Art Isn’t a Shelter

Art, regardless of its form, is dead. Art has always been dead. The romanticized view of art includes giving art a soul, a spirit or even an unexplained energy.  But art is dead, has no pulse and is cold. Art is a concept, a thing, a string of words, musical notes, an inanimate object, a product sold in the art market, a commodity.  I’ve kept a studio practice for over 30 years and this idea of lifeless art is fairly new for me and a little unsettling if I only stay on the surface.

Clouds For Lease.

Clouds For Lease.

But if I dig below the surface this lifeless thing called ART does enhance life.  It can introduce us to a range of thoughts and emotions. However we should not tag the actual emotions or feelings to art. Tag them to ourselves.  This is what art does…It’s a door that we choose to open to get access to our emotions, feelings and ways of seeing.  Passage through this door is often a luxury. We wouldn’t pass though the art door if we were seeking food or shelter. Art does not feed us. Art is not food. Art is not a shelter.

Finally, I note the coldness of art…the lack of a pulse. Art is not alive. Even dancing human bodies are only a series of motions that end.  Those artists who sacrifice all for their art…forgoing marriages, children and strong commitments to other people end up alone. They become just another notation in an art history book or the maker of some thing in a private or public collection. They create a void in their lives that art cannot fill.

I am an artist. I make things and write poetry ( but none of it has a soul. I am also a husband and father…and it is this part of my life that fills my heart and soul.


The Democratization of “Good” Design

I recently read about the latest software application promising to put good design into the hands of all.  But do you ever wonder who determines what is “good” design?  Certainly there are general rules that are broadly applied to theories of design.  But as we know, sometimes the theory results in homogenized designs.  A design trend develops and nearly all business graphs, charts, ads, architecture, autos and more become too familiar. Does this come to mind when you think of a certain nationally franchised coffee shop? (I will not name it but it is on nearly every other block in larger cities).

The interior design of this coffee shop chain has “inspired” updates in many homes with the goal of having a cool coffee shop feel and look.  It’s actually too bad when this happens. Individuality gives way to a corporate look.  Such ubiquitous good tastes becomes bland.  We are constantly sold on how to look all the way into our homes.  So, think about good design means to you.  Design is not an adjustable rubber stamp.  Design should show an individual’s tastes and not corporate branding.

It’s time to wake up.  Go ahead and make some design mistakes. Find out what fits you instead of trying to fit into another “good design” theory of the decade.  Many home remodels will happen once the current design trend for coffee shop style and color moves on.  And some will have to buy new art and decoration for their homes since they followed design trends and not their own tastes.  The last thing you want to do is buy art based upon trendy good design theory.  So next time you change your home or buy art figure out what moves you instead of chasing a trendy design.

Blue Apple

Blue Apple

Looking Hastily At Art

The glance. The pass by. The, see everything in the room in less than a minute shuffle.   Sometimes I watch people looking at art more than looking at the art myself. We generally zip by most pieces or migrate towards some huddle of people trying to get a glance at something famous.  So we squirm up to the front to get the glance. Nice.  I saw it.  Keep moving.

But at least people are in the museum and almost looking.  It is a matter of trying to slow down.  To look means to pay attention. Many spend more time reading the museum’s café menu than they do reading a curator’s comments by a work of art. It’s hard to slow down when nearly everything else we encounter through the media lasts for less than a minute.  But it is worth trying.


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Seeing Art In Person

Last month I took my son to NYC to look at art.  It was similar to a trip I made with my daughter a few years earlier.  Both trips were opportunities to spend a few days together looking at art and whatever else happened during our city pilgrimages.  We used most of our time visiting museums and galleries.  I feel like I’m on a retreat when I go to spaces dedicated to presenting art. Experiencing art in person is different from glancing at digital versions on a screen.  I hope those who usually look at art from a hand-held digital device or computer do not forget this.

Now I’m posting digital images of my mixed media paintings on a screen for others to see.  While this digital option is not my preferred choice, it does let others see what I do in the studio. Gallery representation gives others a “live” view of art that cannot be replicated from any type of glowing screen.  But the “live” art view is limiting for how many people regularly go to galleries and museums?  To see art in person requires committing time. So this dilemma continues.

Since you are reading this I assume you’ll view two images of mixed media paintings from my “Veil Series.” Thanks for being curious and finding my blog.  Contact me if you know of “live”exhibition opportunities that might be a good fit for my art.

About the “Veil Series” Art

All paintings in the “Veil Series” have the same main title along with a number to identify each unique piece.  Each painting is a visual meditation.  Using the same main title encourages viewers to interpret what they see without suggestions being implied by a more descriptive title.

"Veil 45"

“Veil 45”. 2014. Mixed media on paper. 24″ x 30″

Mixed media painting on 100% rag paper.

“Veil 50”. 2014. Mixed media painting on 100% rag paper.

“The Daily Hike” (transmedia sculpture)

As a mixed media artist I use many techniques and materials to make art.  I’ve used clay, photographs, wood, stone, paint, poetry, video, found objects, soil, insects and more.  The questions and ideas I have when starting a piece determine which materials and techniques I use.  Working this way promotes frequent experimentation and this keeps me learning new things.

The piece pictured on this post also incorporates QR codes which take viewers (with smart phone type devices) to information about the art that’s on the Internet.   Since this sculpture presents many ideas and techniques in a single piece it can also be called a “transmedia” sculpture.  Will the esoteric art term help others get a better sense of what my art is about?  Probably not. Plus, it is important for others to interpret what they see.  What each person sees in art depends upon life experiences.

You can view a brief video of my imaginary associate “Sticky Philosopher” making comments about the piece.  The video is oddly surreal.  And if his comments inspire you to make a few about this piece, please do.

Encountering Art

Encountering any type of art for the first time is similar to meeting a person for the first time.  Visual information about the art is initially gathered such as its height, width and mass.  As this meeting continues art conveys a mood expressed like non-verbal body language.  Color, space, line, movement and surface qualities convey the mood (or character) of art.  A person expresses character through choices of clothing and other details associated with personal style.  This sense of style also determines how we experience a sculpture over time.

Sometimes the first encounter of a work of art leads to a focused concentration.  If the artwork has content and meaning its “style” will continue to engage us in the future.  If the artwork lacks character it eventually blends in with many other elements of deadening good taste.  Too often what starts off as a fresh idea leads to a trend which spawns banal background art and ubiquitous numbing design.

We all have relationships that exist at different levels.  Some relationships remain on the surface allowing a pleasing chat to occur.  But there are relationships which grow meaningful over time.  I seek to create art which offers meaning based from my perspective.

It is impossible to expect any work of art to exist in a way where a true relationship of exchange occurs.  The most complex work of art is a living person who at some point ceases to exist.  Between birth and death art has the potential to add depth to our lives.  But a life of making art or collecting art never compares with the give and take required to create an artful relationship between people.

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Lucian Freud’s Portraits

I recently viewed the art of Lucian Freud at the Ft. Worth Modern Museum of Art.  The exhibit does not tour anywhere else in the USA so it’s a rare opportunity to see a large collection of Freud’s work. 

Here’s my abbreviated impression of the Lucian Freud exhibit: 

Freud’s paintings of the human body offer more skin tones than I ever imagined.  The portraits do not attempt to take the viewer to some other place; there is no glorification of the body.  Many of the painted subjects are over weight, out of shape and old.  While I do not sense an assault on age, Freud’s eye does not spare the effects of time on a human body.  Wrinkles, surface veins, dark eyes, sagging breasts or testicles all receive an equal unforgiving examination.  His self portraits undergo the same level of scrutiny.

The portraits relied on live sitters and not photographs.  This seems to result in reserved facial expressions.  After thinking about the exhibition for a few days, the faces reminded me of those you might see at a Grey Hound Bus Station.  Imagine the faces of people being told their bus is running 6 hours late and there was no where they could go, no complaints could be made,  nothing they could do, no TV, no book to read, no conversation to strike up.  The portraits seem lost in an inner space that seems familiar.  But there are a few portraits in the exhibit with semi-smiles.  Maybe the expressions occurred when random memories floated through the sitter’s minds as they sat somewhere in a moment between now and then?

I don’t think Lucian Freud cares how others interpret his art.  He painted what he saw.  Those who see the exhibit will think about the human body in more ways than before they entered the museum.