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Posts Tagged ‘Salvador Dali’

Hello Dali

 

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The fact I myself do not understand what my paintings mean while I am painting them does not imply that they are meaningless.

–Salvador Dali

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Been writing this blog for over ten years now and this is the first post about him so you might understand when I say that I am not the biggest fan of the work of Salvador Dali, the famed Spanish Surrealist painter who died in 1989 at the age of 85. His work was always visually interesting, sometimes in a disturbing fashion, and was painted in a high traditional manner. Some of it is beautiful work. But it just never fully clicked with me. Some pieces I liked very much and others left me completely cold.

I will say that for me and many people of my age, he was the face of art, being one of the few artists who sought (and found) attention on television. If you had asked me at the age of 12 how an artist might act, I would most likely have described the wild antics of Dali that I had observed on a variety of shows of that time. He was always eccentric bordering on a lunacy that, even as a kid, I could never decide was real or contrived.

And maybe it is this public persona, the one that had him seemingly mugging and posing for attention at every opportunity, that tainted how I looked at his work. Sometimes it seemed like his paintings were doing the same– just trying too hard. A little too engineered and manipulative. Nowadays, I try now to set aside that image of his persona and focus now on each painting individually. It allows me to fully enjoy the work that speaks to me and to simply take in the others.

I also enjoy some of his writings, which are often more lucid and focused than his public appearances. For example, I like his feelings as expressed above about the meanings of his work as well as this other short observation:

If you understand a painting beforehand, you might as well not paint it.

Both quotes could apply to my feelings about my own work.  I have often felt that the best and most alive work is produced when there is no contrivance, no clever idea at the beginning of how I can manipulate a response from the viewer. Almost as though there is an absence of forethought, a void that allows the subconscious mood at the moment to dictate in color and form without the dull, wooden clutter of thought out cleverness.

Sometimes, I find that the paintings that I expect the least from when beginning often produce the most when done.

You might disagree with this. Your argument might be valid. I will not argue the point and can only speak for myself and my experience.

I apologize for not going into more detail on Dali’s career here but there is a ton of material out there that anyone can easily find. I thought I’d just share a few words and images for you to consider. You make your own judgments.

 

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I’ve been running a few of my favorite posts from the past recently as I’ve been very busy in the studio.  This one from back in December of 2008 speaks a bit about our perceptions of an artist and how these views might affect the way we see their work. 

In the comments from the original post, someone made the point that the work should stand on its own regardless of the mannerisms or perception of the artist.  Of course, I agree completely with that in theory.  But I point out that sometimes the artist can affect, both positively and negatively, how their work is viewed with their words and actions.  I cite a story I’ve told innumerable times of going to a local college to hear a famous author speak.  I was seventeen years old and aspiring to be a writer at the time, armed with a legal pad filled with questions that I hoped to ask this author so that his words of wisdom might guide me along.  At the reception afterwards when I finally got a chance to speak with him, he was half in the bag drunk and a prick as well.  He rudely  dismissed me and moved on without taking a second to consider my question to him.  I was crushed and left knowing that i would never read another word that fool would write, which I haven’t to this day.  I also vowed to myself that if I was in that position I would never treat anyone dismissively.  Hopefully, I have kept that promise.

 This was written in the first few months of writing this blog so some things have obviously changed.  I was still up in the air about writing this blog, something which I have obviously reconciled with myself.  But I am still the same middle-aged guy with a thick waist and a sloppy gray beard.

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At the opening for my show at the Haen Gallery in Asheville, a young woman approached me, telling me first that she had a piece of mine and she loved the work. We talked for a bit then she came out with the inevitable.

“You’re not what I had expected. I thought you might be wearing a beret or a cape or something like that.”

I get that a lot.

People expect something much different than I appear to be. More flamboyant, I guess. Maybe more boorish. Maybe like this guy, Salvador Dali, who exemplified that stereotype of the crazy artist. But they’re faced with me- a thick-waisted, middle-aged guy with a sloppy gray beard. I used to kid with the folks at the Principle Gallery that I would show up at a show one day in a Dali-like manner, swooping in to hold court in my flowing black cape, waving my arms about in dramatic flourishes. Maybe wearing a monocle? I sometimes wonder if people would look at my work differently if I donned a cape and had a long waxed mustache. Would they find different attributes in the paintings? Would they find a different meaning in each piece?

I don’t know. I hope not. But I do know there is an illusion behind each person’s impression of a piece of art, that it is a delicate web that supports how they value a piece and that can be affected by my words or actions or even appearance. That is one of the reasons I’m a little reticent to do this blog. I could write something off the cuff, something that I might soon realize was a product of flawed logic, and quickly destroy someone’s whole interpretation of my work.

Perhaps that is not giving the work enough credit for its own strength and life. Perhaps this is the flawed logic I mentioned. Whatever the case, it’s something I bear in mind. But for the time being, I will keep the cape in storage and stick with the credo of my childhood hero, Popeye: “I yam what I yam.”

And that’s all that I am…

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What's My Line? PanelI always find old television shows , particularly old game shows, fascinating to watch if only for the snapshot they provide of the time in which they were produced. The language, the clothing, the personas, all create a sense of how the world was and how it has changed.

One of my favorites is What’s My Line? which still airs on the Game Show Network in the middle of the night. Normal people and celebrities would come out and sign in then the panel would try to guess their occupation. For celebs, the panel would be blindfolded.

The panel was famed columnist and tragic Kennedy conspiracy-theorist Dorothy Kilgallen, actress Arlene Francis, humorist/publisher Bennett Cerf and a male guest panelist, usually a famous personality. The host was the affable John Charles Daly who was also a well-respected news anchor/ journalist. Their banter was witty and urbane, their clothing dapper and when they would often question guests after their identities were uncovered, their conversation was serious with sometimes probing questions. But often it was just intelligent fun with legendary performers and people with odd ball jobs. They make you want to be in NYC in the ’50’s.

The range of the celebrities that appeared was amazing. From the biggest names in sports, movies, theatre, TV to military leaders and icons such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Salvador Dali, whose entertaining clip I’m showing here.

It was a different time and it’s always a pleasure to see a bit of it in the form of these short time capsules…

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Salvador DaliAt the opening for my show at the Haen Gallery in Asheville, a young woman approached me, telling me first that  she had a piece of mine and she loved the work.  We talked for a bit then she came out with the inevitable.

“You’re not what I had expected.  I thought you might be wearing a beret or a cape or something like that.”

I get that a lot.

People expect something much different than I appear to be.  More flamboyant, I guess.  Maybe more boorish.  Maybe like this guy, Salvador Dali, who exemplified that stereotype of the crazy artist.  But they’re faced with me-  a thick-waisted, middle-aged guy with a sloppy gray beard.  I used to kid with the folks at the Principle Gallery that I would show up at a show one day in a Dali-like manner, swooping in to hold court in my flowing black cape, waving my arms about in dramatic flourishes.  Maybe wearing a monocle?  I sometimes wonder if people would look at my work differently if I donned a cape and had a long waxed mustache.  Would they find different attributes in the paintings?  Would they find a different meaning in each piece?

I don’t know.  I hope not.  But I do know there is an illusion behind each person’s impression of a piece of art, that it is a delicate web that supports how they value a piece and that can be affected by my words or actions or even appearance.  That is one of the reasons I’m a little reticent to do this blog.  I could write something off the cuff, something that I might soon realize was a product of flawed logic, and  quickly destroy someone’s whole interpretation of my work.  

PopeyePerhaps that is not giving the work enough credit for its own strength and life.  Perhaps this is the flawed logic I mentioned.  Whatever the case, it’s something I bear in mind.  But for the time being, I will keep the cape in storage  and stick with the credo of my childhood hero, Popeye: “I yam what I yam.”

And that’s all that I am…

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