Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I like pie...

The night before Thanksgiving, I ran into the neighborhood supermarket for white syrup (KARO for non-southerners). Simmer fresh diced sweet potatoes in white syrup and brown sugar for an hour or so to get that wonderful waxy consistency on the yams. While searching the isles, I bumped into the parents of one of my daughter’s friends. The wife was discussing her last minute pilgrimage for a turkey, when I mentioned that we were making way too much food for just our small family; and that my wife had spent the better part of the day baking five pies. The husband interrupted to ask, “Five pies?” Wanting to hear the rest of his wife’s story, I simply replied, “I like pie”, and turned back to let her finish. He immediately began waling with laughter. It was at that moment that I knew I wouldn’t live this one down. We finished the conversation and separated, they to find ingredients for dressing and I to search for white syrup; but it is a small store and every few minutes we would meet-up again on the random isle and he would start to laugh and wave an apology. What can I say – I like pie.

I must admit I’ve always had a bit of a problem with obsessing. I’m that person that starts the car then gets out again, checking the front door just one last time before heading towards town. My wife thinks it’s hilarious; humorous in the way that the guy in the grocery store found my admission to pie obsession to be a riot. I wash my hands like fifty times a day and whenever someone exits a restroom, I have to tell myself to refrain from asking if they remembered to wash their hands, too. Yet, I distinctly recall riding in a friend’s hunting truck on numerous mornings, having just handled dead pheasant and now eating cold pizza with unwashed hands. I also remember a morning two years ago, when my hands were covered in blood after field dressing a mule deer and I ate an entire bag of guacamole chips without a second thought. So I began to think about quarks we all have and if mine are so damn funny to everyone, there has to be someone out there with a worse one that could keep me laughing for years. I did some google searches on strange obsessions and this was the best one I found:

I have this problem that no-one takes seriously. I can't help it. It started when I was a kid. But I like going to parks and touching the ducks. But in November a park keeper caught me fiddling with one, and called the police. I had to lie and say I was rescuing it from drowning. They didn't believe me, I could tell, but they couldn't arrest me because it wasn't a crime. Anyway, some bastard told the local press, and I was in the paper. There was no picture but my name was in the same sentence as 'duck molesting.' I'm so embarrassed, I'm going to lose my job because I'm a vet. Once, someone bought a duck in that had been attacked by a dog. I asked everyone to leave the room so as not to shock it. Really I just wanted to touch it. It died not long after. Anyway, I saw a shrink and told him but he laughed. He asked me why ducks? I said because they had chubby cheeks and looked cute. Also they are slippery when wet. I like that. I like squirrels too, but I've never tried to fiddle with one. I might soon if I don't get help. - Quack, quack (2/15/00) - Lionel, England, Age 28

You’ll be laughing about this the next time you see a duck or an Englishman holding a duck, you just wait. – DN

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Living with memories...

If you experienced a painful or traumatic event, would you want a pill which could lessen the bad memories of what happened? That option might soon be here because of a drug called propranolol. – “60 Minutes”, 11/26/2006

What is the old saying: “Those that don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

My memories both haunt and sustain me. It is the effort of learning and growing from the memory of past actions that instills itself as a muse in my creative process. Would 9/11 reoccur if enough of us that chose to forget it could just pop a pill? Would we eventually dig-up another Bush boy for election if we could forget that the Iraq war has now outlasted our involvement in WWII?

I’ve been writing on the same unfinished novel for five years. The entire basis for the book is overcoming a traumatic situation. If I could just take a pill, I’m sure my life would feel more pleasant – but I didn’t actually heal. Don’t get me wrong, as you’ve read from previous blog posts, I have little trouble justifying the ability to “self-medicate”, but I’m not crazy enough to believe that process can be continuous or even… enough. That is the true purpose of the memories and the writing for me; to find a way to heal – not to forget. – DN

Monday, November 27, 2006

Places Not Forgotten

I had a friend in college that didn’t seem to have much going for him. Jason was short, had a downright scary resemblance to Gilbert Godfrey and spent seven years in college just to get an undergraduate degree in Biology. Everyone liked Jay, except those that didn’t. Unfortunately for him, that included his St. Louis-based postal worker parents. He was forced to return to them every summer between the spring and fall school terms and I believe it caused him to drag out his education before feeling as if he had to make a permanent return home. In retrospect, I tend to believe his life was not turning out at the time as he may have once planned it.

But my opinion really doesn’t matter; because Jason had a dream. During the four years I knew him, he never stopped talking about it. To anyone that would listen, he’d say, “I’m a biology major because I want to find the cure for AIDS”. It was always a kind of a far-off pipe-dream; but what true dream isn’t? I don’t know what Jason is doing these days. I’m not positive I care for reasons that are anything but selfish. I probably kept Jay around in college because, at the time, his seemingly horrible existence lent a shimmer to my own less than stellar accomplishments. Though, I must admit that I also enjoyed his ability to dream.

I have thrown away more friendships and relationships than I care to recall. Occasionally, the loss of a friend was cognitive; a good opportunity to grow beyond their reach. Often, though, I fear the reasons were more about personal laziness. It’s possible that many of the instances were mutual, but I still often wonder if my approach to life and art would be different if I had more than the one or two people that I could steadily count upon; then again I guess that’s one or two more people to hold me upright than most others may have available. All of the above instances can equally be stated for a place or moment in time. What places have I stayed, that I fled under the banner of personal growth? I can immediately recall the psyche damaging environments that surmounted to relief at the moment I left them; but what of the other situations? That’s what it is you know… a place is really nothing more than a situation. When I paint the landscape of my current existence, I’m simply painting my situation and the emotions it elicits. – DN

Friday, November 24, 2006


I have had the same thought running through my head for three days. Something I have heard repeatedly, but only just now paid attention to:

Restore me to beauty.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Savvy Populist

"There's actually an odd correlation between these ideas: poetry is either inadequate, even immoral, in the face of human suffering, or it's unprofitable, hence useless. Either way, poets are advised to hang our heads or fold our tents. Yet in fact, throughout the world, transfusions of poetic language can and do quite literally keep bodies and souls together - and more." The Guardian (UK) 11/20/06

My youngest son, Dylan Thomas, loves music. One of his favorites is “We’re Having a Party” by Sam Cook. When my daughter was very young we convinced her to ignore her nighttime fears of sleeping alone, by playing the Robert Cray tune “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”. She still considers it HER song. Songs make money… songs are respectable.

In Santa Fe, there are a number of bookstores that specialize in Art Books. Unfortunately, the criteria for admission to their shelves involve one of the following:

  1. Dead
  2. Native American (for the tourists)
  3. Thomas Kincade

I’m still not won-over with the idea of prints, but I like the concept of making a book featuring numerous reproductions of my work. I’ve tossed around the idea of creating a couple art books of my own work. Each book is a different locale, with paintings in place of photographs and descriptions of place and the reason for making the painting in place of narrative.

Although, I suppose, I’d have to do one of the following to sell the book from the shelf of a retail shop:

  1. Die
  2. Lie about my heritage
  3. Paint Crap

I’m not really that pessimistic… no that’s not true, either. – DN

Monday, November 20, 2006

When it's difficult to leave, even with effort...

Thursday is already Thanksgiving, which is to say, this week is Thanksgiving. I know many of my reader are from outside the United States, so I’ll put my favorite holiday into perspective for you. Very little outside of Thanksgiving preparations will get done from now till Thursday; Friday through Sunday is reserved for recovery time. As Americans, we are notorious for our all-you-can-eat-style culinary habits, so let’s put it this way – Thanksgiving is the mother of all buffets.

Last week, I returned to the mountains outside Taos for a rather chilly roadside picnic and brief adventure down random unmarked mountain side-roads. This is something I have done since my youth. My childhood friend Gaelon earned his driver’s license a year before me and I recall many trips in his father’s Buick across the dusty southern Missouri terrain without a map or general sense of direction. The hills were low-rising and we mainly sought them out for the purpose of jumping with a family sedan that had known nobler times before we came along. These last few years, I have aspired towards mountains, rather than hills; with the thought of finding something over the rise or around the bend always at the forefront of my mind.

Taos was a natural direction for my meandering conscious last week and when I saw the sign for a slightly-hidden Buddhist Monastery, I knew which way to turn the car. Along the washed-out gravel road, I passed a middle-aged black woman sitting in a fold-out camping chair at the edge of the road overlooking a narrow stream. She was simply staring out across the woods, listening to the water, I assumed. When I returned about an hour later, she had not moved. Further up the mountain I drove-by an older truck hanging halfway into the road, parked in a crooked haphazard manner, though the engine was still running. After that, I continued up the mountain at a snail’s pace, waiting to cross paths with anyone else that had chosen to rapidly exit society. It took a bit of time, the radio was playing an old Nat King Cole cassette I had bought at Goodwill (with a recent stash of book purchases) and I was beginning to wonder if the sign for the monastery had sufficiently described the hidden path.

After a serious of fictional dead-end signs, I finally reached my journey’s end. The road was blocked by a cattle guard, heavy gate, barbed-wire and innumerable “no-trespassing” postings. Not the open-armed invitation of non-violence that I expected. I stood at the fence for a while, thinking about the last time I was disappointed by contemporary Buddhism.

Natalie Goldberg is a locally famous Taos author that has written a number of books revolving around the subject of being a Jewish-Buddhist writer. In fact, I’m not sure I have ever encountered another author that has written so many books about writing, but no books about anything else. Not long after arriving in New Mexico, I attempted to listen to the audio version of her tome “The Long Road Home”. I easily grow tired of Top-40 radio and am easily angered by AM-Talk so I often listen to audio books, while painting. I’m sure the actual writing of the book was not horrific; otherwise, I doubt she’d be so well published. Unfortunately, the author was reading her own work and after a single tape (out of 8), I had to open the door and chuck the entire set out into the cactus. Goldberg’s monotone voice pushed me to the edge of convulsions. Her nasal Brooklyn accent though endearing when I hear it from some of my friends, made me want to order a deli sandwich just so I could asphyxiate on the large kosher pickle. Worst of all, I really wanted to enjoy her book. Why oh why, couldn’t she afford a decent actor to read in her place? But perhaps that is the way of the Taos Buddhist.

After taking in the limited sights of the monastery, I returned to my vehicle and began the descent towards home. I was disappointed with the outcome of the trip; I had expected something better than a modernized fortress, dotted with prefab buildings. Near the entrance I returned the wave of another woman walking up the road to the mountain retreat. She had the familiar white earbud wires running from her head to a pocketed iPod. I assumed it was her Subaru, I pulled past as I looked for oncoming traffic before rejoining the asphalt trail to civilization, though I doubted I had ever really left. – DN

Sunday, November 19, 2006

First there were artists...

Torah (Five Books of Moses) starts with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It has been said that G-d was creating and destroying worlds prior to this one and that Torah starts with Bet rather than Aleph, to signify that there is something that came before Genesis. Now there are all sorts of Kabbalistic teachings that expand upon this idea, which I don’t care to get into, because I have trouble buying into much if any of Kabbalah. While I like the idea of becoming esoteric, I have problems binding it to acceptable concepts of spirituality. Ironically, I have found the ability to reach transcendence within my own acts of creation. What did I learn through these acts that led to new moments of creative energy?

I live to produce a painting a day. It’s gotten to the point that I have to produce like a factory just to keep-up with my exhibition schedule. I already know for the end of my 2007 exhibition season, I have to have a minimum of 80-85 scroll paintings set aside just for two solo museum shows. The combination of ongoing sales, spring/summer gallery exhibits through the year and set-up/tear-down times for the two fall shows will overlap in the month of November; hence I need a cache of scroll paintings set-aside. It’s not a problem; this is what I live for. I love the deadline. I need the pressure to keep the production rolling.

I wonder how a novel written on-line would work. Say a page a day, much like my painting a day philosophy works. Written roughly five days a week to allow for holidays and travel and the like, it would take roughly two years to complete a 400-page opus. I’m sure I’m not the first to think of this journal-like approach to the writing of that one special book hiding one’s mind. The page-a-day concept though does something else – it tosses out the idea of a plan. Sure the author has a general understanding of the direction of the story; but there is not an opportunity to fine-tune or work on earlier sections to adjust characters or timelines. It’s very similar to the manner in which I paint. I have a loose idea of what I want to say within a series of paintings, but I make new discoveries while in the process of creation. I take those new concepts and add them to the next work, because I refuse to go back and change the painting. I don’t know where or when my own work will end with one series and begin anew on another. This returns me to one of the most controversial concepts of creation and monotheism – does G-d as a creator have a plan? Direction, yes; fixed destiny including a neatly packaged ending? I say no. Artists can’t work that way and keep the material fresh. Artists see where the work takes them, rather than taking the work to a predetermined ending. As you can see, I’m not big on pre-destiny; I grew-up in southeast Missouri. For all intents and purposes, I didn’t have much of a destiny to look forward to; so I made my own. Living in Montana confirmed for me that G-d was nothing short of an artist and artists of this caliber work for the sake of the process, not the ending. We’re all on this ride together, enjoy it while it lasts. – DN

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Building Blocks at Home or Elsewhere

My work is fairly conservative compared to the majority of what one might find in New York or Chicago. I’m more interested in the process of building my own materials and telling a narrative than shocking or striking fear into the hearts of mothers around the world. That’s not to say I’m not interested in highly conceptual artworks, I presently just don’t feel the need to work in that vein, myself.

Recently, my art has shown an aptitude for utilizing abstracted geometric color-fields to create recognizable forms; prior to this style I spent a month or so implementing print-making processes across the face of my paintings. To put it more simply, I am able to easily fill my studio time with the ongoing process of exploration within the innumerable mediums of two-dimensional art.

All of this leads me to wonder if the same can be said for subject. I mentioned before that Andrew Wyeth has been quite content to spend his life in one or two locations without any fear of losing inspiration for subject matter. A photographer friend of mine, Bernard Mendoza, spent thirteen years documenting the lives of Orthodox Jewish Communities across America. After a number of years exhibiting the completed collection, he sold the entire series to the Dallas Museum of Art. He has a laundry list of anecdotes regarding his years of study within a singular subject. Is this type of immersion art similar to the travel immersion theories I apply to my own work? It does seem as if the same methods are utilized when approaching subject and the narrative presentation of the final product.

I’m sure there are scores of conceptual artists that spend years exploring a specific genre or subject. I’m just not sure I’m designed to work in that manner for more than brief period of time. Sure I have ideas for different individualized projects, but I’m enamored by the process of building stories from the lives of those I encounter and for me, the most addictive material is paint, paper and canvas. – DN

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Who Own's My Town

Nov. 10: A satellite photo shows a giant, 87,000 square foot version of KFC's new logo in the Nevada desert.

Last week, a Santa Fe mini-mall sign advertising Albertsons, Office Max and various other stores burned. If you slow down enough, while driving, the dried drips of flame retardant foam are still visible. I don’t know how it lit, I’m sure it was probably something non-descript like a common electrical fire; but the first thing I thought of was Edward Abbey’s Monkey Wrench Gang.

Back in my old American Heartland stomping grounds, someone may need to “pull an Abbey” to save the rolling hills and prairies from commercial destruction. For all the quaint down-home simplicity claimed by many in the Midwest, it is a haven for ratty, tearing billboards. I recently read that Missouri, alone, has nineteen times as many billboards just on I-70 than found in the entire state of Colorado.

Probably the one item that causes me the most disgust in New Mexico is the graffiti. I used to live in downtown St. Louis, where stereotypes tell me that a 70% African-American population will lead to looting, shooting and GRAFFITTI; but St. Louis can’t hold a candle to the destruction found throughout this state. A few months ago, a number of Santa Fe Plaza galleries were covered with property destroying gang graffiti. My daughter’s school (considered one of the best in the area) was recently vandalized with spray paint, along with the neighboring community library. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, it is impossible to travel through Santa Fe without facing some kind of destruction caused by either gangs or commercialism. I spent the weekend in Taos and was revolted by the manner in which the once heavenly artist abode had commercialized – rolling in a fresh band of graffiti artists with its tourist dollars, as well. Don’t get me started on Albuquerque – the bigger the city… the worse the problem gets.

So what am I talking about here? Am I upset about commercialism or graffiti? Ironically, to quote one of Kubrick’s last commercially-successful films: What’s my major malfunction? (Full Metal Jacket)

I believe the two go hand in hand. Although sociologists try and make us pity the modern street gangs from the perspective of screwed-up-pseudo-families where multiple individuals join together as some freaky family-unit (that is notoriously incestuous and abusive); the true underlying reason for gangs before and gangs now is – MONEY. Overt-commercialism can not exist without a strong buying public and gangs cannot exist without a readily available source of targets. People are often surprised by the high-incidence of gang violence in the picturesque capital city. Let me tell you, people, it’s only going to get worse. At this moment there is not a public middle or high school in Santa Fe, Albuquerque or Taos that is not heavily infected with gangs. The median home value for a 3-bedroom in Santa Fe is topping $450k; the more expensive this place gets the more of a draw it will become for outside criminals – the more it will become a necessity for local members of the typically peaceful middle class to turn to burglary and the like to survive. The vandals around my fair city are not just taking pride in their skills with a spray can, their marking their territory and they don’t seem to care that someone else owns the deed. – DN

Monday, November 13, 2006


Eighty-nine year old, Andrew Wyeth is one of my favorite painters. Maybe it has something to do with my photo-realist training. Perhaps, I am intrigued by his continuous fifteen year obsession and secret paintings of the model, Helga Testorf. Then again I find the fact that he never really “went” anywhere as fascinating as my own selfish desire to travel everywhere. Wyeth has basically spent his long productive life in two places: Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and Cushing, Maine. Rembrandt was equally notorious for never traveling very far from his Leiden birthplace. Can an anti-travel approach be just as strong of an inspiration as the immersion travel ideal?

I admit I have long collected fantasies of holing-up in a smallish cabin somewhere such as the Yaak Valley of Montana or some break-away outpost of the Alaskan interior; a place where my books and paint are the only opportunities for entertainment – living within a time when perfect moments are more important than responsible actualities.

The question is would it be enough? It wouldn’t take much to live on, if I were to eighty-six my lust for good cuisine and material entertainment; convince my family that new clothes (and everything else) are no longer necessary. Would a home/studio full of books and family be sufficient to keep one’s mind from straying to “grass is greener” clichés? A daily regiment of chores to keep the homestead operating, while still allowing time to read, write and paint; but I suppose this is becoming more of a description of self-reliance than anything else.

Although I practice my immersion travel art movement as a path to understanding the cultures, landscapes and societies encountered along the journey; I wonder if the same philosophy can be applied to a permanent stay in one unfamiliar location. A lifetime of dedication consigned to that one perfect place. An eternal moment that gives birth to an unending idea. Wyeth and Rembrandt seemed to have found some secret path or routine to satisfaction. Is that clandestine truth as elusive as it often seems? – DN

Friday, November 10, 2006

Eighty Degrees and Snow Means Time to Paint Faster

Art is totally hot right now, and we're not just talking about the big masterpieces that sell for millions at snooty auction houses in New York and London. "In an increasingly overheated world-wide art market, the demands of a voracious — and growing — community of buyers is putting pressure on artists to produce more work, faster, than ever before." - Toronto Star 11/10/06


I was going to call again last night, after I finished working in the studio, but you’re in a different time zone and I didn’t want to wake your children, given it was already late in Santa Fe and I live far west of you. I didn’t want to wake your children – how strange that sounds to me, though my offspring are even older than yours. At what point did we awake and decide that today was the day we should behave maturely?

I did a couple paintings yesterday. I finished one I had begun the evening before, then started and finished two more. In total, I spent about eleven hours in the studio; starting in the morning and finishing around ten-thirty. I don't usually paint with an idea in mind. I just start thinking about a theory or story or some philosophy that exists (or should) and I just flow into the work on some automatic-mode that is so relaxed, I can only assume it has always been a part of me.

The first painting I completed was of our Missouri home and youthful inability to “see the forest for the trees”. A tired cliché, I know… but how true it rings on a morning such as this when I glanced across an open sky to encounter the southern Rockies from my front yard.

The next work started while I was mulling-over these high desert opportunities I have witnessed (both for myself as well as others) in the past year. I started the work by drawing a fresh set of wooden doors breaking the high desert plains in front of zen-like mountains. When the piece was done… the doors had been repainted to appear closed. I swear I’m often only half-conscious when I work.

The last painting of the evening was of my old stomping grounds in Glacier County, Montana. I wasn’t thinking of the place on any conscious level; instead I was rolling around our conversation from Monday evening. I had mentioned that Sherri and I tentatively decided it would be time to give New York City a try, in a few years; you in-turn doubted my sanity. For the sake of my “career”, I know the next logical step is to take the time to acquire reliable long-lasting NYC gallery representation – and that requires living there. Manhattan is a far cry from the open American West I desire to love and protect for my little family. To further confuse my heart, yesterday afternoon, I read of early November Alaskan snow on another artist’s blog. I quickly fell into thoughts of following paths loaded with fresh spells of white soft manna towards a well-lit studio adjoining a warm home in remote branches of the far north. Sometimes I wonder if a strong winter is the sustenance I most need. – DN

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Fame and Fortune

Around 7:30, last night I found myself in line at the neighborhood supermarket, buying a gallon of milk, carton of ice cream and a frozen “French Apple pie” from the locally famous Pink Adobe Restaurant. As you may have guessed, it was one of THOSE evenings.

As I lay my items on the conveyor belt I noticed a familiar person standing behind me in line. I turned to say hello and stopped. “Is that Val Kilmer?” I thought. I know he lives not too far away, in Pecos, and frequents one of the neighborhood restaurants (Wild Wild Wok). I looked down at what he was purchasing – “Wow, Val Kilmer, must really like Sam Adams Beer, he has a 30 pack case”, I mused to myself. I left the store and loaded my car, as I began to pull-out of the parking lot; I noticed my “Val Kilmer” getting into a beat-to-hell late-eighties Subaru. So, I suppose it wasn’t really him; but for me that guy in the grocery store was famous for five minutes, even if it wasn’t as himself.

I read something a while back that stated one cannot seriously seek both fame and fortune, simultaneously. If you want fortune – go to business school. If you want fame, go to theater school.

Now in both fields there are definitely exceptions to the rule, but those exceptions are very rare. Donald Trump is a famous businessman, partially because he is heartless and partially because he has the world’s most obscene comb-over. Famous actors are also the exception – if they are on television or in major motion pictures. How many average citizens can easily name one or any popular stage actors that have not also been featured in television or movies?

The art world is similar. Fame is mostly a regional occurrence. While an area may very often have a number of locally famous living artists in its midst, how often does their fame transcend the immediate region for international status? In my current locale, only one artist comes to mind – Judy Chicago. In Montana, it was Deborah Butterfield.

Hitting some far-off plateau of contemporary fame is only important in how it allows me to find permanent homes for my art. The process of regular sales is directly related to fame, but primarily only influences my ability to continue to paint free from the constraints of divisive influences such as being continuously broke.

I have come to believe that artists boasting regional fame have a much harder road when it comes to maintaining artistic integrity and avoiding the trap of the unending loop of repetition in their work. If one attains regional success (which is difficult enough); it is difficult to chance the butchering of relationships with established galleries or collectors for the sake of artistic exploration. Hence change style on a local stage and the artist risks alienation from their only source of income; take chances on a national or international stage and the artist is either a genius or simply “playing around with fresh ideas”.

I'm reminded of a time a few years back in St. Louis, I was standing in line behind a rather large fellow at a bookstore. The cashier loudly asked are you on tv or something? Then the distinct nasal voice of Louie Anderson whined back an affirmative reply. He then told her he was on the Family Feud to which the cashier replied, "Oh that's not it, I'd never watch that show."

Not all fame is a positive experience. Not all fame is necessarily healthy for your career. – DN

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I knew if I stayed home, yesterday, nothing would get done. Just a little too excited about Election Day to work in the studio. My wife and I had mailed in our absentee ballots the previous week, everyone can mark that as two votes AGAINST Senator Conrad Burns of Montana. They could have run a freakin’ killer grizzly bear against that SOB and I would have voted for the bear. Schools were closed since so many election centers are actually stationed in their facilities. So off we went to cruise around central New Mexico with a predictable destination of Albuquerque. Inevitably, I had to make a stop at… Goodwill (or Badwill as my children have come to call it).

I have a sickness… a true issue concerning the loving and hoarding of utter crap. This is a problem considering how often I choose to pack-up and move. It first happened years ago when I noticed a thrift store called “Teen Challenge” was located right next door to the gallery where I served as Assistant Director in southern Missouri. I had an affinity for old Super 8mm movie equipment and they frequently stocked my drug of choice. Years later, I rediscovered the thrift store addiction in the Goodwill stores of Montana, Idaho and Washington (Seattle has a huge store). The new item of my affection – cheap books. Quite by accident, I came to understand that the type of books I enjoy are often rejected by used book stores (lack of interest by the general populace) and thus often end-up in the $1 racks of Goodwill. Although, I dare say the Gideons and followers of the Mormon faith seem to be heavy suppliers of “materials” for Goodwill donation bookracks, there is also a high percentage of former purveyors of non-fiction adventure memoirs, travel narratives, philosophy texts and national parks photo-guidebooks. Therefore, me likey a lot.

Yesterday, I bought the travel memoir: The Jew in the Lotus about a man’s rediscovery of his Jewish roots via a journey through Tibet and India to meet the Dali Lama; a guidebook to the history of barn construction titled: An Age of Barns (very excited about using this one in a new series of work that will take the kitsch barn paintings that surrounded my youth and thrust them into a contemporary abstracted minimalist context); and Those Who Came Before: Southwestern Archeology in the National Park System – which is basically an in depth study of the people that populated the southwest a thousand years ago.

I also have a strange habit of what I term… good book rescue. If I see a dirt-cheap ($1 or less) copy of a book that has made a significant impact on my life – I buy it and give it away at a later date (often to strangers I encounter in the course of a day). There really isn’t a specific list of books that I search for; it is more an issue of running across one and feeling bad that it is considered seemingly worthless. Most often I find my self “rescuing” books by William Least Heat-Moon, Jon Krakauer, Hemingway and any of the beat writers (particularly Kerouac). In just the last week, I bought and gave away copies of Fountainhead (Rand), Blue Highways (Heat-Moon) and Into Thin Air (Krakauer). I probably lost a total of 75 cents on the venture; but what did the world gain if the strangers I gave the books to actually take the stories to heart? – DN

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Democrats Won... Move the Troops to Nigeria - Operation: Wipe-out Their Internet Cafes

My name is ANGELA LAKERS, i will like to order for a piece of your
art work from your gallery as gift for my parent who are celebrating
thier 30th wedding annivasarys , so i will be gald to have your reply
asap, i will be glad if you can send me your website address to
choose or send me four of your product that is availble for me to choose .
payment will be make by a chashier cheque.

Waiting to read from you today.


I receive a couple of these scam e-mails everyday. I am so sick of Nigerians assuming the majority of Americans are idiots. - DN

Monday, November 06, 2006

So... Why DOES the World Need Another Painting?

I was googling the question: how to become a famous artist for use in today’s blog post and this is the first thing I ran across:

I don’t believe in “Artists’ Statements,” those overblown and convoluted explanations about what artists do and what their paintings mean. In my books, catalogs, and articles I write about my life and experience as an artist, the way I feel about things that matter. You’ll note it doesn’t answer particular questions about my work.

There’s a reason.

Visual art doesn’t stand on words. They only muddy what a painting says. What’s on the canvas should not be explained away with clever talk. Writing or speaking about it is an intellectual process. My pictures are not intellectual. They’re intuitive, painted under the tutelage of a benign spirit, mostly. And he prefers to remain silent as well.

If I talked about my work, you’d see it the way I see it. If I told you what I meant when I painted a thing, or what I wanted to tell you when I chose a particular subject, I would corrupt you. I would take away the innocent pleasure of your first and subsequent looks. You would stand in front of the painting and think about my words, and thinking about them, you would not see what I painted. You would see what I told you to see. Even if you were strongly against seeing it this way, it would be an argument that would cloud your vision. It would not make for an interesting dialogue.

In short, the work is what it is. If it speaks to you, you’ll understand it. If it doesn’t, it won’t matter if I’ve supplied you with a whole lot of reasons for its importance. If it’s any good, you’ll already know everything about it.

Conversely, if it doesn’t speak to you, move on, forget about it. It’s my failure, not yours.

It’s up to the critic to describe what an artist’s work means. The artist himself is a poor source of information. He’s too close to it, he’s not an impartial witness and he’s probably not terribly coherent.

Art is a visual exchange between the one who paints it and the one who looks at it. It speaks all the languages, but none of them very well. -W. Joe Innis, Painter of Pictures

That has to be one of the most asinine statements I have ever read. Let’s put aside the obvious fact that his declaration of why “not to write an artist’s statement” is in fact an ARTIST’S STATEMENT! What legitimate artist depends on the critic for justification of the work? If you look at this guy’s work, you will notice that he is part impressionist and part realist, but absolutely no part of his work is actually original in concept. Of course he believes that artists do not need to think to paint – he doesn’t.

His work is “pretty”, but even the artist admits it is just a picture, devoid of meaning. Possibly devoid of purpose? Click here to view some examples of Innis’ work.

His final comment is the icing on the cake – if he truly believes that artists cannot clearly speak their mind to their audience, he either needs a new audience or a new style. Probably both….. – DN

Click here to read a decent article garnered from my original google search for how to become a famous artist.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Vertical Formats

As you may have noticed, I tend to prefer the vertical orientation for my paintings. Part of me enjoys the tall narrow works, because the viewer is immediately struck that this is something different from the traditional landscape format. Another motivation for pursing this angle of painting; is the natural reflective parallel brought about by a vertical viewer studying a vertical image.

My friend, Ohio Greg, paints life-size photorealistic eye-level nudes that stare directly back at the viewer. The first time I saw one of his works, the lights were turned down low and as I approached the painting of a man stepping from the shower, I nearly thought I had entered the wrong room, while looking for his studio. Greg’s works were by far much more unsettling in their approach, than my own. However, I believe that we ultimately offered the viewer a similar experience by our unique approaches – the ability to become lost when facing the original work.

My paintings don’t just take the onlooker to places I have been; the works initiate journeys into my intentions – an impression of place within a singular moment. – DN

Friday, November 03, 2006

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Grand Gesture

Hollywood mogul David Geffen has sold a Jackson Pollock painting for a reported $140 million. The price, if accurate, is the highest ever paid for a painting, outstripping last year's $135 million acquisition of Gustav Klimt's "Adele Bloch-Bauer I." The New York Times 11/02/06

I recently got around to watching the film Art School Confidential. For those of you that have not yet seen it… I might ruin it for you here and now. The main character is an artist in search of “greatness”, unfortunately, he seems trapped in a world of mediocrity. He finally achieves stardom through an atrocious act of violence that subjects him to life in prison. His anti-social act garners him the love and affection of the general public that he so desperately desires. Ironically, he didn’t actually commit the illegal act, but everyone assumed he did and he just rides with the fame – even though it sends him away.

What is the true price of fame? I’m not even sure what I’m asking here… is it the actual cost of the sacrifice or what one is willing to do to achieve it?

Would we necessarily be on a first-name basis with Vincent if he hadn’t cut-off his ear for the unrequited love of a prostitute and later committed suicide with a starter pistol? What if Pollock hadn’t died while driving drunk with two women that were not his wife? Sure he was a celebrity painter, but would one of his paintings currently sell for $140 million, if he was still alive or had only died from natural causes (face-planting with a tree after being ejected from a convertible doesn’t count as a natural death)?

At about seven o'clock on that Sunday morning, Hemingway, dressed in pajamas and bathrobe, went down to the basement to get the gun and a box of ammunition. But he did not kill himself in that dark vault. Instead, he came upstairs to the foyer, near the gun rack and just inside the main entrance of the house. Knowing that Mary would find him there, he pushed two shells into the twelve-gauge Boss shotgun, put the end of the barrel into his mouth, pulled the trigger and blew out his brains . . . Jeffrey Meyers, Hemingway: A Biography, 560, 561.

Hemingway, like Pollock, was a celebrated master of his art form, long before his death. The question, though, is his continuous place in history marked by his suicide. His entire life was carefully constructed around machismo and courting death – was suicide the only final chapter that could have written for this artist? Or was it the best final statement in order for him to achieve immortality?

Every night I labor over my paintings, selling a few along the way. I have encountered innumerable artists along this journey that have also created literally thousands of works in their career. You’ve never heard of them. What grand gesture will it take to plant my work into the everyday lexicon of future generations? – DN

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Arrogance Makes Us Strong

Not long after college graduation, I was visiting the home of one of my painting professors and ran across a series of annual group art faculty images produced 25-30 years earlier. I can still vividly see one of the photographs that had been staged to look like the first season cast photo of Saturday Night Live and the Prime Time Players. It was a snapshot moment in the seventies that placed my professors closer to my current age, a time when they were sure the world would change at their bidding; because they each had a bit of early tramp Willem de Kooning inside of themselves ready to explode forth.

This morning, as I drink my London Cuppa from a classic style diner mug with “Europa’s Gourmet Market” written on the side, I recall a story retold to me of my old college art department, roughly ten years after their photo of youthful ambivalence. They were competitive and mostly bitter, much like they were when I studied at their feet thirteen years later. Exhibitions were far and few between for the group, tenure was the most pressing subject, retirement and healthcare was the new motivation. The ritual of joining together for a morning coffee before classes had not yet ended, though its life was certainly closing. Everyone was beginning to settle into their seats the craziest of the professors, Rick Proctor, looked over to notice the lone fundamentalist Christian art history professor dipping a teabag into a boiling cup of water and loudly proclaimed, “Anyone that drinks tea before 10am, must screw sheep!” It seems that all their earlier creative energy had turned into antagonism or dare I say simplistic politics.

I often mention my search through travel and paint for the factors that unite our societies, but what exactly divides us? How many of my readers were turned-off by the snapshot image I presented of my painting process in yesterday’s blog? Was it a confession of true motivation or singular moment within the progress of my career? How many thought the story “fit the bill” pretty well for what they imagine as the life of a working artist?

I’ve read reviews for the film “Pollock” that reprimanded Ed Harris for feeding the stereotype; but the reality is Jackson Pollock was not a nice character. On that same note, I dare say Vincent Van Gogh was not a barrel of laughs either. They did what they did because they were selfish and that inevitably led to self-destruction. Somehow recognizing that “nature”, I’m still alright with it. I’ve mentioned, before, that making good art is an act of complete self-absorption. SELF-CONSUMPTION may be a better description. Which is a greater loss: the exceedingly hot flame that burns out early or the pile of papers that were never lit?

It’s not an issue of crossing some set of pre-described barriers to become a stereotype within the elusive transformation stage of making art. Instead it has more to do with getting high from the act of creation. As an action painter, the process is the lead-up, sometimes (as Monday night) it drags on for hours and one has to help the natural high continue or the ending is muddled by the process. You have to maintain confidence, or the ending is spoiled. This arrogance is part of the euphoria. It’s not unlike the self-realization of pride when you stand-up for yourself in the face of bullying. Arrogance is the key that opens the floodgate of creative ideas. The entire point of making art is to get to the ending; that moment when the endorphins peak and your system is flushed with the newness of store-bought air. An artist needs the confidence in the process to maintain the work through completion. Pollock’s famous answer when asked: “How do you know when a painting is finished?”

“How do you know when you’re done making love?”

Why does the world need another painting? I’m just getting lost and subsequently ripped within the process of painting. I’m just glad they always turn-out or I’d never be able to afford this lifestyle. Yeah, I’m an addict. I’m hooked on the moment. I refuse to acknowledge tomorrow. It feels amazing. – DN