Currier & Ives

Gonna get this one out there while I have a chance; may be leaving work early today. Anyway, I promised some pictures from my Meat Ball exhibit, so here you are (below). I'll be in Media and Oley in the beautiful Keystone state over the next week; this may be my last post of the year. I'll hopefully be doing a lot of reflection, thinking and writing over the holiday break; perhaps some of it will end up here. Thanks for participating in making my blog more rich and fun. It's more fun when you know people are watching; listening. I wish you all an old-school American, Currier & Ives holiday season. It is a winter holiday, after all. No matter what people in San Diego, Miami or Houston may say...the Northeast has got this holiday WRAPPED UP. Word.

(above, left to right on wall: Heart/Boat; Keystone Study 1...Leah Bailis's house piece on left)

(above, from left to right: Heart/Boat; Keystone Study 1; Double Cross; Stacked Keystones; Keystone Study 2 - all mixed media on panel)


Some words for the winter solstice

Some words I've been ruminating on:

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet, Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer; Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor, Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.


Christmas with Sufjan

(above, Sufjan Stevens)

I'm not a big fan of the "Now Listening To" category of self-revelation through musical taste, but I must share some music with you all, that I've been listening to extensively this season. You may have heard of Sufjan Stevens' music; he's been getting more and more college-radio play, and such-like. I was first introduced to him by friends a few years ago, and have grown to love his music. (A good friend of his, is Denison Witmer...with whom I graduated from high school, and still count as a friend...and you will hear his background vocals on some of the following songs...just droppin' names here...) Sufjan brings an innocence - but not naivete - and freshness to his songs that few others of my generation are able to pull off. He also makes amazing use of bells, flutes and banjos.

His Christmas albums from the past few years, initially made for close friends, have been passing underground from hand to hand for a while. This season I'm listening to his last two holiday albums over and over. It's beautiful, fun and luminous stuff...I'm moved in some way every time I listen to his renditions of old songs I knew from way-back-when.

Anyway, here's a way to get some downloads of his Christmas music:

Here's his main website, with links to labels he's connected with: ...and his own record label:

He's already "big" - he's playing the Lincoln Center in January...but hey, wouldn't you if you had a chance?


Artist-of-the-fortnight: Brent Wahl

(above: Chamber of the Two Sisters; below: Dots and Foam, both chromogenic prints)

Introducing an artist...about whom I know nothing. Really; I just happened to be trolling around Gallery Siano's website, run by a wonderful woman with whom I'm acquainted, and came across these really beautiful photographic images. I will be making a point to see these in person before the 16th of January, when the show, Abstracting the Visible, closes. Maybe you should too, since I'm sure these look MUCH better in person than in 72 dpi.


Thanks, Artblog!

Found out this morning: a little, quite apt mention of my work in Meat Ball, on the well-reputed Artblog of Fallon and Rosof:

Thanks Artblog! "Icons" and "Logos". That works. And I quote:

"And Gierschick paints icons, or maybe they are logos for some mysterious religion. They have an earnest sweetness as they explore the mysteries of gravity, balance and what's inside. They are reductive what-is-its. I googled Gierschick and discovered he's one of the artists who with Ben Volta and Dayton Castleman have studios in a local church. Another little network discovered."


Press but no press?

Little blurb in the Inky's Weekend section, on the Meat Ball show...unfortunately, neither my nor several of the other artists' work is mentioned, so...well, that's it. Mark Khaisman's tape-drawings are pretty phenomonal, however:

More forthcoming? Perhaps...


Ye shall be fishers of POWER

I've been considering several deep-winter painting projects recently; something to keep the digits warm through repetitious that's burst to the forefront is a piece which rethinks that ubiquitous, usually annoying, often meaningless, and by now hopelessly cliched symbol - especially as seen on cars: the ichthus, or the traditional symbol of Christ. It was used in the early centuries of Christian life as a surreptitious mark, to let others know of your loyalties; so as not to give yourself away to those who were unaccquainted with the symbol. Or so legend has it.

Recently, as mentioned on this blog before, I read a history of Art of the Early Church. It set into motion thoughts about what Christian art was, and is, in contemporary terms. (What initially made me pull the book off the shelf in the first place, was a lecture on Christian art, at DIAlogue...see ) Is it art made by people who call themselves Christian? What if their loyalties are suspect; does that make the art less Christian? Is it still Christian art if it espouses all the paraphrenalia and accouterments of Christian "life and witness," but the artist is not a professed Christian? What happens when someone who calls themselves a Christian, and displays the "fruit" of that life, makes art that is offensive, inflammatory or even seemingly "anti-Christ"?

These questions are not new; in fact they have been under the current for a long, long time; occasionally rising to the more publicized surface, in waters fomented by the likes of Andres Serrano and Chris Ofili. (Both, incidentally, supposed to be more-or-less conncected to Roman Catholicism). Interestingly enough, art work by artists such as the more infamous examples above, is often thrust into the limelight (at least ostensibly) by offended officialdom...e.g., politician cum "cultural critic" Jesse Helms, or New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. And much of this has to do with money, or MAMMON as those biblical insiders like myself like to cryptically designate it. Misused funds; scandalized public, liberalized power/aesthetic structures; crumbling family values, etcetera, ad nauseum.

Which brings me to my new idea for a large painting...I'm not going to give much away; you'll have to make a studio visit in a few weeks for more evidence. But it's somewhere in that trifold connection between the controllers of POWER and MONEY, the purveyors of CHRISTENDOM and RELIGION, and the creators of ART and CULTURE. Of course, the connections between all of these are positively legion. (Another biblical reference, I'm sorry if I'm alienating anyone with my "meta-language.") Suffice it to say, it will feature the ichthus, in what some might consider a, shall we say, "bombastic" manner.

Peace, my friends.


Just waitin' for the red dots...

This picture was taken by another blogger, whose site is here:

while he was at the opening at Fleisher/Ollman. The other artist work shown is by Leah Bailis.

The focus is a little eery, no? It gives a weird, vertiginous feel to the installation.
Thanks to Vicki, who found this. Our own pictures are still forthcoming; it's been two crazy days at work here, so scant time to post.


Meat was a Ball

Last night was the opening for the invitational I'm part of until January 28th, at Fleisher/Ollman Gallery; Meat Ball. It was crowded, loud, annoyingly "hip" and smelled like wine, but it was fun, largely because it was so nice to see my paintings outside of the studio, in a new context. As Ben Volta said when he was there, it would have been cool to see my studio tables, with brushes laid out neatly, installed next to the paintings to help with context; still, it was nice to see them in this new context. One which, ostensibly at least, I'd made them for. Another context which I will see them in is today: I will see them without the enthronging multitudes, with my wife's family. And I'll make sure some installation shots are taken for you all to admire (NOT an excuse to avoid the actual gallery...besides, some of the other work is very nice.) Check back later.

In case you missed it, the link for the gallery is in the previous post.

Artist-of-the-fortnight is running late; many apologies. There are good candidates waiting in the flanks, however.

Miscellany: Good friend Douglas Witmer, painter, has an online exhibit up at Minus Space's website, soon to be followed by a brick-and-mortar exhibit in Brooklyn, at the Minus Space site.

I will also begin (occasionally) posting some things at the newly-set up Church Studios blog; , (thanks Dayton.)


Good news: Meat Ball?

Good news: recently I was one of several young/emerging artists in the greater Philly area invited to a winter exhibit called Meat Ball, at Fleisher/Ollman Gallery downtown at 1616 Walnut Street.

I'm not sure yet which paintings they've chosen to be hung, but as soon as I know, I'll post them, with pictures.

Fleisher/Ollman's a great place to be exhibited; one of the city's oldest galleries, begun (I think) in 1951, and a beautiful space; one of the more Soho reminiscent spaces in Philadelphia. Their raison d'etre is what's commonly called "outsider" or "self-taught" artist's work - such as James Castle, whose work I really like; or Henry Darger.

But they do show work by other "educated" artists whose work is informed by the "self-taught aesthetic." Some good things will come from this opportunity, I think. Oh, and the other artists' work looks good too...what I've seen so far.

Come to the opening reception on December 9th, from 6-9 PM, but be warned: if you dislike wall-to-wall crowded spaces and extensive imbibing of alcoholic beverages, I would advise you to come's up for a long time - until January 28th - compared to most gallery shows, and I'd be happy to hang out with you if you give me some prior notice.

PS. (A nice looking Richard Serra works-on-paper show - at Work on Paper gallery, strangely enough - is also going up this week, across the street from F/O...another decent reason to go downtown.)


Artist-of-the-fortnight: Jim Erikson

This week, as I was racking my brain to think of another fine (not in a hierarchical sense; just meaning high quality) artist to you all, in the ongoing series of Artist-of-the-fortnight, I received an email from Jim Erikson. I met him a few years ago, through connections at Messiah College, but hadn't heard anything of him was a nice surprise. And, so is his work...his paintings and collages have a certain northeast-hardened, Bay Area sense to them; more Diebenkorn than David Park. Subtle colors and shapes that have a quiet harmony to them. But, check them out:

I normally post an image of an actual painting, but Peng Gallery has the entire site covered by copyright, so the email image will have to suffice.


Making peace with Pablo, part 2 of 2

(cont.) ...But this must be said - in both a pejorative and a laudatory way - not all of it is good. In fact, a lot of it is really quite awful. But, therein is the crux of the issue - each one of these pieces was both a movement to the next, and a piece unto itself. The former idea was never lost in the second: therefore some pieces scintillate, and others flatulate. But all of them were both a means and an end. Picasso was at the core, after all, simply a practicing artist. Why then is all of it so incessantly on display? Because of his international stardom; his name and reputation - as with any other rockstar artist - all of his work is ravenously bought, sold and traded, without aesthetic restraint. But those of us who can't afford a real Picasso, can be more discriminating, and take our time picking our favorites, according to what we know is good art, or what we've grown to appreciate regardless. And, having been thinking about monuments recently, I was struck by Picasso's "monumentality;" his hugeness that every artist, regardless of their desire or reticence to do so, must live in the shadow of, merely by the fact of having come after, rather than before him. And so, I've finally come to dealing with this shadow...

Another point to make about Picasso, was his virtuousity. Once I got past my disgust with some of his pieces - largely because of my above thoughts - I began to accept the fact that he was a virtuoso of mediums. No medium, that he chose to take on, was ever his master - his drive for artistic consummation was indefatigable, and exhausted nearly all media available. I had never seen his wooden people sculptures - often lifesize, which he painted and drew throughout the '50s; I had never seen his folded paper sculptures of figures, which were subsequently turned into concrete sculptures. He quickly, it seems, took to a medium, and turned it to his particular purposes; found his way through it.

I have begun healing my rift with Pablo; and it feels liberating. The doubts are still there, and I still thoroughly hate some of his work. But what better thing can one say of an artist, especially such an historically important and still-controversial artist - than I hate and love their work? I have grown to know him better through exposure and consideration. It's all about maintaining a conversation, isn't it?

The End (?)



...just an update on showings...I had a small drawing accepted - Shoots - into an equally small show called War & Peace 05, organized by the Lambertville (NJ) Peace Coalition, and exhibited at the Prallsville Mills, an historic site just outside of Stockton, NJ, on Route 29 North (about 10 minutes north of Lambertville, and an hour from Philly.) Kind of out of the way, but you might incorporate a bike ride or hike on the D&R Canal road, right next to the mills. Anyway, their website is: (Prallsville Mills site)

The show will be open to the public on the 19th, 20th and the 26th of November.


Making peace with Pablo, part 1 of 2

(above, Picasso, Bathers at Dinard, 1928)

(this is part 1 of a short essay [rough draft] that I wrote recently, detailing my thoughts about Picasso, etcetera...)

This last week, I've been making lots of copies at work. The area where the copier is also houses a mailbox where new books to be added to the library are placed. One book in particular has recently been capturing my attention, while my copies are collating. It's a German book, called Picasso:'s on the theme and motif of the bather in Picasso's work. Picasso and I have long had a love/hate relationship. In my experience, many average peoples' consciousness of "modern" art stops at or around Picasso - for better or for worse - and some will even use his work as a touchstone for their statements about all other "modern" art, regardless of the accuracy of the facts their opinions are based on. That's one thing that affected my opinion of Picasso...another was how so many people and books, etc, were bantering about Picasso's genius...and I guess I got jealous. Picasso this; Picasso that; oh, Picasso, I love your work and so on, ad nauseum. A previous, now dead artist, who loomed large in the consciousness, that I, a young whippersnapper with no notoriety, and not even much skill, had to go up against? It seemed better to just ignore him, for the most part. And so I've largely done so for many years; occasionally expressing my disdain for him and his artwork; surreptitiously (but silently) admiring a piece here or there...

However, repeatedly delving into this book has been revelatory to me. I've heard it said - numerous times - and so have you, probably: his influence may be seen in practically all art thereafter. Flipping through, I even thought of Tobi Kahn when I saw a Picasso painting of a woman form on the beach, flattened flounder-like; the thick, dimpled layering of paint bringing Kahn to mind. But I do believe this to be true; almost as much as true as saying the same of Warhol.

Another revelation was that...I actually really liked some of the incorrigible Spaniard's work. For every stupid revisiting of the libidinous Minotaur or in this case, bathers, in my memory, there is a gorgeous, colorful painting with crazy shapes; a folded paper figure with just the perfect balance of whimsy and gravitas; or a sculpture that is the essence of a playing child's innocence. Yes - I like Picasso's work...


Ideas and silence

"...Art is not about ideas. Ideas are good for writers. We cannot work with ideas. An artwork is not artwork is intuited, it is never understood or known. That keeps it strong throughout history. It will not endure if it is made to be understood. To be understood, you will just be a narrative piece of, no, no. What it is that makes a viewer silent is the question we should be asking. We know we have to listen to ourselves in silence because what we are looking at reflects this silence. I don't know where it affects the viewer, maybe not in the mind or in the heart, maybe not in the sex. Maybe in the stomach. But the work pushes you to this silence and makes it part of you when you look at it. Something must be real about it. But where can we find this image? Where can we find this energy? So, as artists, we have to ask ourselves whether we will be able to do this, or whether we are just producers of artefacts. I really don't know."

-Pedro Cabrita Reis, Portuguese artist, in Modern Painters, November 2005. (Reis's current exhibit)


Memorial redux

While doing some online research on memorials, monuments and art, I came across this quirky website address which comingled all three terms:

It's a firm in Utah, which purveys memorials (gravestones). A simple premise, yes, but on their "history" page, I found a wonderful old photograph, which is more than slightly reminiscent of Constantin Brancusi's studio (see above).

Here one encounters another wrinkle in the relationships between art and memorials. The etched bucolic scenes, commemorating your loved one's hereafter: is it art? If you think not, why is that so? Wherein lies the difference between Venturi's monument (see two posts ago), which we might be more prone to call "art," and these granite memorials? Is it purpose/intent? Is it because Venturi's expression bespeaks more of Modernity, therefore more "recognizable" art formalities, than the cottage lanes, angels, lambs or flowers? Does it then come down to sentimentality?


Artist-of-the-fortnight: Mary Judge

Beginning this week and continuing each fortnight, I will attempt to introduce to you, my faithful blog visitors, a new artist. This may be someone whom I have just discovered, or whose work is particularly important, influential, or enjoyable to me at this particular time. And the artist this week is all three of the above. So, to begin, I will introduce Mary Judge. I know her work mostly through Gallery Joe, on 3rd and Arch in Philly, but she is an oft-exhibited artist, nationally and internationally. Anyway, her work is the most interesting part. Above you see a large painting of hers. I highly recommend visiting her website, to get a better idea of her ouevre's scope, especially a particularly poignant cement sculpture, that looks like it could be made of molded paper:




(Robert Venturi's Christopher Columbus Memorial, Philadelphia)

In the midst of last post's discussion, the topic of memorials emerged, and I was reminded of my recent interest in this subject, and the companion subject of monuments...I included some links having to do with the subject of memorials and art, on my last comment, but for some reason they are not working. So, here they are again, for those who are interested, with clickability:

"in memoriam" (scroll down)

Robert Venturi, et al and their thoughts about memorials, etc:

This is an interesting concept to me, especially related to a question that Douglas Witmer, a friend of mine and accomplished painter, were thinking about not too long ago: What is our art for?

One idea that emerged was that of the role of memorial...and I was particularly struck with the possibility of paintings being memorials, by Douglas's making of a particular painting (seen in the link above) for memorializing a significantly painful and poignant point in another's friend's life.

Some time ago, I wrote in my sketchbook,

Monument = Painting?
Painting = Monument?

This is not to be taken as a fact, but a question. Can a painting be a monument or memorial? In a way, all paintings are memorials; however I'm thinking of the intent towards memorializing, rather than by virtue of the work itself. Can a painting become a monument?


Fear no art...unless it offends you.

Speaking of message...I came across an article in ARTNews from September of this year, which addresses the possible tensions between cultural institutions and the new World Trade Center redevelopment site. The Drawing Center, an institution which has been growing in reputation and stature these past few years, was one of the venues chosen to be part of this new downtown site.

But, lo and behold, it surfaced, through unnamed sources, that the Drawing Center, now located in Soho, has displayed art that was "critical of the U.S. government." (Omyword, what a terrible thing!!) So, ever the vigilante, Governor Pataki stated, "We will not tolerate anything on the site that denigrates America, denigrates New York or freedom, or denigrates the sacrifice or courage that the heroes showed on September 11." He continued, stating that arts groups will "have to do that, or they will not be at the memorial site, to the extent I have the ability to do that."

Well, the Freedom Center (another accepted body) quickly said they would comply. The Drawing Center, however, as far as I know since September, is still deciding whether the revitalization of downtown is worth this potential relinquishment of total freedom of speech.

This seems like another ironic instance of a small giving up of an important freedom - that of reasonable dissent (a worthy Jeffersonian ideal) in exchange for a celebration of what those freedoms supposedly caused these victims and heroes to do, and be. There is also a false message here of a unified voice on a particular subject, when really the discussion is quite varied. (Take Professor Ward Churchill of U of Colorado, for instance...remember him?).

Anyway, I see no reason why art institutions of any sort should cowtow to this ridiculous americanism and bowdlerism - no matter how innoccous it may seem at face-value - if they have any self-respect...regardless of how much it might revitalize a certain area. Why not move to (or even build a branch in) Trenton, or Camden, Drawing Center, and struggle there, if you want to "revitalize"? The Drawing Center is an amazing, amazing space with a magnificent should definitely not put itself in the position of being stifled by politicos with stilted views on free speech.


PAFA...and a sticky question

Had a short visit this morning at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, that fabulous and flamboyant Furness (and Hewitt) Italianate edifiice on Broad and Cherry, complements of the Barnes...I have been, frankly, worn out with pontificating, with recent posts on friend's blogs, so I will simply share with you some of what I saw. It was really fun being back in a museum; it's been a while. No, technically the Barnes is not a museum.

The Ellen Harvey installation is really worth checking out, by Nov. 27th. A series of huge back-lit mirrored walls, with detailed, etched drawings of the grand entrance of the building, along with some subtle's quite beautiful in its neo-Gothicism, and has the feeling of one of those Modernist takes on Baroque chandeliers, that one occasionally sees in 1970's glam/commercial spaces incorporating faux-luxury, e.g. department stores, except it also plays with the idea of the "romantic ruin." But the installation also incorporates video...and Harvey altered the walls too, which are quite nice.

The other nice surprise was a small Vik Muniz exhibit, who is quite close to being a genius, I think. His re-takes on some of my favorite 20th century photographs, a series by Stieglitz called Equivalents, are wonderful. (I think they are snapshots of patterns on marble, with the flash showing up as a sun...) Very tricky. Above is a take on Peale, with puddled ink. And what do Pollock and chocolate have in common? Go see.

One last note...if you go, check out the special 200-year annniversary show as well, all culled from private collections...between both old and new PAFA buildings - lots of gems. If you get that far, and feel like commenting, I'd be very interested in your thoughts about this question I was considering this morning: is there any reason to believe there is a direct relationship between the GREAT Arthur Dove in the old gallery; the Philip Guston in the new gallery's street level, and the Carroll Dunham on the second floor mezzanine? I have a hunch there is, but with no other evidence except visual, and what other pieces I know of each of these artists. What do YOU think?

P.S. and one of the most amazing Brice Marden paintings I know is in the exhibit as well, Bear. The closest I come to drooling. Bow down and worship, you daubers of paint.


Thom Lessner...catacomb artist?

(above, Thom Lessner, Slade)

This Thom Lessner (from Spector Gallery: reminded me of the Petrus and Paulus carving from the previous post. The treatment of the faces has similarities. Mind you, Thom Lessner is not really my favorite artist...just a weird connection. That strange, confronting, supplicative gaze. Right.


"Message" stream

(above, Marble catacomb inscription, Pio Cristiano: Vatican Museum)

Good friend Ben Volta and some others have a great stream going, on "messages" in art, on his blog; paticipate:

This is largely precipitated by a provocative lecture Friday night by Karlfried Froehlich, from Princeton Seminary, as part of the DIALOGUE series at Olivet Covenant PC studios: What is Christian Art? What made it very interesting for me, was his mostly historical approach, i.e., beginning with the most early of Christian artistic expressions - catacombs - and arguing that the term "Christian Art" is a specific time-based term that no longer has much meaning, or at least is no longer applicable. (Part of the post-Christendom argument, I suppose.) His expertise is history of the church rather than art, so it was interesting to have a different take on the subject. But one major discussion that the lecture ended with, was the role of "messages" in art, and his opinion that therein lies the contemporary "Christian" artists' think about and articulate their message(s) well.

(My apologies to those who may not be of any particular "Christian" persuasion...) I would however make the case that this history, no matter your inclinations now, is important to understand, for more efficaciously moving on to understanding later Christian artistic expressions, as well as the entire grand arc of all art to follow, including Modernism (often, incidentally, becoming reactive/revolutionary). The great majority of art history from the Constantinian era, up through the pre-American and French revolution periods, was concerned with Christian meaning, content and yes, messages...for better or for worse.

I picked up off my shelf, on Sunday, a book that was a little dusty; a gift from a professor several years ago...Art of the Early Church, by Robert Lowrie. And in it he reiterates much of what Mr. Froehlich talked about...but one interesting illumination was how most early Christian art was focused so completely on transcendent themes...resurrection, heaven; the new birth. Part of this I would imagine was simply a matter of context, all of this art having the origin of tomb art, basically. I'd quote it here, but unfortunately left the book home.

Not to detract from Ben Volta's discussion, but I'd be interested in hearing what you wayfarers think of this: what IS the role of "messages" in art making? (Especially as someone who considers themselves to be a serious art-maker?) And, pertaining to my comment on Ben's discussion, is INTENT important in the message? Can we take for granted that all art has a "message" of some sort, and focus completely on how it is conveyed/crafted, according to our intent? I would also argue that, no matter our INTENT at still doesn't come across.


Draw your own conclusions

(top, prize-winning apples; bottom, CO Flag, 2004, enamel on metal).


Little children shall lead them.

Here are two art works from the Oley Fair that I admired...a budding Wolf Kahn; and a future Robert Ryman? Does it really matter?

I've been thinking about children's art, and relatedly, the childhood art of now-professional artists. This was precipitated in large part by the current exhibit at Arcadia College's art gallery, led by the intrepid Richard Torchia

The current show is called Very Early Pictures, and features artworks from now-professional artists ranging from Ed Ruscha to Judith Schaechter and Randall Sellers (Spector Gallery; wunderkind of the graphite pencil). It made me wonder if it is ever possible to see the future adult-artist through a child's artwork, however precocious or not. Or is there no real connection; are "all children artists," like Torchia suggests? It made me think back to my Very Early Pictures. I remember one in particular drawn after a trip to, of all places, Dutch Wonderland, in Lancaster county. It shows my dad and I, seated in a weird, yellow bathysphere-type vehicle, dangling from a monorail, riding around with our legs hanging out, above a green and blue park scene. Funny. I'll have to dig out my childhood pictures sometime soon.

In a LA Weekly review of the Arcadia's counterpart show in LA, the author Doug Harvey says, interestingly, "...there's probably as much good art in this show as there would be in a show of contemporary works by the same group of artists." Hmmm. Maybe the whole problem here is that we are, as more "sophisticated and mature" viewers, projecting our perceptions and biases of art in general - largely "professionally-produced" art - on children's art...something not meant to be done, and indeed, disingenuous. Innocence de-based? Well, hardly...several of the pieces in Very Early Work were done in that most self-conscious of times, the teenage years. Yet, we never fully know ourselves; how can we expect children to think about how later viewers will see their work? We can't, and we shouldn't. We should just make sure they have sufficient supplies, and stand back and watch.


Barnes storming

(above, a pre-school marker drawing exhibited at the Oley Fair, September 2005. Eat your heart out, Mr. Twombly.)

Was perusing Fallon and Rosof's ArtBlog this morning; came across a post of theirs about a trip to the Barnes Foundation (where I work), with some interesting comments on the institution, and the experience the group of elderly women, with whom the bloggers were accompanying, had here...the post is interesting, but I will remain neutral, since I work here; take from it what you will. The funny thing is, from the way the group is described, I think I actually passed the group on Friday afternoon, as they were getting back on their shuttle. It's weird to think that I passed through a situation which I later read about from a perspective who doesn't know who I am. Anyway, here's the link:


Two Prayers

(two images from the Prayer File series - Confession [top] and Petition [bottom], June-August 2005, gesso, ink and enamel on file folders [not shown]).



For the past year or so, I've been blessed daily by these Daily Digs emails from the Bruderhof Community: little snippets of quotes from a wide array of sources, from Emerson to Dostoevsky, to Eberhard Arnold himself. I'd like to heartily recommend the newsletter to you; it's highly inobtrusive, and quite beneficial. Here's the link:
Quote of the Day

Here's today's Daily Dig as a sample:

Whatever Happens to You
The Didache

My child, flee from all evil and from everything resembling it. Do not get angry, for anger leads to murder. My child, do not grumble, for this leads to blasphemy; be gentle-minded, for those of a gentle mind shall possess the earth. Be patient and have a loving heart.
Do not be one who stretches out his hands to receive but closes them when it comes to giving. If you have earned something by the work of your hands, pass it on as a ransom for your sins. Do not turn away from those who are in need, but share all things in common with your brother.
Your heart shall not cling to the high and mighty, but turn to the good and humble folk. Accept as good whatever happens to you or affects you, knowing that nothing happens without God.

Source: "The Early Christians," ed. by Eberhard Arnold

From the history files - advice for daily living from the first Christians.


a long green hour

(above, Alan Ebnother, Detail of February 12th 2005, oil on wood...

Just found out about this event (below) happening at the Morris Arboretum, through the ICA. It sounds like it will be really great...I can't make it, but if you go, let me know how it was:

Maybe I should come up with an aural and visual happening based around Eye Garden? If Ben Volta's ESP proposal is that'll be an experience for ya (roasting fleshdogs...and weird dialogues).


Gierschickwork at Fallingwater


Random image, and return from Fallingwater

(above, a quilt from last century, made from Klan about loaded imagery. Pleasant dreams...).

Back from anniversary vacation to Western PA; specifically Fallingwater. A 20th century masterpiece. More on that later.

Just handed in, last evening, my long labored-over Eastern State Penitentiary proposal. I am generally pleased; once again I waited too long to begin on it in earnest, so the bulk of it was done in one day. It is now, however, in the hands of the Committee. To give you an idea of what the proposal was about, and what it might look like, I had wanted to scan the whole thing for you to see...but haven't gotten there yet. Hang tight.

Described briefly, the project would include creating an inch-to-inch reproduction on a grassy lawn area, of two adjacent cells from the prison space; this would be done with metal stakes and nylon cord, and include the thickness of the original walls. Within this corded off space, I'd allow the grass to grow to its natural height, weeding, watering, fertilizing and otherwise maintaining it, creating a sort of "natural wall." Inside of the walls, I'd have a reel-mower maintained cell-garden area, with the original shared wall eliminated, and two long, rectangular pools sunk to ground level, replicating the cell's original ceiling skylights. These would be filled with water, and their bottoms lined with mirror. The grass area surrounding the installation would be mowed according to normal schedule. So, for visitors seeing this cell-garden, hopefully they would have thoughts of self-reflection, and natural order interacting with introduced/imposed order, upon seeing the living wall and the reflecting pools. And too, think about the relationship between the prison structure and the space it's built on, and how that's somewhat parallel to placing a human in a contrived space, as part of the interplay of "chaos and order" in the entire act of incarceration. Essentially, we can see ourselves, which we often think of as "orderly," reflected in seemingly "chaotic" places, such as the Penitentiary, and realize that, to reappropriate Dostoevsky, the line between [chaos] and [order] runs straight down through the heart of all much as, like evil from good, we'd like to place evil over there, away from us, and disassociate ourselves from it. No use; the line passes right through our centers.

As with most of my work, these thoughts will congeal completely only when I've brought the piece to a more fleshed-out form...but I congealed my thoughts as much as possible for the proposal deadline.


Shoots and thoughts on power

(above, Shoots, pencil on paper, 6 x 2", 2004)

I think this drawing I did last year, which I just entered into an exhibit called War & Peace '05, in New Jersey, is strangely reminiscent of the winning field corn exhibit at the Oley Fair, below. And it raises some of the same ambiguities of concept...of course, the corn actually is just that, field corn, and cannot be much else, unless you live in an area where, on Mischief Night, teens drive by and pelt the side of your house with shelled field it sounds like a mini tommy-gun.

Link to War & Peace '05:

In Shoots, however, the shape is much more ambiguous as far as its actual form and meaning. Is it a group of bullets; an arsenal? Or is it simply some benign rows of grass, a meadow, or other growing thing? Don't both growing things and instruments of violence have a certain potential power inherent within them? I love this shape, because it can become SO many things, depending on slight changes of context, surface, color or composition. It could even be a stick of lipstick. Even so, everything I've mentioned holds a certain amount of power - potential or actual/kinetic. And thus I like it so: it is not just an icon, it is a polyglottal icon. It, itself, has great power too. Maybe it harks back to the ancient obelisk...which itself is related to phallic symbols, male-power and fingers-to-god. But I hope that my use of this symbol is not relegated to abuse of power, but a critique of power; sometimes by wit, sometimes by joking, sometimes by profundity. This will take some time...


Happy October! ...and new poem

Probably my favorite month of the year...and here's a "new" poem I've been working on recently:

The greens are
tired; hot's not
what it was, and
tawny skippers dip and
quiver on their gathering,
swan-song way;
short-lived things and
things with little life
yet left surround me:
but this is exuberant
dying: an exquisite
death that sparkles,
spins, and toasts its
own demise of

(c) P. Timothy Gierschick II


Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

(Crush and Strike, latex on panel, September 2005).

(October 3rd)
Some thoughts about Crush and Strike...the inspiration for the title comes from Genesis 3:15, NIV.
Over the last few weeks, I've been considering the iconic and conceptual possibilities of the "X" shape, and the "cross" shape - both rendered in a simple/condensed way. For a long time now, I've loved the enormity and simplicity wrapped up in both of these symbols. (And realized the trepidation with which a Christian artist dealing with contemporary imagery, must enter into dialogue with such a hackneyed and blunt-from-overuse symbol such as the cross). My initial aesthetic interest in the cross is certainly related to my Christianity, but I don't think I realized its reductive/iconic possibilities - for me, that is - until I really looked hard at (saw) the Blue Cross and Red Cross symbols, and realized what hugeness of meaning and context and relationships were involved even in just those particular applications of these shapes. And as far as the "X" symbol, it's a little more specialized...on the back of "dangerous" oil colors (Lead white, the cadmiums, etc.) there is a beautiful symbol of a black X inside of a orange box. I just love that symbol (for many of the same reasons I love the cross symbol)...and so I began appropriating it into my work. So, as almost an inevitability, these two symbols started becoming related in my mind and sketches over the last year or so...after a few years of bouncing around in my head, waiting for the right synapse. Because of my particular way of thinking about my art work, and my faith, they started becoming for me stand-ins for the opposing forces of good and evil; salvation and sin; etc. I like the concept of the symbols being so amazingly similar, but being essentially opposed: all it takes to get from one to the other is a slight twist. And, at least in this piece, their dimensions are exactly the same. But, what a difference. Of course, with colors enters a whole new level of possibilities...


Yes, skin too.

(images: skin patterns of cows at Oley Fair, September 2005).

"God does not work by only one method, paint in only one color, play in only one key, nor does He make only one star shine onto the earth. God's mystery is the rich spectrum of color that is gathered together in the purity of the sun's white light. The symphonic harmony of all the stars is built up on precisely their manifold variety. But all this is gathered together and will be gathered together at the end of time in the unity of the Kingdom of God."

-Eberhard Arnold: A Testimony from His Writings


ESP proposal

These past few weeks, I've been wrapping my mind around an installlation proposal for the Eastern State Penitentiary. This is a formidable, yet strangely whimsical edifice, at one time Pennsylvania's premier institution of incarceration and "reform," and a world model of prison design, in the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia. It now operates as a tourist attraction/historical institution/popular filmmaker-director environment, among other things. They also have an arts program which has become one of the benchmarks for young artists in Philadelphia - which includes the Fleisher Challenges in South Philly - to reach for, and add to their list of accomplishments. And most of their installations are of a high caliber.
Dayton Castleman, a good friend of mine, and facilitator of the resident artists program of which I am part, was awarded an installation opportunity last year:

Anyway, I've recently had a rush of inspiration, and will be proposing an installation dealing with the following issues/ideas (without giving it all away):

-self-reflection, especially of the prisoner, which was encouraged - enforced, really - by the early prison reformers, the Society of Friends (Quaker), to encourage self-reform and penitence (read: penitentiary) and leading eventually to their return to a right and humanistic society. Also involved will be exploration of the questions about whether or not self-reflection is simply that, and no more, or if it has rejuvenative and reformative possibilities; and if the physical cells themselves had any part in this. Look for: mirrors.

-seasonal change/alteration, in its many guises, including change of seasons evidenced by plant growth in the facility (especially since it's maintained as a controlled-ruin); also, change within the prisoner and his/her psyche and will - perhaps even influenced by the more tactile, physical growing, changing things around them - maybe evidenced in the many and almost metamorphic changes that plants go through in a single year. The penitentiary even had an operating greenhouse business for a while. Look for: grasses.

-eyes, pairs of things;"God's eyes;" skylights; pools; etc. Look for: reproduction, in the sense of a model.

Once I get my proposal in, I'll make some scans of the sketches, etc., and let you peruse them at your leisure. And, if I do my homework well enough, you'll be able to experience it in person!


A looming threat...

'I will tell you,' said the policeman slowly. 'This is the situation. The head of one of our departments, one of the most celebrated detectives in Europe, has long been of opinion that a purely intellectual conspiracy would soon threaten the very existence of civilization. He is certain that the scientific and artistic worlds are silently bound in a crusade against the Family and the State.'

-from G.K. Chesterton's, The Man who was Thursday


Late September gleanings

Here: some interesting tidbits, opportunities from around the city and area, having to do with art, et cetera. Several of these may be found on the Inliquid website:

On the national front, many Philadelphians have organized fundraisers and contributed to various other efforts to assist those affected by Hurricane Katrina (see Exhibition News and Announcements). But Rachelle Omenson decided she needed to do something more. On September 3rd, the young, Philadelphia art teacher flew to New Orleans and conducted three days of impromptu art classes for bored, frightened children in the Houston Astrodome. Omenson has posted some of the drawings from those art therapy-like sessions online. See:

Fill out online survey: Artspace Projects, a national nonprofit organization, is working with the William Penn Foundation to assess the needs and preferences of artists of all disciplines for studio space, rehearsal space and live/work space in the Philadelphia area. Information from this study will be used to plan the development of spaces for artists and their families. There is a second survey for representatives of arts organization or arts-related or arts-friendly businesses to complete. (Contact Pete or Teri at 612-333-9012 with any questions).Survey:

Call for Artwork for Hurricane Katrina Benefit Exhibition: "Greetings/Grievings: Surviving Katrina" at Muse Foundation. Proceeds from sales/entry fees to benefit Katrina survivors through "Feed the Children Foundation." Paint, print, draw, stitch your hopes, ideas, words and visions on handkerchieves, any size. All handkerchieves hung. $5 donation for each entry piece (checks payable to Muse Foundation). All pieces priced for sale at $25. Send work with SASE by November 20, to Muse Gallery, 60 N. Second Street, Philadelphia. 215-627-5310 Exhibition dates: November 30 - December 31.

The Pennsylvania Arts and Education Partnership (PAEP) is holding information sessions for artists interested in applying for inclusion in the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Directory of Pennsylvania Artists in Residence. Session 1: Thursday, September 22, 4 pm - 6 pm, Session 2: Friday, October 14, 4 pm - 6 pm. Hunt Room, Hamilton Hall, The University of the Arts, 320 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia. RSVP: 215-717-6596 or

And an exhibit featuring two of my professors, Ted and Cathy Prescott, from Messiah College (unfortunately, it's in Indiana):


My new blogging technique is unstoppable...

New raucous, cut-and-paste fun.

Enter at your own risk...

Don't tell me I didn't warn you. You'll either laugh your head off or...well, we better not go there.


Studio: September 15, 2005, 6:30 am


Letters all round

I'm loving these new Monique Prieto paintings at Cheim-Read that I found out about this morning on Edward Winkleman's blog:

(below, Monique Prieto, tide, 2005).

Perhaps one of the reasons I'm attracted to lettering in paintings is because I too am re-entering the hallowed world of letters in paintings...a little over a year ago, I did a large enamel and gesso on canvas (cold gloss white on flat warm white) based on a recurring phrase in Underground Man by Dostoevsky: "everything [is] beautiful and lofty". Needless to say, I loved using letters directly in painting, and wanted to investigate it further. While working at Winterthur Museum, I found out about a traditional Pennsylvania German "memento mori" of sorts: O edel Herz, bedenk dein End which was often worked into show cloths or other textiles by the artisan; occasionally as the acronym: OEHBDDE. So, I've begun finally putting this piece together, using handmade stencils (so much fun!):

I hope it functions both as a distinct and heartfelt call of corporate and personal self-examination, and as a reexamination of the contemporary possibilities of a traditional phrase. Does anyone know the translation of the phrase? I'd be curious if you did. Yes, I know what it means.


Catapult feature

In the latest issue of Catapult, an online magazine that's new to me, but looks like a keeper, is a "collage" of sorts, of quotes, images and etc. from and about the great people in the Artists in Residence program at Olivet Covenant Presbyterian Church, of which I'm part. Go read it:

My painting on metal, CO Flag, is featured.


Fernando or Oley?

(above, Fernando Colon-Gonzalez, Untitled #19, diptic, oil on linen).

Hello - been to the shore; out of commission for a few I'm back. Here, until I get some pictures of my recent work up, is an artist I've been interested in lately, Fernando Colon-Gonzalez. I first saw his work awhile ago, but was reminded of him at Larry Becker Contemporary Art a few weeks ago. Here is simplicity without sacrificing depth; clarity without compromising pleasing composition. The aesthetic reminds me somewhat of Jason Martin, but without that enormous, hand-made brush that pushes the pictorial matrix right up to the front: here there is a little more space to breathe. Don't get me wrong; I love Martin's paintings (including the idea of making a brush for a painting), but they feel a bit like drowning to me; i.e., at least the ones I've seen. And I don't know how to swim.

By the way, check out Fernando Colon-Gonzalez in person at the opening to Rebecca Salter/Fernando Colon-Gonzalez at Larry Becker Contemporary Art, 201 North 2nd Street, Philly, on the evening of the 24th of September.

I'll be at the Oley Valley Community Fair this weekend, visiting the cows and seeing who's won the prize for biggest pumpkin this year. Jealous? You should be.


Vincent I am.

Hey...Ben Volta told me (us) about this freaky little quiz, What Artist are You?

He is Artemisia Gentilleschi...and I am Van Gogh. Go figure.


Surreptitious studiomate...

Here's a studio snapshot of me working on a sign for my church...Ben Volta snapped it without me gives you all an idea of what my studio looks like, and how big it is. Since I'm such a neophyte with digital cameras, I have to rely for now on other's pictures, mostly. Heart/Boat is in the background.



(Enfold, Marcie Miller Gross, used bath towels, 2001).


Hammersley...and my future

(above, Frederick Hammersley, All in Favor, #9, 1991, oil on linen)

Came across a name kind of by accident this week, that I'd never heard before: Frederick Hammersley. It seems he is a "recently re-discovered", seminal painter in the "abstract classicist" school. All that considered, his work is really outstanding. I saw it in, I think, the new Modern Painters, and a random Art in America from about a year ago that I picked up while making copies at work. Anyway, I immediately resonated with his work and many of his comments - even with some of his purported working styles and quirks. Especially this quote:

"...Hammersley has always focused on articulating his own body of work, leaving him often, in his own words, 'in left field.' The mainspring of his production has been pleasure. For him, pleasure is discovered and proved by intuition: what 'feels right' or 'feels good' determines every mark. Corroboration lies in the viewer's satisfaction, in the sense that the shapes could not be otherwise arranged, and that the colors belong to those shapes, although not in ways we could have predicted."

Amen! I'd really like to meet this painter. What did dgls call it? "Art love." (post: social life with links)

(By the way, the painter mentioned on that post, Tim McFarlane, another "abstractionist", is having a show of his latest work at Bridgette Mayer open tonight.)

I really appreciated how FH has moved back and forth - not unlike Herr Richter, although in "larger chunks" - between what he calls his "geometrics" based on a nine-square grid, and his "organics", which constitute his latest work. Frederick Hammersley kept painting in his living room in New Mexico for forty years, with little recognition. If I can keep up an attitude like this painter...then I think I shall weather all storms of doubt. Pleasure/ seminal is THAT? This is what our art is for, Douglas.


The unseen sculptor

Been thinking about unseen forces: air and wind;

"...At no other time of year is the movement of the invisible air so apparent as in the white months of winter. We see it recorded in blowing clouds of surface flakes, in solidified ripples and waves, in sweeping lines and in the streamlining of the drifted the dawn after such a storm everywhere we look there are new forms of plastic beauty glowing and glistening in the early morning light."

-Edwin Way Teale, A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm


Mei-ling Hom

(above, Mei-ling Hom's wire cloud forms at Fleisher/Ollman gallery, Philadelphia)

On Tuesday's Magazine section in the Philadelphia Inquirer, there was a great photo spread of Mei-ling Hom, a South Philly artist, working on her installation at the Smithsonian's Sackler Gallery.

Also, in last week's Philadelphia Weekly, Roberta Fallon had a friendly studio-visit of an article on her work. She is an area artist to know. I also think she will be featured at some time in the future, by Smithsonian magazine. So, keep your eyes open...she's producing some really well-crafted, rich stuff. (Clouds signify good fortune in Chinese culture.)

She also has an installation coming up at the Philadelphia Airport...unfortunately, you can't see it unless you have a ticket. But they do have pictures on their website:



Shayna Bubele...

My little niece, arrived August 18th. Another August bird. Wilkommen, Emmaline Joy Gierschick. Looks like you've got spirit.



I received a comment/question recently from Ben Volta on layering and grids, and thought it was a good direction, so I've decided to put it here, and then respond to it and expound further, so that a better comparison can be made, and so our dialogue isn't stuck in the comments section. Ben said:

Why do you think that the grid is so appealing for artists? Is it because it gives us a system to explore within? . A general appeal towards layering for me harkens back to that first time I learned how to use the layer feature on adobe photoshop. I was amazed at that feature. Wouldn’t it be nice if the physical world had features like photoshop, where you could hide, delete and lock physical layers. Oh well…I see the paint that you place on your “found” surface as a sort of layering process. Do you consciously think about this as you plan your paintings?

I don't have a conclusive answer on the grid, of course, but I considered it in a few ways:
A putting-down (application) of texture without being too committed?
A way of working "all-over" the surface, rather than piecemeal? (Insta-composition?)
Groundedness without over-permanence? it a crutch, as Ben alluded...I love the grid also, sometimes too much. If not at first, it could become such. As can any compositional method, or any technique could, I suppose.
Additionally, a grid can help bring together a composition that otherwise may have only a tenuous balance.
The grid also has many emotional possibilities, besides formalities...quietness? I allude to this by using the word grounded, etc. What do you think?

More thoughts on layering:
Layering: includes laying down paint on my found surfaces/objects?
YES...I do think of this in terms of layering...and dealing with the "visual vocabulary" I often talk about in reference to my work; those pre-existing parts of the found object/surface that I'm using. A layering of voices, in a way, similar to how one lays down - usually - complementing tracks on a song recording.
In the same way, I need to find the right inflections (borders/edges); words (shapes/symbols/icons); or notes that work with the object/surface and previous layers. And each one that comes along need to work with (or effectively - kind of the same thing - work against) the preceding layers. Including the attuned attitude to the realization of when I need to stop - when the conversation or "song" is at an appropriate stage to let it stay, and move on to another work or piece. It's more mystical than you might realize by looking at my work...I don't often know the hows or whys.
In this way, a series of paintings correlates to a group of songs on a well-crafted album. Variations of elements, but no loss of uniqueness.

In fact, some comments by Douglas Witmer on my recent series of Prayer File paintings, done on old file folders, may shed some more light on this discussion about the dilemmas and challenges when working with found objects (as the first "layer" to respond to):

You ask for more commentary on your "prayer files" and I have been wanting to oblige you. I want to re-iterate that I really find the b/w imagery with the changing-colored borders really bold. I like them
on the support of the file. I think it's tough to try to use found objects in conjunction with geometry that is handled in a way that seems to call for a certain austerity. The found object can really
be a distraction (to me). It's funny...I just saw that piece by Gabriel Orozco? at the PMA that is a human skull covered with a sort of diamond checkerboard pattern. I'm so much more interested in the
pattern than having to deal with the conceptual implications of the skull. Sometimes when I look at your footboard piece we have I wonder what it would be like without the casters. With that piece, I
guess it works for me with its reference to handpainted "decorative arts" like furniture. So the challenge of course is how do you incorporate the ideas implied by the found object and have them add
to what you are doing with the imagery? With the prayer files, I like the ideas of filing, storage, rememberance, categorization...I think it works. My distraction (nitpicky) was (and is) seeing the
letter on the tabs, because then it seems the classification is more specific and I want to know why this design with this letter. You have a knack for and an interest in combining found objects with your
imagery which I think works really well, and it's pretty unique. I think the draft card is a really strong piece. With my work I don't think this way at all and I think I tend to get caught up in particulars when I might be better off just taking it all in. Also, I think lately I have developed such a tendency in my mind toward a "conceptless" or "silent" visual purity that anything (like a letter) suggesting a text gives me problems.

What do you all think? This discussion has been enlightening.
Pertinent comments welcome as always.


Layers, revisited

Some more random thoughts on layering, etc., from my studio journal:

"Layers - subliminal tension of three-dimensional against two-dimensional? Because when we see 'stacked' things it reads 'space' but we know that (physically) it's 'flat.' Illusion in abstraction? Is my layering abstract, in the 'traditional' sense? Or is it fully representational of keystones, hearts, etc.? Think more about the appeal of layering (J. Johns, et al)."

(The appeal could be related to the appeal of the grid to many artists [including myself]: another way of working, by degrees, with a "ready-made" matrix or pattern that vibrates across and through your image area).

Indeed. Oh, and read the Matisse essay by Peter Schejldahl in this week's New Yorker magazine. (Aug. 29) It's good. I'll be posting some poignant quotes from it later on.



(above, Barry Goldberg, Chesapeake, 2003)

"To acknowledge the sublime is to admit that there is something, God or nature, that defines and transcends human culture and what it means to be human. If some definition of the sublime endures, it will depend on whether humans write future dictionaries. It will also rely on a sense of the human self in all its variety, however transformed, and at least a begrudging acknowledgement that there are more things in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in our philosophy."
-Bill Beckley in Sticky Sublime

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