Sunday, December 14, 2008


The house is temperate, despite the twenty-below weather, outside. I’ve missed the unforgiving manner in which life continues with an almost detached certainty of cold. Yes. Nearly a foot of snow, now, with drifts taller than my youngest son. It is scheduled to start again; at any moment – the eastern blowing momentum of snow and ice strained through a sieve before pelting glass and wood and pressed-aluminum.

The canvas is stretched and primed. The painted sketches, which I typically ignore in my madness to build deposits and sheets and layers of pigment, are nearly to a state of finish – something a sketch should never confusingly reach. The abstracted Hutterite half-truths need permanent visual explanation before they are buried with the short stories, biographies and landscapes that are lost among my memories of Southwestern arroyos, Southern deltas and previous Rocky Mountain winter blazes.

I may eventually consider sleep, if I can continue to deny this urge to step out into the dazzling midnight snow and cross the sixteen or so feet from the mud-room door to my awaiting studio. The wind chill will reach negative fifty, within another two hours.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

"The Boy with a Moon and Star on His Head"

Tuesday’s election ushered-in a new moment of change for the nation. Then, almost as if by grand design, my family awoke to a few inches of snow the following morning. The powder wiped the northern slate clean, yet somehow, along this region called the Hi-line, the golden-white fields were limited to Glacier County – the only region of the north central Montana political map to turn blue the previous evening. The snow lasted for only that twenty-four hour period and I’m not one to believe in blessings, but I did stop and consider the gesture as appreciation.

Now, however, it is Sunday. The first fresh week as it starts after the election and so far nothing of depressing consequence has happened. There were no riots, there were no assassinations. There was only this humble resignation muddled with silent relief from my red-hued compatriots.

Under these thoughts and safely-missed illusions, I began this first new day of the week, listening to the album “Catch Bull at Four” by Cat Stevens.

"The Boy with a Moon & Star on His Head" by Cat Stevens

A gardeners daughter stopped me on my way, on the day I was
To wed
It is you who I wish to share my body with she said
Well find a dry place under the sky with a flower for a bed
And for my joy I will give you a boy with a moon and
Star on his head.
Her silver hair flowed in the air laying waves across the sun
Her hands were like the white sands, and her eyes had
Diamonds on.
We left the road and headed up to the top of the
Whisper wood
And we walked till we came to where the holy magnolia stood.
And there we laid cool in the shade singing songs and
Making love...
With the naked earth beneath us and the universe above.
The time was late my wedding wouldn’t wait I was sad but
I had to go,
So while she was asleep I kissed her cheek for cheerio.
The wedding took place and people came from many
Miles around
There was plenty merriment, cider and wine abound
But out of all that I recall I remembered the girl I met
cause she had given me something that my heart could not
A year had passed and everything was just as it was a year
As if was a year before...
Until the gift that someone left, a basket by my door.
And in there lay the fairest little baby crying to be fed,
I got down on my knees and kissed the moon and star on
His head.
As years went by the boy grew high and the village looked
On in awe
They’d never seen anything like the boy with the moon and
Star before.
And people would ride from far and wide just to seek the
Word he spread
I’ll tell you everything I’ve learned, and love is all...he said.

I pass through life less as a visionary than an actual man, lonely for the past, pitiful yet anxious for the potential future. I miss my children, though they are within arm’s reach, I long for my partner, though I can still hear her in the next room. I wonder where the next painting will come from as I travel the outstretched prairie shadowed by the Rockies to the west and the Sweetgrass Hills to the northeast. I may confuse my left with my right - but never my true direction... it is bound to me where a soul should be. - North

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Click the picture to zoom.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Enlightenment from a Yogi Tea Bag

The head must bow to the heart.

Sounds like Montana to me. - North

Sunday, September 07, 2008

501 Posts, Have I Learned Anything?

Actually, only a small minority of the human race will ever consider primeval nature a basic source of happiness… Mankind as a whole is too numerous for its problem of happiness to be solved by the simple expedient of paradise. – Robert Marshall, an early explorer of the Brooks Range in Alaska

Like most blogs, this page was established to give voice to the spinning wheels in my head. I was looking for a way to work-out-loud with my ideas of the visual, literary and conceptual arts. Sometimes it works beautifully, other times, not so much. Basically, a philosophical sketch of my past, present and future – everything changes, everything stays the same. It’s all about perspective. - North

Saturday, September 06, 2008

... I am bliss. - North

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Gotta Love Small Towns

From the local paper...

Friday, Aug 29: 12:03 a.m. - Officer is out with three individuals in a parking lot. It is a man and his two sons. Their vehicle broke down and all motels in town are full. Officer told them to go to sheriff's office and they will put down mattresses in the old judge's office and they can sleep there.

Monday, September 01, 2008

An Art Market is Not Decided by One Artist

Damien Hirst Bypasses The Galleries - The End Of The Gallery System As We Know It? "What does it mean for the art market that a living artist bypasses dealers altogether and sells his wares directly at auction? There is some speculation that this might be a pivotal moment, like the end of the studio system in movies or the continuing decline of the record labels in the music business. Could the gallerist's traditional role as mediator between the contemporary artist and his market be passÃe?" Wall Street Journal 08/23/08

I’m not sure that it really means anything, considering the artist in question is Damian Hirst – a living artist that time and time again financially dominates the British art market. His conceptualized work has always been somewhere outside the traditional painting and sculpture gallery scene; how is this a huge leap? In fact, I dare say this may have a positive impact on the gallery market, in the manner in which it opens the playing field for other artists. - North

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Blackmail the Baker

The dream is… Or rather it should be, dammit, like a fan club for philosophers. And poets. And painters. And maybe even rogue Hutterites. At least the ones we can catch – as they're draining a staggering number of pints (always Olde English) in the dark corner of the local pizzeria.

Like home everywhere. But not too much.

This place where Rod serves unlimited spaghetti dinners and can win free loaves of french bread like he’s blackmailing the baker. Then the next evening, playing Texas Hold’em, late into the darkness, with two Mormon missionaries and the hint of a steady hand. - North

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


This house that saw less than eight hundred nights now searches for a fresh ten thousand.

Brothers building yard castles from empty crates and boxes. Stacks of cardboard trapping their voices, releasing their ingenuity. The threat of a blistering reality removed. Though, I can still glimpse it – only distantly. Once imminent, now cascading as soap round the drain.

The neighbor’s stereo is never sleeping. He has it wired to pour music through outdoor speakers and illuminate our nights with jovial harmonic gestures that release a soundtrack to a new life. This old life. One that is not revisited or retraced so much as reinvigorated. - North

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Driving My Oldest Child Home

The car sputters to a stop and we have passed to the moment after. My language is defunct. Words and phrases remain listless in their transition to time. The Ford hesitates, then turns over and we continue.

You ride with me, but I’m not driving. Our destination is sketched in blueprints and the side columns of a menu stolen from the diner outside Hungry Horse. The prairie lies east; but I can’t see it through the tinted glass and mountain pass.

To the south, they built Teddy a cock. I tell you it is an obelisk and shield your eyes. I petition the rocks and streams for the moment before. When the house was yellow, the sky was full of light and the minutes were less. - North

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Beyond the vinyl siding lay the remarkable. Where planters don’t require satellites and crops are small enough to avoid the call of migrant workers. Dyed diesel is a myth, but my wood shingled roof has a fresh coat of paint infused with linseed oil.

The red jammers are full though the road curves to dreams of avalanche. I imagine they’re playing golf again not far from where I picnicked amid a ruptured flock of aspen. A forest is waiting.

I hear stories of the huckleberries falling off the bush before ripening. The hinterland looms within reach of the curious. Milk and honey live in legend. Brush and grouse and wolves live in here. - North

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”
- Matsuo Basho

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

W.B. Yates

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Jesus Year

I’m halfway through my 33rd year. My old friend, Vin, calls it my Jesus year. While I'm not saying it compared to crucifixion; I must admit that sometimes… it has felt like an extra rough time. I’ll be home, in Montana, by the end of the month and my mind is already flush with questions of which direction I should attack the new batch of paintings that will inevitably follow. I’m interested in pushing my explorations of the human figure back to the forefront of my work. While I’ve never let a month pass-by without drawing or painting from life, I’ve been lax in allowing it to step forward from the landscape during these past six years of unending movement. When I look at art, I’m typically drawn to figurative works, it’s only natural that I should return to that vein, myself.

The last few sporadic posts have alluded to my interest in functional painting. The details of such a venture have been less than exact. I’m not precisely sure where I’m going with that idea – I suppose that one could call it my own little growth industry. Not unlike the two unfinished novels bouncing around my mind. – North

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Remains of the Day

Packing and selling the last remains of the past dozen years, I'm reminded of a line from The Human Comedy by Balzac:

"Tell me what you possess and I will tell you what you think."

They say ownership is 9/10ths of the law, but are they referring to those that possess or those that are owned? Intersections and tragedies don't necessarily have to go hand-in-hand, but I'll be damned if it doesn't rip the essence from life every now and again.

Five weeks and I go home. - North

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Steampunk.... probably not

The last couple years I have really enjoyed reading about the different processes various Steampunk artists use to create their post-modern Victorian throwbacks. Perhaps it has something to do with the complete opposite approach to ornamentation used by 99% of the art world when presenting art – myself included. Now I’m not saying that I want to crossover to the Steampunk genre, but I do believe the style has definitely evolved these past couple years from nostalgic kitsch to verifiable minor art movement.

Click here to see an example of the process.

I bring this up, because Steampunk seems to be the most easily transferable functional art movement that I have come across. Nothing seems to be off limits for a Steampunk transformation: laptops, watches, lamps, etc. But is the utilization of transformation of a functional object into an art object enough of a process to generate a MAJOR art movement that will stand the test of time?

Rather than take something mass-produced and change it, I believe I need the complete sense of power that accompanies starting from scratch. That does not dilute the importance of this style or level of process (watch some of the online videos and instructions and you’ll see that the level of detail and raw talent utilized by the artists is astounding) – but for myself and my work, I just think I need to keep looking for the functional art process that starts with empty hands instead of something I picked-up at Bestbuy. - North

Monday, June 09, 2008

With Complete Disregard for the Bear...

While packing my studio for the next move, I ran across this nine-year-old photo from my Gallery Director days the first time I lived in Missouri. - North

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Collecting Thoughts

So I’ve noticed that the terms “functional painting” and “functional art” have a near endless supply of meanings. I’ve found examples of work that expand the definition of the terms to include:

  • Methods of alternating home-décor to suit one’s image or financial status.
  • Murals (this one threw me for a loop, I suppose the “function” includes teaching history, narratives, etc. – but that could include the majority of painting, so…)
  • Work that involves the recycling of one material to create the base substance for another creation (such as a couch or wall hanging).
  • Pretty much anything that falls within the realm of folk-art.
  • And of course the standard-bearer for the American West – lamps and end tables made almost entirely from antlers.

So where does that leave the fine artist searching for a bit of the ole’-kinetic-lovin’ in the standard-bearer two-dimensional painting process? I believe the answer lies in the mixing of traditional media. Clay, glass, oils and glazes – let’s not forget paper either, oh where would we be in this world without paper. Wood and canvas also seem necessary in any process that would require more than a token nod to classicism whilst displaying the innovation that can redefine itself as contemporary art.

Don’t worry I’m working towards something, here. – North

Saturday, May 31, 2008


This is what I find interesting when I think of the possibilities of blending functional art and the act of painting. Obviously, not as examples of finished products, but definitely inspiration toward the concepts of composition and mechanics. - North

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

North by Northwest (yeah, I have a great name)

I have some ideas for the next phase of my work… I have an old friend that has spent twenty years creating sculptures/machines that create random art. I’m not looking for randomness, so much… anymore; but I do admire that idea of making one piece of art that can spawn another artwork or artistic moment, in perpetuity. My creative process, however, has nearly always required place as a muse.

I’m moving home to Montana and I’m not as disturbed as I probably should be with how that affects the Immersion Travel Art philosophy of my work. Painting still lives within the forefront of my mind; as does the concept of studying the unfamiliar cultural aspects of both resident and neighboring societies. However, I have held this growing need for quite some time to create functional work beyond the scope of my map paintings or even the continuous examples of contemporary kinetic/conceptual sculpture that I encounter in galleries and museums. The last time I felt this sort of need to reinvent myself I bought a house in Montana and within a short amount of time I was painting from the rabid perspective of every inch of those far northern prairies and mountains. I still own that house and studio space, so I’m going home within the next few months. I call it home, my wife calls it home and even my three children agree. These past three years, I have missed the Indian Summer that delivers fall to Montana. I don’t plan on letting that happen again.

For me - this continuous evolution of one’s perspective of the world is an ethereal aspect of the American West. - North

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Form, Function, Multiple Lives

I’ve always been intrigued by kinetic sculpture…. until the moment I interact with it. Although, today, it seems that the new dominant factor in kinetic works is conceptual, I am still left wanting more. When I consider true functional fine art, I visualize a Stradivarius. The lives of the fictional violin from the great film “The Red Violin” also come to mind.

Function and form as one aesthetically pleasing work of art that reinvents itself with each owner or participant. A justification for the concept that the idea (itself) or artwork is greater than the individual creator. – North

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Saw Blade Paintings and Function in Art

As a fine artist that prefers the company of wide-open spaces and the country-folk that accompany it, I often find that the biggest hurdle I have to cross is that of public opinion within the community I inhabit.

The most common question to answer is the purpose or rationalization for spending time or a “career” towards the end result of simply making art for art’s sake. Ironically, this has become much more of an issue since returning to the southern Midwest from the Rocky Mountain States. So the question goes – do I respond with functional work that is aesthetically pleasing or simply ignore the communitys' questions of relevance? Furthermore (and this is an interesting notion)… have I already unconsciously replied by turning my paintings into giant maps? - North

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Never Trust Wine from a Box

HOLYHEAD, Wales — A man who dressed up as Darth Vader, wearing a black garbage bag for a cape, and assaulted the founders of Britain's first Jedi church was given a suspended sentence Tuesday.

Arwel Wynne Hughes, 27, attacked Jedi church founder Barney Jones — a.k.a. Master Jonba Hehol — with a metal crutch, hitting him on the head, prosecutors told Holyhead Magistrates' Court. He also whacked Jones' 18-year-old cousin, Michael Jones — or Master Mormi Hehol — bruising his thigh, in the March 25 incident.

Unfortunately for Hughes, the incident was recorded on a video camera that the cousins had set up to film themselves in a light saber battle.

"Darth Vader! Jedis!" Hughes shouted as he approached.

Hughes claimed he couldn't remember the incident, having drunk the best part of a 2 1/2-gallon box of wine beforehand.

"He knows his behavior was wrong and didn't want it to happen but he has no recollection of it," said Hughes' lawyer, Frances Jones.

District Judge Andrew Shaw sentenced Hughes to two months in jail but suspended the sentence for one year. He also ordered Hughes to pay $195 to each of his victims and $117 in court costs.

Barney Jones, his brother Daniel and cousin Michael set up the Church of Jediism, Anglesey order, last year. It claims about 30 members.

Jedi is the faith followed by some of the central characters in the "Star Wars" films. In the 2001 United Kingdom census, 390,000 — 0.7 percent of the population — listed Jedi as their religion.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Catching Dreams

I haven’t posted in while, spring always raises the hair on the back of my neck. I get that slight metallic taste in narrow recesses of my throat and I wonder how much longer I should stay in a place. It is always an odd moment in the year, as I watch another school term pass for my daughter and wonder aloud – how does one plan for spontaneity? Are a series of actions required to define a vision? Does adhering to a specific philosophy still enable random motion? Is a quest still important beyond the moment in which is lived? Do ideas have merit because they are lived or because they are successful?

During my first year of college, one of my good friends was a fellow skinny pre-architecture kid named Donnie, but we called him Slim. The housing administration of our college sifted through their grand wisdom and chose his random twelfth-floor-dorm assignment by some manner as obtuse as tossing a pepperoni onto a pizza. I have no other explanation for why they placed him with a talented yet juvenile baseball catcher, named Eddie Fitzpatrick, for a roommate.

Now Eddie was born the same year as I and raised in southern California. If I recall correctly, he arrived at our fair Mississippi River shore via a baseball scholarship. Something about his love for the game ingrained in young Eddie the desire to constantly swing items whilst walking across campus or even to the cafeteria for meals. He alternated the objects from day to day and was rarely seen without one or the other. These items included first and most obviously a bat and second, though, more surprising – a hammer. This wasn’t just any hammer, however, this was a fine wooden-handled job that had his full name neatly engraved near the base.

He liked the women and for the most part… the women seemed to enjoy his company as well. Slim and I assumed that the hammer must have been a gift from one of his lady friends and he kept it as a memento to remind everyone that his virility was worthy of rewards (and more obviously a good swing as well). The majority of the guys on our floor, however, were thoroughly unimpressed. I hate to nail-down one defining feature that may have turned his neighbors against him, but I dare say it was the endless supply of penis jokes with accompanying visual aides. At one time or another, every door on the twelfth floor was randomly knocked-on in the early morning hours and the occupants awakened by Eddie asking if they dropped their keys. The confused and still half-asleep unwitting participant would look to Eddie’s hands held close to his waist and holding something that most definitely did not resemble a set of keys. Then and only then as one was trying to remember how to cast the door shut would a glance at the floor to the sight of Eddie’s pants around his ankles trigger the internal recognition of a sick joke.

After a number of these repeated occurrences a group of residents took it upon themselves to penny Eddie into his room during the early morning hours. Now to penny one into a room the door must open inward (it also helps if the frame is metal and the door is solid) in order for a couple dozen pennies to be wedged between the frame and door rendering the inhabitant unable to open the door and thus trapped to consider their own brand of idiocy that led to such a revolt. Unfortunately the plan did not have the desired response due to the fact that Slim had an early class and Eddie was sleeping it off in the nearby girls’ dorms. To make it up to Slim, I stole the great hammer of Eddie and gave it to him as a reward. He in turn broke the head from the tool and placed it on Eddie’s pillow; then returned the handle to me to avoid incrimination.

The following semester both Eddie and Slim transferred to new schools. Slim spent the next year at a community college a hundred miles west and Eddie took a baseball scholarship at a hard-line fundamentalist Christian college in mid-eastern Tennessee. Every time I have moved over the past ten years, I have run across Eddie’s headless hammer handle. Recently, I thought of him again, while going through boxes and finally decided to dig-up a bit of information on our fair baseball star.

I learned that Eddie was number 33 in the 1997 college draft. He was picked-up by Pittsburgh in May and released by the Phillies roughly ten months later. From 1998 onward he has strung-together a career of minor-league ball teams, retiring twice to pursue assistant coaching gigs at small unheard-of Christian colleges (I can only assume his sense of humor has cleaned-up). It is this last part of the story that I find the most interesting. He never gave-up on baseball. I mean come on Eddie; you didn’t even make it beyond your first season in the majors. Why didn’t you just quit? Then I hear everyone in my own life asking similar questions. I swear to Christ if one more person asks me if I still paint – my next masterpiece will be engraved on the hood of their car.

I told a relative, the other day, that my family and I were considering a permanent move back to Montana. We’ve been thinking it is maybe time to stop and smell the glaciers for a dozen or so years. The response to my revelation was – “what would you do?” Well, pretty much what I’ve always done – make art. I could care less about much outside that realm. I guess Eddie and I have that in common. We live in the moment of our actions. I have a feeling that if we met today, I’d like him a lot more than I did back in college. I respect someone that doesn’t stop living his or her dream for the sake of insufficient financial success. These past couple years, when some one asks me what I do for a living – I simply respond, “I do what I do, the money eventually follows”. – North

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Travel Concerns

I had some extra time and my recent dealings with airlines had been less than pleasant – so I booked Amtrak for the trip west to Seattle, two weeks ago. Always looking for an adventure I rode coach traveling west, but returned First Class via Sleeper Car for the eastern leg of the trip. There were certainly the usual array of colorful characters on the western-bound coach car; such as the gentleman that drank one Budweiser after another from the moment we left St. Louis at 6:35AM until we arrived in Milwaukee that evening. My disdain slowly turned to awe as I watched the man drain cans, seemingly, without interruption. Forget the alcohol content, how can one person consume that much liquid? (and the snack car was selling them for $4 each!) - North

Monday, April 21, 2008

Beachfront on the Kitsap Peninsula

car to train
train to train
train to car
car to ferry
ferry to car
and back again

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Written Ten Days Ago

3:05 AM - outside Fargo, I am sick of the southern floods. More than a few traces of snow smatter the fields and cars as we enter town. Wandering tracks that look like Andy Goldsworthy was imitated – by God or maybe Moses have broken the frozen top-layer of snow. My body cries for sleep. My mind is resistant. I’ve waited too long, pretending to be North, to rest now.

A few hours backwards - in Milwaukee, the passenger manifest changed starkly from black to white. The matter-of-fact division was unnerving. As we enter the Dakotas, I’ve been a train traveler for twenty-one hours. The trip from St. Louis to Chicago was hellish. I’ll relive it in reverse next week. Is there an opposite to hell?

I’m listening to Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová through a single headphone. I leave one ear reserved for the sounds of my wife and daughter breathing as they sleep despite the rush of rain now sheeting the train. Thunder slaps the sky above the coach car; the lingering winter clap does not stir them to recovery in this lost northern spring. Moments require soundtracks; I was raised to be entertained. Bob Dylan carried me across Illinois and then again we conquered the face of Minnesota (his lost homeland), together. With the flat wet Minnesota terrain behind me I encounter only more unregistered tundra on the rails of North Dakota. My Montana is in the distance, though Washington is the final destination – I now rely on the melodies of an Irish and Czech duo to get me there. I can’t ignore the fact that I am an immigrant myself - in this adopted northern country; relying on the voices of fellow-foreigners in one-half of my head.

We’ve pulled away from the last remaining lights… a remembrance of civilization outside Fargo. The entire world has gone dark – except the single reading light above my head. While the other passengers sleep, I can only find dreams with open eyes. - North

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Spring Over the Ridge

Flash floods continue to remind us that Spring is both lovely and hateful. - North

Friday, March 21, 2008

Dry Land

The levees are breaking, the poorest sections of town are flooding; they plan on opening the dam to finish off what nature started and hopefully save the best of the rest. We've heard it all before - but this time it is Poplar Bluff. Only twenty miles and a childhood away. - North

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Clay Pots

The roads are idled by the flash of rain and mud. Fields swell as the Mississippi nears its crest. The creeks and streams are gone; simply replaced - as an opportunist overcoming a past lover.

I meander the drips from nirvana… that sudden distribution, like spills from a great ocean over my slight neighboring deltas. The water rapids against my feet. Leaving nothing but air for safety.

If buried here… by water and mire and silt and extravagance. The parts and shards will wash under the soil, abandoned amongst the repentant. - North

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Who Owns a Credo?

"It is so much easier to live placidly and complacently. Of course, to live placidly and complacently is not to live at all...." - Jack London

Friday, March 14, 2008

More Mayes and Immersion Travel

My old friend, Gaelon, refers to Under the Tuscan Sun as his fudge book. Its richness and beauty best consumed in small morsels. He doles it out to his acquaintances in much the same way… offering them passages from Frances Mayes’ book here or there for comfort and consumption.

I have read and reread this travel tome that doesn’t really involve much travel… I dare say it falls under the label of Immersion Travel. I’m reading it again, for the imagery of spring in the midst of our own strange winter. I’m reading it for the endless paragraphs describing crisp-smelling cuisine that is at once both a thousand years old and as original as if it were freshly picked from the neighboring hills and groves that very morning; for the universal truths intended for an Italian love affair but resonating across rivers, streams, endless ponds of water and an ocean of pavement and trees; until it even reaches west and south into the depths of my current swollen flooded bottomlands along the great muddy river:

"This isn’t real; we’ve wandered into a Fellini film," I say.
Ed shakes his head. "Fellini is a documentary filmmaker – I’ve lost my belief in his genius. There are Fellini scenes everywhere." – Frances Mayes

Recognizing genius in the lives of others is effortless; however, admitting to it is often complicated by the decisions we’ve made in our own lives. - North

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Lingering thoughts northwest of Libby

Always the Yaak - despite your clear cuts and wind swept cancer from downriver.

Yaak... Still my favorite place. - North

Saturday, March 01, 2008

We haven't located us yet.

Yesterday, I watched the film "Darjeeling Limited" a movie about life and death without actually being about life and death. I believe it is Wes Anderson's best work, yet. For those that have already seen it, you'll recognize the above quote. - North

"Above and Below the Winter Fields"

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Amongst Trees and Saplings

… and I said, “GO! GO! GO!” because I no longer trusted my answers to their questions. - North

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Representational Abstraction

“Art is not merely an imitation of the reality of nature, but in truth a metaphysical supplement to the reality of nature, placed alongside thereof for its conquest.” – Nietzsche

Repetition of symbols and manipulation of the “known” landscape from irregular viewpoints has been a staple of my style for the past seven or so years. Over time the work has become more abstracted in its treatment of the composition, though more technically precise in that same handling of representative subjects. For my own creative motivations, originally this art movement served as a catalyst for exposing national differences via Immersion Travel, now however; I believe the effort has transposed itself into a visual interpretation of unique-yet-similar perspectives in this country’s rough-hewn organization of lost-and-found communities.

Maybe I’m intrigued by the reactions of an already tapped-out society that may soon be faced with the next great economic depression. Will we suddenly find ourselves scraping together nickels and dimes, like the fictional Waltons of West Virginia, with nothing but bad seventies haircuts and our own sense of community to hold us together? Perhaps, I’m yet another victim of self-indulgent nostalgia. Yet, I can’t help but look back and find a studio with a cheap woodstove more romantic than one with an expensive air conditioner. – North

Monday, February 25, 2008

Clouded Judgment

“Two Ways Home, Same Direction” – North

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How place as a muse can be a bitch... for better or worse.

The new work from the past few weeks falls under my own self-described category of digital sketches. The title or label is somewhat misleading because I do not digitally manipulate any of the works… all I really do is scan them in and crop the rough edges; leaving the moles and scars for examination and a touch of contemplative reality. The works are small mixed-media pieces that are both collages and paintings… not unlike my traditional large-scale pieces from the past two years. I consider them digital, though, because they only survive online. I create them rather quickly, then post’em and forget’em.

These works came about at a time when I was considering what would happen if one of the numerous winter storms actually touched down on the roof of my studio. Now, this has not yet happened, but a few close calls have really got my mojo roaring and I’ve been thinking about the possibilities of a new wave of symbiotic archiving/creating from the standpoint of a traditional painter in an ever-increasing digital environment.

The subject of the work thus far is still along similar lines as before: Immersion Travel… staying in one place for a period of time (anywhere from a few months to a few years) and documenting the effect it has on both the society as well as the artist. The most interesting irony of the work, for me though, has been the evolution of a more abstract style in my art as I attempt to further demystify the motivations and philosophies of each place. These small sketches have allowed me to drop the last of my inhibitions and rethink my theories on the roles of artists and more specifically, painters. I suddenly have a better understanding of Picasso when he successfully walked away from Cubism. - North

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


“Southerners have a gene, as yet undetected in the DNA spirals, that causes them to believe that place is fate. Where you are is who you are. The further inside you the place moves, the more your identity is intertwined with it. Never casual, the choice of place is the choice of something you crave.” – Frances Mayes


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Philosophy of Place



I know the differences are negligible... but I can't help but want it. – North

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Skidding Over Icy Ruins

You ask why I’ve settled in these emerald mountains,

and so I smile, mind at ease of itself, and say nothing.

Peach blossoms drift streamwater away deep in mystery:

it’s another heaven and earth, nowhere among people.

Li Po (written between 701-742 A.D.)

Terra Incognita – that sounds like the best option for the future. A place where time is no longer futility and movement is the antonym of struggle. - North

Monday, February 11, 2008

Holiday Weather Over the Holiday Home

On Monday, the Ozark Mountains surrounding my family’s southwest Missouri cottage metamorphosed from early spring to a harsh mid-winter theater. Within minutes, the land and sky suddenly became an ice lens projecting only perfection... with the valleys quickly and unrepentantly buried as shiny as death. – North

Storm Fears

These days, there is a real sense of panic at the mere thought of a coming storm across the southern Midwest. It is a foreign hysteria when I compare it to the radical nonchalance, which I encountered and emulated while a youth in this same region of the South. Tornadoes occurred at a more frequent than usual rate in the Bible belt, while I was gone for a few years, and it wasn’t nice; though I must acknowledge the irony that it was more than slightly biblical in its destructive force.

Now when the weatherman menaces of an approaching storm with high-wind potential… rumors of tornado touchdowns fly; parents collect students early from schools and people hide in bathtubs. Now that’s not to say that the fear is unfounded. Actually, quite the opposite and one only needs to watch recent news reports to understand; but for a man obsessed with land and sky and observing the change of seasons in a society’s heart – I have a different response to the attack brought about by heat and chill clashing. Tuesday evening as our small section of the world turned on its ear and people lost their lives to the slight south and east of my studio; I stood at the open door and scanned the skies in wonder. – North

Thursday, February 07, 2008

More Maps from the Storm

Maps from Tuesday night's winter tornado and thunderstorm. These past five images I’ve posted, as well as quite a few in upcoming posts, are simply sketches. Each cross-country move seems to motivate a new since of direction in my work. Most recently I have found myself drawn to small-understated works that are minimalist in scale and application of line but somehow seem larger than life in color and complexity of composition. For now they are not intended to grow into larger oils or even jump beyond the bounds of the internet. - North

"Under the River"

"Over the Storm"

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Mississippi Storm, February

Back in the South during winter... yesterday it was 75 degrees and a tornado touched down outside of town in the evening; then traveled east to the great river. - North

Monday, February 04, 2008


On the Arkansas/Missouri border at Bull Shoals Lake. - North

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Into Arkansas During the Spring

The past week's ice and snow made me want to dream of warmer times in the Midwest... but all I could recall was driving through the flood plains of northern Arkansas last April. - North

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Shifting towards the norm...

I’ve long been infatuated with Jim Harrison novellas. So much so that my oldest son’s middle name is Harrison. You see, I do that… discover greatness in another and attempt to latch myself to it in one form or another. I’m not attempting to usurp the magnetism of a special individual so much as I am trying to pick-up a bit of the magic to drive my own motivations for even one more day.

In one of my favorite stories, a narrative titled, “I Forgot to Go to Spain”, Harrison envisioned a writer struggling with a past of idealism placed in the context of his present situation as a certifiable sell-out to the marketability of his craft. In essence, he writes bios (portraits) as opposed to poetry. There is more money in the bio-writing market, however he definitely questions the reality of placing a price on the soul.

As an artist, I find it amazing that religion believes it can lay claim to something as personal and individual as the human soul. The secrets of the creative process stir my loins unlike anything I have encountered in life or religion. The firing-off of ideas like sparks that send messages to the extensions of my body before my brain – feeds my arrogance as an author and creator of my overwhelming narrative maps and figures. I don’t want to share that spirit that drives my hurried paint-filled brush, you can have the finished product… but the moment within the act of conception that is mine and I refuse to play well with others. There is a reason that Plato believed that those that desire to lead are the least qualified… the thirst for power is invigorating and often blinding. I feel god-like when in the midst of a perfect creation, how else should I feel?

The essence of man is much easier to grasp than blind faith, yet infallibly it is far beyond the scope of organized group activities. As a father preparing his children for the mad mixture of life’s beauty and strife – I realize that the problem with the world is not a lack of intelligent inhabitants, but rather a shortage of citizenry prepared to embrace the ominous reality of private ownership over their thoughts, dreams and lives. Considering the fact that we were born alone and will inevitably die alone, the looming menace of stepping forward to own both the depths and the skin of our individual lives… should be nothing short of natural for a species that has the capacity to deliver genius as regularly as the phases of the moon. – North

Monday, January 21, 2008

What's in a Name?

My three children sitting under Samuel's painting (and enjoying the food!) at my recent Museum opening. Click the image to see an up close view of my young Dylan Thomas contemplating the wisdom of shoveling one more bite into his already stuffed cheeks.

One summer in Santa Fe, I started looking at adobes there, imagining I would become a Southwesterner, cook with chilies, wear squash blossom turquoise jewelry – a different life, the chance to be extant in another version. At the end of the month I left and never have wanted to return… But I keep remembering that anytime I’ve stepped in my own footprints again, I haven’t felt renewed. Though I’m susceptible to the pull of the unknown, I’m just slightly more susceptible to surprise… “The family motto,” he’d say (my father), “is ‘Packing and Unpacking.’” – Frances Mayes, “Under the Tuscan Sun”

Maybe it’s my name… North. Is it something as simple as a surname that has kept me up nights wondering if – “I am where I should be”? I’ve lived in places where my last name was the only title by which I was recognized. At another moment in my life I taught art in the inner city St. Louis schools. My students referred to me, as “Art”… like my profession and my name were interchangeable. I enjoyed those moments. Supposedly that’s the origin of British and Scottish surnames (in which “North” falls)… professions… locales… associations. So is it too much of a leap to believe in an ancestral pull towards reinvigorating the origin of my name for the purpose of direction, travel or just the constant tug I feel to a specific direction on the compass? I currently plan on remaining a few more years in the South, I have unfinished paintings to complete. Regions to return to with fresh eyes. As well as low-rising mountain expeditions I’ve been waiting to trek with my children and a pack full of paint and canvas. – North

Thursday, January 17, 2008


“When you wake at three AM you don't think
of your age or sex and rarely your name
or the plot of your life which has never
broken itself down into logical pieces.
At three AM you have the gift of incomprehension
wherein the galaxies make more sense
than your job or the government.” – Jim Harrison

I have mentioned before that I am a night painter. Breathing the oil-based fumes, without recognition, is the magic elixir that pushes my work past the midnight hour. I’ve painted on wood, canvas, and paper, cardboard, metal and even sand. This morning (last night) I lightly stretched a 48” x 108” section of burlap across my studio wall. A selectively applied light gesso-base-coat to protect from the elements (within reason – hey, it is still just open-weave burlap) and I’m working the tight strands of sparse fabric with a subtle massage of hand-made paint. Forever impressed by the ancient sea maps that displayed the edge of the world and harbingers of death birthed in the deep seas; I continue my own search for a regionalized map of this land from the perspective of a peasant enamored by his toil, yet intolerant of his eventual demise. – North

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Shamrock, Texas

Last spring while driving from southern Missouri to my gallery in central New Mexico, I stopped for a night in the small town of Shamrock, Texas. I stopped because the place seemed quaint and west Texas has a reputation for subtle grandeur (though I have to admit that this probably only barely qualifies as "western" Texas). I stopped because the roadside advertisements boasting their Irish infatuation was prevalent and I easily found a motel room available that allowed me to park my Land Rover full of paintings directly in front of the first floor room and its picture window.

Once I checked-in, I dropped-off my gear on the queen bed and walked out to my truck to begin my search for food. The first sign of trouble was the hibachi grill on the bed of the Dodge Ram parked beside me. The traveling highway construction subcontractors were friendly and even offered me a beer as they grilled their steaks over the smallish flame; however when I asked about the motel’s adjoining restaurant, they snickered and told me to let them know how the food tasted. Heeding their warning I drove directly from the parking lot into “town” and wondered around aimlessly looking for anything to eat besides the lone McDonalds. I found nothing but more empty green-motifed motels competing for travelers with ridiculously low room rates.

I drove back to the motel and settled myself in at the attached diner, not initially recognizing that only one other table was occupied. The menu was a plethora of corned beef in every incarnation imaginable… I chose one that boasted its arrival in sandwich-form… that seemed the most palatable as I whispered a prayer against indecision (leading to death?) and watched the waitress waddle towards me. Ten minutes later, I received two thin bricks that had been substituted for “Texas Toast” and saw my reflection in the greasy (no kidding) corned-beef pile crushed between. I have to give the woman credit she handed the plate to me as if delivering an entrée at Antoine’s in the French Quarter. That level of false pride takes both practice and inhibition that I have rarely encountered. Partially out of curiosity, but mostly to avoid eating the brick, I asked about the town and its love of all things Irish.

As she described the local business community’s desperate attempt to draw unsuspecting travelers with promises of a cheap alternative to the Emerald Isle, I scanned the restaurant’s walls recalling William Least Heat-Moon’s comment that roadside eateries are best judged by the number of calendars on the wall. Like the prophetic star-rating system… the more calendars (banks, John Deere, etc) – the better the food. Unfortunately this diner had none.

How often does contemporary art fulfill an image campaign but falter in the actual execution of quality? Or even if it does possess a high level of respectability, how often does it fall short of the initial expectation? Lately, I‘ve been rewatching films from the “Christo and Jean-Claude” boxed-set I purchased on Ebay a couple years ago. While I’m sure the firsthand experience, of viewing a finished Christo installation, completely eclipses anything I can watch on DVD… I still can’t help but be more intrigued by his preliminary models and sketches than any of his actual finished projects. Maybe it’s the painter in me that desires that three-dimensional illusion in two-dimensional presentation. - DN

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Not sure if this is something or just more speculation, but it is definitely interesting. Click here to see what happens when Leonardo's paintings are viewed through a mirror. - DN

Monday, January 07, 2008

Academic Cowboy

I've been down this road before from the perspective of "Cowboy Art", but living here has made me consider it again from a purely academic sense of the term "cowboy" (warning some of this is repeated from a post two years ago).

What has happened to the meaning of the title – “cowboy”? Returning to the South after living along the Rocky Mountain front, I have to laugh every time I see a redneck in a cowboy outfit. In the past nine months, I have only met one person that owns a horse and that is an eleven-year-old kid. Yet every radio station is country music, faux-rodeo belt-buckles are extremely common and everyone refers to himself or herself as “country” despite not owning or working land. Maybe this whole “big hat, no ranch” mentality is still hung-over from the “urban cowboy” movement of the late seventies and early eighties.

Looking for a neo-cowboy movement (something for the 21st Century and I’m always looking to coin a phrase) – I googled “academic cowboy”, but simply turned-up physics-nerds-in-disguise. I knew that couldn’t be right; if that were true the term cowboy would now be meaningless. Not unlike the unfortunate turn the term “diva” has taken in the last few years. Thirteen year old girls running around with “diva” on their t-shirt and the current trend of pop-stars sharing a stage with the likes of Aretha Franklin or Etta James. No, I believe the title “cowboy” can still elicit a strong reaction. These days, unfortunately, the media typically latches it to George W. clearing brush at his Texas Whitehouse. Clearing brush doesn’t make Bush a cowboy… it just makes him a day laborer. This guy hasn’t even visited most of the western states for anything other than politicking (much less the glorious national parks of the west).

On another blog I found a post that likened the cowboy mentality to more of a reference of roaming than the media stereotype of dumb “George Bush-types” that only are happy when they are being destructive. Destruction didn’t build the West (well, maybe you believe it did if you were screwed out of your land). The cowboy’s need to roam and ability to adapt formed the world west of the Mississippi. Granted it wasn’t the safest place, but aren’t all vagrants viewed suspiciously for expected rowdy behavior?

So does that mean an Academic Cowboy would be interchangeable with an Academic Rebel that likes to roam around? So is it the term “cowboy” that makes it western? One rarely ever thinks of “California Cowboys”. Is the “Academic Cowboy” possible? Or is it just a new word for an old description? The Taoist concept of a “Sage” comes to mind. Endlessly roaming, no particular direction or purposes… except enlightenment, regardless of environmental intrusions. – DN

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Ongoing Obligation to Self

"A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone." - Jo Godwin

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Every year John Brockman asks some of the world's leading thinkers a question and publishes the answers. This year's question: "When thinking changes your mind, that's philosophy. When God changes your mind, that's faith. When facts change your mind, that's science. What have you changed your mind about? Why?" - The Edge 01/01/08

What qualifies one for admission into the listing of “world’s leading thinkers”? Papers published, research with results, or simply academic tenure? Below is an article regarding two eminent contemporary philosophers.

It is probably the most negative book review ever written. Or if there is a worse one, do let me know. "This book runs the full gamut from the mediocre to the ludicrous to the merely bad," begins Colin McGinn's review of On Consciousness by Ted Honderich. "It is painful to read, poorly thought out, and uninformed. It is also radically inconsistent."

The ending isn't much better: "Is there anything of merit in On Consciousness? Honderich does occasionally show glimmers of understanding that the problem of consciousness is difficult and that most of our ideas about it fall short of the mark. His instincts, at least, are not always wrong. It is a pity that his own efforts here are so shoddy, inept, and disastrous (to use a term he is fond of applying to the views of others)."

And in the middle, there is nothing to cheer the book's author. Honderich's book is, according to McGinn, sly, woefully uninformed, preposterous, easily refuted, unsophisticated, uncomprehending, banal, pointless, excruciating.

What does the man on the receiving end think of this review? "It is a cold, calculated attempt to murder a philosopher's reputation," says Honderich. The review has reignited a feud between the two philosophers that shows how bitter, unforgiving and (to outsiders) unwittingly hilarious academic disputes can be. It certainly makes the bear pit that is journalism seem like sunshine and lollipops by comparison." - The Guardian (UK) 12/21/07

The above “dispute” has nothing to do with high-minded academic disagreements based upon the merits of philosophical discourse. Instead it seems that one philosopher (and considered academic standard for philosophical book reviews) was insulted a quarter century ago when the aforementioned colleague (who’s book he was reviewing) mentioned that the reviewer’s girlfriend wasn’t “nearly as plain as the previous one”. As recourse, the wounded philosopher trashed the book in his recent review in the esteemed Philosophical Review.

One of the funniest books I’ve read in the past couple years was Alexander McCall Smith’s “Portuguese Irregular Verbs”. The novella follows a pompous published-but-unread professor as he places university politics at the center of his existence and trips through the rest of society, rarely aware of his surroundings.

Now despite my tone, the last thing I'm interested in is knocking philosophers, professors or the thinking person, in general. However, I believe society at large is remiss if we fail to regularly question the intellectual authority of the commonly acknowledged intellectual authority. - DN