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Posts Tagged ‘Principle Gallery’

“The Quarantine House” – Now at the Principle Gallery


“But I must go back here to the particular incidents which occur to my thoughts of the time of the visitation, and particularly to the time of their shutting up the houses in the first part of their sickness; for before the sickness was come to its height people had more room to make their observations than they had afterward; but when it was in the extremity there was no such thing as communication with one another, as before.”

― Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, 1722


I see that we, as a nation, had over 70,000 new cases of covid-19 on Friday. It made me think about how this time has changed so many things in daily lives.

So much isolation, which I know is so difficult for so many of us. Economic pain from job losses and businesses closing. And those that do have jobs continue along with the nagging fear that they are putting themselves at risk every day. 

And that is without even mentioning the actual virus and its effects on the afflicted and their families.

It made me wonder how this compared to other times and other pandemics. I did a little skimming of A Journal of the Plague Year, written in 1722 by the author of the better known Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe. It tells in journal form the story of a man’s life in 1665 in London when the bubonic plague, the Black Death, ferociously struck that city. That particular episode of the Black Death killed over 100,000 Londoners which was abut a quarter of the population at the time. And that was not even close to being the worst case of the Plague. It literally killed hundreds of millions of people throughout Europe and Asia in the centuries when it was at its peak and it still persists in places where conditions allow it to continue. No herd immunity here, folks.

But looking through Defoe’s book and reading sections made me think how horrible it must have been at that time. To be afflicted often meant being boarded in your home. There would be no contact with the outside world. No internet, no cellphones, no Netflix or Instacart or Door Dash deliveries. You would be completely cut off and alone with your painful imminent death as your companion.

It’s a terrifying prospect. I don’t mean to bring you down with this but I just found it interesting. It made me realize how fortunate we are to have the technological connections that we have. I don’t say that easily because I often find myself damning the persistent and invasive nature of the technology even as I use it.

At least now we can get information, as poor and misinformed as it sometimes is. But imagine being ill, sitting in a dark, boarded up home without any idea what might be taking place outside those walls. No news of possible cures or therapies. No idea of whether this would ever end, that relief might come before death. 

I have a hard time imagining the horror of that situation. Nothing in my life, nor in probably most of yours out there, has prepared me for that.

There was another paragraph that sounded familiar:

“But it was impossible to beat anything into the heads of the poor. They went on with the usual impetuosity of their tempers, full of outcries and lamentations when taken, but madly careless of themselves, foolhardy and obstinate, while they were well. Where they could get employment they pushed into any kind of business, the most dangerous and the most liable to infection; and if they were spoken to, their answer would be, ‘I must trust to God for that; if I am taken, then I am provided for, and there is an end of me’, and the like. Or thus, ‘Why, what must I do? I can’t starve. I had as good have the plague as perish for want. I have no work; what could I do? I must do this or beg.”

It made me think again about those folks who have no choice but face the possibility of infection, about those business owners who are at risk at losing everything they have worked much of their lives for. It also reminded me of the foolhardy people who think they are somehow beyond the reach of the virus, that they do not have to concern themselves with the welfare of others. 

I am sure there were those same fools during the Black Death.

I don’t know that there’s a point here except to say that I am grateful for being able to ride this out in this era with our technologies, connections and conveniences rather than any of the pandemics from the past. All things considered, we are fortunate. Maybe not too smart but fortunate.

Perhaps two hundred years in the future some person going through a new pandemic of that time will look back on this in some digital archive and say, “Man, I am so glad I didn’t have to live back then!”

And hopefully, they will also be grateful for their own situation.

Be grateful for what you have and have a good day, folks. To that end, here’s a little William DeVaughn with one of my faves.

 

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“Life Pop”- Now at the Principle Gallery


“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.”

― Noam Chomsky


I thought I would focus on being optimistic today.

It’s hard these days but it’s a necessity if you want to ever live in the future of your own desires. Planning and preparation are acts of optimism, carried out with the belief that you will be able to have a say in that future.

I have to admit though that my own optimism, my own capacity for looking and planning forward, has lessened over the course of this year. The future just didn’t seem so sure on most days. 

At least, a future with which I was comfortable and at least somewhat satisfied.

But like the words above from Noam Chomsky point out, you have to have some belief that you can shape the future and make it better, even if only in the smallest way.

This sort of optimism is a statement of responsibility.

It says, “I will.”

And that short phrase is enough to begin the process of moving toward that desired future.


Note: Speaking of planning ahead, a film from one of my favorite creative teams, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, is on TCM tonight at 10 PM. It’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, from 1943. It’s a film I wrote about here back in 2009.  Like all of the Powell and Pressburger movies, such as The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus, it’s beautifully crafted and thought provoking. The beginning sequence is ahead of its time, feeling like a modern music video. Worth a watch.

Have a good day.

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“Climb Ever Higher”- Now at the Principle Gallery

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Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.

–Winston Churchill

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Just going to leave this thought out there this morning. Progress in any worthy endeavor is never gained easily nor is it ever fully achieved. It is the struggle that makes us fully appreciate the importance of the journey.

Have a good day.

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“The Solace of Light”- Now at the Principle Gallery

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… I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope

For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love

For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith

But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:

So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

-T.S. Eliot, East Coker, The Four Quartets

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Whenever I read this passage from T.S. Eliot, I am inevitably moved by his words. The interesting thing is that while my response is always strong, my my personal interpretation of it, how I relate it to my own experience and knowledge, sometimes varies wildly.

And I suppose that is much like looking at a work of art. The day, the moment, the circumstance and context in which we see it– these things and more often dictate our response and our relationship to art.

I find this true for the painting shown above, The Solace of Light, which hangs at the Principle Gallery now as part of my current show there. It seems as though each time I look deeply at this piece, my relationship with it changes or, at least, moves to a different place within me.

Sometimes it feels superficial as though I am responding solely to the colors. Other times, it is deeper and I feel drawn into the forms of the scene, barely recognizing the colors. I am in and of that place in those instances.

Closer to where I want to be. Or think I want to be.

Okay, off to work. Maybe I will get there today.

 

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Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life. An individual human existence should be like a river — small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.

–Bertrand Russell, How to Grow Old

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Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) is one of those names I come across whose words seem to always make incredible amounts of sense. That is, the words and thoughts that my pea-sized brain can comprehend. Russell was one of those multiple threats, with great proficiency and expertise in a number of fields– history, mathematics, philosophy, logic and political activism, to name just a few. I guess you might just call him a deep thinker or a great mind.

The words above are from a short selection, How to Grow Old, from a collection of his essays, Portraits From Memory and Other Essays. It’s a surprisingly down to earth collection of observations about facing the aging process.

It was the section featured at the top that caught my eye. I was entranced by this idea of going through life beginning as a narrow, rushing stream that gradually widens and slows into a river that heads to the gathering of waters that is the sea.

It made me think of my own father’s life and how he never actively tried to widen his course, never sought to expand his interests in his later years. If anything, his stream somehow became narrower, even as it slowed.

That might sound like harsh criticism to some but it’s a simple observation and I think if it were presented to him at a point when he could still understand what you were trying to say, he might even agree. He might not like it and might tell you to mind your own effin’ business but he probably wouldn’t argue the point. Not much interested him as he aged and the things that once brought him a degree of enjoyment, such as sports, no longer interested him.

Not much did. His stream narrowed and slowed.

It is one of the things about my dad’s life that sadden me. On Father’s Day, I see all of the glowing tributes to other people’s dads, about all the good traits handed down to them from their dads and I am a bit embarrassed. Because for all the worthy traits I have inherited– and there are a few– it is the object lessons learned from the deficits in his life, behaviors and traits I want to avoid, that I find most valuable.

And while there are more than a few of these from which to choose and which I will not go into here, this narrowing of one’s stream is the one I seek most to avoid. I think I have been able to do it thus far. But, even so, though there are days when some genetic predisposition start whispering to me to stop paying attention, to show no interest.

To just sit and stare into the void. To slow my stream and narrow the banks.

But I fight that feeling. Fight it hard.

Years ago, I echoed Russell’s words, writing here that I sometimes see myself and my interests and knowledge as a river– a mile wide and an inch deep. I am still as shallow but I am forever trying to carve my course wider and maybe just a bit deeper.

I am shooting for two miles wide.

And two inches deep.

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“Hunkered Down”- Now at the Principle Gallery

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I slept and dreamt
that life was joy.
I awoke and saw
that life was duty.
I worked — and behold,
duty was joy.

–Rabindranath Tagore

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When I first read the short poem above from the great poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore some time ago, it struck a chord with me. It so simply, in just a few lines, put across an observation that takes most of us a lifetime to realize. That is, if we ever do realize it.

Duty was joy.

But what is duty? Is it in being a good parent? A faithful spouse and a loyal friend? Is it in what we do to make a living? Or is it in being decent and caring human being?

Perhaps, it is how our lives touch the lives of others? Could that be a duty?

I don’t know for sure. Most likely joy is not a one size fits all proposition.

My own feeling is that duty is much like having a purpose, a reason for living. I remember reading Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl‘s transcendent book, Man’s Search For Meaning, which described his time in the Auschwitz death camp. He observed that those who were able to survive the horror were those who somehow had a purpose for their life, who saw a future that they needed to reach ahead for. This purpose, even a modest one, often gave them the drive needed for survival, creating a path forward for them.

In the year after being liberated from Auschwitz, Frankl gave a series of lectures that were the basis for his book. In one he spoke of Tagore’s poem and that final line: Duty was joy:

So, life is somehow duty, a single, huge obligation. And there is certainly joy in life too, but it cannot be pursued, cannot be “willed into being” as joy; rather, it must arise spontaneously, and in fact, it does arise spontaneously, just as an outcome may arise: Happiness should not, must not, and can never be a goal, but only an outcome; the outcome of the fulfillment of that which in Tagore’s poem is called duty… All human striving for happiness, in this sense, is doomed to failure as luck can only fall into one’s lap but can never be hunted down.

In short, lasting joy and happiness cannot be pursued as a goal on their own, without a responsibility to some higher purpose.

I am writing this because sometimes I need to be reminded of this. I have been struggling at times recently in the studio, seemingly fighting with myself to find something that just doesn’t seem to be there. The harder I tried to find it, the further away it seemed. It was like I was looking for something to quell my anxieties and bring me some form of easy happiness. To bring me effortless joy.

I should have known better. Yesterday, I just put down my head and worked without thinking about the end result. I focused solely on my purpose in each moment, the task at hand. Concentrating on doing small and simple things with thought and care was my duty, as it were. As the day went on, my burden felt lessened and I began to feel joy in the work, joy in small aspects that I had been overlooking in prior days.

It was a satisfying day, one that left me feeling that I had moved in some way toward fulfilling a purpose. It may not be a grand, earth-shaking one but it doesn’t need to be. It is mine. My purpose. My duty.

And that is enough to bring me a bit of joy.

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“In the Year 2020”- Now at the Principle Gallery

 

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I still am pretty busy working on my next show that opens in July at the West End Gallery. Little time, much to do, and lethargy to overcome. So, this morning I am just going to share a song and the painting above, In the Year 2020, that’s still at the Principle Gallery as part of my current show there. I just like looking at this piece. Brings me comfort in some way.

The song is the last song John Prine recorded before he died from the covid-19 virus. It’s called I Remember Everything. It’s classic Prine and a fitting final song.

Have a good and decent day.

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“Elbow Room” – Now at the Principle Gallery

 

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“The difference between a path and a road is not only the obvious one. A path is little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place. It is a sort of ritual of familiarity. As a form, it is a form of contact with a known landscape. It is not destructive. It is the perfect adaptation, through experience and familiarity, of movement to place; it obeys the natural contours; such obstacles as it meets it goes around.”

― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

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I am a bit distracted this morning so I will make this short. Lots of moving parts this morning with much to do and lots of thoughts running through my mind. Some are small and trivial and some more momentous. Kind of like the difference between a road and a path. The path is the smaller, more familiar one, the comfortable one we walk each day as part of our everyday world. The road, on the other hand, denotes greater distance and further destinations.

My thoughts are of both paths and roads this morning. But none of it is really anything I wish to share now.

Maybe some other time. Maybe. Maybe not.

Instead, I am just going to share a song. It’s one of Johnny Cash‘s late recordings, this one made in the final months of his life. I have commented here before that I believe the work from late in his life was as raw and powerfully deep as anything in his long and illustrious career. This is his cover of a Bruce Springsteen song, Further On Up the Road.

Fits the morning.

Have a good day.

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“And Dusk Dissolves”- Now at the Principle Gallery

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Great artists make the roads; good teachers and good companions can point them out. But there ain’t no free rides, baby. No hitchhiking. And if you want to strike out in any new direction — you go alone. With a machete in your hand and the fear of God in your heart.

–Ursula K. Le Guin

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I felt compelled to put up a piece of new work from my current Principle Gallery show along with a piece of advice for aspiring artists from writer Ursula LeGuin. Make your own road, baby.  Do the heavy lifting and don’t depend on any one person to guide you through. There are no shortcuts– no hitchhiking as she puts it. You’re on your own so learn to hear what you have to say to yourself.

Show who and what you really are then stand tall. Own your road.

That’s it. I’m going to be concise because it’s a busy day for me. While my show at the Principle Galley is ongoing, I am working hard on new work for my next show which opens in July at the West End Gallery. Plus this morning I am leaving the safe bubble of my studio and home to accompany my dad on his first radiation treatment for a cancerous growth on his temple.

It’s the first time in 13 weeks that I am seeing him as the nursing facility where he resides is under lockdown from the covid-19 virus. I am both looking forward to and dreading seeing him. The dread comes from anticipating what changes may have taken place in this past quarter of a year from the dementia and skin cancer that plague him. Perhaps his awareness and power of recollection has eroded even more? Will he even recognize me now, especially with the mask I will be wearing?

I guess I’ll soon find out.

Odd days, indeed. Have a good one, folks.

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“The Exile’s Wilderness”- Now at the Principle Gallery

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“From the moment that man believes neither in God nor in immortal life, he becomes ‘responsible for everything alive, for everything that, born of suffering, is condemned to suffer from life.’ It is he, and he alone, who must discover law and order. Then the time of exile begins, the endless search for justification, the aimless nostalgia, ‘the most painful, the most heartbreaking question, that of the heart which asks itself: where can I feel at home?”

Albert Camus, The Rebel

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I came across the excerpt above from The Rebel from Albert Camus while searching for something to accompany the painting at the top, The Exile’s Wilderness, which is part of my current exhibit hanging at the Principle Gallery.

This short paragraph stopped me in my tracks and I found myself reading the words and phrasing of it over and over again this morning. It summed up so well the feeling that I take from this painting and that sense of exile, of separateness, that I have often experienced.

The search for justification, the sometimes pointless nostalgia of memory, the feeling of being responsible for everything alive and for setting things in some sort of order– they all feel too familiar.

But it’s that final question that stirred me most: Where can I feel at home?

It is a heartbreaking question. I believe most of us take for granted that feeling of comfort and of being at home. But for the Exile it is an elusive thing, perhaps even an impossibility. In the absence of the real comfort of home they settle for the security found in hiding or in blending in, hiding in plain sight with large and faceless crowds.

That’s the wilderness to which I refer in this painting– a place for the Exile to hide and find security in a world where they may never feel truly at home.

And odd as this may sound, there is great comfort in this. Just having a place where one feels safe and secure is a desirable state of being for most of us because in such an environment we can create and define our own sense of home.

If you think about many of the problems facing us today, most come down to conflicts between people rightly seeking that sense of home, of safety and security, for themselves and those who would deny them that right.

There’s a lot to read into this painting, more than it lets on at first glance. Much like the Exile walking unseen and unnoticed among the crowd.

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