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Posts Tagged ‘Music’

I was going to write something altogether different this morning, something angry and sharply pointed. But I found that the prospect of doing so just made me angrier with the realization of the probable futility of it. Seems like just more words to be thrown on the heap of the web’s virtual Tower of Babel, too many to be heard with any clarity or understanding. Maybe that’s the problem– though we basically engage in the same written language, many of us speak in contexts and understandings so different from one another that it makes us seem as though we are talking to each other in wildly different tongues.

And that brings me to my standard stock answer: I don’t know.

So, I am going to play a song that came on yesterday and piqued my interest while I was matting the painting shown here, one I call The Coming Together. It is headed to the Principle Gallery for my 21st annual solo show there, which opens next Friday, June 5. This year’s show is called Social Distancing.

The song that played yesterday was Cross of Flowers from singer/songwriter Jeffrey Foucault. I was very much in the same state of mind as I am this morning, a little world weary and a little down in spirit. This song, in the moment, seemed to both capture that feeling and relieve it just a bit. A small iota of catharsis, enough to lighten the load for a few moments.

It also seemed to capture the feeling I get from this painting. It’s a nod to a handful of similar pieces I did early in my career, with woven plant stems and flowers cutting through the picture plane like pole with colors radiating out from the sides of the painting’s central core.

These works are more about the forms and the color than the reality of the plants. There’s no basis in reality for the botanical aspects of the plants or flowers so don’t ask me. I just paint them in a way that please me, one that satisfies what I want to see in that moment. Though imaginary, it has its own organic growth.

I think that’s why I enjoy painting these pieces. They just become what they are. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Makes me wonder why I didn’t paint more of these. Maybe the scarcity keeps the wonder of painting them fresh?

Again, I don’t know.

For god’s sake, don’t ask me any questions this morning. I am going to give a listen again to the song and look a little bit longer at this painting. Sip my coffee and chill for a few minutes. I suggest you do the same.

It’ll do you good.

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In the morning they return
With tears in their eyes
The stench of death drifts up to the skies
A soldier so ill looks at the sky pilot
Remembers the words
“Thou shalt not kill.”
Sky pilot,
Sky pilot,
How high can you fly?
You’ll never, never, never reach the sky.

–Sky Pilot, Eric Burdon and the Animals

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I watched a National Geographic documentary this past week, Heroes of the Sky: The Mighty Eighth Air Force, about that unit’s service during WW II. While it is a story that has been well documented and one with which I was familiar, it was well done and served as a reminder of the horror of war and the great loss it inflicts on those who serve and sacrifice. Fitting stuff for a Memorial Day weekend.

The 8th was based in England during the war and was the group responsible for the many US missions into continental Europe, including raids into Germany. Early on, when they first began sending raids into France and then Germany, their bombers were escorted by British fighter planes until their own planes, the P-47’s, were ready for service. However, the P-47’s had a major liability, a limited range. This meant that they could only escort the bombers so far into Europe before having to turn and head back to refuel which left the bombers exposed for the approach to their targets sites.

This fact meant that the casualties suffered in those early sorties were staggering. Hearing the numbers now, with hundreds of planes and thousands of airmen lost in a single month, one is left to wonder if we would have the stomach to bear such a sacrifice now, even in the face of the possibility of being defeated and overtaken by a cruel Nazi/Fascist regime?

I certainly don’t know the answer to that question, especially in these changed times where the minds of many could be swayed via divisive misinformation into an acceptance of the beliefs of those regimes we might otherwise be opposing. After all, even during WW II the Nazi cult had plenty of supporters here in the states, Americans who by race or belief fell under their spell.

I hope we never have to find out. And I suspect we won’t.

My belief is that those who seek to rule over us in a repressive fascist state have long realized that such a thing cannot be achieved via direct war and conflict. No, it will be an insidious and incremental effort, one that seek to infiltrate our branches of power and sources of info, seeking to control the power of the nation by dividing the people into many opposing factions, thereby confusing and thwarting their will to resist. Any sort of national unity would be fractious, at best.

Even a military that is massive and powerful would not be able to stop such an effort. In fact, it might act as a sort of tranquilizer, making the citizens believe that so long as they have such a powerful force protecting them they would be safe and secure, that there would be no possibility of any sort of attack on their country.

I fear that it is already well underway. The tools to do so are in place and easily accessible and it seems that we have the mentality and an environment that is ripe for such an effort.

Look at how easily minds are now swayed into disbelieving facts and accepting ridiculous conspiracy theories. Would it be a stretch for these same minds to fall into the belief that maybe a fascist regime would be acceptable, even preferable?

I hope I am way off base here, that it is just the product of a runaway imagination. But on this Memorial day weekend, it’s something I want to consider and keep in mind, if only for the responsibility we bear for those who have fallen in combat in our past against the forces of tyranny, despotism, and hatred.

We owe that to those who have sacrificed their lives for this nation. We, the living, are their witnesses. We bear testimony to their efforts, their experience and their existence.

For me, that’s the part of Memorial day I try to keep in mind. Hope you will at least consider it this weekend.

For this week’s Sunday morning music, here’s Sky Pilot from Eric Burdon and the Animals. From 1968, it’s one of those songs that holds lots of different meanings. At its core, it’s about a chaplain who blesses troops before they set out on a mission then goes to bed awaiting to learn their fate. It’s an interesting song, set into three parts and including a variety of sounds and effects. You’ve even got some bagpipes playing Garryowen thrown in along the way.

Have a good day.

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“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.

― Kurt Vonnegut

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The words above are from the book God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater from the late Kurt Vonnegut. They are are spoken to the infant twins of a neighbor as part of a baptismal speech from Eliot Rosewater, the book’s protagonist.

It seems like a ridiculous bit of advice to speak over infants at a religious ceremony but the sentiment is striking in its simplicity and practical application.

In nearly every instance, kindness will make the situation better.

I don’t know why I am writing this today. Maybe it’s the shrill ugliness of our society at the moment, marked by naked tribalism and selfish greed.

Or maybe its our attack mentality that has become the norm, one where reason and logic are thrown aside and replaced with insults and slurs.

These negative aspects, the hatred and selfishness we are so often displaying, are not sustainable for us as a society. They are the signs of an undisciplined and unprincipled people.

On the other hand, kindness is a sustainable and enduring principle of guidance. It builds up, not tears down. A hand up, not a push down.

Like I said, I don’t why I am writing this. Maybe the thought was that we– maybe just I– needed a reminder that a little kindness does more for the world that all the ugly words spoken with hatred by one person toward another.

So, this is your reminder. We have a short time on this world. Don’t waste your time here being mean-spirited and vengeful.

Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself.

This made me want to hear a little Otis Redding this morning. Try a Little Tenderness. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Have a good and kind day.

 

 

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I don’t know much about sailing. I do know the difference between port and starboard but that’s just mnemonics — port has four letters like left.

But I don’t know a sloop from a schooner, a ketch from a cutter. Can barely tie my shoelaces let alone some intricate nautical knot. Never felt the spray from the waves and can only imagine the feeling of being out in the middle of the sea, alone with only a sail and the rhythm of the currents to move me.

But the lure and romance of the sailboat and the act of sailing is not lost on me. The idea of attuning oneself to the awesome natural power and grace of the waves is an enticing proposition and just watching a skilled sailor handle a boat, even from the shore, is fascinating.

It’s all there, the same elements that I most often use in my landscape paintings. Natural power and high domes of sky. Wide horizons with the rhythms of the landscape replaced by the rhythms of the waves. The same sort of quietude and focus. A sense of purpose.

I think that’s what makes my sail boat paintings some of my favorites to paint. They are a chance to exercise my own imagination in trying to envision the experience of riding the rhythms of the ocean. I have been thrilled over the years when those folks who can call themselves sailors tell me how much they like these pieces. Makes me think I must be getting some aspect of it right, even if it only comes from my imagination.

The piece above is from my upcoming show, Social Distancing, that opens June 5 at the Principle Gallery. I call this painting, a 17″ by 17″ piece on paper, Running on Rhythm. Hopefully it feels right in some way for my sailing friends.

Here’s a song that is not really about sailing but it uses sailin’ in its title and chorus and is just a song that sticks with me. The song is Sailin’ Shoes from Little Feat. I am including two versions, both sung by the late great Lowell George. The first is the original from their 1972 album of the same name, a slower bluesy version. The second is from their incredible 1978 live album, Waiting For Columbus, who was by all accounts a sailor. This version is a bit more raucous and unrestrained. I like both.

Give a listen and have a good day.

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“When I pronounce the word Future,
the first syllable already belongs to the past.

When I pronounce the word Silence,
I destroy it.”

Wisława Szymborska, Poems New and Collected

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“When I pronounce the word Silence, I destroy it…”

I love that line from the late Nobel Prize winning poet Wisława Szymborska. It so well sums up my own forays into writing as a young man when I found myself trying futilely to write about silence and places of silence. My words always seemed to defeat my purpose.

You can’t really write about silence.

Using words to describe silence is like using hate to demonstrate love or war to peace.  It doesn’t really work well.

No, you can’t write about silence.

You can only be silent.

Silence is a way of being.

That brings me to the painting shown above called Song of Silence.

This painting, Song of Silence, is being included along with a small group of vintage pieces in my upcoming show, Social Distancing, that opens at the Principle Gallery on June 5. Most of the early work for this show comes the mid 1990’s but this is the latest of the vintage pieces, from 2007.

It is a fairly large piece at 32″ x 32″ on paper and its size seems to accentuate its quietness. I did a number of similar pieces in the mid 2000’s and they were some of my favorites to paint. There was something special in the delicacy and restraint of these pieces. Their simplicity would lead you to believe they were simple to paint but capturing such an ephemeral feelings with minimal elements made them real challenges. Anything even slightly askew could make the whole thing fall apart.

For me personally, when these pieces worked, when they came together in that special way, they felt like magic. They transported me to a different state of being, to that place of silence, if only for a few short moments.

This is one of those pieces for me.

It’s been quite a while since I exhibited this type of work and I am eager to see what sort of response this brings in the gallery.  We’ll see.

The title, Song of Silence, seems like it might contradict my words at the beginning of this post but wordless music often has the ability to convey silence. As an example I am including a selection below from one of my favorite pieces of music, Tabula Rasa, from composer Arvo Pärt that I believe does this effectively. This music, as performed by violinist Gil Shaham, served as a large influence on much of my early work.

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Was going to write something new today for Mother’s Day but decided to replay a post from five years back about my own mom, who died close to twenty five years ago now.

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I thought I would take the opportunity on this Mother’s Day, to dedicate this week’s Sunday music to my late mom. It’s hard for me to believe but later this year will mark twenty years [25 now] since she passed away after a short but brutal battle with cancer. Needless to say, I miss her very much and wish she could have seen the things that came in the years after she died, such as how well her grandchildren grew up and the great-grandkids she never got to meet or dote on.

For my parts, she never lived to see my work hanging in a gallery or museum, never got to see how it has grown over the years. Looking at two large pieces on easels next to me at this moment, I realize that there is a whole different world of mine she never got to witness.

But I think she would be pleased to know that things worked out okay, that I found something to ease my mind and give me something of a purpose. I would hope she would like the work I’ve done. I know she liked the earliest pieces, the only ones she would know, like the piece at the top. It was one of my earliest efforts in early 1994, long before I had experienced any kind of creative breakthrough. It was gift to her on Mother’s Day of that year and it hangs in my studio now, always reminding me of her.

So, for this bit of Sunday music, I thought I would play one of the songs I know to be a favorite of hers. She always loved Eddy Arnold‘s voice and I have specific memories of this song coming from our old stereo console. The title and the song itself,  Make the World Go Away, just seemed to fit Mom so well. For that matter, looking at the alternative world that surrounds me here in the studio, I guess it fits me as well. I am my mother’s child, after all.

Have a good Mother’s Day.

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Last July, I wrote here about going up the hill to the old studio that I had worked in everyday for over ten years before moving into my current digs. It was in pretty bad shape back then, with a gaping hole in the roof and the floor heading in several different directions, none of them level. It was a mass of decay and debris but I had found several paintings tucked away that I had overlooked when I was cleaning it out years ago.

There were some I remembered well and had wondered where they were before finding them. It was great finding these pieces, most of them in pretty good shape considering the exposure to the elements– and critters of all sorts– they had faced.

I wandered back up the hill yesterday. There were still a few things there that I needed to bring back down the hill plus I wanted to see how the old structure had fared during this past winter.

Well, the structure was in even worse shape, the walls and floors beginning to part company at some spots and the hole in the roof expanding to let in even more of the weather. Mother Nature was quickly reclaiming everything she could. I gingerly moved through the tilting doorway and picked around in the debris, finding the items I was looking for. As I prepared to leave, I stopped by group of three or four old paintings that I had left last year. They were not good in any way. Kind of embarrassing , actually. Plus, I didn’t even want to waste the time to carry them back down the hill.

But I went through them again and while I agreed with my decision from last year to leave them, there was one that grabbed my attention. It’s the piece at the top. It was painted about 25 years ago and I remember, even then, not knowing what it was meant to be.

It was an enigma even when I first painted it. I may have painted it but I still don’t get it, don’t fully understand what it’s supposed to say. But I do remember painting it and liking things about it. The colors of the sky the mass of the crowd behind the glowing figure that seems to be reclining on a cross. Not nailed. Like it was his decision to be there.

Maybe it’s saying that we choose the crosses we bear?

I don’t know.

Perhaps it was just the contrast between its colors and the destruction around it, but this piece seemed to ask to be freed from the wreckage. It’s in rough shape from a decade or more of exposure and neglect. It was painted on a cheap canvas panel and the cardboard backing that was now deteriorating and falling apart. But something in it sparked my imagination, made me want to look at it again. Made me save it for another day.

So, I brought it back down to my current studio. It’s been propped up on a chair and I have stopped to examine it several times over the past day. And even now, I am still mystified by it and how I came to paint it.

I am pretty sure I didn’t have a title for it back then and maybe it doesn’t deserve one now. Like I said, I still don’t know what to make of it. But if I were to give it a title I might call it You Can Have the Crown, taken from the title of a Sturgill Simpson song. I think the guy on the cross might understand. Give a listen and see if you do as well.

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