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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man

March 31, 2014

Photos by Stephen Capogna of his paintings/All Rights Reserved

Stephen Capogna of Hinsdale, a house painter by day and a fine=art painter in his spare time, is a super realist who goes to labor-intensive lengths to render his gigantic golf balls. His work is starting to win admirer's in the art world.  He is being given a solo show in 2015 of all 10 of his golf paintings at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in its Hampden Gallery. And currently two  of his works are at the Lamont Gallery at Phillips Exeter  Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. It's exhibit is right up Stephen's alley: A Whole New Game: Sports & Games in Art. It is up through May 3.

The ball on the tee above is the first of 10 golf ball paintings he has been working on for several years. It's 54" x 58". That's one big golf ball. Stephan Capogna is doing for the golf ball what Chuck Close did for the human face. The original was done in 2010. But last year Stephen repainted the tee and the grass. It is currently hanging at the Lamont Gallery.

Stephen does his work with an airbrush and precise template's he cuts. But that's just the production end. To get photos of what the ball actually does when it's hit, he grew a small fairway and green in his yard and rigged up a high-speed camera to take shots as he was hitting the ball.

This painting, 60" x 72", shows his driver smashing the ball. Originally painted in 2011, "I completely redid this piece in 2013," Stephen says. " In the original #2, I omitted a lot of information. Bonnie (his wife) saw the original photo and said why didn't you paint it like this? At first I dismissed it, but then after some careful consideration I decided to completely redo it. I still have the original #2 painting though." 

If you're starting to get the idea he's a perfectionist, you're right.

This amazing painting was born in 2011 but was born again in 2014. It is 60" x 60" and like the others is of acrylic. It's one of my favorites.

"I repainted this more times than I care to remember," the painter says. "I had to re-stretch the canvas because it became too heavy with paint... As many artists experience, once you start doing a technique or particular subject matter, eventually, you get better at it. I have experienced this with my golf ball series. I have redone four of the five paintings I had in the previous blog (July 27, 2014, which can be viewed by clicking here). The good news is, I am happier with the new paintings."

Sometimes a painting survives Stephen's critical eye and doesn't undergo a remake. That was the case of this 54" x 58" beauty done in 2011. It is also in the Phillips Exeter show. It is 54" x 58".


This ball is contorted by the force of a club. Sixty by sixty inches, this painting dates from 2011 and also remains in its original state.


This one is 54" x 58" and was done in 2012. No repaint was necessary.

After earning a bachelor of fine arts degree from UMASS Amherst in 2001, Stephen started his own exterior/interior house painting business.  He's a perfectionist at his job. I know because he painted our house Palace Arms red five or six years ago and we're still getting compliments on how good the place looks.






March 26, 2014

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

I've just finished two new circle paintings. They's about 51 inches high. I've been working on them quite a while. They went through a number of guises before they hit this point. Below is a shot of how this one started life.

The interior circle of this one came through pretty much unscathed, below, unlike that of its cell mate.


Here's the second new one and, below, the way it  began. There are a lot of layers of paint on this one.


In these details you get a little better idea of the painting technique. .


I like to think they became friends - had conversations with each other on more than one occasion -  as they hung side by side in my studio.

Something like this?

"Hey, what do you think of that old guy who keeps molesting us."

"I don't think he's a molester. I think he"s a painter."

"What's the difference?"

"Have you noticed? I'm better looking than you are?"

"Says who?"

"Says me."

"You want to step outside and repeat that?"

"Nah. I'm just going to hang around in here an get high on fumes."

As a geometric shape, the circle on the left is a little misshapen. Its buddy comes closer to being round. It's 2:26 a.m. and I'm abandoning them and this computer and heading for the kitchen to do the dishes. Oh, the rakish life of an artist in old age.








March 24, 2014

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Yesterday afternoon we took a walk in the woods. It was Babbie's birthday and that's one of the things she wanted to do. The other thing, and the one she was really looking forward to, was having her birthday party at Shannon and Paul's and eating the chocolate cake with chocolate frosting that Shannon and Riley made for her. It was delicious.

We see this splayed tree every time we walk through the woods from our house to the Beautiful Field. For years I've been calling it a wolf tree, but I looked up the definition last night and I've been wrong. A wolf tree is big and shoulders other trees in the woods out of its way, or it stands alone in a pasture after the others were cut to make way for hay.

Along the way to the Beautiful Field we encountered this icy spot. We had to take a slight detour around it. There are places like this on trails throughout the woods where four-wheelers have churned the earth during mud season, leaving gouges that fill with water. One of our favorite trails was trenched so deeply that neither man nor machine can use it anymore. Others are in danger of ending up that way.

Skimobiles, on the other hand, don't damage the trails. In fact they help hikers and cross country skiers by packing down the snow.

Although it is officially Spring we are still in the grip of winter in the Berkshires. When we took our walk it was 28 degrees. Overnight it is supposed to drop to 1. The ice is still thick enough to support pickups and SUVs on Pontoosuc Lake.

Part of the trail takes us through the remains of an orchard, now lost in a forest. Some of the trees still bear stunted apples, although they don't look like apple trees to me.  The dark tree in the foreground is one of these, as are the dark one to the left on the edge of the path and the dark tree in the background to the right.

This is a shot of the one by the path. A birch has grown up in its embrace.

Now we're at the field. This is its north end where the bordering woods is graced by birches. And from this field, which almost miraculously is free of housing, you get a great view of the mountains to the west. Up here the sounds of North Street a half mile away are muted. There is a stillness and a magic to this field, a place that is part of our secret history, that has held us gently for almost 50 years and invited us  to inhale its beauty.










March 19, 2014

Photo by Grier Horner

If you go to MASS MoCA in North Adams you've undoubtedly seen these fantastic MoCA - themed dresses in the gift section of the lobby.

Photo by Grier Horner

Wel, here's the 25-year-old who designs and sews them, Phyllis Criddle. Below she's modeling one of the dresses available at the museum shop, which she runs. It's made from T-shirts sold by MoCA or worn by its staff for special events. The dress of orange and yellow stripes is made of wristbands from Wilco's Solid Sound Festival staged at the museum for the last two years.

"Customers receive one after paying admission." she explains. "Staff working the festival wear another color, and performing artists wear another color, etc. I got the extra unused wristbands from the box office."

Photo from Phyllis Criddle Fashion on Facebook

I'd don't want to give you the impression that MoCA  dresses are the only ones she creates.

Photo from Phyllis Criddle Fashion on Facebook

This hard metal knockout is made of brass mirror hangers, zip-ties, turnbuckles, d-rings, nuts and bolts. Phyllis has said it isn't comfortable. But WOW. And she sold it.

The young designer hails from London. Her family moved to the United States in 1996 and her father, Richard Criddle, has been MoCA's chief of art installation since 1998. A sculptor he has exhibited at the museum's Kids Space.

The chain mail aspect of the dress reminds me of one I painted in my Runway Series.

Photo by Grier Horner

Below is a softer beauty from Phyllis Criddle Fashion  on Facebook. She designs a lot  of outfits you won't find at MoCA. As you'd expect, her hand sewn fashions aren't cheap. Going back to the photo at the top of this post, the red dress is $350 and the other two $650.

Photo from Phyllis Criddle Fashion on Facebook

Photo from Phyllis Criddle Fashion on Facebook

Back to MoCA, where the dress above sold. Here's hoping some fan of the museum will become buyer Number Two. She has brisker sales in MoCA cuffs and handbags like the ones in the next two photos.

Phyllis Criddle is good. Someday, maybe, models will strut her stuff at Fashion Week in New York, London and Milan.

Photo from Phyllis Criddle Fashion on Facebook

Photo from Phyllis Criddle Fashion on Facebook








March 11, 2014

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

The first time i ran pictures of Trisha Leydet was February 25. After that some of you were wondering why I don't run photos of the aspiring Pittsfield model all the time. So here are some more. And there will be another batch in the near future.


Trisha's standing in front of one of my Jeanne d'Arc paintings  above and in front of my painting of Craig Walker on Silver Lake in the shot below. She's wearing some pretty wild shoes.

To contact Trisha about modeling gigs, click this link. To see some great shots of Trisha by Indian Orchard photographer Peter Fidalgo click here.

Here she's looking into mirror that used to hang in a cool downtown store that unfortunately closed.


"Surrender to what is

Let go of what was

Have faith in what will be"









March 7, 2014

Photos by Grier Horner unless credited otherwise

Leo Mazzeo has taken a bold new approach to displaying art in The Marketplace Cafe next to the Beacon Cinema on North Street, Pittsfield. The previous shows I've seen there have featured relatively small work which could get lost in a bustling eating place. Leo's idea was to go big.

So if you go to First Fridays Artswalk from 5 to 8 tonight, try to wend your way to this cafe. The exhibiting artists besides Leo and me are Nick DeCandia, Susan Geller and Judith Lerner. All the work features food. High on the wall, from left to right in the photo, is my new painting The Goldfinch on Tart; Nick's delicious eating shot, Untitled; Leo's high-impact Grazin'Fondly, a tribute to a memorable meal with his late partner, Aimee Thayer, at the Grazin Diner; and, out of sight to the right, Susan's mouth-watering Raspberry Hamentaschen. Below these works are a half dozen fine photos by Judith from her Berkshire food paradox series. Her shot behind the seated customer is of a sign that says "Free Lunch Today." But patrons shouldn't take it literally.

When Leo drafted me to participate, I had no idea what food to paint. Then I saw a red berry tart in the Marketplace's goodies display. I bought it, photographed it, ate it and eventually put it in the painting. But I wanted more than a tart. I found the more in Donna Tartt's great new novel The Goldfinch, which featured Carel Fabritius' extraordinary painting (below) which played a major role in her book as well as supplying its title. So the painting is a pun with it's play on the words tart and Tartt, as well as an homage to the painter and the novelist whose books I love.


Photo from the Internet

At the time Fabritius did the painting, goldfinches were popular house pets. Some were taught tricks such as lowering a thimble into a glass to draw their own drinking water. As you can see, this little bird is attached to its perch by a chain. It was my first painting in oil in a long time. Trying to copy Fabritius' bird, I realized I have no career as a forger. But in the process I learned tremendous respect for this artist.


Photo of Donna Tartt by Annie Liebowitz accompanying a review of Tartt's new novel, The Goldfinch, in Vanity Fair. The Bennington College graduate's first novel was the spellbinding Secret History.


Fabritius by Fabritius

Fabritius was killed in the He painted it in 1654, shortly before he died in the explosion of the Delft powder magazine – a disaster which destroyed a large part of the city. He was only 32 and had finished The Goldfinch shortly before the explosion. The painting survived that catastrophe as well as a fictional terrorist bombing at the Met in the book.

Tonight I'm going to be anchored to the Marketplace for some time, but am going to get over to Forty Shades of Green at the Lichtenstein. I think one of my paintings is included in this tribute to Ireland.



March 1, 2014

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is one of my favorite paintings. I painted it in 1999 in acrylic when I was taking a painting class with Lisa Griffith at Berkshire Community College. And then I painted over the original in 2005 in oil. It's a take-off on Damien Hirst's famous shark in formaldehyde. I call it Anita and the Polar Bears. Anita was my model for the woman with the great what's-this-all-about gesture.


This is not the first time I've shown it on Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man. I never get tired of it. I hope you don't either. Anita lived at Cripple, the Yoga center and retreat in Stockbridge.


Kripalu was founded in Pennsylvaia in 1972 by Yorgi Amrit Desai. Ten years later the ashram purchased Shadowbrook, a former Jesuit monestary in Stockbridge. By 1989 it had 350 full-time residents. Five years later Desai was forced out after he was accused of sexual misconduct and abuse of power. Within years Kripalu reinvented itself as a secular non-profit Yoga center, a role it still plays.

In 1994, Desai was accused of sexual misconduct and abuse of power. The ashram was shut down by the scandal. But Kripalu continued to welcome visitors, and in 1999, it formally changed its status from a religious organization to a secular nonprofit.









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