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Father’s Day 2017

I was going to write about my dad and his current life with dementia but I just didn’t want to do it this morning. One of my own struggles in dealing with his condition is rectifying his current condition with the image that I had of him from my childhood. I thought I’d run a post from back in 2010 that deals with that earlier image.

After the post is this week’s Sunday morning music, Mama Papa Twist from the Crazy Rockers. a Dutch Indorock group from the early 60’s. Indorock was a fusion of western and Indonesian music performed by Indonesian emigres in northern Europe in the 50’s and 60’s. It was pretty hot in its time and some of the bigger groups, like the Tielman Brothers, still perform. This doesn’t have a lot to do with Father’s Day but I get a kick out of it and I think my dad, especially in that earlier incarnation would as well.

Take a look and have yourself a good day.

This is a photo from back in 1963 or 64. We were living in an old farmhouse on Wilawanna Road, outside Elmira, just on the NY side of the border with Pennsylvania. You could walk over the hill behind our house and be in Pennsylvania. It’s a place that played a large part in my formative years.

We had a large chunk of yard to one side of the house that became a ballfield, a place where many of the kids on our road came to play baseball regularly and where Dad would often pitch to us or hit soaring fungoes that we would run under, pretending to be Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle.  Dad is standing near home plate in this photo. That’s my brother, Charlie ( Chuckie back then), in the background.

I love this photo. When I think of images of my father this one is always first in line in my head.  It was a Sunday morning, Easter if I am not mistaken but time has fuzzed that detail a bit.

It show my father at about 30 or so years of age, as strong and powerful as I would ever know him.  I was four or five years old and he was larger than life to me then, could do no wrong.  My protector and my boon companion.  This view of him sums that all up.

The pose has a bit of the pride and arrogance of youth in it, still brimming with the what-if’s and what-can-be’s of potential.  It’s not something you’re used to seeing in your parents and witnessing it is like seeing a secret glimpse of them, a side you know must have been there but remains hidden from you in your day to day life with your parents.  Maybe that’s why I like this picture so much.  It seems like a marking point between his youth and ours, his kids.

I don’t know.  Like many personal things, it’s hard to explain.  All I know is that when I see my Dad today or think about him, the image of this photo is never far from my mind.

happy father’s day…

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Busy, busy, busy. Here’s a blog entry from a few years back about a somewhat obscure 20th century American painter, Preston Dickinson. I’ve added a video that features his work along with a lovely Chopin score.  I have to admit that I had forgotten his work since writing the post and seeing it again made me appreciate it all over. See for yourself.

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Preston_Dickinson_-_Factory_(c__1920) Columbus Museum of ArtI’m a fan of the Precisionist movement in art which was formed in the early 20th century and often depicted the industrial structures that were fueling the growth spurt taking place in America.  There are some big names in this movement, mainly Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth, both of which I have featured here in the past.  But, like many of the movements in art, there are many lesser  but equally brilliant stars in their universe.  I recently came across one that really hit with me, mainly because of the energy and breadth of his work.  I thought it was all really good, really strong and evocative.  But it moved in many directions, pulling from many inspirations.  There was some Futurist work, some elements of Cubism and others.  It was as though this was an artist that was so talented that he was having trouble finding that single voice that fit his needs.

Preston_Dickinson Old Quarter Quebec 1927 - The Phillips CollectionHis name was Preston Dickinson who was born in NY in 1891.  He studied as a youth at the Art Students League under William Merritt Chase and soon after, with backing from a NY art dealer, headed off to Europe to study and exhibit there.  Coming back to America, he moved around a bit but by the late 1920’s was considered among the stars of American Modernist painting.

In 1930, he moved to Spain to live and paint and several months after being there contracted pneumonia and died there.  He was only 39.  He produced only a few hundred pieces of work in the twenty years or so in which he was producing work.

So maybe there is something to this feeling that he was still in the midst of finding his true voice.  It makes me sad to ponder what might have been and what sort of work was lost to the world when he passed away.  He was obviously a huge talent with an active and inquiring mind.

I am glad to have just stumbled across him now and hope that the joy his work brings me somehow moves into my own.

Preston Dickinson Harlem River MOMA

preston-dickinson-tower-of-gold Preston_Dickinson - Street in Quebec- The Phillips Collection Preston_Dickinson_-_My_House_-_Google_Art_Project Preston_Dickinson - Industry 1923- The Whitney Collection

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My new show at the Principle Gallery in Old Town Alexandria, Truth and Belief, opens tonight, Friday, June 2, with an opening reception that begins at 6:30 PM.

I can’t be certain of that is true but my belief is that this is a very strong group of paintings. It looks good on the walls of the gallery. But you will have to ascertain the truth in my words for yourself.

If you’re in the area please stop in. It looks to be a beautiful night and I will be glad to spend some time answering questions and trying to give you the backstory on the work. 

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Why?


Just about every day– and on some of those days it seems like’s it’s every hour– we are bombarded by breaking stories from the White House that are so out of the norm and so outrageous that I find myself literally holding my head.

It is like an unending scene in a bad dream where you can see that something wrong or bad is happening and even though you try pointing it out, nobody wants to listen and treats the situation as though it were totally normal. It’s scary in a Kafkaesque way.

I am still confounded by those who continue to defend the actions of this administration. The evidence that exposes this president’s actions and motives seem more and more apparent with each manic day. I know that we all have certain biases that shape how we interpret incoming data but the continued support (although it is at about historically low levels for any president) that is still on display in some quarters just baffles me.

Stephen Fry, who I have enjoyed as an actor and a wit for many years now, narrates an interesting short film that attempts to explain it.  I am not sure it would change the minds of those who view rational thought, knowledge, and sound reasoning as some sort of evil elitist conspiracy. But there are some neat charts that even a pinhead can understand.

I did.

For example, here’s a chart that shows how much the US spends on defense. It exceeds the defense budgets of the next 7 largest countries–combined! And this administration wants to increase it by 10% which is almost equals the entire defense budget  for Russia.  In fact, it would actually be more than their dense budget because they are cutting their defense budget by 25% according to numerous outlets.

Take a look at the film.

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Women in Art Replay

WomenInArtThis blog post ran here about eight years ago but it’s a great video that should be seen again. It’s called 500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art.

It is a montage of famous portrait paintings of women through the centuries morphing from one to the next.  The creator of this video, Phillip Scott Johnson, did a great job of choosing and arranging the subjects, earning him an award for his creativity from YouTube. The accompanying Bach piece performed on the cello  by Yo-Yo Ma fits beautifully.  Makes for a nice Sunday morning viewing.

If you would like to identify any of the paintings used in the video, click on the group of six paintings above and you’ll be taken to a website that identifies each.  Enjoy…

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I watched an old movie in the studio this weekend. It was Young Mr. Lincoln and starred Henry Fonda as the young Lincoln when he was a fledgling country lawyer. Every time I see Fonda I am reminded how he had a knack for taking on characters that were strong in their principles and often stood bravely against the wrongs of this world– The Grapes of Wrath, 12 Angry Men, My Darling Clementine, Mr. Roberts and several others including The Ox-Bow Incident.
This blog from back in 2009 was about that movie and a particular scene that sticks with me. I think there is something in it for these times.
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The Oxbow IncidentI don’t like crowds.

Maybe it’s just some sort of neurosis like agoraphobia or maybe it’s just having developed a sense of uneasiness from seeing how individual people could react differently after becoming part of a group.

It always confounded me from an early age how the dynamics of a group could change the behavior of an individual person, bringing out characteristics that might be undetected in one-to-one interactions.  It’s as though the protection of the group brings out extreme attitudes that would otherwise be stifled.  The whole moral compass is pushed further from the center and whatever sense of conscience that is present becomes diluted.

I was reminded of this feeling when I saw a short film about the actor Henry Fonda that talked of the parallels between his own life experience and that of his character’s experience  in the movie The Oxbow Incident , where he was the lone voice of reason against a mob that lynches three men without evidence of their guilt.

As a 14 year-old boy in Omaha, Nebraska in 1919, he witnessed a mob storm the courthouse that was located across the street from his father’s printing business.  They  were inflamed by allegations made by a white woman that she had been assaulted by a black man.  A suspect had been taken into custody and was in the courthouse.  The mob, whose size was estimated to be between 5000 and 15000 people, exchanged gunfire with police in which two of the mob were killed.  The mayor of Omaha tried to intervene  and was beaten and himself lynched before being saved.

The suspect was not so lucky.

The accounts of this mob rule are horrific.  Fonda carried this memory with him for the rest of his life and it informed many of the roles he had over his career.   In The Oxbow Incident his character confronts the mob afterward in a bar and reads them a letter written by one of the hanged men to his wife.  I could go on and on but I think the clip says it all…

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O’Sullivan’s March

I’m out the door this morning but wanted to at least acknowledge St. Patrick’s Day with a little traditional Celtic music from the Chieftains.

This video features O’Sullivan’s March and has some stunning shots of the Irish scenery, especially that rugged coast.

Enjoy and if you’re of the mind, raise a Guinness in honor of St. Pat today.

I might do just that.

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