Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Place

Above, in front. Below, looking back.

In my dreams, I often return to a few sites from my past. Invariably, these seem to be places of transition, sites along the way, neither at home, or, at my destinations. Again, there I am, gazing at my surroundings, at this place that in real life I had only experienced in passing. The places seem benign enough, but, when I explore their secrets, will this unleash a maelstrom? And yet, I am sure that in so doing, there is my redemption and wholeness.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Brushstrokes

Though I live in Connecticut, my work as an industrial designer takes me across the New York border, on a regular basis, back to my old stomping grounds in Westchester County. It is something like the life of a steelhead, venturing out to sea, in my case, Seattle, by way of Massachusetts, and then back to the place of my salad days. Lately, quite tired of The Road, I have, on occasion, taken to staying over at my parent’s home, the place of my becoming of age, to enjoy their mellow company and save myself and the environment from the ravages of life on the highway.

A few weeks ago while staying over at my boyhood home I woke up early to get to work. The morning was cold and crisp. A fresh light snowfall covered the landscape and showed this wonderful town of Croton-on-Hudson, quite nearly at its best. I grabbed my camera and took the opportunity while defrosting the car to record the scene. I took a number of photos, and, at the last, I took the above image, gazing across to view, through the trees, what had been the home of George Biddle, artistic giant of the twentieth century, a shaper of modern art history.

Standing there, looking through the trees, I recalled meeting George Biddle.

In my youth, to say I was a walker was an understatement. A peregrinator is probably a more apt description. As a teen, while heading home, on a few rare occasions, I would see George Biddle, walking ahead, a fit, tall, rail thin man in his upper eighties. As I recall, he would be on the left side of the road, facing any oncoming back road traffic. I would be overtaking him on the right side, at the ready for a kind offer of a ride. We would both look over and give a warm and friendly “hello”. A conversation would start and I would cross over to his side. We would walk along together, at his pace, until he reached his driveway, me continuing on. I had no idea of the greatness in whose presence I was in. I had stumbled across his house a few times while traversing the woods, and was in complete awe of his home; stone, beautiful, with a heavenly quality.

It would be impossible to do his life and career justice in these few paragraphs. This was a man who attended Harvard and Harvard Law School, and later abandoned a promising career in law to pursue his passion for art. He traveled the world and was well acquainted with twentieth century icons of the arts and literature, all the while experimenting and exploring media, in both two and three dimensions. He taught, served his country in the world wars, and, through his friendship with FDR, was integral in launching the Federal Art Project. Of his artwork, of the work that I have seen, it may be said, that it possessed a reality all its own, a benchmark of greatness. I noticed, at times, a high horizon line, I think, owing to his Lincolnesque stature. This was how he saw the world. I find his paintings magnificent in composition, color and subject matter.

There is so much more to tell. This was a full, engaged life.

The last time I saw him, we walked along as before, conversing and getting further acquainted. As we approach his driveway he looked right at me and invited me to just stop in at his house sometime. I think I just smiled and said nothing. He took a few more steps, turned to me and invited me again with purpose. It was clear, he really meant this. I mentioned the invitation to my father who lit up when he heard this and said that I really should visit. I never did.

A few months later I went to college. In a phone call home, my mother mentioned that George Biddle had passed on. Right then, I learned a lesson that, unfortunately would be reinforced with time, a lesson to be honored.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

On Air

video

I had the honor and good fortune of being interviewed by Rick Hancock on Fox 61 News this past week. Rick read this blog “Hope and Fury” and featured the story of this art and design blog on his weekly “Rick’s RSS” technology spot on the local Hartford Fox affiliate. Rick is a very personable man and a great blogger!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

As Often As Not, Something Does Lie Beneath


There is an exhibit at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford entitled “What Lies Beneath? Revealing Painter’s Secrets.” The exhibit features ten paintings by various artists, including Rousseau, Homer, Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh, where, upon examination through x-radiography or infrared reflectography, either a distinctly different painting lies beneath the painted surface, sometimes at a 90 degrees portrait versus landscape reorientation, or, a previously explored composition has been changed, simplified, or abandoned. This exhibit has generated a lot of interest and surprise.

I remember some years back, before I got into oil painting in a more dedicated way, I read an article going into some depth about a Picasso painting that, when x-rayed, revealed an earlier complete painting of a bull fight beneath. Somehow this idea was unthinkable! How could this happen, how could a work of art be obliterated, even by the artist! I understand now. Many of my paintings go through a layered process of creation. Even while hidden below the surface, these previous works can build strength in the finished piece. Sometimes only a hint of this process is evident, and only that to a discerning eye.

Consider my work posted above, at the top, entitled “Dispersal”, a rather tame abstract. Now, see what lies beneath, my version of Courbet’s, “Sleep”, by any standard a rather racy themed painting.
Pretty shocking, then as now! The painting was not destined to last more than a few months, before a warm up session of gesso painting covered the previous effort making way for something new.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Syncretism

There is a wonderful exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford entitled “The Ballets Russes”, a centennial celebration of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. This was the collaborative effort of the early twentieth century's top talent in dance, music and art; too many to list here, however, I will mention Nijinsky, Stravinsky and Picasso. Ballets Russes was a striving for art and beauty, and not, as is so often the case, a quest for mayhem and horror.