Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Andy Goldsworthy's Gift to You...

January 6, 2010

The New York art world is kind of like a peacock; it is not merely self-centered and self-interested, it preens and struts, using the mechanisms of museums and art critics to heap adoration on itself for being just oh so clever and exotic. A few people have begun to pull back from that state of obsequious and blissful worship, however. A friend sent me an article from New York magazine a while back. The author was an art critic of some standing himself, and he was expressing his sense of futility and frustration over the vain and self-congratulatory attitudes, and especially in view of the fact that the work seems ever more inane and arrogant, lacking any real ‘juice’, so to speak.

Well, it turns out the world doesn’t really revolve around New York City, and the impression that it does is fading with every passing season. A large part of the reason for this fundamental shift away from the baseness and elitism is that there are other artists outside of that sphere who really are making fine art that is actually and perceivably fine. Novel idea, eh? Un-hampered by the nattering nabobs, these artists are doing what truly speaks to them on a level that embodies sincerity and profound meaning. One of these is an Englishman by the name of Andy Goldsworthy. If you haven’t heard of him or seen his work, please give yourself the fine gift of looking him up on the web and even browsing books of his work in the bookstore. Here is a link to his website, which has an extensive catalog of his work:

Most of what Goldsworthy does is ephemeral, which is to say it melts, falls apart or is swept away within hours of his creating it. He uses natural materials, declining even tools, to the best of my knowledge, and throws himself into a piece until it is finished. He has even relied on using his own urine to ‘cement’ pieces of ice into his chosen shape. He is amazingly resourceful and ingenious in his selection of materials and sites. When his effort is complete, then he, or a photographer, takes pictures of the work before it disintegrates, and that is the only evidence that it ever existed. His work ranges from the very subtle pieces of earthen structure that only reveal themselves as the mud dries and cracks in a pattern that he has caused it to do so, all the way to rather monumental gatherings of stone, some of which do last a while, simply because stone is such a heavy and durable medium. Many of his pieces are intended to reveal another dimension of themselves as the incoming tide, or wind, tears them down, or blows them apart.

The common ingredient that all of his work shares is HARMONY. And, since we tend to react to harmony with an emotional response that is identical to how we respond to Beauty, it is fair to say that all of his work is indeed beautiful as well. He has an innate sense of what constitutes a harmonious curve or shape, and he uses this as he assembles such mundane found objects as stones, leaves, twigs, pine needles, mud, icicles…and even cherishes the shapes that a piece of red rock makes when it is powdered and tossed into the air as a red cloud of dust. Almost nothing has escaped Andy Goldsworthy’s attention over the years. A quick check reveals that there are about twenty-eight books of Goldsworthy’s art available. I regret to say I have only one, but I have a list of ones that I would like to acquire as time passes.

What this determined artist is doing is transformative, not only to the spot and the materials where he creates a piece or an event, but to peoples’ view of art in general. He is showing us that it need not be inaccessible, perplexing, weird, kinky, stupid, and just plain annoying. I look at even the simplest of his ever so brief creations and it makes me smile. It reminds me that nature is rife with simple gifts and it is the role of the artist to gently and skillfully, call our attention to them in ways that we have never encountered, therefore helping us to see the inherent beauty all around us with new eyes.

I believe with all my heart that this was the original and remains the enduring purpose of doing art. Artists down through the ages have known this and Andy is just reminding us that all of that is not lost, but has been merely—and temporarily, thank God-- hidden by the smoke and mirrors of the modernist elite.

Again, check him out, you will be delighted that you did :

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

There is a book.....

Due to many requests over the last few years, and the easy availability of online publishing, I have put together a book of my paintings.

Here is a link to a preview of it : Trust me, I am not making a handsome return on this, but it does at least make the work accessible to more folks than just those who have bought the paintings, or can afford to do so.

Just the online preview itself is a good way to see almost my entire body of work, and the color seems very vibrant, if perhaps a little more saturated than the actual paintings.

Just thought you might want to know.....

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Food Inc. is a must see....

If you consider yourself as having an active conscience, want to participate in bringing changes for the better in fundamental aspects of our daily lives, then I believe you will want to see the documentary film, "Food Inc"

It is an insightful and intelligent examination of what has become of our food and the industry that supplies it, from the farming practices to the engineering of seeds and our national addiction to fast food and foodstuffs that are making us obese and unhealthy.

Did you know....that Monsanto owns almost all soybeans because they genetically engineered soybeans to resist the herbicide Round-up? I sure didn't.

Did you know that they are suing farmers who want to save some seeds for planting the next year's crop (as farmers have done for about ten thousand years) merely because their crops have been contaminated with pollen from nearby Monsanto soy plants...and have therefore, according to the courts, become the chemical giant's property? They even have investigative teams in the field to detect which farmers are in violation.

Do you know how hogs are slaughtered? They put a whole bunch of them in a chute and a huge hydralic ram squeezes them to death.

Did you know that the treatment of packing industry workers is at its lowest point since Upton Sinclair wrote his seminal book, "The Jungle", detailing the horrid abuses of the early 20th century meat-packing industry?

I warn you this movie will make you both sad and angry as hell. But, do you really want to look the other way as corporate interests put food on your plate that is making you less healthy, maybe even killing you?

Rent or buy the DVD and watch it. that you can decide for yourself if this is something you want to remain silent about.

Faux Means FAKE

January 3, 2010

The word ‘faux’ is French; in that language it means simply ‘fake’, ‘false’ and even, ‘forgery’. But we have co-opted it for our own use in English to mean something quite different. For starters, anything we substitute a French word or phrase for is supposed to infer that it is somehow more sophisticated, more urbane. We stoop to using such catchy phrases as “Je ne sais quoi…”, meaning, of course, a certain something we just can’t put our finger on, but which is a mysterious and sort of nice unknown. In French it simply means, “I don’t know what…”. Another favorite is, “raison d’ĂȘtre”, meaning simply ‘reason for being’. But, one just sounds so much more knowing and wise when this comes out of their mouth, especially when it’s imbued with a ‘faux’ French accent. Using such coy phrases has also come to imply sophistication on the part of the user, but more often it comes off as just kind of fey or pseudo-sophisticated.

It brings to my mind an image of someone smoking a cigarette in an ivory and silver cigarette holder, wearing a silk ascot and apricot linen sport-coat, hob-knobbing at a cocktail party in the Hamptons. Run from the room screaming…… So, why then is ‘faux’ eagerly accepted as indicating a kind of falseness and fakery that is positive?

I find this kind of coyness particularly distasteful when it is used in paintings. One of the worst forms it takes is that of proffering a level of supposed child-like innocence. In the painting seen here, Nigel Conway is not just telling us that he can paint like a child; he’s boldly inscribed an inane message across the bottom, in suitably childish letters, telling us that….in case we might miss his message. Maybe he’s just in intimate contact with his inner child. Right. Perhaps he’s hoping that we’ll view his work and get in touch with OURS. Oh, come on. I have this picture in my mind of him singing kindergarten rhymes as he merrily paints….and sitting down to a peanut-butter and banana sandwich with the crust carefully cut off, and a big glass of milk at lunchtime. Maybe he chases a kitty around his studio on his hands and knees, “C’mon Bootsey…I just wanna hold you.”

Bah, Humbug. The ‘innocence’ in his painting is contrived; it is anything but innocent. So, what is the point of this exercise in falseness? Are we supposed to be impressed by his mastery of kindergarten painting skills. Is it really more skillful to be sloppy and to act as if your powers of observation and motor skills have yet to be developed? No sale. If this were really done by a four year-old painter, then I would like it. Actually, I would think it was excellent. But, unless Nigel is a patient in some kind of institution, he is just making a mockery of innocence and the child’s pure vision of the world.

This is one more example of playing ‘the Game’. It has some of the “ugly is good” aspect, sloppy is skillful and, ultimately, there is a smidgen of the “…you won’t really get this” spice. Right on. I don’t want to get it. I don’t want to even have to look at it and I REALLY don’t want to be told that it is sophisticated, well-developed fine art.

Faux means ‘forgery’. Faking innocence is still a form of lying. And, with all the lying and fakery that is loose on the land….I am craving AUTHENTICITY. Nothing more, nothing less.

A little Beauty would be nice too.

December 23rd, 2011

I have received an anonymous e-mail that was supposedly written by Nigel Conway, the above referred to artist....or it could be some fan of his posing as way to really tell since this person is hiding behind anonymity. But, this writer--who ever he, or she, might be--insists that I remove the above image of a Conway painting, IMMEDIATELY and belittles those who would even read some negative criticism of such work as 'miserable'.

Well, whoever you are....grow the fuck up. If you paint, or make any kind of creative effort you are putting your work out there in the world, where some will hopefully love it and others may well dislike it. I happen to feel that it is long on guile and short on skill, making a statement that is beyond coy and just plain stupid. But, hey, that's just me. I am not condemning the artist, merely his output, so you need to put on your big-boy panties and deal with it.

I think it's great that you can make a living selling your work. So, do I, yes, a full-time painter like you. I know that what I paint will be accepted by some and rejected by others. It's just not that big a deal. In the end, it is you who must decide what you want to communicate to your audience, and you will have to look back from the end of your life and decide whether or not it was sincere and worthwhile. If you could be comfortable with that notion, then maybe you wouldn't feel so wobbly about having someone criticize it in a negative way. Putting yourself out there as a sensitive ego, taking whatever is said about your art as being a full-blown condemnation of you as a human being is just plain dysfunctional. You can do it if you want to, but you will suffer needlessly as a result.

I will not be taking the above image down, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it. It is legitimate criticism done by a lifelong artist who is making not a farthing off of doing so. It is wholly in the public domain and you need to realize that. Wouldn't it be a wonderful world if newspapers, magazines and blogs were only allowed to critique movies, books and art in a positive way? Anytime you didn't like what some big-shot printed in the New York Times, you could just call up the paper and tell them to print a retraction.

Yeah, right.