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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man
By Grier Horner
January 29, 2016
From Hillside Cemetery in North Adams yesterday afternoon I watched the wind turbins bathed in white spin their electric song. And if I turned my camera down from that eastern ridge, I could see a little temple for the dead, where if the author William Kennedy was right, the occupants could see me and speculate about me, the lone upright person in this beautiful burial ground.
The colorful west wall of the Cascade paper plant would also give them something to talk about, although by now they are used to it, as they are used to the silhouette of the section below where I stood in the cold wind. (Which is a much better place to be than the cold ground.
And to the southeast of my location is the long hill rising to the woods, it's slopes made suitable for graves by terracing - the rice patty of the departed.
Before my stop up the steep cemetery road, I had been struggling to grasp some of the tricky advanced aspects of Photoshop during my weekly lesson with Julian Grey. She's a fine teacher but at times I think the adage "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" has more truth in it than I would like to believe.
Back home I had a snack, bundled up and listened to Babbie joke about how long it took me to get ready for a walk. I walked up the road leading to what had been the Ponterril swimming pool and playing fields. The trees at the top were golden in the late sunlight.
This stump not far from where the pool had been is a reminder to the double row of high white pines that bathers used to park beneath. The hedgerows at Ponterril have been felled to make way for a solar farm. The cutting was a little hard to take, but on the positive side it opened up spectacular views of the mountains west of the lake. (This shot was taken in November.)
As the rosey hue left the clouds, the forest at the edge of the property darkened. I would not like to spend the night in there.
January 9, 2016
Photos by Grier Horner
This a self portrait by Michael Rousseau is in a show that opened last night at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts in Pittsfield. It blew me away in its virtuosity and drama. The painting is called Decorating the Holes Left in Life. I think Michael, who lives in Pittsfield, is bound for the big time. I mean look at the drape of the suit, the hand in the pocket, the expression on the face, the shoes, the shirt. It is all so there, so real. You could swear ... hmmm, let's see ... I don't know. I'm letting myself get carried away. But you could swear he is a painter who is superbly in control of the paint.
Here he is talking last night with Nicole Rizzo, the director of Gypsy Layne Burlesque. She and some of her troupe were to perform at the show, but I, who can no longer drive at night, had to leave before they went on. Like all the artists in this show, Nicole has a studio at the Lichtenstein.
Vermeer is among the classic artists who have done paintings of young women reading letters, but here Rousseau brings the subject up to date. In his version of "The Letter" the girl reads it on her smart phone, which provides the dramatic lighting called chiaroscuro that Rousseau often employs in his take on paintings by artists like Carvaggio. While beautifully done, they aren't my favorites. Generally. But the one below, which isn't in the show, splits the difference between the classic and contemporary and I like it a great deal.
I've been leaving out the other artists in the current Lichtenstein show. Let's get to them.
Here's a painting I think is very good. And the more I look at it, the more I like it. It's a 24" x 48" oil by Julio Granda called Berkshire Landscape/Incoming. The house on the left is inset into the painting and gives the piece its name.
Julio came to the reception just as I was leaving. So I didn't have a chance to
ask him about it. But I view it as a protest about the county's landscape - a richly painted forest in this case - being cut into by the construction of second homes, hotels and other urban structures.
Julio also showed these fascinating pieces above. The one on the right looks like road kill along the striped yellow line. I have to apologize for not even getting the titles because I was in such a rush to meet my curfew.
This painting of a sailor's battle to survive what I assume was a shipwreck is by Peg Dotchin. You can feel his exhaustion as he takes one last pulls on the oars to bring him to land.
Speaking of Peg, here she is, back to the camera, talking with Jade Roy, who would be performing later with Gypsy Lane.
These are drawings by Sean McCusker. They are done with a silver pen on paper and feature the small figures he has been using as stand-ins for people for years. In these they peer at the moon and the vastness of space in isolation.
Sean gets three-dimensional depths to his surfaces by applying multiple layers of lines.
Here are two of Mario Calouri's powerful tree paintings: Hello, Georgia, above, and Aneular Limbs, below. If a parachuter was unfortunate enough to land on one of them, he'd be done for.
Nicole Rizzo's Gypsy Layne displayed this poster for an upcoming performance at Hotel on North. Providing background music last night was Kaylene Lemme, below, who has a lovely voice.
I left out one or two of the artists who work in the studios above this handsome, city-owned gallery. It wasn't on purpose. It was because I was in too much of a rush.
You can take in the exhibit at the Lichtenstein, located at 28 Renne Avenue in Pittsfield’s “Upstreet Cultural District,” from 11 to 4 on Wednesdays through Saturdays. For more information call 413-499-9348.
December 11, 2015
Let me introduce you to the Madonna of the Swamp, my latest creation in the Swamp series. I took pictures of her years ago at the Man of Kent, a pub in Hoosick Falls, New York. She worked there, but hasn't in a long time. I can't even remember her name - although I wish I did. I'd like to engage her as a model again. I have also done two paintings of her. If my Man of Kent buddy Bill Scanlan were still alive he'd remember. (When I get around to it, I have to open up the area between her left arm and side and complete her halo.)
These girls, who I did about a dozen paintings of 15 years ago, make a new appearance in my work in "In the Forests of the Night." The paintings were exhibited at a solo show at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
In this picture, Swamp Nymph, Trisha Leydet is the model. I have a little more work to do on the Photoshopped picture. But the color of her hair echoes the color of the Swamp so beautifully, I couldn't resist posting it.
Katherine Gundelfinger and I went out into the wetlands for a photo shoot the other day, equipped with plastic sheeting, two blankets, a bag of goodies and my Nikon. Among the many shots we got was this one, "The Awakening."
My granddaughter, Riley Nichols, one of the three captains of the 2016 Pittsfield High volleyball team, is the model in this restaging of the Ophelia trajedy in Hamlet. This is one of two of my Swamp pieces that has been shown so far. It appeared, all 100 inches of it, at my Retrospective at the Lictenstein Center for the Arts in Pittsfield.
This is the second and it is currently on view at St. Francis Gallery in South Lee. The gallery, open from 10 to 5 on Fridays through Mondays, will be closing for the winter on December 22. The woman in the shot is Linda Baker-cimini, a frequent subject in my paintings and photographs.
Abbie Callaghan, who trains horses to jump barriers and competes successfully on her own horse, is the model for The Dryad. As you probably know, dryads are nymphs who live in trees. Below is a detail from the shot.
Holding back the advance of the phragmites is another swamp nymph. The model is Nicole Rizzo, director of the Gypsy Layne burlesque troupe.
Using Photoshop, I sunk another photo of Nicole in the waters of the Swamp. I hope she will forgive me.
Because my artist friends say putting a woman wearing makeup and a cat suit in the series is a mistake because a glamor girl doesn't belong, I probably won't include her pictures when I send the series to museums and galleries for consideration. I am nevertheless loyal to Abbie Callaghan who I cast as Circe. As a magician and sword weilding temptress, she is welcome in my Swamp. The shot above has gone through several transformations. First Abbie had a wine glass in her hand, as she does below. Then a royal sceptre. But recently I substituted the sword. The riding crop in her left hand has remained a constant. If you see her in the Swamp, you might want to avoid getting too close. Circe has been known to turn men into swine and other animals. Below she's all business, offering the magic potion to a hapless male lost in her domain.
"Hey, listen. I warned you. Don't. Don't accept that goblet."
Not unless you aspire to be one of the Beasts of the Northern Wild.
November 9, 2015
Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved
Driving along Route 102 in South Lee, it's hard to miss the St. Francis Gallery with its poison-green mannequin reclining precariously on the curbside sign for this cornucopia of things artistic.
The piece I found most impressive was the powerful portrait above by Jim Singelis, whose work is frequently on display at St. Francis. Owned and operated by Phil Pryjma, a retired psychiatrist, money from the gallery goes into Phil's non-government organization, Sawa Sawa, dedicated to doing good work in Kenya.
St. Francis is not your Manhattan-style, white-box gallery taking a minimalist approach to displaying art. Phil has a maximalist style. Paintings and art objects are on the walls and partitions, of course, but also stand on the floor, benches, chests, chairs, the balcony, the sanctuary. Prices at St. Francis range from $20 for a beautifully drawn humorous print by Linda Baker-cimini to about $20,000 for a amazing, self-portrait by Casey Krawczyk that was sold last year.
That's Phil talking with Mary Carol Rudin, one of the artists in the current show - The Magic of Light and Small Miracles which will be up until December 22, with a public reception from 3 to 6 on Saturday, November 12. Much of the work in the gallery is mounted on partitions. Phil has rolled two of them together so that three portraits by Singelis and a horse and rider by Harriette Joffe are front and center when you enter. Sparkling overhead is a sculpture by Phil, who is also an artist, made from plastic water bottles cut into strips.
This cutout painting of Norman Mailer by the late Mia LeComte, a grande dame of Great Barrington, was the outgrowth of an encounter with him on Main Street during a snowstorm. She approached him and invited him to tea at her house. Mailer walked away without saying a word, Phil says. That explains the dark mood of the piece. (Phil added the jaunty scarf.)
Mia LeComte's son Douglas has given the painting to the writer's daughter, Maggie, who is a well-known local artist. Phil says Maggie was surprised by the reported put-down on Main Street because her father was so gregarious. She chalked up his reaction to his wanting to get out of the falling snow.
Other cutouts by LeComte at the gallery include Anne Boleyn, up on the balcony where the figure in the stained glass window gives her a long look, and Jack Benny, who often fiddles on the sidewalk outside the gallery. The stained glass piece beyond the comedian is by Debora Coombs Criddle.
Here we have David A. Lang's dragster, firing on all seven cylinders and titled I Could'a Had A V8. The pistons are tomato juice cans instead of, you guessed it, V8 juice. Batteries drive the pistons up and down, give the spark plugs a spark and emit yellow light from the unmuffled pipes.
St. Francis Gallery mixes both the sacred and the profane. Witness the stained glass windows, the fine religious painting by Michael Rousseau, and the mannequin from Frederick's of Hollywood. She is owned by Kim Engle, a sculptor in the show, as is the green one at the top of this post.
With all the stained glass windows, the walls and the art on them see lots of light play. Do you see the heart?
And here's one of those windows next to Ivor Parry's impossing landscape.
To help with your ascent to heaven, Phil has installed a version of Jacob's Ladder behind a four-panel screen by Mary Carol Rudin, whose moonlit cloudscape, below, caught my eye.
Whoops, I almost forgot to put in my own piece.
This print is 50" x 93" and is a late entry due to my confusion about the starting date for the show. While everything else has been hung, I just took this Massive Graphics to be printed on Friday. Scott Johnston, who runs that operation, tells me it will be ready to hang on Friday. So with any luck it will be up for the reception on Saturday. The photo is the latest in my continuing Swamp series.
St. Francis Gallery is open from 10 to 5 Fridays through Mondays.
October 10, 2015
We've got a Prius, and her name is Sal,
The trip coming back from Buffalo with me, Babbie and Lee Ann aboard was good to Syracuse, where we let Lee Ann off. It was cloudy and the Thruway was wet but the rain was always ahead of us. Fog increased east of her exit. (see the pictures above and below). Then we caught up with the rain and it was a deluge. Between the rain, the mist thrown by the trucks and the fog, Babbie, who was driving, couldn't see much. The photo that leads this post shows how bad it was.
I don't worry when Babbie's at the wheel. She's a good driver in any weather. I had time to try to capture beauty of the moment with my camera. The red of this pickup on the auto transporter was a beacon in the storm and the folliage seen through the hauler's framework looked like a painting.
Above is the passenger side window and below the windshield on the same side. Obviously I didn't need my sunglasses.
These shots were taken before the hard rain fell.
We had been in East Aurora near Buffalo to celebrate the 76th annual Clique Reunion. Pardon me girls for exaggerating the number. Babbie, Lee Ann, Irene and Peggy were all great friends at Washington Irving High in Tarrytown, New York, and the group has expanded to take in their spouses. It has been held in East Aurora for the last few years because Irene's husband, Roger, isn't very mobile these days.
So Irene and Roger were the hosts. And the girls - if I may call them that - had a nostalgic time and Roger, Don and I had a fine time, too. A sad note: Dale, Lee Ann's husband, is no longer with us, a fact that makes us all aware that for the Classes of 1953 and 1954, time is closing in.
September 11, 2015
Circe, the sorceress whose allure kept Odysses on her island for a year, is the latest addition to my Swamp Series. With Abbie Callaghan, a former New York model, taking the role of Circe, the Swamp's temptation potential has grown exponentially.
Exponentially? Sounds important but I better look it up. "...becoming more and more rapid." Big word but it fits.
In the top photo she is extending the glass of magic potion to Ulysses. With this liquid and her riding crop, Circe has the power to cloud men's minds and turn them into horses. Actually she had the power to cloud men's minds without magic.
In Homer's "The Odyssey" Ulysses escapes being turned into an animal. But in my Swamp, Circe transforms him into a horse until he agrees be her lover for a year.
The horse below is Abbie's, the prize winning Drifter (shown above and below) who she campaigns in horse shows. The action shot taken at an August event is not mine but I can't credit the photographer because I don't know his name. Abbie also trains other women's horses to jump. If you remember Christopher Reeves' devestating injury, you know this sport isn't for the faint of heart.
To get to the picture I'm going to have converted into a 50" x 78" print - the one at the top of this post - I took hundreds of shots of Abbbie with the glass extended. Above is just one of those. Below are two more.
My inspiration for introducing Circe into the Swamp was a 19th century painting by John William Waterhouse, one of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. If you look closely you can see one of the men she has transformed into a hog. He is lying at her feet and Odysses is reflected in the mirror.
Herea a closeup of Abbie.
Here she rides one of Ulysses' men and leads another. Both have suffered the indignity of becoming mere ponies.
What's Circe doing in the Swamp. Well I would guess that after she let Ulysses leave her island, Aiaia, some of the Greek gods turned against her and banished her to an island in the Swamp, where she and the young women who have gravitated to her live, not in a palace, but in a hay barn.
On Aiaia, shipwrecked sailors unfortunate enough to wash up on her shores were transformed into wild animals. In my vast Swamp if some poor guy ends up at her place, his goose is cooked - sometimes literally: rumor has it that she sometimes barbecues her shapeshifted men and serves them for supper.
I've wandered the Swamp a lot but while I've run across some of the young women with her, I have never found the island where they live or learned much about their lives there. I do know that they are careful not to be followed and that they take steps like posting skulls to keep you out. Here is a skull I spotted deep in the Swamp. It's a pretty effective deterrent.
The Swamp itself conspires to keep you out. There are trails into it, if you can find them, but I've followed them and they don't lead to the island. And when I venture off trail I get stopped by the muck, sinking in to my knees and having a hell of a time freeing myself, all the time realizing that my next step could be my last. Geologists say the muck is 40 feet deep in places. I would not like to wander into one of those spots.
August 10, 2015
This is part of the large, high-ceilinged basement in the Rudd Art Museum (RAM) in North Adams, a former church that Rudd has turned into a three-level art venue where you can not only see his work but that of regional artists. The heroic sculpture here is his and the paintings on the walls are by William Oberst of North Adams.
They are part of the show Then and Now put together of Keith Shaw, the director of the Berkshire Artist Museum - RAM's museum within a museum. This summer the Berkshire show has been a two parter. The one that just ended concentrated on work from the 1970s. The new one contrasts new work to the '70s work by the same artists.
The one above, one of my favorites, is Sublimation Reentry, a large 1977 drawing by Jim Peters of North Adams. Below is Peters' 2015 Studio Apartment in Paris done in collaboration with Kathline Carr, also of North Adams.
Here we have two paintings by William Oberst of North Adams. The Good Captain, 2015, above and Seated Portrait which is undated.
Shaw says combining artists old work and the new charts "the fascinating - and often unpredictable - paths of artistic vision and evolution." Often "forty years make a lot of difference."
Here are examples of old and new from the brilliant Pittsfield artist Joe Goodwin. The abstract is Tiepolo from 2011. OK Used Cars was painted in 1974. (I'm showing the abstract small because it is not a great photo and I'm afraid running it bigger would do a disservice to the actual painting.)
Benigna Chilla of Chatham, New York, did the piece above and the two below. Torso, on top, was done this year. Ascending is from 1973 and Four Fans from 1977. Both are beautifully executed and powerful. Now retired, she headed the Berkshire Community College art department for years. I took at least one course she taught.
Now come two from Julio Granda, long a standout in Pittsfield's art scene: Through Space Parallel Forces and Berkshire Song. The one on top is new and Berkshire Song was painted years. (Neither is dated.)
Gene Flores of Plainfield is a sculptor whose work I hadn't seen before. His hinged Red Rock is a 2014 and the two landscape studies below are from 1979. Nice stuff, don't you think?
I'm running out of space so I'm only going to show you one piece each of the next few artists. The big black and blue knockout is Warner Friedman's Gina of 1979. He's from Great Barrington.
This impressive, room-sized city is an installation by Peter Dudek of Windsor.
Summer Stump is by Matuschka, a New York City artist who spends time in the Berkshires.
I'm ending with another shot of some of Eric Rudd's sculpture, this time within the church proper. To give you an idea of the size of these biomorphic pieces, you don't have to duck when you go through the white tunnel on the blue path.
RAM is a good place to spend an hour or two. There's a lot of good stuff to see. I haven't even scratched the surface of Rudd's work and I've left out a lot of good paintings by Berkshire artists. I just figured this has gone on long enough.
PS. Six of my paintings are also being shown on the second floor in a small gallery called Berkshire Classics. See my August 1 post.
August 1, 2015
This Cathedral painting, one of many in a series I painted in 2008, is hanging with five other paintings of mine, in the Berkshire Classics gallery, a new space opened up in the Berkshire Artist Museum (BAM) in North Adams.
At Thursday evening's reception for BAM's current exhibit, which spreads over parts of three floors, I listened to the museum director, Kevin Shaw, talking animatedly about the Cathedral with visitors. A Berkshire Community College art-history professor with a Phd, Keith Shaw was talking with a degree of feeling and insight that was stirring to me. I often have strong emotional attachments to my paintings both during and after their execution. But I fumble for words when I try to explain what I was trying to convey. So I asked him if he could write down what he said for this post. Here it is:
"Imbued with ambiguity, Cathedral delivers dual messages. The red tracery rendered in poured paint and outlining the edifice summons both the blood of a savior and the victims of the Church. Similarly, these red runs can be seen as a rising fire consuming the institution or a spiritual fervor sustaining it. While Horner adroitly delineates the elevation of a cathedral, he seems to also plant a fire in the belly of that beast; indeed, his painting doubles as a surging furnace. Do these fires murmur annihilation or do they offer a guiding light? Cathedral unquestionably is one of the most fascinating and accomplished paintings currently on view at Berkshire Artist Museum."
Here's a second Cathedral that he picked for the show when he and his wife Terri Boccia, a member of the Clark Art Institute staff, visited my studio
recently. I suggested that since I paint in series, it might be good to have all six of the pieces in this space come from one series. But Keith said he wanted to show a range of my work. He only included two from the Cathedral group, he said, because he and Terri could not decide which they like better.
Now I'm going to show you photos of some of the people who came into the new space to see my small show on a sweltering night. I have to admit that I enticed some visitors to take a look at my stuff by telling them that the room was equipped with a large, swivelling fan.
On the left is Eric Rudd, the artist-entrepreneur who converted a big North Adams mill into classy live-in studios for artists. He bought the large former Methodist Church to convert to a major art space - much of it for a museum for his sculpture and paintings*. Years ago he another former church - much smaller - for the same purpose and now owns more North Adams houses of worship than most of the town's denominations.
Also in the photo is artist Tom Hoadley who has work on view at the church and who, with his wife, owns the Hoadley Gallery in Lenox.
Pictured her are four generations of my family. I'm on the right. My mother is the one doing the handstand. She could walk on her hands well into her 50s. Next is her granddaughter, Shannon Nichols, a Pittsfield teacher, and her great-granddaughter, Riley Nicols, a Pittsfield High junior.
Here we have Babbie, my wife, and our daughter and granddaughter. The painting behind them is the Goldfinch on a Tart, painted last year after I read Donna Tartt's novel Goldfinch.
Here's Leo Mazzeo, a friend and an artist with one of his iconic paintings in the room next to mine. It's because of Leo that I painted Goldfinch on a Tart. A little more about that in a few seconds.
Deirdre Flynn Sullivan, festive in red, is next to my painting Dresden Mon Amour, part of a series about the firebombing of that German city. It dates back to 2006.
Now you can see why I call this painting Goldfinch on a Tart. I painted it last year when Leo suggested a bunch of us do pieces about food to hang at the Marketplace in downtown Pittsfield for First Fridays. I'm a big fan of Donna Tartt's novels, ....and The Goldfinch, in which the 1654 painting by Carel Fabritius played a major role. I'm also a fan of Jeanne Johnson, pictured with the big bird. P.S. The model for the tart was one I bought at Marketplace.
And here Jeanne's friend, Trish Gorman, inspired by the painting, does an inverted handstand. I loved it.
* BAM is a museum within the Rudd Art Museum. (Footnotes, no less. Pretty scholarly don't you think?)
July 21, 2015
Last week we were all at the ocean and it was good to be together and to do the things we always do there. Go to the beach, to restaurants, to the bike trail. Play board games, card games and ping pong. Hug the youngest children as often as we can.
It was me and Babbie, our three kids and their spouses and our five grandchildren. The ages range from 2 to 80. I am the freshly-coined octogenarian. We are a tightly knit family and have a grand time together.
Thursday it was cold and windy and the water was rough. During a walk along the water's edge, I took 400 shots of the waves. I'm including seven of them in this post. I also took 1,000 of other things: the grandchildren, Riley and Michelle para-sailing above the speedboat in which I was a passenger, the view from the open-cockpit biplane I had a ride in.
Waves can travel great distances. They can be benign or bellicose, timid or tumultuous. They are fascinating to watch but hard to paint. Great artists like Winslow Homer bring them to life. I was trying to do with my camera what I could never do with my brush.
The day after getting back home I drove up to MASS MoCA in North Adams and looked at Clifford Ross's ulta-high-definition photos of waves during hurricanes. They are sensational and located in the newly-opened building 12.
To get his shots, Ross donned a wetsuit, floatation device, and safety harness so he could be yanked back to shore if necessary and waded in with his camera.
There were no heroics in the way I shot the pictures on this screen. I never got in water deeper than my ankles. If I had waded into these waves I would have been bowled over, toyed with, dragged out by the undertow. It would have been: So long, it's been good to know you.
I don't have a telephoto lens. What I did was take shots that took in much more of the ocean than I'm showing you here. But they were often in sharp focus. So I could zoom in while processing them to grab the close ups you're seeing here.
When Hemingway's Old Man finally hooked his giant fish, and battled to bring it to land, he dreamed of lions on the beach. He had seen that as a young seaman.
Now I'm thinking of the waves as the lions on the beach. Roaring, strutting, leaving no question who is king.
Sometimes it is good to go to the beach on a day like this and watch the sea in all its glory.
July 4, 2015
The more I look at this detail of a piece by Phil Pryjma the more I like it. Pryjma, a psychiatrist , is certainly exploring the inner thoughts of this woman, who appeared in the June Assembage show at the Whitney Center for the Arts in Pittsfield. I wasn't the only one who liked Parisian. Someone bought it.
The show was the first where Jennifer GClawdia Gallant of Pittsfield got to fly almost solo as a curator, after assisting putting together a number of the gallery's exhibits this year with the former curator, artist Richard Britell, and Ghazi Kazmi, director of the Whit.
Last night, Pittsfield's First Friday, marked the opening of her second Whit show, Echoes of the Hudson River School. Fully responsible for this one, Jennifer set it up with the cooperation of Carrie Haddad, after the planned July show fell through. Ms. Haddad, who operates a well-known gallery in Hudson, New York, gave Jennifer permission to show paintings by artists she represents.
"Then I did studio visits" to meet the artists and select the work to be shown. Jennifer, a portrait in enthusiasm, comes to the task of curator, not as an artist but as an art lover. And she's having a ball.
This painting by Leigh Palmer of Hudson is among those on display. Your next opportunity to see these paintings will be Saturday, July 11, from 3 to 6. At least two of the artists are expected to be on hand.
Getting back to Assemblage, here's Phil Pryjma's Tin Man. Although Phil wasn't the artist with the most pieces on display, his works attracted my attention. In the interest of disclosure, I should point out that Phil was my shrink years ago when I needed one and has shown my work at his St. Francis Gallery in South Lee.
To create these he first makes a three dimensional face of papier mache. Then he makes Xerox enlargements of photos in fashion magazines. But you can't just take a flat photo and glue it onto a 3-D face with its protruding brow, nose, lips and chin. Phil has to slice and dice the Xeroxs and fill in the gaps.
In the process he tries "create an emotional picture from a bland fashion face," Phil told me.
The stips of type he uses come from my alma mater, The Berkshire Eagle. I'm tempted to suggest using these word strips to highlight the lips of a future piece and call it Read My Lips.
Here are some other pieces in Assemblage that I liked.
This is Fetish 3 by Autumn Doyle, made of deer and crow bones and crow feathers and feet. Below is her Three Jaws Ascending made of deer and cow jaws on driftwood.
The vitrines above and below were made by Denis Herbert.
Harry Lazare is the artist who assembled The Devil's House is the Color of Money, above.
The figures in the foreground of this photo were made by Kim Engle and the painting behind them is one of Rick Costello's astronomically-correct space scapes. At this point Engle's figures had been moved into another room. Costello's painting was not part of Assemblage.
Seeing art at the Whit has been difficult this year because other than at the openings, artists' talks or musical events the gallery is not open. Jennifer and Ghazi hope to institute weekend hours to remedy that.
June 15, 2015
Scott Taylor is the most prolific and best selling artist I know. He says he paints more than 260 pieces a year. If you live in Berkshire County, the chances are you've seen his work.
They're on loan in a lot of places. If you go to the new BMC Cancer Center his work hangs along the corridors. His paintings brighten the waiting room of my doctor's office in Lee. And they grace many, many homes in the Berkshires. He has collectors.
Scott also has a new studio. He had been at NU Arts on North Street in Pittsfield for six years. "But I just outgrew the space as the scale and volume of my work grow."
Here's Scott with his painting "Winter's Night" in the large exhibition space that the owners of his new studio are lending him in their building, the former Crane Stationary Building in the center of Dalton. From the size of the painting you can see what he means about his interest in working at a larger scale.
The owners are Steve and Maria Sears and Wila Kuh. Scott's is the first studio there but there is space for a lot more as they develop the large building. Storage also comes with the studio and he figures he has 700 paintings in the building.
This is his exhibition space. He has 38 paintings hanging in it - 32 of them painted since he moved in.
And this is his very comfortable studio. "I miss the very special group of artists (at NU Arts) but sometimes you have to do what you have to do." His wall-mounted easel is behind me as I take the photo.
Now I'm going to take you on a sort of seasonal tour of Scott Taylor paintings in the exhibit space, starting with winter.
And then the torrents of spring.
Below is a Taylor painting that I find fascinating, Quarry Pond Reflections. "It was painted as part of an on-going series about a year ago," Scott says. "I have added several more paintings since then to this series. I suspect that I will continue to do so until the muse runs out of gas. I don’t think that it will be happening anytime soon. I continue to find landscapes every day that will fit into that series."
As do many of the paintings I've shown here, it shows his increasing interest in abstraction.
"For me as a landscape painter I am more confident moving to a more abstract image of a landscape " than to pure abstraction. "That being said I’m finding my color vocabulary has grown so much over the last few years that i think working in a abstract form and feeling more confident in doing so is within sight."
Scott's show at the stationary building has been up since May 2 and is expected to come down a week from today. It has been open most weekends, but won't be this coming weekend because he will have paintings down at the Lee Jazz event. You can make an appointment with him through a Facebook message if you want to see it before it comes down.
June 7, 2015
A year ago it seemed so far away, but suddenly it was Saturday and we were at the opening of my Retrospective at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. An event keyed to my turning 80.
In this photo I am with my granddaughter, Riley Nichols, a brain, an athlete and a sophomore at Pittsfield High. She was the model for my Ophelia of the Swamp photo behind us. It represents my current art - computer-manipulated photography.
Much of the time from 5 to 8 the city-owned gallery was packed. I talked to so many people and had to ask so many people to tell me their names because I'm faceblind that I was punchy by the time we left for a drink and dinner at the District.
But I was elated, psyched, pumped, too.
As my wife points out, I love to be the center of attention. The show was one of the thrills of my life. Someone suggested it could be my last one. Me? I am confident that my Swamp series will be shown somewhere. Hopefully in a number of somewheres.
Here I am entertaining (hopefully) some of those in attendance. I got a great kick out of talking about the paintings. Here are some I thought I'd show you because we didn't get a good shot of them during the party.
This Runway wall is a compilation of five life-sized paintings. We mounted them - or I should say Scott Taylor and Leo Mazzeo did - so the bottoms were flush with the floor, letting the women walk into the room. And on the wall below are five paintings from my
Jeanne d'Arc and Cathedral series:
A 2003 portrait of one of my favorite subjects, Linda Baker-cimini, was purchased by Eliza Cooney and Peter Kaziba, great friends from . Below that photo is one of an animated young woman and her mother. I had fun talking with them.
Here's a shot of the Berkshire Eagle old guard by my friend Susan Geller. From the left, Charles Bonenti, me, Ingrid MacGillis, Clarence Fanto, and Don MacGillis.
Here's another Eagle veteran, Lew Cuyler, my daughter Shannon Nichols and Lew's wife Harriet. They're contemplating Ophelia of the Swamp, show below. It is 100 inches long and printed by Massive Graphics of Pittsfield.
We had food courtesy of the Lichtenstein and we provided wine, although I learned later that the five one-liter bottles were emptied before the party ended. Sorry.
We also had a classy piano man, Bob Shepherd, a faculty member at the Berkshire Music School, who Babbie engaged.
Above is another piece that sold. The fingers and heels of the hands form a heart. The other two pieces were left over from the last show, I think.
That's my version of Hester Prynne from my Scarlet Letter series, appearing as only the Rev. Dimesdale would see her: she's shed her prime Puritan outerwear.
It looks like I'm about to have a collision with the Archangel in this painting, which I did in 2013 and modified two weeks ago.
Here I'm talking with Arlene Melliflous. I appologize for inflicting pictures of myself on you so often in this post. Below both Babbie and Anita McFarland, the model for the painting, beam.
PS There are people I would like to thank for making this show possible, Megan Whilden, the city's former cultural chief, her successor, Jennifer Glockner, and Jennifer's right-hand woman, Shiobbean Lemme.
May 27, 2015
My Retrospective at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts in Pittsfield opens in just a little over a week and I am still messing around with some of the paintings. I worked on this one the last couple nights. For reasons that I suspect are obvious, it's called The Haunting.
I lightened some shading in another painting this morning.
Finding artists who continue to work on their paintings until the last minute is not uncommon, I suspect. I remember reading that Francis Bacon would go to a museum after his exhibit was hung there and continue fixing them until the show opened. That's probably the only thing I have in common with that great painter. Wait. He had a famously cluttered studio. Another trait I share with him, but from pictures I've seen, his was even worse than mine.
This painting is in acrylic and oil over canvas and is part of the Runway series that I did a couple years ago. There are about a dozen paintings and each is 72" x 48" on canvas. This is the only one where the model floats. I wish that floating in air was something I could do.
I used to dream that I could. In the dreams I would jump and stay at the apex long enough that anyone watching couldn't fail to see I was hanging in air briefly.
In other versions of this dream I found that if I ran fast downhill and leapt into the air I could stay airborne for 100, 200 yards. Needless to say, this was exhilarating. Sometimes Riley, when she was a little girl, and I, while driving in the van, would pretend that if we concentrated hard and pulled back on the steering wheel and used the right body language we could make the car fly for as much as a quarter mile. That was great fun.
Back to the show. As I mentioned in my last post, it will open June 5 with a public reception from 5 to 8 that evening. It will be open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11 through 4 through June 27. I will be there Wednesdays from 2 to 4 during the course of the exhibit to talk with anyone who would like to discuss it with me. I'm not expecting standing room only.
Above is how the painting looked before I started reworking it. Most of my effort has been on the face.
I made this version of the picture tonight using Aperture software to show how it might look if I was doing it in my current computer-manipulated mode. Pretty cool, isn't it.
One thing I discovered as I worked out where different paintings will be hung - artists Scott Taylor and Leo Mazzeo will do the hanging - is that it doesn't take that many big paintings before a large gallery like the Lichtenstein fills up. So I've had to go through the exercise of eliminating a lot of work I planned to show.
The exhibit was scheduled to coincide with my turning 80 this June. Leading up to the show I had hoped to post thoughtfully about age. But I have not so far and probably won't.
Babbie always ends the singing of Happy Birthday with the phrase "and many more." I asked her if she was still going to add that at my birthday party - a family affair that is probably going to be postponed until July. She plans to. That's good because I'd like to live many more if I can keep my wits about me and remain mobile.
Back to this painting. For the life of me I can't remember what I wrote on it and haven't had time to try to decipher the printing.
I should be putting the formal invitations out over the internet by Friday I guess, so here's a warning: You may be getting one.
May 14, 2015
This is one of the paintings that will be in my Retrospective at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Opening with a public reception on June 5, the show at that beautiful, city-owned gallery will be up through June 27.
The reception will be from 5 to 8 on the 5th. After that the show will be open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11 to 5 p.m.
This is a painting I did two years ago but have spent the last two days reworking some sections, including the portrait of the woman, Nicole Rizzo. It is in acrylic, pastel, oil pastel and collaged photos I took of her, as well as pictures of the skull of the recently discovered skeleton of King Richard III. Clumps of saved acrylic paint were added to create the folds, the light section of her hair and the wounds on her arm and knee. Why the wounds? I still don't know why I did that.
It is 7 feet by 4 feet over an old painting by Joe Goodwin, one of two he gave me to paint over.
I'm calling it "Arcangel" because of the suggestion of a halo and wings.
Here the painting is before I made the changes. The main difference is that I gave her a face. Before, her face was vestigal. Looking at the old version, I like the red wing. Maybe I'll make it red again. I was trying to be more subtle - not one of my strong points. I also turned her gown black instead of brown. Which version do you like better?
No angel would dress like that, you might say. But who knows?
I'm going to be blogging and Facebooking more about the show. I hope I don't wear out my welcome.
April 27, 2015
Lanesborough photographer Nick DiCandia's essay - "take another look" - pares down the food pantry at the South Congregational church to its essentials: Need and generosity.
Studying this photo of people lining up for the food illustrates the need.
And this shot of a volunteer illustrates the reward of generosity.
Here are two more volunteers.
And here is a woman taking her provisions home.
This shot shows one wall of his paintings in the passageway that leads to the main section of the gallery. The black mountings compliment DiCandia's use of black and white photography. This is one of his first forays into the world of digital photography. He's pulled it off as well as if he were using his beloved standby - film.
Unfortunately if you haven't seen this classy exhibition already, you've missed it. It closed last Saturday
Here are some more shots. I don't think they need my commentary.
This chart, one of four in the show, is self explanatory.
I apologize to Nick for the extent that my shots of his shots have distorted the black and white. I congratulate him for taking on an important social issue - something I don't see much of around here since Craig Walker left the Berkshire Eagle for the Denver Post - a paper where his work has captured two Pulitzer Prizes.
Now come the outsider artists. This astonishing painting, "Birds and Bikers," is by a good friend of mine, Paul Graubard, a Lenox resident who's third floor studio is on North Street in Pittsfield.
This mini-skirted beauty is "Casino Girl" by David Eddy of West Stockbridge. (I earlier posted his name as Paul Eddy until sharp-eyed Jennifer GClawdia Gallant spotted the mistake.)
Both Eddy and Graubard will participate in a discussion of "Primitive, Self-Taught and Outsider Art" at the Whitney Center for the Arts on Wendell Avenue in Pittsfield tomorrow (April 29) at 6 p.m. The gallery will open at 5 to give people a last chance to see the show which closes that day.
Ute Stebich, a former Lenox gallery operator and well-known art collector , will fill out the panel and the talk will be moderated by Lauren Clark, a Great Barrington galleryist.
Also on display at the Whit is Reginald Madison of Athens, New York. Below is one of his paintings in the show.
It's a good show and below are two more pieces by each of the artists.
This is "Karen Likes Teal" by Graubard, who still paints up a vivid storm in his 80s. Below is his "Delila Seduces Sampson." Both look very pleased with what's going on.
Robecca Alban Hoffberger, founder-director of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, which has some of Graubard's work in its permanent collection, has said of him:
"...Paul Graibard is indeed a wonder-filled artist, married to two great loves - Karen, his timeless poet wife/best friend, and to that powerful mistress, wonder itself."
This is Eddy's "Walking Stick" and below is his "Fireworks." I think they're fine paintings.
This is what Tonia Shoumatoff wrote about Eddy in The Millbrook Independent in 2013:
"David Eddy is a scrappy guy who likes to paint scratchy paintings which initially seem naïve but are actually very complex and expressive. The self-taught artist who is being exhibited at the Ober Gallery in Kent is represented by the Albert Shahinian Gallery in Rhinebeck. He is from the Berkshires and has been exhibited all over the world."
And here are two more by Madison.
Of Madison artist Carol Diehl, has written this:
"This (his home and studios in Athens) is one of several industrial spaces he's 'Reggified' since I've known him, and patrons of Club Helsinki in Great Barrington, MA, where he designed the interior, will recognize the style - humorous conglomerations of objects only Reggie would choose, more of which can be found in his shop on Warren Street in Hudson." (Club Helsinki no longer has its Great Barrington nightclub.)
Wednesday night's discussion should be a blast and it's free.
I looked out the bedroom window at 6:35 this morning and saw heavy fog. I got up, cleaned up, grabbed a protein bar, a banana and an old coffee from the ice box and headed for the Swamp.
Along stretches of the road I had to slow way down because the fog was so dense. I was thrilled. I've wanted to get shots of the swamp closed in by fog but the last time I set out to do that it lifted before I got there. This time it did not.
The sun was trying to break through but didn't until I got about a mile in. You can see it's reflection in the water in the shot below. But even at that point the fog was still with us.
I pushed through the underbrush to get to the Heroic Tree: it looks like a war monument to me, something like the sculpture of the flag raising at Iwo Jima in World War II.
I've published a photo of the Heroic Tree before. And mentioned then, as I will now, that after you struggle through the thick growth to go north of the, it vanishes.
As proof I offer the shot above taken about 50 feet beyond the Heroic Tree, with the camera focused on the spot where it stood. As I've said before myth and magic intertwine with reality in the Swamp.
Zeroing in on the stump in the picture of the vanishing tree, you can see how little it would take for Circe or some other sourceress to turn this
chunk of wood into a living, breathing swamp predator.
And take a look at this dark, secluded spot I stubbled across this morning. I wouldn't set foot in there, beautiful as it is. Too spooky. Why is this spot so dark and why hasn't it been penetrated by the fog?
I didn't come across any of the swamp dwellers I have spotted occasionally. But I did see this orange egg hanging from a branch. I don't know its significance but it obviously was hung there by someone other than the Easter bunny.
I did meet a gray-haired woman at the edge of the Swamp but I'm sure she was a drylander.
"I just spotted a red-winged blackbird," she said. There was excitement in her voice. She pointed to the place she'd seen it - a sure harbinger of Spring.
"That's great," I said.
When we left for Louisiana 12 days ago - we got back Thursday - snow still held sway in the Swamp. But it is gone now and new life is poking through.
At the same time, reminders of winter, like these oak leaves, cling to the Swamp.
As I headed back, the fog was burning off. And by the time I got to the car, you didn't feel it as a presence in this place. Witness the sunlit tree graveyard below. Swamps support life but they are killers, too.
I'm back at the house now, finishing up this post and downing handfuls of honey toasted oat cereal that's supposed to be good for both my tummy and my heart. Whatever else it may be, it's good.
April 5, 2015
Rising above the stairwell leading to the Crane Room at the Berkshire Museum, "The Lost Pleiad" scans in vain for her sister stars in the Pleiad cluster, while behind her on the left flames a sunrise by Jim Schantz of Stockbridge.
Here's a closer look at the Schantz painting in the first photo, "Atlantic Sunrise." It's a big piece and it lights up that large room.
While in the Crane Room itself, Giovanni Cinselli's "Girl Reading," circa 1860, concentrates on her book and on holding her robe in place, never taking a peak at the Schantz paintings in this skylit room.
Nearby, "Judith" by Giulio Tadolini, hand on the hilt of her sword, appears more concerned with getting to Holofernes, the enemy general. She beheads him, saving Israel. The Schantz oil she is too preoccupied to contemplate is "Summer Dusk, Housatonic." Any effort she is making to maintain her modesty is failing. If only sculptors of this era had learned a gown could be held in place by thread and cloth far fewer breasts would have been exposed to public view.
Some 260 years earlier Caravaggio had figured that out, as illustrated in his famous and gory painting of "Judith Beheadidng Holofernes," who was so drunk he didn't put up a fight.
By 1901 Klimt folled the sculptor's lead rather than Caravaggio's in his "Judith with the Head of Holofernes." I'm afraid I wouldn't have noticed the head if it wasn't in the title.
Getting back to the Berkshire Museum, there is more locally produced art on display in the new first-floor space provided for that purpose. The first artists picked by the Museum to be shown there are those in the second floor gallery at the corner of South and West Housatonic streets noteworthy for the humorously ironic signs artist Michael McKay makes and places in the windows.
Here McKay is in an architectural mode. This is "Broadway & E 9th St (version 3)," 2012. Unlike Schantz, who was working in oil on canvas, McKay uses acrylic on paper. Because I had to take the photo from an angle to avoid the glare, the piece is distorted here. For that I apologize.
See what I mean. This was my favorite of McKay's, but I couldn't do it justice either head on or at an angle.
This one, "305 W 2rd St (brownout)" from 2010, I took directly from McKay's website to give you a better idea of what he's up to. I hope that's OK, Michael.
The other members of empty set projects are Monika Pizzichemi and Marcel Bova and they are also on display at the museum's new BerkshireNow space.
Here are three of Monika Pizzichemi's works, top to bottom, "Halo (Pink Cycle)", "Elephant Spots" and "Sleestak." All three were done in 2006 using eggshells, acrylic and wood.
Still working with eggshells, she has several similar to this one, "Southwest." It was done in 2008 and incorporates glass as well as acrylic and wood.
And here are six acrylics by Marcel Bova, the third member of empty set projects. A lot of other stuff is going on at the museum right now, much of it aimed at appealing to kids and their parents. Witness this incredible passsageway below:
March 28, 2015
This is the view of mountains in Northern Berkshire as seen from my vantage point above Partridge Road near the Mall Road in Pitttsfield (or maybe Lanesbough) yesterday afternoon. Photos by Grier Horner, All Rights Reserved.
Yesterday afternoon I parked on the fringe of the Mall lot and pulled on my boots, wrapped my camera strap around my right wrist and crossed the Mall Road to the skimobile trails on the south side.
That doesn't sound like a big deal. But for the last half year I've been doing all my tramping around the Swamp and decided I could do with a little elevation. So here's an invitation to join my on my hike.
We start climbing through the field where the corn is grown for the farmstand on Partridge Road and where Petricca stores the prestressed concrete panels it is making for the deck of the new bridge over the Hudson River at Tarrytown. The smoke in the background is from Pittsfield's garbage incinerator.
It's easy walking here. The deep snow has melted away to this as we reach the end of the cornfield with its magnificent birch.
Now for a little explanation on why my blog has dark since early January. I could tell you that NSA had silenced it for reasons of national security. That's the exciting - but totally false - answer. The real one is that I had switched over to a new operating system for my Mac and it turned out that my Adobe Contribute software was no longer compatible. For a while I was posting over a makeshift system, but it was so frustrating and labor intensive that I gave up. Now Adobe has updated Contribute and I can publish again. (How lucky can you, gentle reader, get?)
At this point we cross Partridge Road beside the bridge that carries the Mall
Road over it. What a view you get looking under that bridge.
I was worried about the climb on the other side of the road because a few
days earlier it had been snowcovered and was icy in places. It's so steep
that on that earlier trip I slipped on the ice and fell once but was more
concerned about losing my balance and toppling over backwards.
The sun and warmer temperatures had taken care of that as you can see. Not .
pretty but good traction.
Up here, well above the road, everything's coming up birches. What beauties.
eering off the skimobile tracks I hit this dirt road - it looked like the
Veering off the beaten path I hit a plowed dirt road - an Interstate in
comparison - that goes to a high cellular tower perched near the crest.
It was still and peaceful up here and I should have been thinking deep
thoughts. But I was just taking it all in. I still had a climb before hitting
the top of the Mall Road.
After getting there I went back in the woods. I decided to take a different
way back because I don't like the idea of sliding down that steep, muddy
path to Partridge Road.
This eventually took me to two high hillside fields. I had to cross through
the band of trees in the photo above to get to the next field. It was tough
walking here because the snowmobile paths had gotten soft and the snow was
deep here. I would be walking easily on top of the trackS when suddenly the
next step took me up to my knees in snow. In the process I fell four or five
times. But what better surface to fall on than deep, soft snow.
From the second field I got a view of the woods just beyond the crest of
the hill. Not far from where I am in this shot, I was out of the deep snow.
It was all easy going from there to the car.
This is me back at the car. My jeans were soaked up to the yellow lines I
drew on the photo. My boots only shipped a little snow when I sank in deep,
but enough that my socks were wet. I was very tired and gulped down the rest
of my iced coffee. (Iced coffee is a good winter drink because it is
still cold when you get back to the car after a 1.5 hour walk.)
I was elated. I love going on small adventures by myself. It's a holdover
from the days I used to ride my bike on obscure roads in winter.
So the blog is back, for better or worse. I hope I didn't bore you. Sorry
the paragraph spacing under some of the pictures is all screwed up. Don't know
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