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Posts Tagged ‘New Painting’

 

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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

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This new painting,a 24″ by 30″ canvas that is part of my upcoming show at the West End Gallery, is titled My Brisant Bellow. The term brisant bellow is one I have used in the past, my equivalent to Whitman’s barbaric yawp which comes from his Song of Myself in Leaves of Grass.

It is included in the four lines above that 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?

 

 

 

 

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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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I am just about done with painting for my solo show, Haven, that opens June 1 at the Principle Gallery. There are always mixed emotions at this point.

There’s a sense of relief at finishing a group of work if only for completing a large task. There’s also a little sadness that I have to put my brushes aside for a couple of weeks as I move into the part of the process where I physically get the paintings ready for showing. It is a time, sometimes tedious, spent photographing, varnishing, matting, staining and framing.

There’s also a air of excitement at both seeing the work come together as a group and in seeing each individual painting in its finished state, ready to present to the world. They have their own aura at that point, with their own sense of being and voice. It’s very gratifying in that moment.

One of the new paintings that gratifies in this way and has its own voice that speaks directly to me is shown above. It’s a 16″ by 40″ canvas piece that I call My Blue Heaven. The colors and the created depth that the eye follows into the picture really strikes a chord, giving it a sense of quiet awe for myself. Oh, to be deeply within that scene, blanketed in blues and greens with watchful stars and the warm nightlight of the moon to guide and comfort me.

Personally, I am going to miss this painting. But I do get to enjoy its company for the next week or so and that is a pleasure in itself.

I am sure may of you recognize the title of this painting as being the title of an old song. It was first recorded in the 1920’s and has been a standard ever since, recorded by hundreds of artists. The most notable was the version that was a hit for Fats Domino in the 1950’s. Today, I thought I’d play a nice version from Norah Jones.
Have a great day.

 

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“A philosopher once asked, “Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?” Pointless, really…”Do the stars gaze back?” Now, that’s a question.” 

― Neil Gaiman, Stardust

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Above is a new painting that is going with me down to Alexandria for my show, Haven, at the Principle Gallery, opening June 1. I am calling this 20″ by 16″ canvas Stars and Satellites. It’s a continuation of a series of recent works that are primarily stark nightscapes with skies composed of shards of color in an almost stained-glass manner. At the junctures where shards meet are points of bright color— the light of the stars and the planets of the night sky.

I think I have written here about the meditative effect of painting these pieces, how there is a feeling of both intense concentration and non-thought that blocks out all other things. If the television is on or music is playing, I don’t really hear it. If delivery vans or cars come up my driveway, I am totally unaware even though they directly pass in front of the large windows before which I work.

It’s like I am in that space in that time, especially in the first stages of composing the picture. All is quiet and all that moves through my mind is the simple geometry of placing blocks of red oxide in a way that makes sense in that part of my brain that is scanning the whole of the composition. It’s one of my favorite parts of my process of painting, this state of being so mentally attached to the surface of the painting.

Another favorite part comes later as the painting evolves from its red oxide skeleton. This moment comes after layer after layer of color is added and the painting crosses a tipping point where it suddenly becomes a fully fleshed being, an entity with its own life force and its own voice.

That is a really gratifying moment, one that makes me think of Carl Sagan describing the Voyager space mission and how it would travel through time and space as a reminder of our existence as a people and a civilization long after our Sun had turned our planet into an ember, long after we had ceased to walk this earth.

And in a way many of those stars in the night sky serve that same purpose. Many are the final traces of light from stars that have been extinguished eons ago yet remind us of their existence.

This piece has, for me, a feeling of an interdependence between the moon, the stars and we here on earth. We each need the other in order to be seen, to serve as a reminder that we have existed in this universe, if only for short time.

Like John Lennon sang in Instant KarmaWell, we all shine on/Like the moon and the stars and the sun…

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How well do we know our own shadows?

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Being at ease with not knowing is crucial for answers to come to you.

–Eckhart Tolle
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This new painting has been sitting within my sight for several days now. I can only speak for myself but I find it really easy piece in which to withdraw, imagining myself in that place, in that moment under that sky. There’s a sense of ease and comfort in it for me.

It just feels right.

Yet there is something enigmatic about it. While there is an air of easiness and acceptance in the painting, there is also a feeling that there is some sort of questioning taking place.

Perhaps a wondering of the why’s and what’s and how’s of this universe and our place in it?

Or the existence of a god or gods? Or the nature of good and evil?

Or perhaps something less weighty.

But even with this questioning there is still a great calmness and ease, as though the Red Tree in this time and place knows that having those answers would not make this particular moment any better.

And perhaps in that moment when a question does not require a response, an answer shows itself.

Perhaps…

 

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SOWING LIGHTNING

Seize
Bolts of lightning from the sky
And plant them in fields of life.

They will grow like tender sprouts of fire.
Charge somber thoughts
With unexpected flash,
You, my lightning in the soil! 

― Visar Zhiti, The Condemned Apple: Selected Poetry

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This is a newer painting that I’ve been looking at for a while now here in the studio. With its many lightning bolts, it’s obviously different from most of my work even though most of it falls in line with the body of my work.

Most of my considerations have to do with whether I feel there is more to be done on this piece. That’s not uncommon when a new element is added. It takes time for me to accept this new thing being interjected into my quiet little world.

I guess that can be said for most new things.

I can see where a lot of people who know my work might have mixed feelings about this piece that seems so much like an anomaly. It has a feeling of an electrical shock in it, shiny and sharp and harsh. If you’ve ever been zapped by a strong jolt of electricity, you know what I mean.

I know that feeling.

But for now, I continue to consider this painting. It may change in some way before it ever sees the outer world again.

Or may be not. For now, I am calling it Sowing Lightning after the poem at the top from the Albanian poet Visar Zhiti. The idea of lightning planting itself in the earth with each strike is an intriguing one.

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