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The Gallery Talk was a bit of fun on Saturday at the West End Gallery. But more than that, it gave me a bit of hope being in the midst of people who were concerned at that moment with things that affirm our own existence rather than condemn the existence of others. As I said in the talk, I am pro-affirmation. It became a running joke on Saturday but I would like to believe it is true.

Unfortunately, there are a lot more of those who condemn the existence of others out there today. Maybe it is the same amount as always. But they feel emboldened and have the ear of a president* who will say and do anything to maintain his control.

And along with them, there are a lot of folks who have refused to pay attention and just assume that it will work itself out without them needing to lift a finger or even think about it. These folks are the ones who really worry me, maybe more than those who willingly hate others, who willingly despoil our world, who knowingly twist the rule of law and gleefully profit from it all.

These folks who just turn a blind eye enable them because they think they have no power to stop anything. They accept a gentle cut here or there. It doesn’t hurt anyone they know so what’s the harm? But in doing so, they move the line for what is acceptable and normal away from where it has been for generations. Soon, the cuts are not gentle any more and hurt some of the people around them, maybe even themselves. And the line for what is normal keeps moving away from them to create a world they couldn’t have imagined when they weren’t paying attention.

They will be as powerless then as they feel now. But, in fact, they have the power to stop much of it now if they simply open their eyes and refuse to accept this new normal. They must pay attention, they must speak out, to act if needed. But most of all, they must be willing to say “No.”

How do you make these sleeping giants understand that they need to turn their eyes to this situation? That’s a tough one. The great poet Wendell Berry wrote this poem below, Questionnaire, back in 2009 and it asks us how much awfulness we are willing to accept as normal. We need to answer with great honesty if we want to live in a world that is acceptable and beneficial for the most of us.

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QUESTIONNAIRE
by Wendell Berry

  1. How much poison are you willing
    to eat for the success of the free
    market and global trade? Please
    name your preferred poisons.
  2. For the sake of goodness, how much
    evil are you willing to do?
    Fill in the following blanks
    with the names of your favorite
    evils and acts of hatred.
  3. What sacrifices are you prepared
    to make for culture and civilization?
    Please list the monuments, shrines,
    and works of art you would
    most willingly destroy.
  4. In the name of patriotism and
    the flag, how much of our beloved
    land are you willing to desecrate?
    List in the following spaces
    the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
    you could most readily do without.
  5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
    the energy sources, the kinds of security,
    for which you would kill a child.
    Name, please, the children whom
    you would be willing to kill.

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Before the Gallery Talk

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Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me around
I feel numb, born with a weak heart
I guess I must be having fun

The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along
Feet on the ground, head in the sky
It’s okay, I know nothing’s wrong, nothing

David Byrne, This Must Be the Place

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I was looking for a piece of music to play for this week’s Sunday morning music that kind of jibed with the experience of yesterday’s Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery and I came across the lyrics for This Must Be the Place from David Byrne and Talking Heads. Had to laugh because the first two stanzas, shown above, described my feelings about it perfectly.

I certainly begin every talk feeling that home is where I want to be.

I feel like I am picked up and turned around for examination.

Certainly feel numb and a little vulnerable, a little weak of heart.

But I guess I must be having fun.

That’s just the first stanza. I don’t have to paraphrase the second. It’s spot on as it is.

Many, many, many thank you’s to everyone who came out to yesterday’s Gallery Talk. You were a fantastic group.

And an exceptionally large on. We brought in extra chairs but by about twenty to one, when the talk was to begin, all of the seats were filled. A lot more folks came in after that  and had to stand. We may have to bring in bleachers and a warm up act for next year’s talk!

But it was the folks that were there yesterday that made this talk successful and, dare I say, fun. It was a wonderful mixture of people, young and old, new faces and familiar faces. They asked great questions, overlooked my gaffes, laughed at the right times and made me feel like I was having a casual conversation with some friends over a lunch table. That is a remarkable thing for a guy who would always rather be in his studio alone.

But yesterday, for that hour or so, in that gallery with a large group of friends to talk with, it certainly felt like that must be the place. That’s a gift to me and I can’t tell you how appreciative I am to receive that gift from all who were there yesterday. Thank you so much.

Going to be hard to top this year’s talk but next year, but we’ll try. I promise someone will get that Gremlin next year!

Here’s a great performance of This Must Be the Place from Talking Heads. Have a great day.

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Well, the Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery is coming tomorrow and I am getting things ready.

I have gotten the ingredients together for the cooking demonstration of dishes from my new cookbook, Recipes From the Lonely Man Buffet. Actually, this didn’t take long- it’s a single can of Heinz Vegetarian Beans eaten out of the can over the kitchen sink. My cookbook is very thin.

I have shined my kazoo so it shines brightly when I play a few selections from my upcoming CD, KazooPaloozah: Live from the Lonely Man Buffet.

I am also working on my impressions of 19th century British Prime Ministers. I’ve got both Gladstone and Disraeli down cold. You’ll think they’re in the room!

And…

Okay, I’ve had enough. Let me be honest for a moment.

Tomorrow is the Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery. It begins at 1 PM.

It will consist of me, a middle-aged guy with a bad haircut and a few extra pounds, talking about art and some other stuff for a short time. I encourage– actually, I depend on– questions and interaction with the audience. Hopefully, I will transmit some information and maybe make you laugh once or twice.

There will be refreshments. Yes, we will feed you and have drinks of some sort.

There will be seats for most of you so get there early to grab one.

Most importantly, at the end there will be a drawing for the painting, Night Oath. You can see it at the top. It sizes out with mat and frame at 18″ by 27″, so it is not a small piece. 

Plus, there are other prizes that I will not disclose at this time. If you have attended in the past, you know what I am talking about.

And it’s all free for anyone who stumbles through the door and sits through an hour of me trying to sell you timeshares for Alabama Shores, a condo overlooking a small pond in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Oops, I let the cat out of the bag.

Okay, that’s obviously not true. But seriously, I make this promise: It will not be the worst hour you ever spend.

What more could you ask for?

Hope to see you there tomorrow.

 

 

 

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As the next couple of days are crazy busy for me as I get ready for a Gallery Talk and a show delivery, I wanted to share another little seen piece that will be part of  Icons & Exiles, my exhibit that opens next Friday at the Octagon Gallery.

The piece is Two Sides, shown here on the right. It’s from my Outlaws series from back in 2006 and is one of my favorites from that series. There is something about the dark and light of this piece that gives me a sense of the yin and the yang symbol, the idea that we all have opposing polarities within ourselves.

Two sides.

The Outlaws series introduced the element of a handgun into my work. It wasn’t meant to show the gun in any heroic form. Rather, the gunmen in these paintings seem to be, for me, all possessed with a deep and mortal fear.

The gun in these paintings is a sign of weakness, not strength. They fear something they can’t see, something that they don’t know or understand.

This particular painting has hung within my sight in the studio and it helps me a lot personally. When the events of the world–outer and inner– get to me and I feel anxiety building, I look at this piece and it reminds me that my anxiousness is all built on fear. In that moment, I see I am that guy grasping tightly to my gun looking out at nothing, imagining unseen monsters that are coming for me.

Just naming it as fear makes it subside a bit, brings everything into a more practical and manageable form. I can choose to be scared of bogeymen or can move on with a degree of confidence that I will be capable of handling anything that comes my way.

Fear is a powerful thing, a weakness that alters our perceptions and enables poor decisions and actions.

Fear is the darkness and courage is the light. Holding onto that gun keeps this person in the darkness, in the grip of fear.

That’s what I see in this piece.

You can see this piece and many more like it at the Icons & Exiles exhibit, opening next Friday, August 23, (opening reception 7-9 PM) at the Octagon Gallery at the Patterson Library in Westfield, NY. The exhibit runs until September 20, 2019 and I will be giving an Art Talk there on Thursday, September 12, at 6 PM.

And this Saturday, August 17, there is my annual Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery, beginning at 1 PM. Good talk, some laughs and, best of all, PRIZES! See you there!

Here’s one of my favorites from Richard Thompson, an acoustic version of his classic Shoot Out the Lights.

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I am busy this week prepping for my Gallery Talk this coming Saturday at the West End Gallery and in getting work ready for my Icons & Exiles exhibit. That will open at the Octagon Gallery at the Patterson Library in Westfield, NY next Friday, August 23, with an opening that begin at 7 PM.

The Icons & Exiles show will mainly feature paintings from my early Exiles series from 1995, my ancestral Icons series from 2016, and the Outlaws series from 2006. There will also be a small group of my more typical work as well as some oddities that don’t really fall into any of those categories.

One of these is the small painting at the top, Struwwelpeter. It was painted around the same time as the Outlaws series in 2006 but I wouldn’t consider him an outlaw in the truest sense of the word. He is more of an outcast, a young man who refused to bathe or cut his hair or trim his nails. His hair is described as standing up on his head and his nails as being long and pointy. As a result, this unkempt young man is forever unloved.

Struwwelpeter was the title character in a small book of strange and sometimes grisly cautionary children’s tales designed to warn children not to misbehave. It was put together in Germany in 1845 by Heinrich Hoffman, a doctor who assembled these stories for his three year old son. He printed a small edition and it became popular immediately. It has became a classic, remaining in print around the world since that time.

One of the more recognizable stories from the book concerns the Scissorman. This short episode warns that if young children sucked their thumbs, the Scissorman will find them and cut off their thumbs.

Do not suck your thumb!

Struwwelpeter hasn’t been seen in well over a decade so I am pleased to have him out and in public, even as slovenly as he might be. There are more oddities like him in this show, some that have shared here in the past and some never seen. It should be a fun show.

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UPCOMING EVENTS:

GALLERY TALK-This Saturday, August 10, beginning at 1 PM at the WEST END GALLERY–Good talk, some fun and prizes!

ICONS & EXILES OPENING- Friday, August 23, from 7-9 PM at the OCTAGON GALLERY at the PATTERSON LIBRARY in Westfield, NY

ART TALK- Thursday, September 12, beginning at 6 PM at Octagon Gallery, Patterson Library, Westfield, NY

GALLERY TALK- Saturday, September 21, beginning at 1 PM at PRINCIPLE GALLERY, ALEXANDRIA, VA– Details coming

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+++++++++

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

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The painting shown above is Light and Wisdom, part of my show, Moments and Color, that is currently on the walls of the West End Gallery. It’s a personal favorite of mine and one that I think sometimes get overlooked by other work that is larger or brighter. Maybe it’s just that I see a lot of personal symbolism in it. The background of the sky resembles a maze which symbolizes the search for something, for example. And it has my recurring symbols of the Red Roofs, the path that runs toward a distant point, the guide trees that frame the scene, the far horizon and, of course, the Red Tree arriving at a moment of realization in the form of the light from the rising sun.

It’s a meaningful piece for me and my hope is that others will see that in it as well.

I love the lines below it from T.S. Eliot, feeling that they express so well what I see in this painting. Life often feels like a constant search for some vaguely defined object– knowledge, wisdom, love, experience, etc.– that will make us somehow whole. Yet, as is often the case, we only reach wholeness within ourselves, in that place where the journey began. Maybe that is why I chose this painting for this bit of verse from Eliot– it has a sense of wholeness that has been ultimately fulfilled by realizing that the answer was in itself.

The answer, the light that illuminates our meaning, is always near, always just waiting for us to really see it for what it is.

+++++++++++++++

You can see Light and Wisdom at the West End Gallery where I will be giving my annual Gallery Talk this coming Saturday, August 17, beginning at 1 PM. As mentioned here before, the Gallery Talks always features some great conversation, some laughs, occasional tears and the pièce de résistance, a drawing for an original painting — or maybe two?–along with some other pretty neat prizes. Hope you can make it there!

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Busy this morning getting ready for two events–this coming Saturday’s Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery followed quickly in the next week by the opening of my Icons & Exiles exhibit at the Octagon Art Gallery at the historic Patterson Library.

There’s actually a lot to do for both events, even the Gallery Talk where you might think that I just show up and talk. Sometimes it sure seems that way. But I do try to organize my thoughts, to establish some sort of theme that kicks off the thing in a positive way. And for me, that is work.

So, today I am showing a piece, The Attuning, that has only been shown once. It had been in a gallery’s flat files for many years and I do not think and I do not think was ever shown fully presented in mat and frame. It probably only came out of the file a few times over the years. It appeared on their website and its colors appeared a little severe to my eye. That was how I judged the piece for all those years. It became a lesser piece for me.

But when I saw the actual piece again for the first time in six years, I realized how wrong my judgement had been. Yes, they were strong colors. But my original photo editing had skewed it away from its reality. The actual painting felt so much different than the image I had seen online. It was, in fact, much more nuanced and subtle than I had been seeing it in my mind through the years.

I saw it in the way I no doubt saw it when it was created.

I have reedited the image and it feels closer now to the reality of the painting. Glad it was able to change my mind.

That brings us to the music for this Sunday morning. It is When Your Mind’s Made Up from Irish singer/songwriter Glen Hansard. This is from Once, the 2007 film that Hansard starred in and for which he won an Oscar for his songwriting. It was later turned into a hit Broadway musical. This song was my favorite from the film, where it was performed with a backing band in a recording studio. There, the song built and built with the band coming to a large crescendo. I came across this live performance with just Glen Hansard and thought that it couldn’t possibly match the version with the band.

I was very wrong. Glad it was able to change my mind.

Give a listen and have a good day. Hope to see you next Saturday at the West End Gallery for the Gallery Talk beginning at 1 PM. Check out yesterday’s blog entry to see the painting you could win there. Plus, a few other things that I’m not going to discuss here.

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