Scarlet Letter
Tramp Steamer
Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man

June 29, 2010

Paintings by Grier Horner

Tomorrow is my birthday. I will be 75. Back in my 40s and 50s, I thought I would die at 58 because that's the age my father was when he died at work in Manhattan.

When I didn't kick the bucket on schedule, I had a new lease on life.

Now instead of thinking I don't have long to live, I think I'm going to last a lot longer.

But things are happening to people I love that make me realize there are limits to time and that you have very little control, if any, in setting those limits. That's the rational view. I prefer the irrational.

When I started painting 15 years ago, I harbored wild ambitions. I would tell myself I could become rich and famous.

That isn't going to happen. But for the last 10 months I've been looking for a New York gallery. Occasionally I post about this Gallery Quest. To see what I'm talking about scroll down to my June 1, 3 and 5 posts.

If I win the art lottery, I'll be showing in London and Paris and Los Angeles and North Adams.

The painting at the top of today's post is one I did this week. It is 4' x 2', acrylic on a composition board panel. Below is a detail from the multi-layered painting.

I've been thinking of calling these paintings - there are three of them now - the Cross Series. But James, my friend and relative, came up with the name Hangman, which I like. So it's up in the air.

I'm also planning more paintings of statues, with a twist, like the Three Graces below. And more of the Runway Series.

In addition I'm doing a series I think I'll call Salvage, in which I'm using acrylic paint I've peeled from paint cans, containers and drop cloths. The next picture shows a bunch of it begging to be used. (The ruler is one my father used at work.) And below that is a detail from one of the Salvage paintings.

P.S. As I write this my nose is running freely, a human BP gusher. It's hard to wipe my nose since I'm typing. So drips have been landing on my pant leg while I write. Better than intercepting the drips with my tongue, I'd argue.

Shannon told me today that this was TMI. I had to ask what TMI is. Too Much Information.



June 27, 2010

Paintings and Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

By now you've probably noticed that my blog looks different. Where there was one row of thumbnails at the top of the page, there are now two rows, doubling the number of categories.

Planned by Marita Carroll and me, the idea was to provide space to show my newer work. No paintings had been added since 2007.

So Marita, who designed this webspace back in 2006, set it up so I could update easily.

The new categories are: Current Work, Runway, Jeanne d'Arc, Gallery Quest, Gallery Spotlight, and My Photos.

Runway and Jeanne d'Arc give me a place to show my two major series of paintings since the Scarlet Letter and Dresden.

Gallery Quest features photos culled from the several thousand I have taken on 10 visits to New York in search of a gallery to represent me. Gallery Spotlight is a slot to run pictures related to some of the gallery shows I've seen and liked in that quest.

My Photos is self explanatory.

The painting heading today's post is Self Portrait as a Streetfighter, which I did in 2005. A detail from this painting serves as the thumbnail illustration for Blog.

Click on any of the new categories and you'll see work that previously didn't have a home on my website. I still haven't finished installing the new pieces, but some work has been done on each. Take a look if you get a chance.



June 25, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

One evening not too long ago I was preparing to cook London broil for supper. When I put the olive oil in Babbie's old cast iron skillet, I reached for my camera instead of the steak. Under the light the olive oil had turned to gold. And in the photo below, a wonderful blue as well. Alchemy.


June 23, 2010

(This website is currently under reconstruction.)

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is Julianna Margulies who plays TV's The Good Wife with a smoldering intensity.

Margulies is Alicia Florrick, a lawyer grappling with her husband's very public betrayal.

I shot these pictures while watching an episode of the CBS drama now in summer reruns.

For my money, it's the best show on television.

The 44-year-old former ER star, teams up with Archie Panjabi, below, to fight the good fight for her Chicago law firm.



June 21, 2010

Jacqueline Humphries, Untitled, oil and enamel on linen, 2010, at Stuart Shave, London

Jacqueline Humphries' work stirred me deeply when seven of her giant paintings were shown by the Williams College Museum of Art in 2006.

So I was excited when I came across the photo at the top of another powerful painting by hers, this one from a solo show at the Stuart Shave gallery in London earlier this year.

I wish I had had the money to fly over and see the exhibition. When my paintings are selling for big bucks, I'll have the dough to do things like that.

Jacqueline Humphries, Clio in Furs, at the Williams College of Art in 2006 . Below is another photo of the same painting, showing how different they look in varying light.

"...the painting changes before your eyes. They’re impossible to photograph—there’s no 'accurate' image," Humphries said in an interview by artist Cecily Brown in the Spring 2009 issue of Bomb.

Her paintings are more subject to be changed by light or color than most because she uses a metallic silver paint that creates a reflective surface.

In the interview Humphries tells Brown there's "a kind of theatricality which my even veer toward the melodramatic" in her work.

"I want to captivate and entertain a viewer...I can get upset if i have a picture in the room and no one really looks at it. I know it's greedy and I shouldn't admit it. Does that happen to you?

"Oh, God, yes. It's awful," Brown responds.

Jacqueline Humphries, Untitled, from the Stuart Shave exhibition

"At some point it occurred to me that it really wasn’t my job to make the painting, but to destroy it," Humphries says. "I have to destroy the painting I know to make the one I don’t know yet."

Humphries, who was born in New Orleans in 1960, participated in the large Prospect.1 show held there in 2008 to help rehabilitate the city. Her venue was at Ideal Auto Repairs (below). Some of her paintings were on canvas and some were sprayed directly on the walls.


I always want to show you more paintings. So my more, for today, is the one below from her show at the Greene Naftali gallery in New York last year. She's an amazing painter.






June 19, 2010

These are some of Autumn's self portraits on view at BCC's downtown gallery. The hazy areas in the top photo are not in the work itself but are caused by glare in the gallery.

Autumn Doyle is an artist who has traced a dramatic personal transformation with self portraits of  astute symbolism, searing honesty and great artistry.

Some of her body of work tracing the change from Joe to Autumn is on view at Berkshire Community College's downtown gallery in the Intermodal Transit Center on Columbus Avenue.

Autumn has also come up with a series of airy hanging sculptures composed of reeds connected not with glue or wire but with thorns.

Here are a series of shots of Autumn and two others in animated conversation at the Third Thursday opening. Autumn is also a goth musician and singer. In the photo below she is the one on the right of the group of three.

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

I'm ending this post with another picture from Autumn's solo show, a portrait in a wedding dress in the snow. For another piece on Autumn's work go to my post of December 12, 2008.




June 18, 2010

Special Edition

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Looking up North Street (above) and down (below) the pavement became a wide pedestrian walk last night as crowds checked out  Pittsfield's Third Thursday.

A monthly event from May through October, Third Thursday, now in its third year, has grown tremendously popular.

To accommodate the crowds the city closed the street to cars and trucks last night.

Megan Whilden, the city's director of cultural development, told The Eagle her office has been "deluged with requests" to close North Street to traffic for Third Thursdays. Whilden was one of the driving forces in putting Third Thursday's on the map.


June 17, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Now I'm an abstract expressionist, but I'm painting with my camera. I suppose the paintings I showed you in my previous post are abstract expressionism, too. I'll have to try to do this with paint.





June 15, 2010

This is my newest painting. It is 48" x 24", acrylic on a panel. So far it's untitled but was painted as part of a potential series inaugurated by the painting below, which I had shown you earlier.



June 13, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Can this studio be saved? That's a serious question. A lot rests on a purchase I made yesterday at Sears - the red, four-drawer chest in the foreground.

It's duty is to accommodate paint containers that absorb so much floor space that there is barely room for me. (I normally paint on canvas tacked to the wall instead of using easels.)

It's probably unfair to put so much responsibility on one piece of rolling furniture, but it is my last hope for converting chaos to order.

On second thought, maybe what I really need is a front-end loader.




June 11, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

When I was a kid a print of a three-masted ship in full sail at night hung in my room. Much like the versions of this photograph here, it was a study in shades of black and blue.

I loved that painting and since boyhood, because of that picture, I suppose, I have always been attracted to studies in black and blue.

That probably explains why I am so drawn to this photo I took last night.

Babbie and I were driving back from a party in Williamstown when we came to Pontoosuc Lake. It was about 9 p.m. and the lake and the mountains and sky were breathtaking.

I grabbed my little CoolPix and fired off a shot. (Babbie was driving.) But I hadn't changed the camera setting so the flash went off when I pushed down on the trigger. I got this shot of the flash illuminating the rain spattered side window.

So as we're driving around the lake, I'm fumbling to put it in a no-flash mode. By the time that's set we've hit the stretch of road where trees are growing along the lakeshore. In seconds we'd lose sight of the lake entirely because of the hillock on which The Pines condominiums are perched.

I pushed the trigger twice. Surprisingly one of the shots avoided the trees entirely, giving me the photo I wanted. The original is the second from the top of the post. I tampered with it a little on my Aperture softwear and came up with the version that tops this piece.

I wish I could show them to you in the 4000-pixel-wide format of the original, but the highest I can go here is 700. I'm using the 300-pixel-wide version below instead of a period to punctuate the end of the piece


June 9, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

What have I captured here. Molecular structures, mutant cells, DNA markers? I bet you can't come up with the correct answer.

Did I have to hack into secret CIA files? Dissect Apple's new iPhone 4?  

All I feel comfortable telling you is that these were secured Sunday afternoon. Until now only one other person knew I had them. I'm not sure what happens when these images can be accessed by certain entities and their operatives.





June 7, 2010

Paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat


I walked into the Beacon Cinema on North Street yesterday about 9:15 A.M. That's right - A.M.!

I asked for two tickets for Basquiat. The girl looked at me quizzically.

"Basquiat, or however you pronounce it," I said.

She was still drawing a blank.

The Radiant Child, Babbie coached.

I gave the girl $20 and she gave me two tickets for Tamara Davis's fine documentary about Basquiat, a shooting star on the art scene before he died of a heroin overdose in 1988 at the age of 27.

Then I went over to another girl and gave her $2 for a cup of coffee. She gave me a small cup and a lid and pointed me to the dispensing machines.

I  put the cup under a silver contraption to pump cream in the cup.

Out jutted some yellow stuff.

"That's hot butter for the popcorn," Babbie said.

I went back to the second girl and explained about the butter and she gave me a new cup and a few words of sympathy. And this time I managed to get cream in it, added the coffee, and then started searching for the tickets. I finally found them in some pocket or other and we took the escalator up to the second floor to see Jean-Michel Basquiat: the Radiant Child.

If you'd like to watch the trailer for this fine documentary by  Tamara Davis click this link.

Basquiat with one of his paintings.

It was worth getting up at 7:30 for. I loved it. He looks sinister in the shot above. But this was not a sinister guy. I'm a fan. Besides I love to hear artists talk about what they do and see them paint.

This was the first time that the Berkshire International Film Festival in Great Barrington, now in its fifth year, had branched out to Pittsfield.

Tamara Davis, then studying filmmaking, met him and became a friend. She shot an interview of Basquiat and then put it away when he died. The interview itself was uninspired but it served as a framework for the film.


Basquiat, who grew up in a middle-class family in Brooklyn, was the first painter of African descent to become an international art star, according to Wikipedia.


June 5, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Hauling art in Chelsea last week was this very fashionable stevedore. Below is another kind of hauler with nothing in tow at the moment. I love the colorful congestion of this service station on 10th Avenue.

This woman was reading while she waited for the guy who just emerged from a doorway. The yellow pylons protecting the building from backing trucks would make a pretty classy sculpture. They made a good place to prop her book. The woman below is with a guy who's hailing a cab.


This goalie was on his cell while two of his buddies were booting practice shots his way. I have a feeling that Anthony, in the message scrawled below, better start looking for the sticker. I wonder what the sticker's for?

This woman looks exhausted. She grabbed a little sleep on the train back to Wassaic.




June 3, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner unless otherwise noted

When I saw the promotional photo for Claerwen James' show at Flowers Gallery in Chelsea, I knew I had to see her work.

The photo was of the painting Sisters in grey and yellow, one stealing a sideways look at the other, and for me it was love at first sight of the 39-year-old Brittish painters' work.

James almost became a scientist, earning a Ph.D. in the molecular biology of cancer before switching to a career in art.

Since 2004 - the year after graduating from the Slade School of Fine Art - she has been represented by Flowers Gallery in England. This exhibition in Flowers' New York branch, located on West 20th Street, is her first in America.

This is a detail from her 2009 painting Girl lying on a chair. It is 36" x 30" and is in oil on board.

All the paintings but one are of children - most of them girls. There is a look of appraisal, perhaps of loneliness and sadness, in this girl's face and that is a mark of James' art.

James is one of two daughters of a well known British poet, memoirist and TV personality, Clive James, and the scholar Prue Shaw.

During her first show at Flowers in London in 2006, Claerwen and Clive were interviewed by the Sunday Times (London, not New York). He acknowledged that when she was a girl, "I wasn’t a hands-on dad — shamefully not so, I’m afraid."

"He couldn't get to the launch of my degree show," Claerwen said, "so he came two days later. I was on edge because there's some psychological stuff in my pictures of girls."

When he arrived he looked in silence, then said, "They are so sad."

"It was the best simple thing anyone could have said," his daughter said.

There is a great loneliness in some of them," her father said "I hope I'm not responsible for that."

(Of the two small photos here, the girl on the chair was taken from Flowers' website and the one of Clive and Claerwen by the Sunday Times.)

Writing about the paintings in James' 2004 show in London, Allison Pearson said, "Children live in another country, and these remarkable portraits are landscapes of that foreign terrain."

And Francis Spufford in the catalogue for James' 2006 show pointed out that the paintings "...are so free of the embarrassments that cling to much art about childhood."

Above we have the haunting Girl aged 12 from 2009. An oil, it is 22" x 18". This work has the signature James look. She paints from photographs and at times intentionally leaves the clothing flat, as if the outfit were a paper-doll cutout.

And this is Girl, 10 . It was painted this year and is 56" x 48.5".

So on Gallery Quest 10, I saw exciting portraits by two artists I hadn't know before - Claerwen James and Piet van den Boog. For Boog's work see my June 1 post.

P.S. Here I am with Girl, 10. I was the only man I saw in Manhattan wearing a straw fedora on May 26th. Bill Cunningham of the New York Times recently reported that a lot of women are wearing them this season.

When I saw a friend at Grand Central I told him the out-of-fashion hat was a "prerogative of age."



June 1, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner unless otherwise noted

Piet van den Boog, a Dutch artist born in 1951, has a terrific show at the Mike Weiss Gallery on West 24th Street in Chelsea through June 19.

In the first four photographs, I'm progressively giving you more detail so you can see how he works. I think his technique is brilliant.

In the first photo you're looking from the gallery's front room, past the desk, and into the back room. The painting is about 86.5" x 59" and is called How can something so pure...be so difficult.

Shot 3, above, and 4, below are details from I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; I lift my eyes and all is born again.

All the paintings in the show are on sheets of black steel, on which he has used etching fluids to oxidize the surface. Leaving parts of the steel unpainted, he does the figures first in acrylic and then oil.

He also uses clay on the surface, which the gallery says references the disastrous romance of sculptors Camille Claudel and Rodin. The painting above is Kiss me and you'll know how important I am.

Photo taken from the Mike Weiss Gallery website

This large painting is ...I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest..., which is the title of the show.

Using black steel for a surface makes van den Boog's old-master technique look cutting edge. I love the controlled oxidation on the top and ends.

I couldn't find much personal information about van den Boog on Google. But the gallery says he is influenced by the Dutch painters Frans Hals and Vermeer, and by the writings of Sylvia Plath.


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