Scarlet Letter
Tramp Steamer


Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man


August 31, 2010

Paintings by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Here are three new paintings in my Salvage series. In this one I've introduced a realistic element for the first time with the damaged photo of a haunting face. I think it has the look of a religious relic.

The other pieces of the painting are acrylic paint I've peeled from containers. In this trio most of the containers were used a couple years ago to catch paint dripping from the Jeanne d'Arc series (See my August 19 post).

As that supply diminishes, I've started raiding containers in which I mix paint.

The last Salvage paintings I showed you were in my August 11th and 3rd posts. To see more you can also click on the Current Work icon at the top of the blog. There you can also see the Hangman series I'm still working on.

These three paintings are all 18" x 14".

The face in the first painting is Linda Baker-Cimini's. She is an artist who I painted for a year or so starting in 2002.



August 29, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is a forbidden photo, a purloined picture, an unsanctioned shot. That sentence over dramatizes the situation. But I like the sound of it.

It's a view of Petah Coyne's exhibit at MASS MoCA that apparently she would not want you to see.

I had just started shooting when the young, red-shirted guard (approaching on the left) informed me I couldn't take photographs in this gallery.

Another guard told me later that this was at the artist's request.

Remind me, when I have my big museum opening, to allow photos. I like MoCA's photo policy, which is very liberal compared to many other museums. When an artist doesn't allow photos, I think he or she is trying to exert too much control over how their work is seen.

Ms. Coyne's installation is called Everything that Rises Must Converge. A great title.

With its black velvet, black and dark red flowers, dead birds, and black apple tree, it seems all about death. Death and trying to escape death's grip. It is quite beautiful. I like the Victorian mortuary colors.

Turning from dark to light, this is Tobias Putrih's dazzling Re-projection: Hoosac - a piece inspired by the Hoosac Tunnel. Here's another shot.

MASS MoCA, the building, with its hundreds of windows, is all about light. Below is a shot that illustrates that.

This is Inigo Manglano-Ovalle's upside down house, an installation called Gravity Is a Force to be Reckoned With.

I'm mesmerized by the way its sleek glass walls reflect the many-paned windows of the old factory that contains it, blending the 21st century with the 19th.

On the left half of the photo you can see the reflection of The Porches - the bed and breakfast that transformed buildings that once housed this factory's workers into quarters for its patrons.


Here's another blend of the old and the new.

While I was shooting, the phone in the house rang - one of the exhibit's coolest features. On the line was the woman on the phone's screen, above center. She leaves a cryptic message for the house's occupant, a person who smokes Marlboros.

In this shot you're looking from the large gallery into the building that houses the world's only comprehensive display of Sol LeWitt's wall drawings.

And here's a young woman whose goth outfit included a top hat. She's about to enter Dan Steinhilber's Breathing Room.

I wish I had been able to photograph her in Petah Coyne's gallery. It seemed the perfect outfit for viewing that dark work.

P.S. The museum was so busy when I was there Friday that I had to stand in line to get in. Lines are a good sign for MoCA.


August 27, 2010


Painting by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved


Friends, Romans, countrymen. Here it is. Finished. At last.

Wait a minute. As I look at it on this page, the left boot is too thick in the knee and calf area. I'll have to trim it.

Done or almost done, you get the idea. I've broadened the middle Grace's back on the left side of the spine. You can see it was too narrow if you refer to the photo below, which I used in my August 13 post. In

turn that meant reworking her left arm. I've redone the legs of the Grace on the left from the knees down and like them a lot more now.

And I've returned to most sections of the figures, working the surfaces until I was satisfied with them.

At this point there is a lot of acrylic paint on the canvas, which is 60" x 40". In places you can see through glazes to some of the earlier layers.

In case you don't recognize it, and I wouldn't have, the blue and white background is the Greek flag. (Because the original sculpture was done in ancient Greece.)

When I started the painting, I was on a short-lived flag kick, just having done a Union Jack. That one was an exercise in painting freely after having listened to a New York artist, Chris Martin, talk about taking chances, not worrying about screwing up. If you'd like to see the post, hit this link and scroll down to April 7.

Of course my painting free and loose mode didn't carry over to my next painting, the Three Graces. I returned to my more careful self. I started it

in April but after working on it for a few days I got impatient with realism and put it aside to work abstractly. Only recently did I screw up the resolve to finish it. And I surprised myself by having a good time in the process.



August 25, 2010

Ute Barth

In my internet wanderings I come across a lot of portraits. Here are a few recent finds, including a portrait of two donuts. I like them all but the donuts make my mouth water.

Paul Klee

Will Barnet

Bob Kisken

Grier Horner

Ian Ingram

Jeremy Lipking

Emily Eveleth




August 23, 2010

Winner Abdi Farah and his work. Photo source: artdaily.org

I was really rooting for Abdi Farah to win Bravo's reality show Work of Art: The Next Great Artist this summer after seeing what he came up with on the finale.

Pictured above is one of two sculptures he made - I think they were self portraits - and exhibited sprawling on the floor. He also had a number of paintings of himself.

Why am I bringing the show up now, when it ended a while ago? One reason is that I'm still puzzled why art critic Jerry Saltz called Farah's work "academic."

I've heard that term come up before - and it isn't used as a compliment - and have never been quite sure what it means.

I knew that the Clark Art Institute's mammouth and sensational Nymphs and Satyr by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (below) is considered academic.

But I couldn't make the leap from Bouguereau to Farah. Farah's work felt contemporary and electric to me. (Not that there isn't a little electricity flowing in this Bouguereau. And it is the one that causes the most tittering among 5th and 6th grade classes touring the Clark.)

So I looked it up on Google and after reading a lot of definitions, I thought the one below, from the Musee-Orsay in Paris, summed academic art up pretty well. 

"Academic painting was the expression of a craft where an apprenticeship in drawing took precedence, and which demanded 'a perfect finish' and attention to detail. This was a meticulous style of painting, where every detail was included, down to a gaiter button or the reflections in the silver metal of a fireman's helmet. Academic painting was also characterised by prescribed subjects taken from history, mythology or religious texts."

I still don't understand what in Jerry Saltz' eyes made Farah's work academic.

Saltz, who writes for New York Magazine, was the judge of the first art show I was in, a show sponsored by the Berkshire Art Association and held at the Berkshire Museum. My piece was the sister work to the one below. I can't find a photo of the actual work.

From what I can gather many artists dismissed the TV show and Farah's art and were critical of the Brooklyn Museum for becoming involved by giving the winner an exhibit.

It has been mounted in what one critic called a broom sized gallery that cramped the installation and will be up through October 17.

Karen Rosenberg in the New York Times said, "Mr. Farah’s cast resin sculptures of fallen men have energy and a kind of grace."

I was captivated by them and also loved the floating black and white self portrait you can see behind him. I thought it was brilliant.

Rosenberg criticized his "tortured expressionist self-portraits with an obvious debt to Photoshop image filters." At least she didn't call them academic.



August 21, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner

I' m taking you into the secret sculpture garden behind the John Davis Gallery on Warren Street in Hudson, New York, and showing you Caroline Ramerdorfer's wonderful marble sculpture at the same time.

You get your first look at the piece from the deck at the back of the main gallery space (top photo). Then you go down a level and come out into the garden and this is what it looks like (above).

But it isn't until you stand so the three slabs of marble are aligned and peer into and through them that you get the drama of the sculpture's inner life, its soul.

Ramersdorfer is an Austrian sculptor whose work is seen internationally. She had a major piece at the Beijing Olympics. So did her partner, John van Alstine, another important sculptor. They have studios and a sculpture garden in the Adirondacks. Both show at John Davis.

This is a picture (pirated by myself from the web) of the sculptor with one of her pieces. In the photo of the gallery (above) you can see how Ramersdorfer's work glows, internally and externally.

John Davis has had the gallery about 12 years and his space includes the street-level gallery, a space below, the sculpture garden and the four-story carriage house in back.

The carriage house offers four stories of gallery space, including the elevator shaft shown here. This building gives him room not only to give Ramersdorfer a generously sized solo show but to show a number of other artists at the same time.

Here's a large painting I liked by Lois Dickson on the ground floor. And the top floor is devoted to small paintings by Farrell Brickhouse. His work received a very favorable review in the on-line Huffington Post. Here's one of Brickhouse's paintings. I grabbed this one from the website of the reviewer, Sharon L. Butler. She also has an interesting art blog, Two Coats of Paint.

The gallery is holding a reception for Ramersdorfer and the other artists tonight from 6 to 8. It is located at 365 Warren Street, Hudson's bustling main drag. The show will be up through September 12. It takes about an hour to drive there from Pittsfield.



August 19, 2010

Painting by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is a new Jeanne d'Arc. Number 35 in the series. It's one where I was able to take out some of my anger.

I would dip a wooden dowel in the paint can and lash my arm in the direction of the canvas. I'd  call the technique Fling, Flang, Flung. Basically, the canvas was untouched by human hands, except for applying the gesso and the blue background.

Like a pitcher I had several motions, snapping my wrist sometimes, my forearm others. Throwing fast and then coming in with a lob. Overhand, underhand. Curves, too. At times I was a little wild and missed the panel.

Throwing all that paint felt therapeutic.

Number 35 is acrylic on a 4'x 2' panel.

To illustrate the difference between the new Jeanne d'Arc and the 34 I did in 2008 and 2009, I'm including Number 17 below. Like all the others until now, the paint on 17 was dripped. As opposed to flung. Mylar was glued to the canvas on 17 to create the reflective surface.

It's a beauty, if you'll allow me to brag. I think the Joan of Arc paintings in general were my most beautiful.

Another way the new one - and I intend to do more - is different than it's predecessors is in the use of small pieces of salvaged paint to create a more varied surface. You can see what I mean in the photo below. Looks pretty cool, don't you think?



August 17, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

For those who think I walk around with my head in the clouds, here's more corroborating evidence, if any was needed.


My fascination with clouds and their infinite variations has grown in the last few years. Thinking back I guess it was pretty strong 40 years ago when I designed the addition to our house.

We had large clearstory windows installed. And when the room was finished, we put the sofa across from those windows. My plan was to lie on that sofa watching the clouds roll by.

But I've never been much good at doing nothing - a category in which cloud gazing falls, unfortunately.

So I found I couldn't lie down and watch. But I love those windows on the sky and keep an eye on them when I enter the room.

One of the best shows in those high windows is the moon, especially when it is cutting through clouds. I have to try to get a photo of that.



August 15, 2010

Gae was a friend of mine. She loved the piece pictured above. It was part of my Scarlet Letter series. Gae, who already owned one of my best paintings, bought it. It hadn't been up long when the trouble started. In ones and twos and threes and fours the nails, which were glued to the aluminum panel, started falling off.

I tried to fix it but couldn't. The nails just wouldn't hold.

So Gae picked out a different painting in exchange and I lent her a couple more that she liked.

I guess the reason for bringing this up is it illustrates the saying "things fall apart," or as William Butler Yeats put it:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

For Gae, pictured above at a Christmas celebration last year, it had looked like the center would hold. About this time she had just received great news: the cancerous tumor in her lungs had disappeared in chemotherapy.

The 73-year-old who had faced cancer several times over the years, had a new lease on life.

A couple weeks later she started falling down. The doctor's discovered Gae had an inopperable tumor in the brain.

This time she knew she would die and on July 28 she did.

The memorial service was held yesterday afternoon in Lanesborough's Old Stone Church. A number of friends spoke about this woman who was funny, sarcastic, warm, caring, critical, smart and a whole lot more.

I had put together a piece incorporating sections of three or four great stories she had written as a reporter at The Berkshire Eagle in the 1980s and 1990s.

In preparation for reading this at the service, I tried it out on Babbie, Shannon and Riley in the morning. Toward the end I started to cry.

But at the service in the afternoon I did not, for which I am grateful.

This is a photo of Gae last summer. Understandably, she wasn't crazy about it. I had gone down to New York City with Gae on one of her trips to the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

We had a great time and walking back to the train station, she said, "Let's get one of those bike cabs." So we did. In this photo she's getting out at Grand Central.

I thought of that this evening because at the service her son Curt Asch told about how an outing with his mother could become an adventure.

One of his stories was about Gae taking her sons Curt and Steve, who was killed years later in a car crash, to Manhattan to see the stupendous fireworks planned for the nation's bicentennial.

As she and the boys were walking the 16 blocks to the waterfront, they ran across a parade - a Gay Pride Parade.

They ended up joining the line of march, the boys chanting, "Our mother's Gae."

When they got to the park where they were going to watch the fireworks, they saw two men and a woman sitting on a park bench. One man pulled out a knife and looked intent on attacking one of the others.

Gae pushed the boy's behind her and started talking to the man with the knife.

"Be cool, man," she told him, (Just like the dialogue in West Side Story.)  She told him that there were a lot of cops on duty and he should walk away and avoid years in jail.

He got up and left.

Gae had been a lot of things in her life - from a hatcheck girl at Sardi's, a famous New York nightclub, to reporter, to Lanesborough Selectman, to chairwoman of the Elizabeth Freeman Center for battered women. And lots and lots of things in between.

The other day I heard her voice clearly when Derek Gentile, an Eagle reporter, wrote a remembrace about Gae.

"I worked with Gae Elfenbein way back when," he wrote, "and her uniqueness to me was that she was the first reporter I ever knew who gave editors grief."

He recalled a night "very, very close to deadline, when Gae was finishing up a story about the Lanesborough Selectmen. Our night editor, Grier Horner, told her, 'Gae, I need that story now.'

"Grier," said Gae, "You want a crap story, I'll give it to you now. Otherwise, hold your horses, I'm not done."

I held my horses and to me Gae's still not done. She'll live on with us - her friends and family - for a long time."

If you'd like to read more about this extraordinary woman, go to this link.




August 13, 2010

Painting by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Oh No. Not this  painting again. It was just on this stupid blog a week ago. This is cruel and unusual punishment. Spare us. Please.

I hear you. I understand. But sometimes it's the problem child that commands the parent's attention and this painting is my current problem child.

It has been occupying the limited wall space in my studio since early April. I want to finish it and free up the space to start another. (I like to paint with the canvas tacked to the wall. With no wall space left I've been improvising.)

I've agonized over this wretched piece of canvas for months. I started it in April and have worked on it off and on - mostly off - since then. Every time I show you a photo of my studio, it's there. I apologize.

The problem seems to be that I've run out of patience with figurative painting and couldn't force myself to return to it.

But this week I did, working on the boots. They're still not great.

Here's the ancient Greek work on which my painting's based. One thing that bothers me about my version is the middle grace's back. The half on the left side of her spine is too narrow. I even widened it once.

Looking at the picture of the original, I see where I went wrong. The sculpture's spine curves to the right in its upper section.

So maybe fixing it is just a matter of repositioning her backbone a little. The question is though: will I find the backbone to do the work.

There's an irony in all this agonizing about getting the painting right.

And that is this: it was born under a new resolve I had made to work loosely and take chances. That followed a talk by New York painter Chris Martin who advocates not being afraid to fuck up.


August 11, 2010

Paintings by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved


Back to the Salvage series. I finished this one Monday. It is 4' x 2', collaged acrylic on a panel. I need to apply another coat of black.

The section at the bottom was assembled from about 20 separate sections of acrylic peeled from various surfaces in my studio.

There are five sections of paint in the moon section at the top. Details are shown below.




August 9, 2010

Paintings by Grier Horner

If you like playing hangman, here are two more in the series. Hangman Five is above, and Six below. Both are 48"x24", acrylic on panels. Both were executed in the last few days. Excuse the pun.

I like the freer use of the brush in this one - freer compared to the majority of my work. And I like the colors I got by using a dirty brush. It's not that the brush is X rated, but that I didn't always clean it off between colors.

I scratched a word into the cross bar in Five. I haven't been able to translate it yet.

I used old, clotted paint for the gallows in Six. It was raw umber. After letting it dry overnight, I painted it black. But black didn't work for this one, so I went over that with a brownish gold.

Looking at Six I see that I need to tone down the orange background on the right of the gallows.


Here are two detail shots from Five. I think they illustrate the brush strokes well.

I'm going to revisit this technique. I enjoyed it.

I also attached a circular piece of salvaged red acrylic in this one.

The series also makes me think of the old folk song Gallows Pole. In Led Zeppelin's version, the condemned man's brother gives the executioner silver and gold to spare his life. As a added inducement his sister gives herself to the hangman.

Then the hangman sings to the condemned:

"Your brother brought me silver,

Your sister warmed my soul,
But now I laugh and pull so hard

And see you swinging on the Gallows Pole ."


August 7, 2010

Harriette Joffe,  Women in Exile, 60"x70", oil on Canvas. Photo by Grier Horner

With it's passion and energy, power and beauty, this is an amazing painting.

The artist is Harriette Joffe, a Santa Fe painter now living in Great Barrington.

It is the centerpiece of Joffe's show, Women as Heroes, Tales of Magic and Adventure, at Gabrielle Senza's Berkshire Art Kitchen in Great Barrington. The show opened a week ago and runs through September 30. The gallery, an adventure in its own right, is open Fridays through Sundays from 12 to 5.

As in a number of Joffe's paintings, Women in Exile focuses on women, myth or history, and Judaism. In the late 1400s the Jews - those who refused to convert to Catholicism - were expelled from Spain. Some of the exiles' descendants ended up in New Mexico. There, Joffe said, they were Catholics on the surface but practiced their real religion in secret.

"These are women burying their grief in the joy of song," Joffe said.

Senza, the Art Kitchen's founder, said, "The stance of the woman on the left is so strong it's like a warrior painting."

Also on display at the Art Kitchen are works from the abstract series, River Song, that Joffe is currently working on. The one above is an example.

Joffe, above, is an adjunct professor at Berkshire Community College's South Berkshire campus.

The artist told me she doesn't labor over paintings.

"They're automatic," she said. "I don't set out to do a painting of a certain subject. It just happens."

There are times, she said, that her brush knows things she doesn't.

The painting above is about the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon of Israel. He contrived to find out if the queen really had a cloven hoof. She did. They fell in love anyway.

None of the paintings below are in the show but are on her website.


Above is Dance for a Red Night, 1996. Below is Family, also 1996.

"Almost everything is autobiographical," Joffe said. The boy is holding a broken bird and the man, her partner, turned out to be one of the so-called crypto Jews in New Mexico.

This painting is The Aleph, a nine-foot long oil from 2007. It is about the power struggle between Jacob and his twin Esau.

Joffe has been a horsewoman most of her life. "I could just about ride any horse," she said.

And horses appear in many of paintings. She said she uses them as seers. "You can not fool a horse. A horse knows."



August 5, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Tonight, tonight we're broadcasting from my summer atelier. Yes, outside under the big top.

Tonight, tonight, the world is wild and bright...

Yesterday in the heat of the afternoon I was working on the Salvage piece you can see in the top photo, taken last night. I may attach the pieces of paint where they lay now, but I'll probably move them around a little more. The black canvas is on boards laid across my workbench, a new feature of this year's outdoor studio.

Then comes a detail from my newest Jeanne d'Arc piece, the first in well over a year. And the 35th, I think, in the series.

And here the outdoor studio is. Pretty wild. On the right is a board I'm gessoing. It's on the green ladder that I use as an outdoor easel.

The tent is pitched right outside the sliding doors to my indoor studio. And here it is, or at least one wall of it. As you can see I often paint on canvases tacked to the wall.

The painting of the Three Graces against a Greek flag, has been finished for some time - except for the boots. I'm having a hard time going back and working on them. For a while I've been feeling impatient with figurative work.




August 3, 2010

Painting by Grier Horner

The Salvage Series continues. I finished this one, Red Sun At Night, late last week . It is 4 feet x 2 feet and is a collage of salvaged acrylic attached to a painted panel.

This one had a previous life. It was the middle painting of the three new ones I showed on my July 28 post.

I painted over it was going to be viewed as a Jackson Pollack rip off.

I don't know if the new one is a rip off of anyone. I like to think this Salvage Series is original. But in art you learn fast that you're wrong when you think you've just come up with something new.

You can see more Salvage paintings on July 28 and July 8. You will also find them in May on the 14th, 11th and 7th.





August 1, 2010

Ferrin Gallery photo

One of the people instrumental in bringing art to the forefront in Pittsfield was Maggie Mailer. And fruits of her effort were evident last night.

Her luminous paintings are on display at the Ferrin Gallery. The gallery came to Pittsfield from Lenox in 2007 at a time the city's art potential was being demonstrated by an organization created by Mailer five years earlier.

That organization was Storefront Artist Project and, fittingly, the Storefront was also holding an opening last night.

At the Ferrin Gallery last night

That's Maggie Mailer in the center

Mailer is the daughter of jazz singer Carol Stevens, who attended the reception, and the late Norman Mailer. She will discuss her artistic heritage on August 24th at one of Ferrin's Dish and Dine events. The show is up through September 18.

Here are some more pictures I took of the opening. Unfortunately I don't know the names of all the people in them.

Sculptor Joe Wheaton is on the right

Artist Colleen Quinn is in the center

Colleen Surprise Jones, an artist

Meanwhile, over at the Storefront there was a different type of show: Comic and Cartoon Art Comes Alive: The Art of Mark Martin. The work below is by Martin. The show will be up through August 29.

The Williamsburg artist, besides his original work, has written and drawn adventures of such well-known characters as SpongeBob SquarePants and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The exhibition was curated by Lawrence Klein, who founded the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in 2001 in Manhattan. Klein, of Monterey, is its chairman emeritus. This is the third year for a comic/cartoon exhibit at Storefront.



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