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Posts Tagged ‘West End Gallery’

“The Observer” At the West End Gallery



The heights charm us, but the steps do not; with the mountain in our view we love to walk the plains.

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe



Isn’t this the truth?

We often aspire to greater heights, setting a course for bigger and better things, only at some point along the way finding ourselves unwilling to actually do the hard climbing required to reach our desired destination. 

I know that I have walked the plains for some time, all the time charmed by the heights ahead. They are often far in the distance but sometimes they loom so close that they seem easily attainable. But like most of us, I usually turn away from the harder paths that go directly to the higher ground and take those easier but less rewarding lower ones, all the while searching for some shortcut that will send me around the the difficult part of the climb.

Of course, time shows that there are no true shortcuts.

You have to put in the heavy climbing yourself.

This is a metaphor that could represent so many aspects of our lives beyond its obvious reference to personal aspiration but for this morning, I am leaving it as it is. Feel free to insert your own perspective and interpretation into it.

The thing I hope you take away from this is that we, individually and as a whole, must aspire to greater heights for our betterment. Then we must be willing to do the heavy climbing, pulled up by others from above while ourselves pulling up those still below us. Otherwise, we’re destined to roam the plains aimlessly.

Start your climb today. Have a good one.

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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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Invincible Summer

“Calidum Frigus”- At the West End Gallery



O light! This is the cry of all the characters of ancient drama brought face to face with their fate. This last resort was ours, too, and I knew it now. In the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.

–Albert Camus, Return to Tipasa



Camus wrote the much quoted line above after revisiting the Roman ruins at Tipasa in Algeria in the aftermath of World War II. He had visited that site a number of times and finally recognized that unlike the modern Europe still reeling from the effects of war and fascism, there was a freshness there in those seaside ruins, an elemental dimension in them that couldn’t be smothered by time or modern events.

A sense of newness and the joy that comes with it was part of that place, was something that couldn’t be eroded by time and the elements. 

He was able to equate that with the part of our nature that we all carry, that being our will to go on, our will to find joy and meaning.

An invincible summer contained within us all.

Here’s an expanded version of the excerpt from Camus’ essay:

I discovered once more at Tipasa that one must keep intact in oneself a freshness, a cool wellspring of joy, love the day that escapes injustice, and return to combat having won that light. Here I recaptured the former beauty, a young sky, and I measured my luck, realizing at last that in the worst years of our madness the memory of that sky had never left me. This was what in the end had kept me from despairing. I had always known that the ruins of Tipasa were younger than our new constructions or our bomb damage. There the world began over again every day in an ever new light. O light! This is the cry of all the characters of ancient drama brought face to face with their fate. This last resort was ours, too, and I knew it now. In the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.

In these crazy times, it’s especially easy to fall prey to the somber melancholy of winter, to forget that you carry your own invincible summer within you when the sky is slate gray and the cold winds blow.

But it remains there in this winter and in other dark times of our lives. Our invincible summer.

So, hold on to that and have a good day.

 

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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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“In These Days”- Now at the West End Gallery



SEPTEMBER 1, 1939

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
‘I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,’
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.”

― W.H. Auden, Another Time



The poet W.H. Auden wrote this poem, September 1, 1939, as the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, marking the beginning of World War II.  I realize that many of you may not enjoy poetry but I think this is one that deserves a few minutes of your time, one that speaks of that time and this time. The final two verses resonate with me and mirror my own feelings as I watch the death toll from the pandemic grow with each passing day– over 6000 deaths here in the past two days alone– and the acts of sedition taking place within our government and the courts as dishonest men attempt to undo the will of our electorate.

Both are insidious, slowly creeping upon us so that many of us pay little attention and go about our days trying to act as though nothing is taking place. If the deaths were violent and amassed quickly within a day or so, we would respond with an outcry and greater action. The same with the attempted coup d’etat we have at hand. Both plod forward in a slow manner so that we somehow think it is almost normal.

It’s not. And thinking, reasonable people can see this. It brings despair but it also brings out, as Auden put it, an affirming flame in many. A stirring to action in a time when so many are complicit with their silence and the loudest voices are from the worst among us.

In the end it comes down to this, again from Auden:

There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Do not let your guard down. Be careful out there and have a good day.

If you don’t like to read poetry, here’s a fine reading of this piece from actor Michael Sheen.



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“What geomancy reads what the windblown sand writes on the desert rock? I read there that all things live by a generous power and dance to a mighty tune; or I read there all things are scattered and hurled, that our every arabesque and grand jeté is a frantic variation on our one free fall.”

― Annie Dillard, An American Childhood



I have a lot to do this morning as I prep several new small pieces for delivery to the West End Gallery later today. I enjoy working on the small works. There’s something about their compact nature and the challenge of trying to make a larger statement in such a limited space. I know I have previously used the comparison of these small pieces to a haiku, a lot being said with few words or in a small space.

The piece shown here is one such new small piece and I think it achieves that goal. I really like its atmosphere. I had another title– The Sun Worshipper— but felt it was too direct yet didn’t capture the feeling of this piece. Instead, I went with a word for the title that was more open to interpretation. I call it Arabesque.

It’s a word that can be interpreted in many ways. It is a dance move– in ballet where the dancer stand on one leg with the other extended backwards. I could see that here.

It is also an ornamental element in architecture with patterns of rhythmic linework often used in Moorish structures. I could see the Red Tree here as being in that fashion.

It also applies to a musical composition that, like the architectural arabesque, uses rhythmic repetition and ornamentation of the melody. I can also see that here.

Plus, there’s the connotation of warmth that comes with the word arabesque. It has the feel of the sand, the wind, and heat of the desert.  I see those things here, as well.

So, Arabesque it is.

Here’s an example of a musical arabesque from guitarist Roxane Elfasci performing Arabesque #1 from Claude Debussy.

Enjoy and 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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“There is a time in the life of every boy when he for the first time takes the backward view of life. Perhaps that is the moment when he crosses the line into manhood. The boy is walking through the street of his town. He is thinking of the future and of the figure he will cut in the world. Ambitions and regrets awake within him. Suddenly something happens; he stops under a tree and waits as for a voice calling his name. Ghosts of old things creep into his consciousness; the voices outside of himself whisper a message concerning the limitations of life. From being quite sure of himself and his future he becomes not at all sure. If he be an imaginative boy a door is torn open and for the first time he looks out upon the world, seeing, as though they marched in procession before him, the countless figures of men who before his time have come out of nothingness into the world, lived their lives and again disappeared into nothingness. The sadness of sophistication has come to the boy. With a little gasp he sees himself as merely a leaf blown by the wind through the streets of his village. He knows that in spite of all the stout talk of his fellows he must live and die in uncertainty, a thing blown by the winds, a thing destined like corn to wilt in the sun.”

― Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio



“Suddenly something happens; he stops under a tree and waits as for a voice calling his name.

I’ve only read bits and pieces of the writings of Sherwood Anderson but the paragraph above always knocks me out. It feels like he was somehow following me from his distant past and witnessed me stopping under ten thousand trees through the years, waiting for that voice to call out my name. He saw the uncertainty that marks my living days and saw my early recognition of our mortality, that those living days must someday end.

I want to say that I like this bit of prose simply because it’s a beautiful piece of writing but even now, my own uncertainty won’t allow that. How do I know what is good or beautiful?

It just feels that way to me because it comes so close to the bone, leaving me cut to the core.

Maybe that’s the definition of beauty.

Who the hell knows?

Anyway, just wanted to share it today along with a song from Glen Hansard that has that same close to the bone feel. Here’s his Say It To Me Now from the film, Once. The small painting at the top bears that same title, not by accident, and is at the West End Gallery. Have a good day.



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“Real Power”- At West End Gallery



I was just going to post a song as I do every Sunday and be done with it this morning. Then I came across this post on Twitter from a longtime RN working in a small Plains community that both broke my heart and angered me. Her name is Jodi Doering and she is from Woonsocket, South Dakota, a state which saw an almost 70%  Covid-19 positivity rate this past week. This is what she wrote last night:

I have a night off from the hospital. As I’m on my couch with my dog I can’t help but think of the Covid patients the last few days. The ones that stick out are those who still don’t believe the virus is real. The ones who scream at you for a magic medicine and that Joe Biden is going to ruin the USA.

All while gasping for breath on 100% Vapotherm.

They tell you there must be another reason they are sick. They call you names and ask why you have to wear all that “stuff” because they don’t have Covid because it’s not real.

Yes. This really happens. And I can’t stop thinking about it.

These people really think this isn’t going to happen to them. And then they stop yelling at you when they get intubated. It’s like a fucking horror movie that never ends. There’s no credits that roll.

You just go back and do it all over again. Which is what I will do for the next three nights. But tonight. It’s me and Cliff and Oreo ice cream. And how ironic I have on my “home” Hoodie.

The South Dakota I love seems far away right now.

It made me sad because I so appreciate the work done by nurses and aides in the healthcare system. It is difficult, crucial, and dangerous work that often comes without thanks or any acknowledgement of appreciation. They are under fire, putting their own lives at risk every day while helping others, from this pandemic and their task is only going to get more difficult in the coming weeks as the cases pile up. These huge numbers we are seeing across the nation will be followed a few weeks later with equal jumps in deaths and hospitalizations. The fact that these folks in healthcare are facing such dire prospects just breaks my heart. I have read and seen numerous such testaments of nurses crying as they suit up with their PPE to head into work. The emotional toll being paid by these people is yet to be seen.

But it also made me angry because of the sheer selfishness and stupidity of those people who refuse to believe that this pandemic is real and that they have any obligation to take any measures at all to protect themselves and others. They are part of a large segment of our population that has chosen to reject any objective reality that doesn’t suit their own desires or beliefs.

This is not an organic thing that just happened. It was originally fostered as a political tool that preyed on low information voters, bombarding them with falsehoods, misinformation and disinformation. It was so effective that they could create complete fields of belief and disbelief in the people that were targeted. But once this wave of selfish stupidity is unleashed, it becomes unmanageable and irreversible.

Kind of like putting the toothpaste back into the toothpaste tube. 

My anger stems from the utter irresponsibility of those who sought to enable and profit from this behavior. It also extends to the danger that this irresponsibility has wrought. It has created dangers for us in so many ways. It imperils our health, both physically and mentally. It imperils the validity and credibility of our electoral system.

Jodi Doering, like so many other healthcare workers sharing similar experiences, is a real person who is shouldering a great burden. Not a bot spreading disinformation. The pandemic is a real and deadly threat that we cannot pretend doesn’t exist. Nor can they ignore the very real results of our election. You cannot simply wish away these things away. If that is inconvenient to you or upsets you, that is simply too bad right now.

This selfish stupidity must come to an end. I don’t know how and that makes me crazy because of the fear and anxiety it creates in me because I know this group can be made to believe anything and accept any form of behavior.

That has been amply demonstrated.

There’s way too much toothpaste out of the tube now.

Okay, I have vented. I wish I had more answers than concerns for you.

Let’s hear a song. I am going with a song from AC/DC. Well, a version of an AC/DC song. It’s Thunderstruck, one of the biggest hits from the Aussie rockers. But his version is from Steve’n Seagulls, a Finnish– yeah, from Finland!– bluegrass group that has made a name online for themselves with their quirky videos set in a rural Finnish setting of their covers of hard rock classics. For example, this video has over 112 million views so maybe you’re already aware of it. But it’s a great, energetic way to kick off this Sunday, especially given what I wrote above.

If you can cure selfishness and stupidity, please do. For the rest of you, have the best Sunday you can muster.



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