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“I’ve spent a good part of my life painting trees. Naturally I’ve gotten pretty well acquainted with them. Excellent friends they are and, for me, the most fascinating ‘sitters’. Trees are a lot like human beings; rooted men, possessing character, ambitions and idiosyncrasies. Those who know trees see all their whims; see their struggles too; struggles with wind and weather; struggles to adjust themselves to their society. For nature will not allow them to run amuck, heedless of their neighbors; their individual propensities must conform to the cosmic laws within their own democracy. Thus there is a certain rhythm in a wood; a flow between parts, a give and take that is rigidly observed.”

–John F. Carlson, American Artist interview, 1942

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To the artist, the forest is an asylum of peace and dancing shadows.

-John F. Carlson (1875-1947)

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You may not know his name, but the Swedish born American painter John F. Carlson had a big influence on generations of modern realist painters. He wrote a book on landscape painting in 1928 that is still well regarded today and his work is included in the collections of most major museums. You probably see echoes of his work in painters you see working today.

Beyond that, I like, and agree with, his thoughts on trees and forests, those places where I spend much of my days.

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“No one, it seems to me, can really paint trees without being extremely sensitive to their rhythm and all that is going on in the woods, without indeed having considerably more than a casual acquaintance with sylvan society.”– John F. Carlson

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Take a look for yourself.

The Search

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Truth made you a traitor as it often does in a time of scoundrels.

Lillian Hellman, Scoundrel Time

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I am forcing myself to write about something removed from the news, lest my anger . There are things happening, both here and in our foreign policy decisions, that are deeply disturbing with ramifications that will echo for years to come around the globe. I will just let the words above from Lillian Hellman‘s autobiographical memoir, Scoundrel Time, sum up my view of the whole thing.

We are definitely in a time of scoundrels.

So, instead, I am making an unusual request.

The painting at the top, Exiles: Blue Guitar, is one that I painted back in 1995 as part of my Exiles series. This is one of the paintings I most regret letting go. It was the largest painting and the true centerpiece of the Exiles series besides having a lot of personal meaning for me.

Regrettably, this painting went to the Kada Gallery in Erie in 1997 or 98 where it was sold to an unnamed collector.

I am not trying to get it back, though I would gladly repurchase it. My desire is to get an image of it as it is now. You see, in 1997 I believe it was, I darkened the background in the painting. Any documentation of that change is lost and I have no idea or image of its final appearance. I would love to get an image and perhaps reframe the painting for its current owner. It was framed at a time before that in which I started using my signature frame. It is in an unusual frame, one that I think is probably inappropriate for it, along with a plexiglass covering that only used once or twice early on in my career. It deserves to be seen in a better setting.

My request is to any of my readers in the Erie area. Or any of my readers anywhere, for that matter. If you know of this painting or know anyone who might have my work but you’re not sure, ask them to get in touch with me here. I would like to hear from them.

I know it’s a long shot but I thought it was worth putting out there. This has been on my mind for many years now and I would like to take care of this.

Thanks!

 

 

Dancing With Myself

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“She was fierce in the presence of death, heroic even, as she was at no other time. Its threat gave her direction, clarity, audacity.”

Toni MorrisonSong of Solomon

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I’ve been working with a new element in my work lately, a lone female figure like the one in the new painting above, and it has been making me think.

Probably explains the headaches– that dull pain that comes after using long neglected muscles.

I joke, of course. Never had those muscles in the first place to neglect.

Again, a joke. My apologies.

This lone figure strikes me in a much different way than the lone male figure I sometimes employ in my work. While he sometimes feels remorseful or lonely, this female figure doesn’t give me those feelings at all. There is a sense of boldness, determination, and empowerment that comes with her that really pleases me.

She feels absolutely strong.

Fierce.

Audacious.

It was something I hoped for In the work. Being in the world of art for last couple of decades has exposed me to many strong and bold women, both behind the scenes and as artists. It excites me to see so many young female artists recognize the importance of their own voices and the need to step forward to let the world hear them.

I think that is what comes through in the painting above. The title certainly hints at that– Light Favors Audacity. Boldness is something I fully believe in. This world doesn’t favor the meek and timid and nothing is given unless it is either asked for or simply taken.

This stands in stark opposition to the phrase that so many folks hang on to tightly, better safe than sorry. Those folks that invoke the phrase often end up being both sorry and sad in their safety. You know those people, the ones who constantly start their stories with if only or I could have or I should have.

Stop waiting for others to find you. Set out on your own journey and stay true to your values and your voice. It is as important and valid as that of anyone else.

Be audacious and let the world know you are there. The light will usually find those who are bold enough to seek it.

Here’s this Sunday morning music. It’s a neat rendition of the Billy Idol song, Dancing With Myself, done in the form of a jazz quartet from the Postmodern Jukebox, which is a group of rotating musicians who rework modern songs into different vintage genres. This song translates really well and I find it highly enjoyable.

See for yourself. Have a good Sunday.

Devils & Dust

 

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Fear’s a powerful thing
It can turn your heart black you can trust
It’ll take your God filled soul
And fill it with devils and dust

Bruce Springsteen, Devils & Dust

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Very late getting around so I don’t have time to say much. How much do I really ever say anyhow? But I had this song in my head that seemed to be setting the tone for my day and maybe my week. Maybe my month. I thought I’d share it.

The song is Devils & Dust from Bruce Springsteen‘s 2005 album with the same title. It’s a song that wasn’t really a hit but received some critical acclaim including several Grammy nominations. Even so, I believe it’s a song and album that I think is very much underrated in the Springsteen canon. It’s an adult album, as it should be, from a man forty years removed from the youthful exuberance and anthemic nature of his early work.

I always pay attention to this song when it comes on my playlist and it never fails to bring on a few moments of quiet rumination. A tone for this moment, as I said.

Give a listen. For you keen eyed readers, the image at the top is the dining room of Mrs. Haversham from the great David Lean adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, a book and film that is very much a favorite of mine.

Have a good day.

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The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of contemporary violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activity neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.

-Thomas Merton

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This warning from the late theologian/monk/author Thomas Merton (1915-1968) seem well suited for these times. Many of us, myself included, are consumed with busyness and the effect of that combined with the frenzy and anxiety of the current state of affairs in this world have eroded our capacity to seek and find silence.

Moments of pure peace and solitude are fewer and further between because of the fervor, the innate violence, of these things. As Merton points out, this condition kills the root of inner wisdom that makes work fruitful.

For artists and anyone who employs creativity in their day to day life– hopefully, most of us– this creates a time of crisis. Our work suffers. Our concentration suffers. Our ability to find joy suffers. Our level of inner and outer comfort suffers.

So, just a small reminder to turn away from the world today, if only for a moment. Try to find some silence, some placid point inside yourself. Set aside your busyness and try to block out the chaotic innate violence of modern life, even for just the tiniest bit of time.

Find that stillness because, though it seems empty, it is filled with the joy and wisdom and peace and inspiration we all seek.

Okay, gotta run. Awful busy this morning.

Just kidding…

 

Weak/Strong

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“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”

Sun TzuThe Art of War

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I seriously doubt that what we witnessed yesterday in our capital was an example of strength of the kind  that Sun Tzu was talking about in his classic The Art of War.

For one thing, I seriously doubt that the seemingly unstable person that raged and spat alongside the Finnish President yesterday has ever read the book.

Secondly, it seems as though this person is incapable of anything but psychological projection, incapable of seeing anything but his own motives and actions in the actions of others.

Since he lies, everyone lies.

Since he is corrupt, everyone is corrupt.

Since he is not loyal to his country, everyone else is traitorous as well.

He sees his greed, his selfishness, his anger and a laundry list of other negative traits only in the form of others.

I am convinced that the next generation of psychology textbooks will chronicle the behavior of this president* as the perfect example of projection.

For me, all I saw yesterday was an incredibly weak man flailing away. His bluster and rage only made him seem small, stupid and trite.

That is the face of our nation right now and so long as it continues, we, too, seem small and stupid and trite.

I leave you with some words the ancient Greek playwright Euripides, a warning traveling from the past:

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“When one with honeyed words but evil mind
Persuades the mob, great woes befall the state.”

EuripidesOrestes

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All Hail the Kinks

As much as I want to scream about the travesty and tragedy currently at play within our executive branch I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that it was on this day way back in 1964 that the Kinks released their first album, Kinks.

Led by the inimitable Ray Davies, they have withstood the test of time with songs that cover a wide range of the musical spectrum, songs that are almost beautifully crafted and insightful. They often are bitingly humorous and dealt with a knowing wink and a nod to the listener.

I have followed their progress for most of my life and there are dozens of favorite songs from them that I could play here today. But I am going to one of my favorites, from their 1971 album Muswell Hillbillies. Every song on this album is wonderful but I am playing the title track here today. Just a brilliant song with a chorus and lyrics that have been bouncing around in my head for 40+ years.

Cause I’m a Muswell Hillbilly boy,
But my heart lies in Old West Virginia,
Though my hills are not green,
I have seen them in my dreams,
Take me back to those Black Hills,
That I have never seen.

So, today keep calm and listen to the Kinks. All hail the Kinks!

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