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Posts Tagged ‘Haven’

There are a few paintings in my show, Haven, which opens on Friday at the Principle Gallery, that feature intertwined trees. One such piece, a 24″ by 30″ canvas titled Nuptiae, is shown above.

It’s a motif that I have used a number of times over many years. I have always liked the manner in which climbing vines embrace embrace their host trees. There’s often a sensuous physicality in the curves and bends of their united trunks that makes it easy to see them in human terms. This human equivalency is something I have tried to pull out of my landscapes. Early on, this was the simple basis for the handful of intertwined trees paintings I created.

But I received a request for a commission that changed the meaning of these paintings for me. A couple was about to celebrate their tenth anniversary and wanted a painting to mark the occasion. They shared an affinity for the Greek myth of Baucis and Philemon and wanted the painting to reflect the tale’s tone and moral.

Nuptiae, at the top, is my most recent interpretation of the story. It’s a painting that was nothing but a pleasure to paint, one of those pieces that fall off the brush almost on their own and every move made feels right. Even so, the final result exceeded what I saw for it when I first envisioned it.

Below is what I wrote back in 2010. It’s a simple retelling of the myth as I know it.

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I often get requests for commissioned work but usually am not excited by the prospect of being dictated to in the creation of my work, actually turning down many that get too specific in their requirements. I want my paintings to reflect my thought process and emotion as well as my craft. As a result, I have an informal set of rules that let me have free rein in the creation of the work so that the painting is allowed to form in an organic way. Not forced, which often takes away the vitality of many pieces, in my opinion. 

But this particular request is unlike many others that I receive. They want this piece to relate the story of the classic myth of Baucis and Philemon, which is the tale of a poor but happy couple who are unknowingly visited by Zeus and Hermes disguised as dusty travelers. Beggars, actually. 

Coming into their village earlier, the two gods had went door to door among their neighbors seeking hospitality and were rebuffed in every attempt, often with harsh words. Zeus became angry as door after door was slammed in his face. Finally, they came to the door of the shack of Baucis and Philemon, by far the poorest looking home in the village. 

Upon knocking, they were greeted warmly by an elderly couple who welcomed them in to their impoverished but clean home and treated them with what little they had in the way of food and drink. They were gracious and hospitable, seeking to give comfort to the strangers. As the night wore on, the couple, who had been serving their simple wine to the travelers from a pitcher, noticed that the pitcher stayed full even after many pours. They began to suspect that these were not mere beggars but were, in fact, gods. 

They apologized to the gods for not having much to put before them then offered to catch their prized goose, which was really a pet, and cook it for them. The old couple chased the goose around the shack until finally the frightened creature found sanctuary on the laps of the gods. Stroking the now safe goose, Zeus then informed them of their identities and, after complimenting them on their hospitality and speaking of the mean-spiritedness of their neighbors, instructed the couple to follow them.

They climbed upon a rise where Zeus told them to stop and look back. Where once their town had stood was nothing but water from a deluge that had washed away everything including all the townsfolk who had insulted Zeus. From where their poor home had been, a majestic golden-roofed temple with sparkling marble pillars rose from the receding waters. 

Zeus told the couple that this would be their new home and asked what wish he could grant them. They asked that they be made priests, guardians of this temple and that they should always remain together until the ends of their lives. Seeing their obvious love for each other, Zeus readily agreed. The couple lived for many more years together, reaching a prodigious age.

One day they stood together in their old age and all the past moments from their life and love together flooded over them. Baucis saw leaves and limbs sprouting from Philemon and realized that the same thing was happening to her. Standing on the plain outside the temple, they transformed into two trees, an oak and a linden, that grew from the same trunk, their limbs intertwined, eternally together. 

That’s a simple re-telling of the tale but I think you can see why this couple might want a symbol of this story to mark their time together…

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The interpretation of our reality through patterns not our own, serves only to make us ever more unknown, ever less free, ever more solitary.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel Speech 1982

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This is a new painting, a 16″ by 20″ canvas, that is part of Haven, my solo show that opens Friday at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria. It is titled Seeking the Design.

I chose the words above from the Nobel Prize speech from the late author Gabriel Garcia Marquez to accompany this painting even though Marquez was speaking above how the people and countries of South America had suffered over the centuries by trying to adhere to patterns of behavior and expectation imposed upon them by foreign influences.

These words spoke to me on a more individual level. We often live our lives according to the norms and expectations of others, following well worn paths from which we seldom, if ever, depart. As a result, we often become no more than others expect us to be.

It as though we have not even attempted to find our own pattern, our own design for living.

And that is what I see in this painting. The Red Tree, an earthly being, has come to the end of that worn path and must make a decision about how to proceed. While there are multitudes of options revealed in the maze-like underpainting of the sky and earthly options that likely exist beyond the layers of distant hills, the Red Tree must choose between finding the pattern that best suits its own desires and needs or going back on that path to follow in the footsteps of the crowd that travels along it.

I get the feeling that latter option would result in one feeling, as Marquez pointed out, more unknown, ever less free and ever more solitary.

For me, this painting has a nice harmony between dark edged weariness and colorful optimism. It is both scary and invigorating in finding one’s own design or pattern to follow. I believe the Red Tree will be following its own path.

Well, that’s how I see it, anyway.

 

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Well, I made delivery yesterday to the Principle Gallery of the paintings for my show, Haven. This exhibit opens Friday, June 1 at the Alexandria gallery with a reception that runs from 6:30 until 9 PM.

I guess I should say that it feels good to have the work in place but that wouldn’t be completely honest. While there is satisfaction in the simple completion of a large task I know from past experience that I will do little more than worry for the next several days. And the fact that this is my nineteenth solo show at the Principle Gallery and that I feel this may be among the most cohesive and strong group of work of these shows does absolutely nothing to stem the worry I feel.

In fact, this good feeling about the work, sensing that this work is as true to whatever vision and voice I possess, that makes me worry more than ever. To have it not connect with others, to have it feel distant and obscure on the wall, would have me questioning my own judgement about what I do. While I know that to base anything on the results of one show is foolish, it still makes a mark and creates a wound that makes you a little less willing to fully show yourself for fear of opening that wound again.

But hopefully this worry is baseless. For now, I will live with my worry and the belief that the work in this show ranks among the best that I have done. Time, as is always the case, will tell.

One of the paintings in the show is shown at the top. It is titled To the Siren’s Song and is 16″ by 20″ on canvas. It’s a piece I already miss having in the studio, one that constantly pulled my eye toward it in the months leading up to the show. The painting itself became a kind of siren to me and there is a perceptible void in its absence. For me, there is a blending of colors and forms,  of representation and abstraction, that I find compelling.

But that’s just me.

For this Sunday morning music I have chosen a song that I think fits into the blend of this painting. It is from the late singer/songwriter Tim Buckley who passed away at the all too early age of 28 back in 1975. Most of you are more likely to know the work of his son, Jeff Buckley, who also tragically died an early death at age 30 back in 1997. But Tim Buckley was as highly regarded in his time and his work has played a large influence on may other artists. This song is one of his better known and has been covered by a number of artists over the past half century. Fittingly for this painting, it is titled Song of the Siren. This video is from The Monkees TV show in 1968.

Have a good Sunday.

 

 

 

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“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

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This morning, I am finally coming to the end of preparations for my show at the Principle Gallery that opens a week from today, next Friday, June 1. Finishing touches this morning and loading for delivery later in the day. This point in the process generally brings a sense of relief even though there still is much ahead before I can fully relax.

I have had a few chances to finally look at this group of work as a whole and can say that I am truly excited to see it hanging in the gallery. I may have buried myself more in this body of work than any group in quite some time, maybe as a way of seeking sanctuary from the problems of the outer world. Perhaps the title of this show, Haven, was self-fulfilling.

I didn’t concern myself with trying to meet the expectations of others, didn’t worry about including work that might be directed towards anyone besides myself. I concentrated only on color and form and textures and mood. The colors are deep and dark. The forms have an organic simplicity. The textures create their own narratives beneath the picture plane. All of this comes together to create a sense of mood within these paintings that I think may be more consistent and palpable than any show of mine in some time.

In short, I think it’s a very strong show.

The painting at the top, Light and Wisdom, is one painting from the show. I think this piece, a 16″ by 20″ canvas, is emblematic of this show’s feel and look, possessing all of the qualities I listed above.

I love the lines below it from T.S. Eliot, feeling that they express so well what I see in this painting. Life often feels like a constant search for some vague object– knowledge, wisdom, love, experience, etc.– that will make us somehow whole. Yet, as is often the case, we only reach wholeness within ourselves, in that place where the journey began. Maybe that is why I chose this painting for this bit of verse from Eliot– it has a sense of wholeness that has been ultimately fulfilled by realizing that the answer was in itself.

The answer, it seems, is always at hand.

 

 

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Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.

John Muir

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I wish I had a bit more time this morning to write about this smaller painting, a 10″ by 20″ canvas that takes it title, Nature’s Heart,  from the words above from the fabled naturalist John Muir. There has been a recent assault on many of the protections given to our environment and we can’t afford to idly stand by while this happens.

We need clean air, clean water and clean soil to continue as a species. Just as important, we need those pristine places where we can wash our spirits clean, as Muir said.

I see this piece as a plea for everyone to take a position as caretakers of the world in which they aim to prosper.

Take an active stand. Listen and speak up.

Be nature’s heart…

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This painting, Nature’s Heart, is part of Haven, my solo show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria that opens next Friday, June 1.

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“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” 

 G.K. Chesterton

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This is a new painting from my upcoming solo show, Haven, at the Principle Gallery. It’s 12″ by 24″ on canvas and is titled Hope Rising.

There are a number of pieces from this show that lean towards darker and deeper hues than much of my other work.  Generally, when these colors have appeared in the past it was the result of being in what I perceived to be perilous times.

Such is the case with this work for it feels as though we live in a time of dragons.

But as Chesterton points out, the lesson to be gleaned from the fairy tales is that while we may live among dragons, they are not invincible. They are always defeated by forces of goodness and righteousness.

I get that feeling of hopefulness from this painting. It feels like a quiet moment when the fear brought on my the dark of night is alleviated by the reflected light of the moon that announces that there is a new day soon arriving.

The dragons can be held at bay and the darkness will only be a temporary condition if we hold tight to what is true and right.

The light of truth ultimately overcomes the false light offered by the dragon’s fire.

And that is not only in fairy tales.

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I felt deep within me that the highest point a man can attain is not Knowledge or Virtue or Goodness or Victory but something even greater, more heroic and more despairing: Sacred Awe!

Nikos Kazantzakis

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I was all set to write something this morning about stupidity. I noticed that a post I wrote a year ago, On Stupidity, has been getting a large number of views lately. It is about the danger of stupidity, about how even the very highly educated can be stupid, especially in highly charged times when they can fall prey to social and political movements. This coincided with recent thoughts I have been having about how we have devalued intelligence and reason in this nation in recent times, to a point of vilifying the cerebral and elevating moronic behavior.

I was deflated by the whole thing and decided I needed to focus on something other than that, something that dealt with something far more uplifting. I came across the words above from author Nikos Kazantzakis from his book Zorba the Greek. It’s part of a scene where the narrator, a young, bookish Greek man is asked by Zorba, a raw and raucous peasant, to explain the meaning of the stars and the universe that they are sitting beneath. The narrator tries unsuccessfully to put this idea of  Sacred Awe into a form that Zorba will understand. While he doesn’t understand the given explanation, Zorba does recognize the depth of the mystery that he senses in that night sky.

That brings me to this painting, a 36″ by 36″ canvas that I am calling Sacred Awe. It is part of my solo show, Haven, at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, opening June 1.

This piece has been hanging in the studio for several months now and I have spent a fair amount of time in the space of this painting. Like Zorba, it is a painting that begs for an answer to the mystery of the stars and the constellations that swirl above. Yet all that is given in response is a sense of awe and nothing more.

And nothing more is needed.

Sacred Awe elevates the mind, stimulates the senses and is the beginning of all art and poetry. In it we connect to a mystic continuum that sees us as small as particles of dust and as large as the great waves of light that pass through the vastness of space.

It is all and it is nothing.

There’s a great meditative  and mysterious quality in this painting, at least for me. It both pleases and puzzles me.

A fitting response to sacred awe.

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