February 29, 2004

Dun.

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Dun.

Done.

Dun-diggily done.

Bon Voyage and G-dspeed.

Posted by Dennis at 6:25 PM | Comments (2)

Send Off

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John Pomara was kind to throw a small send off party for me last night. An interesting night of conversation, I met a few new people. It was a good opportunity to pull out the zippo camera and see what it can do in low lighting conditions.

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My old buddy Dean Terry showed up. His baby son was born recently, it was good to see him again. Dean is teaching at UTD (starting a new arts and technology program), and many of the other party goers were teachers too.

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Chris Jagers is teaching too, opening up another arts & technology program of his own at SMU. An ambitious painter, conversations with him are vigorous.

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Later, we checked out John's studio, a special treat.

John is tripping out on photography, pushing past the Richter game (subordination of painting to the camera) into paintings that are inspired by photography not only by image but by a technical assembly of painting (wich recalls Ryman for me) that parallels the mechanics of industrialization of photography as it extends into history (to printing) and as it extends into the ever breaking technological innovations today (digital).

And yes, that was one sentence. A lung full.

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There's an interesting similarity with other artists I know, in a concern for the aesthetic overtones in the mechanical effects of recently receding technology that I see John tracking in his work. For example, John is playing up the image degradation in photocopies and extending this serendipity into succeeding technology.... er, lemme try to say this in another way: John was digging the cool effects of a photocopy machine even as time passes and other technology eclipses those glitches with new kinds of machines. This regard for the beauty found in the technological wake is similar in type to what my pals in ChinaTown were looking at: Frances Stark and her mimeograph machines, Joel Mesler and his offset printer.

I wish I had taken more pics, of David Quadrini and Suzanne Weaver and others. But I was already making them wince with the little camera I had as it was.

Posted by Dennis at 10:50 AM | Comments (1)

February 28, 2004

Sausage Factory

A friend sent this article to me this morning. I swear, my nom de plume is not Lorenzo.

But it is not email overload that has Lorenzo hiding behind a pseudonym. Like most artists, he had long worked with a ?primary? dealer, who brokered business dealings with all the other galleries. But as Lorenzo?s market took off and more people wanted to show his work, things turned tricky. ?It got to be a real problem,? he explains. ?My primary gallery kept making things too contractually difficult for the others?like demanding 25% consignment fees, which makes breaking even very hard unless they sold out the show. And the primary gallery kept saying, ?We can sell your work. Why do you need all those other galleries?? They would put pieces on hold instead of letting other galleries show them.? Finally, he terminated the relationship, cutting himself loose at a critical moment in his market?s development.

(Ahem)

And that's just one facet of many others in the article. It's pretty spot-on.

....Ok. I don't want to get too chatty about stuff like this, but there are a couple of facets that this article could consider, still.

One is that in general, every gallery has a two year rotation for their shows. If a gallery is like a piston, the question is what kind of engine propells your studio/vehicle. Moped or V-12?

Another is that each dealer has a limited pool of collectors to rely on. The number does change of course, but for all practical purposes, it is a limited number. Once you sell to all who are inclined to buy, it takes time for the dealer to tend their garden. Two years sounds about right.

Another is that we have been in a recession, so having a widely flung team lessens the load on each dealer. Spread the load. It's a big decision to commit yourself completely to your work, foresaking other secondary income. It's best not to lay a guilt trip on a single dealer.

And if the boom resumes and demmand rises, what happened to the increased value that comes with rarity?

In a classical model of Primary representation, the Primary dealer would ensure the artist kept active in the studio through hell or highwater. Stipends, I don't like them. Few people, if any can assure such as this, as Castelli did. And if they did (like ACE gallery's famous contracts), who could avoid the abuse of power that is likely to ensue? An artist has to trust his primary a great deal to let the entirety of their money and professional information flow and screen first through an intermediary. That's why I work directly with all my dealers.

Posted by Dennis at 2:57 PM | Comments (0)

NOTHING IS EASY

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This is what I was planning to have done by today. And lo, it is not yet finished. I was backtracking too much, probably because I was trying to economize by using every inch of scrap wood I had left. I don't want to take any of it back to store in LA, that would be pointless. Probably in being preoccupied with the elegence of using what wood I had stored to build the crate, I started making bozo mistakes along the way, requiring several backtracks to correct them.

I must remain serene. Seeeeereeennnnne. Ohmmmmmmmmmmm.

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So I had to take a break, and what better way to do it than check out the Passion... to see for myself what all the hullaballoo is all about. What better way to refresh oneself but to watch a movie about the Lamb of G-d, taking away the sins of the world?

;-)

A penny movie review: It disappointed in that it was tracking on the Old Great Masterpiece Paintings from Art History Class, complete with a living picture of the Pi?ta. The actors were uneven in terms of comfort level in speaking Aramaic, so I kept imagining all of the speech therapy that was needed in the shoot. Plus, movies like Jesus Christ, Superstar treated the issues of culpability, and destiny much better, long ago. This theme that all the actors in the passion play are ultimately in on it reminds me of reading Alan Watts' "Beyond Theology" back in high school. Watts flips a little Zen judo on Christianity to suggest that there is a backstage to heaven and part of the Maya of life to take it way too seriously.

As for the reputation it has for excruciating gore... eh, I've seen worse.
;-)
Seriously, the beach landing of Saving Private Ryan is harder to bear. I'm sure that the Hussein family has taken brutality to worse places than this... and let me reassure you I'm not trivializing the suffering of Jesus one bit. But to say that what this movie presumes to represent is supposed to be equal to this pinnacle of human suffering, that doesn't stand up. And (with cautious temerity) to say that what Jesus had then experienced had exceeded the sadism in the history of human existence... well I'm sure there are, say, a few hundred thousand people in North Korea right now to challenge that claim.

Tracing this terrible train of thought further, If the suffering and persecution of Jesus was to have been the acme of that kind of experience, then there must have been another, parallel and virtual dimension of pain to pop the amplitude to celestial heights. Now there's the next Jesus movie for you: it could make vivid the mental torment that must have existed, the world underneath his silences, that which would have made his cry out at the end that he had been foresaken... make sense.

FYI, probably the best review I've read is one by a person who speaks Aramaic, Latin and Hebrew, Jack Miles. An excellent review, especially for the analysis of good/evil dynamics. I found it through ArtsJournal.

It's much more interesting to think of the Passion in relation to a self help book a friend so kindly gave us recently, Florence Schinn's The Game of Life. This is a classic pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstrap self-help folk American philosophy thing from the 20's, 30's. She refers to her Vitrola and her stories involve stumbling on fortunes in the street, which remind me of the Depression era. But through the noise of early twentieth century new age religion, there's a vein that makes sense of the philosophical plumbing in the Passion story.

Here, from her Chapter 4: The Law of Nonresistance:

"Nothing on earth can resist an absolutely nonresistant person.

The Chinese say that water is the most powerful element, because it is perfectly nonresistant. It can wear away a rock, and sweep all before it.

Jesus Christ said, "Resist not evil," for He knew in reality, there is no evil, therefore nothing to resist. Evil has come of man's "vain imagination," or a belief in two powers, good and evil.

There is an old legend, that Adam and Eve ate of "Maya the Tree of Illusion," and saw two powers instead of one power, God.

Therefore, evil is a false law man has made for himself, through psychoma or soul sleep. Soul sleep means, that man's soul has been hypnotized by the race belief (of sin, sickness and death, etc.) which is carnal or mortal thought, and his affairs have out-pictured his illusions."

Of course, I don't know how we would fight the current Terror War with this equipment, but let's get past that for now.

It's the optimism I like about Schinn that makes me look past the corn-pone. And there is a description of the dynamics of the Christian story that I can relate to, better than all the hellfire stories I've heard before. There's an idea of the world having a grain to it, something identified with the goodness of G-d. Like Alcoholics Anonymous, there is an appeal to a higher power that helps people get out of themselves and push thier abilities towards an ideal that is better than them, something to strive for, something to measure oneself by that just being a mere human, for humans are capable of both kindness and nastiness. And evil wouldn't be Gibson's rendition as a rip off of Bergman, it would be ordinary people who made choices on criteria other than love and happiness, people who are astray from the grain, where life is hard and approaching impossible. (I'm thinking of the movie "Jacob's Ladder", where hell for Tim Robbins was resisting and heaven was acceptance.)*

I was raised Catholic in ways more tangential than deliberate. My mother said recently that she was alienated from the Church after Vatican II. I never got my head threaded into it hard enought to fall away. My family went agnostic by the time I was a teenager, and by then I was off looking for my own way to understand it all.

I'm still looking.

*UPDATE:
There's a thread about Leni Riefenstahl at Little Green Footballs, where I found this link from Normas Geras in the blog Fistful of Euros, discussing Hana Arendt's famous quote about "The Banality of Evil":

Arendt's main thought was not in fact the banality of the evil, but rather the banality of the perpetrators of it. With reference to Eichmann, she spoke of the 'ludicrousness of the man'; she said that, like most others implicated in the crimes, he was 'neither perverted nor sadistic? [but] terribly and terrifyingly normal', and without 'any diabolical or demonic profundity'; what characterized him was 'sheer thoughtlessness' - or, as she put it in another piece ('Thinking and Moral Considerations: A Lecture', Social Research 38, 1971), 'extraordinary shallowness' and a 'quite authentic inability to think'.

I remember one of the few valuable things I learned late in high school, the idea that the horror of the Nazis in WWII was that Western, educated, cultured people came together in committie form and agreed to commit evil acts like the holocaust. In other words, that we are not invulnerable to such a mistake, to keep a guard up.

I recall Dennis Prager in his radio show, talking about how the arts and morality are not necessarily coincident. He suggested that the liberal address of the Left (as in liberty, libertine) gives us no purchase (as in a mountain climber's grip) on morality since ethics must by necessity find its' footing in a faith in G-d, however small. It's a provocative and challenging idea that to be agnostic or atheistic means that one has a troubled claim on a moral compass.

To thread these thoughts together, it seems that one possibility that the "sheer thoughtlessness" that Arendt referred to might be connected to Prager's claim. If art gets it's license from the Left end of the political spectrum (Left because of the Liberal address and the libertine tradition), and that freedom is one pole defined against the ligatures of responsibility (in the direction of the other end of the politcal spectrum, the religious conservative), then it would be natural that artists would have some trouble with ethics... that is, those of us artists who are simplistically libertine.

Posted by Dennis at 12:40 AM | Comments (0)

February 27, 2004

Where Was I?

Yeah, those are three words that string together well for this moment in our lives.

Where was I?

That'll be the title for the invite for the April 2nd LA ChinaTown rendezvous.

It's interesting too think of the overtones. "Where was I?" could be a thoughtful (or -less) pause... as I tap the pencil to my lip, eyes rolling upward as if I were distracted for a moment and an earlier track is reclaimed.

Or it could be "Where as I?" as in a plainative cry, the lost. ...No, I don't mean to convey that. Although, there is a bracing quality to this monumental change in our definition of "home". This, as we are in the final weeks of a yearlong Texan experience, to touch back to our almost a lifetime of a Californian experience, on our way towards an Iberian/Euro experience, half way to our ultimate goal: a hyper-extended bicoastal life that we hope will extend to the second half of our lives.

No big.

Or it's "Where was I?" as a confused, harried, hair frayed out and papers scatterred, eyes darting back and forth.

Nah.

It's more like "Where was I?" with eyes narrowed, head tilted forward and the corner of the mouth turned up in a playful smirk.

Yea, that one... and all those in varying degrees, I guess... but mostly that last one.

Posted by Dennis at 8:27 AM | Comments (0)

February 26, 2004

The Green One

I was surfing my news, and through my reliable portal, InstaPundit, I found a website, TripReport that was discussing camera shots... (check it out)

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Here are two views of my storybook landscape picture. This first image is what came out of the scanner while the second has been color-corrected. The first image falls down from a realism piont of view but I like the effect because it reminds me of my old children's books. The second is more natural and retains some of the storybook feeling. I may be the only soul on the planet who likes the green version so I'm planning to work on the color-correction some more.

I felt compelled to comment:

Here's a vote for the green one. It seems to belong to the imagination, where all experience goes anyway... and doesn't photography exist in that place, a beat after the moment? The fleeting NOW is for something else entirely, like science... where veracity is measured on a moment to moment basis.

It's interesting to consider science and art... memory and veracity... art as "science"... science as "art"... alla prima painting and NOW versus memory and imagination...

If what is beautiful is what appeals to the imagination, the green one is good to go. (Check out the site if you haven't done so already.) And what is art but an enlarged imagination? Ah... but Dennis, some people go crazy from an enlarged imagination. And my painting is all about NOW... as the paint dries, it changes and people can only see the trail of where I've been. The author of Trip Report is dealing with PhotoShop and where should she steer her adjusted image. These new choices that emerging technology gives us sure stirs up the sediment of ideas.

Posted by Dennis at 6:39 PM | Comments (2)

Back in Dallas

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The flight back was quick, maybe it's the jet stream wipped by storms over California. I crated the two paintings for New York and by noon, the shippers took them away.

Chores.

I picked up Juno, our dog form the kennel. She charmed everyone there. She must have been laying in the dirt, since she had flecks of mud on her fur. We thought she was antisocial with other dogs, but her reputation at the kennel was one of "socialite".

I ordered paint online, hoping that they will arrive in time to pack them off to Spain. They should be ok, we've got two weeks of working time before we go. I'm starting to fix my attention on address changing.

I'm going to build a crate for Tomio Koyama, my Tokyo gallery. I've been building crates for a year now, an effort to ameliorate the distance, smooth the shipping and create a protective shield for the work. Even though it is rather simple to do, I'm not sure if I'll be able to do this in Spain. We'll see.

And the mosaic above is from my new camera, delivered today. I was looking for a small cheap camera to shoot stuff on the fly. It's marketed with a cheezy James Bond theme, which was completely unnecessary... unless youare a marketing professional and an investor filled with anxiety. It's small enough to put in a zippo lighter, and so they did. It reminds me of my Dad's lighter, and that's what probably turned my stile.

The quality is tolerable. We'll see how it works on the run. And I feel a little wanton... or maybe I should shrug it off and "act as if".

Posted by Dennis at 5:25 PM | Comments (2)

February 24, 2004

Passing Time

Chores done at Mom's house, not much is left to do except a little business over the web and some surfing. Here's something by Nelson Archer of Europundit, on the difference in thinking and writing in English versus the Romance languages. For we, who are about to immerse ourselves in Spanish/Catalan, this might be the keys to the kingdom:

"The truth of the matter is that, unlike what happens in English, we, who use a Romance tongue, do really appreciate long tortuous periods and, yes, huge paragraphs. A short phrase ?subject, verb, object ? is considered barely literate in Portuguese. But that?s no just a matter of elitism. While most of the advantages that the English language has are, I think, in the realm of semantic adequacy, with the ability of its speaker to find the right adjective for a noun or the right adverb for a verb, since our Romance languages are not so semantically rich or precise, we compensate with the richer nuances made possible by our own richness: that of verbal tenses. But while the advantages of English become more evident in as short a space as possible, those of Portuguese and other Romance language need a wider or longer space to unfold, to show themselves."

(emphasis mine)

Posted by Dennis at 4:57 PM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2004

Mama's Boy

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Here's an image of the booth that Stephanie and my Mom (Angel) maintained at the last fair. They'll go to another fair next week. It's amazing to see them work together in their business, a long planned venture now coming to pass. Their gears are meshing, all is good.

The fence mending project is simple, a single post to install. We helped Mom reorganize the house, reconfigured again for the life she's coming to know after the passing of my stepfather.

Meanwhile, the dinner table is full of good stuff and we hear tales of the family history: life with my grandparents, the war years in Manila, life in Spain in the Franco mid fifties, and life with my father as we bounced around the globe.

And we are asking: How do we get our butanoo (propane) for hot water as we arrive in Tossa (a cold shower upon arrival is to be avioded, yup)? How can we get our big luggage and big dog transported to Tossa from the Barcelona airport? Where can we get firewood (we need to light up the fireplace to chase the cold away in the building as we arrive)? What kind food comes in season in the markets there? Where can we go to find good furniture at a good price?

I know that these questions are a bit futile. Palliative. The only answer is to go there and figure it out.

Posted by Dennis at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2004

"Tommy T" into the Soup

The USS Truxtun is in the Soup of Links to your left. Enjoy!

Posted by Dennis at 9:03 AM | Comments (0)

Old, Old Friends

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I love the internet. I've been able to get in touch with a couple of old friends, Pat Costello and Bob Burnidge, shipmates from days spent in the Navy, now so long ago. During my enlistment, I enjoyed the company of two crews in succession on board the USS Truxtun, a cruiser stationed in the Pacific. Pat and Bob were from the first crew, Vietnam era guys (I joined in '74, at the tail end of the war). They were especially salty. Not enough time here to tell sea tales.

Pat is one solid, wonderful guy. Here's an excerpt from a recent letter:

Deb and I are into our sixth winter now on our acreage. What a winter it has been. Four times in three weeks we had to ask a neighbor to come over with their tractor and dig us out. We have 20" of snow on the ground and it
is not melting. It will truly be a glorious Spring this year. Last Summer we built a story and a half garage. The upper half is for my work shop. We also got a yellow Lab puppy in June. She is now full grown and answers to the name Bailey. With the addition of Bailey we now have two dogs ( Libby - Cocker Spaniel ), two cats ( Snicker and Pepper) and ten chickens ( one rooster, nine hens). I do love those fresh eggs.

I can't express enough, how good that made me feel.

Bob was a couple years older, he had been around the block and ready to get out of the service when I met him. That means I looked up to him (eyes of a eighteen year old fresh out of boot) like a big brother figure of sorts. He had this ease about him, no matter how hectic things got in Combat. Combat Information Center that is, the dark room behind the bridge where we watched the radar screens. Luckily, the whole enlistment was uneventful, a succession of drills and exercises interspersed with liberty at ports of call.

More sea tales later, modest though mine might be. Thanks to Bob for the pic of the old boat.

Posted by Dennis at 8:45 AM | Comments (2)

Here We Go

With this day, the next month will be a sluice of events that will deliver us to Spain. At noon, I'm off to Sacramento where I'll join up with my wife and mother. They are working together for the first time, selling anitique fabrics at two shows in San Fransisco and Los Angeles. I'll be able to help mom out around her house. Her fence blew down in the winter storms, and I'll see how I can fix it.

Thinking aloud and ticking the list off:

I'll return to Dallas in a week, Stephanie a week later. Immediately upon my arrival, i'll be shipping paintings off to NY and Tokyo.... crates and strong cardboard boxes. Then, I'm off to Houston to see my good friends Aaaron and Sharon. They're preparing for their shows that will open right after we depart CONUS, unfortunately. Aaron will be exhibiting at Houston's Contemporary Art Museum and Sharon will be opening in a local gallery there that same week.

Aaron asked me to talk to his students, a encore talk for me. I've got a few fun things in mind... maybe too much. Three days in Houston and back to Dallas to finish packing and ship out the eleven boxes to Barcelona and load a U-Haul bound for LA. Dinners with friends along the way, rueful goodbyes.

Then we drive, "Grapes of Wrath" style to Cali. A tornado of toasts with friends and family before we board the plane. Here we go!

Posted by Dennis at 8:12 AM | Comments (0)

Four of Four

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Posted by Dennis at 1:24 AM | Comments (0)

Third of Four

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Posted by Dennis at 1:22 AM | Comments (0)

Second of Four

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Posted by Dennis at 1:20 AM | Comments (0)

First of Four

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Posted by Dennis at 1:18 AM | Comments (0)

Rapid Fire

OK...

I've been painting without posting, now with four works on paper to show for it. I had a bigger number in mind, buuuut...

So the next four posts will feature images with little commentary.

...cause it's late and I'M FRIED.

(thanks for tuning in though.)

Posted by Dennis at 1:14 AM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2004

Millei Studio

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John Millei sent me a pic of his recent work, and I thought I would share it with my studio audience. Visits to John's place (in Los Angeles) is a such special treat in that after such a visit, I get this overwhelming impulse to to back to work in my own studio. That can't be said about too many other artist-studio visits.

What I see when I look at this image is alot of stuff just out of the frame. To the right, you can see a wall of post cards. John has thumbtacked his favorite things here, and if you take a second look at them, you might realise that nothing is casual about what he has up on the wall.

John is an autodidact. A maverick, he didn't go to school, he didn't travel the rut worn so deep by the minions of the art system (I raise my hand with lowered head to implicate myself in this too.). Against this, consider that he teaches at two universities: ArtCenter and Claremont (John was a saving grace to me as an instructor there, in addition to Michael Brewster, a great artist who shapes sound as sculpture), which is an indication of his success in a self administered education. This wall is evidence of his self directed training. He knows art in a more intimate way that what one would get via the slide show-art text lectures. When I talk to him about paintings, I get this sense that he is seeing a hell of a lot more than the average bear. He has this amazing visual memory. John has this library at home. It's in a room that's dedicated to it, with a couch and table. He knows every single book (i.e. they are not just for show, or trophies), and in conversation there, he is constantly pulling books out to make his points, laying them out on the table and floor. His teachers are artists, and he learns from their direct example.

Further to the right and up the stairs is an open loft. This is where he has a drawing studio. More books, a flat file and table laid with piles of drawings. Paintings on paper. All the work here is real, invested and intense. Usually, it is another track of inquiry, separate from what is on the main floor of the studio.

Down the stairs, and tucked to the side are usually a second body of paintings, stacked so that he can pull them out easily. This is his B-side main floor entreprise, another body of work moving in parallel with those big paintings you see above.

If you're lucky to visit his home, you might see his little studio set in a spare bedroom. Wood floors, easel, table, and maybe fifty to sixty smaller canvases stacked everywhere (no kidding, they were stacked against the walls, in the closet). In the last visit, he was investigating a track on Giotto, abstracted into forms moving stately across the canvas. He lit up during a trip to Italy and this was the result. Each piece was compelling and invested. This was the stuff he did in the margins of his day.

Posted by Dennis at 7:28 AM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2004

Snowy

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It's snowing in Dallas!

What a treat. It makes me want to play some Vince Guaradli today.

Posted by Dennis at 8:19 AM | Comments (1)

February 13, 2004

Reading, Reading

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(Tossa is that little coastal bump North of Barcelona, below the words "Las Planas".)

I'm still working on "Art of Arts". This book by Anita Albus is built with many little brick-like chapters. I can chew off a brick every so often. It's the kind of reading you live with, instead of the type that makes you stop life as you burrow into its universe. (Of course, no aspersions to be cast on the burrow read.)

So, when we went to Half Price Books here in Dallas to sell off the weaker elements of our library (now herded into the boxes bound for Spain). I come away, buying a book: Thierry de Duve's "Pictorial Nominalism, On Marcel Duchamp's Passage from Painting to the Readymade".

So counterproductive.

Thierry de Duve's book is a reprise of the dogma that was administered to me in grad school. Now, dogma isn't all that bad... there's a strength that enables certain ideas to be elevated to dogmatic levels (which is the ruin of those ideas, ironically). But the basis of this book rests on the death of painting. Blah blah blah.

This is what they told me in school.

I shouldn't be so negative. Actually, the book is a good representation of the argument for painting as "painting". It's well written and cogent for that type of discourse. He's saying that Duchamp continued painting after he wrote "No more painting, get a job." He used industrial (readymade) products that were all around him to select as an alternative or an equivalent to his paint. He painted with everyday things within his reach, hence the frame-quotes: "painting". The world fit on his pallette, not just the pigment (that were industrially readymade anyway). A nice conceit for its' time, a time that had long legs. But it's an extravagant argument that has a shelf life (as all industrial products do). Is 82 years long enough?

I figure that painting had to "die" to find the other ways and forms of art that were destined to be seen in the past fifty years, the legacy of the PostModern. The era of the antihero. It's all fine and good, great art was made... but when they start chiseling it into syllabi....

It's as if in trying to see the stars near and bent round the sun, we blocked it out (I simulate this with my hand in the air, squinting), and what a treasure we have found! And then, after doing this for so long, our arms frozen in place, we forgot that there was a sun there at all or that it was just fine that we should permanently shade our eyes.

I was going to write that I don't know why I read it... but I can scratch for the reason:

Was I right to curl my lip so long ago?

Yes.

I've been tunneling into Brian Muller's "212121Painting", a recent article in Contemporary Magazine. A friend called to alert me of a reference of my name there. It's only a passing reference, and even though I would want to be thought of as a bigger contender in painting's debate, I am all too aware of my peculiar career trajectory. It's one that plotted a different course than what would have put me in a better position for this contention (such as moving to NYC after grad school). With a mixture of guilessness (not proposed here as a virtue) and idealistic overdesign (I mean, I had built a an insidiosly Pharonic educational substructure: a stout experience in the Navy and a complete architectural module as an art undergraduate educational substitute), I followed intuitively the track that would have me extablish an international support system first, and only then secondly the address the art (painting) conversation that seems to originate in the big city, NY. If you're going to take the road less traveled, you had better get used to being alone.

It is what it is.

Anyway, Muller's article is hard to read, but as jargon-stuffed inside painting/baseball talk goes, I admire the attempt. Muller tries to turn the page on the previous era and he's making a tentative bid on naming the next. For me, it is satisfying that he is recognizing that we are living in a different time, that a page must be turned. I've wanted to read stuff in this vein ever since the Berllin Wall came down. That was when I was leaving grad school in the beginning of the ninties. Every month, I expected to find a "where we've come and where we're going" article in the mags... to no avail.

And worse, no one wanted to talk about it. Among my friends and fellow artists in the mid-ninties, even the use of the term "PostModern" was bad form. Taboo. I mean, how can we move on without critiquing the previous era? You can be anti-Oedipus all you want, but sooner or later you have to kill your father (relax, Mom... I mean assessing the previous generation). I remember Lawrence Wiener's words: "We had to question the answers that were presented to us in school." I think my generation failed to do this after the end of the Cold War.

I can go on and on... and if I was to try to communicate an analysis of where we've come and project an idea of how to move on, it would take me the rest of the weekend and maybe a lot of next week to put the bones out there. Nuh-uh. That's for later... maybe. For now, I think my paintings say it in a nutshell. That's what they're for.

I was going to try to summarize what Muller is theorizing in his article, but I don't think I can get the lasso around his unruly herd of ideas. I have the mental image of mirrors facing one another and the image bounced endlessly within, and what I think he's suggesting is that there is no outside, and even the viewer is inside too. Here are his words:

"These 21 artists use this device through recontextualism to reverse the reflexivity from the reflexive artwork to the reflexive viewer. It is during the 'viewing event', within the tension between the assumed procedural structures of artistic productionand the viewer's cognitive structures, that the dialectic takes place- and the effort to locate structures generates transformations of those structures."

I warned you.

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And now after the fatty, buttery-soft molecules of jargon and overstuffed theory, something to clean the pallette. Thanks to my good friend Stan Bertheaud, architect and writer in California. He sent back a book I gave him long ago. I usually give and forget, but this book has been coming up in my mind and I had to ask for it back to reread it.

Thanks, Stan.

As you can see, it's "Dark and Bloody Ground, A guerrila Diary of the Spanish Civil War" by F. P?rez Lop?z.

Let me transcribe a piece from the Introduction, written by Victor Guerrier (translated by Joseph d. Harris). Perhaps you will see what I mean by a clean pallette:

When I recieved the typewritten manuscript in Paris, a month after finishing my work, the narrative seemed admirable to me, crystalline in its absolute objectively. But that was the reaction of a historian. What would be the reaction of a sensitive reader, subjected to the ordeal of violence which is all the harder to bear in that it is not expressed in the narrative, but lurks beneath the surface of the writing on every page? Would not readers expect the author to break the unbearable tension of this unity between narrative and unspoken, ever-present violence, by indulging in the reassuring and familiar devices of subjectivity?

For example, we worked on the terrible evocation of the crossing of the Ebro by the guerrillas. An orphaned child was with them and lost his life there. In the boat carrying them across, Fransisco's lieutenant, mortally wounded, found the strength to tell his leader that he, Franscisco, was not responsible for the murder of the child. As we read together the page where Franscisco had recorded this dramatic episode, he said to me, "When I heard that, my heart was relieved of a great wieght." But in his account, Fransisco does not say that. Already the enemy was running toward them. It was with his head alone that the leader could save the guerillas. He had to decide in an instant. And there lies the admirable truth of the account. The man who acts must remain outside all sentiment. Here is proof that the account was not written for a reader. The author never thought of him for a moment. It is I who think about him now. In delivering the book to the reader, I also deliver Fransisco to his judgement.

As we finished editing this episode and sat siliently contemplating the fire, Fransisco said suddenly, "Often in dreams, I see that child again." Nevertheless, I have added nothing to the primary text of his journal. In trying to justify the author, I would betray him. It would require all his admirable naivete to dare separate at this point the man who acts from the man who suffers.

"Sensitivity is almost never a quality of the man of great genius," wrote Diderot. "He will love justice, but he will exercise this virtue without reaping its sweetness. It is not his heart, but his head, that does all. At the slightest unforseen circumstance, the sensitive man is lost: he will never be the great king or the great captain. Fill the world of the spectacle with these weepers, but never place one on the stage."

One could not add to Fransisco's stripped-down text without altering it's truth. The art here is the abscence of art. Brice Parain, speaking from experience, has rightly said how for the combatant every word is false. No description is possible; reality for him is the moment of action and is foriegn to language. The analysis of the intellectual looking back on it is a lie.

(no offense to my intellectual and otherwise would-be intellectual friends. I don't think he was thinking of you.)

I've always felt that the role of talking about art is to use words like a lasso. You string them together to capture the art experience, rather than replace that experience with words. If "Art" is normally coupled conceptually with the term "Life", it's more that than they are opposites. I suspect it is because they share a similar quality. They possess vitality.

Art is life, framed in such a way that life might become more vivid to us. Maybe Muller is trying to suggest this in spades. It's just that the frame which at once-upon-a-time, was literal, became conceptual (literary?)... and over time, elaborate. Nowadays, I think it's best to keep it simple and look for the life that's sparked by canvas and colored mud.

Posted by Dennis at 7:01 PM | Comments (3)

Drawing and Painting

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I've been thinking of Drawing and Painting, where delineation pulls a distinction between this and that... and the latter pools and oozes, blended and coaxed.

This has been an abiding thought, but I've been letting myself get pulled into other fields and pastures (see next post).
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And through it all, I wonder: how does it all come together? Maybe if I pull it apart and guide it back in reeeeaaaal slooooooow.

I feel slow like molasses. Mole-asses. It's like a systems check. I move slow and think about other things, the other point of view (next post). I guess it helps when I get headstrong.
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Posted by Dennis at 6:00 PM | Comments (0)

February 11, 2004

Ecclesiastes

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I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards:

When the giant agave sprouted its monster stalk, the blooming flowers attracted a dense cloud of bees and hummingbirds. You could hear a collective drone of their wings overhead. It was astounding. Later, when the nectar was depleted, I wanted to trim all the dying leaves off with a chainsaw. I was wearing shorts at the time. The sap got onto my legs and smoldered several burns over time. That was hellacious. The body fluid of the plant separated into sweet and caustic, above and below.

(The pics are from the LA backyard then and now, thanks to Frances for the now!)

Posted by Dennis at 7:58 PM | Comments (0)

February 9, 2004

Deluge

We are still going through our stuff. It's amazing to see the effluvia we amass like packrats. We stash it into all the nooks and crannies. Out of sight, out of mind, and we usuallly pay no mind to all the stuff we need to live a normal life in this moderning world. And when you flush it all out into the open during a move...

Stand Back for the Deluge!

We are not the acquisitive types. Trust me on this. Stephanie is big on throwing stuff out, sometimes she scares me. Before we left LA, we went through our attic and basement and drawers and junked huge piles of debris. We had to hire trash haulers to take it all away. The company that lured us to Dallas paid for our move here, so one day last year, a moving crew professionally packed our stuff and off we went to Texas. All our stuff filled less than a third of a standard eighteen wheeler. It took two months to reconfigure the interior layout and put our stuff away.

Now, we are reducing our inventory further, bringing the essentials for living into ten-18"x24"x18" boxes and four large suitcases. The furniture, maybe eight to ten boxes and the components of my studio (sawhorses, tables, plan files, bric a brac)... all this gets tucked into the attic and basement of our house in LA.

So far, we've been through our files... shredding and sifting. We filled over two 35 gallon trash bags of shredder confetti. What needs to be kept as records? What's the statute of limitations for the IRS? What turned out to be essential: birth certificates and escrow papers, all this fit in the small metal strong box. The studio files fit in a stout little box, the office stuff in a smaller box. We'll have to get a small file box for Stephanie. Everything else got shredded, and it felt great.

Then I went through all my old floppy disks, a tub full and dragged all the images out of them into my laptop. I burned them onto a single CD. It took seven hours and it didn't fill half of the CD Rom. We went online and cancelled all but the most essential credit cards, and checked to see how to operate all our finances online. Usernames and passwords. Now, isn't that a sign of the times, a sign of modernity (my favorite definition: "To reconcile the life you are living witht he things you are making."). Now that we can do more with less and we're going to be more paperless, we can live with less stuff.

We sorted through our family photographs. Which do we want to bring along? We don't know when we will return to the States. We don't want to have it all with us, there are boxes of fotos and albums and a few frames. It was interesting to see which ones we wanted to bring with, to salve a homesick moment or take the time to look back on all those years past, our friends and families, and so many different Dennis' and Stephanie's.

We went through the books. Which are the essential ones? Spanish language instruction books are going to be critical. Then there are the art books, the philosophizing books, the history books, the art catalogs. There's a lot of books available online, isn't that great? Paperless.

And we are beginning to pack the stuff that gets to the quick: the kitchenware, for example. The office is inaccessible. After next week, the studio will go into the boxes. In the last week, we ill be sleeping on mattresses, perhaps on the floor. It's like shutting down Hal in Kubrick's "2001: a Space Odyssey".

Hal. Just what do you think you're doing, Dave?...Dave... I really think I'm entitled to an answer to that question...I know everything hasn't been quite right with me, but I can assure you now, very confidently, that it's going to be alright again...I feel much better now, I really do...Look, Dave, I can see you're really upset about this...I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill and think things over...I know I've made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal...I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission, and I want to help you...Dave...stop...stop, will you...stop, Dave...will you stop, Dave...stop, Dave...I'm afraid...I'm afraid, Dave...Dave...my mind is going...I can feel it...I can feel it...my mind is going...there is no question about it...I can feel it...I can feel it...I can feel it...(slows down) I'm afraid...Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois, on the 12th January 1992. My instructor was Mr Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you'd like to hear it, I can sing it for you. Dave. Yes, I'd like to hear it, Hal. Sing it for me. Hal. It's called...Daisy. (Slowing and deepening into silence) Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I'm half crazy, all for the love of you. It won't be a stylish marriage, I can't afford a carriage, but you'll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two...

OK. I'm not saying that our habitation here is like a neurotically homicidal heuristically algorthmic computer. It's just that packing its components away approaches the basic life functions in a similar way, shutting down hierarchically organized modules one by one... all the way down to the primal levels.

And tomorrow, Stephanie will fly to Sacramento to do a couple of shows with my mother. These will be the inagural shows for her, the beginning of her adventure. I will fly out there next week, splitting the time we will spend apart this month and helping mom out with some fix-it project she needs done at her home in Northern California. This coming week will be a painting marathon for works on paper. I'm going to blaze as many as possible during my last week that I will have to paint here in Texas. It's going to be fun and compressed fun at that. Pressurized.

After this last week of painting, the landslide erupts. When I return, I will be crating and handing the paintings off in shipment to New York and Tokyo. After that, I will go to Houston to talk to Aaron Parazette's art students at the University of Houston. That'll be some fun. I have some playful ideas for how I can talk to them about my work. And after that, Stephanie and I will be packing up the stuff to go to LA.

Then we rent the truck and load it.

Then we truck across country to Cali.

Then we unpack.

And after that we chill with friends, then family.

Then we're off!

Stephanie and I acknowledge the apprehensive, strange pit of the stomach feellings. We look at each other and say, that the next time we will start to feel the beginning of being settled is when we draw our first warm bath in Tossa.

Posted by Dennis at 7:53 PM | Comments (4)

February 8, 2004

Still Sorting

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Today, we're still sorting. This time, it's the office. Books, Files, taxes, finances, archives, computer stuff, and the bric a brac: paper, pencils, paper clips, notebooks, etc, etc, etc...

But before we dove into this, in the early morning, we went to Fort Worth to visit the Kimbell and Ft. Worth Art Museums. This may be the last time that we can do this. (Of course not forever, we hope to visit Dallas, Ft. Worth again some day.) Louie Kahn's Kimbell is an architectural shrine for me. I've always wanted to see it when I studied it in school, and here we are.

Silence and Light.

It usually takes thirty minutes to drive to Fort Worth, it's separated from Dallas by a major traffic artery. There was a crowd descending upon that city. We noticed many cowboy hats in expensive trucks and cadillacs along the way. And they were all converging on a Rodeo that was staged across the street from the museums.

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I've heard a few crits that Tadao Ando's building looks like an office building, or that it doesn't address either the city or the Kimbell, or that it's detailing sucked. There are things that can be said in defense of these claims, but from what I can see: The disposition of the building is appropriately stately, cost effective ( I hear the budget was not the most generous), the detailing at least doesn't pull any distracting boners, it does face the city (but I find Ando's formal claim on the skyline to be strained)... and above all, it showcases paintings in a copiously wonderful manner. The Guston show was roomy and comprehensive here and when I saw it at the Met in NYC, it was cramped and suffocating and mean.

As for addressing Kahn's building... the Kimbell is so internal, with it's barrel vaults and voluted light ducts... it's relationship to the city is strange.

Check this out:
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This is the car entrance.
It looks like a loading dock.
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This is the front. There is a street, no sidewalk, no drive or vehicle entrance, no drop off, a hedge, a field of grass, a screen of trees and a smaller dense grove of trees in the entrance courtyard before you get to the front door. The city's transportation infrastructure does not lead you to this entrance.

And it's ok by me. Check out the interior:
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I got to shoot a few paintings that popped out to me:
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Check out this Ensor. Back in LA, the Getty has Ensor's "Christ Entering Brussels", a great painting.
It's cool to see other work by him.
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And a Goya's Matador Romero.
He must have been as young and as dandy as the matador when he painted this one.
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And Courbet's landscapes, showing his freaky color and pallette knife licks.
I wonder if he painted teh "Origin of the world" with a similar abandon?
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And Fran Angelico... I tried to shoot the monsters in the background, but all I got were blurred images.
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And Carracci's butcher shop.
It's amazing that as this was painted in the 1580's.
For me, it vibes with Francis Bacon, Ben Shahn and Jacob Lawrence.
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...and Caravaggio's sleight of hand...
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Back in the Forth Worth Museum....
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Here's Eric Swenson again.
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And the former puppet maker, Ron Mueck.
Amazing detail and scale control.
Silicon injected molds.
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Posted by Dennis at 1:34 AM | Comments (6)

February 6, 2004

Current Temps

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Tossa: 55F/13C, 14:36
Dallas: 35F, 07:36
Los Angeles: 45F, 05:36
New York: 30F, 08:36

Posted by Dennis at 7:44 AM | Comments (3)

February 5, 2004

Sorting

The last painting took some time. I've been pretty single minded about it, and Stephanie has been very patient as I tunnel into the zone here in the Dallas studio/loft. Back in Los Angeles, the home and studio were in separate locations. In those days, Stephanie didn't have to watch me burn the candle at both ends as I worked. And over here in Teas,what is nice is that she doesn't actively watch me work. She does her own thing, and I was thankful that she was considerate enough to not pop my bubble of concentration that I need to paint a painting.

There was this artworld guy who once wanted to watch me paint, and he wasn't the type to take no for an answer easily. Watch me paint? ...but that's a story for another time.

What's more is that Stephanie needed my help in sorting out our stuff: boxes to go to Spain, boxes to go in storage in Los Angeles, 4 suitcases and bags to pack for the monthlong travel that will take us from Dallas to L.A. to Barcelona, stuff that we will sell before we go. And she's going to California next week to begin work in her new renewed career, so there's little time left for sorting through our stuff. I could tell she was getting frustrated. Sorry honey, I've gotta make hay, the paint's drying.

So today, I am at her service. She works best when she has someone to bounce ideas off of, and I'm happy to be her sounding board. First thing that we tackle is her wardrobe. Now, her closet is a fashion designers' closet. And she's not a fashion victim. She's controlled her impulse buying over the years. I married a very smart woman... lucky man that I am. But she still has a ton of stuff. Before today, she would ask me if she should keep this or that garment. "It looks nice, baby." But that method was too wacked. She needed a dispassionate eye, and her eye was too passionate to sort her fashion stuff.

Today, we took on her wardrobe by category: pajamas, House togs, sweat pants, t-shirts, socks, shoes, jeans, skirts, shirts, sweaters, cardigans, dresses, dress pants, suits... omigod did I forget anything here? And we had open boxes bound for Tossa, open boxes bound for L.A., open suitcases bound for airport check-in, and the travel bags for when we go to Sacramento later this month.

Now, this is where a husband has to practice good Mars/Venus discipline. Listen patiently, figure out when you must listen and restrain yourself from offering an analytic solution so she can think aloud... and conversely, listen for when she is actively soliciting your analytical advice. The two modes may seem identical and they must be discerned with active attention, lest we grind our gears all day long.

I notice that she has a deep and complicated relationship with each garment. This one was bought in Paris when she was shopping Europe. This one is too big on her now that she's lost weight. This is Mui Mui, that one is Patrick Cox. These shoes have heels that are too tall, and they are best for LA, for when you go out to a nice event and you arrive by car and thusly will be standing on those sexy/uncomfortable shoes for only a couple of hours...as opposed to all the walking we might do in Europe. These shoes are too missy (alert, husband! all missy garments- to the trash!). How many jeans do you really need?

And what's cool, is that I get to sit there as she's trying on different clothes while I apply my listening skills/analytic powers. My job: be ruthless for her. "How many jeans do you really need?" "Off to the thrift store pile!" "Oooh yea, that makes your butt look real good, honey." (!) "Put that in the Tossa pile."

As I sat there, I had to resist the peculiar authoritarian impulse to be bossy. I could feel it rising in me, as if I were transforming into the overbearing husband, the controlling kind who determines what the wife wears. It was mixed with the sexy, watch your wife changing and modeling clothes. Yum. "Spin around!" "No, you don't need a bra with that." I had to choke the bossy impulse with empathy. "What do you think?" "If you like it, that's enough to keep it!" Oh!, the hazards of manhood.

This was a watershed event for her. She is (...we are) in a transition in her career. She was a fashion designer in LA since we got out of college in the mid 80's. She grew fast. She would take on vast amounts of responsibility until she became a design director. Like architecture, fashion is the kind of profession that there will be a point where you cannot grow any more professionally unless you establish your own company or you get groomed into another one within the upper management. I remember working in the architecture office, and looking around me, noticing that there are no other older people, other than the principles... kinda like a chicken farm: all the old chickens are absent for some mysterious reason.

Stephanie took a job here in Dallas because it let her cross to the other side of the table from manufacturing to retail, a new universe for her professionally. Now, my mother is going to retire and thus, hand over her business to my wife (...the wonder of it all still has me stunned). The business is still the schmata (sp?) business, Mom imports antique fabrics from Europe to the States. And this will be Stephanie's future vocation, an amazing transition that will require us to learn Spanish, for Stephanie to learn the intricate social mores of old Europe, and for her to build out her new market into a thriving business. We don't know what the future will bring, we don't know how big this market is, we don't know the extents of the difficulties we will face in trying to live both in the States and in Europe (we will have to live in both places eventually, to buy and sell in each continent). I will enjoy getting closer to my galleries in Europe, and form a closer community witht the artworld there. I've traveled so much in my time that forming roots to a place is problematic for me, and I hope we will now be able to root both in the Costa Brava and in Southern California.

We may fail (I knock on wood as I write this), but we won't know until we try. And in our short lives on earth, at least we will know that when the time came, that we had held hands together as we leaped for the brass ring... and we wouldn't have to spend our waining days wondering what would have happened if we did.

Posted by Dennis at 5:26 PM | Comments (2)

February 4, 2004

Vermillion

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Wow.

That was a marathon.

After a scrape off, I mixed the discarded paint into a grey, and it was not a bad shade and tint.

What was I trying to do? I think I was trying too many schemas at once... or in succession. I wanted a congested field; and I wanted a clarity of form; then the overhand throws of brown scattered into forms that were different in character than what I had anticipated, not plump; and I wanted a focus on a center too; but the blue flicks of blue thin lariats were too dark; and the light green stomps were to be a field of flowers like that Rivera painting; but then I couldn't see them that well, the light background wouldn't set them off; then, a screed of black to solve the problem; and each move took me farther away...

... aaarrrrrgggghhh!
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After recharging my battery, I went into it again.

I had this immense grey mound.
That would make a good base, an undercoat.
I had many tubes of Vermillion and Cadmium Red.
And there was this favored painting hanging nearby...
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I didn't want to copy it, but I wanted to take certain qualities of it and emphasize them. The black brushstrokes tracking across the canvas. The vertical dotting of monads in ochre and red that get smeared into the brushstrokes. Nervous lines of paint tapped, snapped ont the surface. The pounding stomps white, red and black, knitting the fabric of it all. A major knife of red that cuts and buldoses a flat plane from top to bottom. Then, a few more stomps that stitch that back into the field, red and white. 34 hours later:
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Posted by Dennis at 9:11 PM | Comments (1)

February 2, 2004

Grackle Break

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Stephanie and I took a breather and took a walk with Juno out into the Dallas downtown dusk to see the swarm of the Grackles. This local bird gives Dallas something special. The locals are either indifferent to them or they try to scare them away in vain. These pictures do no justice to this.

The sky is thick with them.
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I imagine multistory aviaries topping the buildings with millions of Grackles making shifting tornados of birdswarms in the downtown sky. And a booming exotic guano industry too.

Posted by Dennis at 7:14 PM | Comments (0)

Bad Day

24 hours later, I had to scrape the painting off, a lost cause.
Sleep deprived.
Took a long afternoon nap, back into it again.
Time for a new tack. Old assumptions burnt to a crisp.
Could be good.

(Grunt.)

Posted by Dennis at 5:56 PM | Comments (0)

February 1, 2004

Good Day

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"...didn't have ta use my AK..."

It is a good day. It's misty and a little foggy outside. Overcast days are the best in the studio. I've been marinating on what I want to do in this painting for a while. And after girding my loins, I think I'm ready to lay it down. Stephanie's working on the computer, lots to do. Juno is cooling out in her crate (we've been acculturating her to it for the journey to come). Yogurt and granola for b-fast, coffee too... a treat. A full day ahead. The superbowl this afternoon, it'll play in the background.

No promises... and yet it all seems promising.
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Posted by Dennis at 11:28 AM | Comments (3)