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.

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