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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man


April 30, 2009

Guest blog by Susan Phillips, Nairobi, Kenya

Three years in Kenya,  more than 10,000 clicks of the shutter -- testament to the freedom that comes with never having to buy film. As the images pile up, I’m trying to figure out why my eye makes the choices it does.

Like other predators, I’m bemused by all those stripes on zebras.

I love the awkward dance of birds between their elements.

Sometimes I think it is all about color, and especially green: tea
leaves versus banana leaves as opposed to a misty Tigoni farm in the
rainy season.  

Except when I decide it's about people: the seller of second-hand shoes,
four boys sharing a single plastic chair.

My mind's eye is trying to stitch together its personal Kenya, I suppose I will have to wait and see what form it finally takes...

Susan Phillips has worked as a journalist at CBS, WPIX-TV, and The Berkshire Eagle, and as a web site editor. For Now, she and her husband, two teenage sons, and two dogs live in Nairobi, where she is figuring out all the buttons on her digital camera. Recently she helped redesign the website for KidsLibs Trust, which starts free community libraries in poor neighborhoods.

Under the alias, Pied Crow, Susan's photo of the day can be viewed on the web at this address.


April 28, 2009

Here's  Runway, the painting I first showed you on April 22. I've worked on it perhaps 15 to 18 hours since then.  And it still isn't finished.

It takes me a lot longer to  paint these than the Jeanne d'Arc paintings. Taking a photos along the way often gives me a fresh look at what I'm working on. I'll show it to you again when it's finished.

The most time-consuming element has been the faces, which are shown below. More work will have to go into them. I'm afraid I get impatient.





April 26, 2009

I shot this recently on Columbus Avenue looking toward North Street. I like the way the lights stream over the hood of the car and its rear fender. It makes the car look like its doing 95. I like the 20 or 30 L-shaped lights hurtling down from the sky as if a space ship was targeting the car.



April 24, 2009

This is Susan Rose with two of her tremendous photographs - and wearing a wonderful coat.

Her show, the second at the new Berkshire Community College Art Gallery, opened last night and will be up through May 18. Besides her photos she is showing paintings, prints and small sculpture.

In the photo on the left below she's talking about her etchings. The other photo shows Peter LaFayette, executive director of the Berkshire Bank Foundation, and Paul E. Raverta, president of the college. The bank foundation made a grant to BCC to aid in opening the gallery.




















April 22, 2009

This is something new. My first figurative painting in perhaps a year. I've been thinking about this for a month or more. Not about this particular painting - this one's sort of practice. But this project.

I started it Sunday and it is not finished.  But it's been exciting testing the figurative waters again after my year of abstraction. Actually more like 15 months with abstraction.

This thing's 6' x 4'. The project I've been thinking of is 30 feet long. But I can't figure out how to do it. If I do I think it might be interesting.

I'm working in acrylic, the paint I used for the Jeanne d'Arc and Cathedral series. These were paintings where I needed paint that would pour and flow. Normally I use oils when I paint figures. I feel very comfortable with them.

But I wanted to use something where I was out of my comfort zone. We'll see.

P.S. Babbie scalded her arm Monday evening when she was draining the water out of a pan of potatoes she'd just taken off the burner. She'd been having some trouble with her left thumb and it gave out  while she was holding the handle. The water poured down her arm. She held it under cold water for 10 minutes. When I saw that her skin was peeling off, I drove her to the emergency room. They fixed her up. I picked up the pain pills the doctor prescribed. But Babbie hasn't taken any. She says it doesn't hurt. When I help her with the dressisng, the burned area looks like it should hurt a lot. She's tough.



April 20, 2009

Saturday morning we moved the Dresden paintings out of the Berkshire Community College Art Gallery, into a truck and back into my house.

The official photographer for moving day was Riley, my 9-year-old granddaughter. Carrying paintings in this shot are, from the left, Shannon, Babbie and Ted Griffith.

The photo on the left is a Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man.

With all the help we had, I didn't have to do much heavy lifting.

Babbie was less than thrilled to have these six paintings, along with the 19 we took down earlier in the month at Zeitgeist, back in the house.

We managed to squeeze them all in my studio. However, there are still 10 canvases from the Jeanne d'Arc series - one's that weren't hung at Zeitgeist - stacked against the walls in the addition. I'll have to get this sorted out.

Lisa Yetz-Griffith, who picked these paintings to open the new gallery, always said she thought they would make the gallery glow from the street. So Friday night I took this shot from Columbus Avenue. I think she was right.



April 20, 2009

Renee Bouchard's show opened Saturday night at Zeitgeist Gallery at 648 North Street, Pittsfield.

Her work is as compelling as the show's name. The Williamstown resident, shown in the top photo with Jamie Franklin, has produced paintings and installations that I think should be seen.

And Zeitgeist, the spunky gallery across from Family Dollar on North Street is a great place to see it. The gallery has the space that lets it breath. And art director Brent Whitney has presented her art well.

Franklin, curator at the Bennington Museum, writes of her work:

“Renée Bouchard’s recent paintings walk a fine line. They balance the
often cool, cerebral formal concerns of abstraction with a poignant,
often poetic expression of what it is to live and make our way through
this often disorienting world."

Things in this show aren't always what they seem at first glance. A seeming blob of plaster has a mouth and nose, if you bend down to look at it head on. Fingers emerge from another. Amorphous shapes in her paintings often reveal themselves as heads. Below, a guest studies a painting on the opposite wall. You'll notice that the painting on the left is three dimensional.



April 18, 2009

And then there were none. My show at Berkshire Community College's new downtown gallery comes down today. My other solo show at Zeitgeist closed earlier this month. Having two was exciting while it lasted.

In memoriam, I decided to run some close-ups of the faces in the Dresden Firebombing paintings that we'll load in the truck today.

At the top is the Angel of Incineration - a painting I'd never shown before.

Then there is this one, And She was All of Solid Fire.

Then there were the dolls heads I made by creating a mold from the head of one of my dolls recovered from a bombed-out German factory. I fabricated a copper box to hold them and inserted it in the painting, which was the first in the series. The shot was taken by my granddaughter, Riley.

Below are thumbnail shots of the paintings the details came from:







April 17, 2009

This is Big Yellow. I took it in Louisiana. You know how things are there. I like the things you get unexpectedly when taking photos at night. The long gap in posts was due to the trip. Have to get a laptop one of these days. Felt disconnected on the trip without the computer. It was wonderful to see our kids and our two-year-old grandson, that sweet child of mine (ours).


April 7, 2009

This is Jeanne d'Arc 34. It used to be Jeanne d'Arc 15. But 15 didn't do much for me. So it underwent a major makeover last week. I don't think anything is left of the original but a few patches of blue I scratched down to.

The original is directly above. And directly below is the first repainting. I liked that better but thought it was too pale. (In case you wondered why it's propped up behind a post in the bottom photo, it is because the wind was blowing and I didn't want the canvas to blow over while I was photographing it.)

So that's how it went, for better or worse. For a few days you're not going to find any new posts here. But if you click on browser it'll bring you to a blogspot page where I'll try to add some posts. (As if you couldn't go eight or nine days without one.)

P.S. David Bates and I took down my show at Zeitgeist yesterday, loaded the 19 paintings into a rental truck, had a beer and fish chowder at Reilly's, and unloaded them at home. Sad to see them come down. They looked good there. The Dresden paintings are still at the BCC art gallery in the new downtown gallery at the Intermodal Transportation Center.



April 5, 2009

This is a still from Pawel Wojtasik's show-stealing video at last night's opening of These Days: Elegies for Modern Times at MASS MoCA.

His cycloramic work, Below Sea Level, is a stunningly beautiful affirmation of the spirit of New Orleans, the bayous, the Spanish-moss-draped trees, the oil rigs, etc. To watch, you enter a cylinder 35 feet in diameter. You've hear of surround sound. Well this thing not only has that but it has surround video. The images encircle you and you're captured.

After supper at the museum's Lickety Split, Babbie and I watched Sea of Birds in the Hunter Theatre. Sebastienne Mundheim's perfornance piece is dreamlike and spell binding.

To see what you missed, go to and search for "Sea of Birds Trailer". I'd give you the link, but the last two times I tried, I managed to blow away this post and the draft of another. I guess I'm technologically challenged.



April 3, 2009 (revised edition)

March was a red letter month for me. Solo shows at Zeitgeist and Berkshire Community College's new downtown gallery. And my blog took off as well.

Whoa. Listen to me. Aren't I great?

Me thinks I need to get out of the self-congratulatory mode and start painting seriously again.

I just got a new shipment of paint yesterday. I love the colors. I go through paint fast. Now I just have to get back in the zone.

In March The Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man attracted 44,640 hits and an average of 77 visits a day. Those are the best figures for the last 11 months. But far off the website record of 105,000 hits in November 2007. I've been driving people away in droves since then.

The photo displayed with this post is a detail of one of my Jeanne d'Arc paintings at Zeitgeist. The shot was taken by my 9 year-old-granddaughter Riley.


April 1, 2009

If you read my March 31 blog about getting lost twice in a row driving to Nicole's,  I suppose you'd write me off as just another sorry old man whining about fears of senility.

So as a counterweight I'm running this self portrait to show you I'm not the floundering mess you envisioned.

I think you'll have to agree the March 31 post was just an off day in the life of a guy who at 73 is still running with the wolves. (I can hear you now. You think this is a sled dog. Think again.)

I mean, does you father, or grandfather for that matter, dress like this? Is your father, or grandfather, a wolf whisperer? Do necklaces as cool as mine dangle from their necks?

I rest my case.




Seth Harwood, writer

Leslie, poet

Joe Goodwin, painter

Juliane: bimbopolitics

Lisa Reinke, painter

John Mitchell, commentary

Charles Guiliano, MAVERIC, art critic

Saatchi Gallery

Steve Satullo, movies

Christine Heller, artist


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