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Posts Tagged ‘Red Tree’

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The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

Marcel Proust

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This painting is titled To the Fields of Fortune. It’s one of those pieces that I to which I personally respond strongly. Maybe it’s the mood I feel from it or simply a chemical reaction to the juxtaposition of colors, forms and contrasts. Who really knows what truly causes a visceral reaction to art or music?

But the meaning that I attach to this painting has some influence on my reaction. I call these type of paintings my Acres of Diamonds pieces alluding to a story that I have replayed here a few times over the years. It is basically a tale of a farmer who sells his land and heads out, seeking to find his fortune in diamonds. He travels all over for years in his fuitle search, failing at each attempt until he ultimately takes his own life. Meanwhile, his original homestead turned out to be the location of the biggest diamond mine in Africa, where this story takes place.

What he sought was right beneath him all the time, if only he had taken the time to see what he had at hand.

And isn’t that too often the case with many of us? We believe that the grass is always greener elsewhere, making us think we need to seek far and wide when what we really need is with us, sometimes within us, all the time. As the author Marcel Proust states above, the real voyage of discovery comes in having new eyes to see what is already all around us.

There are diamonds waiting for us to simply bend down and pick them up, if only our eyes will see.

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This piece, along with a few other newer paintings, will be headed to the West End Gallery within the next few days.

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There is an electric fire in human nature tending to purify – so that among these human creatures there is continually some birth of new heroism. The pity is that we must wonder at it, as we should at finding a pearl in rubbish.

–John Keats

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I find myself nodding in agreement with the above words from the poet John Keats. It seems that there is ample evidence that humans have the desire and capability for living heroic lives. Yet to do so is a rare and wondrous thing.

A pearl in rubbish, as he says.

Maybe our failure is that we only see heroism defined in epic terms, not in the bravery of the responsibility that comes in making everyday decisions that opt for doing what is right and not expedient or self-serving. Not every hero wears a cape or jumps from buildings.

It’s a matter of perspective.

I think of when my mother was dying from cancer many years ago now. In her final months, she had a picture next to her bed of my father in a small cheap frame with press-on letters on the bottom leg of it that spelled out the word hero.

Now, hero is not a term I have often equated with my father, a man who is deeply flawed in many ways. I confess that, in this aspect, the apple doesn’t fall from the tree.

But this was especially evident when it came to his relationship with my mother. Most of their life together was loud and contentious. They were always one word or a single side glance away from their next battle royale, the horror shows of mine and my siblings’ childhoods.

But somehow through the years of anger and adversity she still saw something in this man that she recognized as being heroic. Maybe it was that he had simply stayed, had maintained a sense of responsibility and caring for her that became very obvious in her last days.

I will never know for sure. The psychology of it all evades me. But that cheap frame on a dying woman’s bedside table with that word hero on it still lingers with me and always will.

It’s a matter of perspective.

I didn’t plan on writing this for today’s post, didn’t seek to be so personally biographical. It just came and I guess I can live with that. I only wanted to jot down a little something to introduce the song below for this Sunday morning music. It is one of my favorite David Bowie songs, Heroes, performed by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. I know it sounds like it should be a joke or a parody but it’s a wonderful version. I think my mom might well understand it.

Have a good day. Be a hero to somebody.

 

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Painting Workshop 2018

Like most Americans, I have found the last couple of days have been exhausting. My reasons are most likely different than most other Americans. I was fortunate in not being able to watch the proceedings surrounding the Supreme Court and instead spent the last two days leading a painting workshop up in Penn Yan.

Tiring but not maddening. I feel so fortunate.

It’s a two day workshop and these people do an amazing amount of work in a very short time. Probably too much. Working off a piece that I am painting in front of them, they basically finish two decent sized paintings in two days, start to finish. The last half of each day is a flurry of activity as each of them moves quickly to bring the painting to state of completion.

There is little time to consider each movement. Just paint.

At the end of each day I am always stunned by how well they have adapted to techniques that are not easy and require a bit of practice, more than the short time in this workshop affords, in order to have any degree of mastery. I look at the work completed and realize that what they have done is much more than I do normally do in any two days in my studio. I am not sure they even realize how much they have done.

Hopefully, they take some small bit of the experience with them. Maybe look at the pieces they’ve done and say Wow, I did that!

It was great group and I feel fortunate to have gotten to now each of them a bit more. I am sincerely proud of each of them and how much they have done in the short time we worked together.

But like I said it’s exhausting, a lot of work and anxiety for a guy whose real comfort zone is in my studio tucked away from the rest of the world. I am not sure if I am going to do it again but if I do, it will be because the folks who come each year treat me so well. I think if I do opt to do it again, we would only work on one painting and work at an easier pace where they can take more time to consider what they are doing.

But that is the future. As to the present, many thanks to to the great folks I spent the last two days with. It was my pleasure.

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Good day yesterday. My Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery went really well, with a great group of folks that made the task much easier for me. Lots of familiar faces of friends that I have seen many times before and plenty of new ones as well. They all made me feel comfortable and had lots of interesting and well thought out questions. The hour flew by and I only stumbled once or twice. We had some laughs and I hope everyone walked away thinking that it was time well spent.

I know that I enjoyed myself. That’s not something I have always said after some of these talks. I often anguish over things I have and have not said, over those folks I didn’t get to say more to, over the flop sweat that I can feel seeping out of my pores when I suddenly go blank. Things like that. But yesterday didn’t hold a lot of regrets for me.

I felt very free to be open and honest with these folks.

Thank you to everyone who was there for giving me that freedom. I can’t fully express my appreciation for the sustenance that it will provide me over the long days ahead in the studio.

And a very warm thank you to Michele and the gang at the Principle Gallery for the continuing support you offer me after the 21+ years we’ve worked together. I appreciate all you do for me but more than that, I value the friendship and trust you have shown me over this time.  Thank you, as potent as those words are, seems insufficient. But you know what I mean, right?

Hope we can do it even better next year!

For this Sunday morning music here’s something from a favorite of mine, the great Rhiannon Giddens. It’s called Hey Bébé and it has a nice, jaunty feel to kick off the first Sunday of autumn. Have a great day.

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Creative scientists and saints expect revelation and do not fear it. Neither do children. But as we grow up and we are hurt, we learned not to trust.

― Madeleine L’Engle

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This new painting is called Found Truth. It is a larger piece, 36″ by 36″ on canvas, and is part of the group of new work that will be traveling with me on Saturday down to the Principle Gallery for my Gallery Talk there.

This is a painting that very much speaks to me personally. Its scale and the initial impression it makes whenever my eyes look its way give it a sense of strength, of bold statement. And I think that is exactly what it is for me– a statement piece.

Maybe that is why I see it having a title that deals with the idea of the revelation of truth. It could the revelation of one’s inner truth or any number of other truths that make up our reality. Or maybe it is all of them because perhaps all truths are part of one larger truth.

I don’t really know. I’m still waiting for that moment of revelation.

I’m no saint so maybe I am a creative scientist, as Madeleine L’Engle writes above, because I do not fear it and do expect it. Oh, there are days when I revert to a more closed off stance, stepping back from that mound where the Red Tree stands, that spot where I have been completely exposed and vulnerable. The problem is that in order to receive revelation you have to make yourself vulnerable. In this open state you are susceptible to being hurt but, more importantly, you are in position to recognize and accept revelation.

That place of vulnerability is a spot many of us avoid, certainly as L’Engle points out, because of being hurt once or maybe many times before and the distrust this has fostered in us. None of us wants to be hurt and exposing yourself to the world creates that possibility.

So we harden our attitudes and our hearts, closing ourselves off. But in the process we also pull back from the light that nurtures us, that feeds our growth. The light that reveals the truth that we once sought and expected.

That’s how I see this painting, the Red Tree being exposed and vulnerable atop that mound. The clouds represent the perils of being there but beyond them is the light of self revelation– the reward of persevering one’s own vulnerability.

This all somehow makes sense in the small space of my mind. Hope you see it somewhat the same way in your own.

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Reminder:

Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA this Saturday, September 22 at 1 PM.

Painting(s?) Giveaway, Prizes, Good Conversation, Some Stories and Some Laughs.

 

 

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This is a new painting that I am calling Culmination. It is 36″ by 12″ on canvas and is headed to the Principle Gallery in Alexandria next Saturday, September 22, where I will be giving my annual Gallery Talk.

This painting satisfies me on many levels. First, there is a density in its color and composition that I find very appealing. Now, density is not always a quality I seek. Sometimes, I am looking for a lightness or an airiness. But here there is a denseness and weight that gives the piece its presence. I believe this comes from the deep red color ( that perhaps symbolizes the blood that has flowed through us since time immemorial?) and the compacted composition that dominates most of the picture plane.

I also am drawn to the meandering path that wends its way to the top to the top of the hill. The  shorter paths that branch off on either side give it the feeling of a tree making its way toward the sky or an artery going up through one’s body.

The tree analogy is important for me. I see this painting as being about how each of us is a culmination, an end result of all our ancestors who have come before us. I often think about that when I am looking over genealogy charts that show the generations spreading out behind the present generation. It makes me think how amazing each of our lives really is when you consider how many obstacles had to be overcome for us to be here in this moment.

Looking at those charts, I think about treacherous childhoods of earlier times when families often lost multiple children to illness. My own grandmother had three siblings who died before she was born. Or the many long and treacherous trips and voyages, over land and sea, that it took to place us in our present locales. Or I think about the many great-grandfathers and great-uncles in my line who fought in the many wars of this country or in those of their original homelands many generations before, many who died far from their native soil. Or the many who worked in dangerous conditions. Doing my wife’s and my own genealogy, I am struck by how many relatives were killed by logging accidents.

These are just a few examples but the fact that a life force somehow wound its way through the pitfalls of life through hundreds of generations to create us is, in many ways, a miracle. Each of us is the result, the culmination, of a journey from the beginning of time. I think we sometimes take this life for granted– both our own and the lives of others– and don’t see the sheer beauty in the miracle of our mere existence.

And that is what I see in this painting. The Red Tree at the top is at the terminus of its journey, standing at the convergence of the past, present and future. It owes a great debt to those who persevered to bring this miracle, a debt that will be hopefully paid through living a life of honor and respect.

I could go on but I think you get the point.

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As I said, this will be at my Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery next Saturday, September 22. The Talk begins at 1 PM and there will a painting, Deep Focus, given away along with some other neat things. It has all the earmarks of being a good time. Hope you can make it!

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Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.

-Leo Tolstoy

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I don’t know about the accuracy of this quote. Tolstoy did write about art and the transmission of emotion through it but I can’t vouch for the precision of the wording in the widely accepted quote.

But I do heartily agree.

Craftsmanship– handicraft– definitely has a part to play but that alone cannot transport the viewer to that inner spring from which their emotions flow. Something might be beautifully crafted but unless it is constructed from the empathy, the love, the awe, the wonder and the wide assortment of feelings that define tour humanity, it remains just a lovely object.  Beautiful but coolly devoid of feeling.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

But the aim of the artist, at least to my mind, should be to engage the the emotions of the viewer ( or listener or reader, whatever their medium might be) with their own. To create a sort of communion of feeling between the artist and the recipient.

Can this be taught? I don’t know. I try to tell students to read, to look, to listen, to practice a sense of empathy in their daily lives. Widen their view and become a fuller person. I think art comes from an equal blend of one’s handicraft and their sense of humanity.

That’s just my opinion and it may be as flawed an idea as the mind that thinks it. But I can stand behind that thought and hope, in some small way, to achieve that blend in my own work.


The painting at the top is Find Your Light, a 36″ by 36″ canvas, that is a central part of my show, The Rising, at the West End Gallery that ends tomorrow.

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