Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘MUltitudes’


“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain


These certainly is a time of mental pain.  a It’s time with a lot of moving parts, so many things with so many repercussions all going on at one time. Everything, every emotion and passion, feels heightened.

And that can be overwhelming. After all, most of us devote our lives to avoiding pain and difficult emotions.

Unfortunately, there are times when it can’t be avoided.

This is such a time.

We will all have to dig deep into our inner reserves and call on whatever courage and strength we have accumulated there. And if our reserves feel lacking, don’t despair alone. As C.S. Lewis points out above, mental pain is hard to bear and trying to go it alone makes it even more difficult. Everyone–and I mean everyone–needs help now and then so in these times of super stress, reach out and let someone know.

The exposure is often purifying.

On that note, here’s song from someone who, several years ago, I never thought I’d be playing here. It’s Sign of the Times from Harry Styles, who came to fame as part of the manufactured British boy band phenoms, One Direction. But going out on his own, he has proved himself quite a talent and this song has stuck with me from the first time I heard it a few years back.

Give a listen, reach out to friends and family and have a decent day.


 

Read Full Post »

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

He was a king or a shah, an ahkoond or rajah,
the head man of the country,
and he commanded the learned men of the books
they must put all their books in one,
which they did,
and this one book into a single page,
which they did.
“Suppose next,” said the head man, who was
either a king or shah, an ahkoond or rajah,
“Suppose now you give my people
  the history of the world and its peoples
  in three words— come, go to work!”
And the learned men sat long into the night
and confabulated over their ponderings
and brought back three words:
  “Born,
   troubled,
   died. “

This was their history of Everyman.

”Give me next for my people,’ spoke the head man,
“in one word the inside kernel of all you know,
  the knowledge of your ten thousand books
  with a forecast of what will happen next—
  this for my people in one word.”
And again they sat into the peep of dawn
and the arguments raged
and the glass prisms of the chandeliers shook
and at last they came to a unanimous verdict
and brought the head man one word:
   “Maybe “

–A fragment of #49 from The People, Yes from poet Carl Sandburg

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

Born-Troubled-Died.

It may not have the breathtaking poetic sweep of Person-Woman-Man-Camera-TV but the addition of that one word condensed from all the gathered knowledge of man, that simple Maybe, is a sign of hope. A sign that despite the worst efforts of kings and would-be kings, the people will overcome.

Maybe.

 

Read Full Post »

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

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?

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

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.

Read Full Post »

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

Like the dead sea
You told me I was like the dead sea
You’ll never sink when you are with me
Oh, lord, I’m your dead sea

–Dead Sea, The Lumineers

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

Don’t have much to say today.

Oh, I have plenty to say. Just don’t want to say it and am pretty sure you don’t want to hear it.

So, I was looking at some paintings that are still out in the galleries that I could feature here and came across the piece above, Soul Boat. It’s from last year’s Multitudes series and is now at the Principle Gallery. There’s a certain clarity in it that I like but can’t clearly define.

After taking some time this morning to study it to see what that might be, I tried to find a song that might pair well with it. Of course, the first thing that jumped to mind were songs with titles like Ship of Fools. It’s a title used by many artists over the years and there were a lot of good choices from the Grateful Dead to Robert Plant to the Doors or a great piece of 80’s music from World Party that I featured here before. Then there was Nick Cave‘s brilliant Ship Song.

All of them would have worked perfectly well. Probably better than the song I ended up choosing but this morning, this song from The Lumineers jumped out at me. Plus I liked the video. Here’s their song The Dead Sea.

It might not be the perfect companion for this painting but who cares? They can coexist together on this page.

Give a listen and have as good a day as you can.

Read Full Post »

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

“Life” is of course a misnomer, since viruses, lacking the ability to eat or respire, are officially dead, which is in itself intriguing, showing as it does that the habit of predation can be taken up by clusters of molecules that are in no way alive.”

― Barbara Ehrenreich, Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth about Everything

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

It’s interesting how things reveal themselves to you in different ways.

The painting above, The March, was painted about a year ago and was part of my Multitudes series. It’s a piece that always made me uneasy and even a little frightened. There was something ominous in the massed figures and the way they were marching forward.

It was not a parade of celebration.

No, it had a purpose and intent that felt to me like it was skewing toward the darker side of our nature. It was like it portrayed some evil force marching towards us. In fact, when I wrote about this piece last March, I used a line from the Ray Bradbury book, Fahrenheit 451, as the introductory quote: “Our civilization is flinging itself to pieces. Stand back from the centrifuge.

And looking at this piece this morning, I stand by those initial feelings but they seem even stronger and more prescient given the march of the Covid-19 virus around the globe. I look at this painting now and see the faces and green coats as personifications of infection. There is a zombie-like pallor to the faces, the color of death. And as author Barbara Ehrenreich points out in the quote at the top, viruses are not truly living organisms. They are undead predators waiting for a host to further their march.

So, this painting has become more focused and narrowly defined for me personally. It’s like it has been waiting for the proper moment to reveal itself and its meaning. It doesn’t make me feel any better but at least I know what I see in it now.

It’s a scary time, these late winter days in March. There are certainly rough times ahead, both from the virus and the hardships created by it that we are going to face. I would like to say that I have confidence in those people who we have entrusted to lead us through times like this. But we are led by a person who lacks all empathy and is only concerned with his own situation. He has greatly weakened the agencies needed to face these situations, slashing budgets and even dismantling the Pandemic Response team back in 2018. He has filled his administration with inept and corrupt political lackeys, not with capable professionals in their fields who would dispassionately respond to crises like this. They would act with the public’s best interests foremost in their mind, without having to first worry about offending the childish sensibilities of the egomaniac in charge.

We are not confronting this with what we would consider an A Team leading us.

I am worried. Worried for my family and friends, Worried for my nation. Worried for this world.

And as the month of March slogs forward, the viral march moves on, as well, with an orange faced idiot in a red hat acting as the drum major.

Be well, my friends. Good luck to us all.

 

Read Full Post »

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

Rockets, moon shots
Spend it on the have-nots
Money, we make it
Fore we see it, you’ll take it

Oh, make you wanna holler
The way they do my life
Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life

-Gil Scott Heron, Inner City Blues ( Make Me Wanna Holler)

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

I showed a painting last week in progress last week and mentioned that I was working on a series of cityscapes. This is a different painting from that series that I am calling Inner City Blue. It is 22″ wide by 28″ high on canvas.

These pieces are painted in the same way as the Multitudes series that consisted of masses of faces. I normally start at one spot and just work outward from it with little or no plan as to where it will go or how it will emerge. There’s an excitement in working this way because there is always the tension that comes from not knowing whats going to come out.

I often find myself eager with anticipation as the painting progresses. It’s still a mystery at that point and I need that. That not knowing is a big part of how I work, a driving force. I don’t think I would last long if I knew with any certainty how any painting would come out in the end.

And these cityscapes, with all their moving parts and angles and shapes and shades, are totally unpredictable. And that just engrosses me in the process, allows me to find little bits of meaning and beauty in the cracks and crevices that are being created.

Hopefully, a little bit of what I am getting from these pieces comes across to the viewer. That reaction is as unpredictable as the painting itself.

I compared these cityscapes to the Multitudes series earlier. There are similarities beyond the process. Much as I left the faces without eyes in the Multitudes pieces, I leave elements out of these cityscapes. There are no traces of people on the streets or in the windows. There is no signage, no lettering. No street lights or anything on the street. It creates a skeletal effect, showing the bones of what gives the city its appearance while leaving a void.

That void could be described as the anonymity that very large cities often provide.

You know what I mean. That sense of being lost in a throng of faceless people moving on the street. Little, if any, eye contact and as you jostle along with the crowd, your own eyes are locked on some far distant point, fending off the intrusive eyes of the street vendors, hustlers and beggars.

You try to look stoic and determined, like you’re on a mission that should not be interrupted. You’re like a silent rocket hurtling through the space between the buildings that tower above the street and each building is a new alien world to you, filled with life and lives about which you know little.

A stranger in a strange land. That feeling might be the best way to describe what drives much of my work. I often feel out of place in this world– a stranger in a strange land– and am trying to put it, in my work, into some sort of order that allows me to fit in.

Don’t know if that makes any sense. But I do like these city pieces and feel there is something in them that I need to see. So, I will keep looking for a while.

Here’s the song Inner City Blues (Make me Wanna Holler), written by Gil Scott Heron and performed by the great Marvin Gaye. I didn’t mean to borrow the title but after I had titled it I remembered that there was the song. So, here it is. Enjoy.

 

 

Read Full Post »

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

Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.

–Oscar Wilde

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

Yesterday, I wrote about trying to go back through my work from the past decade and choose pieces that best summed up each year. It’s a difficult, if not impossible, task. There are often many different directions that the work moves in over a given period of time or sometimes pieces that strike a chord most for me may not represent the larger body of my work for that time period.

This past year, for instant, had many tentacles. The landscapes began appearing with multiple beds of flowers. The sailboats took on larger and more expressive waves. A new female figure emerged to paddle across flat waters. And, of course, the faces from my Multitudes series began to appear.

All of these elements will no doubt remain in play for the near future and maybe well beyond that. Who knows? And who knows what new things will emerge to grab my focus?

I sure don’t.

The piece shown here, Saints and Sinners, is from this year’s Multitudes series. It’s a favorite of mine, one that I might consider as a piece to represent this past year, at least for its particular tentacle. It’s a painting that I think works well for ending this year and welcoming the next. It has a feeling of looking backward and forward. Of examining what we have been, what we are and what we might someday be.

As I like to say: What I was then is not what I am now and what I am now may not be what I will be in the future.

None of us are fully saints or sinners. There may be a few who are fully sinners well beyond redemption ( ** comes to mind) but most of us are in that boat that drifts between the two opposite shores.

I am hoping that we drift closer to the saintly shoreline in 2020.

Have a good and safe New Year’s Eve.

 

Read Full Post »

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

The wind is blowing; those vessels whose sails are unfurled catch it, and go forward on their way, but those which have their sails furled do not catch the wind. Is that the fault of the wind? Is it the fault of the merciful Father, whose wind of mercy is blowing without ceasing, day and night, whose mercy knows no decay, is it His fault that some of us are happy and some unhappy? We make our own destiny. His sun shines for the weak as well as for the strong. His wind blows for saint and sinner alike. He is the Lord of all, the Father of all, merciful, and impartial.

–Swami Vivekananda

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

This new painting in my Multitudes series is a 36″ by 24″ canvas and is titled Saints and Sinners. It’s headed out to the West End Gallery this weekend to be part of my solo show, Moments and Color, that hangs there until the end of August.

I came across the words above today from Swami Vivekananda, a 19th century Hindu monk/mystic, and they seemed an appropriate fit for this painting. Looking at this piece, the faces seem to form a sail of sorts, something I hadn’t noticed before this morning.

The imagery of our lives as being boats appeals to me. Like sailors on boats, our decisions set our course. Two boats on the same body of water may react differently on the water due to the actions of the sailor aboard each. Sometimes these are small and subtle actions. Similarly, the differences between the saint and the sinner are often small and subtle.

The saint may let go of anger where the sinner holds fast to it. The saint may see hope where the sinner sees despair. The saint may give mercy where the sinner might seek vengeance. The saint bears responsibility for their own decisions while the sinner places the blame on others for their own mistakes.

Written down, the differences seem greater than they do to the eye. The saint and the sinner may be indistinguishable at first glance. And maybe that is as it should be. We have the possibility of each– saint and sinner– within us. We have all made bad decisions but we live with the hope that we may make better ones in the future.

Like Oscar Wilde said: Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.

Or in the words of Nelson Mandela: I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.

Or maybe there are neither saints nor sinners. Just simple sailors in boats, some running fast and some foundering in their wake.

Hope you’ll stop out and see this new piece.

You can see it if you come to my Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery on Saturday, August 17, beginning at 1 PM. I’m sure it will be part of he discussion and maybe you’ll take home a prize! Details coming soon!

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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

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

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

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.

 

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

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: