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Posts Tagged ‘Quote’

The Working Hands

 

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I have always regarded manual labour as creative and looked with respect – and, yes, wonder – at people who work with their hands. It seems to me that their creativity is no less than that of a violinist or painter.

-Pablo Casals

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I came across this shot of working hands and it made me think of how I’ve viewed hands through my life. I’ve always looked at people’s hands since I was a child. The liver spotted hands of my grandmother had thin ivory fingers that seemed like translucent china, for instance.

Growing up, the hands of our landlord Art, an old farmer [and a onetime bootlegger but that’s a story for another day], were thick and strong and missing at least one digit down to the knuckle on several fingers, the result of an ornery, impatient personality and dangerous farm machinery. Not a great match. I saw quite a few farmers with missing fingers and limbs back in the day.

Fat Jack, who I wrote about here a ways back, had hands whose nails were longer than you might expect and permanently rimmed with the black from the oil and grease of the machines on which he was always working. They were similar to the photo above. His hands were round and plump, like Jack himself, but surprisingly soft and nimble, good for manipulating the small nuts and bolts of his world.

There was a manager when I was in the world of automobiles who was a great guy and fantastic salesman who had extremely soft and damp hands. It was like handling a cool dead fish when you shook hands. A mushy, damp, boneless fish.

I admired working hands. They reflected their use so perfectly, the scars and callouses serving as badges of honor and the thick muscularity of the fingers attesting to the time spent at labor. They seemed honest with nothing to hide. They were direct indicators of that person’s life and world.

My own hands have changed over the years. They were once more like working hands, calloused and thickening from many hours spent with a shovel. There are a number of small scars from screwdrivers that jumped from the screwhead and into the flesh time and time again and another on the end of my middle finger from when I cut the very end of it off while trying to cut a leather strap with a hunting knife. Not a great idea but, hey, I never claimed to be Einstein.

I always felt confident when my hands were harder and stronger. Now, I have lost some of that thickness of strength and the fingers are thinner and a bit softer from doing less manual labor. I look at them now and wonder how I would have judged them when I was younger, when I measured a man by his hands, something that  I don’t do  now. I now know there are better ways to measure a life, that the work of the mind is now a possibility– something that seemed a million miles away then.

But when I come across working hands, strong and hard, I find myself admiring them still.

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This post has ran a couple of times over the years, generally around Labor Day. I have always admired hard workers, people who didn’t swerve away from having to use their hands and backs to get something done. I have been a hard worker at times though I have spent as much time, maybe more, as a bone idle slob.

I like myself a lot more when I am the hard worker.

Have a good Labor Day weekend.

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Art is polymorphic. A picture appears to each onlooker under a different guise.

–Georges Braque

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Polymorphic.

I like the sound of the word and the fact it describes the idea that every picture is seen by each viewer in a distinct way. Everyone responds to whatever speaks loudest to them in that picture. Some respond to the colors or forms. Some to textures or brushwork. Some to the subject represented and some to an emotion felt by them that they see in the picture.

As an artist, you often see your own work in one way which is your own personal take on a particular piece. As such, you expect others to see it in the same way. But after a while of being an artist you begin to understand that the polymorphic piece that inspires different responses and interpretations in others is what you desire for your work.

It means the work is beyond the flatness of a single unified response. It is fuller, with more levels of depth of meaning and expression. It means the work has moved beyond your control and become something more, with its own voice and message that is beyond any contrivance you might impose on it.

It’s actually an exciting thing to have others respond to your work in ways you never anticipated, even when it widely swerves from what you yourself saw in it. You know it’s alive then.

And that’s what you seek as an artist– polymorphic creations.

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“The highest reward for a man’s toil is not what he gets by it but what he becomes by it.”

–John Ruskin

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John Ruskin (1819-1900) was yet another of those 19th century British jack-of-all-trades. He was an accomplished artist, social commentator, philanthropist and the leading art critic of the Victorian Age. He was also a prolific writer on a wide variety of subjects, from archaeology to ornithology and everything in between. He also wrote stinging polemics calling for needed social change in Britain at that time. He was the British equivalent of a renaissance man.

Born into a wealthy merchant family, Ruskin may not have experienced much physical labor in his life but he obviously toiled in other ways to have achieved so much in his time on this planet. I think his words above on how we are changed from toil have a certain ring of truth.

I believe there are rewards for hard work that go far beyond the immediate material compensation we receive. It forms our behaviors, our tolerances and our perception of our place in the world. It teaches us what is important and what is not. It gives us focus and discipline and the experience that may one day transform into wisdom. It gives us identity and  purpose.

And it applies for everyone, from clerks to plumbers to scientists to housekeepers. Even artists.

Hard work has been a recurring theme in some of my work over the years. It’s definitely the theme of the painting at the top, Toil’s Reward, which is included in my Moments and Color show now hanging at the West End Gallery. There’s a richness and warmth in the colors of this piece that feels like a reward in itself.

If you come out this Saturday, August 17, to see it at the West End Gallery, say around 1 PM, you can take part in my annual Gallery Talk. I promise you I will be working hard. Maybe even sweating profusely. But hopefully, you will be the one being rewarded, maybe even taking home the original painting that will be given away. Even if you don’t win the big one, there are some other smaller prizes that you have a pretty good chance of getting. And besides that, it’s usually an entertaining time.

Like they say, it’s not hard work if you like what you’re doing.

See you Saturday!

 

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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 Lubbock, Peace and Happiness

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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 (1st Baron Avebury) of a wealthy banking family who made great contributions to the advancement of the sciences and math as well as to many liberal causes.

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. As a youth he was a neighbor to Charles Darwin and was heavily influenced by the older scientist, who he befriended. He also worked with Darwin as a young man and championed his evolutionary theories in his later adulthood. 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 crave solitude so the idea that for some this same solitude could feel like a hell or a prison seemed foreign to me. 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, titled A Place of Sanctuary, 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…

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This post originally ran in 2018. The painting, A Place of Sanctuary, is currently on view at the West End Gallery as part of my solo exhibit, Moments and Color, which runs until August 30.

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Joy is everywhere; it is in the earth’s green covering of grass: in the blue serenity of the sky: in the reckless exuberance of spring: in the severe abstinence of grey winter: in the living flesh that animates our bodily frame: in the perfect poise of the human figure, noble and upright: in living, in the exercise of all our powers: in the acquisition of knowledge… Joy is there everywhere.

 

—Rabindranath Tagore

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The painting at the top is part of Moments and Color, my solo exhibit currently on display at the West End Gallery. It’s titled An Exuberant Life and is a 24″ by 24″ canvas.

I don’t know that we are living in a time of joy at this point in history. At least, not in a way where one day we as a people will look back and remember it as a golden age filled with good will and There’s certainly an abundance of anxiety, ignorance, anger and about any other negative attribute you can come up with.

I believe that in times like these, we have to actively seek and identify the joy and exuberance that exists in this world. We take so much that surrounds us for granted as we bounce along the bumpy road we’re on at the moment. We find ourselves often blinded by our outrage or so inwardly turned in a defensive pose that we lose track of our surroundings.

Forget to see simple things. A ray of sunlight. The beauty in a tiny paused moment of silence. Tasting the pleasant bitterness of coffee on the tongue.

I could do a long laundry list of my own small pleasures, things that give me a sense of the joys in this world. But they are mine alone. You must find your own. Your list of joys must be your own sanctuary in these times. You’ll know them at once from the feeling of peaceful satisfaction they instill in you.

Maybe finding the exuberance of your own life will influence others to seek their own.

That would be a good thing.

And that’s kind of what I see in this painting– finding one’s joy and affecting the world with it. That is certainly something we could use in these times.

 

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Paul Gauguin- The Painter of Sunflowers 1888

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What still concerns me the most is: am I on the right track, am I making progress, am I making mistakes in art?

-Paul Gauguin

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I am in the last day of prep before I deliver my show to the West End Gallery. I am in my 25th year at this gallery where I first started publicly showing my work and this is what I believe to be my 18th solo exhibit. But even with all that experience there is always an element of doubt present when I am getting ready to deliver paintings to a gallery.

It’s just a natural state of being. At least, for me.

I used to worry that my own judgement of the work was flawed and that this would be obvious once it was hung on a wall outside my studio. My inadequacy would be on public display for all to see.

That feeling never fully goes away and on these last days of prep, this insidious doubt always creeps back in.

But time has made me adhere to the words above from Paul Gauguin, under his 1888 painting of Vincent Van Gogh.

You do what you can do. You try to do a bit better each time. You discard those things that don’t work and grow the things that do.

And you live with that.

Okay, got lots to do this morning so I am out of here. And I think I am leaving my doubts right where they are. Don’t need them today.

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“A man must dream a long time in order to act with grandeur, and dreaming is nursed in darkness.”

― Jean Genet

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I came across this quote and it made me stop. When he said that dreaming is nursed in darkness, was Genet saying that we must sleep more in order to be able to dream more? That didn’t sound right to me.

More likely he saying that we must stumble through much darkness, not sure of where we are or where we are headed, in order to achieve our dreams. Maybe it is this time spent maneuvering in darkness that gives us the courage to act on our dreams.

That makes more sense. Following that dream for a long time, never seeing it fully in the darkness, makes that elusive dream more precious and gives one a sense of urgency in achieving it. When the possibility of the dream coming to fruition is finally upon them they are not afraid to take action. They can then act with grandeur, as Genet put it.

That sounds better but what do I know? It’s 6 AM, I am tired to the point I can feel the dark rings under my eyes, and I am thinking about Jean Genet and dreams. Even the tiniest act of grandeur doesn’t seem too probable at this point.

But I think I understand this struggle to follow our dreams, to become what we truly want to be. It’s easy to lose sight of our dreams when we are stumbling in the inky darkness. Once they move away from us, they often are lost forever.

That’s sort of what I am sensing in the new piece above that is included in my upcoming West End Gallery show. It’s a smaller painting, 6″ by 10″ on paper, that I am calling Dream in Sight. It’s one of the pieces from this show that are a nod back to my earlier work. Perhaps the moon represents the dream here, rising and falling through the darkness. Sometimes it doesn’t show at all. Other times, it only shows a smaller part of itself.

And it always seems so distant yet so near.

Hmm, I have to think on this. Or take a nap and dream a bit more.

Have a great day.

 

 

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