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Posts Tagged ‘West End Gallery’

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“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”

William Butler Yeats, The Land of Heart’s Desire

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When my solo show, From a Distance, opens next week at the West End Gallery, a couple of the included paintings will not be new work. There are a couple of pieces in this show that are older and have an interesting provenance.

One is the painting shown above that I call The Dance. It was painted sometime around late 1996 or 1997. When I painted it, I determined that it didn’t fit in with the face of the work I was putting out at that time. It was too sloppy, too raw. It seemed to be moving in a different direction from the the path I was following. I decided to put it aside, unshown to the world.

But 23 or so years later, it is this very rawness that makes me want to show it.

The interesting thing is that in the intervening years, this piece disappeared from my sight. When I moved from my old studio up in the woods which I had worked in from around 1996 to 2007 to my current studio, this painting, along with several other paintings, were carelessly overlooked in the move. They had been bundled together and this bundle had somehow been misplaced.

I wrote about this episode last year, when I was looking for a group of lost pieces from my Exiles series for an exhibition, heading up to the old studio to search for them. The old studio had suffered greatly in the decade since I had last worked there. A tree had fell on its roof, breaking through to the inside in one small area and the rain and snow had taken a great toll on it. The whole building was now racked and reeling and one side of the studio’s floor held piles of dark rotting debris from the roof and ceiling.

On a rack of old frames in that space, only several feet from the hole in the ceiling and the mound of dark debris on the floor, there were several sheets of old cardboard all pushed together among the frames. I had been looking for awhile at this point and was getting ready to call it a day when I decided to pull out that stack of cardboard.

Nothing.

Behind the cardboard, there was a piece of old plywood pushed up against the end of the shelf. Frustrated, I pulled out the plywood and, lo and behold, there was a bundle of sheets of watercolor paper pressed against the end of the shelving. I pulled them down and found a spot amo0ng the wreckage where I could examine them.

The paintings were all in oddly good condition, given that only several feet away there was gaping hole where all sorts of weather were free to fall. There was some foxing and a little grime but it wasn’t terrible and could be easily addressed. Obviously, using the acid free cotton watercolor paper and having them bundled together had provided a degree of protection.

Kind of like wearing a mask, people!

Each piece was thrill as I shuffled through them. Most were pieces that I remembered distinctly, some very good and one or two that were what I would consider failures that should have been destroyed long ago. This piece was wonderful to see when I came to it. I was giddy with being reunited with this work that I hadn’t even realized I was missing.

But the very last piece in the bundle made me tear up. It was a landscape and it had a title and a date at the bottom of the sheet. It was painted on November 9, 1995 and its title was The Sky Will Never Forget ( Hoping For Light). My mom from cancer died later that night, in the first few hours of November 10. The memory of working on that painting and the emotions of that time flooded back to me.

So, this piece lived in dark peril, lost and forgotten for more than decade. I think it was just waiting to be unleashed so that, in its raw exuberance much like the character in Yeats’ verse at the top, it could dance upon the mountains like a flame.

I am glad to see it dance once again.

 

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“Our worst misfortunes never happen, and most miseries lie in anticipation.”

― Honoré de Balzac

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This quote from Balzac has been paraphrased and changed over the years by others to the more tidy phrase: Our worst fears lie in anticipation.

I usually don’t agree when writer’s words are changed or used to express something decidedly different from their original intention. But maybe speakers over the years have decided that our worst misfortunes sometimes do happen.

Balzac died in 1850, years before the horrors of the American Civil War, World War I and WW II, which carries its own separate list of atrocities that easily live up to the expectations of being our worst misfortunes. We have witnessed concentration camps, the slaughter of innocents in attempted genocides on several continents, extreme racial and ethnic hatred and so many other black blotches on our collective history.

And I am most likely skimming over a multitude of other examples, such as the 1918 Flu Pandemic.

Yeah, in the 170 years since Balzac’s death, we have seen ample evidence that our worst misfortunes do indeed happen.

But even so, there is truth in saying that most miseries lie in anticipation. Because for all the evidence we have of our ability to inflict the worst on each other, most times we come out on the other side without seeing the worst come to fruition.

That brings me to the new painting at the top of the page, an 18″ by 24″ canvas that is part of my upcoming solo show, From a Distance, that opens next week at the West End Gallery. The title of this piece is The Anticipation.

A lot of the work from this show is a result of my reaction to these times but this painting might best sum that feeling of queasiness and dull fear that comes in waiting for the next shoe to drop. It seems to be its own separate symptom of the pandemic, one that even those who are not yet infected experience.

It’s that feeling that you know there is a beginning and an end and, that even while we are in the midst of this thing, it will someday be over and in the past. That is the light at the end of tunnel. But you know you have to go through the rest of that tunnel, have to absorb all the worst it has to offer, in order to get to that endpoint.

So, you trudge and trudge, each step filled with a dark foreboding anticipation. In every dark shadow along your way you see a new imagined demon, one that threatens you with some awful painful fate. The light barely seems to get closer with each day’s journey and your fears grow with your uncertainty as to when– or if– you will finally emerge from the darkness.

The fear of what might happen eclipses your imaginings of hope.

That sounds dire. But remember, even with our rampant thoughts of the worst that could happen, we are still moving forward toward the light in the future and our actions as we move along can diminish or even eradicate those imagined worst outcomes.

In the waiting, our imagination may only see the worst but perhaps it is so we can act to avoid it ever coming to be.

That’s what I am seeing in this painting. There is foreboding but there is the possibility of hope in our own reaction.

So, while our worst misfortunes do sometimes happen, we do not have to willingly accept them as our fate. We have the opportunity to stand against them, to infuse light into the darkness that comes in our anticipation.

Here’s to that light…

 

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I want to be, all of a sudden
Every wave and undertow
I want to float
Everywhere I go

Lisa Hannigan, Undertow

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I debated yesterday over playing the song I eventually chose, Push the Sky Away from Nick Cave, or a song from Lisa Hannigan, Undertow. It was a tough choice. Hannigan’s Undertow features some beautifully delicate vocals that have a haunting quality.

Both songs actually have that haunting quality and both stayed with me all day while I worked.

So, since I am still very busy with prep work for the West End Gallery show, I thought I’d play Undertow this morning, as a kind of Sunday Morning Music addenda.

The painting at the top, In a Warm Breeze, is from the West End show. It has a nautical theme which I guess links it in a way to the song. But it also has a calm and quiet way about it while still having a layer of passion, of desire, in its undercurrent.

As its undertow, I guess. Whatever the case, it’s a piece that I like very much, one that gives me a sense of peacefulness that I really appreciate these days.

Give a listen to Lisa Hannigan and her Undertow, recorded in May at the National Gallery of Ireland. Have a good and hopefully calm day.

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And if your friends think that you should do it different
And if they think that you should do it the same
You’ve got it, just keep on pushing and, keep on pushing and
Push the sky away

—Nick Cave, Push the Sky Away

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I don’t have the energy or will to say much this morning. I just want to get back to work, prepping my show, From a Distance, for the West End Gallery that I will deliver later this week in advance of the show’s opening on Friday, July 17. The show is coming together well and I find myself more and more pleased as each piece is completed with its framing.

Much like my recent Principle Gallery show, this wasn’t an easy show for me. There was a lot of frustration and high levels of anxiety, both from my reaction to these times and to some other things taking place in my world. Lots of distractions and aggravations pulled at my attention and disrupted any semblance of rhythm I could find.

Just getting to work was work in itself.

But you just keep at it. Keep pushing. Turn it around and use the frustration as fuel.

Push the sky away, as the song says.

One of the new pieces from this show is at the top, one called Far Away Eyes. This was one of the pieces that helped me fight through the barriers that were there for this show. It was a struggle in itself to complete and there were times when I wanted to trash it. But I kept at it, kept believing that it held something for me.

And it did. As I worked, it began to fall into a rhythm that spoke to me and when it felt done, it felt right. The effort seemed insignificant at that point, a small price to get to where it was.

Just keep pushing the sky away, much as it appears the sun is doing to the sky in the painting.

Here’s a performance from this past December from Nick Cave at the Sydney Opera House. He’s singing his song, Push the Sky Away. It’s worth a listen.

Have a good Sunday.

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“Nirvana is right here, in the midst of the turmoil of life. It is the state you find when you are no longer driven to live by compelling desires, fears, and social commitments, when you have found your center of freedom and can act by choice out of that. Voluntary action out of this center is the action of the bodhisattvas — joyful participation in the sorrows of the world. You are not grabbed, because you have released yourself from the grabbers of fear, lust, and duties.” 

 Joseph CampbellThe Power of Myth

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I think about these words from the late mythologist Joseph Campbell quite a lot. It’s one of those bits that I keep close at hand, ready to pull out whenever I find myself feeling the onset of fears or anxieties about things that  I cannot control. Or when I begin to desire things that I don’t need at all. Or whenever I feel pressured to do things purely out of some social obligation.

His words remind me that true freedom lies in finding your own path. Fear, desire and obligation are their own paths and once you begin down those paths, you are further away from your own path of freedom, further from being, as Campbell put it, a joyful participant in the sorrows of the world.

Campbell’s words make it seem so simple yet, as we all know, those other paths are difficult to avoid. We are reactive creatures and often move to follow our first impulse in most situations. Learning to calm our impulses, to still our fears and desires, is the first step down a path of own making.

The painting above, Night Nirvana, a 30″ by 40″ canvas, is from my upcoming West End Gallery show and I attached these words to this piece immediately after it was finished. There’s a great stillness in it and a quiet reassuring voice in it, one that tells me that I control my reactions, that I should follow the path I make for myself. It is a path built on voluntary action, not reaction or fear. A path made with conscious choices, not obligations nor the decisions of others.

The message I take from this painting is simple: Your path is your path alone and there is great peace in knowing that. It is enough for each of us.

I am going to think on that for a while…

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But I know that nothing which truly concerns man is calculable, weighable, measurable. True distance is not the concern of the eye; it is granted only to the spirit.

–Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Airman’s Odyssey

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I stumbled across the line’s above in a beautiful passage from a book, Airman’s Odyssey, from Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  He was an author/poet best known for his classic The Little Prince as well as a pioneering aviator. He died in 1944, while flying for the Free French Air Force in World War II.

In this passage de Saint-Exupery writes about how flying at high altitudes, landmarks on the ground become mere dots and all sense of distance fades away, is lost. He describes how in his blindness to those places, those dots lost in the distance, his thirst for feelings and sensations attached to those dots grows.

Those barely visible dots become much like smells and sounds and other sensations that reawaken memories and new tracks of thought in the imagination. It is in this vast expanse of nothingness that he realizes that everything that we seek is not to be found by moving across wide physical distances but by simply  spanning the distances within ourselves.

As I said, it’s a beautiful passage and it goes well beyond what I describe here. But for my purposes I am focusing on this part of the passage, that we often seek things in the distance that we desire when what we really need has already crossed all distances and, in fact, dwells within us.

We always see the dots in the distance and can easily attach great and better things to those dots. But while doing so, we often overlook the fact that we have those same things at hand right now.

We so often desire what we already have.

The recent isolation brought on by the pandemic here has created a sense of distance in many of us. That’s understandable. It has kept us away from many people, places and events, those things that have normally made up our day to day lives. But they now are dots to us and we long to cross that distance to return to that time and place.

For many, this desire to cross that distance has been consuming. But for some, looking inward has diminished that desire and they have found that they can find what they need where they are in the moment. The dot is just a dot now.

I think this idea that we have what we need, that we are equipped to survive and even thrive despite the distances imposed upon us, might be the theme for my upcoming solo show that opens on July 17 at the West End Gallery. The show is titled From a Distance as is the painting here at the top, a 30″ by 48″ canvas.

I can easily see this theme play out in this painting. Wherever we are, in any time and situation, we have the ability to find forms of beauty within and around ourselves. That is an important thing to remember, especially when we find ourselves staring at those dots in the distance.

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Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!

–Let’s Go Fly a Kite, Richard and Robert Sherman

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I thought it might be time start showing some work from my upcoming solo show, From a Distance, that opens July 15 at the West End Gallery in Corning. There are definitely different takes on a variety of themes in this show so deciding which piece should kick off the process was tough. But given the many current events– or should I say disasters?– taking place in this country, I thought the painting here at the top would be a gentle starter.

The idea of flying a kite seems so much more preferable than going into the closet and screaming into the darkness.

The title of this piece is Let’s Go Fly a Kite, borrowed, of course, from the song of that name from the 1964 Walt Disney film, Mary Poppins. It’s a wonderful song that aptly captures the idea of putting aside your problems and releasing yourself to soar with your kite high above and far removed from worldly problems. I hope that is what one gets from this piece, whose image is sized at 10″ by 16″ and framed and matted at 16″ by 22″.

I never saw Mary Poppins as a kid nor did I read the books. I came to both in middle age, actually. But even so, the magic of both remained intact.  a few years back I came across a large single volume that contained all of author  P.L. TraversMary Poppins books and decided that it might be worth reading. I am glad I did. It was funny and touching and engaging on many levels. Just a great read. Made me regret not being interested in them as a kid.

I thought I would share the song here but decided to not show the one from the film. Instead, I am taking the version from another Disney film, Saving Mr. Banks. This film, starring Emma Thompson as author P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, is the story of how Disney wooed the crusty Travers who was dead set against him making her book into a movie. She steadfastly opposed every and any change to her baby and thought the idea of a Disney musical treatment of her story was beyond the pale.

This version comes at a point in the Saving Mr. Banks film where she is near making a decision to withhold the filming rights from Disney. She is called into the work studio of the Sherman Brothers, the legendary songwriting team that wrote  many of the best known Disney tunes along with scores of other songs for other artists. Up to this point, Travers has been disdainful of their work that they have previously presented her for the film and in a final attempt to sway her, they perform the song Let’s Go Fly a Kite for her.

It’s a lovely turning point in the film and a nice version of the song as well. So, for a while at least, put aside thoughts of pandemics, of racial divides, of a treasonous and derelict president and all the other horrors that come as part and parcel of the current apocalypse, and think about the giddy thrill of watching your kite take to the air.

Soar with it for a bit. Or a little longer, if need be.

 

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“In the Year 2020”- Now at the Principle Gallery

 

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I still am pretty busy working on my next show that opens in July at the West End Gallery. Little time, much to do, and lethargy to overcome. So, this morning I am just going to share a song and the painting above, In the Year 2020, that’s still at the Principle Gallery as part of my current show there. I just like looking at this piece. Brings me comfort in some way.

The song is the last song John Prine recorded before he died from the covid-19 virus. It’s called I Remember Everything. It’s classic Prine and a fitting final song.

Have a good and decent day.

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Black Fish- Georges Braque

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With age, art and life become one.

Georges Braque

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I have been very busy working on my upcoming annual West End Gallery show, From a Distance, that opens next month on July 15. Yesterday, in emails with the gallery, while we were going over some details for how the show would safely go on given the current situation with the covid-19 pandemic still in progress, I was reminded this was my 25th year showing with the gallery.

Of course, I knew this as a fact. But just reading it yesterday really brought  the point home for me.

Twenty five years. A quarter of a century.

While I was very pleased to have been with them for so long, it made me feel kind of old, to tell the truth.

While I understand that I am now one of the elder statesmen in the galleries that show my work, I still feel like a young painter most days, both for better and worse. I am often as excited by the work that emerges as I was 25 years back, still am in wonder at times that these paintings that sometimes seem far beyond my own meager understanding are products of my imagination.

And I am also as uncertain and doubtful of my abilities as I was all those years ago. Actually, maybe more doubtful than I was then. Hardly a day goes by now where I don’t say to myself in frustration, “You stink!

And some days I find myself going from one extreme to the other, from the abyss of pure self-doubt to wondering how something so alive and vibrant came from my hands and mind. Sometimes in just an hour or two. Yesterday was one of those days.

Makes me think that Braque is right, that with age, art and life become one.  If my age, my twenty five years of doing this, has taught me anything, it’s that this time spent creating art has been the best and the worst all wrapped in one big messy, sometimes beautiful, and almost always imperfect package.

Just like life.

 

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“And Dusk Dissolves”- Now at the Principle Gallery

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Great artists make the roads; good teachers and good companions can point them out. But there ain’t no free rides, baby. No hitchhiking. And if you want to strike out in any new direction — you go alone. With a machete in your hand and the fear of God in your heart.

–Ursula K. Le Guin

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I felt compelled to put up a piece of new work from my current Principle Gallery show along with a piece of advice for aspiring artists from writer Ursula LeGuin. Make your own road, baby.  Do the heavy lifting and don’t depend on any one person to guide you through. There are no shortcuts– no hitchhiking as she puts it. You’re on your own so learn to hear what you have to say to yourself.

Show who and what you really are then stand tall. Own your road.

That’s it. I’m going to be concise because it’s a busy day for me. While my show at the Principle Galley is ongoing, I am working hard on new work for my next show which opens in July at the West End Gallery. Plus this morning I am leaving the safe bubble of my studio and home to accompany my dad on his first radiation treatment for a cancerous growth on his temple.

It’s the first time in 13 weeks that I am seeing him as the nursing facility where he resides is under lockdown from the covid-19 virus. I am both looking forward to and dreading seeing him. The dread comes from anticipating what changes may have taken place in this past quarter of a year from the dementia and skin cancer that plague him. Perhaps his awareness and power of recollection has eroded even more? Will he even recognize me now, especially with the mask I will be wearing?

I guess I’ll soon find out.

Odd days, indeed. Have a good one, folks.

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