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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man

September 30, 2008

Meet Jeanne d'Arc (Number 21). Painted late last week, Twenty-One is 36"x24". Last  night I worked on a large canvas. I think it's pretty wild. Have to see it in the light of day.

Off the subject of painting and onto the fiscal crisis. Sometimes  I  take perverse pleasure in something like a stock market crash. Yesterday's was exhilarating in its free fall during the last 20 minutes before the market closed.

Liberals and conservatives teamed together yesterday to defeat the $700 billion bailout. I think they're playing with fire. But that can be thrilling. In one sense I hate the bailout because it rescues companies whose greed and excess created this mess in the first place.

On the other hand, I don't want to see us dive into another Depression. The question in my mind is this: should we believe President Bush's warning about weapons of mass financial destruction.



September 27, 2008

Recently I spent a few days working on this portrait of Marion Cotillard, the French movie star.

I had started it late last year and then left it alone until September. It still doesn't seem quite done. For one thing I will probably lighten up the shading around her mouth. And there is the question that I often have when I rework a picture. Is it better? Or is it worse? The painting, by the way, is 64"x49", oil on canvas.

I'll show the original below so you can decide.

The painting was done from a fashion shoot of Ms. Cotillard in the New York Times.



September 24, 2008

This is Jeanne d'Arc (Number 20) which I think I will call "I Confess" because of its darkness and the red of the fire she dreaded.

On May 24, 1431, after her long showcase trial, the clergy and aristocracy that heard the case gathered at the cemetery of the abbey of Saint-Ouen at Rouen.

Joan stood before the assembly on a scaffold and heard a sermon by Guillaume Erart, a doctor of sacred theology. But Joan would not recant her testimony.

"Then as the woman would say no more, we the said bishop, began to read the final sentence," the record of her trial states. "When we had already completed the greater part of the reading, Jeanne began to speak."

Reading from a prepared statement - I assume it was prepared by the jurists just in case she decided to recant - Joan admitted to this long series of offenses:

"I confess that I have most grievously sinned in falsely pretending to have had revelations and apparitions from God, His angels, St. Catherine and St. Margaret; in seducing others; in believing foolishly and lightly; in making superstitious divinations, in blaspheming God and His Saints; in breaking the divine law, Holy Scripture, and the canon laws; in wearing a dissolute, ill-shaped and immodest dress against the decency of nature, and hair cropped round like a man's, against all the modesty of womankind; also in bearing arms most presumptuously; in cruelly desiring the shedding of human blood; in declaring that I did all these things by the command of God, His angels and the said saints, and that to do so was good and not to err; in being seditious and idolatrous, adoring and calling up evil spirits."

She is then sentenced “to perpetual imprisonment, with the bread of sorrow and water of affliction, that you may weep for your faults and never henceforth commit anything to occasion weeping."

On the afternoon of the same day Jeanne puts on a woman's dress.

When they visit her in prison the 27th, Jeanne was again defiantly dressed as a man, wearing "a short mantle, a hood, a doublet and other garments used by men."

She told them she had confessed only "for fear of the fire."
Saying she had damned herself to save her life, she renounced the confession.

She was told: "You are fallen again -- O, sorrow! -- into these errors and crimes as the dog returns to his vomit..." and was burned at the stake.

I did the painting on Monday, September 22. It is 36" x 24". The dark red on the far left is a new color I picked up that day at Passonno Paints in Pittsfield.



September 22, 2008

This is my painting Dresden Mon Amour,  one of a series I did in 2006 about the Dresden firebombing by Allied forces. I was thinking of it last night because Babbie and I watched Hiroshima Mon Amour on DVD. I had stolen the title from the movie.

That 1959 film, which we had seen when it came out, is strange and haunting, at times gripping, at times annoying.

"I didn't like it then and I don't like it now," Babbie said of the film that was one of the highlights of the French New Wave. I wouldn't quarrel with her assessment - although I found it intriguing if a little hard to take.

But in the firmament of great titles Hiroshima Mon Amour is a shining star.

It's a love story that takes place 14 years after the bomb dropped. The lovers, played by Emmanuella Riva and Eiji Okada, had suffered during World War II. She fell in love with a German soldier in occupied France and plunged into despair and disgrace when he was shot and the affair was discovered. For his part, Okada's character had escaped the bomb but his family had not. Eventually their hopeless two-day affair - or is it three - turns plodding during a prolonged parting. I wished she'd just catch her plane and go.

Director Alain Resnais' movie has an unforgettable opening scene of a couple caressing. Suddenly their skin starts looking as if the lovers are maimed by radiation. I couldn't figure that out until I read Deepa Gumaste, an Indian writer, in her cinema blog Let's Talk.

Here's what she said in a discussion of the movie, which she rates as one of the top 10 of all time: "Two naked human bodies lie intertwined in bed; two faceless voices are in the midst of a cryptic conversation about Hiroshima, the devastated relic of World War 2. Then a shower of some shimmering substance (appears) on the bodies (minutes later we realize it's nuclear dust)... The scene is inter-cut with imagery of the aftermath of the bombing.

P.S. The shot of my painting was taken by Bob Tabakin last year during my solo show at the Lenox Library.


September 20, 2008

This was the view from the window of our hotel outside Baltimore early yesterday morning.

I shot it with my cell phone about 6 a.m. Or was it 5:30? My son Eric had just left for Baltimore Washington International to catch his flight to Manchester, New Hampshire. Instead of going back to sleep I turned to HBO and caught the last hour of "Me Myself I" and then all of "Bird on a Wire" with Goldie Hawn and Mel Gibson. After that early double feature I showered and dressed and went down to breakfast and read the latest on the government effort to prevent a global financial disaster and then read more about it at BWI and in the plane.

Me? I'd like to see the financiers pay for their excesses. These are the guys who tell government to get out of Wall Street's way because they know how to run the economy. Of course every few years they manage to run it into the ground, usually because when everything's going up they get manic. Sometimes when things get really bad, the government has to bail them out. Free enterprise is an interesting system.

Eric and I flew down to visit  Uncle John, who at 87 has had two heart attacks in quick succession. He gave everyone a scare, but by the time we got to the hospital less than a week after the last attack, he was sitting up and entertaining all of us with stories about the small victories and amusing predicaments of his life as a typist in the Army Air Corps during World War II. You have to remember most of that Greatest Generation was never on the front lines. In this battle, however, John has been fighting on the front lines. And he has refused to give up. But it is hard to see the toll it has taken on him. I wanted to tell John I love him. The closest I could come was leaving him a note saying we all loved him. Men!

Eric and I got to visit with a bunch of Horners, not only John, but Bill and Peach, Billy and Audrey and

Sandy. Peach said I looked like my grandfather, which pleased me. I adored him. Like John, his five brothers and sisters, including my father who died in the mid 1960s at 58, were all born story tellers. My father's forte was self-depreciating humor, tales about growing up on the farm in Gettysburg and then going to NYC to make a career.

Among the many was one about his first day at work in the advertising department at Con Edison in New York. His boss and mentor, Bill Bynes, had invited him to stay at his home in the suburbs until he found an apartment. After work Mr. Bynes and my father were walking to Grand Central when Mr. Bynes said, "Say would you like to stop at this speakeasy?"

"What's a speakeasy," my father asked.

"You wait right here, Jack. I'll only be a minute," Mr. Bines said and left my father standing on the sidewalk while he went in to get a drink.

P.S. It was great having time with Eric. In his early 40s he's still a bundle of non-stop energy and a lot of fun. You realize how little time you spend alone with your kids after they are no longer kids. I should do something about that.



September 17, 2008

Here's a portrait of the artist as an old man, wet camouflage pants and all, with David's Sea Doo on Lake Ontario earlier this month.

Dave, bless his heart, took this photo for posterity. The rocky beach you see is his and Cookie's. Babbie and Cookie are sisters. It was some ride on that wild bucking bronco. I was too chicken to open it up all the way, although Babbie's  brother Pete later told Riley, my granddaughter, that I got it up to 284.




September 15, 2008

Chelsea Schryver's pictures, clockwise from top, are Time Out, Never Ending Call, Left Behind and the Rabbit Hole.


This is a guest blog by Chelsea Schryver, a talented young photographer from Pennsylvania, and these are her pictures. But let me let her tell you a little about herself and what she's up to with her camera.

I'm a 5-year undergraduate student at Tyler School of Art at Temple University. I'll graduate in May 2009 with a BFA in Photography, a minor in Art History, and a Teaching Certification. I consider myself an artist of all trades and enjoy practicing art of every kind. Some of  my favorite mediums besides photography include drawing and painting, mixed media collage, book arts and fiber design.

These four photographs are from a 25 set series I've entitled "Short Stories". In the photographs I follow the adventures of an invented female character. She remains anonymous not because her identity is necessarily insignificant, but because without her face one is able to share her movements and place themselves within her shoes.

I myself relate to her, and many of my personal experiences and emotions have been interpreted through her actions metaphorically.

Frame after frame she is caught in the middle of this never-ending story, where there is no given information of a beginning or an end. She always stands alone as if being by herself is the only way to figure out where she truly belongs. It is left up to the viewer to believe if she is in search of something greater, or if she is just left trying to express what she has already discovered.

I created this girl, but she is not me. The girl in the photo is one of my best friends. I'm very specific about the models I choose and I move around a lot when I'm shooting, trying to view the model and scene from every angle until I find the one I'm looking for.

P.S. I love this series of pictures by Chelsea: the humor of Time Out and Never Ending Call, the pathos of Left Behind, and the out-on-a-limb contemplation of Rabbit Hole. You can see more of her work by going to myartspace and typing her name in the Search space.





September 13, 2008

The anniversary of 9/11 made me think, belatedly, of the one-quarter scale Xerox blowup that I had done of Flight 11. This was the first of two airliners hijacked by the terrorists after taking off from Logan Airport in Boston. Below is a story from the Los Angeles Times on September 20, 2001. It tells Flight 11's story through the eyes and voice of a brave flight attendant, Madeline Amy Sweeney.

By Eric Lichtblau

Los Angeles Times

A chilling telephone call from a flight attendant aboard American Airlines Flight 11 details for the first time the frantic struggle aboard the doomed airliner as hijackers slit the throat of a passenger and stormed the cockpit.

"I see water and buildings. Oh my God! Oh my God!" Madeline Amy Sweeney told a ground manager in Boston after the hijacked plane took a sudden and unexpected detour, according to an investigative document compiled by the FBI and reviewed by The Times.

The water she saw in those agonizing final moments was the Hudson River. The buildings were the famed New York City skyline, its trademark towers still upright. And the detour was Flight 11's calamitous descent into the World Trade Center's north tower about 8:45 a.m. on Sept. 11.

In recent days, snippets of cell phone calls that originated from the four hijacked flights have revealed tearful goodbyes and valiant pledges of resistance.

Cockpit Takeover

But Sweeney's phone call, with details that coincide with the hijackers' takeover of the cockpit, could provide investigators with one of their most valuable pieces of evidence in reconstructing the hijackings.

FBI officials in Dallas, where American Airlines is based, were able, on the day of the terrorist attacks, to piece together a partial transcript and an account of the phone call. American Airlines officials said such calls are not typically recorded, suggesting that the FBI may have reconstructed the conversation from interviews.

Sweeney, a 35-year-old mother of two young children, had worked for American Airlines for 12 years, usually taking weekend duty so she could spend more time during the week with her family in Acton, Mass. She was one of nine flight attendants working Flight 11, which left Boston's Logan International Airport with a light load of 81 passengers at 7:45 a.m.

The plane lifted off uneventfully, but investigators think it was commandeered within about 15 minutes.

Sweeney (identified in the law enforcement report as Amy Sweeny) called American flight services manager Michael Woodward on the ground at Logan. She displayed remarkable calm as she related numerous details about the unfolding events.

"This plane has been hijacked," Sweeney said, according to the FBI report.

Two flight attendants, whom she identified by their crew numbers, had already been stabbed, she said. "A hijacker also cut the throat of a business-class passenger, and he appears to be dead," she said.

Investigators have identified five suspected hijackers on the flight--Satam Al Suqami; Waleed M. Alshehri; Wail Alshehri; Mohamed Atta; and Abdulaziz Alomari. They are believed to be part of a well- orchestrated network of 19 hijackers who used box cutters, razors and even small knives concealed in cigarette lighters to take control of the four planes.

But Sweeney apparently saw only four of the five men.

All four were Middle Eastern, Sweeney told Woodward. Three of them, she said, were sitting in business class, and "one spoke English very well."

Presence of Mind

Investigators noted that Sweeney even had the presence of mind to relay the exact seat numbers of the four suspects in the ninth and 10th rows, although a few of those seats do not match up with the seats assigned to the hijackers on the tickets they purchased.

It is unclear from the phone account where Sweeney was when she was talking to the ground manager or what type of phone she used. But even as she was relating details about the hijackers, the men were storming the front of the plane and "had just gained access to the cockpit."

Then, she told Woodward, the plane suddenly changed direction and began to descend rapidly.

"At that very point, Sweeney tried to contact the cockpit but did not get a response," according to the investigative report. The pilot reportedly also was trying to alert authorities of the situation by surreptitiously clicking his radio transmission button.

Woodward then asked Sweeney whether she knew her location.

The chilling reply: "I see water and buildings. Oh my God! Oh my God!"

At that point, according to the report, the conversation ended.

Officials at American Airlines said information about the phone call was turned over to the FBI, but they refused to discuss details. "The FBI has told us not to discuss anything," said airline spokesman John Hotard. Officials at the FBI also declined to discuss the call.

But one official familiar with the phone conversation who asked not to be identified said that Sweeney's account could aid the investigation significantly. "She was very, very composed, very detailed. It was impressive that she could do that."

The picture I made of Flight 11 in 2004 was taken from a 4"x6" photo I took of a model of that Boeing aircraft. Using a Xerox copier at Staples, I blew up black and white photos of that photo until many hours and hundreds of sheets of paper later I had a mockup that was 14 feet from engine to engine. The cockpit, at 4 feet wide, was one quarter the size of the real jet's cockpit. I had hoped I could interest a museum to let me blow it up to full scale. A curator from RISD came to my house to look at it but decided against it. This was one of a series of works I made about 9/11. The other photos accompanying this article are of Amy Sweeney and of Flight 11 crashing into the North Tower.



September 10, 2008

This is my neighborhood Niagara: the dam at the south end of Pontoosuc Lake down the street from my house.

I took the shot yesterday because I was thinking of the location for a photo shoot with two models. I think it would be great but scrambling down the rip-rapped slope to get there is a little rough. And while the water is shallow below the dam, I think the rocky bottom looks too slick for good footing. So I probably won't use it. Maybe if it warms up in the next few days I'll wade in and see. Then again maybe I won't. I'd guess the dam is 15 or 20 feet high.

It was reinforced a few years ago. I hated to see the old stone one disappear behind reinforced concrete, but it wasn't safe any more.



September 8, 2008

"Are they suppose to be trees?" Babbie asked me as I was taking this shot.


"At least I get it this time, " Babbie said.

She's been a little impatient with my Jeanne d'Arc series. This photo was taken on the terraced steps going down to "the Pit" where I paint under a canopy in the summer. I haven't been able to use it for the last few weeks because we're plagued with mosquitoes. As you can see, one casualty of my drip painting has been my sneakers.

P.S. I was painting until 1 this morning. I got up at 9 to the sound of thunder. Forty minutes later its still rolling. Love the sound when it's not right overhead, and it isn't. It is very dark. Whoops, one clap just made the house shake. Weather like this is wonderful. But when things get really serious, it can be less than fun. Our Louisiana crew is facing the possibility of its second mandatory evacuation in just over a week.


September 7, 2008

This is my latest in the Jeanne d'Arc series. It is number 19 and is 33" x 74", acrylic enamel and artist's acrylics on canvas.

Here are two detail shots. On the left is a section of the top of the painting. It shows the stalagmites left by the paint as it drips off the canvas. (The painting is done upside down and then reversed for showing.)

On the right is a detail from the central portion of the painting. It shows two new colors of artist's acrylics I have added to the spectrum of colors used in this series. Most of the paint in the previous works, and in this one, is high gloss acrylic enamel - ie: house paint for exterior trim.

The new colors are Permanent Violet Dark and Dioxazine Purple, which is a royal purple so dark it is almost black. The violet is the lighter - but still dark and still pretty royal looking - color you see in the bottom third of the painting. These seem like good colors to represent the clergy and aristocrates sitting in judgement of Joan of Arc.

Last night we drove to Hudson, N.Y., for the opening of the group show called "War: Material and Lies" at the Time & Space Limited gallery.

I had two large paintings in it. ( See the September 3 post ). The piece I liked best was an American flag made of bullets woven together with wire. I'll show you a shot of it in a  subsequent post. (It's 4:16 a.m. and I'm too sleepy to deal with reproducing it now.) The artist, Berte Leone, told me she had collected the ammunition from a firing range. She said the piece weighs 500 pounds.

After the opening Babbie and I went to dinner with Christine Heller, a good friend and artist who has a studio in Hudson. What a bustling place Hudson is. It was 8 p.m. and Hannah's rains were pouring down and it was still hard to find a parking place on Warren Street - Hudson's main drag.



September 5, 2008

I'm in a second group show this summer. This one, an anti-war exhibit, opens Saturday at Time & Space Limited in Hudson, N. Y.

This illustration at the top is taken from a postcard for my "Gunrunner" solo show at Berkshire Community College in 2004. These are two long, narrow paintings, one a Kalashnikov AK47 and the other, on the right, an M16. The center strip with the word "gunrunner" was hand painted on each card.

Called “War: Material and Lies,” the TSL show is curated by Linda Mussmann, co-owner of the arts space. Tomorrow's reception will be held from 6 to 8 at the gallery located at 434 Columbia Street.

I painted guns in the belief that in the so-called nuclear age the weapon of choice among revolutionaries, renegades and terrorists of many stripes have been semi-automatic rifles. The cheap and reliable AK47 predominates. The M16, the American military rifle, is more sophisticated and is used by the armies of a number of nations.

Other artists featured tomorrow include Janet Cooper, Jackson, Berta Leone, Sam Sebren, Ed Smith, and Cat Thompson. The opening will also highlight the music of Shelving Rock led by Stephen Iachetta playing “new environ-rock-electric” violin, mandolin and guitar.

The photo on the right, "PostNuclearFamily," is by Cat Thompson. Another piece that sounds interesting is Berta Leone's “E Pluribus Unum.” It is a 4’ x 6’ 500-pound wall hanging made of more than 30,000 spent brass, copper and lead bullets, drilled and hand-stitched together with wire.

This show will be up through October and on view Thursdays through Sundays, opening an hour before regularly scheduled events at TSL. Meanwhile, the "Over 65" exhibit at the Zeitgeist Gallery at 648 North Street, Pittsfield, remains open through September 13. I have three paintings in that one.



September 3, 2008

Something caught Riley and Babbie's attention just as Riley was about to shuffle the cards for another game of Concentration. I think it was the antics of Evalene, our cat.

For Riley school vacation ended yesterday and she entered 4th Grade. How was the first day? "I loved it."

As for Babbie and me, we got back from Three Mile Bay way up on the New York side of Lake Ontario. It was our annual get together with Babbie's sister Cookie, her husband Dave, Babbie's brother Pete and his wife Zoa at Cookie and Dave's welcoming lakeside home.

Meanwhile, the Louisiana branch of the family was caught up in the drama of the Gulf Coast evacuation. Two adults, a toddler and two cats spent almost 11 hours in their car Sunday inching to Houston, normally a trip of less than 2.5 hours. Michael said that at one point it took over three hours to drive 10 miles.

Roan, our 17-month-old grandson, "was a trouper," Mike said. Yesterday, they returned to Lake Charles which escaped the worst of the storm. Meanwhile, back on Point Peninsula, we had a great time, capped off by a 30-minute ride in Dave's boat to Sacket's Harbor - the scene of a battle in the War of 1812 - for dinner on a shaded outdoor terrace. The lake was a little rough coming back. But David knows what he's doing in a boat and we didn't take too much of a pounding, docking just before dark.

Earlier in the day I had taken a ride on Dave's jet ski, always a thrill. Pete told Riley I hit 284 miles an hour. Actually it was something under that.

Coming back we drove through the stately wind turbine farms that have put rural Lowville, N.Y., on the map. There are almost 200 of them and the farmers get $6,000 a year for each turbine they allow on their land. For a intriguing AP story on the prosperity - and in some cases, turmoil - this project has brought to this town of 4,000 click on Windpower Brings Prosperity, Anger.

That brings us to our own little experiment in energy conservation - the Prius. Driving back Pete and I aided by downhill topography managed to average 55.4 miles a gallon before Babbie, a comparative lead foot, took the wheel. When we got home the average for the trip had dropped to 51.6 mpg. She said the climb up Lebanon Mountain did it. But averaging better than 50 mpg on a long trip does your heart and your pocketbook good. And the thing's roomy for four and fun to drive. Glad we bought it a year ago when we could still get a discount.




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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