Friday, December 10, 2010

Think before you eat...

Don't worry this isn't one those annoying holiday pieces about watching your waistline. This is about being much more mindful and grateful about where your food comes from, the sacrifice of animals and the overall quality of what we eat. I have a theory: America's obesity is due to the poor quality of our food, so we keep stuffing ourselves because we can't get full without nutrition. Oh we've got tons of food but it comes from factory farms that have stripped the earth of all nutrients, replacing the good earth with chemicals. I've just come back from food heaven, Italy, where the phrase "localvore" is not a trendy movement it's been a way of life they've followed for millenium, it has started here and we should embrace it with vigor! While in Italy I ate exceptionally healthy and it was so easy - from the simplest pizza to food as High Art from chef Mona Talbott and the kitchen gang at the American Academy. Since I've been back it's been depressing, returning to eating in the cafeteria at work has been especially brutal. So food is high in my mind these days, couple that with all the PETA posters I see when riding the subway with pictures of animals horribly mistreated it always makes me wonder why are we so cruel and uncaring to the animals, plants and earth that sustains us! How can we possibly justify such actions? We should be worshipping these things by taking very good care of them.

There is a person I admire greatly and heard him speak at the Academy where he is a fellow. He's on a mission I want to help spread the word about his great work....Edible Estates. Fritz Haeg ( has a great desire to get people connected with how their food comes to be, wants to move the garden to the front of the house to celebrate that which gives us life and the gardens are beautiful. Plus his philosophy is to leave the excess fruits and veggies you harvest and cannot possibly eat in a basket so others can take it. He also believes in the magic of worms and their great composting skills. He is someone we should be paying close attention to and if you have a yard you should have a garden!

This is the season when people will mindlessly stuff themselves with mass produced, poor quality food that is full of salt and preservatives then spend months regretting it or joining some weight reduction group. So in this season of massive consumerism (aka gluttony) of every kind take a moment to be mindful and deeply grateful for what sustains you. Hopefully in the new year you will think more about it and realize that we live in and are steward of this beautiful Garden of Eden and we are responsible for taking very good care of it and all it's beings. That is my holiday wish for us all...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Some final notes on Rome, Florence & Bologna…

The reality of leaving Rome and Italy hit like a hard punch in the nose when I was given my airplane "lunch". After a month of the finest food on this planet I had a piece of chicken that clearly came from the smallest chicken in the world and almost made me turn vegetarian. Spongy carrots and whatever they did to the rice should be punishable by making them eat it. The sucker punch came when the "snack" was delivered. It was a lunchable gone very wrong. Not entirely sure if that was cheese or butter or an unknown substance on the bread, it was tasteless and slimy in a kind of creepy way so I used a lot of mustard to take my mind off it. Brutal re-entry.

Rome - after being here for a month I got into the rhythm of the city just "being" there, people watching, got into the daily cappuccino at my local cafe routine. Rome is a big very busy, chaotic city, it is NYC on massive quantities of caffeine! For cheap sightseeing and because I love to people watch I rode the buses everywhere and watched the riders. Romans, Italians, work very hard and endlessly they have a most admirable work ethic which I always appreciate in anyone. My fellow bus riders look like everyone else who works hard for a living, never earns enough for their efforts, hate the political structures they are saddled with - they are tired.

As I mentioned above buses are the way to go anywhere in the towns, great for cheap sightseeing. Chances are you will only need to get a few tickets as most of the validating machines on the buses don't work and most of the riders don't bother using them. One wonders how they pay for anything as no one on the bus pays but you'd better have a ticket or a euro and make a good faith effort. One time I got frustrated the validating machine wouldn't work and there wasn't a machine to deposit a coin so I went to the driver and handed him a euro…he refused!

Florence is very walkable, very sweet and just my kind of town, however, it's a real toss up between Orvieto and Florence. I dream of moving to Italy for a while and would love to live in either town. Bologna, not so much. I'm glad I went there, I was on a pilgrimage to see the Giorgio Morandi museum and loved it. One of the best things are Bologna's covered streets and the cafe scene I wrote about in an earlier post but overall it didn't really move me. Wish I had planned it differently as there were some towns I would have rather seen but it just means they are on the list for the next visit!

Be advised: they give directions just like they do in Boston. So, keeping that in mind, ask several people many times which way. Around the corner or down the street doesn't mean one corner or close by. It could be 12 miles away or around lots of corners.

It's good to be back, see my friends and so forth but there is a quality of life in Europe that I adore and miss terribly. The food is amazing, local, fresh and not processed to death. Being an artist in Europe, even visiting, is fantastic. Their reaction to hearing you make art is the best, they want to know what you work on, what you are interested in, they never ask the tacky crap that you get in the U.S. which is always "how much do you sell it for", or "how many galleries do you have". You never hear that dreaded phrase "I know what I like"…always said by people who haven't a clue. Europeans instantly understand because they have been surrounded by art for millenniums and have a deep almost genetic love of culture it's hard not to want to be there all the time….sigh.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The limnal spaces in art...

The skies have been really dramatic. Big cauliflower clouds, dark menacing ones with glowing edges of brilliant white, and so on. It's been great fun to watch and paint. I have a passion for dramatic skies, big weather and November in Rome offers both. As I watched one day I realized it was the sky I'd seen before by the great landscape painters then realized it was only the British and Dutch School that came to mind. I got wondering about Italian landscape painters, so went searching and all I could find (albeit not an in-depth search) was Canaletto but his sky or any other nature was clearly secondary to buildings. The skies are so dramatic here I couldn't believe it waited until the 1700's and Canaletto for them to even gingerly enter an Italian painting. Certainly the great frescoes include sky drama but again, the main theme is religion. Since I am at the American Academy in Rome surrounded by breathtaking minds I asked around. Turns out the shift to landscape did not happen until the Barbizon School…hard to imagine it waited until the 1830's! Without a doubt the really great landscape (and for sake of this entry land/sky) painters were hands down the British and Dutch. They had all the dramatic elements to work with and be inspired by but so did the Italians and what were they doing? One brilliant person (and deeply witty)I spoke to, says it began with Turner's visit to Venice followed by Ruskin's incredibly long tome about it which in the end is all about Turner in Venice.

It is precisely the limnal space between artistic movements that drives me crazy. Frankly if I were younger and not so desparately poor I would dash right back into school and study precisely that…the space between artistic movements, the shift between overwrought religious paintings and landscape, or how and why did the leap from prehistoric painting become more considered work - meaning brought indoors to serve a specific purpose. Or my favorite, when did art go from largely king & church supported to commercial. I want to know the politics and everything else about what goes on during those shifts as it's always more than one thing. I will definitely look for all the information I can about this but do not feel as if I can take it on in a scholarly pursuit, not only because I feel too old to do it but more importantly it would entirely consume me and take me away from making art, something I won't allow to happen. Not many people follow my blog but maybe someone will find this entry, be intrigued by the idea and run with it. I firmly believe the limnal spaces in art are an area rich for exploration.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Musings on art residencies...

The Margo Gelb shack, an inch of wood against the weather! Also stayed in Zara...

I've done a bunch of art residencies through the years and each one has been remarkably, dramatically different from the last. First one I ever did was in a dune shack on Cape Cod. No electricity- only an oil lamp and candles, no running water - only a pump down a 100 ft dune that pumps water you are never really sure is ok to drink even though they say it is but rusty orange water is not attractive, no bathroom - only an outhouse but a nice outhouse with great sea views! The dune shacks are all small maybe the biggest being 10 ft x 15 ft with a bed (more like a camp bed) that you always have to shake off the mouse turds. A propane refrigerator & stove, table and maybe 2 chairs. Overall it is an inch of wood against the weather and it's fabulous. It's also not for everyone, the solitude is intense and your only company will be the zillions of mice that spend and extraordinary amount of time and energy trying to get in, or when all light fades running around the place like maniacs. But it is a purifying place, your senses get a good rest and in my opinion the shacks are hallowed ground where really great writers, artists, poets etc have all stayed in and either started great work, worked on existing great work or recharged their creative batteries.

Pouch Cove, residency in renovated bank...
Next residency was with the Pouch Cove foundation in Newfoundland. I stayed for a month at their newest facility…a renovated bank in Corner Brook. Newfoundland called to mind what the US or pretty much anyplace looked like before ANYONE got there. Corner Brook is a sizable town but just outside of it is vast wilderness. You could lie down and take a nap on it's main highway and never get run over. This was my least successful residency for a number of reasons first, I really wanted to see Newfoundland it seemed such a strange and wild place and then 9/11 hit. But before it did I went exploring and took a bus up to Gros Morne, stayed in a B&B…a real one…someone's house & I stayed in their spare room. It was very nice and so were the lovely couple who were just trying to survive. I explored the area where the words bleak and desolate still come to mind…but so does the word fascinating! When I do a residency it takes me a bit to get the creative juices off jet lag and running smoothly. I got back from exploring and was just about to start making images when 9/11 hit. My residency was for the entire month of September 2001 and, as you can imagine, I couldn't focus on anything except what was happening in the US and world. It was a global event. So that residency was certainly my least successful in terms of work.

And now I'm at the American Academy in Rome...fabulous!

Now I'm wrapping up a month long residency in Rome at the amazing American Academy and has been my most successful residency! Of course what I proposed when I applied for a Fellowship is not at all what I've been doing. Rome is like smacking your forehead and going WOW especially since I've never been here before. I was thrown off my pins but once I steadied again I dove into just making art, no agenda, no plan, just visually respond to everything and I have to say the work from the second half of this time has been very successful. I started to form a desire to focus on color and form and I did. The other terrific part of this residency is being part of this amazing community of great minds! Did they make a mistake letting me come here? I do not have the scholastic pedigree these folks do. Once I got over my own issues of insecurity I started making friends. I've been learning about archeology from Greek Vase painting, secrets of ancient landfills, history of ancient battlefields, religions, languages, etc. etc. I LOVE good conversation and have had plenty of that, it's been wonderful! My residence is as close to living in a palace like a princess as one can get. It's been utterly magical! Every place you look there is art old and new, it's no wonder Italians and Europe in general are so comfortable with art and the concept of artists. I wish I could stay but know one thing for sure…I will be coming back.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Best Baby Jesus ever...

I have never, ever seen so many baby Jesus' or Madonna's. Today as I wandered the Galleria Borghese it dawned on me that no wonder Christianity took such a firm hold…this was their form of media blitz, advertising. Of course if you see thousands of Madonna's and baby Jesu a trend emerges, the Virgin Mary, at least to me, is always beautiful, serene, passive but you can sense her power. The baby Jesus is usually pretty ugly either depicted as a freakishly small man or just not all that baby-cute except for one painting which is now my all time favorite baby Jesus painting. Lotto painted it in 1508 and shows the Madonna and Child with St Flavian and St Onophrius, Jesus is squirming in her lap. Jesus is a fat cuddly looking little baby who's grabbing at the cardinal's clothes, you can almost see the drool on his chubby little chin…he's a real baby, clearly a handful and she has that calm but tired look of a mother who has a very active, curious baby boy not a mini-man who's aware of all mankinds foibles at barely 1 years old.

I saw more of Lorenzo Lotto's paintings in the Uffizi and he really has a knack for getting baby Jesus right. Another favorite of mine is Madonna della Grazie, 1542. There are angels around but Baby Jesus and Mary are the ones in real communication. I love the gesture of her hands and the pose, gesture and expression on Baby Jesus. Another favorite is Madonna and Child with Saints and Mary looks young, tired and in a comfortable pose. Jesus is no longer a baby, he's a bit older and his curiosity has deepened as he watches and listens to the Saint but you can almost sense his little chubby legs are about to do that funny thing babies do when they do bouncy or rubber legs. The other interesting thing is that Jesus is listening to the Saint but you sense his attention will break at any instant but Mary is not focused, she's daydreaming. I've been researching more on Lorenzo Lotto and find I really REALLY like his work. His people come across as real, soft flesh, great emotion and many in family situations, they seem more natural than work I've seen from this time period. As far as I can find out he was never married, never had a family…maybe he wanted that.

Another surprise painting I saw today at the Uffizi painted by Francesco Rustici around 1621 called Allegory of Painting and Architecture. It is a painting of a painter and an architect with all their tools around them and clearly in a full blown discussion about something and they are two women!!!! I cannot think of another painting, especially that early, that shows women in such revered professions. Rock on Rustici!

Another surprise was to see the paintings of Andrea Di Vanni Andrea and learn that the painter was a woman who did these works in 1370!!! And is the only woman painter in all of the Uffizi for centuries up until the amazing Artemisia Gentleschi's works! It's huge to even acknowledge a woman painting at that time.

Then I went on an art pilgrimage to see much more modern and perfectly simple work by the incredible Giorgio Morandi. It was a welcome break from all the massive frames and giant intense paintings that invoke a mental sound track of angelic music. His works are small, very simple and deeply inspiring!  More on Mr. Morandi at another time...

Most recent work from Rome...

One might think I'm just gadding about Italy. Well I am but with a DRAW. Drawing is the very bones of art and it helps to sit and take in the sights, study an area. Here's a link to the newest work which is basically visual note taking, making a log of things I see and love all the colors of the buildings and angles! The first images in the group (posted at the top) are really strong and I'm very pleased with what's happening. Here's the link to all the new work I wanted to move more towards shape and color and it "seems" to be happening. We'll see when I get back if it holds, heck if it doesn't I'll just have to come back to Italy!!!

And for once I'm so pleased with the pen and/or pencil sketches I put them out there for all to see. There are two in the group that reveal my process for making a painting...lots of notes all over the drawing and it was a scene so visually rich I can't wait to get started on it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Best part of travel is...

Meeting people! ...

Sister Maria (r) and Sister Hikkema (l)

Me & Roslyn having a great dinner!

Every time I travel I meet interesting people either in the group I'm with or when I stay places on my own. This time around has been a particularly rich experience. The Visiting Artist Residency in Rome just got a lot deeper and more than about making art or seeing it and beautiful towns. During my time here and in a recent trip to Florence I met people who have stopped me in my tracks, introducing wonder, awe and humor. It hardly gets better than that.

During my residence at the American Academy I've met musicians, master stone carvers, lots of writers, medievalists and archeologists. But I've never met an archeologist for the military...until now. Laurie Rush is a real inspiration, sorry I don't have a picture of her. She works for the military as an archeologist and has been instrumental in preserving Iraqi cultural and religious sites and training the soldiers who serve about how important those things are to the people they come in contact with. One of the ways she does this is she took everyday playing cards and re-designed them so that each card gives important information on protecting antiquities, the culture they are in and the religions of the area. Because of her efforts many soldiers go into archeology after their military time has been served. I'm in awe of her work but it turns out she is only one of many! Laurie told me of another female soldier who signed up in the military specifically to protect the culture and art (and artifacts) of another war torn area. This was a real eye opener for me as I, along with probably everybody, only think one thing when they think of soldiers...turns out there are some who fight but not with guns, they fight with ideas!

Speaking of Iraq, this will be hard to write up only because it's so moving I'm already tearing up. This week I went to Florence and stayed at a convent, turns out it was quite possibly one of the most moving experiences of my life. Casa Santo Nome di Gesu used to be a full on convent for Franciscan nuns and as the number of sisters dropped off they turned it into a school and then the sisters were moved to other convents and the convent was taken over by the Dominican Sisters and are trying to make a go of it as an incredibly clean, safe and inexpensive place to stay for travelers...then I learned about the sisters who are running it...there are onlhy 3 of them. They are Iraqi nuns of the Domican order. Sister Hikkema and Sister Maria, the third nun is off on retreat at the moment and they miss her terribly. These two Sisters are quick to smile and laugh, they are sharp, quick witted, multi-lingual and have a HUGE place to run. All of the money goes to the good missionary work of the order and to help sustain these nuns. How was this all life changing? I got the back story on these dear Sisters Hikkema, Maria and the one on retreat. They were moved out of Iraq after the very recent bombings of Christian centers just this past October. Many civilisns were killed and two was 25 years old, the other 30 years old, barely fresh from taking their vows. These nuns moved into tents in the desert so as NOT to further endanger any civilians then they were moved (evacuated) to Florence, given a B & B to run and they seem to love it and they certainly have a great sense of humor given what they've just been through. I took this picture of them just before I left and each one took one of my hands and asked me to pray for them and for I extend their wish to all of you...pray for these nuns and tell everyone to stay at Casa Santo Nome de Gesu and pray for Iraq.

Now for some lighter inspiration...the other photo is of me and a terrific woman I met at the convent, since I'm not sure if it's ok to publish her last name I'll just call her Rosalyn and she's from Australia. She lost her Mom recently and told her daughter she was off to see the world for a while. She retired early (63) and hit the road, she doesn't have a plan, she just goes where she thinks would be interesting and has -so far in about 2 months- been all over Europe and now exploring Italy. She stays about a week in every place, longer if she's crazy about it, and is not at all wealthy. Roslyn takes cheap, slow transportation because she sees more and meets more people that way. She's been a massage therapist, social worker and most recently writes bereavement ceremonies which I learned are all the rage in Australia. They don't want ministers running the ceremonies of bereavement or marriage there because as she says with great humor "Aussies are a bunch of heathens". Rather they want a lovely poetry & music filled event, plus she spends a great deal of time with each family finding out as much as she can about the person who has passed so she can "make it as meaningful as possible" for them. During her travels she's been most moved by Scotland and is headed back there for Christmas. Roslyn says, quite proudly, that she's never owned property and to that end recently had a gypsy wagon built so when she gets back to Australia she can keep moving. The only home she says she could ever tolerate is one on wheels and that has a lot of character...Rosalyn certainly has a lot of character!

I don't have a picture of this, so you have to use your imagination, liberally, as this is hands down one of my favorite people watching events in a long time. In Bologna after fulfilling my mission of seeing the Giorgio Morandi Museum (awesome) I decided to wander the streets of Bologna to see what the folks do there until I saw a sign for hot chocolate and Panna. I heard that's pretty tasty and it is. I went into the tiny coffee shop, SO cute, got a table in back and just to my left was an astonishing woman ... let the show begin. This little coffee shop had about 5 tiny tables, all full, with me and the rest locals having lunch. The woman to my left was a character in the social play about to unfold. Clearly she'd been sitting there for a while and it was easy to pick up on the "energy" between all the players. Let's call the woman in question Lola...Lola was in a TIGHT, super short animal print dress that left nothing to the imagination...and I mean n o t h i n g, my best guess is she's a 46DD most of which was also on proud display. She was drenched in lots of cheap gold-looking jewelry, bright blue nailpolish on freakishly long fingernails which typed furiously away and a neon pink cell phone, she has a mop of curly bottle blond hair whose roots need serious retouching, lots of make up and 10 inch heals. Right across from her was clearly the wife of the owner (and the owner would sneak peeks whenever he could) and she was the cashier who would smack him on the arm if she caught him. If you could ONLY see the looks she threw this woman you'd double over. But every time, and I mean every time any man walked by Lola would "display" herself and the woman cashier really had steam coming out her ears!!! Then more people came in for lunch, clearly they all knew each other and the looks flying around the room were much being said with the eyes & gestures but amazingly no one actually said anything. I sensed the drama would deepen so once I finished my hot chocolate I ordered lunch - no way was I going to miss this! Then Lola gets up & goes to the restroom...well the chatter began and I didn't need a translator to know what the women were saying! Lola comes back out and sits back down, she had to have heard them and she was stuffing it in their faces. My lunch was finished and I couldn't justify staying any longer. I think Lola was there for the long haul and maybe purposefully to drive someone crazy. OH how I wish I were a playwrite as it was a great scene!

Moving, heartwrenching, inspiring or just plain and meeting people or people watching is the BEST.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The ugly side of Rome...

Graffiti! I hate it, really hate it. Lots of people will disagree, that's fine but I don't care...I hate graffiti. Unfortunately the bored "Art" world ever in search of edgy or odd things or the new bad boy (never a bad girl!) has raised this visual grundge to art with jerks like Banksy, who clearly learned how to manipulate the media because he just needs attention, and Shepard Fairy who is now even working in the studio making piles of money by mass producing his images, he's just making a product. Graffiti, in my opinion, is not art. It is, however, the visual equivalent of dogs pissing on lamp posts, building corners, mailboxes etc. to mark territory. And in Rome it is a gruesome visual blight. In many cases it is disastrous for the antiquities. I never understood why people do it, it's so stupid. Is it really all about wanting attention? In Rome it doesn't even come close to being art for those who want to call it such. It's mindless, repetitive scribbles over absolutely everything, cars, vespas, walls of every kind, stairs windows on and on. I was talking with a friend who has lived in Rome a great deal of his life and he said it's never been as bad as in the last 5 or so years. Plus he travels throughout Italy and is seeing it places that have never been defaced before. It doesn't seem like anyone even notices it, but it's not surprising because there is so much of it that it becomes one long visual sour note that just hums across your eyes. There are people in Rome trying hard to combat this but in one interview a graffiti person vowed they will never be defeated...what a dope. You want to be noticed? You want to write? Go write a book, play, music, paint, want to leave your "mark" on the world then do something REALLY creative because if you visually piss on everything you are not an artist.

One focus of my work is the gorgeous effects of time and weather on ancient walls. The colors change, moss grows, there are water stains and salts seep through all of which make for amazing natural art, then some butt head visually pisses on it. Makes me crazy!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Big doings at the Villa

Leaves on the Sycamores are fully changed to yellow ochres with touches of cadmium yellow light, burnt sienna and the trunks of the massive trees are mottled greys. Fall has clearly come to Rome. At the Villa the ever busy landscapers took away all the lemon & lime trees that line the edges of Villa Aurelia and in an incredible checkerboard pattern in front of the main entrance. Each tree carefully removed to the shed area and they still had so many lemons on them! I wanted to pick them all, I love lemons! Once they were all moved they began on replacing them with the very healthy Holly topiaries that line the path along the walk to my place. The checkerboard of lawn & pea stone in front of the main entrance now has little Holly trees on each green patch.

There is so much that goes on here and a big crew all lead by a fantastic guy Alphonso. He has an absolutely HUGE smile and it's immediate. The smile bursts across his face instantly and effortlessly almost as if he's going to break into an hysterical laugh I smile too in a knee jerk reaction, you can't help it when you see him. I defy anyone not to smile when they see him, it's not possible to hold it in. He doesn't speak any English but it doesn't matter he prattles on and somehow I understand or I don't care if I do...I just want to be in his presence, he sparkles.

The landscape crew seems to be huge I can't get a grasp on how many there actually are but each one has a job and they buzz away all day almost every day, but especially when there's a function and they work extra long hours. There's no 10 am break, no union, no leaving at 3 but they do get the healthy European lunch 2 or 3 hour which is most civilized. But when there is something going on at the Villa they come right back and work long hours. Last weekend was a fall music festival, concert on Friday night, all day Sunday event. Then they were shooting some TV or movie thing here most of the week. Next weekend is more's always something.

One of them brings their dog and we've become fast friends. When he sees me in the morning he bounds across the lawn while I brace myself for his forceful greeting...the dog smiles too! He's a lab mix, very big and strong and like so many Italian animals, not neutered so he doesn't understand gentle, it's all big play and I'm trying to find ways to establish "boundaries". Like any dog I've ever known if I just keep throwing the ball everyone's happy.

Then there's my own personal cleaning crew that comes in once a week. Two men and a woman, they mop, vacuum, dust, clean each room, change my linens, lights indoor and out if needed and EVEN vacuum my piazza, dust the eaves and railing! Amazing! All in about 10-15 minutes max then whoosh they are gone to the next place. I am going to be so spoiled they're going to have to drag me screaming from this place!

But the melancholy has set in now the nights are downright chilly, the lemon trees are gone, replaced by holly. Here's some pics of the crew changing out the trees & my canine buddy!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'm living in a dream and I don't want to wake up! Currently I'm in Rome as a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome and I've entered my second week here. I have hopes for this residency one of which is to focus on drawing, the very bones of art and I never spend enough time really drawing so that is a goal. However, as usual everything interests me and I'm painting whatever comes in from of my eyes. I spend a day painting and a day exploring and drawing. I am in Rome after all and there is a very great deal to see. This ancient city is all new and exciting to me and I love history. My god standing in the Parthenon or wandering the Roman Forum you can feel the history, it bubbles up through my feet and takes me over. But today I got to wondering if Italians ever get tired of all the antiquity, all the statues and giant fountains. Every street, every turn reveals new astonishing wonders for me but what is it like for a person who sees the Parthenon every day? I was weak in the knees when I saw it, do they feel that way after years or decade. After 2 weeks here I feel a bit worn out by all the chiesas (churches)! More than likely they are just so sick and tired of all the tourists! Clearly there are a lot of Italians who care deeply for their history or it would not be preserved. Yet every Italian I meet instantly knows I ain't from around here asks where I'm from and then go on about how much they love America, Boston plus the Celtics and Red Sox!

Usually when I go to a city first thing I do is seek out the art galleries and spend as much time in them as possible. Normally US cities architecture just bores the beejesus out of me, one more square bldg of glass and steel. So I seek solace in galleries & museums but in Rome I never ever thought about it until today when I saw a museum and I couldn't bear to go in…there's so much to see outside! Rome is a living museum! I went to the Vatican Museum and had NO idea it was so massive. I could spend days in there. All this history is our history too, a cultural genealogy of sorts and many lessons to be learned…I am walking through time and it's intoxicating. I'm grateful to all those who work so hard to save these Roman treasures, what a tragedy beyond words it would be to not have access to this!

Here are some paintings & drawings I've done so far that I like :) More to come later...enjoy!

Friday, October 29, 2010

In the bookstore...

It was a cold, damp day in New England - the perfect day for a bookstore and it was an interesting day! First I was looking for a book to take on my travels, of course I headed to Jane Austen but have read all hers so wandered over a couple rows to Bronte and picked up Villette. As I read the back of the book jacket it I thought about how books of that era seem to be mostly about class, money and overcoming great difficulties to survive and win in the end while books of our era are about wounded people and how to heal. Curious.

Like every month I go there when the new art magazine issues come out, get a cup of coffee and read thru them all. This month they were more interesting than usual and the focus in all seemed to be sculpture which I adore! Even tho I'm a painter I was trained as a sculptor and really love it but am happiest as a painter. However, Arp makes me swoon, so does Henry Moore and there's a great article about him Art in America, in that issue I also learned of a new (to me) sculptor Orly Genger and his work is awesome! Check out this link I won't post pics of his or other artists I mention because I don't have their permission so you will have to be curious and go looking. I also discovered and fell in love with the work of Oscar Tuazon ( and back to painters I love the new work from Pat Steir.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Do you get fries with that?

I get goosebumps & shivvers every time I say this but I received a Visiting Artist Residency at the esteemed American Academy of Art and the reactions from people when I tell them about it has been most interesting and in two distinct camps. First, all my art buddies and family are excited they get what this is all about. Second is a wide groups of friends & co-workers who always ask "well what do you get with that?" like it's a prize and I should walk away with an object, when I explain it they go blank. The gift of time to paint is not something people understand easily. We are all so pressed for time, plus it all must be done instantly due to our new instant electronic age and so on, a very insidious circle and a residency breaks out of that. A residency breaks all routines and the best ones are in another country which breaks all ties, even momentarily, to known comforts and bad habits. So my dearest friends, what do I get with this residency? I get the great gift of completely uninterrupted, unscheduled time to do what I want to do all day every day....paint. I get to immerse myself in another culture, see lots of things new for the first time, peel the fish scales off my eyes and see, really see, absorb - be a human sponge! Also important is that I hope to make new friends and contacts. Here's a question for you....artist or not....if you had one, two weeks or a month in front of you to do whatever you wanted (and don't say clean your place, change out winter to summer clothes...nothing to do with any kind of chore) what would you do with it?

The little paintings at the top are ditties I did to calm my travel nerves! Stay tuned as I will be posting from Rome soon...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Plein air adventures...

Late Spring of this year I took a Master Class with Stuart Shils at the Philadelphia Academy of Art, I'm such a huge fan of him and his work. It was a great experience that months later is finally having a positive effect on my own work. He gave a talk the first night that was simply fantastic the next day we hit the field to paint en plein air. First let me say the last time I was in Philadelphia was when I was about 5-7 years old so I didn't really remember that visit but I fell hard in love with that town on this trip. What a GREAT city and so pretty with tons of art around. Now I've been painting for a long time and have done all kinds of work but our first day out there and being a little intimidated it felt and looked like I'd never painted in my life. I'm not comfortable painting plein air but am drawn to it like a moth to bright lights - it's really about confidence. In my dream en plein air moment I go out to effortlessly whip up a masterpiece while dazed on-lookers ooo and awww frantically searching for their wallets and the bidding war begins - that is certainly not what happens. There are times when it's great and I love talking to people, there are times when people gush on about their Aunt who paints or how they paint and what they would do differently if they could get ahold of my brushes but my favorite is the kids, the best critics in the world! Once in a while someone comes by makes a brief comment then mostly just watches me and during the awkward silence I start blabbering about how it's really just a field sketch blah blah blah and inside my head I'm saying "what are you doing....shut up and paint."

During the Master Class I made work so stunningly bad that clearly I was possessed by an evil art demon who took away all my skill. At the end of the day looking at the paintings was an out of body experience as in who did that crap. My classmates, of course, were making awesome work which made it all the worse but Stuart was most kind and offered some really helpful comments. In fact, unless he reads this blog post he may never know how helpful. I came back from the Master Class determined to take plein air head on and have begun to see some real success, my favorite so far is posted above. It is only 6 x 8 inches and absolutely embodies the direction I want my work to go in. Exploring the entire process of painting outside has been fun...I've been trying different size canvases, mediums and exploring the city in a new way as I look for inspiration, finding the grittier parts of the city far more interesting than the well-manicured parks and pretty places. Of course one major aspect of all this fun is buying art supplies! I've got more plein air easels now than I care to disclose. My purpose is to streamline the gear as I don't have a car and have never liked lugging a ton of stuff around plus I want to streamline the work also. Meaning - get everything "said" loosely without a ton of detail, this seems to finally be happening so many months after I painted the worst things ever put on paper and I can still hear Stuart's great advice whispering in my thoughts. The other breakthrough for me regards scale. There is a saying I love but don't know who originally said this "If you can't make it good, make it big, if you can't make it big, make it red." I have always been freaked out by small painting but am finding it helps keep me way from endless detail and more focused on my ultimate goal of keeping things loose. It's all one big challenge and that's what I love the best. My larger work has begun to show the benefits of being outside and certainly my overall painting mood has improved greatly. There is a correlation, at least for me, about being stuck in the studio and being stuck in my work.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

This painting is called "The Gulf" it is 46" x 76", oil on canvas. As you will no doubt see it is based on Picasso's Guernica. The second day of the spill I was watching the horror of the oil spill on TV and during commercials looked through an art magazine when I saw Guernica. The whole idea gelled instantly - one horror begets another. The next few weeks were spent drawing out sections of it, filling sketchbooks with ideas, printing out pictures from the Gulf for research, one photo in particular showed a young mother, holding one baby and the hand of her other young boy. She looked so sad, so worn out and far too young for that, she broke my heart. Everything about her reminded me of the woman holding the baby in Picasso's painting. So she became my role model for Mother Nature on the left hand side. Once I filled sketchbooks with expressions and interpretations of wildlife I made a life-sized drawing to see how it all fit. I wanted to make it the same size as Guernica but do not have a studio wall large enough.

I join the many who are utterly distraught over the tragedy happening in the Gulf and to the people who died because of the rig explosion, to all who live and work from the Sea, especially to all the fragile sea life and ecosystems that have been destroyed because of this inexcusable negligence. I am fiercely passionate about and protective of nature. It inspires all the work I do. We live in the Garden of Eden but utterly disrespect it and trash it daily. I cannot find the right word to describe my anger and disgust over this tragedy and the countless other ones that take place around the world because of corporate greed. I cannot get time off from my part time job to go clean the coast, help the wildlife or even hand out information or water to those who are helping. So I did what I love & know how to do best…put it all in a painting, my art is normally inspired by the beauty of nature, this painting is inspired by the stupidity and greed of man.

My hope for this painting is to find a very public way of auctioning it off with ALL the money (minus the shipping…unless I can get that donated) going to some really deserving place in the Gulf, maybe to the families who lost loved ones in the rig blast, maybe to some single mother who tries to make her living by the sea and now cannot, maybe to some school art program that is desperate for funds. I'd love to give to some wildlife organization but only if it helps the animals. I'd really love to get enough from auctioning this off to help all those and more. I do not ever give money to big organizations because it only goes into some CEO's pocket. I've put this all out there to a number of places and hope something will happen. It's all I can think of to do….

Update today 10/14/12 - I contacted tons of people, even Ellen Degeneres, never heard back from anyone.  The problem with the Gulf continues, just recently oil was still showing up and was in the news.  It still makes me mad.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Art & Money #2 brief musings…

Just some brief thoughts on the topic. I've worked two or three jobs my whole life, my job as an artist and then the other things I had to do to survive. I only ever want to work one…artist. Currently I work in the corporate world but don't get excited I'm part time and don't even make in a week what the lawyers carry in their pockets! Every once in a while it amuses me to wonder what it would be like if the world was reversed. What if we really did value art & artists? What if as you grew up you were expected and pushed to be an artist of some sort…painter, sculptor, writer, dancer, woodcarver, actor and so forth. But what you really deeply wanted was to be a lawyer, banker or realtor and somehow you had to cram the job you desire into your day? Ah the economics of it all…artists would be making 6 figure incomes and bankers barely anything. I would certainly love to see it all reversed. This would be a much better world if driven by creativity rather than greed.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Back to Italy...

Finally some good landscape paintings are coming out of my trip (last year!) to Italy. I had been having a lot of trouble with these and one painting (Terrevecchia) I did 3-4 times and it just got worse and worse. I was tightening up something fierce, so the Master Class in Philly really helped get me unstuck with oil painting and the bad habits I was forming. I'm extremely pleased with the looseness and brush work in these paintings and look forward to continuing with this and most of all desperate to get back to Italy!

Still lifes!

And now for some new Still Lifes (and no it's not Still Lives, altho that would make an interesting body of work!). I honestly can't remember the last time I did still life painting, one of the reasons for not doing them is while enjoy other still life paintings I just don't want to do the usual subjects. That being said it I want a still life that is an accidental combination of objects and have been keeping a close eye on my kitchen counter. And as you will see other things caught my eye...stay tuned more coming!