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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man

 

June 29, 2008

This dear readers is Jeanne d'Arc (Seven), one of four paintings I did in this series during the week. I'm not sure what to make of them. You tell me. It's 58" x 42". Acrylic enamel on canvas.

What else did I do this week?  Well, for one thing I did something transformative. I got a haircut. When I went down to Bridget's yesterday morning the guy ahead of me, who'd come in on a Harley, was getting his curly locks shorn off with the electric buzzer adjusted about a quarter inch from his scalp. He looked good when Bridget was finished. He paid and she called me. I slid into the chair.

"Give me the same thing."

"Really?"

"Yes."

"You're sure? After I start you can't change your mind."

"Let's do it."

She did. And this is the result.

"What do you think?" Bridget asked when she was finished.

"I don't know," I said. "I'm afraid to look."

"You look good," she said. "I like it. "

I looked. "I look like a convict," I said.

Bridget laughed.

"I wouldn't lie to you," she said. "You look good."

The woman sitting next to me with her head in the dryer said, "You're wife won't know you when she sees you."

"When she sees me she'll call 911," I said.

Babbie didn't call 911 but she did look a little startled.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I'm starting off my 73rd year with a lot less hair and a lot more Jeanne d'Arcs.

 

 

 

June 27, 2008

I keep coming back to self portraits. Must be a little narcissistic. Here's one of my reflection in the Eastlake mirror in our dining room. Behind me is a painting by RayLib. By my left elbow is one of mine.

There's a story to the mirror. It was a fixture of the North Street store Potala, which sold Asian art, rugs and jewelry. It was operated by a great couple, Rachel Park from Williamstown and Andrew Failes of Scotland. We had bought carpets and jewelry there over the years and Babbie always told them she loved the mirror and would like to buy it if they ever wanted to replace it.

When they decided to close the store and operate their business over the internet, they sold it to her. We carried it gingerly into the house and rested it against a wall in the dinning room until we could decide on a permanent location. To this day it remains where we set it down. By the way Rachel and Andrew do business as art@potalaworld.com out of Petersburg, N.Y.

The painting of the black woman was given to me by RayLib, the nome de plume of Raymond Librizzi, a friend and artist. Before his death he had the pleasure of seeing a chapter in a 1995 book, Passing in the Outsider Lane by Daniel Prince, devoted to his art. RayLib was a wonderful character and wonderful painter, who gave away most of his work or used it as currency to get a meal or lodging in his frequent trips abroad. Once a hobo he eventually graduated from Williams College and became a reporter - a very unconventional reporter - for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield.

"Ray speaks from the street, the sewer, the college and the saloon," wrote Prince, ''from riding blind baggage in America, to traveling overseas as a foreign correspondent."

Prince's book, profusely illustrated with the work of 21 artists, is still available at amazon.com. (Sorry, I couldn't make the link work.)

Ray would be pleased to know that the only new copy available has soared from its original $60 price to $194. But 16 used copies are available from $16.25 up. It's a book I love.

 

 

June 25, 2008

I was wandering around the house late this afternoon taking pictures. This is one I shot of Hannah which I painted about eight years ago. It's big and hangs in the living room. The light was subdued when I took the shot.

Outside it was raining but the sun was bright. I shot a rainbow from the front porch. I got the light on our faded blue deck umbrella. I got the intense light on poppies in a vase. I got myself in an antique mirror. I got the open medicine chest in the downstairs bathroom. I got a lot of stuff.

This painting has always been one of my favorites. The young woman who posed for it had a lovely face and amazing dreadlocks to go with a hippy past. And she was on the verge of a fulfilling future.

Earlier in the afternoon I had painted another in the Jeanne d'Arc series, my second of the week. If they were selling for $100,000 each I'd be rich. It's strange how different the painting of Hanna is from the abstract Jeanne d'Arcs(see the June 5, 10, 12 and 18 posts).

Babbie was down in Great Barrington at Volunteers in Medicine. She wouldn't get off her shift for a few more hours. So I had three glasses of wine while I watched the news. Generous glasses. Not like the quarter-full goblets you get in fancy restaurants. I drank them fast. I had four spoonfuls of peanut butter. I tossed a handful of raisins in my mouth with each spoonful. I had some blue salsa chips and five pieces of melba toast. How's that for an appetizer? I enjoyed the afternoon and evening. Babbie got home at 8 and we ate. Supper was delicious but I couldn't eat it all.

 

June 23, 2008

This is the new art conservation building at the Francine and Sterling Clark Art Institute  in Williamstown.

Designed by Tadao Ando, the Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect, the Stone Hill Center replaces the old conservatory, which will be torn down to make way for Ando's new wing for the museum. The center includes state-of-the-art work stations - which can be seen through the windows in this shot - as well as two small galleries and a classroom. You can buy sandwiches there and eat them on a spacious veranda overlooking woods, mountains and the building. You get to it by walking an uphill path through the woods on the Clark's 140-acre grounds.

Ando was careful to keep this box of gray cedar, steel, glass and concrete from competing with the landscape. This is as far as you can get from the wonderfully over-the-top Guggenheim at Bilboa, Spain, designed by Frank Gehry. Ando's work is an exercise in subtlety.

We took the 4:40 p.m. final tour of the building yesterday afternoon. But first we - Babbie, me, Lee and Jeanne - saw Beyond Analysis at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. It was hilarious. We topped everything off with wine and food at Mezze. Not a bad way to spend a summer Sunday afternoon and evening.

To make the day complete, I knocked off another Jeanne d'Arc painting before we went. It was a very focused and intense process. I'll inflict the result on you soon.

 

June 21, 2008

Here's a detail of Jeanne d'Arc (Number Six) the painting I showed you June 18.  The blues are lighter here, I think, because I was using the flash.

 

I think the things that happen to the flowing paint as different color drips merge are fascinating and beautiful. I'm not sure you agree. Since I've been showing this series, viewer ship has been dropping.

We got back late this afternoon from our trip to Gettysburg. Seeing everyone was great. But sometimes these reunions are bittersweet because of the realization that time is closing in.

 

June 18, 2008

Here is Jeanne d'Arc (Number Six). Or since I'm using the French version of Joan of Arc's name, maybe it should be Jeanne d'Arc (Nombre Six).  It's 74"x53", acrylic enamel on canvas.

It's the finished product, as opposed to the work in progress that you can see the top portion of in June 16th's post. In that one the background is a brighter gold because I used a flash. It was taken in my studio. The finished version was shot outdoors on Monday. There are aspects of the work in progress I would like to incorporate in my next painting. One thing is the more fluid red.

After the gold background has dried, I paint the entire work in one sitting so everything is wet on wet. I may want to rethink that approach, letting the paint dry at points to capture a particular effect, before I continue. But then the new paint would no longer interact with the earlier layers. Still feeling my way around this technique.

Babbie and I are driving down to Gettysburg for a few days to visit Peach and Bill Horner and John Horner. We have a strong bond with all three. Bill and John are my father's brothers, the last of six children born over a period of 20 years. Peach is Bill's wife. My father, the eldest, died in 1965. He was only 58. Bill is 80 and John is 87. Me, I've got seven years before I become an octogenarian. Sometimes the numbers amaze me.

 

June 16, 2008

What you see here is my Paint Retrieval System (patent pending). One of the problems with my new series, Jeanne d'Arc, is that it consumes huge amounts of paint.

So for the last couple paintings I've been catching the drips in yogurt cups. Maybe I can get Stoneyfield to sponsor my work. You'll notice that lining up the cups gets a little tricky when you have to catch a drip that develops in a space too narrow to accommodate another cup. In that case you have to create a second tier, balancing a cup on the lips of two adjoining cups.

None overturned during the retrieval process while I was painting Saturday. And I recovered enough enamel to almost fill two hot fudge sundae cups from Friendly's. The paint from the collected drips is a purplish color. Babbie and I each had one on a not so distant evening. A sundae, not a cup of paint.

For Father's Day Shannon, Paul and Riley gave me a T-shirt fit for any lion-hearted painter. I'm modeling the back in this shot taken by Riley, my granddaughter. The front, if anything, is wilder. In addition Riley gave me a heart-shaped leaf she found in her yard.

 

 

June 14, 2008

Since I'm on the subject of Jeanne d'Arc, I've been looking at art she inspired. Here's an equestrian statue by the French sculptor Emmanuel Fremiet.

After it was erected in Paris in 1874, Fremiet received a request from the city of Nancy in 1889 for a replica. According to Publicartaroundtheworld.com, Fremiet was unhappy with the original, convinced the horse was out of scale with the rider. So Nancy got one with a smaller horse and some other modifications.

"The new and improved reproduction led to the removal of the original statue in Paris," the website reported. It was replaced with the modified version, creating a controversy.

The one photographed above is in the French Quarter in New Orleans. This is a popular vision of the French heroine. There are also replicas in Portland, Oregon, Philadelphia and Melbourne, Australia. And there may be others I didn't find.

 

June 12, 2008

Here's Jeanne d' Arc 4. A little calmer. Less dense.  A lot more gold. I did it last Wednesday or Thursday.

This one's pretty big: 74"x49". Like the others it's acrylic enamel on canvas.

As I've told you, I'm reading the transcript of Joan of Arc's heresy trial in 1431. I still can't get over the fact that a transcript of those proceedings 577 years ago exists. The more I read, the more I want to read. She answers the questions so cleverly. And she does not let the inquisitioners cow her. In fact, as in the following exchange, she tries at times to put them in fear.

"And then since she had said that we the aforenamed bishop were exposing ourselves to great peril, in French 'en grant dangier', by bringing her to trial, she was asked what that meant, and to what peril or danger we exposed ourselves, we and the others. She answered that she had said to us the aforesaid bishop, 'You say that you are my judge; I do not know if you are; but take good heed not to judge me ill, because you would put yourself in great peril. And I warn you so that if God punish you for it I shall have done my duty in telling you.'"

The aforenamed bishop was "Pierre, by divine mercy Bishop of Beauvais" as he was termed in the record.

A little later the same day, March 13, 1431, (the trial had started February 9) she was again asked about wearing a man's clothing, both in battle and now during the proceedings - an act condemned by the Church.

"Since I do it by God's command and in His service I do not think I do wrong;" she said, "and so soon as it shall please God to command I will put it off."

This was serious stuff. As it was put in the charges against her: "The reputation of this woman had already gone forth into many parts: how, wholly forgetful of womanly honesty, and having thrown off the bonds of shame, careless of all the modesty of womankind, she wore with an astonishing and monstrous brazenness, immodest garments belonging to the male sex; how moreover, her presumptuousness had grown until she was not afraid to

perform, to speak, and to disseminate many things contrary to the Catholic faith and hurtful to the articles of the orthodox belief.

 

 

June 10, 2008

Today, I'm posting four works of art - Jeanne d' Arc 5, Riley, 8, Roan, 1, and Babbie, 72.

Roan was up from Louisiana to spend three days with us, his parents Mike and Meghan in tow. And Riley, who lives in town, and Roan had a wonderful time - as we all did. This shot was taken by Riley's mother Shannon. To make it a real family reunion Eric and Michelle were here for the weekend. So we had what Babbie wants, and which happens so seldom, all our kids - Shannon, Eric and Michael - in the house together, along with their spouses, and both our grandchildren. Here's a shot that tell's you how Babbie felt about the event. That's how I felt too.

I wish I had one of Roan smiling: it's a great smile with dimples.

And as for the painting, I skipped over Jeanne d'Arc 3 and 4 to show it to you. I'll inflict those on you soon. This one in the new series, which I may incorporate with Cathedral, is 69"x50", acrylic enamel on canvas.

 

 

June 8, 2008

Renaldo Clarke, 32, an urban climber from Brooklyn, yesterday burst into the limelight with a 52-story climb up the New York Times building in Manhattan. The smile tells the story of his triumph. Ruby Washington of the Times took the shot.

Clarke was branded a copycat climber because he was the second man of the day to pull off the daring feat. Neither used climbing equipment. The first was Alain Robert, a Frenchman who has scaled more than 80 structures, including the Empire State Building. He was doing it, he said, to publicize the hazards of global warming.

Clarke, an unknown, wore a shirt that said "Malaria No More." Afterwards as he was being taken away by the police, a reporter asked him how he expected to publicize the fight against malaria by climbing. Clarke pointed out that he and his shirt were going to be on the news. And was Clarke ever right. He got much more publicity than Robert - he was the underdog. No one knew if he could make it. Both men found the one-year-old building designed by Renzo Piano inviting. It's horizontal energy conservation slats - they let in the light but absorb the heat - provide an 800-foot tall ladder.

Clarke's climb took him  over the window of Times reporter Jonathan S. Paul, who was captivated by this climber's style and wrote about it on The Moment, a daily Times blog that "spans the T Magazine universe of fashion, design, food and travel." Here's some of what Paul wrote:

Renaldo Clarke, the second dare

"I know that he was acting like a reckless, attention-craving, copycat whack job, but let me say this: he looked great! His outfit was totally J.Crew with an urban edge, very Pharrell Williams. Clarke wore a white fitted T-shirt (with blue sans serif type reading “Malaria No More”), black and yellow-neon La Sportiva Miura climbing shoes (seemingly sans socks) and baggy cotton chinos. I was especially fond of his pants selection: stonewash Nantucket reds that he’d rolled at the cuff (a nice touch). A braided leather belt — very on-trend — held the pants low on his waist. Too bad he had to go to jail; he was dressed perfectly for an après-l’escalade cocktail at the Rusty Knot."

 

 

June 5, 2008

An explosion in the server facility has put this blog off the air since Saturday. The company described the catastrophe this way:

"This evening ( Saturday) at 4:55 in our H1 data center, electrical gear shorted, creating an explosion and fire that knocked down three walls surrounding our electrical equipment room. Thankfully, no one was injured. In addition, no customer servers were damaged or lost."

So what could have been a real blow to my blog turned out to be a minor glitch in my so-called blogging life.

The picture above is of the second in the series I first showed you May 28.

I'm going to call it the Jeanne d'Arc series or Joan of Arc series. Still trying to decide whether to go with the French or English versions. But   since it was under the auspices of the English that she was put to death, I've been thinking maybe I should go with the French version.

I'm currently reading the testimony in her trial for heresy that took place in 1431. I was amazed to stumble on the information that three copies of the full procedures of the trial survived. They had been originally written in French, then transcribed to Latin, and in the early 1900s translated into English.

The English didn't like her because she had come from out of nowhere to beat them in battle after battle, turning the tide in the 100 Years War, in which France almost lost to England. The heresy trial pitted a girl of 19 without counsel (unless you consider her "voices" counsel)against 60 members of the clerical and noble elite. She was often their equal in the proceedings, sometimes outwitting them on trick questions.

Finally she was sentenced to burn at the stake for wearing men's clothing and armour, which seems to be all they could pin on her, and which was frowned on. Or as they put it in the trial proceedings:

"wholly forgetful of womanly honesty, and having thrown off the bonds of shame, careless of all the modesty of womankind, she wore with an astonishing and monstrous brazenness, immodest garments belonging to the male sex;"

 

The painting, by the way, is 59" x 41.5" and is acrylic enamel on canvas. The shot inserted in the text is of me with paintings. The two on the right are the first one's in the Jeanne d'Arc series. Do you know who took the photo?  My iMac.

 

P.S. There were two correct answers to the May 30th quiz. Both James and Shannon correctly identified the stuff in the picture as grease and since James called first he was the winner. But I decided not to award the prize - a trip to Berlin or to Peru. Little did the winners know I meant Berlin, New York, and Peru, Massachusetts. Both are towns in my neck of the woods. What a four-flusher! )

 

 

LINKS

Seth Harwood, writer

Leslie, poet

Joe Goodwin, painter

Juliane: bimbopolitics

Lisa Reinke, painter

John Mitchell, commentary

Charles Guiliano, MAVERIC, art critic

Saatchi Gallery

ArtDaily.com

Steve Satullo, movies

Christine Heller, artist

 

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