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May 31, 2007

Yesterday we started hanging the show. I figured I would rent the truck and get it loaded and down to the library by 10. Of course, I got to the library at 11:30. Loading took longer than I expected.

We were able to park the van on the lawn close to the gallery's exterior door. That helped a lot. Babbie and I got all the Dresden Firebombing paintings hung. Babbie suggested I put up fewer than I had planned. I took her advice and it looks good because the paintings have room to breath. It also means that only six of them went up, leaving out five. A 12th is in the works. The big Dresden painting in yesterday's post has the place of honor and fills it well.

Today we take on the Scarlet Letter wall. The one illustrating this post is one of the 106 paintings that we'll put up. I made the A out of copper. It's three dimensional. The paint is acrylic.

The refurbished cupola rose proudly from the library roof yesterday, having been hoisted into place in a public ceremony.


May 30, 2007

Because of this painting and another almost as big, I have to rent a truck to take my work to the Lenox Library today .

At 7 feet wide by almost 6.5 feet high, this just will not fit in my van. The widest paintings I can jam in are a little over 4 feet. I was thinking of strapping it to the roof. But looking at the painting yesterday I vetoed that idea.

For one thing it has burned matches embedded in the paint. With the canvas flapping around in the wind, I worry they would be shaken off. I also worry about the collaged elements, which comprise a good deal of the painting. It is part of the Dresden series and closely related to the painting I posted on the blog May 25.

U-Haul used to have it's headquarters on South Street. But in a city on the rise, that main drag property was taken by the city in connection with the restoration of the Colonial Theater, part of the city's Renaissance. While getting U-Haul out of there may have been good for the city culturally and aesthetically, it has given U-Haul an invisibility that makes it difficult to do business with the company. The phone book lists three locations in Pittsfield. I went to two of them. They are not there. The third is.

What a waste of time. Should have let my fingers do the walking, as the ads advise.


May 29, 2007

This is the Excalibur of Scarlet Letters. I was thinking that people can drown in adultery or that it can be handed to them by magic. But the fact that this A is broken implies the power to wound.

The hand rising from the lake is of self hardening clay over a wire frame. I made it last year. I was looking at my own hand when I did it. I beg the Lady or the Lake's pardon.

Giving it something of a historic touch, thread from the old Rice Silk Mill, which closed last year, was used to create the surface of the water. I made the A of wood. It's another of the 100-odd paintings that will go into the Scarlet Letter wall that I'll start hanging at the Lenox Library tomorrow.


May 28, 2007

The last words of the Scarlet Letter are this epitaph carved on the single headstone shared by Hester Pryne and Arthur Dimmesdale: "On a Field, Sable, the Letter A, Gules."

Gules means an heraldic red. This A is a little wilder than scarlet but the background is what I would call sable.

She died years after the minister. And her grave was dug near his. "...Yet with a space between, as if the dust of the two sleepers had no right to mingle," Hawthorne wrote.

Even in death they were screwed for screwing.


May 27, 2007

The second series of paintings in the Lenox Library show will be Dresden. This one is In Memoriam. It was done this year in oil and is 50" x 47.5".

Unless you have really bright lighting on it, the red is much darker, which I like. It was one of four Dresden paintings that Jeremy Yudkin used in conjunction with his talk about music and war.

Jeremy, a music professor at Boston University, had me comment about the paintings to the group of a dozen people meeting yesterday at the Lenox Library. I really enjoyed doing that. And I am a big fan of Jeremy's engaging professorial style. He's good. I wish I had had more professors like him when I was in college.

Last evening Babbie and I took in two North Adams events - the season kickoff of Kurt Kolok's gallery and the opening of Spencer Finch's exhibit at MASS MoCA. A good evening of art and wine in North Adams - something that wouldn't have been available there 10 years ago. And another in a string of days when I didn't pick up a paint brush.


May 26, 2007

The rundown to the June 8 reception continues. I decided to show you this painting because of its kinship to yesterday's.

Here the brushwork in the background is more dynamic. I like it and should do it more often. It's also a self portrait.

Yesterday Babbie, Nancy and I consulted with Lisa Berkel, who wears many hats at the library, about arrangements for the reception. It will be held from 5 to 8 on Friday June 8.

Laizzes les Bon Temps Rouler. (Let the good times roll.)


May 25, 2007

This painting has a spray painted A. The figure is in oil and is a rarity in my work because I seldom work so small. She's only 5.5 inches high.

Today I'll cart several of my Dresden Firebombing paintings down to the LennoxLibrary and set them up in a front room where Jeremy Yudkin, a music professor at Boston University, is going to use them as a backdrop for a seminar he is giving on music and war.

He's a ball of fire who has taught classes on medieval polyphony, the Beatles, Beethoven, Bartok, and Miles Davis among many others. He asked Susan Cheever, the author, to give a talk at the library in conjunction with the showing of the Scarlet Letter paintings. The proceeds would have benefited the library, which had been going through some trying financial times.

It would have been an apt pairing: Cheever is the author of American Bloomsbury: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work. And Hawthorne is reported to have been in this building when he lived in Stockbridge in the mid 1800s. Great title. A little long but I love it. I also liked the book.

The library is bustling with preparations these days. The wedding celebration of a very attractive and talented woman I once worked with is going to take place there Saturday and the cupola goes back on the roof Tuesday, completing the library's restoration. The colonial building on Lenox's main drag looks great inside and out.


May 24, 2007

Here's Hester in modern dress. I think the model for this portrait was Kate Moss. I used Ms. Moss for another painting in the series. You don't think she poses for me?

In any case, Hester was not Kate Moss. She gave in to passion and love at a time society didn't allow you to do that. She committed adultery on a technicality. Hester thought her spooky old man of a husband was dead.

But she was not self indulgent, just stubborn. Like Tammy Wynette and Hillary, she stood by her man. But there was a clarity and honesty and patience about Hester that gave her stature. Of course both Hilary and Kate suffered great public humiliation, too. With Kate it was cocaine. With Hillary it was Bill and Monica, Bill and Jessica, etc. Sew a scarlet A to Bill's chest and a powder-white "C" to Kate's.

In case you were wondering, that's not a frame around the painting but sections of the adjoining paintings. Wouldn't it make a great frame, though? I'm going to try to remember to make some like that.

Some 100 paintings from the Scarlet Letter series will be shown as one giant painting 32 feet long by six feet high at the Welles Gallery at the Lenox Library from June 1 to August 15. The project is supported by the Sue A. and Robert H. Gersky Foundation.


May 23, 2007

The parade of Scarlet Letter paintings continues as I do the run up to the show. This one contains the full text of the novel. The pages are waxed together to form the A.

The only scarlet comes from the China marker I used to get the shape of the letter. Although you can't tell it from the photo, the letter is fairly thick in order to work in bits of all the pages. The photo of the young woman I use here as a stand-in for Hester Pryne is one I took a couple years ago. From the book it's obvious that Hester, too, was a beauty. No wonder the Rev. Dimmesdale fell from grace. The guy pictured on the A is Nathaniel Hawthorne. Women were attracted to Hawthorne, says Susan Cheever, in her book American Bloomsbury.

The support for the painting is made of pieces of roughly cut plywood held together by angle irons and screws.

I think this show at the Lenox Library is going to be a knockout. If you're reading this and live near Lenox, Massachusetts, drop in on the reception on June 8 from 5 to 8. It's being held in the library's Welles Gallery. There will be wine and stuff. Do you see where Patricia H. Buckley printed her name on the title page of the paperback I cut up for the picture? It would be great if she came.


May 22, 2007

Rust comes into play in this painting too. (See yesterday's post.) But this time instead of forming the background for a Scarlet Letter, it forms the letter itself.

I was looking at it today and trying to think who I used as the model for Hester Pryne. I think it was Liv Ullmann. Not from life of course but from a photo I found on the web.

I've told this story before but since Liv's name came up I'll tell it again.

Years ago a classmate, Don Saunders, who is a Boston real estate tycoon, and who I did not know at Brown, was having a mini-reunion for our class at his house. He is married to Liv Ullmann - in fact he has been married to her twice.

Babbie has never quite forgiven me for refusing to go. It was pretty stupid not to. But ever since I went to Brown I have had a problem with rich preppies. Fostered by some privileged snobs I grew to hate when they were rushing my freshman roommate, who was a rich preppie I liked, it became a full-fledged prejudice. A form of xenophobia. Don Saunders is probably a hell of a nice guy. Certainly I have always admired Liv Ullmann as an actress. I wish I hadn't been so uptight. I would have liked to have met her.



May 21, 2007

This Scarlet Letter is made of shattered plate glass on Core 10 steel. I love the patina on the steel. And I like working with broken glass, even though I haven't done much of it lately.

This will be one of the 100 paintings in the Scarlet Letter Wall at the Lenox Library from June 1 through August 17. I'm getting pretty keyed up about the show. It's going to be tough to hang because there will be 108 paintings forming one large work roughly 6' x 32'. But I think it's going to be a knockout.

Finding a place to show the series en mass was the idea of Bob Gersky, whose foundation is supporting the Scarlet Letter show. I'd conceived the series as a single piece, but I've never had room to put up more than 50. So I will be seeing it for the first time myself.

Bob hopes someone will buy the whole thing, because he doesn't want the paintings split up.

If you want to get an idea of the scale and the impact, take a look at my May 15 post. That's just the middle third of the painting.


May 20, 2007

Here's another Scarlet Letter. This one is imprinted on the right lens of these welding glasses. Who's the guy? I'd say the Rev. Dimmesdale.

The trouble with Arthur in The Scarlet Letter is that he's holier than thou. He suffers the flesh-searing Scarlet Letter on his chest, hidden from public view until he dramatically unveils it at the end. Hester's A, however, has been borne on her breast in public low these many years.

She weathers the whole scandal better than he does by, in essence, making a clean breast of it. In the public mind, as the book goes on, her A starts standing for Able, instead of Adultery, because of the good she does in the community.

He's out there doing good as a preacher. But inwardly his flesh is being eaten away by guilt. Once he exposes it he dies. A lot of good that does Hester. Instead of running away with her, and their daughter Pearl, as she urges him, he goes in for the public unveiling and death.

The portrait here is another made of Level Best (see yesterday's post). It also utilizes welder's goggles, paint, shell casings and a bent nickel. It's going to be part of that wall of 100 paintings on view at the Lenox Library from June 1 to August 15.

The glasses by the way, were used by the sculptor Antoni Milkowski, who gained some fame in the 1960s. One of his works is in front of the Egg at the Empire State Plaza in Albany. His ex wife, a friend, gave them to me.


May 19, 2007

Getting back to the Scarlet Letter, this is one of my niece Betsy's favorites from that series. It will be one of 100 paintings in the Scarlet Letter wall that I'm showing at the Lenox Library from June 1 through August 17.

In it Hester Pryne, the heroine of the book, is supported by wire attached by rings to stainless posts sunk into the stretcher. I'm not sure of the symbolism. But like Betsy it's one of my favorites, too.

I made the face with Level Best over a framework of aluminum wire and screening. Level Best is a cement-like substance used for leveling depressions in floors before tile is applied. The face is partially recessed in the stretcher, which I had turned upside down. There is a nautical flavor to the piece that doesn't trace its roots to Hawthorne's book.

I never heard of it - either in sculpture or construction - until I noticed it on the labels of works by Amy Podmore, a talented artist at Williams COllege. Here's a piece she did called Plumb from 1999. It was made of Level Best, doll's eyes and hardware and was driven by a motor.


May 17, 2007

Here's the result of one of my drive-by shootings. It was taken from a moving car - Babbie was driving - as we swung past a ferris wheel one night last week.

It was during Contraband Days in Lake Charles, Louisiana. That's a celebration commemorating Jean Lafitte, the pirate. Lake Charles has lots of festivals. The motto on the visitors' center is Laizzes Les Bon Temps Rouler - let the good times roll. How can you not like a town with that attitude?

By the way I don't think I'm ready to shoot and drive at the same time. This second shot was taken moments earlier on Ryan Street. I love the bronze and copper tones. Hope I can get that effect again.

You can see the street light at the top left. The orange and yellow streaks at the right are probably tail lights, strung out by motion and the slow shutter speed. Next thing I want to try is wet streets and parking lots - both day and night - to get the reflections.


May 16, 2007

Shot these clouds from the front lawn last evening after Babbie and I got home from watching the second grade perform at Egremont School.

That's Riley's grade. She recited her lines with inflection. She's a star. In the march up to the performance we'd heard her lines frequently. We'd heard everyone else's too. At rehearsals she'd memorized the lines of the other five kids in her skit.

As you know if you've been following the blog, I've developed a fascination with photography and clouds. When we were out in Louisiana last week, I tried something else I've been thinking about - night shots from a moving car. Maybe I'll run a couple tomorrow.

Yesterday I painted two new A's for the Scarlet Letter series.


May 15, 2007

Here is the center section of the Scarlet Letter wall as it will appear at the show at the Lenox Library from June 1 through August 15 with support from the Sue A. and Robert G. Gersky Foundation.

After showing you some of the individual pieces - which I will continue to do this month - I thought you might like to get an idea of how they all fit together.

Overall, there will be about 100 individual paintings on the 32-foot wall. I still have to figure out where the various paintings will go. I've never had a wall big enough until now to put so many of them up. As I install them I suspect this section won't be exactly as you see it. I've already made changes from the way it was originally hung.


May 14, 2007

This Scarlet Letter used plywood for the A, chest sections of two purloined photos and a small copper box welded together by Gae's late father.

The scarlet paint came from my friend Woody, who was using it on doors he built for a spectacular house he's been building in Williamstown for a couple years. It's probably done now. I've got to go up and see it.

Woody is meticulous. The partially used can of paint he gave me after I admired the color didn't have a single drip running down the side. I've never seen that before. Since I've used it I'm afraid the can has developed a case of the runs.


May 12, 2007

We're back in the Berkshires after a week in Louisiana visiting Michael, Meghan and Roan. I'll spare you the details of how wonderful that five-week old is because a grandfather's testimony is suspect.

I had hoped to be able to continue my blog from the South but I hadn't installed the soft wear in my portable hard drive properly. So that plan went out the window.

This shot picks up the theme of the last post and is one of the 100 pieces that will compose the Scarlet Letter Wall at my Lenox Library show from June 1 to August 17.

This time the roofing nails are glued to sheet aluminum stretched over canvas. In this detail you can see that some of the nail heads were cut to make them fit. In the previous piece I had drilled holes in the copper sheet and pushed the nails through.


May 5, 2007

This is one of the paintings in the Scarlet Letter Wall which will be shown at the Lenox Library, Lenox, Massachusetts, from June 1 to August 15. The exhibit is being supported by the Sue A. and Robert H. Gersky Foundation.

The wall will consist of about 100 paintings from the series, all 18" x 14". For an idea of what it will look like go to my website's home page via the link in the top right corner of this blog. This Bed of Nails is made of copper nails, sheet copper, spray paint and acrylic.

It's going to be a little hectic getting everything ready. I've been dealing with the post card. Sent the pictures in at too low a resolution. Had to shoot them over. Which was a pain. I've got 50 of them on a wall in my studio. I took the original shots a year ago. If you've seen my studio, you'd know that clearing the decks to get the new shot was a monumental undertaking. Had to move all sorts of canvases, etc.

Got the new shots, sent them in and what do you think? The resolution was too low again. But Cheryl Martini of Modern Postcard in California went out of her way to be help me get it straightened out. I hope they know what goodwill she generates for them.

The show will also include my Dresden Firebombing paintings, which I have been working on for the last 10 or 12 months.

We're flying to Louisiana today to see our grandson, Roan, who will be one month old tomorrow. Oh, we're also going to see his parents, Michael and Meghan. I'll try to keep the blog going from the South, if I can overcome some technical problems.


May 3, 2007

Sometimes I think I could look at the sky for hours on end.

When we put an addition on our house in 1970, we had clearstory windows installed. Later I built a wooden sofa and an upholsterer made navy cushions for it. My idea was that I would stretch out on that sofa and watch the clouds. I rarely did. And on those occasions not for long.

But since I started taking photographs in ernest last fall, I spend a lot of time looking up in amazement. I like the sky and I like the camera. It gives me an artistic range I didn't have when I limited myself to paint. In any case, I seldom paint landscapes. Meghan Fleming, my son Michael's wife, paints big skies over narrow bands of flat Louisiana fields. I'm in awe of those paintings. But I can't deal with the sky in paint. So the camera is opening things up.

May 1, 2007

I know, it isn't the first of April; it's the first of May.

But since I've been in self-portrait mode, here's one taken yesterday. I was talking with a young woman who gave herself a hip, sex-in-the-small-time life in a newspaper column. A problem, she said, was that people started thinking of her as her character, even calling her by the character's name. It caused some internal confusion.

But I've been tempted to build an alter ego for myself for some time. I give you the portraits of myself as a street fighter, for instance. But I always blow it by telling you I'm not really a street fighter. Then I had my Lone Wolf (see April 1, March 14) phase. Maybe it would help me in the art world if I were a wild child. I'm certainly not making it on the paintings alone.



Seth Harwood, writer

Leslie, poet

Joe Goodwin, painter

Lisa Reinke, painter

John Mitchell, commentary

Charles Guiliano, MAVERIC, art critic

Saatchi Gallery


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