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Posts Tagged ‘MUltitudes’

Well, the work for my upcoming show, Moments and Color, is out of the studio and at the West End Gallery. The show will be completely hung sometime today well in advance of next Friday’s July 12 opening.

It always feels a little weird the first morning back in the studio after delivering a large group of work for a solo show. While it’s a relief to have the work gone and the task met, it is a bittersweet sensation. The paintings that have surrounded me, that have called out at me, that have occupied my mind for months are suddenly gone. It feels hollow here even though the place is far from empty and the work that is gone seems to have left behind an echoing presence.

Some pieces definitely leave behind reverberating waves. Like the one above, a 16″ by 20″ painting from the Multitudes series that I call Soul Boat. It’s a piece that I miss now when I scan around the studio. There are faces in it that I had gotten used to locating and focusing on, like the one here on the right that reminds me of Henry Miller. Maybe he’s sailing out on the Tropic of Cancer or Capricorn.

Don’t know but I kind of miss having him staring out at me.

If you want to have this Henry Miller stare at you for a bit, Soul Boat is now at the West End Gallery for next week’s opening on Friday, July 12. Please stop in and get a sneak peek at the show.

Anyway, here’s an oldie from Grand Funk Railroad that might kind of line up with this piece– if you squint your eyes and try real hard. It’s I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home.

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And the sages of the subway sit just like the living dead
As the tracks clack out the rhythm, their eyes fixed straight ahead
They ride the line of balance and hold on by just a thread
But it’s too hot in these tunnels, you can get hit up by the heat
You get up to get out at your next stop, but they push you back in your seat
Your heart starts beatin’ faster as you struggle to your feet
Then you’re outta that hole and back up on the street…

–Bruce Springsteen, It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City

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The other day, I was working on another of the Multitudes pieces, a 12″ square canvas that was featuring a halo or at least a gold orb hanging over one of the faces. The painting started with this central haloed character and the rest of the faces grew out from it. The faces other than the one with the halo were originally going to be many shades of blues and purples but while I was working, a song from Bruce Springsteen‘s first album in 1973, Greetings From Asbury Park NJ, came on.

I could lie here (as I have been known to do on occasion) and say that it was It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City. That would make for a nice tidy little tale.

But it was actually Spirit in the Night. At first I thought that maybe I should use that title for this piece. It would work pretty well, especially with the dark blues and purples. But  instead I instantly saw in my head the title from another song from that album, It’s Hard to Be a Saint. It fit even better. The painting already had a saintly halo, for god’s sake. So I decided to go back at the surrounding faces and give them a green, jaundiced tone. Give them a uniformly alien appearance that would contrast against the lightness of the haloed one.

It works for me, at least. You may or may not like it and, again, that’s okay.

Anyway, here’s the song that gives this painting its title. It’s early Springsteen so its densely worded in its lyrics, the thing that really attracted me to his work at first. Many of the songs from his first albums felt more like short stories or novellas than songs. As his work evolved, his best work moved from this sense of literature with intimate, wordy description to one that felt more cinematic, with broader, sweeping vistas. I like both styles but this early work still appeals deeply to something in me.

Give a listen and have a good Sunday. And a good Father’s Day.

 

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One part of my show that opened Friday night (and continues to hang through the month and into July) at the Principle Gallery was the first public exhibition of the Multitudes series that consists of masses of faces. The response to these pieces was very strong, more than I had anticipated with a couple of the pieces finding new homes. I knew that the potential sales aspect of this series might take a bit of time at the start just to get viewers acclimated to the work. But  I wasn’t confronted by anyone who felt uneasy by them and that is a victory of sorts. At least, a good first step.

I was pleased with the way these pieces blended in with the more typical body of my work. I think that plays well into the idea that we are all prisms with multiple facets that are not visible to everyone at all times. While this work may not have been evident before, it was still there in place. As much a part of who I am as any other piece in the body of my work. Just a different aspect.

Below is a slideshow of the pieces at the show.

https://spark.adobe.com/video/zyiabQaWWtnmm

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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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This morning, I was looking for a piece of writing that I could pair with this new Multitudes painting, a 12″ square canvas that I call Facing the Crowd, that is part of my upcoming show at the Principle Gallery. I came across the poem below from the late poet Charles Bukowski and before I even read it I had a feeling that it might work. These paintings have a kind of Bukowski feel to them, as though each of these faces might inhabit a dark corner of his seedy world. If I look close enough I am sure I can find Bukowski’s timeworn face somewhere in there.

I was originally going to call this Welcome to my TED Talk or just Public Speaking. But I felt that Facing the Crowd described it better because I didn’t really see it as being about standing in front of crowd once in a while, even though I have given a talk or two where I definitely felt like this. Actually, I saw this as being willing to face the scrutiny and judgement of the crowd in order to be the person you desire to be.

Too often we choose to stifle our own voice and desires and instead blend in with the crowd, getting swept along in a force that overcomes all our individual efforts. The choice of the crowd becomes our choice, without nuance or depth of understanding. We lose our voice in the din of the many.

We become the din.

To choose to turn and stand before the crowd, to speak our own words in our own voice is a scary thing for any of us. But more than that, it is an act of bravery, an act of liberation from a crowd that is most often driven by the lowest common denominators of our character.

Well, that’s what I get from this. You might see it in altogether different terms and maybe even dislike this piece immensely. And I celebrate that because that is how it should be. Art allows us great liberty if we listen to our own reactions rather than becoming part of the crowd.

Anyway, here is Bukowski’s poem:

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“The Genius of The Crowd

 

there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average

human being to supply any given army on any given day

 

and the best at murder are those who preach against it

and the best at hate are those who preach love

and the best at war finally are those who preach peace

 

those who preach god, need god

those who preach peace do not have peace

those who preach peace do not have love

 

beware the preachers

beware the knowers

beware those who are always reading books

beware those who either detest poverty

or are proud of it

beware those quick to praise

for they need praise in return

beware those who are quick to censor

they are afraid of what they do not know

beware those who seek constant crowds for

they are nothing alone

beware the average man the average woman

beware their love, their love is average

seeks average

 

but there is genius in their hatred

there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you

to kill anybody

not wanting solitude

not understanding solitude

they will attempt to destroy anything

that differs from their own

not being able to create art

they will not understand art

they will consider their failure as creators

only as a failure of the world

not being able to love fully

they will believe your love incomplete

and then they will hate you

and their hatred will be perfect

 

like a shining diamond

like a knife

like a mountain

like a tiger

like hemlock

 

their finest art”

 

― Charles Bukowski

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For everyone we see and who interests us, we should create a biography of his past and future. One of the sage’s mental characteristics is his ability to dress up other people inside himself, giving them the clothes he deems most suitable for however he chooses to dream them.

Masquerades disclose the reality of souls. As long as no one sees who we are, we can tell the most intimate details of our life. I sometimes muse over this sketch of a story—about a man afflicted by one of those personal tragedies born of extreme shyness . . . who one day, while wearing a mask I don’t know where, told another mask all the most personal, most secret, most unthinkable things that could be told about his tragic and serene life. And since no outward detail would give him away, he having disguised even his voice, and since he didn’t take careful note of whoever had listened to him, he could enjoy the ample sensation of knowing that somewhere in the world there was someone who knew him as not even his closest and finest friend did. When he walked down the street, he would ask himself if this person, or that one, or that person over there might not be the one to whom he’d once, wearing a mask, told his most private life. Thus would be born in him a new interest in each person, since each person might be his only, unknown confidant. And his crowning glory would be if the whole of that sorrowful life he’d told were, from start to finish, absolutely false.

Fernando Pessoa, Masquerades

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I was looking for a piece of writing to accompany this painting, Face Off, which is from my new Multitudes series when I came across this item that was published in a 2009 issue of Harper’s Magazine from the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. I didn’t recognize the name but soon discovered that Pessoa, who lived from 1888 until 1935 when he died from cirrhosis, is considered one of the giants of Portuguese literature and poetry.

And an interesting character whose views might match up well with this painting. You see, he assumed and wrote under many different names. But these were not simply pseudonyms, were not just different names. No, they were mostly different personas as well. He termed them as heteronyms. In fact there is a list of over 80 of these heteronyms that he employed over his relatively short life.

The Masquerades of which he wrote above seems to be a description of his own world and life. He appears, from what little bit I have been able to find out about him in a short time this morning, to have been a man of masks.

And that’s an interesting premise, this idea of wearing a different mask for each new encounter with those we meet in our lives, giving each a bit of ourselves that might be unique to that person alone. It has the effect that while many may know us, might recognize the mask we are wearing at any given moment, none might truly know our totality.

There might be no one who would know and recognize our true unmasked face.

In a way I think that is an apt description of how I see the Multitudes series. Each face in these crowds might well be a mask of my own, one that I might have worn around others at points in my life. Angry times. Desperate times. Goofy times and times of absolute stupidity and ignorance. Lonely times. Ugly and shameful times.

As I have aged, the masks I wear seem more and more representative of my real face though I believe they are often still distorted.

Maybe that is what this series represents for me– a shedding of old masks. Maybe even old lives.

I don’t really know. Maybe you get to the point that you become the mask and the mask becomes you.

Hmm…

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“Our civilization is flinging itself to pieces. Stand back from the centrifuge.” 

Ray BradburyFahrenheit 451

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I have completed a number of paintings in my Multitudes (or Masks or Faces or whatever the hell I am going to call them) series in the past couple of months and I still can’t quite put my finger on what they truly are or what purpose they serve for myself. As I’ve said, many of these faces have lived with me for most of my life.

They are absolutely familiar. Maybe even going to the base of the word, they seem like family.

The overall effect from these pieces for myself is not a stirring of one single emotion. They are a compendium of feelings. Some are benign and some are very kind faces. Some are worried and fearful. Some seem lost in thought and some just seem lost. Some are angry and some even contain a bit of menace and hatred.

The massing of them tends to balance the emotions for me.

This seems less so in the piece shown above, an 18″ by 18″ canvas that I originally called The March. It’s a piece that I find very appealing in so many ways, especially in the glow its colors produce in any kind of light. The colors, especially the orange/red of the flags, seem to pop off the surface and at a glimpse it seems almost festive. Maybe a celebratory parade?

But the more I look, the more it frightens me, seemingly capturing some innate dread of mine. I see in it a reflection of some of the craziness that is in great abundance around the world at this juncture in time. Waking this morning to hear of the 49 people slain by a white supremacist as they worshipped in their mosques in New Zealand only reinforces this sense of dread and looking at this piece, I see in it the willingness of people to join in, to sacrifice self and sense to become part of a mass movement to march under a banner that divides more than it unites.

The joy and snap of the banners that I first saw in this painting have become something else. They now represent a emboldened expression of feelings and beliefs that is sanctioned by the crowd. Most had been rightfully restrained in shame for decades and centuries but have now been unleashed. They now seem to me like banners of ignorance and stupidity, of racial hatred and blind allegiance to dead ideals.

It was never intended to be so. I just painted it as it came to me, delighting in the colors and forms as they came together. It came easily and freely, giving me great pleasure and joy as I painted it.

But now when I look at the faces and bodies with their uniform shade of color, I see a parade of old white men marching to protect that which they see as their god given sense of entitlement. Even the poorest among this crowd believes that the earth is their’s alone, that they reign supreme over all races and species. In it I see this crowd as believing this is their last ditch effort to maintain this imagined supremacy. That now is the time to take this world back.

And in the world outside this painting, I sense the same. It is a worrisome and dangerous time. We must be vigilant against this parade of fools. And after writing this this morning, maybe that is what the title should be.

Parade of Fools– that will be its title, after all.

Funny how the perception of a piece can change with time and circumstance.

 

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