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Portrait of the Artist as an Old MaN


July 29, 2012

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

I spent a half hour Friday afternoon watching the miracle of high-tech printing. I think most people would think I'd gone soft in the head. Watching the print emerge very, very slowly is about as exciting as watching grass grow, they'd say.

But when the print is something you've slaved over and worried about, watching is not dull.

A few day's earlier I had given Massive Graphics in Pittsfield the CDs that contain the centerpiece for my show next Friday at the Berkshire Community College's airy downtown gallery.

Tony had plugged my discs into his computer and run a few proofs for me. The purples didn't come out the way I expected them to. So I went home and messed around with the color on my computer, put the image on new CDs and brought them back.

Tony rolled new proofs. This time I liked what I saw. By Friday Tony and Scott, the Massive Graphics team, had cleared a block of time - more than 80 minutes - to print the 120" x 80" inch centerpiece of the show and a related picture.

Scott turned the machine's settings to the highest quality, which slows down the printing time and uses more ink.

Coming out of the big Roland inkjet (a SolJet Pro III Signmaker they are very proud of), the portrait is upside down. I had a difficult time imagining that the hard-to-decipher image I was seeing was going to be identifiable as a face. I thought I had blow the image up too far.

I was taking photos as the printer printed. It occurred to me that I should call one of them up on the viewer window and turn the camera upside down. Then the face sprang to life, as you'll see below in the reversed version of the same photo.

On Monday Lisa Griffith, the head of BCC's studio art department and the curator of this show, and I, with assistance from others, are going to hang this show.

The big challenge is putting up the 10-footer, which will be suspended from the ceiling, which I estimate is 16 feet high. After some rigging the print will hang about four feet out from the main wall. It will conceal the gallery's door but won't block its use. Maybe you can get an idea of what I'm talking about from this conceptual image I made.

The arrows point to the space behind the big print - it is of my mother - where you will enter the gallery during the First Friday Art Walk from 5 to 8 on August 3. The gallery is in the Joseph Scelsi Intermodal Transit Center at 2 Columbus Avenue just off North Street. It won't be hard to find the gallery. This is pretty much what it will look like from the sidewalk.






July 27, 2012

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is another of the works in Remembrances of Things Past, my show that opens in downtown Pittsfield on April 3. (Michael just emailed me. It's AUGUST 3, not April 3.) It's going to be at the Berkshire Community College Gallery at the Joseph S. Scelsi Intermodal Transit Center on Columbus Avenue.

I hope you can make the reception which will be from 5 to 8 as part of the First Friday Art Walk. It will be up for two months.






July 25, 2012

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Massive Graphics has been running color proofs for me on this photo for the last two days. We were having problems getting the color locked in. After a lot of adjustments, this is what we came up with yesterday. Now it has to be printed.

This is not a small picture. It is 10 feet high and about 6.5 feet wide. It is being printed in two vertical pieces. I have been working on it off and on over a period of months. During that period the piece has gone through countless modifications, minor and major. Some stuck and some were scraped.

It is the centerpiece of my show, Remembrances of Things Past, which will open August 3 as part of the First Fridays Art Walk.

You can see it at the Berkshire Community College Gallery at the Joseph Scelsi Intermodal Transit Center on Columbus Avenue just off North Street in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The public reception will be from 5 to 8.

This is my stab at representing the manic depression that coursed through my mother's brain and the brutal electric shock treatments administered to try to control it.

At its worst in the later years of her life - she died of an overdose of prescribed barbiturates at 58 - it would send her into manic flights of non-stop talking and activity and then drop her to the depths of depression.

Between these extremes she would be her loving, vivacious self - a woman who cared strongly about people in her circle of friends and family as well as strangers she'd meet at a bus stop. For years she had been a nurse.

It will be suspended from an I-beam that I would guess is 18 feet above the floor. It will be about four feet from the wall, hiding the main entrance and creating a new traffic flow in the process.

The basis for this picture is a black and white passport photograph taken when she was 18. I took a photo of that photo and then blew it up about 40 times its original size on my computer. I used the computer to add the color by trial and error.






July 23, 2012

The large works in this exhibit, I think, are the best I've produced so far. Of course going into a new show that's what I always think. If nothing else, the portraits are the most emotionally charged of my so-called career. The largest is a 10-foot high portrait of my mother. Should any face be shown that large? Come and see for yourself. Lisa Griffith, the head of BCC's studio art program, is the curator. Massive Graphics of Pittsfield is the printer.




July 19, 2012

Lucy MacGillis, Sandali di Vito, Oil on Linen, 52" x 52", $12,000

Lucy MacGillis  has another smashing show at the Hoadley Gallery on Church Street in Lenox. It will be up through August 1. The first painting that grabs your eye when you enter is the one above which takes its title from her 6-year-old son Vito's sandals in the foreground. That's her portrait of her son below.

Working with her beloved earth tones and splashes of life, she instills life into this domestic scene to which she adds a sense of drama with the cloth draped on one corner of the table and the sun hitting the lemons.

I admire the boldness of her work, its flow and freedom, her use of color, her dedication to the craft that provides the wherewithal to live her expatriate life in Italy.


I missed her opening at Hoadley because we were vacationing in Wellfleet but did get up to Bascom Lodge on the summit of Mount Greylock Monday evening to hear her talk engagingly and humorously about the trials and triumphs of a single mom finding time to both paint and raise a child.

MacGillis showed slides of her work and had also hung about a dozen small paintings she had completed during a one-week residency at Bascom Lodge, operated by the Dudek brothers, Peter and John Dudek and Brad Parsons. A mountain sunset is shown above and the summit's War Memorial Tower and Bascom Lodge below.

Where I'd get tied up with trying to show the shingles on the roof and putting in more detailed windows, MacGillis takes a much looser approach - one that gives her work substance and a flamboyance, an approach I admire but of which I'm constitutionally incapable.

Someday, I've told her, I'd love to come to Italy and take lessons from her.

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is a shot of the artist as she answers questions following her presentation. She says that her colors are dictated by the colors of the Umbrian countryside and the interior of her old  farm house, a place she has painted with the colors she cherishes. You see the interior below and the countryside below that.


Lucy MacGillis, Il Salaiolo, Oil on Linen, 18" x 27"


Lucy MacGillis, San Gaspare, Oil on Linen, 52" x 52"


Lucy MacGillis, La Donna Rossa, Oil on Linen, 38" x 48"

She has started working more with a model, a luxury she said she could seldom afford in the past. This young woman, she said, is impatient with life in their village and would like to be famous. At this point her star is hitched to MacGillis, who jokes that it may not be the best route to fame. But who knows, maybe the young woman has made a good a good start.

Lucy MacGillis, La Natura Viva, Oil on Linen, 38" x 48"

This is one of her works she showed on the screen. I think she said it was seven or eight feet long, painted in gouache on a series of pieces of paper glued together. What a village. What a sky.



July 17, 2012

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

These are shots I took from Bascom Lodge on Mount Greylock last evening. At 3,491 feet tall, the summit was cool compared to the hothouse conditions below. That's Pontoosuc Lake just to the right of the dead pine and Lake Onota to the right of that.



July 15, 2012

Photos by Eric Horner

Take my word for it. Not everyone in the family thinks I should treat myself to this Lamborghini for my 77th birthday. Here are two shots of it Eric took during our recent vacation in Wellfleet.

"Dad, do you really need a car that can do 0 to 60 in 3 seconds?" the kids wanted to know.

Actually it's a little faster than that. But why split fractions of a second. I wouldn't drive it very fast. I'm too responsible. But it's nice to have 12 cylinders behind you just in case you need them. And I love the rumble that emanates from that mammoth rear exhaust pipe. See it poking out under where I've blacked out the license plate. Just think how this will sound running in first in the parking garage at the Crowne Plaza.

Besides, those orange brake calipers flashing behind the black spokes speak to me.

You probably think I'm losing my marbles. But this car compensates for the things you lose when you're in the fast lane to 80.


July 12, 2012

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Two for the sea-saw: our daughter and her daughter embrace as the sun sets behind them. Inevitably there will be some drama between them during adolescence. While their special relationship may be tried at times, I'm confident it will survive.

The picture was shot recently at what we call Our Secret Beach. On the map it is called the Gut, which, geographically speaking, means a strait or a narrow passage.


The girl, who happens to be my granddaughter, hunts for small sea shells and pretty stones along the shore at high tide. As a family we've internalized the Gut over the years. To us its a place of stark beauty, a place to get away from the clamor of things, a place to watch the sun go down at least once a year.

No crowds applaud the sunset here as they do in Key West. There are no crowds. On the evening this shot was snapped, only two other people were there, five if you count the trio far down the beach. Two or three times there has been a kite surfer. Sometimes we are all alone.

On a dune looking over the water a three-story mansion was built several years ago. In the process a one-story house with lots of glass and a flat roof was torn down. This stirred an intense debate in town.

Although it probably isn't politically correct here, the granddaughter wants to live in this house when she grows up.

"I really like it," she told me.

That made me take a fresh look at it.

And I have to admit that as it has weathered-in it has begun to look like it belongs. Years from now if this big shingled place is threatened, people will probably fight to save it.

If I could pick a house to live in by the water, it would be the one this one replaced. But wishing for a ghost reduces my chances to zero, while there is a possibility - however slight - Riley's dream could come true.

This is a shot  I took three years ago of my daughter Shannon at Our Secret Beach.


July 10, 2012

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Sometimes you get a shot that pleases you tremendously. This is one of those.





July 8, 2012

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

I took these shots several years ago from our third story motel window on the waterfront in Lake Charles, Louisiana. A hard rain was falling. Or was it?

I stumbled across the pictures last night when I was looking at my Aperture files. One called liquid gold was the first I opened. And there they were.







July 6, 2012

The content in this post is geared to adults.  If you're a kid, stop here.


F.X. Tobin, Maya Monster Rendezvous, Crayon and Pen on Painted Paper

Let's take a walk on the wild side with a rebellious artist, F.X. Tobin. His art professors went haywire in 1982 when the paintings he was executing for his master's in fine arts went from classic figurative work to what he calls Pop/Surrealism.

It's hard to imagine anyone other than F.X., a Pittsfield native who lives in Arizona, would combine his version of Goya's naked and clothed Maya (often spelled Maja) paintings with his version of the Frankenstein Monster.

"Goya's Maya is right on," says F.X. "Great paintings,
both nude and dressed. Combining that composition with
the Boris Karloff's Monster was hard - but great fun. Got
carried away and created four images, one being a diptych."

Francisco Goya, The Clothed Maja, Oil on Canvas


F.X. Tobin: Maya Monster Blind Date, 48" x 72" , Crayon and pen on painted paper.


Francisco Goya, The Naked Maja, Oil on Canvas.

Both Goya Mayas were painted around 1800. And according to Wikipedia, the Naked Maya has been called "the first totally profane life-size female nude in Western art." Before that there were plenty of nudes in art, but they were were placed in Biblical, allegorical or mythological contexts. Goya's was simply a portrait of a sexy woman.

Of the two F.X. Maya sketches, I like the one at the top of this post best because the Monster looks like a kinder, gentler creature than the one set to ravage the nude, who doesn't seem adverse to the idea.

F.X. and I have been facebook friends for a couple years and he has been generous with his time discussing my work. He's a good teacher. F.X., who lives in Tempe, has been a commercial artist for more than 30 years.


F.X. Tobin, The Visitation, Triptych, Visitation, each panel 84” x 60”, oil on canvas. The artist's wife Lisa and Leonardo Ramirez are seated in front of the work in Ramirez' Phoenix store, UFO, where Tobin's work has been on exhibit.

Tobin, an altar boy for 10 years, did the 15-foot-long Visitation for his MFA thesis show at Arizona State University. It's a version of Biblical events that would do little to endear the artist to the Vatican.

At graduate school Tobin said he felt "out of my element" and was tired of academic figure painting. "I could do that, needed a challenge." So he turned to comic books and on his own started studying both
comic book and surreal composition. His professors, who he grades as "just elementary art teachers," gave him a hard time.

"But I persisted and developed my vision that is all me, good or bad.
I would put my artwork up against anyone even though I'm humble about my abilities, do the best I can, and like to hang around with artists who kick ass."

Let me leave you with F.X. prepared for the 4th and one more of his paintings.

F.X. Tobin, The Ring, Oil on Canvas.



July 2, 2012

Photos by Grier Horner Except Where Noted

Tom Patti, a Pittsfield native and major American glass artist, has created a new entryway for the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield. The work was championed by the former director, Stuart Chase, and executed under his successor, Van Shields.

The commission - the museum's first in about 75 years - converts the confusing glass expanse in the entry hall - to a place of constantly shifting colors and patterns, to a piece of art.

In the photo at the top you are looking through the front doors at the new piece. In this light it is all glowing greens and yellows and mirrored surfaces.

Here the same wall seen from a different angle becomes something entirely different. That's Patti, whose studio is in a Pittsfield industrial park, talking to visitors at a special free-admission day celebrating his work. The night before the museum held $150-$300 per person dinner in the Ellen Crane Room. The museum said 240 people attended.

Here it is from another angle, once again transformed. Director Van Shields, on the right, listens to Patti.

Now you are looking at it from the auditorium side, something altogether different. The magic of this piece does not come easily. Patti laminated 206 layers of glass and plastic to create the shifting surfaces. It is something he pioneered, something that differentiated Patti from the glassblowers.

Glassblowing was what colleges taught and Patti considered it a return to the "stone age," he told his audience at the museum auditorium on Saturday morning.

Instead of the mystique of fire and molten glass, Patti said he preferred the cool, industrial approach where you couldn't see where the artist had laid his hands on the work but where you could see infinity.

Attending was how I celebrated much of my 77th birthday Saturday. It was great stuff, as was the French toast I had for breakfast at Enzio's in the basement of the former Allen Hotel on Wendell Avenue Extension. This was French toast with a bonus: between the slices of toast was cannoli and cannoli topped the dish too. One of those artistic applications of chocolate lay over the whole thing.

Our friend Claire said that as she watched me eat she could just picture my arteries clogging. But, Lord it was good.

The entryway arch isn't the only place Patti's work graces in the museum. The work above is located on the wall beyond the ticket counter. In the detail shot I took from an angle, below, you can see how intricate the work becomes and what he means when he says he's shooting for infinity.


Here's a piece of his on display, with other work of Patti's, in the gallery directly behind the Ellen Crane room.

Photo from Patti's presentation.

I love the 67-year-old Patti's story. He grew up in Pittsfield with what he called a GE dumping ground as his backyard. His father was a barber. Patti became interested in art through a course at the museum. Norman Rockwell saw his teenage work displayed there and recommended that he attend Pratt in Brooklyn, then considered the top art college in the country, according to Patti.

After getting his bachelor's and master's at Pratt, Patti returned to Pittsfield and then Savoy to practice art in an environment a lot less costly than New York. The studio he built from scrap material in Savoy is shown above. Hippie was written all over it.

Working there in isolation from other artists in the 1970s, he developed the techniques that would catapult him into the big time.

Glenn Hiner of GE Plastics in Pittsfield became one of his boosters and in 1982 offered Patti a major commission, seen below, at the company's new headquarters building, now owned by Sabic.

Hiner also put members of his staff like Dan Fox, the inventor of Lexan, at his disposal, as well as company manufacturing equipment. Out of all this came the piece below, Genetic Doran Divider - Sentinel. The large, laminated and thermo-formed plastic sculpture was a first, a breakthrough for Patti. The work is the largest of its kind and is now owned by the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. Patti is also represented in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louve and more than 20 other museums.

Photo from Patti's website.

Hiner moved on to Owens Corning and in 1993 gave Patti a major commission to collaborate with architect Cesar Pelli at the company's new headquarters in Toledo. This in turn enhanced Patti's reputation and he has been engaged in a number of big commercial projects since then. One of those was the Morton Square, luxury apartments covering a full city block in Greenwich Village.

Among the things Patti designed were suspended glass panels in clearstory spaces built into the lobby. Below is an example.

Photo from Patti's website.

Oh, one more thing. I have no idea what the museum spent on this commission. But it did not get done on the cheap. I think it demonstrates, along with the major renovation a few years ago, that this institution, that was faltering both in purpose and funding not so long ago, is once again a proud, fiscally sound museum. 

And the exhibitions in both art and natural history in recent years are often exciting and innovative - the best I can remember in my 47 years in Pittsfield.





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