Scarlet Letter
Tramp Steamer


Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man



November 30, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Natural beauty and commerce intersect here on Route 8 in Cheshire. On the right the blue of the Honda dealership sign is unexpected against the backlit beauty of these reeds.

Rory told me the name of the reeds but I can't remember it. I took a guess last night: Pirites. Wrong. I just looked pirites up and it is a shiny yellow mineral commonly called Fools Gold. Whatever their name I used this kind of reed for three large paintings of Hannah and Laura. (I got an email from Leslie this morning. Phragmites is the word I'm looking for.)

This is of Laura in the reeds along Rattlesnake Mountain Road in Stockbridge. It's large and hangs in a lovely home in the Berkshires.

I'm digressing. I went to Bedard's at 9:30 yesterday morning to get the oil changed in my van, get the snow tires put on and get the rear brakes checked.

While I waited I took a long walk along the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail from the dealership into the town of Cheshire and back along Route 8 to pick up the car.

But the rear brakes needed replacing so I was there 11/2 hours more. It's good I brought my CD of The History of Love along. I'm really enjoying that novel by Nicole Krauss.

On the walk, I kept crossing the Hoosic River - not much more than a stream here as it flows north out of Cheshire Reservoir. Below is a less navigable section.

P.S. The spell checker for this blog always stops at the name Grier.  "Change to Grief," it suggests. Not bad. How do you like Grief Horner?

P.S.S. I've been thinking of changing my last name, which the checker doesn't halt at, to Archangel. A digital artist, Cory Arcangel, did the piece below.

Photo from Internet

Then there's  the name Michelangelo, which I like even better than Archangel. But while I'm OK with being an Archangel, I think becoming Michelangelo might be a little pretentious. Below is a cool silk screen on polished stainless steel by Michelangelo Pistoletto. Now that's a great name. The young woman is life sized and lifelike.

Photo from Internet



November 28, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

For all of us this was a bittersweet Thanksgiving, our first without Pete. He was the patriarch of Babbie's family, the guy we all looked up to, who made people, especially kids, feel special. He and Zoa had presided over our Thanksgivings for well over 40 years.

After his death from pancreatic cancer last April, Zoa decided to keep the tradition alive and two dozen of us gathered at their house in Groton, Massachusetts, to give thanks and warm ourselves at the hearth of family. The San Francisco, Wyoming and Louisiana contingents couldn't make it, unfortunately.

Today's photos are in an elegaic mood.

Here's Michelle, who's expecting twins this winter, showing the girls how the babies kick. And another family member, Peter H. and his wife Marion are expecting their third child. The girls are Zoe, Sarah Mei and Riley.

Peter and his wife Kelly.

Emily, who hopes to be an actor.

Darol with, from the left, Riley, Zoe and Sarah Mei.


Pete's daughter Zoann with her mother Zoa in the background.

Heather, a dancer in training, and David.

An apparition.

Pete's son Stewart. His son Peter couldn't make it from Wyoming.


Karl, in background, Joerg and Carol.

Zoa in the red sweater.

To those I left out, forgive me, but on the other hand, think how lucky your are.

I'm looking forward to next year's celebration and, I hope, many more.




November 24, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Anders Zorn, a Swedish artist who died in 1920, is the subject of this painting. Born to an unwed mother in a farming community,  talent and determination made him a rich man. When he died at 60 his estate was worth the equivalent of $6 million dollars.

Scrawled on the bottom of my painting, which is 4' x 2', are the words: "Anders Zorn thrived on Soft Porn."

He made his reputation on his portraits - he painted three American presidents, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft. But his passion seemed to be in painting and etching nudes.

I like this etching a lot and I'm amazed at how easily he portrays both lust and playfulness

in the woman.

Matt_Viinanen, contributing editor at the website Wet Canvas, has written an interesting 12-page profile of the artist. According to Viinanen, Zorn:

"...spent a lot of time in Stockholm, Dalarö and other picturesque islands, where he often took his custom built sailing boat “Mejt” out on the water, anchor it in some hidden creek together with a couple of his models, several bottles of vodka, delicacies and of course his equipment."

It was looking at this bold painting (below), with all its eroticism, that I thought of soft porn.

This is a self portrait by Zorn. He's imposing, forceful in this seemingly unsparing work. There is a rough and ready attitude in the positioning of his forearms and hands, the left leg thrust forward, the half-smoked cigarette, the red suit. Too bad he didn't live long enough to paint Hemmingway in this same attitude. Hemmingway would have loved it.

From quotations from Zorn's letters, you get the idea he thought a lot of himself. And I think that comes through here, too.

It's a great self portrait.

Getting back to my painting, I used the face from that self portrait in the detail above.

I also used bits and pieces from his paintings to make a number of the leaves, as you can see in the two details from my painting below.

While I'm gently making fun of Zorn, I admire his obvious talent and his ability to pull himself up from poverty and become an art star.

P.S. I'm taking Thanksgiving off. Have a great holiday. See you soon.


November 22, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

I stepped out onto the front yard to retrieve the Sunday paper and when I looked up this is what I saw. Stunning.

It compensated for the amazing clouds I couldn't shoot the night before as we were driving up to Williamstown at 4 p.m. to see The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.

I hate to be one of those people who says, "The book was much better than the movie." But it was.

I couldn't shoot the clouds as we drove Saturday because Babbie doesn't know I take pictures while driving. It's not a great idea. The clouds were big, separated and had a mauve cast. They were truly spectacular.

This photo, also taken in my neighborhood, but in early November, seems related to the one at the top of this post.

Yesterday I started a new painting. I had been looking up the work of Anders Zorn, a Swede who died in the early 1900s. There is a museum in Sweden dedicated to his work.

He was a very successful artist, making a big reputation as a portrait painter. But he painted a lot of nudes, too. Here's one of them:

As I started working on the new piece, a rhyme started circulating in my brain.

"Anders Zorn thrived on soft porn."

So I wrote that along the bottom of the painting. It should be finished by my next post and if it's any good I'll show it to you.



November 20, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Sunshine on her shoulder makes me happy. 'Her' is a model in one of my Runway paintings. Sun floods the house on days like yesterday now that the leaves have fallen from the trees in hedgerow behind us.

In the kitchen I got a self portrait.

As well as the shadows cast on the same cabinets by the plant below.

Join me in the dining room. Sun is playing with the painting I showed you in my November 18 post.

Still in the dining room, here's a light fixture I like.

Now we're in the living room looking into the addition we put on about 1972.

It's late afternoon. The sun is so low the light line is almost level. Overhead, clearstory windows bring in more light. It's a great room on sunny winter afternoons. With the heat off the sun will warm the room to well over 70, to say nothing of how the sun warms your soul. Of course on winter nights all the windows let the heat out instead of in.

And last by not least, the most exciting event of the day - installation of a new sliding door. It replaces the original aluminum slider that was letting the rain as well as the sun in. We first realized we had a serious problem when I went to take some canvas off the roll that I store on an above-door shelf in my studio right below.

Doing the heavy lifting are Neil and Jeremy from Herrington in Hillsdale, New York. They did a great job. It isn't simple because the new one was several inches narrower than the old one. And by exact measurements they were able to make the exterior trim butt up to the exterior shingles all around, sparing me a lot of work.

To make a good day even better, Rory came for breakfast on his way back to Vermont, and the chimney guy cleaned the you-guess-what. We celebrated with a fire last night.



November 18, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Another new painting. This is the one I called a disaster in my last post. I worked on it some more. Maybe it's less of a disaster now.

The background is solid black semi-gloss acrylic house paint. Here's a close up of the milkweed pods.



The cross, which I made a couple years ago, is supported on thin tree branches, which are broken in a number of places. You can see the supports below.


It's a little after 1 a.m. now and the wind is howling around the house. I hope it doesn't take down the canopy I use so I can paint outdoors in the summer. It already went through the trauma of a little wet snow last week. Because of its weight it caused the pitched canopy roof to sag in the wrong places. I had to go around with a two by four and push up on the sags to dislodge the snow and water. I've got to take it down soon before it's ruined.  

(New photos were substituted for the originals this afternoon.)


November 16, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

I finished this painting Sunday. It is the latest in the Salvage series. And throwing modesty aside I think its pretty good. I made it for the Storefront Artists annual 12x12 promotion.

I drove it to Storefront's headquarters on Fenn Street on Sunday afternoon to turn it in, but the gallery was closed. A sign on the door said it's open Thursday through Saturday from 11 to 5. So I still have it.

To punish me for my lack of modesty, I finished one of my flower paintings late yesterday afternoon and it's a disaster. I can't figure out any way to save it.

The head is one I made a few years ago when I was working on the Scarlet Letter series. The other pieces are all from containers I used to catch surplus paint in the drip series Jeanne d'Arc. I saved the cups and I've been peeling the acrylic out - which I enjoy - and using the pieces in paintings - actually collages.

If you're cheesecake adverse, close out of this post now. I'm throwing in a few more pictures of the show girl with Sugar Shack Burlesque. If you looked at my last post you remember - the one in the window at the opening of Bra & Girl on North Street Saturday evening.

In two of the shots, she shares the stage with a manikin.



November 14, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

In downtown Pittsfield last night there was Naked and nearly naked. Above, a threesome chats in front of two paintings by Anki King of Brooklyn at the Lichtenstein Art Center. And below a member of Sugar Shack Burlesque entertains in the window of North Street's new Bra & Girl.

You could also wander over to the Beacon Cinema and watch a Melancholy Play by the WAM Theater. One of the actors in it, Karen Lee (below) dropped over to the Lichtenstein before going on stage.

It was the irrepressible Karen who organized Burlesque for Books as a fund-raiser for the Lenox Library. It featured the Sugar Shack crew and some people were scandalized that so much flesh was on view in that setting.




Here Jeanet and Anki, a native of Norway, talk during the reception.

As I was leaving Megan Whilden, Pittsfield's cultural commissioner, asked if I was going over to Bra & Girl. I told her I didn't think it was a party for guys. She disabused me of that idea.

"There's too much going on in Pittsfield these days," I told Megan, jokingly, "and it's your fault." It wasn't too long ago that nothing would be happening on a Saturday night.

A lot of people deserve credit, she said. And that is true.

Anyway I headed over to the new store. Things were popping there, including the eyes of this old male.

This woman was smiling at a comment by someone in the group of onlookers outside the store.



November 12, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Taking you down into my studio, here's another look at a work in progress: Linda Baker-Cimini and my cat Evalene. I used the watch ad tacked up at the left of the canvas as a guide to reshape her shoulder, which I was having trouble with. It's not finished yet, but it's getting close.

Zeroing in on Evalene you can see I need to bring her left eye up to the brightness of the other.

Some of the work on both Linda and our 18-year-old cat is in oil pastel.

I did a lot of paintings of Linda in 2000 and 2001. The one of her with the cat was started then but never finished.

Below is a diptych of Linda that I did then. Each section is 4 feet x 4 feet. I have a number of photos of each section. But last night I couldn't find two that matched well.

Linda is a very talented artist. Linda's Xeroxes of her whimsical drawings are owned by a lot of people in the Berkshires. They are often funny, reflecting her offbeat sense of humor. Below is a Xerox of a piece I like a lot.



November 10, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This post is about two things: the Piggery and my ability to suspend gravity.

First the Piggery. If you walk out my door and cross the street you enter the woods and if you follow the right trails after about 40 minutes you come out at the Piggery, shown in the photo above.

At one time Pittsfield didn't burn its garbage or bury it. Pittsfield fed its garbage to the pigs. And the pigs hung out at the farm called the Piggery.

In here you are so far from the nearest roads and houses that the only sounds you hear usually are nature's.

But Sunday, when I walked to the Piggery for the first time in a long time, four kids were riding dirt bikes nearby and the high revving engines shattered any illusion of wilderness.

I went there to collect more sumac leaves like the ones I used in the new painting in my November 8th post. I got some, but not as many as I expected. Most had already fallen and disappeared into the high grass.

Going to the Piggery, you run across this tree, engaged in its dramatic struggle.

But let's get to suspending gravity. It comes up in a favorite recurring dream of mine. It came to mind for no obvious reason as I hiked home.

In that dream I can jump great distances. I run and leap like a broad jumper. But instead of landing in about 19 feet - the farthest I could jump in high school - I keep going.

In 1991 Mike Powell set the long jump record at an amazing 29 feet 4.5 inches. I believe it still stands.

In my dreams I'm not jumping in competition but for fun. Nevertheless, I would have no trouble beating Powell's record.

When I think I'm about to land a wonderful thing happens - suspension of gravity. I keep going. My speed diminishes and I sail on. I concentrate on staying in the air. I'm good at it. It is exhilarating.

And it's not just in the long jump. I sometimes amaze my friends - and myself - on upward leaps. It is not that I can leap tall buildings in a single bound, ala Superman. It's that I've developed the ability to hover. I can stay up longer than Air Jordan, way longer.

Man, I love that dream.

P.S. (Added November 11): After reading this post my daughter Shannon told me she has the same dream. Last night we went to the movie Mao's Last Dancer. In it they sometimes show the dancer's leaps in slightly slowed down motion. I turned to Babbie and said, "That's what Shannon and I can  do." To get an idea click here.


November 8, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is a new addition to the Killing Fields series. It is Number 5. Like Numbers 3 and 4, which you can see on my November 4 post, the vegetation has not been painted. Only time will tell whether the  leaves and berries will retain their late fall colors. I hope so because they are beautiful.

If they don't, I will have the option of touching them up with acrylic paint.

The curled red leaves are sumac - not poison sumac, I trust. At the top of the painting are two shell casings, which also serve as bumpers to keep other paintings from crushing the berries. The berries are bittersweet, an invasive vine that strangles trees in the woods, as well as bayberries from our hedge.

The sun was cut from very thin copper. I used oil pastel to draw the orange circles on it. At the ends of the detail below are two milkweed pods and at the center is a thick clump of salvaged red paint, which also serves as a bumper.

The leaves and berries are dipped in a clear resin. As the resin dries it hardens into a protective coating that encapsules the objects. The resin is also a powerful glue that secures them to the painted panel.

Yesterday I took a long walk in the woods to gather more material for more paintings. I found some sumac leaves, but not nearly as many as I would have several weeks ago.


November 6, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

It rained Thursday and continued raining Friday. The rain brought down the last of the golden leaves from the hedgerow between our house and our neighbor's.

This is the bluestone bench in our back yard, the place where I free the mice from the humane traps I've been setting up in the kitchen and the cellar. Our cat, at 18, isn't a mouser anymore.

This morning's mouse, little more than a baby, scampered down from the bench and ran into the wet garden. I think he was about the seventh caught this fall. Maybe he'll be lucky enough to reunite with his family - although I wonder if they survive long after I let them go.

Babbie's convinced they simply find their way back into the house.

Not too far from the bench is my sailboat, a 470 racing dingy. It's racing days are over and it's been upside down in back for years.

Here it looks to me like Moby Dick surfacing, an geographically appropriate metaphor because we live in Pittsfield, where Melville wrote Moby Dick. Below, a few feet away from the boat, is the composting bin that we haven't used in a long time either.

The reflections here were from the windshield, top, and a puddle in the street, below.

Looking at these images I recalled the nights I walked from Brown to Rhode Island Hospital to see Babbie, the girl I loved then and now, 50 some years later. After three years of premed at Pembroke, she was in nursing training there.

There were times when, after a rain, I was convinced the lights I saw in some wet stretches of the poorly lit road before the bridge were the stars. Maybe they were.

"The stars are in the streets," I thought then. I was writing a novel at the time - my senior year - and I liked the way that sounded. And I thought it was a great analogy for despair.

Thinking about it last night it occurred to me that you could also interpret that statement as an expression of optimism - that the stars were within reach. If I ever write a third novel, which isn't high on my priority list, I think it will be titled The Stars Are in the Streets.



November 4, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

My two latest paintings. Both utilize leaves and flowers attached to a 2' x 4' panel. This makes them three dimensional and also creates a bit of suspense: what happens to the paintings as the vegetation decays?

And here's another question. If I haven't painted anything but the background, can I these paintings?

I used a clear acrylic called Mod Podge to attach the objects to the panel immediately above. I used the late fall remains of Siberian Iris and grass. In addition I inserted some bullet casings.

These are Siberian Iris' in bloom. Babbie always has them in her gardens. But this is someone else's photo of someone else's garden.

This is the flowers' casing after frost killed the plants. I also used bullet casings that Lisa Yetz, a BCC art professor, gave me when I was doing my gun paintings.

Above are rose petals and below is a large hosta leaf topped by a carnation and by another leaf that I can't identify now.

Below is a hosta leaf topped by a flower salvaged from a bouquet that had been given to Babbie.




November 2, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved




Here are two views of one of the kids who came to our house on Halloween. She said her costume was concocted from a silver emergency blanket, her mother's sparkly top and duct tape.

The homemade costume, it's good to know, is not dead. And you will revel, I'm sure, in the homemade outfit this blogger wore to greet those who dared come to the door. Needless to say, fear reigned.

Meanwhile, down in the dungeon, where my studio is located, I continue to work on the painting below. I'm also brewing up other things. Stay tuned.



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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