"The true painter strives to paint what can only be seen through his world." ~André Malraux

After a year of intermittant "painter's block"  I am working again in my studio, and feeling in a tentative positive state. Painting is a solitary activity, and as artists, we are often working in a vacuum. Unless we have a show hanging, reaction to the work is minimal. With several pieces underway, I decided that perhaps if I write about what I am doing or am attempting to do, it might act somewhat as a muse for me as well as give me some feedback on the work I am creating -- hence the establishment of this blog. 

As for the blog title, traditional, representational painting is a language for expressing what’s visible. But I feel my work is the most successful, and most interesting, when focused on things not entirely visible. I paint what I see but also what I sense and feel by utilizing my interior and unseen world --- in other words, the invisible world. Plein air work or  studio work from photographs are only touchstones or landmarks which guide me to other inner spaces. By so doing, I find that I am pushing the boundaries between representational and abstract work.

You can enlarge the images in this blog by clicking on them.

Nov 3, 2014

"Old Friends, New Work"

As I created work for my October-November show currently hanging at the Zolikoffer Gallery in White River Junction, VT this spring and summer, I thought a lot about consistency again. This is a controversial subject in the art world -- often between gallery owners and the artists. The Gallery folk want to see a consistent style, palette, whatever, and be assured that the same type of work they signed on for with the artist will continue to come in from the artist. Gallery owners are looking for a common thread running through all of your work that holds it together, and makes it recognizable to their clients from one year to the next. 

But we artists hear the word and feel a cold-sweat break out. We  understand the concept, and even see the validity of the gallery owner's viewpoint, but does it mean we don’t have any latitude to experiment and evolve? To my mind, real consistency can become a straightjacket to creativity. I remember how my friend Nancy Gerlach said, after leaving her successful pastel landscape stage and entering into the study of abstract printmaking in her 70's, that she just wasn't "THERE" anymore --  where the traditional landscapes had come from. 

I know some painters, such as my friend Henry Isaacs,  maintain a very consistent and recognizable body of work throughout their careers. Others grow as their visions change, either rather abruptly and dramatically as Eric Aho did, moving from a realistic and simple, striking impressionism to his current expressive abstractions which are far more cluttered and busy.

 What I have settled on, in an effort to be consistent but 
also to evolve, is to utilize the same subject matter for periods at a time. By focusing upon only two subjects in the past few years, I did not become at all bored, but rather found that that the more time I spend painting the intricacies of forsythia and seascapes, the more I began to see that there is an infinite  variety in the nuances of any subject. I have done this before: early on in my serious painting career, I spent years on oversized up close in your 
face flowers, mostly roses and iris. I did the same thing with horses -- in my past are a LOT of paintings of wildly flowing manes and horses' eyes.

  Constable went from painting a realistic landscape to an expressive one. There are a few whose work underwent quite dramatic change over a short period of time, such as 
Philip Guston who turned away from abstraction towards a narrative representation, combining a cartoon style with the luscious brushwork of his abstract paintings. I remember the shock of seeing this new body of work, and how long it took for viewers to accept it. I can imagine him just being tired of making those beautiful paintings, and wanting to shake things up.

For this show, "Old Friends, New Work" I am showing mostly my new seascapes, or rather my four-piece series of 
the place where the wave spill meets the sand on a beach, 
the seafoam, which I call  " ... where the dark, wet sand turns grey"  One of them sold at the show, which is kind of too bad, because they make the most impact as a group. But that gets rather pricey. This is truly where my heart is right now, I guess you could call that spot at the water's edge my muse.

This body of work upon which I have concentrated most heavily for the past five years are my seascapes. Not only because that is what the gallery in Nantucket which handles my work prefers, but also because, I am at my best physically and spiritually when I am at the edge of the sea. 
These paintings are the result of inspiration from the dynamic interactions between light, color and movement found on the sand by the sea ... the constant ebb and flow of the tides, the changing patterns of wind and surf, the sand just as it meets the water.

This is the raw material from which I try to move beyond
the particular into the eternal, suggesting the transient life of the waves within the larger permanence of nature -- and our brief passage through it.

I must have taken 50 photos of it this summer both in Nantucket and in LBI. Here are two examples of this painterly obsession.

12 x 12 oil on canvas

12 x 12 oil on canvas
As well as seascapes, I am also drawn to the barns and outbuildings of Vermont's vanishing farms for subject matter.  Like seafoam, the barns have begun their journey into nothingness. I paint the spindrift, the waves, and the seafoam because it is so ephemeral and heart-breakingly beautiful. I paint the far more representational barns 
because their simple dignity, in the face of their diminished value, speaks to me of emptiness and sadness, abandonment in the face of progress, and the hard work of long ago lives. 

The barn paintings are my efforts to honor and save the aged architecture surrounding me here in Vermont – I love the haunting imperfect lines of the buildings, the wonderful textural faded paint and rusted roofing, the lack of  symmetry of windows and doorways, and the  memories memories of lives lived.

Several years ago I also discovered the joy of painting forsythia, which offers a wondrous way to dive into pure 
painterly joy; several of the barn paintings in the show incorporate these yellow harbingers of spring.
The one on the top is my most recent barn, titled "Dusty With September Sun."
Several other barns are in this show -- which will be up until November 19.

You can see some barns in the photo below from the opening of the show on the right, next to two horizontal paintings done by the other woman in the joint show, Judith Pettingell who lives in the area. Judith and I were classmates at Skidmore College, and connected these many years later when I moved here in 1997. Hence the name of the show --  "Old Friends, New Work." Judith and I met in 
the Hathorn Studio classrooms, where we learned some basics from the same art professors.

Another burgeoning interest for me right now are trees catching the sunlight. I had hoped to make this very large painting, below, the focal point of the show. However, I exhibited it at the Morrill Homestead 4th of July show, priced it high so it would not sell -- and some woman from Connecticut bought it and whisked it away.

"Sunlight Laced with Shadow"  30 x 46   oil on canvas with tissue underlay
Right now I am working on a very difficult commission for a man from Boston who wants a painting of his Vermont house pond, and I am also about to complete another tree painting in the above mode, done ALMOST alla prima! It is truly wonderful when that happens, when it all comes together so fast....I only wish the commission was going that way. But I think I made a breakthrough today!

So, is my work consistent? Not really probably. It is in subject groupings, and I handle paint similarly in all, but I am not at all sure it shows much commonality. So be it.

May 8, 2014


(Mecsek's Szuszi of Strafford)

Szuszi is gone. The house feels empty, our other dog is a wreck, and our hearts are heavy with loss as we learn to live without her. In the end stages of kidney disease, and having lost 10 lbs (a third of her weight)  Szuszi was soon going to suffer some pretty terrible consequences from this illness. We decided to let our good vet, Kim Jones, put her to rest on Monday while she was still pain-free, and relatively happy and content. We have known she was ill for quite a while; changes in diet and medications gave us another good year with our little sheepdog, but always tinged with the sad reality that she could not recover from her kidney disease. Below is a photo of our girl the night before we put her down. Human tears were flowing, but she, unaware that she was so sick, was fine.

We brought her home from the NJ breeder just about 13 years ago, stopping off in Wilton, CT to show the new puppy to our 7-month old grandson Aidan. Here, right,  he is with her when he was about a year old, and she is 6 months.

Puppy Szuszi in the daisies.

Aidan and a very wet and scruffy looking Szuszi, just starting to cord.
For many years, Aidan and Szuszi were best buddies, and I was brought to tears when I saw him say goodbye to her last New Year’s, knowing he would probably never see her again. It was one of the first words Aidan said …”Zyooozee” and their bond was very special. But as dogs do, she grew old .... and he became a teen-ager last year he moved with his family to California. She looked for them always, and hoped every car that drove up was full of her people.

Szuszi sashayed into our lives in 2001 and turned the life of our older dog, Bradford, upside down. First of all, for the first time, he discovered he was a boy, so, not only was she spayed, but because of his amorous and unwanted attentions to little Szuszi, he too had to get “fixed” -- although John insisted he was not broken!

Here are the two of them in our fields in October, Braddy very regal, Szuszi still a matted, happy puff ball.
She stole all of Braddy’s toys, tried to eat his food, insisted she was the prettiest one, and demanded the Alpha dog position in the house. Unlike her older companion, who was beautifully resplendent with long Rasta cords, Szuszi had Tina Turner hair that just wisped wildy about her, matting constantly, and for the first six years of her life, she had to be clipped down from time to time.
Puppy Szuszi trying to get a toy away from her big brother Bradford.
Eventually, after Bradford was gone, Szuszi began to grow her Rasta curls, and we had another beautiful, corded Puli.

And then Sami arrived, and turned the tables around ... he stole her toys, and her food, and wanted to be the boss. She resisted. They had a love-hate relationship, but were constant companions.
Szusi, before she corded, with the new puppy we named Sami in 2007
She was a friend, and protector of all four of “her” children, as well as of their parents, and nothing made her happier than when one of more of them would come to visit. She snuggled with them on couches and in beds, and barked at them when they went in the pond. Noisily chasing after them down the sledding hills or out into the wildflower fields, she worked hard  to make sure they came back to her herd of humans, where she could keep her eye on them, as fast as possible. 
Reese grandkids and Szuszi and Sami.

Walking the fields

Corded or not, young or old, she was always a Puli. Wiry and active under all that hair, the Puli has been likened to a bouncing spring. Happy and playful well into their teens, with boundless energy and insatiable curiosity, they bustle about with light-footed agility, checking out every new sight and sound -- and expressing an opinion about it.

Playing ball with Nate.
"Come back! Come back!" Mike and Lily!
Acrobatic Pulis are superb athletes, with quick reflexes who can turn on a dime and clear a six-foot fence from a standstill. In Hungary they have been herding sheep for centuries, not with the finesse of a Border Collie, but they get the job done noisily and menacingly. And with keen eyesight, acute hearing, and an innate suspicion of strangers, Pulis are also serious about their responsibilities as a watchdog. They will rush up to a stranger to check him out, and if necessary, are willing to back up suspicions with loud warning barking, from rich in their DNA. But then they jump up and lick the 99% who pass the test.
Szuszi with her cordsicles.

Szuszi helps her kids, Natey,Lily and Aidan, build a fort.
Szuszi loved her home; she was not very fond of traveling. Cars made her feel a bit rocky, and new places made her nervous until she was shown which bed she could sleep on, which couch she could jump on, and where her food bowl was. She did like to visit her kids, although our grand dog Mack made her a little worried. She hated vegetables, unexplained noises, and squirrels, birds, cats or other interlopers on her land. She was uncomfortable with other children, not hers, who played too roughly with her and pulled her hair, but she always tolerated them kindly. Szuszi did not like baths, hair dryers, or vacuums and hated going to the vet’s. But she never complained.

Somewhere there are frogs
Apple picking in the fall is great fun
Sooz in "her" garden
Szuszi lived the good life here in Vermont. She adored having the freedom a doggy door offered her,  so she could be outside, patrolling her fields, casing the pond, smelling the flowers, chasing geese away from the pond, and she especially liked to “help” John and me in the yard …. busily carting off briars and brambles, pruning bits, plant clippings, rocks, even logs from delivered fireplace wood. She carted our clean socks and underwear to "decorate" the living room, and unmade our bed when we were away.She leapt wildly and noisily into the snow John shoveled, and ran in front of sleds and tractors; she chased hockey pucks all over the pond, apples being picked, and croquet balls being hit. She loved cocktail hour and the possibility of a dropped bit of cheese or a peanut, and her favorite things to eat were chicken livers. On hot days, she was known to take a quick dip in the pond, although mostly she patrolled the edges, looking for frogs.
So much to do, so much to smell.

Couch Potatoes. This was always her perch, and we had to replace several pillows as a result.
Sooz loved parties.This was her last one, 
New Years Eve, 2013.
And the one place she liked to travel to was to Lake George to be with Maddy and Jerry. But she didn't like the motor boat.....
 She is greatly missed by John, Sami and me. The most loving of girls, she was as a good a doggy as there is. And although they had a love-hate relationship, Sooz and Sam were companions, and he is not handling her loss any better than we are, spending the past three days under his chair, the bed, or the car, and crying a lot. The house is quiet, lonely, and empty without her, as are we. 

Rest In Peace, Soozie Boozie, Sooz-A-Looza, Szuszie Girl .... my angel girl.