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Posts Tagged ‘New Painting’

 




I too am not a bit tamed,
I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp
over the roofs of the world.

Walt Whitman, Song of Myself




I finished this smaller piece the other day (it is headed to the West End Gallery today) and with the Red Tree appearing to hover above the Red Roofs both near and far, all I could think of were the lines above from Uncle Walt. That’s Walt Whitman, actually, but I always think of him in familial terms not that he was anything at all like my own uncles.

These lines from Song of Myself have rang in my ears for decades and are at the core of my desire to paint and in the formation of my voice as an artist.

Before I even thought of beginning to paint, I tried my hand at wood carving. I did a number of bas-relief carvings that were fairly crude in a folksy kind of way. I was untrained and just went at it, much as I did later on with my painting. I believe that the painting worked out much better but the carving had a part to play for me at the time.

One of the first things I carved was a rough-hewn face with the four lines– poorly executed– from Whitman next to it. It was nothing to write home about, carved as it was from the end of an old 2×12 pine board. I am not particularly proud of it as a piece of art but it has great meaning to me and stays near me in the studio.

I have described what these words have meant to me in the past like this:

…the four lines above have been a guiding beacon for me throughout the past 25 years as I have tried to be an artist. These words instructed me to be only myself, to openly and boldly express my feelings without fear or shame. To not hide my scars, my fears or my weaknesses because they are part of my wholeness and keep me in balance. To not be underestimated or devalued by myself or anyone else. To claim a foothold in this world and bellow out the proof of my existence in my own voice:

Here I am.

There are paintings that I do that are meant to represent this thought, paintings that are meant to be plainly expressions of that Here I am. I consider them icons in my body of work, pieces that fully represent my work and what I want from it. This painting definitely falls in that category. It’s simply put but not a simple expression.

When I look at this painting I personally see myself and all my hopes and aspirations, all that I am or desire to be.

What I hope for this painting is that someone else sees that same here I am in it for themselves, that they see in it those things that make them a whole and perfectly imperfect person with a place in this world and a voice that demands to be heard.

Is that asking too much?

I immediately thought looking at this new painting that it fit into this category, that the Red Tree here represented my own need to let out my barbaric yawp, to announce my existence in this world. I am calling it I Sound My Barbaric Yawp.

It might not be quite as roughly finished as the carving but the yawp is the same.

Sound your own yawp in the world today. Have a good one.

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“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.

It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”

― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451



I recently finished this small piece shown above, a little guy that’s only 2″ by 4″ on paper. I wasn’t — and am not yet– exactly sure what meaning it holds for me, what message, if any, it carries. It certainly felt like it had something to offer.

It might be small but it seemed like it was speaking with a much larger voice. I was mulling this over this morning when I heard a new song, Calling Me Home, from one of my big favorites, Rhiannon Giddens. It’s from a new album coming out in April. There’s a line in the song that immediately struck me:

Remember my stories, remember my songs/ I leave them on earth, sweet traces of gold

It made me think of that existential question: What is it we leave behind?

That immediately brought to mind a favorite excerpt, shown at the top, from Ray Bradbury in his sci-fi/ dystopian classic Fahrenheit 451. It’s those things to which we devote or full effort, our mind and time, that have lasting effect. Often, things that are done with no real expectation of anyone recognizing your thought or effort in doing them.

It makes me think of my pond. I can see its top now in the winter since the leaves have fallen from the trees. I built it back in the summer of 1998 during a week spent pounding the hard pan soil beneath the clay of my property on a rented Cat D9 dozer. I am not sure my brain has come to rest yet from that beating. But the thrill of seeing it fill in the rains later that summer and fall along with the many life forms that soon made it their home were as satisfying as anything I have painted. I often look at it and think that it will be here long after I am gone, supporting lives of creatures that will have no knowledge of my efforts.  

And that pleases me greatly. Even as much as any legacy my work here in the studio, if any, will have.

I think I will call this little painting Calling Me Home. Not sure it’s absolutely the title others will see but if fits for me this morning.

Here’s the song from Ms. Giddens. have a good day, 



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In the beginning
You really loved me, oh
I was too blind
I could not see, now

But now that you left me
Ooh, how I cried out, I keep crying
You don’t miss your water
‘Till your well runs dry

You Don’t Miss Your Water, William Bell



The painting at the top is a new piece, 9″ by 12″ on canvas, that is headed to the West End Gallery for next month’s annual Little Gems show, which opens February 12. After it was completed, I was really looking deeply at it as I tried to discern what it held so that I could title it. I felt that the scene in it was from the dawn  of the day, the start of the new day.

I normally see this time symbolically as a beginning filled with great potential and optimism, brimming with energy. But there was something else in this piece that didn’t seem to be looking forward. Instead it felt almost remorseful, looking back. For me, I sense this in the Red Tree’s posture toward the rising sun and in the tone and density of the sky’s color.

It’s like the character represented by the Red Tree is trapped between the duty of the coming day and lure of the past and what has been lost.

The feeling of this piece brought to mind a favorite song of mine from Otis Redding, You Don’t Miss Your Water. The first verses are at the top and the first 10-15 seconds of the recording, after the distinct opening chords when Otis first sings “In the beginning,” always sends chills down my spine. Glorious chills.

That’s where the title for this painting originated for me.

The song was originally written and recorded for Stax Records by William Bell in 1961, four years before the Otis version. Bell’s version is wonderful but Otis took the song to another dimension. Interestingly, Bell wrote the song in NYC and it was actually more about his homesickness for his Memphis home than lost love.

And maybe homesickness and the remorse for what is lost in the past plays a part here in this painting. I can’t say for sure and only time will reveal it’s true meaning. Maybe it will take on a whole new demeanor as time passes, as sometimes happens.

That’s the way of art. It is often never fully one thing forever.

But in the beginning…

Anyway, here’s the immortal Otis Redding and You Don’t Miss Your Water.

Have a good day. Keep hope alive.



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“A Time For Leaving”- At the Principle Gallery, Alexandria, VA



My famous last words
Could never tell the story
Spinning unheard
In the dark of the sky

–If This Is Goodbye, Mark Knopfler



I don’t feel like saying much today so let’s move right on to the music selection for this Sunday morning. I wanted something to fit with the painting above. A Time For Leaving, which is headed down to the Principle Gallery for their upcoming small works show. I went through a lot of music but nothing jumped out at me.

There were two finalists in my mind. One was from the wonderful collaboration between Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris, If This Is Goodbye. The other was a track, Leaving the Table, from Leonard Cohen‘s great final album, You Want It Darker. Both did the job for me so I decided to share both.

If you’d like, give a listen. If not, move on. Either way, try to have a peaceful day.





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“And Darkness Leaves”- At the Principle Gallery



Said it’s a mean old world, heavy in need
And that big machine is just picking up speed
And we’re supping on tears, and we’re supping on wine
We all get to heaven in our own sweet time
So come all you Asheville boys and turn up your old-time noise
And kick ’til the dust comes up from the cracks in the floor

Singing, “Hard times ain’t gonna rule my mind, brother
Hard times ain’t gonna rule my mind
Hard times ain’t gonna rule my mind no more”

–Hard Times, Gillian Welch



I was listening to some music as I was going through some images early this morning while trying to figure out what to write for today’s blogpost. The song, Hard Times from Gillian Welch, came on and its chorus– Hard times ain’t gonna rule my mind no more— really jumped out at me. Made me think of how we handle the many adversities of life.

Sometimes it’s a matter of adjusting the way we do things or changing altogether. Proactive measures.

And sometimes its a matter of waiting, just figuring that all things inevitably pass and if you can hang on, it will all eventually work out. This tends to be the way most of us get through. To use a boxing analogy, you go to the ropes and cover up, take the body blows and hope the bell rings before you fall.

This second way of coping made me think of this new piece, And Darkness Leaves, which is headed to the Principle Gallery in Alexandria for their annual holiday show of small work that opens next Saturday. There’s a lot of symbolism that you can attach to this piece but it comes down to hanging on, waiting for the dark to recede.

Waiting for that bell to ring.

It sure seems like we have taken a lot of heavy body blows as a nation in this latest round. There were moments when we seemed out on our feet and we only held up by the ropes, those institutions and laws that have been the bedrock of this nation since we were first formed. But we held on and regrouped, gathering strength and throwing some big punches of our own. 

The bell has rung and we get to face another round. Just as there is always a clearing after every storm. Just as the darkness leaves after every night and we get to face another day.

We’re still in the midst of a fight. But the darkness will inevitably leave and we’ll soon get to stand in the light once more. So keep that chorus close at hand:  hard times ain’t gonna rule my mind no more.

You have a good day, okay.



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“The Timeout” At West End Gallery

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Why do you so earnestly seek
the truth in distant places?
Look for delusion and truth in the
bottom of your own heart.

― Ryōkan Taigu (1758-1831)

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Do the deluded know the truth of who and what they are?

Or has their delusion replaced the truth at the bottom of their heart?

Can truth and delusion coexist within the heart of a person?

Or is truth a form of delusion in itself?

I think if we could figure this out, a lot of the problems of the world might fade away. Well, at least, not not seem quite so dire.

But that’s just the deluded opinion of one person…

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“There’s a sin, a fearful sin, resting on this nation, that will not go unpunished forever. There will be reckoning yet … it may be sooner or it may be later, but it’s a coming as sure as the Lord is just”

Soloman Northup, Twelve Years a Slave

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

My show, From a Distance, opens this Friday, July 17, at the West End Gallery. This year marks the 25th that I have been showing my work with the gallery and in all that time there have been many shows, both in group exhibits and as a solo artist. Without checking, I believe this is my 18th or 19th solo show there.

There have been shows in the aftermath of terrorist attacks. Presidential impeachments. Economic meltdowns. Historic presidential elections.

A lot of history in those 25 years.

But this year’s show is different from any of those previous shows. It feels like those eventful years have been moving us in an unalterable arc toward this moment, this time of reckoning. I know it certainly showed in my work for this show. Some were depictions of the time and some were escape routes away from it. The piece at the top, A Time For Reckoning, definitely feels like a mirror for this time for me.

A reckoning, as you may know, is an archaic term that means a settling or balancing of accounts. Kind of like karma, I suppose. This certainly feels like a time when accounts of all sorts may be brought back into some sort of balance.

Again, karma.

Without getting into a screed here, that’s what I see in this painting. There comes a point in the lifetime of everything that has gotten out of balance where there is a reckoning. Things must be brought back into balance or they will no doubt crash and burn. It could be something as simple as a wheel on a car or it could be a person at the crossroads of their life or a country finally facing the darker side of its history, as Mr. Northrup predicted in the words at the top from his moving autobiography.

When things are out of balance, there eventually comes a time for reckoning.

I hope you can get out to the West End Gallery for this show. It was a difficult show to put together but I think it’s a really good show, one of which I am proud.

Have a good day.

 

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“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”

― Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist

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

These words above from an Oscar Wilde prose piece seems to fit this new painting, To the Far Reaches, perfectly. Well. at least, in my eyes.

Those who dream often take journeys that carry them beyond the far reaches of our reality. Guided by their imagination like sailors are led by the light from the sun and moon, they are rewarded by wonders in these fantastical worlds that only they will ever see.

But this same imagination that gives them such rewards, also allows them to foresee the far reaches of reality before it actually comes to bear in this world. While mingling their imagination with a bit of knowledge of the world and its patterns to foresee the potential outcomes of the near future can sometimes be a reward when those future skies are bright, it can be a great punishment in times ahead that fall under dark skies.

It may cause the dreamer to question their own vision, their own imagination. They may stop telling others of their vision and may try to quell their journeying altogether. Or perhaps go even further beyond the far reaches of reality, into a world of pure imagination.

Or they may stay true to their imagination and speak even louder with the hope that they can avoid the darkness ahead and that they will once again be rewarded with new and brighter dawns ahead.

That’s the choice I would prefer they make– to keep speaking of what they see ahead and to keep pushing forward because as Carl Sagan once said: “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.

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This painting, To the Far Reaches, 8″ by 24″ on canvas, is part of this year’s edition, From a Distance, of my annual solo show of new work at the West End Gallery. The show opens this Friday, July 17. The show is hung and in place so you can stop in at the gallery now to get a preview of what I think is a very strong show.

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We starve, look at one another short of breath,
Walking proudly in our winter coats,
Wearing smells from laboratories,
Facing a dying nation of moving paper fantasy,
Listening for the new told lies with supreme visions of
Lonely tunes.
Somewhere, inside something, there is a rush of
Greatness.

— The Flesh Failures ( Let the Sunshine In), Hair

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

The new painting above, World O’Wonder, is part of my new show at the West End Gallery that opens this week. It’s a 36″ by 36″ canvas that has a lot of oomph, a bold presence on the wall that proclaims the day. For me, I see it as a symbol of innate strength, the Red Tree serving as a fearless greeter of the new, one who see the beauty that abounds even in times of great difficulty.

I think it might be one of the more optimistic pieces from the show. Having works that have a forward looking stance, a sense of hope despite the prolonged battering we’re enduring at present, was important, both for my vision of the show and for my own attitude in the studio. Like anybody, I need to believe that, even though each day seems to bring a wave of foreboding darkness, there is some form of good, now and in the future. Something that tells me that we have the strength to endure the forces of hatred, cruelty and ignorance that seem so publicly on display in recent times.

I do believe we have that strength and I see it all over this painting. Beauty and goodness exists in this world, much more than the ugliness that rules the day. Like the lyrics above say: Somewhere, inside something, there is a rush of Greatness.

Before settling on this week’s Sunday morning music, I did the normal run down the rabbit hole, going through all sorts of artists,genres and time frames before finally coming to this song, The Flesh Failures ( Let the Sunshine In) from the 1968 Broadway hit, Hair. It matched up well with what I was seeing in World O’Wonder.

It’s an interesting song for me. It’s such a powerful song yet it hasn’t been covered by other artists nearly as much as many other songs from the Hair soundtrack. There are only a few covers out there and none match the original for my tastes. When I was reading the lyrics along to the song it struck me that David Bowie would have crushed this song. The cadence,rhythm, and phrasing of it sound as though it could have been one of his songs. Too bad we’ll never get to hear that.

Anyway, keep your eyes to the beauty around you, stand strong and actively fight for a better future. And have a good Sunday. Give a listen.

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A clammy Saturday morning and my mind seems a bit foggy and tired. I’ve sat here for awhile now and I don’t feel like writing a damn thing. Don’t want to talk about anything. Don’t want to gripe about the goings on in the world or hear any more news this morning. Don’t want to talk about my work or myself, that’s for sure.

Just want to let my mind wander a bit.

Or not. Maybe just stare at the wall.

Or play some mindless scales on the guitar.

Anyway, here’s an old favorite of mine from  Howlin’ Wind, the 1976 debut album from Graham Parker. Great album. This song is Don’t Ask Me Questions and has been a constant refrain in my head since that time whenever I come across those days where I am tired and don’t want to be bothered by questions and chit chat.

Let’s just say that it has received a lot of airtime in my head over those many years.

I am pairing it with a new piece at the top that’s part of my upcoming show at the West End Gallery. Hey, I may not want to talk but a guy still has to eat. It’s called Play For Light, something I am hoping to accomplish this morning.

Wishing you all a good day.

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