chagall- The Night the Sun Rose

Marc Chagall Over Vitebsk 1915-20

 

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Auction Update

A Clearing Comes- Auction for Australian Wildlife

Here’s the 4 PM Update on the Auction for the Painting Above to Benefit the Wildlife of Australia Affected by the Recent Fires:

The Current High Bid is $ 1650.00

There is still room to get in on this piece as I have set a Buy Now price of $ 1750.00. A bid of 1750 ends the auction.

Auction Closes Saturday at 12 Noon EST

 

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Hey Skinny Santa

Going to be short today because my internet is down for a couple of days and I am not too adept at posting from my phone. I can’t be sure how this will show up on your screens.

But since it’s snowing pretty good at the moment and we’re about a week out from Christmas, here’s a song from JD McPherson, Hey Skinny Santa. Hope it shows up!

Planning to be back to normal here by Thursday but who knows. Have a good day!

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Below is a wonderful essay on what we can learn from listening to trees from Hermann Hesse. The late Nobel Prize winning writer included this in his 1920 book, Wandering: Notes and Sketches. There is a lot to like here but I was most struck by the line: Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

Give it a read for yourself:

For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. . . . Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.

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MALONEY: Why do you have confidence that you can … tell your dad not to worry?

LT. COL. VINDMAN: Congressman, because this is America. This is the country I’ve served and defended. That all of my brothers have served. And here, right matters.

MALONEY: Thank you, sir.

Applause breaks out.

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Those short few sentences above from the testimony of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman during yesterday’s Congressional Impeachment Hearing pretty much sums up what the stakes are in this hearing.

This country, as a nation and each and every one of us as individuals, has to decide if he is correct in the statement that here in the United States, right still matters.

We have to ask ourselves a simple question: Do we want to live if a country that lives by the hardset and time honored values of rightness, of truth, of honor, of duty?

Or do we want to live in a country where those values are negotiable and subject to the situation at hand and the person involved? A country where those values don’t really apply so long as you have enough power or privilege or connections to be able to shrug them off?

Listen, I am not naive to think there haven’t been plenty of situations in our past where power, privilege and connections have overpowered our values at times. But in the past, that sense of honor, duty and rightness has always somehow persevered. This nation has not always operated in absolute truth and rightness and honor but the hope is that we lean that way, that we somehow keep struggling and pushing in that direction.

That hope, that continual trending toward rightness, is the basis for any exceptionality we might claim.

But this feels different.

It feels like a defining moment for us and our future. It feels like there is part of us who have taken control and wish to ignore these values, who find them inconvenient and restraining to achieving their own aims.

They continue to move away from answering to a sense of rightness or duty. How do you reconcile that as a nation going into the future?

If the falsehoods and corrupt intent we have witnessed are not impeachable, not subject to oversight and being called out, where does that leave us for the future? Where do we then draw the line between what is right and wrong?

If we cannot stand up for what is right and true now, we may be looking at a future where we may not get the chance to do so.

So, ask yourself and answer honestly: Does right matter here still?

 

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I wrote the above yesterday. Last evening I then caught the end of one of my favorite movies, Watch on the Rhine. It’s a film set in Northern Virginia, around Washington DC, during World War II and concerns the daughter of a well-to-do family who has come home from Europe with her family.

I am not going to go into  the whole plot here but I will point out that her husband, Kurt Muller played to perfection by Paul Lukas, is an anti-fascist fighter and a leader in the European resistance against the Nazis. This character is one of my favorite characters on film, a man driven completely by rightness and truth, willing to sacrifice everything to fight for the lives and rights of other men.

Seeing this powerful portrayal of such an honorable character stood in stark contrast to the performance I witnessed earlier by the republicans during the hearings. There was no honor shown by these men, no sense of rightness or dignity. These are not people who are willing to sacrifice anything for anyone. They are only willing to protect their own interests and those of their buddies. Screw everyone else.

They are the antithesis of rightness.

To give a quick example, Lt. Col. Vindman and his family are under 24/7 protection from Us Army security forces and they are looking to move them into a secure location because of threats against the Lt. Col. from Trumpists spurred on by these jackals. This man, an immigrant who came here as child, has served and sacrificed for this nation for many years. He wears a Purple Heart for being wounded in action. He has honorably risen to the highest levels of military diplomacy and has been characterized in reviews by his superiors as being “brilliant” and in the top 1% of all the military. Yesterday, this man was subjected to all sorts of attacks on his character and motivations for simply coming forward and pointing out actions that he saw as being wrong.

He was simply doing his duty. Like Kurt Muller from the movie, he was simply doing that which is right.

I would put Lt. Col. Vindman’s sense of rightness and honor up against that of all the republicans in that hearing who have seemingly sold their souls, their dignity and their honor for god knows what in order to protect a vile and small man. A man without honor or loyalty who will throw them to the trash heap without a thought when they no longer serve his personal needs.

As I said, the contrast is stark.

Black and white. Good and evil.

Right and wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

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Rock That Boogie

Cool and gray sleepy Sunday morning. Feels like winter is taking hold even though it’s still autumn. Way too many things waiting for me on the to-do list and not much gas in my engine. Need some juice. Something to get the blood racing and the brain cells firing again.

Looking back through my blog, I can’t believe I haven’t played this song in the eleven years or so I’ve been doing this. It never fails to bring back a little life in me. It’s Rock That Boogie from Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. They’ve been around for what seems like forever, churning out their high energy brand of piano driven western swing/boogie woogie/ alt country western blues. I am sure there are a few more genres and sub-genres that they fall into but it’s mainly just music for good times.

And that’s just what I need this morning. Here’s Rock That Boogie another favorite, Too Much Fun. Hope it kickstarts your Sunday.


 

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