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Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Seuss’

I wasn’t going to comment on the current controversy swirling around the six Dr. Seuss books that are slated to be removed from publication. But hearing so much outrage and misinformation about culture wars and cancel culture from the right who portray this as some act of big government or some other unseen they who controls everything. It made me want to at least point out a few things.

The six books have been pulled from printing by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the foundation that oversees his estate and legacy. There is no they making them do this nor is there censorship taking place. In fact, the company that publishes and distributes the books has stated they would still publish them if Dr. Seuss Enterprises so wished. It was a move endorsed by the Geisel family ( Dr. Seuss’ name was Theodor Geisel) who felt that this was the proper time to take these particular six books out of print because of the racial insensitivity of the stereotypical images that each contained. All were from early in the career of Dr. Seuss as a children’s book author at a time when he was transitioning from having been an editorial cartoonist. At that time, much of this imagery was still, unfortunately, regularly seen through the pages of newspapers across this land. As Geisel aged, his views became more and more progressive and he himself regretted those images though no malice had been implied originally.

Things change through time. Just because certain viewpoints were once widely seen and accepted doesn’t mean that they will stand the test of time. The fact that there was a time not so far in the past when we widely believed that owning another person was okay, that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote, that children doing dangerous work in mines and factories six days a week was fine and dandy, that being gay was a mental illness, and so on doesn’t give any validation to those viewpoints.

We evolve, hopefully in a better direction.

This doesn’t detract from the popularity, influence, or availability of Dr. Seuss. The Grinch will still try to ruin every Christmas in Whoville. Sam will still be yakking about his green eggs and ham. They will still hopping on Pop.

Little has changed. It was a small change meant to protect his legacy made by his company. As is their prerogative. Nobody forced them to do this. No cancel culture. No cancellation nor censorship. 

In fact, it was actually a pretty savvy business move since the huge overreaction from those who don’t take a moment to really understand the situation has them rushing out to buy Dr. Seuss books before they are all cancelled. A huge group of his books have surged to the top of the bestseller lists. Much like gun sales surge when any mention is made of gun regulation.

I might have to claim that my work is being cancelled. Not a business strategy I had contemplated before but who knows? Who would I talk to about that?

So, take a deep breath, take in the facts and please try to refrain from being instantly outraged and frustrated at any sort of change. Kind of like a Neanderthal trying to use an ATM.

Oops. Sorry to all my Neanderthal friends out there. You know who you are.

Dr. Seuss’ work has been a part of my world for much of my life and his influence shows through every so often in my own, mostly in a subconscious way. Here’s a post from back in 2010 about a painting that I see every day here in the studio and have for about 20 years now.



Yesterday’s post about the 50th anniversary of Green Eggs and Ham  by Dr. Seuss made me think about a piece that I’ve had hanging around my studio for the past decade. It’s a painting that I did in 2001 that I call Red, Hot and Blue.  It’s an oil on panel piece that is pretty big, almost 5 1/2′ tall in its frame. It could be a small door. It showed in a few galleries after it was first painted and never found a home so it retired to my studio, to keep me company.

I mention it  because it was been called the “Dr. Seuss painting” by several people who saw it when it was hanging in the galleries. They saw something in the way the trees were shaped and colored that gave them the appearance of a Seuss character. I had no thought of Seuss when I painted the piece but when I heard these comments I began to see it. 

The expressive sway of the trees as though they were dancing. The bright primary colors- the red of the foliage and the bright blue of the trunk. Even the two trees in the background added to the Seuss-y feel.

The foliage actually looked like the endangered Truffala trees from Seuss’ cautionary fable about the environment, The Lorax

It was not intended but it made sense. Seuss’ books were about communicating by giving strange creatures and other things we often see as objects, such as trees and flowers, human qualities.  His characters moved with a rhythm that made them feel alive. Just what I was trying to do with my painting.

I’ve often felt that we best see and better understand things that possess human qualities. I remember being taught that the Native American tribes in the area where I grew up gave names to local hills based on the human qualities they had. It made an impression and started me looking for the human form in all things. 

The curve of a tree trunk. The roll of the land. The fingers of clouds in the sky.

To communicate.

So, while it was never intentional, this painting was very much a product of the influence of Dr. Seuss and others. When I look at it today, I don’t see the name I gave it.  I see it as that “Dr. Seuss painting”.

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Dr. Seuss Slaying "America First" 1941

Dr. Seuss Slaying “America First” 1941

I don’t fear the dark.

I don’t fear the forest or the city.

I don’t fear being alone.

I don’t fear losing everything or being without.

I do not fear the rain or snow or wind.

I do not fear god.

And I don’t fear terrorists.

And I don’t fear criminals.

And I don’t fear missiles raining down from the sky.

And I don’t fear foreign nations invading this country.

And I sure as hell don’t fear any child or mother or father who flees to this nation to escape war and death.

But what I do fear is your fear.

I fear your cowardice and indifference.

I fear your apathy and distraction.

I fear your tiny attention span and your short-sightedness.

I fear your willingness to accept an evil done in your name.

I fear your preference for dividing people into us and them.

I fear your lack of empathy and compassion.

I fear how you mask your prejudices.

I fear the cruelty of your greed.

I fear your ignorance of your civic responsibilities.

I fear your sense of entitlement.

I fear your indifference to education, history or knowledge.

I fear the blatant stupidity and gullibility you proudly display like a new tattoo.

Don’t mistake this as attack on others– I am as much the you in this as anyone else.

And that is to my great shame.

Our great shame.

Enough is Enough.

************************

When I came into the studio early this morning and flipped on my phone, the first notification on it that jumped out at me was one from Pinterest that said:

Darkness started following you.

That was not the first thing I wanted to see this morning.

After a day spent on a death vigil for my dad and a night spent watching a pathetic creature who resembles someone midway through their transition to orangutan squeal and fling their poo on the debate stage, I wasn’t feeling too upbeat this morning as it was.

Pinterest, in its infinite wisdom, just confirmed what I thought might be the case.

Of course, I am kidding. Not about the Pinterest part. Yes, Darkness is, indeed, following me, whoever this Darkness person is.

But I don’t believe in being trapped under a cloud of bad luck, don’t believe in curses or spells. I don’t believe in anything or anyone that discounts my ability to overcome it.

I believe in my own determination and that of others like me. People who will not live under the darkness cast by a cloud of fear and stupidity any longer.

Now, the cartoon at the top and the words below it are from a post that first ran here back in January of 2017, just as the would-be-king took the reins of power and started his division of America.  The cartoon is from Dr. Seuss in 1941 when he took on the America First crowd of that era, a group of American isolationists and Hitler appeasers who would feel right at home in the MAGA world that cheers as the ghoul-in-chief gleefully breaks our bonds with longtime allies and kisses Putin’s Russian ass.

I felt that nothing in the message of both the cartoon and the accompanying words had changed in the nearly four years. In fact, it has become worst, as has almost every aspect of our nation and its culture. I can’t think of one solitary thing, one metric of any quality of life, that has improved in this nation over the past four years. People are still cowed by fears and division stoked by their ingrained prejudices, their own ignorance of the facts, and in believing the constant stream of misinformation and outright lies that fuel alternative media sources.

These people seek the darkness.

And I see that darkness but I also see the light shining through it. And I will march through the darkness until I reach that light.

Okay, enough for such a morning. In the original post four years ago, I ran the terrific Johnny Cash version of the song I See a Darkness from Bonnie “Prince” Billy  aka Will Oldham with the following as part of its chorus:

Oh, no, I see a darkness.
Did you know how much I love you?
Is a hope that somehow you,
Can save me from this darkness.

Here’s Bonnie “Prince’ Billy’s original version.

Have a day. And if you run into Darkness, tell him that I am looking for him.


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Dr. Seuss- Gosh Do I Look As Old As All That

***************

Say what you mean and act how you feel,

because those who matter don’t mind,

and those who mind don’t matter.

Dr. Seuss

*************

I think these words about sincerity from the wonderful and wise Dr. Seuss are good advice for just about anybody.  For myself, I pass this advice on to young artists. Make your own meaning and feeling the focus of your work…

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I ran the short post above several years ago and it resonated with me again this morning. For one thing, it reminded me of how much the imagery and messaging of Dr. Seuss influenced and informed my own perspectives and art. I never thought about it at the time I started drawing and painting but his way of representing the landscapes of his worlds very much infiltrated my own way of looking at my own inner worlds. I see the bendy curves of his trees and smile because I see them in many of my own Red Trees.

The other reason this older post resonated with me were his simple words about honestly saying what you mean and acting how you feel. There are many days when I am trying to write this blog and I feel inhibited by not wanting to offend anyone with my own personal views. I have many times set aside posts that I deemed potentially too offensive. But more and more, I am less shy about sharing my honest opinions for just the reasons that the good Dr. points out: those that matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.

And that also translates to my work. I am also less shy in sharing work that moves outside my comfort zones for this same simple reason. I figure if I am being honest and sincere in my work and in my opinions, what do I have to fear from the opinions of others?

So, thanks for that Dr. Seuss, wherever you may be. Your words and art and storytelling have changed the worlds of many, myself included.

Here are a few more of his paintings that weren’t in the original post:

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Nonsense wakes up the brain cells. And it helps develop a sense of humor, which is awfully important in this day and age. Humor has a tremendous place in this sordid world. It’s more than just a matter of laughing. If you can see things out of whack, then you can see how things can be in whack.

–Dr. Seuss
——————-
Feeling a little Dr. Seuss-y this morning. It has been my experience– a lifelong one, at that– that when I am flummoxed by this world, a little Dr. Seuss often provides a positive way forward. After reading an article about the influence of the late economist James Buchanan on current events, I needed a pick me up.
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I am not going to go into detail here about his theories and how they have been behind many of the economic and political moves that have brought us the vast economic inequality and burgeoning corporate oligarchy present today.  I will say that it definitely made me see things as  being out of whack and I had a real need for some Dr. Seuss style humor and nonsense.
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I believe he is correct in saying that nonsense wakes up the brain cells. Just the imagining of absurdity causes one to take different perspectives, to try to see things in different lights. That is the basis for empathy and altruism, things that are in short supply in world that seems to be more and more running according to Buchanan’s theories.
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Give me The Lorax or  Green Eggs and Ham any day. Then maybe I can see the world back in whack.

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Dr. Seuss Slaying "America First" 1941

Dr. Seuss Slaying “America First” 1941

I don’t fear the dark.

I don’t fear the forest or the city.

I don’t fear being alone.

I don’t fear losing everything or being without.

I do not fear the rain or snow or wind.

I do not fear god.

And I don’t fear terrorists.

And I don’t fear criminals.

And I don’t fear missiles raining down from the sky.

And I don’t fear foreign nations invading this country.

And I sure as hell don’t fear any child or mother or father who flees to this nation to escape war and death.

But what I do fear is your fear.

I fear your cowardice and indifference.

I fear your apathy and distraction.

I fear your tiny attention span and your short-sightedness.

I fear your willingness to accept an evil done in your name.

I fear your preference for dividing people into us and them.

I fear your lack of empathy and compassion.

I fear how you mask your prejudices.

I fear the cruelty of your greed.

I fear your ignorance of your civic responsibilities.

I fear your sense of entitlement.

I fear your indifference to education, history or knowledge.

I fear the blatant stupidity and gullibility you proudly display like a new tattoo.

Don’t mistake this as attack on others– I am as much the you in this as anyone else.

And that is to my great shame.

Our great shame.

Enough is Enough.

************************

No more to say.  For this Sunday morning music I am carrying the tone of the above right into the song.  It’s some late Johnny Cash, from his American Recordings period when his scarred voice carried his age and emotion so eloquently.  It’s his cover of I See a Darkness from Bonnie “Prince” Billy  aka Will Oldham with the following as part of its chorus:

Oh, no, I see a darkness.
Did you know how much I love you?
Is a hope that somehow you,
Can save me from this darkness.

Have a day.

 

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dr-seuss-new-years-day-cover-1931I thought that the image from this cover painted by Dr. Seuss for Judge magazine for its first issue of 1931 might fit today’s situation here in the USA, at least in the view of many folks.  It shows a New Year’s reveler waking up to find a creature in his bed.  The prior night–the year before– it had looked pretty good.  Lots of fun and lots of promises of all the things it would do for him. But here in the bright light of the New Year he realizes that the party is over now and he is left with a monster on his hands — and little idea of what to do with it.

What comes next with this strange creature we have found in our bed?

I also thought long and hard about what music I wanted to use for this first Sunday Morning Music of 2017.  I wanted it to be as optimistic as possible given the circumstances of having a strange critter in our bed.  I thought that the first version of Singin’ in the Rain might fit the bill just perfectly.

It was from 1929 and was a number one hit for performer Cliff Edwards, better known as Ukelele Ike, who had a number of hits through the 20’s and 30’s.  While the name Ukelele Ike may not seem familiar in any way I have no doubt you have heard his voice at some point.  He was the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Walt Disney’s Pinocchio and is the voice of the song When You Wish Upon a Star.

This version is from one of the first musicals from MGM in the talkie era, The Hollywood Revue of 1929.  You most likely know the song from the later and great musical of the same name ( which featured the recently passed Debbie Reynolds) but this is a great version.  It has a forward looking outlook despite the wet and dreary circumstances of the moment.  Just what people would be needing in the years after 1929.

And 2017.

Remember that it’s an old piece of film and try to look past the somewhat crude production values of the time.  It was cutting edge back then.  And it’s still a great piece of film now.

Oh, I also enclosed another Ukelele Ike number from a 1935 film, Starlit Days at the Lido.  It’s an early Technicolor film so it looks worlds different than the first film.  The song is Hang on to Me which is also a great song for the moment.

Enjoy! Take a look then let’s get to work and get that thing out of our bed!

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Dr. Seuss-  Gosh Do I Look As Old As All ThatSay what you mean and act how you feel,

because those who matter don’t mind,

and those who mind don’t matter.

Dr. Seuss

*************

I think these words about sincerity from the wonderful and wise Dr. Seuss are good advice for just about anybody.  For myself, I pass this advice on to young artists.  Your own meaning and feeling– make that the focus of your work…

Read Full Post »

I don’t want to get into the habit of revisiting past blogposts here, as I did the other day when I reposted a blog on the similarity between a painting of mine and the trees from Dr. Seuss’ Lorax.  But there is a painting that I wrote about back in March of 2009 called Endless Time that I really wanted to revisit today.  It’s a personal favorite and one that hangs in my studio, always giving me pause when I let my eyes rest upon it, as it did in the very early hours of this morning.   It has dwelt here for a couple of years now and remains special for me, always making me think. 

Or better yet, not think.

   There is something in it that is as definitive of all that  I desire from this world and of myself as anything I have ever painted.  It makes no overt appeal to the viewer, like nature, not giving a whit if you enter or not.   It has gifts to offer for those who make the effort to enter but there is no path inviting them in.  No beckoning tree or clusters of humble homes.  It simply is. 

Here is what I wrote back in March of 2009:

I wanted to talk a little about the piece shown here, Endless Time, which is a 24″ X 30″ canvas. This is what I consider a performance piecemeaning that I have performed several paintings that have a similar palette and composition in different sizes.

Each piece has its own character and feel, distinguished by differing color intensities and textures. The colors of each are similar but have their own peculiar colors due to the factors that make my color palette differ from day to day. Things like humidity and temperature, different gessoes that I use with differing absorption rates and my own lack of consistency in mixing color.

I call these performance pieces because I equate painting them to a musician performing their own composition. The musician may often change bits of their own compositions, changing things like tempo or intensity. Changing the coloration of the notes and how they’re played. The composition is intact and is identifiable but each individual performance has its own character, its own wealth.

You may notice something quite different in this piece as well.

No tree. No red tree. Nothing…

This is really a direct descendent from my earliest work that focused on open spaces and blocks of color, work that was meant to be spare and quiet. The weight of the piece is carried by the abstract qualities of the landscape and the intensity of the colors.

With this piece, I have chosen to forego the kinship that the red tree often fosters with the viewer, acting as a greeter inviting them to enter and feel comfortable within the picture plane. In Endless Time the viewer is left to their own devices when they enter the picture. There is no place to hide, no cover. They are exposed to the weight of the sky and the roll of the landscape. They are alone with not a sound nor distraction.

It becomes, at this point, a meditation. One is not merely looking at a landscape. To go into this painting one must be willing to look inside themselves as well.

And I think that is where the strength of this piece dwells. I hope this is evident to some viewers and they feel welcome to enter this quiet space…

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 With the recent release of The Lorax, an animated film based on the environmentally centered Dr. Seuss book and the continued popularity of his books (I think there are 6 in the top 100 of the NY Times bestsellers list), I thought I would reblog this post from back in August of 2010. 

Yesterday’s post about the 50th anniversary of Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss made me think about a piece that I’ve had hanging around my studio for the past decade. It’s a painting that I did in 2001 that I call Red, Hot and Blue. It’s an oil on panel piece that is pretty big, almost 5 1/2′ tall in its frame. It could be a small door. It showed in a few galleries after it was first painted and never found a home so it retired to my studio, to keep me company.

I mention it because it was been called the “Dr. Seuss painting” by several people who saw it when it was hanging in the galleries. They saw something in the way the trees were shaped and colored that gave them the appearance of a Seuss character. I had no thought of Seuss when I painted the piece but when I heard these comments I began to see it.

The expressive sway of the trees as though they were dancing. The bright primary colors- the red of the foliage and the bright blue of the trunk. Even the two trees in the background added to the Seuss-y feel.

The foliage actually looked like the endangered Truffala trees from Seuss’ cautionary fable about the environment, The Lorax.

It was not intended but it made sense. Seuss’ books were about communicating by giving strange creatures and things we often see as objects, such as trees and flowers, human qualities. His characters moved with a rhythm that made them feel alive. Just what I was trying to do with my painting. I’ve often felt that we best see and better understand things that possess human qualitities. I remember being taught that the Native American tribes in the area where I grew up gave names to local hills based on the human qualities they had. It made an impression and started me looking for the human form in all things.

The curve of a tree trunk. The roll of the land. The fingers of clouds in the sky.

To communicate.

So, while it was never intentional, this painting was very much a product of the influence of Dr. Seuss and others. When I look at it today, I don’t see the name I gave it. I see it as that “Dr. Seuss painting”.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday’s post about the 50th  anniversary of Green Eggs and Ham  by Dr. Seuss made me think about a piece that I’ve had hanging around my studio for the past decade.  It’s a painting that I did in 2001 that I call Red, Hot and Blue.  It’s an oil on panel piece that is pretty big, almost 5 1/2′ tall in its frame.  It could be a small door.  It showed in a few galleries after it was first painted and never found a home so it retired to my studio, to keep me company.

I mention it  because it was been called the “Dr. Seuss painting”  by several people who saw it when it was hanging in the galleries.  They saw something in the way the trees were shaped and colored  that gave them the appearance of a Seuss character.  I had no thought of Seuss when I painted the piece but when I heard these comments I began to see it. 

The expressive sway of the trees as though they were dancing.  The bright primary colors- the red of the foliage and the bright blue of the trunk.  Even the two trees in the background added to the Seuss-y feel.

The foliage actually looked like the endangered Truffala trees from Seuss’ cautionary fable about the environment, The Lorax

It was not intended but it made sense.  Seuss’ books were about communicating by giving strange creatures and things we often see as objects, such as trees and flowers, human qualities.  His characters moved  with a rhythm that made them feel alive. Just what I was trying to do with my painting.  I’ve often  felt that we best see and better understand things that possess human qualitities.  I remember being taught that the Native American tribes in the area where I grew up gave names to local hills based on the human qualities they had.  It made an impression and started me looking for the human form in all things. 

The curve of a tree trunk. The roll of the land.  The fingers of clouds in the sky.

To communicate.

So, while it was never intentional, this painting was very much a product of the influence of Dr. Seuss and others.  When I look at it today, I don’t see the name I gave it.  I see it as that “Dr. Seuss painting”.

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