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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man


Oct. 31, 2006

I got a kick out of Halloween tonight, as always. Love it when the neighborhood kids come trick or treating. And I loved Babbie with her gas mask and hat. (Behind her is my painting, Red Riding Hood on My Mind. Love that painting too.)

Our son Michael picked out the gas mask at the Marine Surplus store in Provincetown when he was about 6. He wore it all over the place even though it had a strong mildew smell. To facilitate breathing, Babbie's removed the canister. Gives it an alien-invasion look.

We live on a dead-end street with just a few houses. We only get neighborhood kids - fewer than 10 this time - because it's sort of secret neighborhood.

I did manage to scare one kid, who I really didn't want to scare. That was Medea, who isn't two yet. She showed up after her brothers, Matas, as Darth Vader, and Herkus, whose costume I couldn't figure out. Medea, dressed as a unicorn, was in the arms of her mother, Edita, straddling her left hip. When Babbie and I opened the door, Medea seemed startled. Edita was laughing about our getups. When I stepped out on the porch, Media swiveled as far away from me as she could get, stretching her neck backwards. I retreated. I was impressed that she didn't cry. With two older brothers, she's been brought up in the school of hard knocks and she's pretty tough. I never see her in tears.

I remember when Shannon, our daughter, was about 2 she got the idea that Halloween was a thing that was going to come to our door and get her. So she spent trick or treat hiding in her crib that evening.

By the way, if you haven't figured out who the old broad with the bad lipstick is, that's me. Back in the 70s wigs were all the rage and Babbie looked pretty glamorous in this one. It had bangs and the hair on the sides swept forward. At the neck the cut was very short. That hairstyle had a name. Barbara Feldman in Get Smart popularized it on TV.

As you can see, the wig does a lot for me too.


Oct. 30, 2006

Here are three paintings from the Scarlet Letter series that people want to buy. That is creating a small dilemma.

It's not that I don't want to sell them. It's just that there are about 120 or 130 of this Scarlet Letter series and I'd like to show them somewhere as a group. Preferably one large wall. But I'm doing almost nothing about getting them shown. There are others from the series that have buyers too. From 10 to 14 all together, if we settled on a price.

I keep thinking I might tie the price of an individual painting to a gallon of gas. That sounded pretty good when gas was $3. Now that its $2.15 around here its a little less attractive for me. But it might make the paintings more saleable. Now you could buy one for $215 dollars. A steal.

Anyway, instead of selling, I keep stalling the buyers on one hand and doing nothing about getting the paintings shown on the other. A great strategy, is it not?

Besides, I've shifted into a new series on the Dresden firebombing in 1945. (I know, I said this post would be about Dresden. Dresden's still to come.) Another complication is that when I move into something new, I lose interest in what I had been doing.



Oct. 25, 2006

Here's the finished version of Anita. I showed you this painting way back on Aug. 7. But I've been working on it off and on since then. It's a lot better now.

Take a look at the archive if you have time. I think you'll see what I mean. This piece is 51 3/4" x 31 1/2" and its oil on canvas. But it's a painting over a painting. I've been recycling old paintings lately. This one dates from about 1999. I had forgotten about it until a friend asked me if I had a small painting she could hang in her PR office. I came across it going through the paintings stacked against the wall in one of the bedrooms.

I liked the subject but I didn't like the way it was painted. So I did it over, this time using pallet knives and my fingers instead of brushes and fingers. The paint is thick and crusty.

You might call it a companion piece to a painting hanging in a Williamstown house. It that one Anita is nude. Both are done with the same technique. While I've been finishing this off, I've been working on paintings of the Dresden firebombing. I'll show you one of those next time.




Oct. 23, 2006

Green is the Color of My True Love's Soap.

That's what I call this painting, which was done this year. The red label says Guido's, the name of a local market, and gives the price - 99 cents. The price was right, but we can't find it at Guido's any more. We liked to use it in the shower and for washing our hands.

I made this hand from self-hardening clay over a form I put together from aluminum wire and mesh. The paint is acrylic and the piece is 18 inches by 14 inches.

Of course the title come's from the folk song, Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair. The painting is part of the Scarlet Letter series, the only one on a green background - I think.



October 18, 2006

Courtesy Greene-Naftali Gallery, New York

Jacqueline Humphries' paintings hold me in thrall.

Here are two from Seven Sisters. They will be at the Williams College Museum of Art until Oct. 29. The seven large paintings light up the octagonal gallery.

"Jacqueline Humphries' work is amazing -- strong and lyrical, multi-layered -- takes me to a higher plane of regard," Deborah Rothschild of the WCMA staff told me recently. I agree.(See Oct. 9 post.)

The curator of the show is Hannah Blumenthal. These images are courtesy of Greene-Naftali Gallery, New York.

Above, Mercury's Moon. Top, Judith. Both oil on canvas.


October 14, 2006

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...

Because I did 120 or 130 of the Scarlet Letter paintings in the last year, they're going to surface from time to time.

Sorry there's so much glare at the top of this one.

In this painting I'm butting in, as is my want, trying to tell Dimmesdale not to feel so sorry for himself. (I'm afraid the minister annoys me.) One of his many problems was that his illegitimate daughter Pearl wanted him to come clean.

The words:

Look Dimmesdale, things could have been worse. Had you come to life in a 21st Century novel, Pearl, as a pre-pubescent rebel, could sing Martha Wainwright's line: 'You bloody mother fucking asshole.'

It would be appropriate.


October 9, 2006

Jacqueline Humphries' Hor. #6 is 90 inches by 90 inches and was done in 1997.

Jacqueline Humphries has suddenly become one of my favorite painters. I had never heard about her until the Williams College Museum of Art staged a show called Seven Sisters. It's up until Oct. 29.

I was transfixed when I walked into the gallery where seven gigantic paintings are hung. It was one of those moments in art when you walk into a space and are spellbound, nailed in place, grateful to be alive.

It doesn't happen to me that often: Jackson Pollack at MoMA in 1998, Cy Twombly at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Clyfford Still at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1979, Sargent at the Clark in 1997, Marc Chagall at Union Church.

(The gestural masterpiece shown here is not one of the Seven Sisters. I'm trying to get hold of a couple of those images to show you.)

The works were commissioned by the college. They are installed in the big six-sided gallery with its massive skylight. "As the light shifts and changes, it activates the silver surface of the paintings and casts them into a state of flux, lending a mercurial quality to each large canvas and to the installation as a whole," writes Hannah Blumenthal in the booklet for the exhibition.

I've only seen it twice now, both times on sunny days. But when a cloud passed over, I knew what she was talking about. It must be like Chagall's stained glass windows in Pocantico Hills, NY. I keep going back to catch them as the seasons and the light changes. Whether Humphries' work will stand my test of time as these others did remains to be seen. In any case it gave me a transendental experience in the year 2006. It's hard to ask for more.

The show was organized by Blumenthal, of the Williams graduate program in art history, Class of 2006, with Deborah M. Rothschild, the senior curator of modern and comtemporary art.


October 6, 2006

Ligia Bouton in does a dazzling put-it-on and take-it-off routine that keeps you in stitches.

In Boulder, Colorado, Ligia Bouton is in a frenetic race with herself - in triplicate - every seven minutes or so.

This happens in her video hybrids showing until Oct. 14 at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. It was one of the two best things I saw on our trip out West. (The other was a painting by Margaret Fitzgerald. See the Sept. 29 post.)

Ms. Bouton is an artist with serious philosophical concepts about what she is doing. But she is also awfully funny. I'm not a big art video fan. Too much of it is boring. At least to me. Be honest. How many have you actually watched from beginning to end.

Anyway, Ms. Bouton's is wonderful. I haven't laughed so much in a long time. Her gig is basically this, as she puts it herself: "Each figure is continually in a process of undressing and bumbling into another set of clothing. This continual changing of skins is not a real form of metamorphosis; instead, each figure in each new outfit becomes a hybrid of the figures standing next to it. With each wardrobe change, different outer layers are applied to a core that remains the same."

So there you have the underpinning, and there is nothing amusing in that. It's in the execution. The three Ligia's on the screen start out in sync and put on each costume as if they're on speed. They try to finish up at the same instant, which they seldom accomplish. Then they take it off again, pass the outfit along, and the race starts all over. The identical triplets go through outfit after outfit, all slipped on over a base layer of jeans and a blue long-sleeved T. Through it all, the Santa Fe artist manages to keep a deadpan face.

You may not or may not come away with her message that trying on different identities she finds "an understanding of what makes me separate from everything else." But I think you will come away with a feeling that Ms. Bouton is a comic genius.

Here she goes putting on outfits - some sophisticated, some silly - and taking them off again, all in a hell of a hurry. In the frame below, all three of her have just finished donning a new costume and any second will start to peel them off again.


October 2, 2006

The old New England Lime plant graces the south section of Cheshire Lake. All photos by Shaun O'Boyle.

Shaun O'Boyle , today's guest blogger, is a Dalton resident who finds beauty in decay. At 46 he is a draftsman/designer whose website - - shows the wide-ranging scope of his work and his unfailing artistry. There you can see more of the old lime plant, as well as many more photo essays on modern ruins. One of my favorites is Boatyard 2005. Here's what Shaun has to say about his work:

I think my main motivation for making photographs is the attempt to explore the implications of memory and place, more specifically, an exploration of architecture and objects and their ability to present some sort of impression of their past; to convey the events that have unfolded around them.

We tend to surround ourselves with objects that have memories attached to them, or that were owned by someone we like to remember. But what happens when these objects become orphaned, when they end up in a place like an antique shop

or flea market, or an abandoned building?

Do these objects still maintain any connection to their original owner?

Are there any memories that are discernable to the present viewer?

Perhaps not in any direct way, but I do think that there are subtle clues that can be explored that might begin to tell a history, or perhaps suggest the faintest beginnings of a story about the history of an object.

The same can be said of architecture, when visiting an old house or building, are there any echoes of the past still audible in the now empty and deserted spaces? Again, perhaps not directly, but when looked at carefully there may be clues to a past that aren't at first obvious, and through exploration stories can be built around these subtle markings from the past.





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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