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Tonight is the opening reception for The Rising, this year’s edition of my annual solo show at the West End Gallery in Corning, NY. The reception begins at 5 PM and runs until 7:30 PM.

My history at the West End Gallery is well documented here. I would not be sitting here this morning, writing this blog about my work and this show, if not for a meeting back in January of 1995 where Tom and Linda Gardner saw something of value in the milk crate that served as my portfolio, with pieces of cardboard and paper jutting out from it. From that first glimpse, they gave me my first opportunity and followed it up with the encouragement that allowed me to grow as an artist.

You have to understand that this came at a time not too far removed from what I will describe without hesitation as being the lowest point in my life. Their acceptance and embrace of my work was a lifesaver thrown out to a drowning man.

So when I tell you that I try with all my heart to create work for these shows that is meaningful and at the highest level at which I am capable, those are not just words.

It describes an act of gratitude. a Thank You for a life saved and reshaped.  A Thank You for the opportunity to grow and evolve as an artist, to live a life I never could have imagined all those many years ago.

I hope that the work in The Rising displays that sense of gratitude as well as the growth that came with it.

Hope you can make it out to the gallery tonight. I’ll be there.

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The tragedy of life is in what dies inside a man while he lives – the death of genuine feeling, the death of inspired response, the awareness that makes it possible to feel the pain or the glory of other men in yourself.

Norman Cousins

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This is a new 18″ by 18″ painting that I call A Rising Awareness which is included in my show, The Rising, that is now hanging and opens Friday at the West End Gallery.

I think the words above from the late journalist Norman Cousins capture what I feel the representative Red Roof house is rising above in this painting. It is a constant battle for us humans to hold on to those things– genuine feeling,inspired response and an empathy with the pain or glory of others– as we live our lives on this planet. We sometimes become self-centered and guarded in our response to many things and emotionally distant in our dealings with others. Instead of feeling their pain or glory, we sometimes experience envy at their successes and a pang of relief that their failures are not ours.

Our humanity dulls and much joy is lost to us.

But the idea that we can recognize this dulling in ourselves and somehow fight against and rise above it intrigues me. I have come to believe that we can make conscious decisions to raise our awareness, to feel and respond in more positive ways, that we are enriched by maintaining a spirit of generosity and empathy towards others.

I like to think that the Red Roof here represents one who has taken this higher road and has made the decision to listen to its better angels. There’s a feeling of a letting go of angry and mean-spirited thoughts and an acknowledgment of a unity of sorts with the universal human spirit.

Warmth and tranquility. Maybe that is what I am seeing. You judge for yourself.

 

 

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Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.

― Albert Szent-Györgyi 

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My annual show at the West End Gallery opens a week from today, on Friday, July 13. This show is called The Rising based very much on the number of rising moons and suns along with trees that rise boldly into the sky. It also refers to a rising awareness of the worlds in which we live and our relationship with these worlds.

I use the plural worlds because I believe there are layers in this world, some physical and some extending into the realm of the metaphysical, the psychological and the spiritual. I also believe we have the ability to live in multiple layers. I can’t say that many of us do or if I do myself. Most days I feel like I am barely existing in the surface layer we all know.

But I think the gateway for discovering comes as Albert Szent-Györgi, the Hungarian biochemist who discovered Vitamin C, states in the quote at the top. We all see the same things on a daily basis but it is only when we think of those common things in other terms that we make discoveries.

That willingness to see the commonplace in another light is the basis for science, for mythology and for art. I think the art that remains vital and continues to speak through time has the ability to illuminate the extraordinary that exists in the commonplace.

I know that this is what I hope occurs in my own work. My hopes and words mean nothing because only time will tell if it was a successful effort.

The painting at the top, a new 18″ by 24″ canvas from the show that is titled Gems Revealed, is an illustration of this thought. It is a simple scene, a group of fields under a night sky lit by a rising moon. But the light brings out colors and forms in the fields as well in the sky an don the clouds that have an otherworldly quality, one that seems to be teeming with life and color and motion. The path that winds through the field takes on the quality of a snake or a stream and the clouds appear to be swimming through the ether of the night sky.

Perhaps a new layer of being is revealed in this light?

I cannot say myself. Only time will tell.

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The work for this show has been delivered and will be hung today and tomorrow so you can get a preview if you’re in the Corning area. The opening reception for the show is next Friday, July 13, from 5-7:30 PM.

 

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Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.

 

Edgar Degas
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I have always loved this quote from the great Edgar Degas. It has meaning on a couple of different levels for me. First, it speak to the sheer difficulty of the process of creating a painting. If you look at it as a purely mechanical process– step 1, step 2, step 3 and you’re done— it does seem exceedingly simple.
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But art is not purely craft. There is an intangible element that gives it meaning for both the maker and those who take it in after it is made. Tapping into that intangible is the difficult part. Some days it is near impossible and makes what is seen as a pretty easy job most difficult.
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Been there, done that.
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The second meaning I get from Degas’ quote is how others view this job. I know folks who can only view art as a hobby and if you’re working as an artist, you’re just fooling around with doodles and such. They often don’t see it as work at all. They don’t understand the effort that is required to have a career as an artist.
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The long hours alone. The sacrifices you make to be able to have enough time. The often sheer frustration that comes in creating work. The many hours spent doing unseen and boring things like framing and varnishing that are required to make the work presentable. The agony of having to constantly self-promote in order to keep your name out in the public eye. The pain of having your work– your creation and your voice— ignored, outright rejected or under-valued, not to mention the self-doubt that comes along with these things. I am sure there are a bunch of other crappy things that are just slipping my mind at the moment.
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This isn’t a whine fest. Every business has its own challenges and I am sure anyone who is self-employed can see their own situation in many of these things. I understand and accept these pitfalls. They don’t detract from my view of this career at all. I just want people to understand that an artist’s life is not unlike their own with most of the same challenges and problems. It may seem easy, even romantic, but that is just the view from far outside.
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That being said, I wouldn’t trade this job for any other. Thanks for allowing me to think that.

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I am in the midst of a crazy busy week as I put the finishing touches on work for my yearly show at the West End Gallery in Corning, NY. This year’s show is called The Rising and opens a mere two weeks from today, FridayJuly 13.

I primarily chose the title because the focus of many of these pieces in this show rested on the rising of the ball-like suns and moons in them. Add to that the posture of the Red Tree in a number of these paintings where it has seemingly climbed to the top the nearest mound and appears to be attempting to rise up to merge itself with the sky.

To transform itself from the worldly to the ethereal.

Ultimately, that is what I want my work to accomplish.

That’s a big jump, I know. And maybe I am foolhardy in thinking I can find it in my work. Certainly, to rise up above the baseness of the earthly and move into a spiritual realm comprised of higher ideals and virtues seems a far reach for any artist. But shouldn’t we attempt to reach beyond our grasp?

Shouldn’t we always aspire to be better?

It’s that quality of aspiring to be better that I hope comes through in this show. The painting at the top shares its title with the show, The Rising, and I hope lives up to it.

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Again, my new show, The Rising, opens Friday, July 1, at the West End Gallery with a reception that runs from 5-7:30 PM.

Plus, pencil in the date for my annual Gallery Talk at the West End takes place Saturday, August 4, beginning at 1 PM. There are more details on that to come but I can promise I will do my best to make it a good one. Like I said, shouldn’t we aspire to be better?

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I don’t paint like a woman is supposed to paint. Thank God, art doesn’t bother about things like that.

Alice Neel

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Thursday was International Women’s Day and I saw an article on social media that asked if you could name five female artists. It wasn’t difficult for me but this is what I do so I am regularly scanning the work of others, past and present. I see a lot of work by women that is incredible and have been directly influenced by many of these women.

But I could imagine for the casual observer it might be a difficult thing to name five female artists. Any honest person that does a quick scan of the history of art can plainly see that this field has long been dominated by males. But this makes it like most other fields of endeavor and reflects a societal bias that has often long placed less importance on the accomplishments and the self-expression of women.

It is something that must and will change. It is changing before our eyes.  I say that because I have had the great fortune to be associated with a number of galleries that feature increasingly large rosters of female artists. This is not by design. It’s just that more and more interesting and wonderful work is being done by female artists who have finally realized that their voice, their expression, should be secondary to no one.

I have seen the numbers grow substantially over the years and am excited by it, mainly because the things that I see in the art that attracts me are usually perspective dependent, not gender dependent. Anything that broadens the field and gives a wider range of viewpoints and more options is a good thing in my opinion.  The gender, or race or nationality, of the artist should not play a role in our perception of their work unless that work deals directly with these subjects.

Hopefully, soon an artist will simply be an artist. Not a female artist or a black artist or a Latino artist or whatever subtitle people choose to attach before the word artist.

One of the artists that jumped to mind for me when I read the question about naming five female artists was Alice Neel (1900-1984) who was famed for her portraiture. She had a very distinct way of using color and always followed her personal muse, never adhering to any particular genre or school. She was a bold painter in a time when the female artist was still very much underappreciated. In the years since her death she has gained great recognition for he work. I urge you to take a closer look at her work and her life.

Alice Neel. Hartley. 1966. oil on canvas. 127 x 91,5cm. gift of Arthur M. Bullowa. National Gallery of Art Washington.

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Painting has come to play a big part in my life. I’ve had a couple of different conversations with some folks over the past few weeks where I have tried to explain what painting has meant to me, tried to explain the void that it filled for me and the sense of purpose it brought to my life.  I talked about never feeling any sense of destiny or anything like that in becoming a painter. It just seemed to work for me in the ways I needed it to work. These conversations brought to mind the blog entry below that I wrote back in early 2009 called The Need to Paint that I thought I’d share today:

I wrote a few days ago about how I am often mystified by the meanings of my paintings and how I this makes me glad that I still have the need to paint.

The need to paint?

I thought about that after I hit the button to publish that post. I have often heard artists say they had to paint, as though it were some sort of exotic medical quandary.

Paint or die.

It always kind of bothered me when I heard this, as though these people were saying they had some sort of predestined calling. Like they were prophets or shamans that without their visionary paintings the world would spin out of control. I don’t think I ever felt afflicted with this and it always sounded just a little pompous to me. 

So when I wrote that I had the need to paint it made me twitch a bit. Maybe I’m the pompous ass here. That certainly is in the realm of possibility.

But I find myself kind of standing behind what I said– I do need to paint.

It’s not some call to destiny. It’s not to transmit some psychic message to the world. It’s more a case of me needing have a voice or form of expression that best suits my mind and abilities. Painting just happens to fill that need. If I could yodel–and thankfully for us all I cannot– I might be saying that I have the need to yodel.

But I need to paint.

I need to paint to try to express things I certainly can’t put in words, things that awe and mystify me. I need to paint to have a means to a voice to make the universe aware that I exist.

I need to paint just to remind myself that I am alive and still have the ability to feel the excitement and joy from something that I have created. I need to paint to feel the surprise of exceeding what I felt was within me, to go into that realm of personal mystery within and emerge with something new. I need to paint because it has given me the closest thing I know to answers to the questions I have.

I need to paint because it is one of the few things that I’ve done fairly well in my life.

Would I die?

Nah…

I’d adapt and find something new but it would be hard to find something that would suit me as well. So I guess I do need to paint after all. Call me a pompous ass. I don’t give a damn- I’ve got work to do.

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