Tuesday, October 31, 2006

An Evening's Progress

At 6am, I awoke and dressed into the same malodorous clothes I had removed only three hours earlier. My shirt and pants still reeked of gin and smoke when I started scrambling eggs for my children’s breakfast. My friend, Hank, had picked-up a couple of nice Jamaican cigars on his last work-trip to Monterey (California) and I had decided to smoke the last one mid-way through a late evening of painting. I had gotten a late start on my work, having spent the morning working on PR materials (which means I spent a couple hours cursing my insolent printer). It was about a quarter after three, in the afternoon, before I started work on what would become the night’s two paintings. Around eight-thirty, I remembered to eat and tossed together a couple hot dogs with pickle, mustard and celery salt – for a one-handed standing meal that wouldn’t interfere with my brushwork. A little before ten, I gave-up on the cigar (sorry Hank) and returned to my usual painting snack of Camels. I washed the smoke down with an endless stream of gin and tonics, the same water I used earlier in the evening to swallow my makeshift dinner.

Last night there was a lot of painting that involved matching my colors on the work, rather than mixing and testing, before hand. I’ve always been notorious for mixing my colors on the canvas, rather than the palette; but that type of process often leads to multiple layers of color hiding one another under the final composition. Although, I do have a handful of flat and round brushes that I utilize in nearly every work; the large remainder of paint brushes in clear jars and old wine boxes, linger unused. Instead I often apply paint with brayers (printmaking rollers), sticks and hand-made stamps I create from soft balsa wood.

Though, this morning, I have not yet ventured into the studio, I recall my last vision of the workspace, before turning off the light to leave. My shelves and work tables are covered in lidded jars, some half-filled others already empty with only the stain of color remaining. The concoctions inside the containers are of my own creation, rushed blends that stem from the years of formulas buried within some voracious alcove of my brain. The mixtures fulfill two criteria – they are archival and they are shaken to the consistency of the smoothest velvet butter for easy application.

I gave a good twelve hours "at the office", last night. Now it's morning, Maddie is off to the fourth grade, my wife to work. The boys are racing their respective cars on the track I bought Dylan Thomas for his recent week’s birthday gift. There is an electric anticipation of the evening’s parties and schedules to keep. All I want is to return to the studio. It’s Halloween; everyone is wearing a costume, but me. – DN

Monday, October 30, 2006

Why Didn't I Think of That?

Sketch artists are no longer a regular sight on the battlefield, having been long since replaced by omnipresent reporters and photojournalists. But following the 9/11 attacks and the US invasion of Iraq, one New York artist decided that the most important thing he could do was to report to Baghdad and serve as the art world's eye on the war. "With press credentials provided by the online artnet Magazine, Mumford made four trips to Iraq in 2003 and 2004, and he created hundreds of ink and watercolor drawings documenting many different experiences of the war."
Boston Globe 10/29/06

Click here to read the entire article.

This sounds like a fantastic "Travel Artist" assignment for making social commentary. - DN

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Make your own Pollock

I found this online and it is just too much fun!

Click here to visit, once there click the left mouse button to change colors. - DN

Friday, October 27, 2006

Dylan Thomas

Today is my youngest son’s third birthday. I often wonder what crosses the minds of my children. Their access to knowledge is now so much greater than I had in my youth. Yet, I grew-up in a nation that lived without fear while my early evolution took place in a world where stockbrokers were the ultimate anti-heroes; profit always took precedence over environment and mass-murderers didn’t stalk schools. Where as my nine year old daughter still cries whenever she watches footage of the crumbling twin towers on television.

Although our life goals may change, I believe the underlying focus is often hammered within us at an early age. I wanted to be happy and I wanted to meet others that felt the same way, believe it or not… I don’t think such a wish is all that common. My peers were engrossed in pursing anything that would turn a buck, somehow happiness got pushed aside. I wanted to do something that would stimulate my mind, while living in a home where no one had to worry about getting knocked-down for publicly questioning authority. I lived with fundamentalists and there were two all important rules to surviving each day:

1. Don’t do anything that makes the church look bad.
2. Don’t correct your father (no matter what).

As a child, I would go to sleep at night just to try and manipulate my dreams – to some extent I guess I was searching for a method to control my “lucid dreaming”. When I left home, thirteen years ago, I never imagined I’d one day rush to awake each morning in order to live-out the dreams I once attempted to create. Maybe that is why I rarely, if ever, get “blocked” in the pursuit of subject matter for my painting or daily blogs.

Although they definitely have their rambunctious moments, I believe my children are mostly well-behaved for the simple fact that they want to learn. What was perceived in my childhood home as trouble; I recognize in my own children as exploration. Perhaps that was my own youthful dream that lay dormant for so many years. Each day I awake to the adventure I have yet to create, sometimes this much freedom gets tight financially; but other moments it is the source of my income and subsequent windfall. Life is good and if there is only one birthday wish I hope for my young Dylan Thomas – I yearn for a life full of surprising adventures. – DN

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Those Chinese Make Everything!

The "White Pyramid" discovered via Google Earth

Pic from the 1940's of the White Pyramid

Somehow I missed the high school history lesson that mentioned pyramids in China:

During the second world war, the pilot of the American Air Force, James Gaussman, with his co-pilot, flow - through a technical defect at his machine -, for several times over a specific territory in China. What he later reported sounds completely unbelievable: "I banked to avoid a mountain and we came out over a level valley. Directly below was a gigantic white pyramid. It looked like something out of a fairy tale. It was encased in shimmering white. This could have been metal, or some sort of stone. It was pure white on all sides. The remarkable thing was the capstone, a huge piece of jewel-like material that could have been crystal. There was no way we could have landed, although we wanted to. We were struck by the immensity of the thing", the pilots reported.

On March 28, 1947 the "New York Times" reported about that discovery. In an interview with the newspaper, the former far east director of the Transworld Airlines, Maurice Sheahan, says he has seen 40 miles southwest of Xian a gigantic pyramid."I was impressed by its perfect pyramidal form and its great size," says Sheahan.

With the exception of a brief break to pick-up my daughter at school, I painted for a solid fourteen hours, yesterday. In that time I put the finishing touches on four landscapes, started two new paintings and stared at an unfinished figurative piece. All that work and yet I still question my artistic value to future generations. Will these huge blocks of time I spend within myself be worth the loss of time to my family?

I look at something as insurmountable as pyramids and wonder – How can my own work ever match their grandeur? Then I remember… we don’t have specific artists’ names for those structures. As far as the artists in history we do recall, such as the famous “Old Masters” – sure, Leonardo da Vinci only completed a handful of paintings and sculptures in his lifetime, but the on-going importance of his work is mostly based around his nearly prophetic theories and inventions (and of course books that take liberties with his shadowed life haven’t hurt him from a general PR stance, either). So does that mean art is always more about the original concept than technical prowess, historically? Why did the Chinese pyramids go relatively unmentioned in the western world until the 1940’s? Was it because it was more of the same? Been there, done that – in Egypt and Central America (as well as massive non-pyramidal burial mounds throughout the rest of the world). Is thinking outside the pyramid the motivating direction for art? – DN

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

End of the Beginning?

“I think a single sentence by Van Gogh is better than the whole work of all the art critics and art historians put together.” – John Olsen (Australian Artist)

In 2004, a great art periodical ended.

The New Art Examiner, the feisty Chicago-based monthly edited by Kathryn Hixon, was founded in the mid-1970s to provide much-needed coverage of a regional art scene. And like Art Papers, in the 1980s the Examiner developed into the unique hybrid that it is today: a national art magazine with a focus on regional artists and institutions. Despite the regular presence of commercial advertising, both magazines continue to receive significant support from various state and city arts councils, and from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). (In fact, they are two of only a handful of visual arts magazines to receive NEA funding after the agency's restructuring in 1995). Art Papers and the Examiner are presumably able to attract public funding because they cover artists who are seldom discussed in more commercial and New York City-based art magazines like Art in America and Artforum. If their review sections and funding sources ground Art Papers and the Examiner in their respective regions, then the special-issue format opens their feature pages to global issues such as feminism, supply-side aesthetics, the future of alternative spaces, youth culture and higher education. Being able to situate themselves within both "the local" and "the global" is, I think, the genius of the new Art Papers and the New Art Examiner. – Afterimage, Michael Starenko (1998)

New Art Examiner is long gone and Ms. Hixon has moved on to greener pastures; from what I have been able to piece together from online searches – it primarily involves freelancing her critic services as an essayist. In its heyday her magazine covered a unique sort of taboo in the art world - the truth. I’ll never forget the series of articles dedicated to “uncovering” the true nature of MFA programs across the nation; it likened them to a pyramid-scheme – a more succinct description has never before or after been more accurate (or seen in print).

New Art Examiner was a non-profit Midwest arts magazine based in Chicago. Non-profits are not that common in the cutthroat magazine market – and good ones are even rarer. Lasting from 1973 till its demise in 2004 (due to financial failures is my understanding); in addition to my annual subscription, I had a brief personal interaction with the journal. At my request, the magazine’s final editor, Kathryn Hixon, served as juror/curator for an international exhibition at the gallery I oversaw in 1999. Armed with the only bribe my own non-profit organization could muster, I mailed her a carousel of 300 slides, a check for $200 and a two-pound bag of M&M’s. She was exceedingly gracious and timely in her acceptance.

The art world seems somewhat empty with out my favorite periodical and its critics that strived for actual journalistic integrity. I’d send her two more bags of candy, today, if we could discuss the feasibility of creating a replacement high-quality arts magazine tomorrow. – DN

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tracking Influence

Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner

It is largely understood that much of Pollock’s work was influenced (if not directed) by Krasner. Did she give philosophy to his form or was it him giving form to her philosophy?

A few weeks after moving to New Mexico, I was offered a show at a gallery that was a bit more off the beaten path than I found comfortable. Needless to say the director saw the extensive collection of work on my website and it made an impression… so much so that I saw an advertisement for similar work by another artist at his gallery, eight months later. The basic scroll and tamrisk stick presentation, as well as, the literature references had been liberated from my mind to be used by another. Upon further inquiry, I learned that the artist-in-question was not a painter, but rather a poet. In a brain-storm-forum, she met with the gallery director and another individual and they “came-up-with” the scroll format. The actual paintings were tiny, 9”x12”, on average. Minuscule compared to my own much larger works. Her scrolls were not even paintings, so much as they were collages with her poetry or other more famous works scribbled across the front. At first I was shocked, next came despair… and finally relief. On one hand my idea had been stolen (keep in mind I stole it's basic concepts from the orient); on the other hand I had created something worthy of imitation.

I was visiting with someone I barely knew, at the farmer’s market, this morning. He mentioned my scrolls and said that since seeing mine, he had started making some as well. He asked where I learned the style and I simply declared – “I made it up”. Despite the obvious cross-cultural influences of my style, I’m still confident in the validity of my statement. I took my ideas from the Asian cultures in an attempt to expand the thoughts and training of my photo-realist youth; but it still feels as if the concepts that motivate my hands to move across rice paper, wood and canvas are as much mine as the children that play at my feet as I paint. – DN

Monday, October 23, 2006

Life is more than a memorial…

"The Vietnam Memorial used to be the First Great Work of Maya Lin. But that Lin is gone, transformed into Lin the Artist, who, despite having served on the panel that chose a design for the memorial at the World Trade Center site, wants to project an image of disengagement from the huge civic issues she raised. When she speaks as an artist, she's so determined to be out of the fight that it's not clear she has any fight left in her." Washington Post 10/22/06

Click here to read the entire piece.

The above article in yesterday’s Washington Post is basically an attack upon a credible artist by a naïve critic. The writer seems surprised that Maya Lin has become a minimalist artist, consumed with environmentalist ideals… isn’t that a fairly accurate description of both the Vietnam War Memorial and the controversy around its early 1980’s inception?

This statement particularly bothered me:

The Vietnam Memorial used to be the First Great Work of Maya Lin. But that Lin is gone, transformed into Lin the Artist…

Are we to believe that “Artist” is a dirty word in Washington? Is it that creating memorials is viewed as a higher-call than creating general social commentary?

I have long been bothered by what I call “the culture of death” in the American Southwest. Nearly half of all newspaper obituaries are anniversary notices for people dead for numerous years. Anniversary obits bother me… its not my culture, I recognize that some people are in the habit of holding annual wakes rather than ignoring the annual round-up of terrible events. I just happen to be one of those people that prefer not to look back, if I can avoid it.

In other regions that I have chosen to hang my hat, I have always laughed at the cars with booming stereos and back-window stickers (like Rockford) that advertise what is worth stealing inside the automobile. Here it’s different. The vast majority of personal vehicles that pass on New Mexico streets have some statement of political dissidence (Defoliate Bush). The remaining cars and trucks have memorials to dead loved ones. I realize that this is one of those deep and meaningful ethnic moments of enlightenment that is the very rationale behind my “Immersion Travel Art” movement; yet I can’t help but feel a cold finger down my spine every time I witness a 3’x3’ memorial to a dead father or son on the back-window of a tricked-out Hyundai Tiburon.

Having seen it in person while fulfilling my Smithsonian Fellowship in 1999/2000, I have great respect for the Vietnam War memorial. Yet, I also recognize the importance of searching for and teaching the meaning of life; without invoking the realm of death and its continuous threat that lingers over our brief lives. - DN

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Russians are Coming

A group of young men ransacked one of Moscow’s best known modern art galleries on Saturday, ripping paintings from walls and damaging equipment, its staff said.

The attack was launched on the Marat Gelman gallery a day after photograph montages it had displayed caricaturing the Russian and U.S. Presidents were seized by Russian customs at a Moscow airport.

But British gallery owner Matthew Cullern Bown said he believed they were unhappy about the satirical representation of Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush in semi-naked poses along with Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Reuters 10/21/2006

I have trouble imagining an attack on a gallery being anything other than an attack on the freedom of speech (does the new Russia even have that?). Recently, a prominent Russian journalist was assassinated after criticizing the Russian President – without any kind of serious follow-up investigation. Russia is not now nor ever been, a beacon of freedom and diplomacy. That said, I found it interesting that the images in dispute included Putin, BUSH and BIN LADEN. Would the same action have taken place if Putin had not been mocked? At times like this I recall one of El Presidente Bush’s famous slip-of-the-tongues:

“A dictatorship would be a lot easier." - Texas Governor George W. Bush, July 1998

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."
- President-elect George W. Bush, December 18, 2000

"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it."
- President George W. Bush, July 26, 2001

Why would George W make this statement three times within three years? Is it that he thinks about it more often than the rest of us care to admit? Remember what buddies Putin and Bush were during Dubya’s 1st year in office? Now think about how far back Russia has stepped since the breakdown of the Soviet Union and the current administration of Putin. George nicknamed him “Pootie-Poot”. Bush irreverently named himself “Dubya” – yeah this guy’s a genius and the weirdness of the last six years is only eclipsed by humanity’s loss of freedoms. – DN

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Academic Cowboy Art

Yesterday, I dropped-off three new paintings to my gallery in Albuquerque. Once again, I felt pleased knowing I had found a place that remained completely free from the constraints of stereotypical “cowboy art”.

In the past, I’ve made some rather inflammatory comments concerning my low regard for “cowboy art” and the contemporary artists that prolong its tired existence. A couple Sundays ago, the New York Times ran an article in the travel section promoting Santa Fe as a destination. One of the writer’s comments stated that fall was the best time to visit the region, because the aspens change color, the tourists go home and the galleries put away the “cowboy art” and show the contemporary pieces more prevalently (alluding to the fact that this is the real art). Well, the letters started rolling in and were printed in last Sunday’s section. The consensus that I seemed to read was – don’t insult “cowboy art”. Needless to say this bothered me. Do that many people prefer the “idea” of the west over the actuality?

To find out, I spent the next few hours surfing the term “cowboy art” and ran across an archive of a blog about intelligent cowboys. The question was raised – “Do they exist?”

Another poster offered a “reply” in the comments section that likened the cowboy mentality to more of a reference of roaming. This seems a far cry from the media stereotype of dumb “George Bush-types” that are only happy when they are being destructive. Destruction didn’t build the West (well, maybe it did if you’re a Native American - considering you lost so much land to white urbanization). The cowboys’ need to roam and their ability to adapt was what helped populate the world west of the Mississippi. Granted it wasn’t the safest place, but aren’t all vagrants viewed suspiciously for expected unsavory behavior.

These… ahem… deep… ahem… questions regarding the essence of a cowboy led me to try and google the term “academic cowboy”. Unfortunately, the search simply exposed 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 illicit a strong reaction. These days, however, 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 with enough money to own a ranch. Until he ran for Presidential Office in 2000, this guy hadn’t even visited most of the western states (much less the glorious national parks of the west).

While in high school I dated a girl whose older brother was a truck driver. I remember sitting in her family’s living room, while her accountant father philosophized on the nature of the contemporary trucker as the last of the cowboy breed. At the time, I wasn’t really sure if this belief came from one too many viewings of “Smoky and the Bandit” or if he was trying to justify his oldest son’s career move.

Now, though, I wonder if to a certain extent he was correct. While I don’t attest to the legitimacy of 4,000 mile/week truckers on uppers as the remaining heroes of the western range, I do find myself asking if they're not a bit closer than today’s hobby-ranchers of the white-collar business world. Are dedicated travelers filling the void of the contemporary cowboy? If so how do we document this evolution?

Despite occasionally wearing a cowboy hat and driving a pick-up, during my youth, I was the furthest thing from a cowboy that you could get. I had a number of friends that rode the rodeo circuit while I never even rode a horse. Yet they have never left the town in which we grew-up and I have lived like a vagabond across the west for the past decade. I have actually lived in the traditionally “western” Montana and New Mexico for a few years and spent enough time in Wyoming and South Dakota to arguably classify for residency.

I’ll reel this back in for a moment, though, and return my concentration to the art world. Is the guy that makes a point to wear a ten-gallon hat, while painting, a true cowboy? Are we to believe that painting horses on cattle drives or Native Americans in full 16th century regalia is still as important today as it was 150 years ago? Sure, there’s always the rodeo-crowd or the New York transplant that will pay to see the dream, painted in oil, every evening over their dining room buffet; but does marketability truly legitimize the creation? How do those ancient “western” images compare to visions of modern ranchers shooting wolves reintroduced by government officials that don’t live in (or understand) the west? How relevant are they to contemporary Indians trying to maintain their culture in the face of disappearing languages and reservation life? Where are the paintings of conflicted assimilation facing both the American Cowboy and Native American? I’m sure they do exist, but not anywhere that an east coast tourist may be forced to face reality. - DN

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

It is only funny, because it is not mine... but man is it funny!

Pablo Picasso's "dream" painting has turned into a $139 million nightmare for Steve Wynn.

In an accident witnessed by a group that included Barbara Walters and screenwriters Nora Ephron and Nicholas Pileggi, Wynn accidentally poked a hole in Picasso's 74-year-old painting, "Le Reve," French for "The Dream."

A day earlier, Wynn had finalized a record $139 million deal for the painting of Picasso's mistress, Wynn told The New Yorker magazine

The accident occurred as a gesturing Wynn, who suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that affects peripheral vision, struck the painting with his right elbow, leaving a hole the size of a silver dollar in the left forearm of Marie-Theresa Walter, Picasso's 21-year-old mistress.

"Oh shit, look what I've done," Wynn said, according to Ephron, who gave her account in a blog published on Monday.

Wynn paid $48.4 million for the Picasso in 1997 and had agreed to sell it to art collector Steven Cohen. The $139 million would have been $4 million higher than the previous high for a work of art, according to The New Yorker.

Cosmetics magnate Ronald Lauder paid $135 million in July for Gustav Klimt's 1907 portrait "Adele Bloch-Bauer I."

Wynn plans to restore "Le Reve" and keep it.
Las Vegas Review-Journal (10/17/2006)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Nomad Art

Despite over 3,000 years of use– there is no word for “home” in Hebrew. House (bayit) is a common term… but not home. For nomads it’s not so much about land as it is about place. Zionism didn’t start as a religious movement, it was hijacked by one. Zionism started as the concept of having a safe community for a specific group of people (the Jews) to reside. Some early Zionist programs envisioned a Jewish homeland outside Palestine (Argentina was on the list). Others pictured a bi-national state. Still others imagined there could be no where else but the land on either side of the Jordan River – we all know who won this argument.

Recent time spent in the intense study and reflection of the High Holy Days has led my mind to thoughts of living abroad... even more often than usual. While I am enamored by the concept of “making aliyah” or return to Israel, I’m not sure that it is in the cards for me and my family – at least not permanently. Having said all that, I am still in love with the rich loaded meaning of Israel as a place. I have friends that leave this week for Jerusalem. They have all been before, innumerable times for some. This trip, Sean has an open-ended ticket in order to find work and remain there for a couple years. Ben and his wife will visit for two weeks, before Laura returns home to Santa Fe and her husband stays behind for an extra bit of time to volunteer with the IDF. They are just a few of many that make endless trips to Israel. What is the explanation for the magic behind a place that draws so many year after year?

The exploration of enchantment seems like more than enough inspiration for a series of paintings. Maybe that’s what each of these places I paint have become – individual series within a singular theme. I’ve always looked at my work as a collection of smaller groups of paintings within each locale, rather than as the more obvious larger subjects. Maybe it is a fear of reinforcing stereotypes. Regardless, the “bounce” (as I call it) is the ultimate theme. We are nomads at heart, quite possibly by design. We live for the bounce, as well as the subsequent unending roll.

I’ve mentioned before that my daughter wants Paris, while my wife dreams of Florence and I’m intrigued by southeast Asia. Life is brief and the itinerary is extensive. We’d all enjoy a few years in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Maybe they’ll quit lobbing missiles at each other long enough for the opportunity. – DN

Friday, October 13, 2006

Occasionally, the desert turns green with more than a hint of sunflowers...

Looking north from my studio

Close-up, looking south from my studio

My mountain rising from the southside of the studio

View of my mountain south of the studio

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Last Evening, I Saw the World

Wednesday at 10pm, after the Colbert Report ended, I walked outside for my nightly taste of cool desert air. I climbed up the back of my Land Rover and lay down on the roof for a planetarium-esque view of the world outside my own. Despite my occasional complaints about this place, I adore nighttime in the high desert. When I am looking across this clear starlit sky, clichéd questions of significance are actually not what come to mind. Instead circumstance is given life and I wonder how many other individuals will have the opportunity to live within a perfect moment, such as I felt last evening.

I take an arrogant approach to the world. We each have one life to live and it is ours to consciously utilize every moment. If I didn’t live for my own pleasure and the solace I seek in the cultural education of my children; then I would rarely dream in Technicolor. I wouldn’t know to wish for a utopia with the space and wildlife of Montana combined with the starry desert nights and culinary delights of New Mexico. I’d have never seen a thousand shooting stars over the course of endless months while driving towards that perfect hunting spot on the eastern front of the northern Rockies at four in the morning. My children would not have witnessed the migration of bighorn sheep as they circumnavigate the crackling icy shores of Banff’s Lake Louise in early spring. I’d be unaware of the cool salty beauty of Seattle, the city’s horrendous lack of driver-friendly signage and the fantastic beer-battered fish and chips sold on the pier that seem to create a singular life experience from a simple visit to the waterfront.

You see, the magic of the high desert night sky lies in its vast mirror-like qualities. Sadly, I don’t recall ever being able to actually view such anomalies as Orion’s Belt on such a regular basis in other regions I’ve lived. On a clear high desert evening, one can behold neighboring galaxies, whilst remaining a fulfilled bystander to the terra firma underneath. – DN

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Small words.....

Throughout high school, I had dreams of becoming an animator. I liked the potential paycheck. At the time, I was unaware of the truly amazing life-changing qualities of fine art. Sure I painted, and often in a narrative format, but like most young painters – the work was largely uninspiring.

During my senior year of high school, while mending a broken heart, I made a new friend. It was in one of those classes that are so boring even the teacher occasionally naps. Out of desperation, one befriends anyone sitting nearby; I began a series of long conversations with a junior named “Kristina”. She was a seemingly shy and very smart girl that wasn’t hard to look at if one could get around her “nerdy-quality-looks”. Ironically, she was in love with a rough-neck, an older boy that had been expelled from school the previous year for fighting or striking a teacher or some other such adolescent nonsense. School came easily to her and the concept that public education had some level of value was lost on her rambling mind. Maybe her disregard for institutions came from living with her grandmother, or perhaps it was some other Freudian misstep by her abandoning parents; but whatever “it” was – she seemed freer than anyone else I knew at the time, unregulated by the rules of our conventional Midwest lives. I found her exhilarating – if not a little mad.

One boring morning, while the teacher was allowing us to grade each other’s tests (a ridiculous notion that caused everyone to miraculously do quite well in the Advanced Biology course); she told me that she had visions. Prophetic dreams that she claimed were a common part of her life. It was the first and only time she ever mentioned this “revelation” and although I didn’t place much stock in the concept of her pseudoscience, I never forgot the story she told.

I see you, older now, in a studio - your studio. Your wife is there and she doesn’t look like the girls you follow now. She has dark hair and dark eyes, but the two of you are not alone – a small blond-haired boy is riding his tricycle in circles around your paintings and easels. There are many unfinished works lined against the walls, you jump back and forth between them, all the while selecting brushes from a jar on the center table and avoiding the wheels of your son’s tricycle. You laugh and call him Tommy.

At that moment, I don’t know what sounded more ridiculous to me – a career as a fulltime painter, being married, or having a son named Tommy. I knew where I thought I wanted to be in life and that didn’t sound remotely correct.

Although, I still don’t place much stock in premonitions or other psychic visions – I must admit I was a bit dumbfounded when I stopped to look around my studio the other evening and saw my lovely brunette wife looking on as I painted on multiple works and my young son, Dylan Thomas rode his tricycle around our legs… his cotton blond hair flying as he turned sharp circles.

I still don’t believe that Kristina “saw” anything all those years ago. Furthermore, I know that our little discussion did little if anything to make me turn from cartoons to raw paint on canvas. My appreciation for fine art came from other living influences in my daily college life: Ronald Clayton, Lane Fabrick, Edwin Smith, Kathryn Ellinger-Smith, and most importantly Gregory Jones. There is a nagging feeling, though, that influence is still influence. Her words didn’t make me become a painter, but perhaps she influenced how I lived my life as one. – DN

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Early Influence

I didn’t always want to be a painter. As a young child, I spent all my time designing spaceships and rockets via my drawings and LEGO blocks. I grew-up being lauded with stories of heroism and intellect regarding the distant cousins of my mother’s family. My great uncle was Gus Grissom, a test pilot that later became one of the first American Astronauts to die in the US Space program. A handful of his family continued on with NASA completing such jobs as heat shield testing and the like.

After many years of nagging, when I was twelve, my family finally made the drive from Missouri to Florida for a family vacation that included Disney World, the beach and Cape Canaveral (Kennedy Space Center). It was near the end of the trip when we finally made the pilgrimage to Kennedy. The excursion took place on a rainy day that could afford no visit to the ocean or intrude upon our fun at the Magic Kingdom. I recall a lot of complaints from my folks – the bus didn’t quite get close enough to the launch pad, we didn’t meet anyone who “worked” for NASA, just tour guides, and you couldn’t touch anything (though in retrospect that seems like a VERY good policy). In their defense, nothing was really that great about the tour and the moment I remember most was the time we spent in the touristy gift shop. But I was a star-struck child and their negativity led me to leave behind my dreams of soaring and pursue other interests. I don’t regret my life’s decisions, but I do recognize the moments they were made. - DN

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Lonely Hunter

Knowledge is power. – Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

If knowledge is power and power corrupts- if eating of the tree of knowledge was the original sin- then can enlightenment come only at the price of damnation?El Club Dumas by Arturo Perez Reverte

The wandering artist continuously lusts for the next dominion. The challenge of change and the passion for success are unequivocally bound for the artist that wants no other career. No other philosophies but those discovered along the path to enlightenment. Not so much forgetting one’s origins, as improving the future. But will these discoveries actually impede the visual interpreter from finding solace with those left behind? Or is the artist’s need to maintain a state of arrogance too excessive an infringement upon what another might traditionally understand as the only authority – humility to maintain the status quo.

The moves, the change, the desire to learn from those that are foreign from our own beginnings – these cravings upset the conventional lives of Joe America. Exploring tolerance and meandering through society can set the stage for distrust with the locales. Skepticism regarding my true intent. Can I continuously attempt to overcome the label of “outsider”, in each new place? Is this the approach of the traditional anthropologist - or the artist-as-anthropologist? This is not me. This is me. Will it always remain my own choice?

Is the destiny of the travel artist, ultimately the fate of the lonely hunter? A passion designed to forever search-out a quarry that will never be found, not unlike the poem by William Sharp (writing as Fiona MacLeod) - though the poem searches out a person and I a place. Does this condition of constant relocation stipulate that I am shut-off, in my state, from mankind? From the very societies I wish to encroach? The cultures I long to be influenced by – the places and people, I selfishly wish to leave with my own mark, before departing. I partake in the pain of these alien civilizations; attempt to contribute to their joy, but as a matter of self-infliction never consent to remain – always imagining the next adventure. Where is the damnation for this knowledge of unfamiliar cultures and ideas? Or is the realization of so many traditions and an inability to choose - the actual damnation? – DN

The Lonely Hunter by Fiona MacLeod
Green branches, green branches, I see you beckon; I follow!
Sweet is the place you guard, there in the rowan-tree hollow.
There he lies in the darkness, under the frail white flowers,
Heedless at last, in the silence, of these sweet midsummer hours.
But sweeter, it may be, the moss whereon he is sleeping now,
And sweeter the fragrant flowers that may crown his moon-white brow:
And sweeter the shady place deep in an Eden hollow
Wherein he dreams I am with him -- and, dreaming, whispers, " Follow ! "
Green wind from the green-gold branches, what is the song you bring ?
What are all songs for me, now, who no more care to sing?
Deep in the heart of Summer, sweet is life to me still,
But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill.
Green is that hill and lonely, set far in a shadowy place;
White is the hunter's quarry, a lost-loved human face:
O hunting heart, shall you find it, with arrow of failing breath,
Led o'er a green hill lonely by the shadowy hound of Death?
Green branches, green branches, you sing of a sorrow olden,
But now it is midsummer weather, earth-young, sun-ripe, golden:
Here I stand and I wait, here in the rowan-tree hollow,
But never a green leaf whispers, "Follow, oh, Follow, Follow !"
O never a green leaf whispers, where the green-gold branches swing:
O never a song I hear now, where one was wont to sing.
Here in the heart of Summer, sweet is life to me still,
But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

New Work

New work has been posted on the portfolio website. Click here to view. - DN

Friday, October 06, 2006

Let the Representation Run

Click on the above image to see the full size ad.

I'm actually pretty impressed. I've had representation with other galleries in other states, but this is the first time that a gallery has jumped into marketing my work within a week of signing the contract. - DN

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Fear Us

My last posting reflected my dismay with a world perplexed by fear and a nagging desire to place blame. Yesterday, Santa Fe High was locked-down, then later evacuated after a suspicious device was found in the boy’s restroom of the Fine Arts Building. The package was a box with exposed wires and contained a battery pack, written on the top was the word – “BOOM!” After disrupting an entire day of school which included requiring parents to pick-up over 2000 students, earlier than planned… the bomb was declared a ruse.

Today, Culpeper School district in Virginia canceled classes for over 7000 students after a bomb threat. I taught for five years in two different public school districts and I recall bomb threats and similiar acts of violent intimidation occurring every year, regardless of the location. Nothing ever came of the threats, unless you count disrespectful students getting justification for their inappropriate behavior. On one morning prior to the beginning of classes, I remember a voice mail from the principal telling all staff to “pay attention” to a specific student that had been in a fight the previous afternoon (and was not suspended – did you catch that). The student had already been seen on campus, although it was still early morning and he had a rifle in his truck. Faculty was instructed not to interfere with the student but to remain aware of where he was at all times. That was it… nothing was ever done in regard to the fact that he had a gun within the vicinity of campus.

Harry Potter promotes school shootings: A woman who maintains that the Harry Potter books are an attempt to teach children witchcraft is pushing for the second time to have them banned from school libraries.

Laura Mallory, a mother of four from the Atlanta suburb of Loganville, told a Georgia Board of Education officer that the books by British author J.K. Rowling, sought to indoctrinate children as Wiccans, or practitioners of religious witchcraft.

Referring to the recent rash of deadly assaults at schools, Mallory said books that promote evil - as she claims the Potter ones do - help foster the kind of culture where school shootings happen.

That would not happen if students instead read the Bible, Mallory said. Daily Mail (UK) 10/04/2006

One thing I’ve learned from these travels is that blind fear is universal, as is corruptibility. What if what we fear most is the loss of permanence? Is it easier to just blame the “foreigners” or "ungodly" than to follow through on the task of creating a responsible citizenry within our own nation? Knowledge is always the best weapon, banning books won't fix the problems we got. Can we learn from the past mistakes of civil liberty failures, without tossing aside a progressive future? - DN

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Texas strikes again! (at least those that cow-tail to it)

FRISCO, Texas Frisco School trustees aren't renewing the contract of a veteran art teacher who was reprimanded because a student saw a nude sculpture during a museum visit. Sydney McGee has been on paid administrative leave from Fisher Elementary School since Friday. McGee's attorney says the teacher's troubles started after taking 89 students on a school field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art in April. The principal later admonished McGee about the trip, telling her a parent complained about a student seeing nude art. Copyright 2006 Associated Press.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House approved a bill Thursday that would grant legal status to President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program with new restrictions. Republicans called it a test before the election of whether Democrats want to fight or coddle terrorists. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Heather Wilson, R-New Mexico, that give legal status under certain conditions to Bush's warrantless wiretapping of calls and e-mails between people on U.S. soil making calls or sending e-mails and those in other countries.

Under the measure, the president would be authorized to conduct such wiretaps if he:

-- Notifies the House and Senate intelligence committees and congressional leaders.

-- Believes an attack is imminent and later explains the reason and names the individuals and groups involved.

-- Renews his certification every 90 days.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press.

The first news story is more of the same in unnecessary censorship. Prudish behavior simply for the sake of prudish behavior only breeds ignorance. The kid saw a marble booby or hoo-haa... therefore, the world is now a worse place. Its Texas, so I'm pretty sure, the child has seen a few firearms lying around the house - I have them in my home as well, but I also have paintings with exposed breasts... I'm very western cosmopolitan! Are we to believe that the complaining parent now sleeps with a nightlight and loaded shotgun out of fear of being attacked by their recently-corrupted child?

The second article represents the ever popular “shoot first and ask questions later approach”. I’m familiar with the mentality that says “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear” – but who decides right and wrong? Everyone watch your own ass, these two articles say quite a bit regarding the mentality currently controlling our nation’s government. - DN