Posts Tagged ‘Quote’


It is the treating of the commonplace with the feelings of the sublime that gives to art its true power.

–Jean-Francois Millet


Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875) is mainly known for his peasant scenes painted in the genre of the Barbizon school, of which he was an originator.  This genre marked the move from Romantic painting to Realism which depicted the reality of all aspects of the world, including the rural working class which were seldom portrayed heretofore.

This work played a huge role in the evolution of modern art as a number of artists from subsequent generations ran with this work , adding their own voice and style to the subject matter. Van Gogh, for example, directly copied a number of Millet works, such as The Sower below, in his own distinct style.

I am not moved by all of Millet’s work. Some of it feels generic but I think that is understandable as its style was so influential that it was emulated, creating a vast body of similar work. But there is something in a segment of his work that I feel is truly visionary in a way that lends credence to the statement from Millet at the top of the page. Here are a few of my favorites.


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Brancusi on Fame


Brancusi The Kiss Phila Museum of ArtOne day in Switzerland, in front of a beautiful mountain there was the most beautiful of cows, and she was contemplating me in ecstasy.  I said to myself, ” I must be someone if even this cow admires me.”   I came closer; she wasn’t looking at me, and she was relieving herself.  That tells you what you need to know about fame.

–Constantin Brancusi


This was a favorite anecdote of famed sculptor Constantin Brancusi(1876-1957) concerning an incident as he took the long trek on foot from Bucharest to Paris as a poor young man seeking fame and fortune. He found both but the influence of his peasant roots in Romania remained with him.

His story of the unimpressed Swiss cow is a pretty good reflection on the nature of fame, even the type acquired through great deeds. Fame is something created by other people, not something that is displayed on oneself. When all is said and done, we’re all pretty much the same– famous or not– in the eyes of that peeing cow.

It reminds me of when I first began showing my work in a gallery while I was still working as a waiter in a pancake house. I would go to openings and people would praise my work, telling me how great I was. I could barely get in my car to drive home because my head was so big by the end of the evening. But at 6 the next morning, there I was, pouring coffee for truckers and families who were less than impressed by the praise lavished on me the night before.

A big pin prick that brought my head quickly back to a more normal size.

Those folks at the restaurant were my peeing cows.

It’s a lesson that I try to remember when things are going too well and I find myself beginning to believe that I am something more than what I really am– a simple schlub watching a cow pee.

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Things are as they are. Looking out into it the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.

Alan Watts


I wasn’t planning on showing this newer painting for a while. But I came across this lovely piece of music and this painting seemed to pair perfectly with it, at least to my eyes and ears.

The painting is an 18″ by 36′ canvas that I call Starmap and is part of my annual show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria which opens June 1.

I have been working on a series of paintings like this, with blocks of color making up the sky and stars as points of light showing at the intersections of these blocks. I love working on these pieces. They require an emptying of the mind with a focus solely on what is before you. There’s this interesting sense of constant problem solving that bounces from making each form correctly and balancing that form within the whole composition. I continually go back and forth from tight focus to wide focus.

I probably can’t properly explain it but for me, it is an exhilarating process as each added form and layer of color, each poke of light from the stars, subtly transforms the piece into something more than I was expecting. It feels more complete and full than the first thoughts and brushstrokes that initiated the painting, leaving me with a giddy kind of satisfaction. I know that this has been the case thus far with each of the paintings in this series.

Now for this Sunday morning music, I thought this wonderful piece, Nocturne, from young Hungarian guitarist Zsófia Boros paired up beautifully with the feeling that this piece creates for myself. I’ve listened to it several times this morning and it just seems right.

Give a listen and have a great Sunday.


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Life has no meaning unless one lives it with a will, at least to the limit of one’s will. Virtue, good, evil are nothing but words, unless one takes them apart in order to build something with them; they do not win their true meaning until one knows how to apply them.

– Paul Gauguin


Busy, busy, busy this morning but I wanted to share the quote above from Paul Gauguin. I think it pairs perfectly with the  Gauguin painting above it, one of my favorites, which is titled Vision After the Sermon or Jacob Wrestling with the Angel.

Many of us have noble ideas of how we want to live our lives but all too often we fail to live up to the words that we attach to these aspirations. Virtues such as good, kind, thoughtful and so on. But living up to those words takes, as Gauguin points out, is much more than a matter saying that we are good and kind and thoughtful. It requires the will to put those words into action each new day.

And that struggle is like Jacob wrestling with his angel throughout the night.

That’s a short interpretation but, like I said, I’ve got things to do. But before I get to it I want to share a few more words from Gauguin that made me laugh this morning:

We never really know what stupidity is until we have experimented on ourselves.

Unfortunately, I know from personal experience that this is true. Maybe that’s what made me laugh.

Have a great day.

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Do not try to do extraordinary things but do ordinary things with intensity.

–Emily Carr
Emily Carr was one of the first artists that came to mind when I saw the question last week that asked if you name five female artists. She is most likely off many of your radars but I am sure some of my friends to the north in Canada recognize her name very well.
Carr was born in 1871 and died in 1945 in Victoria in British Columbia. Aspiring to be an artist, she was trained in the tradition of classical painting methods early in her life. But the first decade of the 20th century saw her work take a radical turn. After a period of time in Paris, influenced there by the Fauvist and Post-Impressionist with which she met and painted, her work took on bolder colors and more expressive brushwork.
She took this new found energy back to Canada where she opened a gallery in Vancouver in 1912. The gallery faltered as she failed to see the response that she had hoped for. Dejected, she basically put down her brushes for the next 15 years, doing little painting.
However, some influential people were aware of her work, especially paintings she had executed with the native tribes of Canada as her subjects, and in 1927 she was invited to show a group of work in an exhibit about the tribes of the West Coast at Canada’s National Gallery in Toronto. It was here that she met Lawren Harris and  other painters who made up the fabled Group of Seven, which were several great Canadian painters of the time who had distinct modernist styles. I have featured the brilliant work of Lawren Harris here several times.
Encouraged by Harris, who proclaimed her as one of that group, Carr was rejuvenated and for the remainder of her life worked with great vigor, trying to capture the spiritual essence of her native homeland. Like Maudie Lewis, Carr is a Canadian national treasure.
I am enchanted by much of her work and the spirit that is imbued within it. This has been a very cursory look at her life with just the highlights and a few images and a video. Please do some research on your own. It’s well worth the time.

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“The whole value of solitude depends upon oneself; it may be a sanctuary or a prison, a haven of repose or a place of punishment, a heaven or a hell, as we ourselves make it.” 

― John LubbockPeace and Happiness


I had never heard of John Lubbock before coming across the short quote above. He was one of those interesting 19th century British characters,  a titled member of a wealthy banking family who made great contributions to liberal causes and to the advancement of the sciences and math. For example, it was John Lubbock who coined the terms Paleolithic and Neolithic in describing the Old and New Stone Ages, as well as helping to make archaeology a recognized scientific discipline. He was obviously a man who used his position and access to higher knowledge to add to both his own intellect and that of our our collective body.

That being said, his words this morning gave me pause. I have generally viewed solitude as a sanctuary, even in the troubled times of my life. It was a place to calm myself, to gather my thoughts and clearly examine what was before me.

I never really gave much thought to the idea that for some this same solitude could seem like a hell or a prison. What differentiates one’s perception of such a basic thing as the solitude in being alone? How could my place of sanctuary be someone else’s chamber of horrors?

If you’re expecting me to answer, you’re going to be disappointed because I can’t really say.  I would say it might have to do with insecurity but I have as much, if not more, uncertainty and insecurity than most people. We all have unique psychological makeups and every situation, including that of solitude, is seen from a unique perspective.

This is also the basis for all art. What else could explain how one person can look at a painting and see an idyllic scene while another can feel uneasy or even offended by the same scene?

Now, the painting at the top, a new piece titled A Place of Sanctuary intended for my June show at the Principle Gallery, is a piece that very much reflects this sense of finding haven in solitude. For me, it is calming and centering, a place and time that appeals to my need for sanctuary.

Someone else might see it otherwise. They might see something remote, alien and unsettling in it.

I may not understand it but that’s okay, too. So long as they feel something…

I had never heard of John Lubbock before coming across this short quote. He was e


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Lost time is never found again.

–Benjamin Franklin

The clocks moved ahead by an hour this morning despite my protests. Even though I have wasted more than my fair share of time in my life, I am at an age where I hate to see an hour just taken from me. That feeling on waking to find that it’s an hour later than I was expecting makes me rush out of bed and my morning begins on a frazzled note.

So this morning–what’s left of it–has found me searching for something to play for this week’s musical selection that would stave off my lost hour panic. Something that would slow me down so that it feels like that hour is still there, somehow.

My search takes me down dead end streets on YouTube with songs that just felt wrong which only served to aggravate me more. But somehow– and don’t ask me how– I spotted this song by a group of musicians unknown to me, a French group called the Tarkovsky Quartet.  It was a composition titled Nuit Blanche (White Night) and, as I listened to it play, felt that it was the right song for this wrong morning.

So, give a listen. Most likely the idea that time springs ahead doesn’t bother you. But if it does, this song is a lovely way to spend a few minutes of time without feeling you’re wasting it.

Have a good day.

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