Thursday, June 24, 2010

Whither Landscape Painting in the 21st Century?

I have an interview up on Big Red and Shiny with Christopher (Kip) Lamberg-Karlofsky whose beautiful installation at the MFA last month reflected on some of the implications of the Hudson River approach for us in the 21st century.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Passionate Defense of the Republic of Art

This article on the plundering of the Barnes Collection repays reading, though it's long (for an online article) No Museum Left Behind.

Lost in the Funhouse

Max (age 3) just told me he's making a "spider maze" and "it walks with its hands." That sounds like as good a metaphor as any for the artistic and intellectual pursuit we call the examined life - the one without which Thoreau said life wasn't worth living - in other words, living with eyes, mind and Spirit open. "It has a hooks," he told me, "for the tricity (electricity)." It also has "spikes" and "hurting parts that pinch you."

I'm haunted by the idea that as soon as we start thinking, we create a maze of unanswerable questions in which we dwell everafter, and above which we rise in brief enlightened moments of true, full Being when undergoing profound or ecstatic states, such as love, religious enlightenment, creative engagement. So the most meaningful depths and summits of human knowledge and experience - our moments of existential doubt and our moments of ecstatic mystical union with the All - are in essence of the same self-created nature. Both antipodes are illusions, and both are real.

As soon as we start emerging from the cocoon of ignorance and dull indifference that is everyday, Plato's cave-in, robotic, going-through-the-motions herd mentality, we assent to ensnarement in the web of ideas that will define our darkest days. One response to this is to devote one's energy to swinging the balance toward the enlightenment side. All religions teach that the sense of God begins when we step outside of the self, when we step away from being the center of our consciousness and fill that space with an other (usually something grand and impersonal, like Godhead, Love, Nature, the Now, or else, more humbly, and arguably more productively, other people).

One of the ways I become "lost in the funhouse" with its distorting mirrors is to compare myself to others who are better positioned, more hardworking, more talented, more successful, better, richer, younger, or whatever. All of it's an illusion. I know I'm crediting these others (ever notice how they're almost never people we actually know well?) with some kind of imagined, totally illusory "arrival" that has nothing to do what's really there.

As poet Sylvia Plath said, "there is no where to get to." But even recognizing, much less stopping, these destructive thought-patterns, can be especially difficult for artists and others who want to create, given the inevitable shadow of judgement, from ourselves and others, and the inherent supposition of an audience that looms over the actual work, not to mention the intimidating presence of a "tradition" we may not even dare to admit we're working in, what the poet Dylan Thomas called "the towering dead with their nightingales and psalms."

Art, on our better days, does free our consciousness from the anxious, narcissistic self that drives us to see ourselves negatively in relation to others.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Painful Lessons

Yesterday felt like a disaster with a few bright spots (none of which had to do with painting). I didn't leave myself enough time to get any substantial work done in the studio, and somewhere between the Beacon Hill Art Walk on Sunday and yesterday, my largest new piece, which I was saving for the Provincetown gallery, took major damage from being in the van with the rest of the show gear.

Something punched several holes in the canvas, rendering a $1,400 painting worthless. And I thought I *was* being careful - I cocooned every one of my paintings in bubble wrap. Moral: treat your paintings like friggin sheet glass if you have to move them around.

The best parts of the day were visiting Bonita's studio in the Button Factory and playing music with violinist Sam Goodall in preparation for our gig tomorrow at the York Art Association's
"Second Saturdays at Seven," where Anna is reading poetry as well.

Mercifully, the night ended in a softened haze of painlessness, for some inexplicable reason. Lucky, that.

Today we begin anew.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Second Studio to Open in Lowell!

Anna and I have joined forces with our talented friend Todd Bonita to share studio space at the Western Avenue Studios in Lowell, Mass. The building is huge - 200 artists or so - and it's a short trip from Anna's mom's house in Hollis, N.H. We'll be working here when not in Rollinsford, and we hope to participate in open studios on the first Saturday of every month and around the holidays. There's also an opportunity to have work on display in the studio building's art gallery, the Loading Dock Gallery.

I'm eventually hoping to offer painting classes here once we've actually put down roots.

The place is alive with creative energy and a strong sense of communal focus. It feels like a great way to branch out in a new community and establish a presence closer to Boston, plus it'll be easier to get here from the Hollis outpost than to drive all the way to Rollinsford should serious studio time be a necessity.

Todd and I want to furnish it in the best classic nineteenth-century American artist style - oriental carpet, plaster busts, enormous easels, bearskin rugs, a preserved mongoose and priceless "curiosities" from Egypt and the congo in an adjacent "parlour" lit by beeswax candles and Victorian gas-lamps... er... an oriental carpet...

We're all really excited about what feels like a great new venture into the bright unknown.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Divine Intervention

As the city huddled in rain and wind during the Beacon Hill Art Walk on Sunday, I showed my work in the Church of the Advent, a 19th century church permeated by frankincense and Latin polyphony.

The space was enchanting. I made a number of excellent, promising contacts, had some wonderful conversations, and sold a number of smaller paintings until, with a thunderclap worthy of Revelations, a "microburst" of gale-force wind slammed Beacon Hill and environs and brought a 60-some-odd-foot tree crashing down in the churchyard and onto the building. By some "miracle," the massive trunk just missed the roof of our chapel.
Just across the street (where I'd earlier contemplated parking my car), the gust snapped a large maple in two and rolled the thing over a car, shattering the windows and bashing in the roof while closing the street to traffic except the cops.

First the sheer sudden force of the rain alone stunned us into wonderment, and then this powerful column of wind, forced rapidly down into Beacon Hill, just left everybody stunned. The whole thing was over in about 20 minutes, but Beacon Hill neighbors filled the streets for hours afterwards.

I saw trees down all over the place. People (like me) took phone pictures or stopped to marvel with strangers, clustered around giant exposed root systems clotted with chunks of earth and brick.

I love the Beacon Hill Art Walk - the people are great, and it's never the same experience twice - thank God.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Moonlighting, Pt. 2

This painting, an earlier moonlit landscape, just sold to a Seacoast buyer who is partial to the darker palette. The tonal shadow-world of evening - definitely a direction in which I plan to continue.