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Posts Tagged ‘Quotes’

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“Heade’s calm is unsteady, storm-stirred; we respond in our era to its hint of the nervous and the fearful. His weather is interior weather, in a sense, and he perhaps was, if far from the first to portray a modern mood, an ambivalent mood tinged with dread and yet imbued with a certain lightness.The mood could even be said to be religious: not an aggressive preachment of God’s grandeur but a kind of Zen poise and acceptance, represented by the small sedentary or plodding foreground figures that appear uncannily at peace as the clouds blacken and the lightning flashes.”

― John Updike, Still Looking: Essays on American Art

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I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned Martin Johnson Heade here. This is really an oversight on my part as some of his work was really influential on the direction of my work early on, even though to the casual observer it may not seem apparent. After all, our styles and methods of painting were wildly different. The intensity of the color and contrast in his paintings of the floral subjects and tropical birds that he completed during his long and prolific career (born 1819 and died in 1904) really made me want to push my own color ahead. There is a site, Martin Johnson Heade- The Complete Works, that has his complete works online where you can see the great quality of his color and use of contrast.

But the painting shown at the top, Approaching Thunderstorm, from the Metropolitan Museum is my favorite Heade painting. The forms of the  black water of the lake set against the vibrant color of the shoreline is striking and  a most ominous storm cloud churns toward the boaters who have not yet fully heeded the signs of the oncoming storm.

It was painted in 1859, in the years before our country exploded in civil war. This painting was part of a cultural movement of the time that depicted the tension gripping our nation in metaphorical terms. The metaphor is strong and obvious in this painting with the dark band of the river symbolizing the division between the pro-slavery/states rights factions and the abolitonist/republican side. Several prominent abolitionist preachers of the era owned versions of this painting, many often referring to this coming storm in their sermons.

Knowing this makes me appreciate the painting on a different level. But it is still about the sheer emotional impact of the color and forms that hit me long before I knew its history. There is a tension and that feeling of stillness that occurs in the moment just before action occurs, something I have tried to capture in my own work at times. I still find this piece brilliant and inspiring.

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I was not sure where I was going, and I could not see what I would do when I got there. But you saw further and clearer than I, and you opened the seas before my ship, whose track led me across the waters to a place I had never dreamed of, and which you were even then preparing to be my rescue and my shelter and my home.

― Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

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Well, my annual show at the West End Gallery comes down in just a few days. This year’s edition is called The Rising and Thursday is the last day to see the show.

It is a show in which I feel a real sense of pride. When I am prepping for a show, my goals for it are often vague and undefined. I feel that I want certain things for it and from it but when I try to verbalize these goals, the words evade me. I find myself like the sailor in the Thomas Merton quote above: I was not sure where I was going, and I could not see what I would do when I got there. 

I knew it was going somewhere. I just didn’t know where. I let intuition and reaction guide me and it often worked out fine.

But this show, much like my June show at the Principle Gallery, felt more preordained and focused and less haphazard in it’s final edited version, the one that hit the walls of the galleries. I still allowed for the role of intuition and the unconscious in the process of painting each piece. That is a necessity.

But where I could make conscious decisions, I did just that. I chose to simplify forms and chop out the fussiness of detail. Deepened colors. As much as I like them and appreciate their popularity, I reduced the number of small paintings and went with works that were a bit larger. It streamlined the look of the show on the wall, made it feel less cluttered, and gave each piece a bit more room in which to expand.

They weren’t big things but enough to make the work in the exhibit to be presented with fuller impact. I felt like this and the Principle Gallery show were my most mature and complete exhibits to date.

The response to the show has been great which is gratifying on many levels. A number of the original paintings from the show have flown the coop to their new homes but there are a few replacements that I feel fill the void they leave behind. One new piece is shown above. It’s Star Navigator, a 24″ by 8″ canvas that feels very much like it jibes with the words of Merton at the top.

I hope you can make it out to the West End Gallery in the next few days, if you haven’t had a chance to see The Rising.

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There are so many things we’ve been brought up to believe that it takes you an awfully long time to realize that they aren’t you.

–Edward Gorey
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I love the work of the late great illustrator Edward Gorey which very often took matters to dark and quirky places. His Gashlycrumb Tinies, a primer style book with small children being done in in a variety of curious ways, is a prime example. I’ve shown a few here. At face value, it’s awful yet there is a quality to it that still makes you smile at the macabre absurdity of it.
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It’s often thought that Gorey, who passed away in 2000 at the age of 75, was English, mainly because much of his work looks very Victorian and Edwardian. Lots of well appointed gentlemen and gowned matrons brandishing cigarette holders. However, he was from Chicago and lived most of his life there, in NYC and on Cape Cod, where he died. He actually only left the USA once in his lifetime.
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One little factoid that interested me was that one of his stepmothers was the actress who played the cabaret musician who sang and played guitar in the movie Casablanca. She was playing the guitar during one of my alltime favorite scenes which featured Resistance fighter Victor Lazlo leading the band in a rousing version of the French anthem, La Marseillaise, that drowned out the singing of the Nazis in Rick’s bar. I guess that doesn’t mean much as far as Edward Gorey’s work but I thought it was a neat little detail.
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I also like the quote at the top from Gorey. It’s one of those realizations that come only with the passing of time, after years of trying to fit one’s self into a mode of behavior that is acceptable to others. At a certain point one realizes that they don’t have to satisfy anyone’s expectations or beliefs but their own. It’s the beginning of freedom.
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Anyway, have a good and Gorey day.

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If only someone else could paint what I see, it would be marvelous, because then I wouldn’t have to paint at all.

Alberto Giacometti
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This quote from the great sculptor/painter Alberto Giacometti reminds me of a bit of advice I’ve attempted to pass on for a number of years: Paint the pictures you want or need to see.
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This idea that I wasn’t finding what I sensed I needed to see drove me early on and still does today.
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It makes me wonder if I had been aware of someone painting the pictures that I now paint when I was first starting out, would I be painting now? Would there be a need?
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Even though I want to say that, yes, I would definitely still be painting, I really can’t fully say that mainly because the little spark of doubt it creates makes me think it might well be true. But, of course, it would have to fully satisfy my need and maybe no one artist could do that. Or maybe even seeing that needed work might spark a new need, a further boundary.
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Hmm. Something to chew on this morning. Now, I best get to work. If no one else will paint the pictures I need to see, I better get going.

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 “People like you and I, though mortal of course like everyone else, do not grow old no matter how long we live. What I mean is we never cease to stand like curious children before the great Mystery into which we were born.”

Albert Einstein, Letter to Otto Juliusburger, September 29, 1942 

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This is a new painting, at 30″ by 10″ on canvas, that is part of my current West End Gallery show, The Rising. I have titled this painting Eye to Eye and was considering at one point adding to Eye to Eye to Eye to Eye, et cetera.

In my mind, the idea of looking out at the stars in the night sky feels sometimes like looking into a multitude of eyes looking back at us, the flash of the whites of their eyes creating the starlight that we see. It is a benign feeling, not tinged with animosity or congeniality.

They are just there, dispassionately looking back at us. Perhaps they are seeing the flash of the light from our sun that reflects on our moon as being our eyes looking out at them. Who knows?

The sense I get from this painting is one of having this connection with the universe even in those times when we might feel absolutely alone in this world. Maybe the connection is in understanding that the Great Mystery, as Einstein calls it, may very well be the same throughout the cosmos. Whether here on Earth or a billion light years away, the night presents us with tangible evidence of this Great Mystery and our desire to know our place in it creates the curiosity that Einstein mentions.

And maybe that curiosity, that feeling that there is always more to learn from this Mystery, is the key in maintaining a youthful mind.

Who knows?

I used the words from Einstein above as they originally appeared in a letter to a colleague. The gist of his words were later paraphrased by others as this popularly quoted piece of advice:

Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the Great Mystery into which we were born.

I like it better in its original form, not as advice but as simply an observation between friends.

 

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Charles Burchfield- Sun and Rocks- Albright-Know Art GalleryAn artist must paint not what he sees in nature, but what is there. To do so he must invent symbols, which, if properly used, make his work seem even more real than what is in front of him.

–Charles Burchfield

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I am a big fan of the work of Charles Burchfield (1893-1967), a western  New York painter who lived and painted in the Buffalo area for most of his life. His work was decidedly visionary in its scope, taking the environment that he knew around western New York and embellishing it with a life force and energy that he sensed beneath the surface. That’s what he was referring to in the quote above– taking what you see around you and not simply recording it but painting how it moves you emotionally. To me, his work is as emotionally charged in the same way as that of Van Gogh.

Charles Burchfield- An April Mood- Whitney Museum of American ArtCreating symbols, as Burchfield refers to in the quote, has been a big part of my work. I have long emulated his use of creating a visual vocabulary that moved through a body of work. It becomes a sort of language of its own  that people who take it in and understand it find easy to read and absorb as they move from picture to picture. Those who can’t read it find less in the images and feel less drawn into them. In an earlier post featuring Burchfield, I wrote about an artist friend who just didn’t get Burchfield’s work in any sense.  He just one of those people who couldn’t read the language clearly written in the work.

I also have been influenced by the way Burchfield would constantly go back to earlier work and use it as a new starting point, as though the added knowledge gained through the years would take this work in a new direction. I often do the same thing, constantly revisiting images and motifs from years ago looking for a thread or path to follow anew.

Even this post is a revisitation, going back and looking at an influence, trying to pull that original inspiration from it. With Charles Burchfield, that’s always an easy thing to accomplish.

Charles Burchfield- Childhood's Garden

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Ansel Adams- The Tetons and the Snake River

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Millions of men have lived to fight, build palaces and boundaries, shape destinies and societies; but the compelling force of all times has been the force of originality and creation profoundly affecting the roots of human spirit.

-Ansel Adams

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