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If we are always arriving and departing, it is also true that we are eternally anchored. One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.

Henry Miller
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We often search and search, moving from place to place, trying to find that certain something that we can’t quite name. We have it in our minds that it is a physical place, a tangible object, that will satisfy our need to wander.

New people to meet.

New streets to explore.

New landscapes to surround us. New hills to climb.

But maybe what we seek is just a new way of seeing ourselves, of a new opportunity to unleash the person we desire ourselves to be. Or, more likely, a chance to see ourselves as we really are, something that becomes obscured in the familiar. Being anchored, as Miller infers above, in the repetition of  day to day life has us showing ourselves always in the same light. We lose touch with aspects of who we are that are never allowed to come to light.

The search allows us that new perspective. While we remain the same we see ourselves from new angles, new vantage points, allowing us to feel new. Different.

Sometimes it is good and sometimes it is not, exposing perspectives on ourselves we would rather not see and may have hidden for a long time. But hopefully unveiling the truth of all that we are will somehow  make us feel comfortable in our wholeness.  Knowing our shortcomings as well as our strengths make us more real, more human.

What we seek is always with us.

You might not view it the same way but that’s what I am seeing in this new painting, an 8″ by 16″ canvas, that I call Destination Seen. It is headed to the West End Gallery for my upcoming show, Self Determination, which opens July 14.

 

 

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I came across this post from about 4 years ago and it made me take pause to think.  Sometimes in the course of living day to day, we often lose sight of the bigger picture that is our own life. We often focus on small things, little tasks and minor grievances, causing us to take for granted whatever good fortune that we may have experienced. I find that this is true in the weeks before a show when I am buried in my work. And I think that it  must seems especially true for most of us in these crazy days that we are going through as a nation.

So, today, instead of worrying and burying myself in angst, I am going to focus on the ways in which I have been so fortunate and allow myself to enjoy it, to be happy. Here’s what I wrote four years back:

There is but one success– to be able to spend your life in your own way.

— Christopher Morley, 1922

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I was contacted a week or two back by a man who had given me a great opportunity as an artist in my early years, a large commission that gave me the confidence to make the leap to painting on a full-time basis.  We had not seen one another in many years but he had seen some of the recent publicity about my work and he reached out to me, wanting to congratulate me and see how things were going in general.

For me, it was an opportunity to offer him the gratitude I felt he deserved even though it had been fifteen years since he had worked with me.  The years had clarified how large his decision to use my work meant to my career. So we talked for a bit, me thanking him and him telling me how proud he was of my work and of his ability to have seen something in it in those early days.  It was a nice talk and, after agreeing to get together soon, he put a  final question before me that gave me pause.

Are you successful, Gary?”  he asked.

I wasn’t sure what he meant by successful and the possibilities ran through my mind.  Was he talking about being a financial success?  A critical success, one based on notoriety?  Or was he asking if I was simply happy, satisfied by my life?  It suddenly seemed that success was such a relative term, that one person’s definition of success might not even begin to satisfy the next person’s requirements for it.

But my own?  What was success for me? In the flash of that moment, I tried to put this all together  and determine what the word meant to me.  I thought for a split-second of success being determined by money and fame but settled quickly on my own self-satisfaction as being the determinant of what I might define as success.  I knew in that moment that there would always be those who will make more money, gain more fame and influence than me.  But I also knew that even with more of these things I would be no more  satisfied with the life I was leading–  I do what I want  and I am able to do it on my own terms.  The image came to me then of those times when I am walking through the woods between my house and my studio and I stop and look around, thinking that I am more fortunate in this way than I ever dreamed of in my early years.

I knew in that flash that this  feeling of that satisfied moment in the woods was success for me.  I told him that yes, I was successful, more than I had hoped for.

I have thought about this conversation a number of times.  I still have fears and anxieties, still aspire for more in my career.  But it’s those moments of feeling truly fortunate to do what I do, feeling that warm glow of satisfaction in my life if only for a few seconds here and there each day, that define success for me.

I think back to a few weeks ago when I spoke with a group of high school students and I hope that I gave them  some idea that this is what success is– that if they can set their own  expectations and find satisfaction in these, they will be successful.

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The new painting shown here is a 9″ x 12″ canvas and is titled The Question. It is included in my solo show, Truth and Belief, which opens June 2 at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria. 

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Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable. 

Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays

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This is another new painting that is headed to the Principle Gallery for my solo show that opens on June 2. The name I chose for this show is Truth and Belief, two concepts that often, especially in this past year of confusion, get jumbled up in our minds

At least, that’s what I believe. It might be true. Or not.

You see, that’s the thing.  We often claim to want to know the truth but what we want is validation. We want a truth that confirms what we already believe to be true.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

And in the face of a truth that contradicts their beliefs, some will hang onto their misguided belief with even greater tenacity.  They view the truth at this point as an adversary, something to be overcome or at least pushed aside to make room for their belief.

But truth is always there, like it or not.  It will at some point come into view for all to see, believers and non-believers alike.

And that’s what I see in this piece.  The path going into the picture separates with one branch heading into the forest  where the view will be limited by the trees and the terrain. The other branch follows a route that takes it to a higher point where the view is unobstructed. The truth of that time and place is clear and undeniable despite what one might believe.

Now a disclaimer: I don’t know if any of this is actually true.  But I do believe it to be so. As much as it can be for a schlub sitting in the woods in front of a computer at 6 in the morning. Once I climb to a better vantage point I might think otherwise.

This piece is titled Seeking Truth and is 12″ by 12″ on canvas.

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The world is little, people are little, human life is little. There is only one big thing — desire.

Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark

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This is a new painting that is part of my upcoming June show, Truth and Belief,  at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria. This is a 36″ by 24″ canvas that I am calling The Invocation.

Part of me feels as though this is a painting where I should write more about it.  But another part of me feels that this is a piece that deserves the quiet that allows others to see what they will in it. It has the feel of a piece that could hold many meanings for different people.

I will try to keep my own views brief with the hope that they won’t taint the perspective of others.

This painting has, for me, a definite feeling of long held desires and the sending out of wishes and prayers for their fulfillment. Maybe it’s the angel-like shape created by the negative space of the river and sky, much like the piece that I wrote about last month, Flight of Angels. The bridge here serves as a golden belt for the angel and the light around the shape of the moon creates a halo-like effect. The Red Tree seems to be poised on the shoulder of this angel, whispering its deepest desires in its ear.

This wasn’t painted with this symbolism in mind.  I knew I wanted a river with a bridge in this piece and the bridge was the first thing painted. But it wasn’t placed with the idea that it would represent a belt for an angel.  It was located at a point where I thought it felt right and would simply set the composition into motion. From there, the painting kind of grew organically. The final composition set tone for the  blue and purple color palette.

I’m really enjoying this painting in the studio and am finding new things each day that I didn’t see while painting it. That gives me real satisfaction. Whether that means anything beyond the walls of my studio, well, that’s another thing.

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“Can anything be imagined so ridiculous, that this miserable and wretched creature [man], who is not so much as master of himself, but subject to the injuries of all things, should call himself master and emperor of the world, of which he has not power to know the least part, much less to command the whole?”

Michel de Montaigne (1532-1592), Apology for Raymond Sebond

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Dominium is the title of this new painting, a 24″ by 24″ canvas that is part of my annual solo exhibit at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA. The show opens June 2.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time looking at this painting in the last several weeks and have found that it is an easy piece in which to withdraw. Even though there are paths coming into the picture, which normally denotes the presence of people, it is the absence of humans that is the message that I get from this piece.

We have no dominion over this world. It is the land that holds sovereignty for no matter how badly we abuse and squander the bounty that this world provides, it will no doubt persist in some living form well beyond the very short time our species will litter its surface. We are not the owners of the land or its creatures nor treat this planet as though we were. No, we should act only as caretakers and custodians of this world, for that is the only way we can extend our tenuous time in this bountiful place.

Maybe this is snapshot of a time beyond ours. Or maybe it is a hopeful example of how we should coexist with our environment.

I don’t know which. I do know that it makes me feel better to just stare at it for a while and that’s a good thing these days. It’s far too easy today to cynically believe that the hubris, stupidity and selfishness that is so prevalent in our species will prevail. All available evidence points in that direction.

But this piece gives me a bit of peace of mind and with that comes the possibility for hope. And that hope at least makes possible the opening of one’s mind which leads to the possibility of obtaining wisdom. And wisdom gives us a chance to use our limited knowledge and abilities to the greatest benefit, to possibly avert destroying our world.

Save the world. That’s a lot to ask of a simple painting. But maybe that is a major purpose of art– to save us from ourselves, to bring light to the darkness.

Okay, in that same vein, this week’s Sunday morning musical selection deals with the ecology.  It’s the classic Mercy Mercy Me from Marvin Gaye. That’s two Sundays in a row for Marvin but it just felt so right.

Give a listen, have some hope and with that, a great day.

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Sometimes the horizon is defined by a wall behind which rises the noise of a disappearing train. The whole nostalgia of the infinite is revealed to us behind the geometrical precision of the square. We experience the most unforgettable movements when certain aspects of the world, whose existence we completely ignore, suddenly confront us with the revelation of mysteries lying all the time within our reach and which we cannot see because we are too short-sighted, and cannot feel because our senses are inadequately developed.  Their dead voices speak to us from nearby, but they sound like voices from another planet.

–Giorgio de Chirico

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de chirico_mysteryA turning point for me when I was first stumbling around with my own painting was when I encountered the work of Giorgio de Chirico, an Italian painter of darkly toned metaphorical works. He lived from 1888 until 1978 but was primarily known for his early work from 1909-1919 which is called his Metaphysical PeriodMetaphysics is  devoted to the exploration of what is behind visible reality without relying on measurable data. Very mystical. De Chirico’s work after 1919 became more realistic and more traditional.

His later work was less colorful, less symbolic, less powerful and way more mundane. It is definitely the work from the earlier Metaphysical period that defines him as the artist as we know him today.

I was immediately drawn to that work.  It was full of high contrast, with sharp light and dark.  The colors were bold, bright and vibrant, yet there was darknessde-chirico-the-great-tower implied in them.  The compositions were full of interesting juxtapositions of forms and perspectives.  It was a visual feast for me.

At that time in my own painting, I was still painting in a fairly traditional manner, especially with watercolors. That is to say that I was achieving light through the transparency of my paint, letting the underlying paper show through. It was pretty clean which was fine. But it wasn’t what I was looking for in my work.

Seeing de Chirico’s paintings made me realize what I wanted.  It was that underlying darkness that his work possessed. It was a grittiness, a dark dose of the reality of our existence.  I immediately began to experiment with different methods that would introduce a base of darkness that the light and color could play off.  My work began to change in short order and strides forward came much quicker as a result of simply sensing  something in de Chirico’s work that wasn’t there in my own.

Perhaps that is what is meant by metaphysical…

This post is a combination of a couple of posts from years ago. I really wanted to use his quote at the top because I often get that feeling from certain paintings, that they represent “voices from another planet,”  that they come from a point well beyond our realm of knowledge. I also wanted to include the video below that shows much of De Chirico’s metaphysical work. Take a look below.

de-chirico



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A child in India grows up with the idea that you have to make choices that will create a better future. In fact, your whole life is a continuum of choices, so the more conscious you are, the greater your life will be.

Deepak Chopra
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I don’t think many of us spend much time in considering the many choices that we make each day that make up our life. Indeed, the many choices we make that form our personality and our character.

And that’s a shame because we do have a great deal of control over who we are and how we live.  More control than many of us would believe, especially those of us who make a choice not to choose, to live an unconscious life that takes little notice of the possible consequences of our decisions.

I see this new painting, an 18″ by 24″ canvas that I call The Choice, as a representation of those who decide the course of their lives. Clarity, light, and color make up this painting for me and I would like to think that is the same for those people who choose their own way.

Of course, there are bad decisions made after much deliberation. That is our But it seems to me that knowing why or how something has gone wrong makes the decision in how one deals with the consequences that much simpler. And being conscious of our decisions and actions makes it more likely that we can make adjustments as we move forward. Adjustments that will help us find the feeling represented in this piece.

I wrote this off the cuff this morning so maybe it won’t sound that good later today.  But even so, there’s something about this piece that really appeals to me and pulls me in.

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