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Portrait of the Artist as an Old MaN

November 28, 2012


Images by Autumn Doyle except where otherwise noted


Autumn Doyle came across a dying snapping turtle lying in the road. It had been hit by a vehicle, the contact shattering its shell. Autumn picked the amphibian up.

"It wagged its tail and kicked one hind foot in its ... throe of death," the 30-year-old artist wrote later. "This motion I took as a 'thank you'. I knew that it would be you who would come, Autumn, and I am glad."

"There were a few moments of uncontrolled weeping, along the road-side, mid-mournyng, while the rest of the world just passes by… I wrapped the turtle. We went home, and created the images before you."



The photos shown so far, Portrait of a Dead Snapping Turtle at the top and Blood Abstraction #1 - Snapping Turtle, Spirit Warrior directly above, were taken by Autumn and tell a lot about her art and philosophy, as do her words.

This bold and complex artist sees a lot more in a turtle, a tree, a bird, a river than most of us.

If I am correct she imparts a soul to these things. Or as she put it in an email in response to my question of whether she is an animist:

"Shamanism* and Animism* have long pervaded my werke, my artistic process, and indeed my ev'ryday life. The ancient Celts knew it, as the native tribes of the Americas, and all across the globe. it is something that never dies, that never leaves. it is in all of us..."


Autumn was attracted to this tree by its "great face and good energy. It was a sentinel protector that looked out over that swathe of forest." Below is another of her photos of trees.




You've undoubtedly noticed that Autumn uses some archaic spellings. It will help to understand that she has a deep interest in the old Irish language, which was first written when the Ogham alphabet was devised about the fourth or fifth century. In this veil of reeds assembled with thorns that were "freely given" by hawthorn trees, Autum has used Ogham to spell out "Is é do bheatha a asarlaíocht na coíllearnaí." That translates to Hail Woodland Sorcery. Titled Reed Ogham #2 this piece still graces the woods in Williamstown, as does River of Driftwood (below). Both works were part of the RiverFest this Spring.

"This piece transforms the forest in a sacred space, where the language of the trees is spoken," the Dalton resident wrote in a statement about her recent show at the Y Bar as part of First Fridays Artswalks.  In 2010 she had a solo show at Berkshire Community College's Intermodal Gallery.



Photo of Autumn Doyle by Grier Horner

Autumn and I took a long walk from my house through the woods into the Piggery - the farm where Pittsfield once disposed of its garbage by feeding it to pigs. Here she is beautifully and exotically dressed as usual. While we were at the Piggery, Autumn, who had never been there, branched out onto a trail where we came across a pond formed by beavers. She pointed out four large nests high in dead trees and guessed they were built by bald eagles.



Above is one of the powerful photographs Autumn included in her thesis show,Venus of Mars, at UMass Amherst several years ago. That show addressed her metamorphosis from male to female.

The photo, she wrote, documents "the performance of myself reprising the masculine role one final tyme as Cernunnos, Celtic god of the wood and the hunt. Here I symbolically saw the antlers from my head and emerge reborn."



Above is a piece representing some new work. Whether it is a new direction or a break from the art that has occupied her for a long time remains to be seen. This one was inspired by a book of Russian folk songs.

"Shape-shifting and the process of becoming remain at the fore-front of my artistic process," Autumn writes. "As I move and shape, breath the air of the mountains, and feel the cold water of the river run past my feet, I continue to transform."

My hope is that she will not only continue transforming but become successful in the art world in the process.


We've come to the end of this post without even mentioning another important aspect of this artist's life - music. That will have to wait for another day.


* Shaman: a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits, esp. among some peoples of northern Asia and North America. Typically such people enter a trance state during a ritual, and practice divination and healing.


*Animism: Animism encompasses the beliefs that there is no separation between the spiritual and physical (or material) world, and souls or spirits exist, not only in humans, but also in all other animals, plants, rocks, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment.[4] Animism may further attribute souls to abstract concepts such as words, true names, or metaphors in mythology. Examples of Animism can be found in forms of Shinto, Serer, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Pantheism, Paganism, and Neopaganism.



November 26, 2012

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Snow that fell around Onota Lake yesterday looked like the pictures you see of snowflakes under a microscope. But you didn't need magnification to see the designs. This is the first time I can remember their shapes being visible . They are captured here against a young woman's hair and jacket.





November 22, 2012

Computer painting by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is my first runway painting in which I'm not really stealing anything from anyone - at least nothing that they would ever recognize. The subject is still Joelle van Dyne from Infinite Jest and if you've read the novel or been following this blog you know she hides behind a veil so heavy her face can't be seen.

I'm still having trouble with the veils. This gives you a chance to add, if you want to, "and with everything else."

As you may have noticed, I'm not being faithful to my every-other-day publication schedule. But so far I haven't been fired.

Happy Thanksgiving.


November 19, 2012

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is Joelle van Dyne X 3 which I have revised since first showing it to you on November 3. She is the young woman I have been intrigued by - perhaps infatuated with - during my reading of David Foster Wallace's wild and amazing Infinite Jest.


The outfit is by the new Parisian designer Jacquemus which  you can see in its undiluted state on blog.mnzstore.com.

She is trapped by addiction, hopelessness, and a beauty so perfect she considers it a deformity and masks her face. I'm near the end of the novel now and things may be looking up for her. She is in a halfway house, going to Addicts Anonymous and falling in love.

The guy she loves, a former addict and reformed bad guy, is shot while defending his brood at the halfway house. Wounded in the shoulder after he demolishes two of the assailants, he is thrilled when lying in the street, bleeding profusely, Joelle bends over him applying pressure to the would to try to staunch the flow of blood, he sees partway up her mask.

As far as he can see, which is not all the way, her face is lovely. But hanging over all this is the testimony of an unreliable character that Joelle donned the mask because her father and then boyfriend ducked when he mother hurled acid at the father and it hit Joelle ducked.

Bare with me, if you can, as I keep posting about Joelle and this book.


P.S. My friend Alan says he's heard the fashion industry is notoriously protective of its work and has offered me a hideout in case they come after me physically. I'd tell you where it is except that would defeat the purpose. But it's good to know it's there if I need it.



November 16, 2012

Paintings by Jay Tobin, who also took most of the photos used here.

Jay Tobin, a 62-year-old retired Pittsfield fire captain, has recently been painting "icons and relics" inspired by religious objects of the same name. These small - in the 4 to 10-inch range - works shine with a beauty that befits their namesakes.

These pieces don't shout at you demanding attention but they reward a close inspection.

Despite the title all is not solemn in this solo exhibit at Berkshire Community College's downtown gallery. Jay has injected humor through the titles of several pieces. The one above is "Got No Numbers," a title taken from a line he loved in the movie U Turn. In it, Billy Bob Thornton rejects Sean Penn's offer of an expensive Movado watch - the one with the numberless face - to satisfy a debt.

Why not? "Got no numbers," says Thornton.

Below is "Still Got No Numbers."


Submerged in the hole in the machined metal center of St. Eye (below) is a mirror. If you're tall enough, you'll see your own eye staring back at you when you look at it.


Above and below are two of his relics, which are diamond shaped where the "icons" are squares. All were painted this year. The one below is St. Florian, the patron saint of firefighters.



Jay's father was Pittsfield Fire Lieutenant Francis Tobin and his mother was Mary Moore Tobin. Of their five sons and two daughters, three are artists - Jay, F.X. and Bill. Jay went to BCC when it was still at the Common and majored in art at UMass in Amherst. He completed his art degree after joining the Fire Department. I've become something of a Tobin groupie, posting about three of them this year: Jay (today), F.X. (July 6) and F.X.'s daughter Jesse (November 9).

Jay, F.X., Bill and Jesse are part of Group W which has staged three pretty spectacular shows - and parties - at East Coast Refinishing off South Street. Jesse is trying to convince them to do a fourth. The other Group W artists are Mark Hanford and Mike Melle.

Most of Jay's adult life he has painted abstractly. His forays into figurative work came in three Pittsfield murals. He worked with Dan O'Connell and Will Blake to do the fireman - for which he was the model - on the Columbus Avenue garage and the one on the Police Department. He also helped Dan repair the Vietnam Mural that once graced First Street but was moved to West Housatonic.

The painting above is Comp 89-2, 24" x 18", acrylic on canvas and is one of several in the show from his previous series.

He switched to the icons and relics "because I was trying to get away from geometry." His wife Lois pointed out that he hadn't quite pulled that off: His new series employed geometry - albeit differently.


Here is another of Jay's icons, along with a Byzantine icon from the Eastern Orthodox Church. Jay says he plans to keeps painting icons and relics, but on a larger scale.

The BCC gallery is in the Intermodal Transportation Center on Columbus Avenue in Pittsfield. The show opened on November 2 as part of the First Fridays Artswalk and will be up through the end of the month. The gallery is open from 2 to 5 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.



November 13, 2012

Drawings and Paintings by Cecilia Stevens

When Cecilia Stevens graduated from Berkshire Community College last year she was

49 years old and had accomplished “a lifelong dream.”

She calls her time at BCC “a six-year, soul-searching journey” in which she earned a degree in Visual Fine Arts.

Lisa Griffith, the head of BCC’s studio art department, demonstrated how highly she thought of Cecilia’s* work when she invited her to have a solo show at BCC’s downtown gallery at the Intermodal.

The Columbia County resident was excited and perhaps a little nervous. Her exhibit was up for the month of October.


Her favorite mediums are graphite and oil. At BCC, she si ad, she explored techniques that let her express “my free-flowing creativeness.



Her drawings have a directness and starkness that I like. Lisa Griffith said that in one stretch Cecilia did over 40 drawings and they were all good.


“BCC is a great source of education for all ages,” Cecilia says.

In her 40s she did not stick out like a sore thumb as she would at many colleges. In fact more than half of BCC’s students are nontraditional - a term the college uses for students who are over 23 years old.


When I took art courses there in the late 1990s, I was with 18 year olds, people in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond. Although I was in my 60s, I often wasn’t the oldest in my class.


“Every teacher that I had was very informative, fair and available for questions or help,” Cecilia said.



While she thrived in the art department, she was hungry to learn and also relished the academic side - the math, science, English, history, psychology.


Cecilia, who was born and raised in Pittsfield, took a few courses at BCC after high school, worked for a couple years, and then went to McCann Technical School in North Adams to become a licensed practical nurse.



She and her husband Scott, who operates Key Communications, have four children, Jessica, Danielle, David and Andrew, who have all gone to college.

For 23 years while raising the kids, she was out of the workforce - if you can call raising four children not being part of the workforce.

But that changed during her last four years at BCC. She went to work as an LPN part-time while going to college and doing the accounting for her husband’s business.

“Those years were the busiest, but I felt that I could relate to my children (who were also going to college) and they could relate to me.” Her youngest is now a college senior.



“I will continue to work while pursuing my artistic life,” she said. Cecilia holds a nursing post at the Brothers of Holy Cross retirement home five miles from her house.


“I like the independence of earning my own money and it does help pay for my school loan and new car loan and my personal expenses."

As you can see from Cecilia's story, getting a degree as an adult is not easy, but it is a path many Berkshire-area adults take. And the results, as Cecilia testifies, can be very rewarding - not necessarily in terms of money (although advanced education can lead to higher paying jobs) but in terms of self fulfillment.



#So what do you call the people you're writing about? Mr., Mrs. Ms.? Is it disrespectful to call them by their first name? At The Eagle after the first reference we used only the last name. Cecelia would be Stevens by that standard. I would be Horner. But sometimes it sounds too harsh that way.

On the other hand just using first names can sound too familiar. So what do you do? Most of the time I come down on the side of using Cecilia or Grier or Lisa or Joe. But if I'm writing about someone I've never even met, I'd hesitate to call them by their first name. When I wrote about two of Walton Ford's shows in New York, I didn't refer to him as Walton. So go figure.

Now I'm having second thoughts about the whole thing.




November 9, 2012

Photos by Grier Horner

Jesse Tobin's paintings are as upbeat and outgoing as the 39-year-old artist. She moved back to Pittsfield three months ago after 16 years in Los Angeles and Brooklyn where she was a graphic designer.

Marking her return is her new show, which is "kind of all about moving home," she says. The exhibit opened a week ago as part of the First Fridays Artswalk in Pittsfield, but is a little off that event's beaten path. It is in the Bingo Gallery in the basement of the former Notre Dame Church on Melville Street. The gallery draws its name from the game that used to be played there.

Combined, the painting above and the one below give you Jesse's current street number as she examines the return of the native son (or rather daughter).



The three paintings here all provide out-of-state street addresses where

she lived. And the painting below expresses the temporary shock of moving back to Pittsfield. But things have turned out well. In two weeks she begins her new job as creative manager at Country Curtains in Stockbridge, a post that will draw on her design experience. She holds a degree in graphic design from the Otis School of Art and Design in Los Angeles as well as a degree in environmental science from UMass.




Here you see the way the display is set up on the curved brick wall that I assume is under the church's sanctuary.



This is Jesse Tobin (in the red sweater) with Shannon Miller of Lenox (they went to Taconic High together) at the opening. Behind them is Mark Hanford who provides a lead-in to Jesse's artistic heritage.

Mark and her uncle Bill Tobin are the sculptors who created the iron sculpture in the southwest quadrant of Park Square for part of the city's Melville celebration - the one that includes a single boot.

Another uncle, Jay Tobin, has a show at BCC's downtown gallery that opened on the same night as his neice's.

And her father F.X. Tobin is an artist in Tempe, Arizona. He also is a guy who works out.

With F.X. as her father, "I had to do weight lifting or art," she quips. She chose the latter and her sister Margot the former.



Above are details from two of Jesse's paintings. Her approach is interesting because it includes the abandon of flinging paint and the discipline of graphic design. And all her work includes dots, a remembrance of her Grandma Dot who died 10 years ago at 82. Two of her paintings have been sold. Jesse's also selling these shirts she paints. They're like wearable Jackson Pollack's.


Jesse connected with Crispina ffrench, who owns the church complex, through Leo Mazzeo, one of First Fridays' founders. Crispina spins material salvaged from old clothes to make wonderful new clothing.

She has asked Jesse to curate shows in the Bingo Gallery. It is currently open on Wednesdays from 11 to 5 and Jesse expects to add Saturdays from 11 to 3 to the schedule.







November 7, 2012


By Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Wow. That was close. Obama won. I was relieved but not elated. The hope he had instilled in me four years ago for a new dawn in the nation had vanished by the time he came up for re-election. He did bring us Obama care - which could have been called Romney care, except that the Republican candidate who presided over its birth in Massachusetts couldn't embrace it. That was a major achievement. He got us out of Iraq, belatedly earning his Nobel Peace Prize. But he one last push in Afghanistan, which accelerated the killing in what seems a lost cause. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. He says we'll be out by the end of 2014. Meanwhile, the Afghans we're training keep killing our guys.


Right off the bat he did one thing that was high on my agenda - banned torture. And he bailed out the auto industry. The wisdom of that move was proven by the strong comebacks of General Motors and Chrysler, with all the jobs they provide in America. But after that things sort of fell apart, in large part because of a Congress deeply divided along party lines. And I forgot to mention another good thing: he made Hilary secretary of state. In the process he won over Bill, who played a crucial roll in giving Obama a second term.


I wish the president - and Romney - well.


And now back to art - or is it soft porn? This is one I slaved over for the last few days on my computer.

The model, masked like Joelle van Dyne, the Prettiest Girl of All Time, is stifling a yawn. I found her picture, but not her name, on trendland.com. So here I am stealing the work of some professional photographer to adapt to my own purposes. In the art world its called appropriation, something I have railed against in earlier posts.

Below is the original photograph. Maybe someone will see this who can provide the name of the photographer and the model and the designer of the dress. All three have done a great job in this shot. I can be reached at [email protected]

Looking at this picture I just realized I eliminated the thumb of her left hand in my chain-linked version.


Currently there is some discussion going on about the new picture on my facebook page, where I raised the issue of stealing work and asked whether this is art or soft porn.







November 5, 2012

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

As your conveyor of what's new in fashion, I'm bringing you a hot new way to wear your hair - assuming you are female and assuming it's new.

I was taken with the green string this Pittsfield teen had attached to her striking hair. I asked if I could take a picture and she said yes.

From the background can you tell where in the Berkshires I took this shot?

I could try this green string thing on the back of my head. Maybe, using enough of it, I could camouflage that follicularly challenged on the back of my head. As you can see taking a photo of the back of your head isn't all that easy.

Now here's something you may not want to read about. If you're squeamish, stop reading here. That dark spot on the ear on the left  is skin cancer - the price of being a life guard for three years when I was young. It is going to be removed by a plastic surgeon. I'm going to ask if he can't just take a notch out of my ear. Then people might think I was a brawler. Remember what Mike Tyson did to Evander Holyfield's ear?

But I already know the surgeon won't give me the notched ear look because when he had to remove a cancerous spot from my forehead a few years ago I asked him to leave a jagged scar. He refused, saying it would hurt his reputation.

As I left after the operation he said I'd be back if I lived long enough, meaning someone fair like me who had been in the sun too much was going to have recurring problems. He was right.



November 3, 2012

Joelle Van Dyne, Actually a Triplet, Jailed with Sisters for Dress Code Violation/Grier Horner (Outfit by Jacquemus)

Now I don't know what Joelle Van Dyne did - if anything - to provoke Orin, the pro punting sensation, to dump her. I haven't gotten that far in Infinite Jest* yet. But David Foster Wallace, the author, hints that it was a movie that could reduce men to mush. After all she was the Prettiest Girl of All Time until she decided her perfection was a hideous deformity and took to wearing a heavy veil.

The movie, The Entertainment, was made by Orin's father, which, since it would have been X-rated, must have made the relationship between father and son difficult, to say the least.

I saw the outfit by the new Parisian designer Jacquemus on blog.mnzstore.com, the site of Maryam Nassir Zadeh, who operates a fashion store in Manhattan and online.

I've cropped the head and shoulders of the original picture to demonstrate what attracted me to his high fashion outfit. It's certainly provocative. I spent seven hours yesterday working on the project.

 I spent seven hours on the computer yesterday working on the project. It's meant to be printed large so that the imperfections of my work altering it on the computer become more obvious. I think you can see what I mean in the detail below.

To read Jay McInerney's critical review of Infinite Jest in the New York Times, go to this link. I like going to McInerney, the author of Bright Lights, Big City, because he went to high school in Pittsfield, which is where I live. You can go to the New Yorker for a long and informative essay on Wallace by D.T.Max.


November 1, 2012

Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

I'm going to have good luck this month. You know why? The first words I uttered in November were "Bunny Rabbit." I almost always forget. But not this time. I said it out loud about 1:48 a.m. after deciding that while I had said the words to myself that wouldn't count.

By the way I'm back from the Clique Reunion. I'm connected to it by marriage and by the fact I'm the only Clique spouse who went to Washington Irving High School like the real members.

We were up in the Buffalo area and Sandy threatened but was out of breath when she hit the home of Babbie's favorite football team - the Bills. The Clique looked good although evidencing a few tell-tale signs that some years had passed since graduating from WI in 1953 and 1954.

Me, I look like I graduated in 1949.

The picture at the top is a computer manipulation of a photo I took a few years ago and is an extension of my use of a chain-link fence. In this case the model is trying to find the secret door in the studio wall.

The other chain-link pictures can be seen on my October 27 and October 15 posts.



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