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Posts Tagged ‘Red Tree’



All my troubles will be over
When I lay my burden down
All my troubles will be over
When I lay my burden down



It’s a tired morning, this Sunday morning. Still dark and icy cold outside as I sit here in the studio.

I think I am feeling the toll of the last year’s stresses. The worries, the outrages, the fears, and just the general sense of disconnectedness and chaos that seemed so pervasive– it all feels like it came to bear inside of a few days. I just need a break, I guess.

Lately, I have been toying with the idea of stepping away from the blog, at least for a short period of time. Maybe take a small break to recalibrate, to take the focus, as little as it is, and put it towards some other efforts and projects that need my attention.

Perhaps to find the inspiration that I have been shoving away because it requires more work and focus than I have been willing to offer.

It’s not easy stepping away for even a short time. After all, this has been a habit that has been embedded deeply after over twelve years and over 3,750 posts. I am such a creature of habit that I feel out of sorts without sitting sown to do this each morning.

It has become a treasured burden.

But maybe I must step away for a bit and try to try to find what I really need right now.

Lay down this burden.

We’ll see. I will most likely, if I choose to take a break, do so in a few weeks after the opening for the Little Gems show at the West End Gallery on February 12. I will continue to show my new work through that time. 

For example, the new small piece shown above is from the Little Gems show and is titled– surprise, surprise!– Lay My Burden Down. It has the feel of the end of a day of work, of looking back on what you’ve done with a mixture of pride in the job done and relief that the toil is over for at least awhile. 

The title is taken from a wonderful old gospel tune that has been done by a number of folks in different ways. For this Sunday morning, I have opted for a solid version from Will McFarlane, who is best known as being the longtime guitarist for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. I like his voice and the arrangement with his guitar on this version. It fits the morning.

Lay down your own burden for a bit and have a good day.



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This is Possessed in the Light, one of my Red Tree paintings which is up for auction today as part of a fundraiser to benefit The Kramer Foundation and Abby’s Paws For a Cause, two local organizations that that do great work and have my support. The fundraiser/auction is being conducted at this link on Facebook Live today from 4-7 PM EST. Bids are accepted at any time today and the bidding ends promptly at 7 PM.

To make your way to this and other auction items, go to the link then click on Discussion which lists the auction items as individual entries. For this painting scroll down to Auction #2. You simply leave your bid in a comment for this entry.

This painting, Possessed in the Light, which is 10″ by 20″on canvas and valued at $1500 has a current high bid of $1200

I am happy that it will bring at least that $1200 amount for these two great organizations but I would be much happier if it gets much closer to its true value. Hope you can help us get there today. 

One of those benefitting from today’s fundraiser is the Kramer Foundation which is dedicated to fostering, rehabilitating and rehoming dogs that would historically be euthanized in shelters for behavior and/or health issues. They basically take dogs labeled as being troubled and transforms them into service, therapy, and search dogs for the lost and missing, as well as corpse-sniffing dogs. They also foster dogs for troops deployed overseas.

Abby’s Paws for a Cause advocates and operates programs in and out of local schools designed to encourage and expand local childhood literacy and discourage and reduce bullying. They employ dogs in their programs, using them as models for kindness and acceptance.

Both are local and are privately funded which means that this fundraiser is important for their continued effective operation. So if you can, please support them in some way.

For my part, it’s this painting. But there are plenty of other items and ways to help. 

Try to do something good today for two organizations that are doing good every day. It will be appreciated more than you will ever know.

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In the beginning
You really loved me, oh
I was too blind
I could not see, now

But now that you left me
Ooh, how I cried out, I keep crying
You don’t miss your water
‘Till your well runs dry

You Don’t Miss Your Water, William Bell



The painting at the top is a new piece, 9″ by 12″ on canvas, that is headed to the West End Gallery for next month’s annual Little Gems show, which opens February 12. After it was completed, I was really looking deeply at it as I tried to discern what it held so that I could title it. I felt that the scene in it was from the dawn  of the day, the start of the new day.

I normally see this time symbolically as a beginning filled with great potential and optimism, brimming with energy. But there was something else in this piece that didn’t seem to be looking forward. Instead it felt almost remorseful, looking back. For me, I sense this in the Red Tree’s posture toward the rising sun and in the tone and density of the sky’s color.

It’s like the character represented by the Red Tree is trapped between the duty of the coming day and lure of the past and what has been lost.

The feeling of this piece brought to mind a favorite song of mine from Otis Redding, You Don’t Miss Your Water. The first verses are at the top and the first 10-15 seconds of the recording, after the distinct opening chords when Otis first sings “In the beginning,” always sends chills down my spine. Glorious chills.

That’s where the title for this painting originated for me.

The song was originally written and recorded for Stax Records by William Bell in 1961, four years before the Otis version. Bell’s version is wonderful but Otis took the song to another dimension. Interestingly, Bell wrote the song in NYC and it was actually more about his homesickness for his Memphis home than lost love.

And maybe homesickness and the remorse for what is lost in the past plays a part here in this painting. I can’t say for sure and only time will reveal it’s true meaning. Maybe it will take on a whole new demeanor as time passes, as sometimes happens.

That’s the way of art. It is often never fully one thing forever.

But in the beginning…

Anyway, here’s the immortal Otis Redding and You Don’t Miss Your Water.

Have a good day. Keep hope alive.



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“Culmination”- Now at the West End Gallery



Each man is always in the middle of the surface of the earth and under the zenith of his own hemisphere, and over the centre of the earth.

-Leonardo da Vinci



As we count down the last four days of this excruciatingly long year of 2020, I was looking for a a painting that had to do with the endpoint of things. I immediately thought of the piece shown here, Culmination, that is currently at the West End Gallery.

Its title came about because I saw the path in it as being the trunk of a tree with the paths going off each side as its limbs. The Red Tree at the top was the endpoint of this tree much like each of us are in our own genealogies.

Genealogically, each of us sits at the very top of a pyramid where everyone below us in that pyramid has endured wars, illnesses, pandemic and plague, persecution and imprisonment, and even slavery and holocaust just to get us to this place and time. We are the culmination, the very pinnacle of our family tree. 

For now.

Eventually, we are just part of the trunk with a branch that goes on and on. Or one that breaks off and abruptly ends.

I thought this piece would fit well with the end of this year. So many of the things that came to bear in this strange and awful 2020 were the culmination of events, lives, and organisms that developed and grew– and often worsened– in the years and decades before.

They all seemed to converge to make this year feel like an endpoint, a culmination of some sort.

For some, it was the ultimate endpoint, maybe the end of days as the evangelicals call them. For some, it felt like the end of democracy was all too close to its end here. And this year certainly felt like it marked the end of civil discourse and civility in general.

And of course, for hundreds of thousands of families, the pandemic brought an end to the lives of all too many loved ones. 

2020 was a year that sits atop a pyramid of horrors and atrocities. Hopefully, as it draws to a close later this week, it’s a position it maintains for a long time to come. The year that pushes it further down this monstrous pyramid is not one I wish to endure.

Have a good day, okay?

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“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.”

― Edgar Allan Poe, Eleonora



This is another new small piece that is headed to the West End Gallery this weekend. I am finally hitting some responsive chords in my work and feeling a new creative flow building which is reassuring. This recent work has felt great coming out, free and easy without having to stuggle, and I think it shows in the work itself.

It’s all work that appeals to my own sense of what I want to see. 

Maybe what I need to see right now.

That I can’t answer. But this feels good and right so I am pretty happy in the moment.

I am calling it Hold Back the Night after a  favorite song from the 70’s, a cover by Graham Parker and the Rumour of the song of that title which was originally recorded by the Trammps a few years earlier. Very upbeat which matches my current view for my work in the near future.

As I said, pretty happy in the moment.

Of course, tomorrow might be a different story. So, for today, I am going to take in the colors and forms and sing along with Graham. Hope you’ll do the same. Have a good one but be careful out there.



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“Keep Your Distance’– Now at the Principle Gallery, Alexandria, VA



If I cross your path again,
Who knows where,
Who knows when
On some morning without number,
On some highway without end
Don’t grasp my hand and say
“Fate has brought you here today”
Oh fate is only fooling with us, friend

–Richard Thompson, Keep Your Distance



Yesterday was a good day in that the first covid-19 vaccine hit the streets. A glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel, but we still got some distance to cover before we get out of it. It is important that we don’t relax and begin to think that the answer is here , that we’re all suddenly safe. It will be months, possibly 6 or 8 months, before the vaccine has hit enough people to begin to think we’re in the clear.

And in that time there is still peril. So, we must keep doing whatever we can to mitigate the risk. And that mainly comes from wearing masks and keeping your distance. It may not be convenient or to our liking but it’s not too much to ask, in the big scheme of things. Let’s do it for a little longer and not drop our guard when the end may be in sight.

In this spirit, I thought I would revisit a painting is currently at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria. I first showed it here the morning after I completed it, on the day March when the reality of the pandemic hit and everything began to shut down. Not more than an hour or two after I ran a blog entry about this painting, I visited my dad for what would end up being the final time before his nursing facility shut down. 

The painting is called Keep Your Distance and is an homage of sorts to my earlier work, especially that from around 1997 to 2001. It was in that timeframe that the Red Tree first emerged and my compositions often revolved around a solid block of color dominating the foreground separated by a thin line of unpainted surface  from a large sky. It is a simple composition that whose depth and emotion is modulated within its color, texture, and the subtle positioning and interrelationship of its forms.

Sometimes, it is the simplest compositions that I believe display the truest emotions and the greatest depths. But it takes emotional commitment to instilling those things within few forms that make up a simple composition. Even the seemingly empty parts of the composition have to carry some emotional value.

In other words, simple ain’t always so simple.

And I think that is what I like so much about this piece. It speaks reams of meaning to me without hiding it behind excess detail. It wants to be read, to be heard, to pass on whatever individual message it holds for the viewer. 

I named it Keep Your Distance. We were just learning the intimate details of the virus and the idea of social distancing was taking hold. This piece had a feeling of distance and isolation within it so it felt right. Actually, it’s a title that I may have used without the events of the time.

The title comes from a favorite Richard Thompson song of the same name. I have played that song here several times over the years but I thought today I’d play a cover I hadn’t heard until this morning. It’s from country artist Patty Loveless. Though traditional country music is in my wheelhouse, I  am not a huge modern country music fan. But I have a lot of respect for Patty Loveless.

I saw her perform back January of 2002 at Radio City Music Hall when she was part of the Down From the Mountain tour that came out of the film O Brother Where Art Thou? It was just months after the attacks of 9/11, another time of crisis in this country, and I remember how strangely quiet the city was at that time. Traffic was light and car horns were almost nonexistent. It felt like a bizarro world version of NYC. I remember having the doorman at the hotel sincerely thanking us for staying there as it was pretty lightly occupied.

But it was a great show and Patty Loveless did herself proud. Around that time, she had released an album called Mountain Soul that was a return to her traditional mountain music roots which melded well with the rest of the artists on that bill. I came away really impressed with her voice and her stage presence. So, I was pleased when I came across this version of a favorite song. It’s a little more countrified than the original but, like all great songs, it works in many genres.

Give a listen and have a great day. But remember to keep your distance, okay?



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“And Dusk Dissolves”– At the Principle Gallery, Alexandria, VA



“I love to watch the fine mist of the night come on,
The windows and the stars illumined, one by one,
The rivers of dark smoke pour upward lazily,
And the moon rise and turn them silver. I shall see
The springs, the summers, and the autumns slowly pass;
And when old Winter puts his blank face to the glass,
I shall close all my shutters, pull the curtains tight,
And build me stately palaces by candlelight.”

Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal



I was looking at the image of this painting, And Dusk Dissolves, this morning while a song was playing and the two pieces meshed together so well. The song was Ashokan Farewell, a song written and performed by Jay Ungar, one that most widely known as the theme for The Civil War series from documentarian Ken Burns, for which it was written. It was written in 1981 but feels so authentic that most folks believe it is actually a Civil War era song.

It certainly has a strong atmosphere of its own. And I think that’s why it meshed so well with this painting which is my depiction of a deep moment of dusk. Dusk is an interesting and one of the more emotional points in any day. Symbolically, it marks the end of the workday and becomes a time to pause and reflect on the work done for that day. There is satisfaction in its accomplishments and a bit of sadness in its failures and missed opportunities. As I said, it is a time of pause and reflection as opposed to the dawn which is more forward looking, based on the potentials of the coming day.  

And night itself is a time for one to put the prior day behind them and to rest and perhaps plan for the next. Or to simply imagine a new future well beyond the next day or the day after that. To, as Baudelaire put it, build me stately palaces by candlelight.

But here I am in the dusk’s early light. The night has passed and my plans for stately palaces have faded in that first light as I focus on more pressing matters for this day. But for a moment, I can put off the day once more and look at this image while hearing those mournful tones of Ashokan Farewell again.

Take a look and give a listen for yourself. Have a good day.



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“I rejoice in the knowledge of my biological uniqueness and my biological antiquity and my biological kinship with all other life forms. This knowledge roots me, allows me to feel at home in the natural world, to feel that I have my own sense of biological meaning, whatever my role in the cultural, human world.”

― Oliver Sacks, The River of Consciousness



This painting shown here, The Kinship, is headed out to the West End Gallery this weekend along with several new smaller pieces. I generally try to get some small work out there this time of year and I thought I’d include this piece .

This painting is a couple of years old and has been a favorite of mine since it was painted. It has wonderful quiet and harmony along with a visual pop that appeals to my eye. But more than that, it never fails to set my mind to wondering about things as I attempt to interpret the elements of this image.

Is it the kinship associated with family and ancestry? The family tree is obvious here. Maybe the Red Chair sees its familial connection to the past in the form of the Red Tree?

Or is it a molecular kinship with all things in this world and universe? The sort that finds us wondering if the atoms and molecules which make us up were once part of a star that once lit the night sky, a great tree that loomed in the ancient forests or a mighty river running from high in the mountains down to the sea. Or perhaps a simple pile of manure? Or were they once part of all these things and more?

Or is it a spiritual kinship with all living things? The kinship of survival and struggle. We all — animals, insects and plants–respond to our will to live. We all seek food and water and the warmth of another.

And light.

The interesting thing abut this piece for me is that I seldom see it in the same way. It depends on the day and my own state of mind at the moment. This morning it struck me with what I would call its primary interpretation, that of family and ancestry. The relationship between the wooden chair and the living tree sticks out this morning, makes me think of my own relationship with the trees in the forest around my home and studio.

I wonder if the comfort I have always felt in the woods stemmed from the relationship my ancestors had with the forests of their times? Many of my ancestors were loggers and lumbermen, spending most of their lives toiling in the woods of the Adirondacks or northern Pennsylvania. Some had died in those woods, killed by falling trees or in log flumes. I often think of those folks when I am walking through the woods so the idea of that sort of kinship makes sense.

Well, whatever the case, this piece has once more made me think this morning. And that’s all I can ask of it.

Think about your own connections, your own kinships today. And have a good day.

 

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“Its was one of those events which at a crucial stage in one’s development arrive to challenge and stretch one to the limit of one’s ability and beyond, so that thereafter one has a new standard by which to judge oneself.”

Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day



This large painting, something like a 18″ by 42″ oil on wood panel, has been hanging in my studio for quite some time now. It’s become like a permanent fixture on a wall in one of the rooms here in the studio, to the point that it sometimes surprises me when I take a moment to stop and take it in.

It’s called Challenger which came from my memories of the Challenger explosion in early 1986. I was ill with salmonella poisoning, laying on my couch in a feverish state with severe stomach cramping. I was in kind of a haze watching that day which added to the horror of the whole tragedy. I remember the brightness of that day with the light of the winter sun streaming through our windows. It just seemed too bright and positive a day for such a thing. That memory of the light still remains with me.

When first painted fifteen years later, I didn’t mean for this piece to represent that day, wasn’t looking to make a tribute of any kind. There was just something in the light and sky of this painting that brought me back to that day. I began to see the Red Tree and its posture as a sign of fortitude and determination, a symbol of the continuance of our journey even after taking such a hard blow.

Our own challenge.

We may very well be at our best when we face challenges. Any challenge, whether it is one which is taken on voluntarily or one which is forced upon us, requires us to call on all our strengths and creative powers in order to succeed because if we know beforehand that our success is guaranteed, it’s not really a challenge, is it?

I am pretty sure I have never shown this painting here before. It’s one of those paintings that I can’t judge objectively. It’s certainly not a great piece based on some standards but the inherent meaning in it makes it a memorable piece for me, at least. 

It’s one of those pieces that I am glad never found a home outside this studio. I see it as a reminder to continue to push myself to set new and higher standards, to accept the failures when they come and not be too satisfied with any successes.

To face every day as a challenge to be overcome.

And in the times, when it’s so easy to fall prey to the paralysis of angst and worry, I can use the push it provides. 

Good luck in facing your own challenge today.



PS:  My memory is fading, obviously. I actually did write about this painting before, back in 2016. However, that post focused on the piece’s strengths and weaknesses and didn’t go into the meaning behind it for me. 

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I was tempted this morning to comment on the horror show taking place in the people’s white house. Every day reveals even more new lows. It’s like an unending fountain of plain badness. So it’s understandable that I might want to say a few words about yesterday’s revelations that began with the discovery that government lawyers admit that they can not locate the parents of 545 migrant children separated from their families at the border, effectively making them orphans. Or that I might want to discuss the uncovering of a bank account in a Chinese bank that was not disclosed on his public financial forms, one that saw $15+ millions flow through it in 2017. Or the fact that he paid tremendously more in taxes to China over the last few years than he did in America while his daughter raked in multiple Chinese trademarks that were fast-tracked in the same year.

I was also tempted by his backhanded insult to the people of Erie, PA last night, when he said at a rally there that he wouldn’t have come or even have to be there if it weren’t for the pandemic. I have been fortunate to know the people of Erie for over twenty five years and know the great pride they take in their hometown so I could easily riff on the absolute hurt in those words.

But I can’t this morning. The awfulness that is currently in place is all too self-evident and becomes even more apparent with each new day.

Hell, with each new hour.

So, today I just want to share a beautiful couple of paragraphs from an essay by the great poet/essayist/environmentalist Wendell Berry. I was looking for something to go along with the painting at the top and as soon as I came across his essay I knew it was a perfect fit for this piece and what I see in it.

The painting is Solitude and Reverence, a 24″ by 36″ painting that was painted in 2015. It’s one of those pieces that have a sense of completeness and fulfilled purpose that often make then standout for me. I know this has been a favorite since I put my brush down after finishing it. For me, the message is that this world, this life, is a gift and we have stopped treating it as such. We show little appreciation for the bounty that this planet has gifted us while allowing us to spend our short time upon it.

We treat it like we were spoiled children with no awareness of the advantages and good fortune bestowed upon us. We only feel entitlement.

Gosh, sounds like I am getting around to criticizing the president*** again, doesn’t it?

Well. maybe that’s why I am so drawn to this piece this morning. It is the antithesis to the ugly attitude that has swept across the nation in recent years, the same that elevated him* to office.

It is peace. It is cooperation. It is shared sacrifice. It is humble. It is reverent.

It is understanding.

It is all I ask of my place in this world.

Is that too much to ask?

Here’s a bit from the Wendell Berry essay. Have a good day.


“We have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. And this has been based on the even flimsier assumption that we could know with any certainty what was good even for us. We have fulfilled the danger of this by making our personal pride and greed the standard of our behavior toward the world – to the incalculable disadvantage of the world and every living thing in it. And now, perhaps very close to too late, our great error has become clear. It is not only our own creativity – our own capacity for life – that is stifled by our arrogant assumption; the creation itself is stifled.

We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and to learn what is good for it. We must learn to cooperate in its processes, and to yield to its limits. But even more important, we must learn to acknowledge that the creation is full of mystery; we will never entirely understand it. We must abandon arrogance and stand in awe. We must recover the sense of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For I do not doubt that it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it. ”

Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays


 

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