Monday, January 8, 2007

Eudora Welty Photographs

Wow, what a day yesteray was! Met new friends, had new experiences, saw new (old) artwork. Which of course is what this little commentary is all about, right? A couple of friends and I went to the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville, AR. to see a traveling production of Mel Brooks', "The Producers." It was my first time to see a performance in the Walton and I wasn't disappointed. Overall, it was an outstanding show. There were a couple of times in the second act when the show lost momentum but for the most part it was a romping riot. The best voice in the show was definitely the little guy who sang the role of Leo Bloom.

I was pleased to see that there is a small art gallery housed in the Walton. The current exhibit is a collection of photographs taken by the well-known southern author, Eudora Welty. These photos were taken in Welty's native Mississippi during the heart of the Great Depression just prior to World War II. The subjects were primarily derelict looking homeplaces, old homesteads and farms. Several of the photos focused on the impoverished blacks of the era. I was pleased that the works didn't focus on the poverty of the people but instead showed them in their places of worship and baptisms. It showed their wealth of the spirit, not the poverty of their materialistic possessions. Having lived briefly in the wretched world of Mississippi, I could identify with some of the pictures. One of the photos was even taken on the Pearl River which ran through the city I lived in there. It was a bittersweet exhibit. Anyone with a rural upbringing would find the images familiar regardless of their race, color, or prosperity level.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Daedalus by Randall Good

This is Daedalus mourning the death of his son, Icarus (see previous post). This is the second watercolor I acquired from Randall Good's mythology series. I feel very fortunate to have it because it complements the Icarus work so well. Anyone who knows this myth should be struck by the tragedy of this story. To understand the anguish here, one must understand what has just occurred. Daedalus has managed to reach ground safely, however his son has not. I think Randall has expressed this tragedy/victory most effectively in the compositional elements of this piece. While the figure's body language very clearly reflects the sorrow this father feels, the upstretched wing expresses his victory in making a successful escape. I'm glad Randall used this element. The upstretched wing would have been a familiar symbol to the Greeks. It meant victory, as seen in the Athena Nike (or Athena of Samothrace). A life-size Athena Nike stood in the palm of the colossal Zeus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. We see it today on the tops of athletic trophies, as well as a stylized wing striping the side of Nike sneakers. This is also a watercolor study for a much larger work. In that piece, Randall juxtaposes an intense solar disk being bisected by the point of the upstretched wing. The counterpoint of the organic figure combined with the precise geometry of the sun's circle adds a poignant dimension to that work. Please visit the Blue Moon Art Gallery to see it. Their link is posted in my sidebar.

Icarus by Randall Good

I love beautiful artwork. I wish I could create it. But, try as I might I'm nowhere near the level of the serious professionals out there. So, since I can't paint it, I occasionally buy it. This is a piece from my very modest collection of work by the incredible artist, Randall Good, represented by Blue Moon Art Gallery in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The folks at Blue Moon are wonderful. More about them later.
This is Icarus. We all know his story. If you don't, please go back to seventh grade because you really should freshen up on your knowledge of mythology. It's part of our cultural heritage, don't ya know? This painting shows Icarus with his wings made of wax ascending to the sky just before he flies too close to the sun and then plummets to his sad fate.
This painting is a watercolor study for a much larger and more sophisticated oil that is absolutely luminous. Oh, that I could win a lottery, it would be mine. This work is one of two watercolors I acquired. The other watercolor is Daedalus, father of Icarus. I'll share it later. This work truly speaks to me. I love the upward thrust of Icarus' head as he defiantly stretches for the unattainable goal of the sun. In Randall's notes on the finished oil he talks about the warning to Icarus to not fly too high or too low. That is such a wonderful summation of the Apollonian philosophy of the ancient Greeks, "All things in moderation." What a great lesson for us even in the 21st century.

Thank You, President Ford

I've warned most of the readers that this blog may occasionally turn political. Today is the first time. But, this will be a gentle political commentary. President Ford is one of the first presidents I can remember. I remember the TV news sounding very scary in my earliest memories of Nixon. But, Gerry Ford always seemed like a nice, friendly guy when he would talk on TV. I also remember during this time the TV showed lots of soldiers getting off of planes and hugging there families. I remember watching my Mom watch the TV and cry. I know now that it was men returning from a war that few in the country wanted. I'm sure her tears were tears of relief.

I've greatly respected the way the President's funeral was conducted. While we have become accustomed to wealthy power brokers as President, we've been reminded by President Ford how a very modest citizen can rise to leadership with a life of hard work and remarkable character. I almost wept when hearing Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" being played as part of the ceremonies. How appropriate, I thought. This man who was abandoned as a child by his father, rose to leadership by attending public school, succeeding in athletics and finally being scholarshiped into college. If a man of such humble beginnings can overcome such a modest beginning, anyone can.

I have also grown to respect the stoic dignity of Betty Ford. What a burden it must be for a First Lady to allow such a multitude of strangers to intrude on this very personal moment. I was so impressed when her strong, All-American looking son Stephen wept openly on the steps of Congress while the frail and fragile former First Lady stood gazing at the President's casket with a focused gaze of resolve. Wow, what a woman it takes to endure this for our country.

The final thing I want to take away from this great man are two simple anecdotes. Its apparent what his sportsmanship and athleticism added to his political career. It was so evident in his character as a team player and leader. While in office he said that he had "many political adversaries but no political enemies." I wish we all would see our opponents as someone to be negotiated with instead of fought with. I wish our current government leaders would take this attitude. The other story was about his dog that had relieved himself in the White House. When the secret service man started to clean up the mess the President stopped him saying, "No man should have to clean up after another man's dog." Wow! So many people in our country are missing that type of personal responsibility and accountability. I hope we will all learn by Gerald Ford's example.

Thank You, Mr. President.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Gridiron Warrior

Its about time to get down to the real business of this website, my artwork. Here is the first piece I would like to share with you. I've called it The Gridiron Warrior. Now I'm still learning my technique, but the bizarre thing about this piece is that it was one of my first figure paintings and it has really been my most successful. What's not visible in this photo is the beautiful luminous, translucence of the skin due to the layers of glazing I used. This work took me a long time to create. But this figure was so beautiful I couldn't stop working with it. Every time I passed the easel I'd see a highlight to be added or a hint of ruddiness to add to his skin. I'd deepen a shadow or soften an edge. But, because I'm not God and I couldn't ultimately create a man real enough to step off the page I finally said "enough" and stopped working on it. In the words of one of my great inspirations from the Renaissance, "a painting is never finished, only abandoned" (Leonardo Da Vinci). I hope you enjoy it and hope to hear any critique or compliments (yes, I'm fishing for one) you may have.