Thursday, July 26, 2007

Compost and Mulch

I used to have coffee with a musician that I know. As we were chatting I brought up an idea that he had talked about months earlier. He told me that he was fascinated with my thinking process. At times he didn’t think that I was really listening or cared about what he was saying but then months later I would bring up the idea. Only it had been reframed to my way of thinking. I told him that a lot of my thinking is a real digestive process. The analogy that I used was a compost pile. I take all of these bits and pieces and scraps of thought and through them all together. In the dark and dank recesses of my mind, like in a compost heap, they decay, break down, and reform into something new. Something that is of me. My wife says that it is more like a manure pile since I’m so full of it. The other analogy I used was brewing beer. All the ingredients get mixed together, brewed, and then the concoction is left to sit and ferment. Only once the fermenting process has taken place is the beer ready for consumption. For better or worse this is the way my mind functions.

So, I was looking at a comment left by Lesly Finn on a previous post. She said, “These two paintings seem to come from your struggles.... the dense trees are the problems and worries, then the colours in the background are the plans and hopes beckoning you onwards.” This gave me pause. She was so accurate, so right. For the next week I did what I do best, I obsessed over this thought. It went everywhere with me. It went on my walks, to the store, and into my studio. I turned it over and over and looked at it from every angle. Then I was reading a blog posting titled, This Land Is Their Land, on June 28th from the author, Barbara Ehrenreich. In it she says, “I need to see vast expanses of water, 360 degree horizons, and mountains piercing the sky—at least for a week or two of the year. According to evolutionary psychologist Nancy Etcoff, we all do, and the need is hard-wired into us. “People like to be on a hill, where they can see a landscape. And they like somewhere to go where they can not be seen themselves,” told Harvard Magazine earlier this year. “That’s a place desirable to a predator who wants to avoid becoming prey.” We also like to be able to see water (for drinking), low-canopy trees (for shade), and animals (whose presence signals that the place is habitable). This also struck a chord in me. So, Barbara gets tossed into the compost pile with Lesly, throw in some ideas from the analyst, Carl Jung, which says that within every person exists their opposite. Give all of this a few good turns and the fermentation begins.

These ideas have all come together. My world has recently been turned upside down. Out of that has come some new problems, some new struggles. In one sense I am looking for a way out of that thicket and underbrush. I am looking to get out of all the tangles and into the clearing. At the same time there is a sense of comfort and safety in being there. The trees, brush, and thicket surround me and protect me. This is a place where I cannot be seen. I know that this is a lot of my emotional baggage surfacing.

I also know that as comfortable and secure that this place is, I don’t want to stay there forever and yet I don’t want to leave it behind, at least not right now. What I think I want is to make assorted pathways in and out of this space. I want the ability to move back and forth as needed. There is a nice sense of have someplace to be so that I can learn whatever it is that I am supposed to and to be able to do a little more experimenting away from the view of others. Okay, I think that I’m sounding sappy here so enough, at least for now.

Tomorrow I head down to the nudist resort to do an art fair. It is only a 2-hour drive so it won’t be too bad. The weather is expected to be pretty nice. Temperatures in the low 80’s and mostly sunny. Hopefully it will draw a good crowd. Hopefully the crowd will be in the mood to spend money. The two pieces here are new things that I have been playing with. The first one is oil on prepared paper and is titled “In The Thick of It.” With this one I went back and used some techniques from my abstract color field painter days. The paint was thinned a lot. The first layers were scrubbed on randomly using cheap brushes. I would then start spattering the paint randomly, let it dry, spatter another layer, and so on. The final touches were done with a brush. The second one is oil on panel and it is untitled currently. The main areas were blocked in loosely with thin washes in several layers. I then started going back into it with small brushes and mixing the paint with a medium called, Dorland’s Wax Medium. Depending on how it is used it can give an effect similar to encaustics. I mixed it in a 1:1 ratio with the paint so the color would be translucent as I built up the layers. I have included close ups of each to show the textures.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Okay, this is going to be a posting in 2 parts. I have been tagged some I am going to give you 8 facts about myself. Hopefully they will be interesting, entertaining, and even trivial (I like trivia and trivial facts). Only, I’m not going to play the whole game but only half. I’m going to expose myself but not pass it on.

Part One: Answers to unasked questions

I was born in Cambridge, MA, USA. The Home of Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital. Since leaving there at the age of 9 I have lived in Ohio, California, New York, Colorado, and now Michigan. There are a number of other states I would like to live in (including the state of reasonable sanity) but I don’t think that I will live long enough to achieve that goal.

My favorite vegetables are broccoli and brussel sprouts. Most people dislike these two, or a least the brussel sprouts, but God help me I love them. My favorite fruit is grapes. I love eating a bunch of cold crisp grapes. I am also especially fond of them in their liquid version. I just don’t understand why my doctor won’t let me count wine towards my vegetable/fruit servings for the day.

I was an altar boy. Decades later I lived in a monastery and contemplated becoming a monk. It was a good try but not a great try. To this day I still love reading and studying theology, spirituality, and comparative religions. I just don’t like participating in organized religion. Too much politics.

I have a dry sense of humor. I also love bad puns. You know, the kind that make people roll their eyes and groan and think that I must be off my meds. Speaking of being off my meds, I also like dark humor.

I am a conservative. People I know are shocked when I say that because they have thought of me sometimes as a radical, sometimes as a libertarian, but mostly as a liberal. I believe I’m a conservative because I believe in the Constitution of the United States and the principles, beliefs, and thinking of the founding fathers. I think that people like Richard Nixon and George W. Bush are radicals (not to mention demented and out of touch with reality) because they want to destroy all of that. Other great radicals include Jerry Falwell, Pat Roberstson, and James Dobson, who hope not only to destroy the USA but Christianity and anything that resembles sanity and intelligent thought.

I do not suffer fools very well. Stupidity is a mortal sin. Now this is not to be confused with ignorance. An ignorant person doesn’t know any better but is open to learning. A stupid person is someone who does know better and just doesn’t care. Regretfully, science has not found a cure for stupid.

My taste in movies leans to intense psychological dramas. I think that this is because I am not a warm fuzzy person. I’m a curmudgeon and proud of it. As for TV, I’m a sucker for most anything on the history, discovery, or the learning channels. My wife and I are also suckers for forensic shows. We both now know how to do away with each other and never get caught.

And last, but not least, also has to do with part two, Oscar Wilde said, “If God had intended for me to be naked, I would’ve been born that way.” Well, I was born that way. I was born naked. Actually, after exposing myself to you with all of the above there seems to be no point in not telling you that I am a nudist and that is the naked truth!

Part Two: All Shook Up

As I last posted, my world has been topsy-turvy for a while. Things are beginning to settle down and fall into place and some good things are coming from it. I haven’t been painting much but that seems okay to me. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of picture framing and getting things ready to do an art fair at the end of July. The Turtle Lake Resort, a nudist resort, in Union City, MI (southern MI between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek) is having an art fair. They are doing this for a few reasons. First, an art fair is a good thing. Also, this gives artists a venue to exhibit artworks of nudes without viewers getting bent out of shape. It also gives the resort a way to market to non-nudists, called textiles, in order to introduce them to nude recreation. I have done a similar fair down in Kissimmee, FL (just outside of Orlando) and it was great for exhibitors and patrons alike. I will be doing that fair again in October.

A resort like this is peaceful and calming because it removes so many stereotypes that people have about each other. Without clothing you don’t see social or economic status, liberal or conservative, job position or status. You don’t see the things that make you or I different or that separate us, you only see that we are all the same. We ate the same basic 2 models with variations on a theme. Sans clothing, a lot of psychological barriers are removed and people converse more easily and openly. Stress is reduced because everyone’s flaws are showing and no one is held to an unattainable standard of beauty or image. In a society that equates happiness and fulfillment with wealth and beauty this is a big deal. Because of my disability I often feel like an outsider. With other nudists I don’t feel all that different. Besides, for an artist what better way to get in some life drawing?

I have started painting again. I have been playing with some different materials and techniques. There has also been a shift in my palette. It is as if recent events have shifted my axis 3-5 degrees off center. Not a real big change but over time it will be significant. I am approaching this slowly and seeing where it will take me. Right now it feels very good and has me hopeful. In my next post I will write what has been going on and post the images.

These three pieces were done for a friend I know from when I was in high school. He was part of a community group that worked and volunteered to help beautify their city by planting trees. They have put together their own book and these paintings are to be included in it. They are all oil and oil pastel on paper. They are all 9” X 15” to fit with the 11” X 17” book format. The name of their project is “Trees For Menlo.”