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Weird works

Goya passes this test

But was Goya himself weird enough?

You may not think I’m weird, and I may live in a suburb and tend a garden, but talk to people who know me, all right? I am. I really am! This Atlantic: article points out that this would be a good thing, in marketing terms, even though studied weirdness when it comes to the art world doesn’t appear to be in short supply:

Our brains associate eccentricity and creativity in musicians, painters, writers, and other artists—as long as weirdness doesn’t feel like a gimmick. Once we form a stereotype of the erratic artist, we may see those who fit the stereotype more snugly as being better artists.


Even if you decide to scheme up a whole crazy artist persona, it’s likely that at least some people won’t see through the plot and will grant you greater regard. So don that outfit of veal or vomit—assuming you’re doing something edgy with your work. If, however, you’re hoping to make it big in still life, it’s probably better to keep the food on the table.


It’s alive



starry nightVisual art attempts to go places that words and thought can’t reach. I couldn’t help but think of Blake, Van Gogh and Burchfield–and the “everliving fire” of Heraclitus, for that matter–while reading this skeptical atheist scientist’s account in the New York Times of when the whole world seemed to be come alive around her. It was a harrowing experience that she now can’t find words to describe and was consistent with mystical experience described in most cultures. Her rediscovery of this experience many years later in her journal enabled her to reach “a truce with God”:

Fortunately, science itself has been changing. It was simply overwhelmed by the empirical evidence, starting with quantum mechanics and the realization that even the most austere vacuum is a happening place, bursting with possibility and giving birth to bits of something, even if they’re only fleeting particles of matter and antimatter. Without invoking anything supernatural, we may be ready to acknowledge that we are not, after all, alone in the universe . . . it could be that the universe is itself pulsing with a kind of life, and capable of bursting into something that looks to us momentarily like the flame.

Upcoming shows

Human Skull circa 1930, oil on linen

Human Skull, circa 1930, oil on linen

My work will be featured in a number of shows this spring and summer. It was a bit of good news just in time to pick up my mood this morning that I’ll have a painting in the 29th Tallahassee International at Florida State University. I’m honored to be among some impressive company.  I’d like to know more about Cynthia Mason’s work, for example. Here are some shows on schedule so far:

SOUTHWORKS, Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation, April 11 – May 9.

PROVERBS AND COMMONPLACES, Oxford Gallery, May 3-June 14.

POLARITIES, Still Lifes and Other Oppositions, solo exhibition, Viridian Artists, June 10-June 28. Reception: June 12, 6-8pm.

29th TALLAHASSEE INTERNATIONAL, Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts, Aug. 25 to Oct. 5.

INTERNATIONAL PAINTING ANNUAL 4 Exhibition in Print, Manifest.

I hope to get into a couple more, but if I don’t, I can’t promise that I’ll keep you informed about it.



Gallery mortality alert

Nicole Klagsbrun, who closed her Chelsea gallery last year

Nicole Klagsbrun, who closed her Chelsea gallery last year /Photo: Christopher Burke

Long  directories of open galleries and the recent overview of the gallery scene in the New York Times to the contrary, your trusty sentinel will continue to conduct his ongoing gallery death watch. Many seem to believe lately that all we’ll have in the future are buyers with jet lag from art fair hopping or carpel tunnel from Web surfing, followed by the writing and mailing of checks. The Internet has been good to me, in that regard, now and then, and may bring buyers in the future, thanks primarily to Art Brokerage, but a solo show in a gallery is for me the equivalent, in music, of a great album, as opposed to a single. Where are the White Albums, the One Man Dogs, the Evil Empires of our day? Well, actually, some bands, like Spoon, do produce integrated sets of music on LP. Gimme Fiction, for example. Fox Confessor Bring the Flood, which is all of a piece, from Neko Case. The album as a coherent unit of creative effort survives. And great solo shows, like Susie MacMurray’s at Danese, are still happening. I’d hate to lose them. The best shows are greater than the sum of their parts. The museums we will have always with us, anyway, right? But the loss of galleries is just another loss of Main Street mom-and-pop commerce in favor of the big box warehouse. This article tries to finger the culprits, but it’s pretty much everything: our top-heavy ancien regime income distribution (that wouldn’t be a pejorative historical reference if the super rich woke up to what’s needed), the Internet, the art fair, and, I think, the way art has tended since, well, Manet, addressing itself to a more and more exclusive, insular audience. Art is itself part of the problem when it’s a cerebral, clever, recherche exercise addressed to a tiny coterie of initiates and forgets that mysterious beauty is Job One.

From the piece by Anthony Haden-Guest: “One truism is that the market now governs the art business as never before and that the market is subject to the 99/1 effect, as most markets seem to be these days. What I mean by this is that there is generally one percent of winners in a market and then there is everybody else.”


Sue McNally

Spring Eclipse after Burchfield, Sue McNally, oil on canvas

Spring Eclipse after Burchfield, Sue McNally, oil on canvas

Wonderful painting. Instantly recognizable as a “cover version “–in musical terms–of Burchfield’s painting, and yet it stands on its own perfectly, and is clearly the work of this artist, Sue McNally. A great example of how creative work can draw deeply from earlier art, without “commenting” on it in a postmodern way, but simply by absorbing what was most powerful in the past and extending, deepening it, personalizing it.

Everything must go. Maybe.

Bruegel's Wedding Dance, detail

Bruegel’s Wedding Dance, detail

In a recent story in the New York Times about Detroit’s dilemma, whether to sell its art collection to pay its debts in bankruptcy, Robert Frank suggests that the art market ought to be seeking out lesser-known work by emerging artists rather than bidding up the value of “masterpieces” in turf battles for trophies. Yet what the article emphasized for me was how dismal it is, indeed, to reduce a work of art to its economic role in the world, as if its price is an accurate way to express its value in the lives of those who make or encounter it. “Yes, communities benefit from famous paintings, but they also benefit from safer roads and better schools.” Oh well. On a completely different note, apparently, if Detroit decided to hold its garage sale, I might actually be able to own Bruegel’s Wedding Dance for $200 million? That would be the highest price ever paid for a painting, but somehow it sounds like a bargain in a world where you add a trillion here and a trillion there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money. From the article, whose opening summarizes the plight of talented artists working in the “long tail” of the market everywhere:

Yet the point remains that prices affect the options we face. Relative to famous art, lesser-known works have become much cheaper in recent years, despite no evidence of any decline in their quality. In a rational world, this change would encourage curators to invest more heavily in emerging artists.

Many of these artists produce works that are deeply affecting, yet surprisingly affordable. Talented curators could assemble collections of their art that would delight visitors and draw fulsome praise from critics. And as those works became better known, their value would climb rapidly.

Ownership by public or nonprofit institutions is also not a prerequisite for public exhibition of prized art. The superrich pay so much for these works largely because they are already so famous. Yet being chosen for prominent display in public spaces was how many of these works became famous in the first place. If fewer museums owned them, the rich would have good reason to lend them more often for public display, as indeed many already do, thus preserving and enhancing their value. If sold, many of the institute’s famous works would return as loaners, along with such works from other collections.

If billionaires choose to bid up the prices of trophy art, that’s their privilege. And because most of them will die with large fortunes unspent, they can buy what they want without having to buy less of other things they value. But because money for worthy public purposes is chronically in short supply, city officials and true philanthropists must grapple with agonizing trade-offs.

Yes, communities benefit from famous paintings, but they also benefit from safer roads and better schools.

One-Day Summer Workshops

One-day workshops are being scheduled for this summer.  These three-hour workshops are a wonderful way to explore writing with Writers’ Room Workshops and the Amherst Writers and Artists method.  Afternoon workshops are only $25.

Summer Workshops:

Sunday, June 1 ~ 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 pm at the Medford Library

Sunday, August 3 ~ 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 pm at the Medford Library


To register, visit Register for a Workshop or email writersroomworkshopsatgmaildotcom.


Galleries galore

wolfsonReports on the death of the art gallery, as an institution–as opposed to the air fair–may be premature, though I do see a lot of struggle. I got a going-out-of-business flyer yesterday from what has traditionally been the most commercially successful, if less discriminating, galleries here in Rochester. It was advertising a 75% off sale. For art. It has been going out of business, it seems, for well over a year now. I wonder if that could simply be an ongoing stance that works as a business model. Going out of business, but never quite gone.

On the more hopeful side, the New York Times published, a few days ago, a collection of pieces celebrating how New York City remains the center of the art gallery world, even if it hasn’t remained the center of art world as a whole: which the article points out has spread to Berlin, London, and other parts of the globe. I intend to read through this survey of the gallery scene in detail, before my next visit to Manhattan in a couple weeks. I know my haunts in Chelsea, but it would be fun to venture elsewhere. My favorite line from the bunch, from Holland Cotter about the current show at Zwirner: “Mr. Wolfson himself appears in mock-punk drag, as if to finesse illusions about art’s connection to some mythically resistant underground.” Resistance is just a pose, earthling, especially if you’re represented by the new power in art commerce. It would appear that the last of the underground would appear to be leaving New York shortly: Clayton Patterson.

Postal windfall

world's endFrom a friend, who lives in a town in Tennessee and sends me links I often comment on here and who acts as voluntary (Tennessee is the volunteer state) copy-editor for this blog.

Walt: Got a package in the mail containing a letter from the Post Office. “The enclosed material was discovered loose in the mail and has apparently become separated from its packaging. If you feel the entire contents has not been recovered…  Please accept my sincere apologies… The loss of or damage to any piece of mail is as disappointing to us as it is to our customers…  Signed, Supervisor, Undeliverable Mails.” In the package, a hardcover book: “World’s End” by T. Coraghessan Boyle. If it was “loose in the mail…separated from its packaging”, how did they figure out it was meant for me?  Anyway I didn’t order it, so how did they figure out it was meant for me, which it wasn’t?

Dave: Apparently, you have been identified as the only person in town about whom it’s considered remotely possible you would be reading him.

Walt: Hey, Frank, it says, “In rich and sensuous prose, studded like a mace with knobs of black humour, Boyle invokes the colonial past … Not since Thomas Pynchon has any fresh American writer so cunningly lit the fuses of history so that they detonate in time recently past.” Well hell, send it to that Thomas guy over on Tyler, who else?

Dave: You, yourself, are studded like a mace with knobs of black humor, so . . . good detective work.

At Winter’s End


At winter's end

light plays on my worktable.



 Treasures are rediscovered

and new projects are revealed.



During this inbetween time

The magestic seems

even more magestic,



As glass windows reflect

the rebirth of life.





Art is a red wall,

a bench,

an orange blanket.



Art hangs from the ceilings.



And is right there,

under your feet.



 Sweet memories are made,

new andventures are had,



Walking and exploring

the streets of Portland

with my daughter.




Color and black and white

are equally beautiful. 


  IMG_9555 - Version 2





My Art Journaling class began this week 

at Oregon Institution of Technology

where I am an Adjunct Professor. 

I am just loving this college and my students!



Ideas flow from my worktable

to share at the workshop that



I taught at the Woodburn Art Center

just south of Portland last week. 

You can see the wonderful photographs 

of this

Mixed Media Art Journaling workshop


And read about it on this blog!



At home art works were prepared to hang.



at the Illahee Gallery

Invitational Book Arts Show

for the month of April.

The opening is Friday, April 4th 

and I would love to see you there!







I have two workshops coming up, 

The first,

The Art That Binds Us Together is 

on Saturday, April 12.

And the second is Sunday,April 27

at A Work Of Heart

in San Jose, California.

There are just a few spots left at both workshops! 

I also will get to spend time

 creating and planning

with this amazing artist.



A winter's end

I am ready for spring…



For new challenges,

new dreams to come true

and to always see the world

with fresh eyes.