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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

First Looks

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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All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, 1908

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This little snip from The Wind in the Willows seems to capture that same feeling of a conscious sense of wonder that I see in the new painting above. Titled I Stand Before You, it is 12″ by 36″ on canvas that is part of my solo exhibit, Red Tree 20: New Growth, at the Principle Gallery that opens this Friday, June 7.

I have been showing at the Principle Gallery since the early days of 1997. In the first few years there, I had been included in a group of five painters– Tom Buechner, Marty Poole, Tom Gardner, Rudy Gyr, and myself– from my home region that the gallery termed The Finger Lakes School. That group had two successful annual shows before I was moved out on my own with a solo show in 2000 called Redtree. That was a very successful show and its momentum has, in many ways, carried me through the past two decades.

This year’s show marks my 20th solo show at the Principle Gallery and if I had to use a term to describe what I wanted the work from throughout that time to convey, I might very well use the term sense of wonder. Just being able to witness small bits of this world around me, to see the green of grass and leaf, the ruffle of feathers or the mottle of light on the forest floor, brings about a feeling that I am experiencing all the wonder of this world.

And more than that, this past twenty years has allowed me to maintain that sense of wonder. Part of me expects that sense to diminish as I age but, if anything, it has expanded with through the years. The simplest pleasures, ones that I might well have overlooked in a youthful exuberance to see bigger and grander wonders, now seem like rare and privileged glimpses into the inner workings of the universe.

This very moment, I tuned my head and in the distance I watch two wild turkeys walking up the drive with broken light flashing off their iridescent  feathers. I can’t tell you what a wonder that seems to me and how it makes me appreciate the life I am privileged to live.

As I have pointed out many times before, I am not an overtly religious person. But perhaps this sense of wonder, this sense of awe, fills that same void for me. I don’t know but I am pleased I still wonder about such questions, that I don’t take these simple things that fill me with awe for granted. Maybe that’s a form of prayer.

Who knows?

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Red Tree 20: New Growth opens Friday, June 7, at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA, with an opening reception that runs from 6:30 until 9:00 PM. Hope to see you there.

“Depth of Moment”- From the show “Red Tree 20: New Growth,” at the Principle Gallery

Well, the paintings are in the gallery now for my new solo exhibit, Red Tree 20: New Growth, opening next Friday, June 7, at the Principle Gallery.

I can now let out a big sigh of relief just knowing the biggest part of the process– the creation, finishing, and delivery–is out of the way.

And I can give an even bigger sigh of relief in seeing that the work looks very strong in the gallery. It had the pop in that space that I hoped for. Sometimes pieces can feel bigger and stronger in the studio and much less so in the open space of a gallery. This group had the depth of color and strength of forms along with the sizing and scale that fit well in the space.

They could say what they had to say. That’s all I could hope for them. Now it’s up to them.

Phew! Now it just comes down to seeing if others can see and hear what they are saying. We shall see…

For today’s Sunday morning music, here’s a song from the very unique Leon Redbone, who passed away Thursday at the age of 69. It’s a 1977 performance of Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone. Gentle and easy for a gray and very wet and green morning here. Hope there’s some sunshine for you, wherever you might be.

I am traveling down to Alexandria, VA today to deliver the paintings for my annual solo show at the Principle Gallery. This year’s show is my twentieth there and the title, Red Tree 20: New Growth, reflects the voyage from that first show, Redtree, back in 2000. There are a lot of things in this show that make feel this a special show so I am especially eager to see how the work looks in the gallery space.

Because I don’t have any time to write a post this morning, I am sharing a link from yesterday’s blog post from Linda Leinen, my friend from the gulf coast of Texas and a long time reader of my blog. Linda’s blog, The Task at Hand, is always thoughtful and beautifully written so I was thrilled when she devoted some of her wonderful talents to some of my work, rolling it seamlessly into a post about her own experiences coming across chairs– and the red bench above– in her travels.

So, please click here and go to Linda’s site for an enjoyable read and while you’re there check out her page, Lagniappe, where she shares her photos of the wildlife, wild flowers and other aspects of her Texas home along with great short essays and poetry. It’s one of my favorite sites.

And if you’re in Alexandria, stop into to see the work. Hope you’ll enjoy what you see.

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“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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The painting at the top is a new piece that is included in my solo show, Red Tree 20: New Growth, that opens June 7 at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria. It is titled To Stand in Beauty and is 18″ by 24″ on canvas.

Beauty was the first thing that came to mind when I began looking for a title for this painting. It seems like a fitting representation of the old adage that we should stop and smell the roses.

As Goethe points out above, worldly cares often threaten to obliterate our sense of the beautiful. That may never be more true than it is in these days as there is so much anger, hatred, stupidity, and frustration on public display now. Many of us find ourselves focusing on all that is wrong in this world and in the process forgetting the beauty that often surrounds us.

The beauty of a blooming flower.

The romance of a beckoning horizon.

The graceful strength of a tree trunk.

The awe of a rising mountain.

The lure of a winding path.

I am looking out my studio window from my seat at the moment and a deer is looking back at me from the lawn. Beyond him I can see a couple of wild turkeys strolling up the driveway in front of one of the large rhododendrons that line it. The rhododendron is finally flowering fully, adding a gorgeous splash of color among the greens and grays that surround them. In the distance I can see the mass of yellow irises that are blooming on the edge of the pond. And while I was looking to the distance, a small buck with velvet covered antlers just beginning to develop walks across my line of sight. And above it all. I can hear the chirp of the bird nesting above my front door.

It’s a beautiful moment, one that I all too often overlook, especially when I first come into the studio. I check the news, read emails, begin figuring out what to write for this blog and what my painting agenda might be for the day. And the rush of the day sometimes blots out the beauty that surrounds me.

But this painting, especially this morning when I am in the final frantic steps of putting the work for the show together so that it can be delivered tomorrow, has reminded me to stop and consider things of beauty instead of news or emails or whatever bothersome tasks lie ahead.

And it has made a difference. Goethe was correct, there is beauty to be found in music, poetry and fine pictures as well in simply looking out at the natural world for a moment.

We can all stand in beauty if we choose to look.

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