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Posts Tagged ‘Red Tree’


I don’t need to be forgiven
For something I haven’t done
Nor for wanting my family
To find their place in the sun
If you keep this pressure on
Just don’t be surprised
If I can’t summon up my dignity
While you’re roughing up my pride

There will be a reckoning
For the peddlers of hate
Who spread their poison all across this estate
And a reckoning, too, for the politicians who
Left us to this fate
There will be a reckoning

Billy Bragg, There Will Be a Reckoning


Since we’re in the midst of another Labor Day weekend, albeit one certainly not in normal times, I was listening to some Billy Bragg, the British singer who has picked up the mantle of Woody Guthrie to become the voice for workers and the downtrodden. In fact, his Guthrie connection includes the fact that he provided most of the vocals for one of my favorites albums, Mermaid Avenue. It was a collaboration between Bragg and the group Wilco to set to music and record a group of unreleased Woody Guthrie songs that were just lyrics on paper.

The result was what I consider a brilliant album. But that’s one guy’s opinion.

I came across this song from Bragg that has been bouncing around for a while but seems to have relevance for these times. It’s called There Will Be a Reckoning. In different performances Bragg has talked about how since WWII and the defeat of the fascist forces that were threatening to overtake the planet, generations of politicians have neglected to honestly address the big issues that affect the majority of the population on this planet– financial inequality, social injustice and racism, food insecurity and adequate healthcare.

They usually just kick these concerns down the road in acts of expediency.

Expediency is often just another name for cowardice.

As a result, it has created a vacuum in which those with fascist tendencies and objectives can once again begin the rise to power through the division of the population through campaigns of fear and hatred. They see the neglected problems and, though they have no plan on ever correcting the deficits, use it as a prybar to separate the masses and set one group against the other.

And quite often they succeed. And fascism gains a strong toehold and takes power. And this leaves another generation to have someday fight to stop its spread.

Yeah, if it’s not stopped, there will definitely be a reckoning.

Here’s a live version of the song from several years ago. I am playing it to let you hear Bragg’s cockney accent and a few words on the song as he introduces it. The painting at the top is my A Time For Reckoning which is still at the West End Gallery and was part of my recent show there. I think it pairs well with this song and these times.

Have a good day.


 

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“Magistrum”- You Could Win This Painting at Saturday’s Virtual Gallery Talk!

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“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

T.H. White, The Once and Future King

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At a size of about 11″ by 15″ on paper and under glass, this painting is the second of the paintings that will be awarded as part of a free drawing at the end of my Virtual Gallery Talk this Saturday, August 22. It is titled Magistrum which is the Latin word for teacher or master.

It’s fitting that the snip I am using to start this post is from The Once and Future King from T.H. White. Reading was a big part of my childhood, a connection to the wider world and the key to unlocking the secrets of it. Books were the teacher, the master, I never had in any one person and I remember it well when I first came across this book. The story of the education of the young King Arthur by Merlin, it was delightful tale that really excited my imagination and, with its emphasis on learning and observing, reinforced my own quest to learn.

Merlin is correct, learning is the best thing for being sad. It changes the mind, building new structures upon it that make the whole thing so much stronger. In these days where, as Merlin points out, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, it is indeed a good thing to not wallow in sadness. Best to learn something new, expand that mind and see the world with wiser eyes.

That’s kind of what I see in this painting. The Red Tree here is the teacher urging its students to come out into the light, emerge from their state of blueness.

So, if you feel blue these days, open your mind and try to learn something unknown to you. Read something new. Look at things closer. Imagine the world through the eyes of others.

It’ll do you a world of good. That I can say with certainty.

Now the Virtual Gallery Talk from the West End Gallery takes place this Saturday, August 22, from 1-2 PM EST. Tomorrow, we will be posting the information on how to preregister for the Talk with Zoom. You do not have to have a Zoom account but you will need to register to participate and view. Though the Talk will be open to all, the drawing for the two paintings will be limited to the first 100 registrants. The chosen winners will have to be present (online!) at the Gallery Talk to claim their prize.

So make sure you get your name in when we roll out the info tomorrow. Good luck!

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“Center of Gravity” Now at the West End Gallery

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In the center of an irrational universe governed by an irrational Mind stands rational man.

― Philip K. Dick, Valis

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You could possibly substitute the word country for universe and it wouldn’t much change the meaning of this quote. At least, not here in a land that feels more and more Kafkaesque with each passing day.

For those of you not familiar with the writings of Franz Kafka, Kafkaesque is described in Wikipedia this way:

The term “Kafkaesque” is used to describe concepts and situations reminiscent of his work, particularly “The Trial” and “The Metamorphosis.” Examples include instances in which bureaucracies overpower people, often in a surreal, nightmarish milieu which evokes feelings of senselessness, disorientation, and helplessness. Characters in a Kafkaesque setting often lack a clear course of action to escape a labyrinthine situation. Kafkaesque elements often appear in existential works, but the term has transcended the literary realm to apply to real-life occurrences and situations that are incomprehensibly complex, bizarre, or illogical.

As suggested by the painting above, Center of Gravity, I am going to shelter in place for the day and simply let the world turn on ts own.

And that’s enough for today.

Stay centered, folks.

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“The Fulfillment”- Now at the West End Gallery

 

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“To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.”

Robert Louis Stevenson, Familiar Studies of Men and Books

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I was organizing one of the rooms in my studio this weekend, shuffling around boxes and stacks of books and papers, trying to make it look less like  a tornado had touched down in that room. I came across an old journal with only a few pages that contained any writing. It was from about thirty years ago, from a time when I was going through a lot of things in my little world.

I read the few pages that were there and it was painful. It was like looking back at another person, one who was deeply flawed and recognized some of these flaws. A person who desired a future but was lost and couldn’t see a way of getting there. This person knew they were lacking something but didn’t even know what that was which was an agony for them.

It would have been painful reading the words of this person, even if I didn’t know that they were my own words, my own predicament.

Nearly thirty years have passed and that person seems like a distant memory on most days now. I don’t think I would ever want to go back to that time or to be that person, even with youth and the accompanying energy and health it would bring.

You grow. You learn. You gather bits of insight. You come to recognize your flaws and strengths.You realize that you have power over your reactions, that they are your decisions to make.

You change and hopefully move toward a state of fulfillment.

It takes time and real effort.

I suppose there are those who choose not to change, those who are always perfectly at ease with who they are or have been at any point in their life. Maybe they are the lucky ones.

Or maybe they are the unfortunate ones.

As always, I don’t know for sure. I know that I am grateful for the past thirty years and the changes that have come my way after the time and effort expended. I hope for thirty more and wish that the me at that time will look back on these words and say, “Oh, how much I have changed!

Wishing you all fulfillment. Have a good day.

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“Always having what we want
may not be the best good fortune
Health seems sweetest
after sickness, food
in hunger, goodness
in the wake of evil, and at the end
of daylong labor sleep.”

― Heraclitus, Fragments

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“True Opulence” Now at the the West End Gallery

A summer Sunday morning, the heat not yet fully realized. Quiet, not much stirring. A doe with her two fawns saunters through the shade of the yard and munches the tall unmowed grass, chewing as she lifts her head to survey the scene.

The world still feels intact in these moments. In rhythm. Sane.

But the heat builds. Noise intensifies. Animals fade into the cooler, quieter shadows of the forest.

Rhythm is lost and an air of tension fills the void.

I don’t know where I am going with this. Just an observation, I suppose.

Summer days in the time of pandemic.

These are the days when I need something to remind me of the possibility of this world. With that in mind, I am just going to go ahead and introduce this week’s Sunday morning music. It’s another new piece from composer Max Richter from his upcoming album, Voices. This piece is called All Human Beings and begins with Eleanor Roosevelt reading from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The music is set to a lovely film from Yulia Mahr.

Maybe it can keep the world, at least as I am seeing it, in rhythm for a bit today. Have a good, quiet Sunday.

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“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

Maya Angelou, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes

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This painting, Nestledown, 18″ by 26″ on paper, is part pf my current show at the West End Gallery, It has the feel of some of my older work with its simple design and spew lines at the edges where the paint has broke free of the picture plane. This gives it a feeling of finding a place of comfort in my eyes, one of security where you can let down your guard a bit.

This feeling is enhanced for me by the multicolored patches of color in the foreground. While they remind me of a patchwork quilt there is something else in the quality of the color that heightens the feeling, something I couldn’t put my finger on for quite some time after I painted this piece. It came to me the other day when I was looking at a book of work by the painter Egon Schiele.

This piece reminded me of one of his paintings, Agony, from 1912, shown here on the right. It shows a person wrapped in a patchwork quilt with a monk laying next to them, his own robe serving as blanket of comfort. As soon as I saw this piece I saw how the oranges, yellows, and reds of its quilt related to the colors in my painting. They provided much the same service in both paintings, creating warmth and security.

I wasn’t surprised by seeing this link. I have long admired the work of Schiele, especially the way he treated his colors, imbuing even the brightest colors with dark undertones. This creates a depth and gravity of feeling that transcends the color itself. This is something I attempted to adapt for my own process many years ago, something that I consider a major turning point in the evolution of my work.

This painting wasn’t consciously in mind when I painted Nestledown but it certainly echoed somehow in memory. And finding comfort in times of trial and agony is a thread that runs through this show. It’s something that hits close to home  both as a nation, as we suffer through the multitude of ills that plague us at present, and as an individual as my family deals with the last days of my father’s life.

We all just want to find a bit of comfort, a place where we can nestle down.

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Well, the show at the West End Gallery opened yesterday.

Out of an abundance of caution, I was not there. I wasn’t going to be able to be there for the whole opening which was spaced over seven hours, allowing only ten attendees at any one point. I decided it would be better to free up the space so others could see the show in safety. It wasn’t an easy decision and I fretted over it all day, on a day– the opening of a show– when I normally fret at a pretty high level. It made for a hard day on an already difficult day.

It just seemed like one of those days where everything is out of rhythm, down to the smallest details. Several things in the household were out of whack as well. I am not going to bore you with my whining on all the details. I’ll just say that yesterday was like the emotional letdown I typically experience in the weeks after a show compressed into a few hours, all taking place before the show’s opening was even complete.

Then I heard that Ruth Bader Ginsburg‘s cancer had reemerged and she was undergoing treatment. This as unmarked forces in combat gear were deployed by the DHS on the streets of Portland, Oregon, and were forcibly abducting and removing protesters in unmarked vehicles. These were not raging riots in any form. This was just intimidation and use of undue force all under the guise that they were there to keep people from tagging federal buildings with graffiti. The head of the DHS later told NPR that planned on employing this strategy of putting troops on the streets of American streets all around the country soon. It’s a treacherous ploy that allows them to skirt the objections of mayor and governors with the excuse that they are protecting federal property.

Then I later discovered that Congressman John Lewis, an eloquent advocate and giant of the Civil Rights movement had died.

The day just kept giving its awful gifts.

I am hoping today is a better one indeed. It’s got to be, doesn’t it?

I am employing another painting from the West End Gallery show. It’s called Angels Reach. I am not going into what I see in it or what is has to offer me. I will  just come out and say that this is a favorite of mine and this morning I really need to see something that makes me feel good.

Well, if not good at least a bit better than yesterday.

Many thanks to those of you who came out to the West End Gallery yesterday. And special thanks to Jesse and Linda at the gallery who have put in many, many hard hours of work in making the gallery work in these difficult times. I can’t express the gratitude I feel for you all.

Even though there are three Red Trees in this painting, I attach this song, a longtime favorite, to this painting in my head. Maybe that’s why I call this painting a favorite, as well. Give a listen and try to make your day a good one.

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“There’s a sin, a fearful sin, resting on this nation, that will not go unpunished forever. There will be reckoning yet … it may be sooner or it may be later, but it’s a coming as sure as the Lord is just”

Soloman Northup, Twelve Years a Slave

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My show, From a Distance, opens this Friday, July 17, at the West End Gallery. This year marks the 25th that I have been showing my work with the gallery and in all that time there have been many shows, both in group exhibits and as a solo artist. Without checking, I believe this is my 18th or 19th solo show there.

There have been shows in the aftermath of terrorist attacks. Presidential impeachments. Economic meltdowns. Historic presidential elections.

A lot of history in those 25 years.

But this year’s show is different from any of those previous shows. It feels like those eventful years have been moving us in an unalterable arc toward this moment, this time of reckoning. I know it certainly showed in my work for this show. Some were depictions of the time and some were escape routes away from it. The piece at the top, A Time For Reckoning, definitely feels like a mirror for this time for me.

A reckoning, as you may know, is an archaic term that means a settling or balancing of accounts. Kind of like karma, I suppose. This certainly feels like a time when accounts of all sorts may be brought back into some sort of balance.

Again, karma.

Without getting into a screed here, that’s what I see in this painting. There comes a point in the lifetime of everything that has gotten out of balance where there is a reckoning. Things must be brought back into balance or they will no doubt crash and burn. It could be something as simple as a wheel on a car or it could be a person at the crossroads of their life or a country finally facing the darker side of its history, as Mr. Northrup predicted in the words at the top from his moving autobiography.

When things are out of balance, there eventually comes a time for reckoning.

I hope you can get out to the West End Gallery for this show. It was a difficult show to put together but I think it’s a really good show, one of which I am proud.

Have a good day.

 

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“That is how I experience life, as apocalypse and cataclysm. Each day brings an increasing inability in myself to make the smallest gesture, even to imagine myself confronting clear, real situations. The presence of others — always such an unexpected event for the soul — grows daily more painful and distressing. Talking to others makes me shudder. If they show any interest in me, I flee. If they look at me, I tremble. I am constantly on the defensive. Life and other people bruise me. I can’t look reality in the eye.”

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

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The painting above is from my new solo show, From a Distance, that is now hanging at the West End Gallery. The show officially opens Friday, July 17, but can be previewed beforehand. Jesse and Linda are doing a marvelous job in maintaining a safe yet welcoming environment for those that come to the gallery during these times. They have been extremely conscientious and have fastidiously followed the most stringent protocols to ensure the safety of their patrons so if you can, please stop in to see the show.

This piece, 22″ wide by 36″ high on wood panel, is titled In These Times. I think most people will see an air of warmth and friendliness in this painting that is welcoming. The sun here gives this painting a sense of communion, a sense of certainty, with the greater powers of the universe. There is comfort to be found in this piece but there is also an accompanying darker edge that lulls underneath everything. Maybe this comes in the  treatment of the sun’s rays, those squiggly fragments of radiating lines that counter the certainty of the sun with an uncertainty and foreboding. It creates a sense of remoteness, one that keeps the viewer at a distance even as they attempt to get closer.

At least, that’s how I am seeing this piece. It feels easy and simple at its surface but it has many undercurrents. Hard to get a handle on. I think that’s how I came to the title, In These Times. It seems to echo the feelings of this complex and treacherous time for myself and it makes it perhaps the most autobiographical piece in the show, the one that mirrors most my current state of being.

These is a time of great trial that is sending many of us to the far reaches of our personalities. Every trait in us, good or bad, seems to respond at amplified levels. There is little middle ground remaining for anything and we retreat to our own zones of comfort.

I know when I read the passage above from the great Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, who I wrote of last year, I saw in it my own reaction. My default reaction to the world is one of withdrawal but I normally tolerate and enjoy many interactions. But these times have amplified that feeling of withdrawal in myself and Pessoa’s words echoed very much my current feelings. The remoteness seems deeper now with an added layer of defensiveness and, like Pessoa, I find myself much more uncomfortable speaking with people.

Even writing this brings on an increased level of anxiety. So, I am going to stop now.

As I said, this is a painting that has much more going on than you might ascertain with a cursory glance.

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We starve, look at one another short of breath,
Walking proudly in our winter coats,
Wearing smells from laboratories,
Facing a dying nation of moving paper fantasy,
Listening for the new told lies with supreme visions of
Lonely tunes.
Somewhere, inside something, there is a rush of
Greatness.

— The Flesh Failures ( Let the Sunshine In), Hair

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The new painting above, World O’Wonder, is part of my new show at the West End Gallery that opens this week. It’s a 36″ by 36″ canvas that has a lot of oomph, a bold presence on the wall that proclaims the day. For me, I see it as a symbol of innate strength, the Red Tree serving as a fearless greeter of the new, one who see the beauty that abounds even in times of great difficulty.

I think it might be one of the more optimistic pieces from the show. Having works that have a forward looking stance, a sense of hope despite the prolonged battering we’re enduring at present, was important, both for my vision of the show and for my own attitude in the studio. Like anybody, I need to believe that, even though each day seems to bring a wave of foreboding darkness, there is some form of good, now and in the future. Something that tells me that we have the strength to endure the forces of hatred, cruelty and ignorance that seem so publicly on display in recent times.

I do believe we have that strength and I see it all over this painting. Beauty and goodness exists in this world, much more than the ugliness that rules the day. Like the lyrics above say: Somewhere, inside something, there is a rush of Greatness.

Before settling on this week’s Sunday morning music, I did the normal run down the rabbit hole, going through all sorts of artists,genres and time frames before finally coming to this song, The Flesh Failures ( Let the Sunshine In) from the 1968 Broadway hit, Hair. It matched up well with what I was seeing in World O’Wonder.

It’s an interesting song for me. It’s such a powerful song yet it hasn’t been covered by other artists nearly as much as many other songs from the Hair soundtrack. There are only a few covers out there and none match the original for my tastes. When I was reading the lyrics along to the song it struck me that David Bowie would have crushed this song. The cadence,rhythm, and phrasing of it sound as though it could have been one of his songs. Too bad we’ll never get to hear that.

Anyway, keep your eyes to the beauty around you, stand strong and actively fight for a better future. And have a good Sunday. Give a listen.

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