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Posts Tagged ‘Bob Dylan’

Been sitting here for well over an hour and a half, just listening to different music, looking at paintings and thinking on a wide range of subjects and memories, many from the distant past. There’s no nostalgia in it. Not even much wistfulness. Just tracing lines back and forth, trying to see how things come and go, how things change, how we both grow and erode with time.

And after all of that I think I am just going to play a song this morning.

Maybe it has something to do with the time spent this morning. Maybe not. I am not going to talk about it here except to say this a beautifully written and performed song. It’s from Joan Baez from back in the mid 1970’s and references her relationship with Bob Dylan in the the 1960’s with ten years perspective.

It struck a chord with me then and still does, after all these years. Here’s Diamonds and Rust.

Have a good day.
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Walt Whitman: Song of Myself, Part 51

 

The past and present wilt—I have fill’d them, emptied them.

And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.

Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?

Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,

(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)

Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.

Who has done his day’s work? who will soonest be through with his supper?

Who wishes to walk with me?

Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?

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Bob Dylan unveiled another new song a few days ago, a follow up to his 17 minute epic, Murder Most Foul. Its title, I Contain Multitudes, references a line from Song of Myself from Walt Whitman. It’s a line that I have used in the past, most notably last year as the basis for my series of face paintings, Multitudes.

The piece from that series, shown here on the right, is what I would consider the title piece for the series, bearing the title Multitudes. I see the faces in these pieces as being parts of me, small parts that make up a greater whole. Just as the masses of people that make up a nation, it is always filed with paradox and contradiction.

The good and the bad. The wise and the foolish. The happy and the sad. The humble and the greedy. The careful and the careless.

You try to focus on the better parts with the hope that is the part that people identify with you. But like a vast nation, you can never know which part of you is  perceived as your true self by others.

So, there you are, containing multitudes that contradict one another from moment to moment, trying to put on your best face. It’s all you can do.

Here’s Dylan’s new song. Give a listen and put your best face forward today, if you can.

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Murder Most Foul

Last week, Bob Dylan released his first original song in eight years. Titled Murder Most Foul the 17 minute song is primarily focused on the 1963 assassination of JFK but uses it more a point of departure for a guided ride on a hazy time machine that moves through the decades that followed.

Over a slow paced backing with piano, drum and strings that gives it the feel of an elegy or requiem, Dylan takes the imagery of that dark November and weaves it together with a long list of wildly disparate references to musical selections and pop culture figures.

It all becomes a mesmerizing drone.

On one hand, it seems to be just a mishmash of words and references with no real meaning.

But on the other hand, it feels like it is pointing us to this moment as an endpoint for an arc that began on that day in 1963, with every moment and event since, large or small, pushing us forward to this culmination.

Like we’ve been on a journey since that day and this moment and situation was our ultimate destination.

And for many whose lives have spanned that time period, that feeling is one that makes a certain amount of sense. For these folks, that day in 1963 has cast a shadow over everything since and there is a constant groping through the detritus of the years to find the connecting strands that will somehow make sense of it all. For them, there seems to be something going on, a set pattern of small indiscernible nudges, that is just out of reach or understanding.

And this song somehow feels like it is bringing finality to that pattern’s path.

I can’t say whether that this is true or not or if I even believe what I’ve just written. Maybe it’s an epic. Or maybe it’s just a load of crap. I guess, like all art, it’s a subjective opinion.

For me, it’s just oddly compelling. I’ve probably listened to this song forty times or more in the past week, sometimes playing it on a loop while I have been stretching canvasses or working at some other simple physical tasks. I find it oddly soothing, especially after listening to it immediately after watching the news reports on the current situation. I find myself pausing at certain recurring moments in each playing of the song and catching a few of same couplets, out of the many that make up the song, again and again.

Maybe I am trying to find the pattern in this song that might somehow bring to light the pattern that has possibly spanned the past 56+ years.

I don’t know.

I’m sharing a version with lyrics so, if you have the desire and 17 minutes to spare, give a listen. It will give you something to think about in your time of isolation. Have a good day.

 

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I’ve played this song, Must Be Santa from Bob Dylan, a couple of times over the past decade. It’s a great song, a polka with a klezmer feel that takes Dylan back his Jewish roots and in the the entertaining video you get the bonus of seeing Dylan dance. Good fun for the day before Christmas.

The last time I ran this song I included a group of photos of Santa that were less than jovial and maybe a little menacing. Creepy Clauses. While looking for an photo or two to accompany that post, I browsed through masses of images of Santas from the past and was amazed how many of them crossed that line into outright creepiness. It made me believe that Santa is just about on par with clowns in Creep Factor. You might see a rogue clown in the woods but Santa is, simply put, a bearded home intruder and flamboyant dresser who crawls down your chimney in the dark of night.

He knows when you are sleeping, for god’s sake!

When I was kid I had time going to sleep on Christmas Eve because of the excitement and anticipation that Santa was on his way. Now, after looking at those photos of Psycho Santas, I won’t be able sleep for fear that he actually might be on his way!

For that first post with the borderline Santas, I picked a few that were pretty strange but there were plenty more of them out there, some which just made me a little queasy. I have a feeling that many of them are also in sort of police registry somewhere.

I thought I would include a fresh batch of Kreepy Kringles this year. I kept the one from the original, at the top here, because he just weirds me out on multiple levels.

Anyway, enjoy the song and have a good holiday. And don’t worry about the weird old man hovering around your home tomorrow night…

 

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First, want to thank everyone who came out to the Octagon Gallery at  the Patterson Library on Friday evening to see the work in the Icons & Exiles show that opened there. I met a bunch of new folks who were not familiar with my work and got to tell the stories behind a number of the folks that populate this particular group of paintings. It was a very enjoyable time.

And many thanks to Nancy Nixon Ensign who curated and hung the show. She did a fantastic job of mixing the works from various series into a cohesive unit that invites you to move slowly around the space so that you can take it all in. Great job, Nancy!

I will be giving an Art Talk on this show on Thursday, September 12, so if you’re in the Westfield area– which is a charming town!–try to make it there. The show itself hangs until September 20.

For this Sunday morning music I am going with one of my favorite Bob Dylan song from more recent times. By that I mean within the last twenty years or so. With a career that spans almost 60 years, you sometimes have to specify from what period a song might come. This song, Thunder on the Mountain, is from 2006.

Have yourself a good day…

 

 

 

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Been raining for a couple of days now, often in loud and long downpours. Looking out from my studio, I can see the run-off creek that runs through my property, normally dry at this time of the year. It’s gushing brown now, nearly overtopping the large culvert into my studio, and has a roar that fills the woods.

Down the length of the long driveway into my property, the water runs on it like it’s a newly minted stream while beside the driveway the creek rushes well outside its banks, meeting the driveway water and merging into a mass that covers everything. The end of our drive looks like a  large, moving pond.

There are a few younger deer playing in the now hard rain, running through the heavy, muddy overflow coming off my pond. The ground is soft and giving underfoot, like walking on a sponge.

We’re fortunate in our location. High enough to avoid real flooding and far enough away from the water coming out of the creeks and run-offs that run through the property. A lot of other folks won’t be so fortunate and will most likely have to face a long clean up after the flash flooding that is taking place. A day or two more and we might be into heavy river flooding and that’s real trouble.

Hopefully, tomorrow will bring some sun, some relief. But for now, I’ll watch the water run brown with the deer splashing through it. A bit of a watered-in day, as my friends in Texas might call this.

Here’s a great version of the Bob Dylan song Down in the Flood from the bluegrass legends, Flatt and Scruggs. Enjoy and stay dry.

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Many, many thank you’s to everyone who took time from their busy sunny summer Saturday to spend an hour with me at the West End Gallery yesterday. It was a very full house with plenty of faces I know well and quite a few that were new to me. Hopefully everyone went away satisfied with their decision to spend their time at the gallery.

I know that I am certainly glad they came. Their warmth makes me feel most welcome and their questions create the real form and content of the talk. I am always pleased at the questions they ask. Most are quite probing and require me to truly consider my answers. I know that sounds funny, that it seems obvious that every response should be considered. But there are some questions that I have been asked many times so the answers just come out reflexively. I am often asked questions at these talks that come from different angles, that require a moment to look at  what is really being asked.

Hopefully, I got to the point of what was asked.

Again, a boatload of thanks to the folks who came and to Jesse, Lin and John at the West End Gallery for being the perfect hosts.

That being said, I can say that I gave a big sigh of relief when it was over. One would think it would be easy by now, especially given the open acceptance of the audience, but for someone who works in private solitude seven days a week it is a daunting task to stand before a group of people and try to speak coherently in an open and honest way about inner things.

When these things finally end the relief is quickly replaced by a feeling of fatigue that quickly sets in. I was wiped out after yesterday’s talk. But I am somewhat refreshed this morning and can start preparing for the next one, about six weeks from now in Alexandria. But I’ll put off worrying about that for a while.

For this Sunday morning music I chose a song about things being over. It’s a version of Bob Dylan’s It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue by the group Them from way back in 1966. Featuring Van Morrison who sang lead for the group before he had his great solo career, this is a great version of the song. Give a listen and have yourself a great day.

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Slovakian Resurrection Icon circa 1640

Slovakian Resurrection Icon circa 1640

It’s Easter Sunday.

The day of the Resurrection.

I’ve said it before here, I am not a religious person. I wasn’t raised with religion and much of my knowledge of it as a kid came from a local church lady, Nellie Beidelman, who used to come to our little elementary school on a regular basis. We would assemble in the cafe-a-gym-a-torium (a space that served all three functions) to hear her tell Bible stories with the aid of a felt board with beautifully painted cut-out figures.

I know it’s not something that could ever take place today in a public school. But she was a very warm, gentle person and a fine storyteller without being preachy. I always found the stories interesting as they introduced me to the classic tales of the Old and New Testament and still vividly remember her telling of the Resurrection. It didn’t make me feel any more inclined toward religion but at least I knew the stories and the lessons that they contained.

I just never had that certainty of belief. I admired it in others and sometimes wished I had it, wondering why I didn’t. But that same certainty made me uneasy. What would someone do in the name of their belief, that thing that seemed so certain to them and so distant to me? The news is filled with horrors perpetrated by those with this certainty firmly in place, whether it’s ISIS inspired suicide bombers or radical Fundamentalists killing physicians who have performed abortions.

And reading history doesn’t make this uneasiness with certainty go away. How many of millions have perished at the hands of those who were certain in their beliefs, however misguided and wrong they may seem to us now? Even in doing my genealogy I have come across so many atrocities done by my ancestors in the name of their beliefs that it makes me question the decision to look into the past at all.

That being said, I still sometimes envy those with that certainty and the comfort they seem to find in it. My own beliefs, as they are, are always subject to questioning, always filled tinged with a bit of uncertainty. But they still offer a degree of comfort. Sometimes stopping as I walk and feeling the sun on my skin and gazing into the blue of the sky fills me with a feeling that seems transcendentally reverent in that moment. The outer world fades for a brief second and I seem connected with something greater than this time and place.

That moment is my certainty, that thing on to which I hold as proof of something greater. And that moment once in a great while is all I ask of it.

So, with or without that certainty, whether you observe Easter or any other religion’s activity today, I wish you a great day. But stop once in a while and just feel the sun on your skin and notice the color of the blue in the sky. For this week’s music, here’s a great cover of a Bob Dylan song, Times Have Changed, from the great soul singer Bettye Lavette, who recently did an album of her interpretations of Dylan songs. This song won an Oscar for Best Original Song in 2001 for it’s use in the movie Wonder Boys.

Enjoy Bettye’s take on it and have a great day.

 

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I wanted to play a Christmas song for this week’s Sunday music and thought I’d replay a song that first ran here back in 2009. It’s Must Be Santa from Bob Dylan. It’s a great song, a polka with a klezmer feel and in the the entertaining video you get the bonus of seeing Dylan dance. Good fun for the day before Christmas.

While looking for an photo or two to accompany this post, I browsed through masses of images of Santas from the past and was amazed how many of them crossed that line into outright creepiness. It made me believe that Santa is just about on par with clowns in creep factor. You might see a rogue clown in the woods but Santa is, simply put, a bearded home intruder ( and flamboyant dresser) who slides down your chimney in the dark of night. He knows when you are sleeping, for god’s sake!

I picked a few that are pretty strange. I left out some that actually made me cringe and feel a little queasy. I have a feeling that many of their photos are also in some sort of registry somewhere.

Anyway, enjoy the song and have a good holiday evening. And don’t worry about the weird old man hovering around your home tonight…

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There just doesn’t seem to be enough time in any day, with what seems like a thousand tasks gnawing at me to get done. A little anxious,  I am eager to get going but it is Sunday morning and my routine dictates that I dig out a song to play here on the blog.

This weeks features two versions of Bob Dylan‘s Everything Is Broken, a definite favorite of mine and a song that oddly fits almost any time and place. I chose the  first, which contains the song done by Dylan himself, because the video cracked me up. It’s done by someone from Italy, I think, who makes some interesting videos. I believe he just does it for himself and friends because none of them has a huge number of views. But his one caught my eye and makes me chuckle.

The second video is from longtime soul diva Bettye LaVette. I like to hear different takes on the same song, seeing how many artists take different approaches to the same material. Bettye’s version is pretty satisfying.

But you be the judge. Have a great day.


 

 

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