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Posts Tagged ‘West End Gallery’

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Living in isolation has never been a great challenge for me in normal times. I thought I was a distant island that only needed a visitor every once in a while for those few things I couldn’t provide for myself. But these are not normal times and the impingement from the outer world pushes hard into my space now, disrupting the solitude that I thought was impenetrable.

Listening to the words that the great leader*** spoke yesterday, where he basically admitted that he wanted the states’ governors to bend the knee before him and had instructed the VP to not call and offer assistance to those that didn’t, made me realize that we are all islanders now.

50+ sovereign states, all fending for themselves, with a hope that exceeds reality that the unified power of the central government will offer much needed aid, will somehow favor them above the others in their time of need. We are in trouble and call out for aid to those who have a sworn duty to serve us.

Much as Puerto Rico did not so long ago in the aftermath of the historic hurricanes that ravaged that island.

We are all Puerto Rico now.

We probably should have taken the treatment Puerto Rico received, a few rolls of paper towel dismissively thrown at them along with conditioned promises of aid that were never fully realized, as an omen. We all are about to receive that same treatment and the storm that approaches this time is even larger and deadlier.

Anyway, I came across a post written for a 2013 show at the West End Gallery that featured the above painting, Islander, as its title piece. I thought the words were pertinent to this time. Its a painting that really resonates deeply with me on a personal level and one that, inexplicably at least for me, has never found a home. It still resides at the Just Looking Gallery in California, waiting patiently for someone to see what I see in it.

Along with the post below, I have included a version of Simon and Garfunkel‘s classic I Am a Rock. This video features the lyrics which is a way I have been listening to a lot of music lately. Times of crisis make me look harder for connecting threads of meaning. Whether they are there is another thing.

Give a look and have a good day on your little islands.

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I am an islander.

But I don’t live on an island. Never have and probably never will.

No, my island is a metaphorical place, one that exists in the creative ether of my mind. An island that is completely apart from and immune to the outer world that exists across the deep surrounding waters. Self-sustaining and self-ruled, a blank slate on which I can create my own reality.

It’s a place free from the ire and pettiness of others. Free of strife and injustice. and filled with the quiet of solitude. Filled with color, warmth and emotion.

An island of creation and peace.

But there is a paradox in being an islander. While trying to remain separate, it becomes abundantly clear that we can never really exist as totally independent from the outer world. Actually, to the islander those bonds to the outside world become even more apparent and important. The isolation only serves to heighten our recognition of our inclusion and connection to the world. You begin to recognize them as lifelines, bringing those things to the island that you cannot create in yourself.

Try as one might, one can never live in isolation from their own humanity. I think the best you can do is to create an island that you can visit periodically to revitalize yourself. And that’s what I believe I see in the work for this show– paintings that take me away for a short while from the outer world and place me on that peaceful island.

For that short time, I am truly an islander.

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No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

–John Donne, Meditation XVII, 1624

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It’s a time for great swings of emotion that have me off balance much of the time. Waves of bewilderment that sometimes lead into anger followed by fear then anxiety. In between are interspersed moments of peaceful calm and even a full blown laugh that bring the whole shebang back into a more workable balance.

Then, once in a great while, there are moments that feel like a bit of grace being extended. The balance suddenly seems manageable and perhaps there is even hope.

That was just yesterday.

I was up early to head out to our local Wegmans supermarket, to be there at opening which had been advertised as being 6 AM. We needed a few items and I thought getting there early would beat the potentially infectious larger crowds and also give me a chance at finding my needed items on the freshly stocked shelves.

I pulled into the parking lot around 6:20 and I couldn’t believe my good fortune. There were only a handful of cars, outside of the employees vehicles parked further out in the large parking lot. I would be able to get in and out without running into many folks at all. I was out of the car with my shopping bags in hand when the window of a car near me rolled down. The guy inside spoke, telling me that the opening time had changed, that it was now 7 AM.

Oof. I slumped a bit and got back in the car to wait it out. By 7, there were quite a few cars but it wasn’t crazy busy as we shuffled in, everyone doing a pretty fair job in trying to keep their distance. Inside the store, with my gloves still on, I maneuvered my cart through the store and was kind of knocked out by the number of empty shelves that were there at opening time. The produce was sparse but I found the couple of items that we needed.

In the section that held canned beans and the like, there were 3 single cans of vegetarian beans. One had a pretty large dent on the edge of its lid, so I grabbed the other two. The pasta and rice sections were also picked pretty clean except for sporadic spots that held what appeared to be a case or two of a single item that would no doubt soon be gone.

All in all, I found most of the items I needed– there is never a shortage of Count Chocula cereal. Just kidding. We will just do without those other things that I couldn’t obtain.

I was able to keep a good distance from other shoppers but checking out was a bit unnerving to suddenly be a little closer. I tried to keep as far back as possible from the frail looking lady who was checking me out. I felt so bad for her and the cashiers who were constantly within a foot or two of a constant stream of different shoppers without knowing where those people had been or how seriously they took their responsibility to maintain distance or wash their hands. They would be there all day exposed to who knows what.

If you must go to a shop, bear this in mind. Keep your distance for their safety and yours as well. And be extra kind to these people who most likely have no choice in whether they can be there.

There are going to be shortages for the near future. It’s understandable. Along with the panic buying of regular shoppers, there is a whole group of people who are suddenly forced into the stores, putting further strain on the food chain. These are the people who used to get most of their meals at restaurants. You might say that’s ridiculous but even when I worked at the Perkins Family Restaurant twenty-some years ago, there was a remarkable number of people, even whole families, who would get two and sometimes three meals a day there.

According to stats, that trend hasn’t lessened in recent decades as more and more people eat out for many of their meals. Suddenly, these people are forced to either make their food or order the allowed takeout. And since many are also now under some sort of financial stress, perhaps laid off with no way of knowing when and if they will get back to work, they must begin shopping for food in a supermarket, trying to save a little money where they can. Throwing these people into the mix makes for even more shortages.

It will be that way until we get some sort of reassurance that the food supply will be stable and that we will be able to have access to the foods we need. And that reassurance is definitely lacking from the leaders at the top who seem woefully unprepared to handle a situation of this magnitude. Their inability to be forthcoming, accountable and honest has created a lack of credibility that now makes us distrust every word they utter, every move they make. Average people are beginning to realize that they must fend for themselves and that creates a frenzy in a population that hasn’t experienced this sort of potentially existential crisis in their lifetimes.

Will that reassurance come? I don’t know but my opinion that this administration is incapable of doing so., given their lack of empathy and their constant desire to assign responsibility or blame for anything to anyone but themselves. A great leader doesn’t keep saying that he is doing a great job. He doesn’t need to– his actions speak louder than hollow self praise.

Okay, let’s call that the anger part of my day. Like I said, this was how my day went yesterday. Up and down. Bewildered at the supermarket. Angered and made anxious by the news. Worried about the near future and our personal situation. Talking nonsense to my studio cat, Hobie, then laughing like an idiot at a sitcom that I had put on the tube for some sort of relief, even though I had seen it a hundred times before.

I was all over the place.

The new normal. Or is it the new abnormal?

Wait, I mentioned there was a moment of what seemed like grace, didn’t I?

Well, in the midst of this day, when I riding a ridge of anxiety down to its lowest point, I received an email. It was from a local man, a doctor, who asked about buying a large painting for very specific site in his home. I had only one painting that fit his need and it was one that has been dominating my space lately, both in the studio and in my mind. I turned and looked at the painting. I look at it a lot these days.

I read the email a couple more times and asked myself if this was a real inquiry? Who would be looking for a large painting right now? Are they pulling my leg and if so, how cruel would that be?

But after a minute or so of consideration, I thought it must be real. I actually teared up a little in that moment because it was just what I needed in this new abnormal day.

It felt like a small bit of grace. I don’t know if that’s right but I can tell what it was.

It was reassurance.

The reassurance that I, like so many others, was lacking. The reassurance that, even in a time of dire crisis, what I do has some meaning, that I exist and count for something.

Reassurance that I will be able to persevere and weather the storm.

I don’t know that this person was just looking for a painting at this particular time or if he decided to do this now because his action would be greatly helping out a local artist and small business at a time when it was truly needed. Whatever his reason, it moved me.

I sent him the image, writing a bit about the painting, and it looks like it may be moving to a new home very soon. I have often said that, in my mind, every time a person chooses to buy my work is a small miracle of some sort. I don’t know if that is absolutely true but I know that this sale will linger with me and have meaning for a long time to come.

We all need reassurance now. Each of us has the ability to give others some measure of reassurance.

Be kind. Be generous, even if you only afford to do so in spirit.

It goes a long way.

Sorry for the length of this post. If you got this far, thanks for sticking it out. There was a lot to say, I guess.

Have a good day and be careful.

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The painting at the top, Life Pop, is at the West End Gallery in Corning. Their doors are closed currently but they are still operating normal hours via phone and online, as well as with private appointments.

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When men sow the wind

it is rational to expect

that they will reap the whirlwind.

–Frederick Douglass

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Amplified consequence.

In his 1892 essay, Lynch Law in the South, Frederick Douglass used the proverb from biblical book Hosea, to illustrate how man often sets things in motion that have results that extend far beyond– and often in stark opposition to– their intended goals. Douglass wrote that the deadly violence being shown against the black citizens of the south at that time would eventually come back to haunt those that perpetrated the deed or stood idly by, complicit in their silence.

The biblical proverb in Hosea was about how the the citizens of Israel of that time ( ca 725 BC, I believe) took to idolatry, the worship of false idols, and how their actions brought down upon them the wrath of God. In that book the author uses the concept of farming to make his point, that a  a single seed of grain sowed by a farmer returns to him many times over.

An amplified consequence.

Of course, the farmer can usually tell what the result of his sowing will be. X amount of seed will allow him to reap Y amount of grain at harvest under normal circumstances. Predictable.

But that same degree of predictability doesn’t apply to all other actions man sometimes sets in motion. While we might initially think we control the outcome, we sometimes put actions into motion — sow our seed– that we cannot control, that return to us with such amplification and intensity that we are overcome and sometimes decimated by the result.

One small, seemingly insignificant action, such as not paying attention to a rising dangerous wind, can sometimes turn into a maelstrom of destruction that we never saw coming.

Take that for what it’s worth, given the events in recent days in this country.

The painting at the top is called Into the Winds of Change and is part of the West End Gallery‘s annual Little Gems show that opens tonight with an opening reception from 5-7:30 PM. Hopefully, like the Red Tree here, we can stand against and overcome the whirlwind that may soon be upon us.

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“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”

Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

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In times like these, it is even more important to consider the words above from the classic book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. In days that often filled with anger, anxiety and sometimes despair, we must remember to take in the simple wonders that surround us, to pay notice to the beauty and magic of the natural world surrounding us.

As the death of the great actor Kirk Douglas yesterday reminds us, how much time is guaranteed for any of us here? Do we want to leave this world not having paid attention to the simple wonder within our reach?

I’e been in my current studio for over twelve years now and have looked out its windows tens of thousands of times. But even after all that gazing I still am able find new things to see. Trees I have never noticed. The way the sunlight comes through and hits certain limbs at a certain times. The way the wild turkeys gather under the maple trees beside the studio when its raining and face the house, sometimes gobbling at it as though they believe I can come out and shut off the rain.

If I could, I would do that for them.

Small things. Simple things. But wonders nonetheless.

I find myself sometimes stopping in the woods and looking around, taking notice of the small wonders within my sight. I try to take a snapshot in my mind of that place in that moment, thinking that if I were to suddenly pass away, I would have as an image to carry with me from my last day.

You would be surprised how much comfort I take in that little moment, standing still on a woody path.

This is the gist of what this painting at the top of page is saying to me. Titled In Simple Wonder, it’s part of the Little Gems exhibit at the West End Gallery that opens tomorrow evening.

 

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When I finished this small painting, the term Seventh Heaven quickly came to mind and bound itself to it as its title. There was a quality attached to it that evoked that phrase that I’ve heard thousands of times, mostly describing a time and place of immense satisfaction.

Bliss.

But in all those times I never thought about what Seventh Heaven really meant or where it came from. It was just a phrase that was thrown around easily without thought.

Turns out it has beginnings and attachments to the ancient Greeks, the Kabbalah of Jewish mysticism and in Hindic and Islamic belief.

The Greeks’ believed there to be seven classical planets beyond our earth —Mercury, Venus, the Moon, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn— each having its own heaven.

In the Jewish Kabbalah, there are seven levels of heaven, each ruled by an angel. For example, Shamayim is the first heaven, governed by Archangel Gabriel. It is the closest of heavenly realms to the Earth; it is also considered the abode of Adam and Eve. The seventh heaven here is called Araboth. Under the leadership of the angel of Saturn, Cassiel, it is the holiest of the seven heavens, housing the Throne of Glory attended by the Seven Archangels and serves as the realm in which God dwells. Beneath the throne itself lies the abode of all unborn human souls. It is also considered the home of the Seraphim, the Cherubim, and the Hayyoth.

The Islamic seventh heaven is similar in many ways to that of the Kabbalah, comprised of a divine light that is incomprehensible to mortal man.

Hinduism divides the material universe into fourteen worlds, seven of them being upper and seven being lower. Brahmaloka is the highest of the seven upper worlds, the highest of the joyful worlds a person might attain. It is the home of Lord Brahma.

There’s more but we’re going to keep this shallow today. It comes down to all of the different forms of  Seventh Heaven denoting a place of ultimate joy.

That description fits this little piece, with its seven rows in the field of the foreground, for me.

It is a seventh heaven by itself.  Even if it brings me only a moment of bliss, that’s I all I can ask for here on this earth, I suppose.

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This piece, Seventh Heaven, is part of the Little Gems exhibit at the West End Gallery which opens Friday, February 7 with an opening reception that runs 5-7:30 PM.

 

 

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The annual Little Gems exhibit opens this coming Friday, February 7, at the West End Gallery in Corning. This is the 26th year that the West End has hosted this show and I am fortunate to have been along for the ride, going back to that first one in 1995 at their second story old gallery space.

That was my first experience showing my work publicly. I had no idea what to expect when I stood there, anxiously trying to blend into the background as people milled around the gallery, on that night of the first opening. But based on the past 25 years, things seem to have worked out okay.

For me and for the Little Gems show which has turned out to be a perennial favorite for fans of the West End Gallery. It is the most popular show there, year in and year out. It’s fun for most of the artists to make small work and perhaps try out new things. There are plenty of small but mighty paintings created for this show which allows attendees, be they avid or first-time collectors, to attain original and high quality pieces of art at obtainable prices.

This painting above is called Riding High. I haven’t looked back but I think a boat painting is part of my contribution for this show most years. It’s a theme and an image that translates well to a smaller scale, maintaining its full impact. By that, I mean that it seems bigger on the wall than it actually is.

A lot of the work throughout this show have that quality.

So, hope you can make it to the show this Friday, February 7. The opening reception begins at 5 PM and goes to 7:30. The show is hanging if you want to stop in for a preview and to claim a little gem for yourself.

Here’s a song from the late June Carter Cash‘s final album that I think lines up well with this painting. It’s a lovely old Carter Family song called Sinking in the Lonesome Sea.

Have a good day.

 

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“I’m not sure this will make sense to you but I felt as though I’d turned around to look in a different direction so that I no longer faced backward toward the past but forward toward the future. And now the question confronting me was this: What would the future be”

― Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

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This small painting that is hanging as part of the Little Gems exhibit at the West End Gallery (opening Friday, February 7) is titled Memoir.

The thought behind that title was that that while the future seems uncertain as we look forward, our pasts as we recall them are often just as uncertain.

Our personal histories are a patchwork, like the sky in this painting, of half memories and dimly lit stories. Faces and names fade. Words once spoken are lost in the void. We have grainy snips and snaps of what we recall as significant moments and some surprisingly sharp images of insignificant moments that puzzle us, leaving us to wonder why they remain so clear.

Do they mean something more and we just don’t see their true meaning?

I looked at this small piece and wondered what I would include in my memoir. What would I pull from that haphazard patchwork that I would want to share now and into the future?

After sifting through the shards of broken memories, I come to the conclusion that I don’t want to write a memoir. Let my memoir show itself in my work, let my story be told in paint and line and shapes, a crude group of hieroglyphs that will no doubt go untranslated in generations to come.

Let the future, if it is so inclined, write my past. That shall be memoir enough for me.

For this Sunday morning music, here’s a song to go along with this painting. It’s the Nick Lowe pop classic, When I Write the Book.

Have a good Sunday.

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