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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man

June 30, 2013

(revised July 3)


Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved



This is a study in how a painting changes. The photo on the top is the one of the bottom after I made some major changes. My concern now is the the parallel black lines may suck too much air out of it. I can always paint them out if I decide it's too crowded now.

This painting is a birthday present to myself. Today is my birthday. I am now 78. Happy Birthday dear Grier, Happy Birthday to you. And many more.

The group show I'm in at the Lenox Library ends this afternoon. I'm gallery sitting at the library from 2:30 to 5. I have two paintings in the show. You can see them in my June 16 post. 

In the evening I had six people to help me celebrate - and a great celebration it was. The party consisted of Babbie, Shannon, Riley, Paul, Eliza and Peter. We had cranberry chicken that Babbie whiped up - it was delicious - and chocolate bombe from Guido's. My mouth is watering just remembering that dinner.

Talking about age, when I started writing Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man in June 2006, I was a relatively young old man. Now I'm a relatively old old man - almost an octogenarian - and loving it. Babbie and I recently went to my 60th high school reunion in Tarrytown, New York. Of the 72 who graduated from Washington Irving High School in 1953, 16 of us showed up. We had a great time over a two-day span. Some of us even toured both the Rockefeller Estate and Washington Irving's home. I told you we had a rousing time.

Babbie and I started dating halfway through my senior year. She was a junior. We got married seven years later. But 2013 marks 60 years of being together through good times and bad. Mostly good. These days Babbie claims life is a little harder because she has to "think for two." She cracked me up yesterday by suggesting that my hair is pulled back so tight in its new top-knot style that its effecting my brain.


June 24, 2013


I have been a fan of Anne Pasko's work for years. I love her use of color, composition and surface texture. Sometimes airy, sometimes earthy, sometimes spiritual, her best pieces combine subtlety and boldness. The acrylic painting Out of the Darkness, 18" x 24" above, illustrates what I mean, as does The Dove Keepers, a mixed media, below.

Her show, The Spirit of the Four Directions, is the last at the Berkshire Community College's downtown gallery at the Intermodal Transit Center on Columbus Avenue in Pittsfield. The final chances to see it from inside the gallery are on Wednesday and Friday from 2 to 5. But today and tomorrow it can be viewed through the gallery's windows on Columbus. Anne said she will also take people through by appointment if they call her at 443-1832.

Her show is the swan song for the gallery started in March 2009 by Lisa Griffith, the head of the college's art department. It was made possible by the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority, which owns the building and had no tenants for its two storefronts on the street. The Pittsfield Visitors Center has just opened in one and the present gallery space will be taken over by a paying tenant - Soldier On's new call center that will provide transportation for veterans. A worthy cause that comes at a great loss to the Pittsfield art scene.


The last time I talked to Lisa Griffith, she was looking for a new downtown space but hadn't found one. That conversation was some time ago and I haven't been able to reach her recently.

The current show comes from what Anne Pasko terms "a deep spiritual connection to the four directions of North, East, South and West...and this exhibit is the culmination of a year's worth of work with these directions in mind." She has grouped her paintings in sections corresponding to the directions and has marked each section with a tag like this one. The painting above is The Northern Tribes and, of course, is part of The North-Earth.



I'm using this painting, Waters of Life, a 24" x 18" acrylic , to illustrate the surface complexity of her work. See the detail below. "I layer, layer and layer," she says of her technique. "I can't stop layering." And I might add, thank goodness she can't stop.

“These are not from a clear, conscious place, but rather something that bubbles up out of the unconscious - a remembering of an ancient symbol, or an image seen or felt in a dream'" Anne says in her Artist's Statement for the show.

Before her retirement operated Pasko's Frame and Gift Center on North Street.

" When I had the store, my creative work was in the framing and studio," she said. After the closing a friend took her to an art workshop and she found a new outlet for her creativity. "I fell in love with painting."



Here's Anne Pasko at the opening on First Fridays early this month. She is laughing with Mary McGinnis, left, who heads First Fridays, and Barbara Schmick. The painting below, a collage, a form the artist uses frequently, is Nature's True Colors.

Walt Pasko, her husband, converted an old dog kennel into a large studio for Anne. Also a painter, he does his landscapes outdoors on the scene and has a studio in the house. She paints from September on Monhegan Island in Maine to April. "I love being in the studio with the wood stove burning," she said. In April she shifts into her gardening mode and the local garden tour. (The painting below is Twilight.)



Ann Pasko's paintings are one of the best buys on the Pittsfield art scene. Not only are they very good they are inexpensive. The prices at the show range from $175 to $250. While she doesn't keep track of how many paintings she has done, there have been a lot. And I trust there are a lot more to come.


”There are always so many ideas floating in my head," she says, "that it is just not possible for me to keep creating the same thing or using the same style over and over"






June 16, 2013

The Brushes for  Books art show opened last evening with a crowded, $25-a-ticket reception at the Lenox Library. The proceeds will benefit the library. The exhibition will be open free to the public from 1 to 5 this afternoon and during regular library hours through June 29.

The photo above shows me wedged between my two paintings in the show: Woman with a Green Cloak and Alligator on the left and Nicole X 3. This gives you an idea of their size. Portions of both are cut off by the camera.  Both are among those I painted this year.

This is  Betsy Dovydenas talking with friends. Above her head is a deceptively simple and compelling self-portrait.

A conversation is held next to the work of Jonas Dovydenas, Betsy's husband. Below is a photo of a death-row prisoner in Vilnius, Afghanistan. This compilation of pictures is a reminder of the rich photographic portfolio Jonas has created over the years.


Above left is Julie Edmonds whose stunning triptychs are included in the photo. Others in the wide world of art are probably working in this format, but I haven't seen it before.

Paul Graubard engages with two women at his wall of outsider art. As far as I know he is the only member of my six-member art group whose work is included in an important museum - the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

This is Susan Hartung, whose drawings should be in a museum, in front of two of her works. Of the five artists I've shown so far, all but Jonas is in the art group.

Here's my shot of the west end of the library's Well's Gallery with its double doors open to Main Street. In the foreground are two ceramic sculptures by Annemarie Haftl. I was taken by her work. Below is a close up of the piece in the foreground.


This is a photograph by  Barry Rosenthal. I'm amazed by the 3D effects he has managed to capture in this photo.

I've left several participants out, not because they aren't good, but because I want to leave some room for pictures important to me.


Here I am with part of my crew: Michelle, Riley, Shannon and the twins.

And here is Kelly Wickliff, the library's development director, and her son Jonathan. They worked hard to make the show a reality.

And in parting, a shot of my newest painting, Woman with Green Cloak and Alligator as it looks in the library.

Kelly Wickliff – Development Director


And a handsome devil it is, if I do say so myself.



June 13, 2013


Photo by Grier Horner

Brushes for Books, a multimedia art show to benefit the Lenox Library, will open this coming Saturday with a reception at the library from 5:30 to 7:30. Work by 10 artists - including me and five friends - will be show at the institution's Wells Gallery.. Tickets are $25.

The show will be up through Saturday June 29 - the day before my birthday. The show can be seen without a ticket during library hours:  Tuesday through Saturday, 11 to 5.


I finished the piece at the top, Woman with Green Cloak and Alligator, just in time to hang it in the show along with another large painting done this year.

Four other members of the art group I belong to have work in the exhibit: painters Betsy Dovydenas, Paul Graubard, Susan Hartung and Julie Edmonds, as well as Betsy's husband, photographer Jonas Dovydenas.

The others exhibiting are painter Karen Beckwith, ceramist Vared Tendler Dayan, ceramist Annemarie Haftl and photographer Barry Rosenthal.

This is a photo by Jonas Dovydenas, taken on one of his many tours of Afghanistan, of a prisoner on death row in Vilnius, enjoying a smoke in his "excercise yard."


This piece, Arctic Jam, is one that Paul Graubard will hang. To give you an idea of the esteem in which he is held among outsider artists, the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore owns several of his paintings. Below is a oil painting by Julie Edmonds, Thin Slices #4. It is one of a series of three-paneled paintings she has tackled lately. But unlike the triptychs I have seen, these are stacked vertically. A narrow space separates each section.




I don't have a jpg of work by Susan. Below is a flamboyant piece by Betsy:


Back to my painting - Woman with Green Cloak and Alligator. Isn't that a great title? It is painted with acrylic and is about 80" x 55" if you include the dark lilac boarder. I intend to insert grommets in the boarder so  that it can be hung with screws  or nails through the grommets - eliminating the need for a heavy stretcher.

I haven't worked abstractly since the Jeanne d'Arc series of more than 30 paintings in 2008 and 2009. I enjoyed working on this one a lot and made major shifts in direction three or four times.

Some advice I got from Joe Goodwin, an accomplished abstract painter, was very helpful. He knew is was having a hard time finding my way so he sent me some quotes from Gerhard Richter, the famous German painter who does both abstract and figurative paintings.

Richter talks about abstraction being like opening a door into an unknown interior. And about the hard work involved. "The beginning is actually quite easy, because I can still be quite free about the way I handle things – colours, shapes. And so a picture emerges that may look quite good for a while, so airy and colourful and new. But that will only last for a day at most, at which point it starts to look cheap and fake. And then the real work begins – changing, eradicating, starting again, and so on, until it's done."

Using that as a guide, I felt empowered to keep changing things, looking for something that worked for me. Of course a lot of figurative artists shift things around as they paint, going so far as taking a figure out or moving the figure to a different spot. I'm afraid I was never one for making major changes in compositiion in a figurative painting once I begin.



June 6, 2013

(Hey, if you're a kid about to look at this post, you should ask your parents' permission first.)

Michael Rousseau, La Petite Mort, Oil on Canvas, 24" x 48", 2010. Photo by the artist.

Michael Rousseau has mounted a powerhouse of a show at the Y Bar on North Street in Pittsfield, a show I think should demonstrate that his work deserves to be shown in the big time.

It's opening is this coming Friday and if you're downtown for the First Fridays Arts Walkabout I think this is a must see - unless you have a kid or two in tow. There is a strong sexual undercurrent in many of the paintings and it becomes explicit in a couple. So much so that the owner of the building has told him to take down or conceal a half dozen or so of the pieces on June 14. Some children will be traipsing through this back room of the very cool bar to get to the bathroom from the photo studio next door.

In the painting above Rousseau evokes Bernini's funerary sculpture, Beata Ludovica Albertoni (see below), and the classic Greek sculpture of a fallen warrior, in the foreground of a painting that is totally contemporary. First there is the girl who looks like she could almost be the soul rising from the sculpture and then there is the woman in the black bra. Both are unmistakably modern and sexual. The first woman shares the sculptures ecstacy and the other has her hand placed invitingly on the fallen soldiers shoulder.

Bernini, Beata Ludovica Albertoni, Marble, 1674.

Not only do many of the paintings have an aura of antiquity, they are hung in the Saloon style, a style that evolved around 1700 and remained popular through the 19th century. It is starting to regain favor in some circles. Here is what Rousseau has done with one wall of the bar (I call it the Naked Wall)::

Photo by Grier Horner

And below is what he has down with the facing wall. There was a tall stepladder in the photo because on Wednesday evening when I took photos, he was still installing the lighting.

Photo by Grier Horner

If there's ever been a show like this in Pittsfield before, I haven't seen it.


"The reason I put up this show was an opportunity for me to see all my work in one room and see where I'm going and where I've been. Interesting to look at all these time capsules over the last four years," Michael said. "I'm painted out for the moment. I'm trying to make myself slow down and get lost in this show...I need some time to see more clearly where I'm going."

His classic period - 2009 through 2011, seen here largely on the wall two photos up - produced his most dramatic work. He referred to it the other day as his "Wow, Wow, Wow" period. It was a time in which he did "a ton" of research, looking hard at what Carvaggio, Michelangelo, and others were doing and how they did it and how he could apply that to contemporary work. In all the paintings of that group he used burnt sienna for the under paintings, the warm tone the old masters used.

The dynamic La Petite Mort at the top of this page - my favorite from that period - combines images of thoroughly modern women with works from antiquity.

Since I took these pictures he has installed one of the abstract paintings he has been working on in addition to the figurative work.  In this setting, he says, "it sticks out like a sore thumb."


Some of the shots could be from girly magazines - if those still exist. The one below, Serratus - with I think is the muscle that elevates the chest wall, is an example. Or it would be if it was not so beautifully painted.


Michael Rousseau, Tattooed Christ, 48"x24". (The glitter at the top is from the lighting.) Photo by Grier Horner


Caravaggio, Flagellation of Christ, 1607.


Michael Rousseau, Becoming, 36" x 24", 2009. (The glitter in the top left is from the lighting.) Photo by Grier Horner.


Michael Rousseau, The Magdalen, "24" x 48", 201o. Photo by Grier Horner


Michael Rousseau, Autumn (detail), 48"x36", 2010. Photo by Grier Horner

Here's a line of demarcation. All the paintings below are from this year.


Michael Rousseau, Serratus, 2013, 36"x36", 2013. Photo by the artist.

The figure above could be from a girly magazine - if those still exist. It's titled Serratus - with I think is the muscle that elevates the chest wall. What separates it from soft porn is his artistry. It is beautifully painted.

Michael Rousseau, Rise of the Green Fairy, Oil and Gold Leaf, 30" x 20", 2013. Photo by the artist.


The painting above and the one below seem to illustrate the tug of war in this 38-year-old artist's mind. The only similarity I see is the halos he often bestows on women in his paintings. In this case they are gold leaf. I don't have a vote in this but I go with Bekka and ABI over the Green Fairy.


Michael Rousseau, Bekka, 18" x 12", oil and gold leaf, 2013. Photo by the artist.



Michael Rousseau, ABI, 36"x 24", 2013. Photo by the artist.

And last but not least here is a self portrait (below) by the artist, a Pittsfield native who is a graphic designer for Barrington Stage and whose studio is at the Lichtenstein . So I've shown you some of his work - some of it brilliant, I think, some of it disturbing,just as some of Caravaggio's work is disturbing and some of it ... well, every artist has some of that.


Michael Rousseau, Self Portrait - age 36, 38"x 28", 2010.


June 2, 2013



Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

For the last four or five months, I have been letting my hair grow. And I'm pulling it back and tying it with special elastics my granddaughter gave me. The plan is to grow a top knot like the guy below. I saw two young guys sporting them in Lake Charles, Louisiana, earlier this year and that's when I got the urge. I didn't like the way I looked so I told myself, "What the hell."



I liked to think it would make me look a little menacing. But Babbie tells me that all it does "is make you look old and tired." I think she also tossed in the word pathetic for good measure. I suspect she's right but I tell her that after it grows another inch and I can catch all the hair in the knot it will look better. At first I was self conscious when my hair and I went out in public. But that's only a problem occasionally now. We've been invited to dinner at a pretty fancy club. I wonder what the reaction will be there.


Yesterday it was very hot when I woke up and I didn't like the way the long hair felt around my ears and down my neck.  I almost called Bridget to see if she could cut it off. But the heat didn't bother me after I pulled it back and tied it up.

Friday night we went to the Iron Horse in Northampton to see Della Mae, an exciting bluegrass band composed of five young women. We hooked up with Peter and Eliza there and Eliza, bless her heart, said she liked it. Judy S. told me she did, too. But most of the reaction has been negative. It has made a number of people burst out laughing. Apparently they didn't feel menaced. Also, two women have patted the little pony tail fondly. Or was it with bemusement?







th B



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