Saturday, December 30, 2006

Snow... again

Saturday and three feet of snow in the mountains over Santa Fe. We seem to have gotten hit the hardest (outside of Denver, of course) but we're at 7,000 feet. - DN

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Jerks in a mold, or molding jerks...

I watched Apocalypto on Christmas Eve. Just that sentence sounds like a paradox. Afterward, I went online to read some discussions about this highly controversial film. Personally, I wasn’t that impressed with the movie. It was alright, but nothing spectacular. The plot was fairly straightforward (to the point of simplicity) and that was reinforced by the discussion boards I found at the Internet Movie Database ( Page after page of discussion had little to do with the actual picture (after watching the film, you’ll notice that there just isn’t much left to question) and everything to do with the popular opinion that Mel Gibson is an ass.

Now I’m the last person to come to the defense of Gibson’s idiotic summer tirade of anti-Semitism, but why is everyone so surprised that he can be a talented filmmaker/artist and a jerk? My hero, Jackson Pollock, was a class-A creep, as was Picasso, de Kooning and a host of other great artists. One of my favorite films is Woody Allen’s faux-documentary “Sweet and Lowdown” about Emmet Ray, the second greatest jazz guitarist that ever lived. The film portrays Ray as a kleptomaniac, a selfish womanizer and a guy whose favorite hobby is to “go to the dump and shoot rats”; but even in the film portrayal there is little doubt that he was a great artist, because he didn’t play notes he played emotion.

Are all artists creeps? No – Chagall was a notoriously nice guy. Matisse seems to have been pretty swell as were the majority of the Impressionists. However, for many artists I believe the very nature of the artistic process demands intermittent moments of self-involved greed. I know for me and my work… that’s the only way to get anything accomplished. – DN

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Week of Living Past Dreams

We’ve been under a bit of snow the last few days. Schools closed the last couple days due to the harsh weather and the kids got an early start to their winter break. I’ve been making more attempts at actually paying attention to my children as opposed to the usual routine of letting the local rattle snakes play baby sitter, whilst I paint the days away. I’ve taken the rare, though still brief break from “the work”, in order to build up moments of personal inspiration to utilize for paintings, later in the month.

Considering some summer painting opportunities in Washington or Montana; feeling the need to drop-out of the world for a while, again, and either explore new sections of the far northwest country or at least revisit old stomping grounds via paintbrush and hiking boots.

Don’t get me wrong, the local southwest cacti are beautiful under their recent blanket of snow, as are my Sangre de Cristo Mountains covered with their paths of white-coated low-rising trees. While others look at the high desert snowfall with surprise and wonder, I catch myself mired in the gloom of its impeding passing. Satisfaction with the southern winter moment, at hand, is a hard concept to live when one has stomped through powdered glory at lower elevations of the far north during mid-July. - DN

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


I read about this a while back, but was still surprised by the results.

Search for "failure" in google and see what pops up first...

click here


Miami Basel 2006

As America’s biggest art show, Miami Basel goes full force I thought I should at least look around online for images, if I can’t actually make it to the show.

I really enjoyed the above work by the California abstract colorist, Stan Kaplan.

Not such a big fan of the performance work, below:

This is an image from last year's show, I don't know much about it, but I love the imagery... so I'll have to keep searching to find out more.


Monday, December 18, 2006


I’ve previously mentioned the extremes of minimalism in both lifestyle and art. From Thoreau’s Walden to Rothko’s color field paintings; there is a common bond of self-regeneration through the acquisition and process of having more by making less.

Despite its new-age, Taoist/Zen faƧade; Santa Fe is hardly a refuge for the non-consumer. Average home values start in the $450k range and middle class is code for private school. One has to wonder if the closest we can get to a simplified life in the 21st century, is just living in a smaller rural township. Even the smallest western boroughs boast cable internet and pay-per-view television. So it isn’t necessarily a refuge from technology I seek (and I’m fairly sure I’d have quite a difficult time surviving without modern conveniences). At this point in human history I think the best we can hope for is a refuge from commercialism. A place without $300/night hotel rooms or a legitimate downtown only pocketed with the occasional tourist trap amongst the viable shops, rather than completely replaced by coffee mug and beaded jewelry emporiums.

I’ve been fighting for a minimalist attitude in my more recent works; yet it seems a difficult approach when a landscape painter has to look around the billboards to view the mountains. – DN

Friday, December 15, 2006

I feel better now...

"The most artistic thing Kurt Cobain ever did was paint the ceiling with his brains..." - Quote-Doug Ramm 2006

Wow, that's dark, even for me. - DN


"Next week Tan Dun will be the first composer in more than 60 years to conduct his own opera at New York's Met. Ten years in the making, it's a hugely ambitious project for all involved," and will be the most expensive production the Met has ever mounted. Ultimately, Tan "is stretching for a new musical form that is neither oriental, nor western, nor, crucially, a fusion of the two."
The Guardian (UK) 12/15/06

Why is this such a rare phenomenon? - DN

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Where we start, where we arrive.....

A friend passed this on to me:

Published: May 21, 1989

LEAD: Carrington Coburn Schach, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Oscar Schach of Pittsburgh and Christiansted, V.I., was married yesterday to Daniel Covington North, a son of Judge and Mrs. John Cannon North 2d of St. Michaels, Md. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Arthur McNulty at the Calvary Episcopal Church in

Carrington Coburn Schach, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Oscar Schach of Pittsburgh and Christiansted, V.I., was married yesterday to Daniel Covington North, a son of Judge and Mrs. John Cannon North 2d of St. Michaels, Md. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Arthur McNulty at the Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh.

Tracy S. Simpson was her sister's matron of honor. David Jeffrey North served as his brother's best man.

Mrs. North, who is known as Carey, is a marketing consultant in New York. She graduated from Wheaton College and was presented at the Cinderella Ball in Pittsburgh. Her father is a senior vice president of Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith in Pittsburgh.

Mr. North manages the computer division of Engineering Computer Optecnomics, a naval architecture and marine engineering concern in Annapolis, Md. He graduated with distinction from the University of Virginia. He is the commodore of the Chesapeake Bay Log Sailing Canoe Association. His father, who recently retired as the judge of the Circuit Court for Talbot County in Easton, Md., is the chairman of the Critical Areas Commission for the Chesapeake Bay. New York Times

Amazing what lives are open and closed to us, regardless of a name. My father was a teacher and my mother a government clerk; not much better was wanted or expected of me… then again that seems to be the way of Midwesterners if one believes Garrison Keillor… or is that simply the nature of those that abide under the banner of being “God-fearing”. Sometimes religion is a helpmate, for me it has mostly felt as a yoke around my neck. I’ve been a painter over half my life and every conversation with my parents still starts-off with “have you found a job, yet?” The wedding announcement for this other “Daniel North” was written nearly twenty years ago… wonder how the commodore’s life turned-out.

Names and titles are often superfluous, but occasionally they carry a mantle of purpose. I have a number of works from my early post-college career that I never signed, simply because I wanted to avoid interference with the composition. Though, I miss one or two works, I honestly don’t recall the rest. Would a signature do anything for me, or just assist those carving-up my estate, after I pass. Do those older works represent where I came from? I don't even know how much light they shed on where I arrived. - DN

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Virginia Teacher Suspended for Painting With Butt

RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia school district has suspended an art teacher who they say may be setting a bad example for students with his own extracurricular activity — butt painting.

Stephen Murmer, a self-described "butt-printing artist," was placed on administrative leave Friday by the Chesterfield County school district.

Going by the name Stan Murmur, the teacher sells floral and abstract paintings that he calls "anthropometric monotypes" created by plastering his rump and genitals in paint and pressing them against a canvas. His paintings sell online for upwards of $900.

"I am certainly proud of the ass painting," Stan Murmur said on a "Unscrewed With Martin Sargent" clip downloaded by Wednesday on YouTube. "I do have a real job where I do have real clients, and I don't think they'd be too understanding if I was also the guy that painted with my ass."

In the clip, Murmur appeared wearing only a black thong and "Groucho" glasses to demonstrate a style of painting he learned in college.

"I followed a girlfriend into a painting and printmaking class," he told host Sargent in the clip. "We had an assignment where we had to create an organic stamping object, bring it in as a print and display it to the class. I chose my ass as that object."

Murmer is known as a popular, joke-cracking art teacher at Monacan High School in Virginia.

Chesterfield County schools spokeswoman Debra Marlow says school system regulations state that teachers must set an example for students through their personal conduct.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia says the suspension goes against Murmer's First Amendment rights.'s Sara Bonisteel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

I mentioned this guy’s work and directed readers to his website link, maybe last spring. Unfortunately, it looks like people are once again forced to sell their individuality and personal lives when they choose to sign a $20k/year teaching contract. While I may not be a fan of “butt-painting”, I do appreciate the fact that his wages are most likely below the poverty level and he has found a way to supplement. When I taught, I knew a numbers of fellow teachers that worked in liquor stores or bars to make extra cash. I wonder if he would have lost his job, if he painted classical European nudes. I remember a student that refused to use an art history text because she found works inside offensive (the specific pieces were by Donatello). Where is the obscenity line drawn in the sand? Who holds the stick of power and judgment? – DN

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

New Work

The above five paintings were completed the last week of November. They were a continued study of form, composition and alternative approaches to minimalism; while building ideas for the next week's body of work:

I completed these last six paintings the first week of December. I utilized a combination of alternative minimalism and layering of multiple mediums to produce narratives of illusionary simplicity. The house/home motif as been invading my work on a more frequent nature, lately. Can one experience abandonment if there is still an available home. In our modern world do the far reaches of the psyche overwhelm the distant outpost of the American west? - DN

Monday, December 11, 2006

High Desert Snow

Studio under snow

Looking southeast towards my mountain

Samuel and Dylan Thomas (notice all their toys under snow... it came-up on us rather quickly)

Maddie, Samuel and Dylan Thomas

The pics are from last week's storm, though, I am currently watching the same accumulation begin outside my dining room window.

The plan is to shoot and upload images of the nine new paintings I've finished over the last two weeks. The museum in Alberta contacted me and wants some photo-quality images, so that's the rest of my day, as well. I don't mind the PR, most days I'm even glad to do it, especially when the results include my work getting shown in highly-respected venues.

I lost three shows last year due to American politics. Two galleries in Canada dropped me because "Americans aren't received well, right now". One of my biggest shows was a group exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Minsk (Belarus... white Russia). Not long after the curator invited me and my work for a May 2006 exhibit, Condi Rice went on television and called their president the last remaining evil dictator in Europe. Shortly after, everything American was temporarily banned. Hence, no more show.

I'm hoping the recent elections will show the rest of the world we're not a bunch of Bushbots and maybe I can start showing internationally, again. - DN

Friday, December 08, 2006

Money for Art... or Art for Money?

"Art is making more money than ever before. This year, a new world record was set for the most expensive painting of all time - and broken a few months later. There is a frenzy in the market that encompasses everything from contemporary art to looted Greek and Roman antiquities. Unexpected discoveries fuel the fantasy that you or I can participate in this greedy sport, that valuable masterpieces lie in attics or cupboards, waiting to be recognised... There are only two questions about art we all recognise. But is it art? And if it is, what's it worth?" The Guardian (UK) 12/07/06

On that note, here is a link for a recently released film called “Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?

The film is the true story of a woman that bought a Pollock painting at a thrift shop for $5. The title of the film comes from the statement she made to her Art professor friend when he said, “Wait a second, I believe this may be a Jackson Pollock.” The documentary follows her battle to sell it for $50 million; along the way turning down a $9 million offer and battling experts that doubt its legitimacy because a lack of provenance.

A couple days ago I posted a blog about a young artist turning $5k-15k per painting and his marketability at Miami Basel. Previously, I’ve mentioned the absurd auction prices for works by Klimt and Picasso (despite the fact that I am a huge fan of both artists); the dominance of “cowboy art” across the western United States, because it is an easy tourist sell; and I dare admit that I am hardly giving away my own paintings for free. So at what moment did art as a commodity bypass the concept of technical merit and original conception? Traditionalists may say it occurred at the turn of the last century with the rise of the industrial age and the Barons of Industry - that moment when technology “forced” realist painters to seek out new methods of self-expression. Art historians may claim it has always been this way. Michelangelo as well as other Renaissance artists painted biblical scenes because that was their market. Court painters under France’s Louis XIV, such as Adams Van der Meulen, created works about military conquest… because that was where the demand lay.

However, regardless of marketability, I still believe a great artist has to cut-off the yoke of fiscal influence when fighting through the creation process. Which is why my newest work (images to come) will shock some as my artistic direction again readjusts focus inward, away from the proven desires of gallery exhibits and my collector’s ambitions. Believe it or not, I don’t harbor a secret passion for career suicide. Sure, when I left Montana, my sales were topping the highest of my career (to that point) and I was garnering new collectors every couple weeks… it would have been fiscally sound for me to remain in place and ride-out the windfall; but I was ready to see something new and my process for making art was beginning to crave a change of influence. So here I find myself again, in a good place with strong gallery representation and a large body of work sitting in my comfortable studio. I spend most nights in an unending moment of waking dreams; only half-asleep while drifting to far away lands filled with abstracted symbols that I can only reinterpret with paint the following day. The work is beginning to drastically change again and I wonder how much longer I can remain without losing the following I’ve already built in this mountainous southern land. Change is good for my soul, whatever that may entail; and I realize that the moment I start to actively care about maintaining my momentum in sales or fitting within a genre of preconceived saleable work – I take the chance in interrupting my creative evolution. One missed step in the life-long process of making art could lead to a false outcome. Everything must be for the sake of the moment in the process; therefore everything can only be one thing… true. – DN

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Let the critics roll...

Below are two interesting articles about the impact of critics and criticism on visual and performing artists.

In New York, a play, concert series, or art exhibit can be made or broken on the say-so of a handful of extremely influential critics. So how do the artists who submit their work for the approval of such tastemakers feel about the job the critics do? Time Out New York found out, and the results were, well, predictable. Time Out New York 12/07/06 Click here to read the full article.

Apollinaire Scherr, who also serves as dance critic for Newsday, was one of the critics put to the test in Time Out's survey, and she came out of the fire unscathed. But she also feels that the process used to conduct the survey was seriously flawed, from the selection of critics discussed to the inclusion of publicists on the judging panel. Foot In Mouth (AJ Blogs) 12/06/06 Click here to read the blog.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

When We Can't Find the Words

The announcement of the Turner prize came at an interesting moment in the development of my own work. I spoke about this year's winner in yesterday's blog and got a bit of reaction back from you the readers. The timing of the Turner Prize naming a painter as the winner, coincided with a recent NY Times article about another up and coming painter of merit (picked by NY, not me).

One of my favorite tasks is to sit around on Sunday morning spending a few hours reading the New York Times while munching on biscuits and gravy or danish; while sipping a couple carafes of coffee from my French press.

This Sunday, I found myself reading and rereading, while chewing my cheese danish, an article titled “The Debutante’s Ball” about 25-year-old artist Ted Mineo. His work was alright, futurism meets surrealism, mixed with a bit of the fantasy role-players shop. You know the type I am talking about – that knife shop in the mall that sells pewter dragons, reproductions of swords from the Lord of the Rings films and strange little paintings of elves and magicians on mirrors. While I am glad that both the Turner Prize and the New York Times are returning a bit of focus to painters, I have to question their choices for our neo-saviors of painting. Mineo’s works sell on average between $5k and $15k. He returns to Miami Basel for his second year at America’s premiere art fair. I believe one quote in the NY Times compares the Miami show to the Venice Biennial and I have to say that is fairly accurate. I visited his website and found a small amount of work and a resume/bio; but no statement. Nothing to explain why he paints nymphs and gargoyles on one piece and a sandwich with a thorn of crowns on another (I can guess on this one and even appreciate his technical skill with oils). He was controversially plucked out of grad school (Yale, mind you) and carried into the New York gallery scene in the pocket of a prominent gallerist.

Click here to read the article and here to view Mineo's website. (I tried to upload some images of Mineo's work, here, but blogger is giving me hell.)

Back to my own work, I work near the concept of a painting-a-day. I don’t aim my work in that direction, it just seems to happen. That type of projection forces one to continuously rehash concepts and subjects in new directions. Yesterday, I finally made some breakthroughs in my approach to minimalism, representation and composition. I’ll post new images in a day or two. At the end of the day, I’m still a visual person and I’ve finally reached a moment in my painting where it may be difficult to “describe” the work. Is this where Mineo finds himself? I’m doubtful, but then again, I have yet to see the work in person. That is always the true test; can the work stand-up with a personal viewing.

On that note, I’ve gotten a few e-mails asking where to see my work around the country. My current exhibition schedule for solo shows in 2007:

April – Bill McIntosh Gallery, Billings, Montana

Sept. – Morris Graves Museum of Art, Eureka, California

Dec. – Margaret Harwell Art Museum, Poplar Bluff, Missouri

Date undecided – Palette Contemporary Art & Craft, Albuquerque, New Mexico

The above is just a list of upcoming solo venues. Throughout the year, I am continuously involved in group shows around the country. I’m also waiting on confirmation from a gallery and museum in Canada; which I will post the results of later. – DN

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Time for another art award...

The controversial “Turner Prize” for modern art has selected it’s first female recipient in it’s 22-year history. German artist, Tomma Abts was handed the $50k prize by fellow artist Yoko Ono. The artist is known for her small oil paintings and acrylics that are always presented in the same 48-centimetre by 38-centimetre (19-inch by 15-inch) format.

Click here to read the entire article.

So what are some of your opinions of the work? Is it worth a $50k recognition? I understand the concept of creating a painting without sketches or a preconceived notion, but is the above really that original? I really like the fourth painting. The first and third pieces look like something created in the 80's and second reminds me of early abstract expressionism before it haad fully castoff cubism. Then again, maybe that's what she was going for...– DN

Monday, December 04, 2006

Fractal Geometry

"In an article published this week in the prestigious science journal Nature, two physicists contend that a method intended to identify complex geometric patterns in the seemingly chaotic drip paintings of Jackson Pollock is flawed and may be useless in the increasingly convoluted world of authenticating Pollock’s work."
The New York Times 12/02/06

I watched a bit of television late Friday evening and saw an episode of “Numb3rs” that focused on using math to authenticate artwork. The primary key to their ability to “tell” one legitimate piece from a fake was by tracing the depth and length of the artist’s brushstrokes. I wonder where that puts me and my work. I purposefully change techniques and materials on a regular basis, in an effort to find new ways of expressing a singular style. The only time one sees a brushstroke in my work, is when I intend to put it there. I realize the popularity of the television show “Numb3rs” and the neo-American need to turn every mystery of life into an episode of “C.S.I.”, but Pollock was not a mathematician. He lived for randomness in both his work and relationships. He was the worst kind of criminal from the perspective of a mathematician. He played their game, but refused to look at their rulebook. Pollock is one of those artists where the work’s authenticity depends upon the provenance. The same may one day be true of my own art. – DN

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Alone With My Lyrical Paintings

I’ve been told that my paintings edge towards the graphically-influenced. It’s true that I was raised by the video gods that started with a VCR in every home (I remember my friend Howard Short had the only Beta machine in Poplar Bluff, Missouri), hacking games on a Commodore 64 and reveling in the first generation of Nintendo. I used my school lunch money to buy comic books, when I should have been eating from a government-approved menu. When I first left high school for college, I had dreams of becoming an animator.

A lot happened along the way. I fell in love with paint and the act of telling a lifetime of stories with a single image. I was never very good at working within a group – that should have been an early sign that I wouldn’t find happiness in the collaborative nature of animation, illustration or graphic design. The downside of my years directing an Arts Council were all the moments I had to share my decisions and ideas with my board of directors. I knew the ideas had merit and I knew they’d get approved; but the simple fact that I had to involve someone else in my creative process was uncomfortable. I changed my major from graphic design to study painting and drawing, under a photorealist, after only one semester in college. The design courses involved turning-in thumbnail sketches for approval as well as other methods of “hand-holding” for every project. The idea was to prepare students for the rigors of working with clients and editors; it didn’t fit within my process. Painting and drawing classes were much different. Start a work on Monday, finish it sometime Thursday night (or Friday morning) and hang it for critique on Friday. Love it or hate it, no matter… start another one in class the next Monday. It was the process of continually painting that I kept with me after those days had passed into memory.

Not soon after, I acquired a family – first a wife, then children. I left four years of the Arts Council world behind in order to teach and begin showing my own art for the next five years. Next, I left teaching to exhibit fulltime and I was still young so the draw of a dependable income didn’t influence me quite as strongly as it probably should have; though I never really considered the loss of steady pay as a drawback to my traveling lifestyle. A few years ago, while visiting Santa Fe for the first time, I took-in an Arthur Wesley Dow exhibit at the Fine Art Museum. I was forever changed by his early 20th century woodcuts created in homage to the Japanese artists of the “Orient”, as it was popularly called at the time.

Today, I largely create paintings with more than a hint of that graphic influence. My process tends to put more emphasis on the idea of utilizing printmaking techniques to create monotype-esque paintings than any actual effort towards modernizing subjects for the 21st century or attempting to create pure monotypes from the standpoint of a traditional printmaker. I truly enjoy the random process I invent along the way and live to create challenges for myself with each new piece. For example I have a painting on display at my gallery in Albuquerque that was created entirely with a brayer; another that was created using only a single 2”x4” uncut block of balsa wood. I like the challenge of unconventional materials to enhance my journey in the creation of a piece and the story it tells. There was a period of literally months in Montana, when I created stacks of paintings with only a bottle of sumi ink and a one-inch flat brush (not the typically recommended tool for a sumi-e painter). I like reading the rule book, then laughing as I ignore the laws of traditional painting. My daughter dreams of being a novelist, I tell her work hard to learn all the ridiculous rules of grammar so that no one has a reason to complain when you choose which ones to cast aside. – DN

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Friday, December 01, 2006

Immersion Travel at Home

Can an artist participating in the “Immersion Travel” art movement stop traveling to new unfamiliar regions for a period of years, then begin again, without a perceived interruption to the philosophy?

I believe such a dichotomy can occur if the traveler, while remaining home, becomes immersed into previously unexplored societies or groups within the region. For example:

Alyah is a Hebrew term that refers to the honored act of “going up” to the Torah to read; it is also used to describe a return to Israel (not as a visit put as a return home). Despite a youth spent in the rolling Missouri Ozark hills, for the most basic reasons that many may not understand, I consider my only actual home to be located in a small town in north central Montana, near Glacier National Park. If I were to return there one day for a “temporary break from the traveling life”, then I would most likely attempt to embed myself, for a handful of years, into one of the region’s local Hutterite colonies in order to better understand and appreciate their unique communal lives. Perhaps my realization of Santa Fe’s California-style-Zen, has led me to question if the true northern Anabaptist communes (that are completely unfamiliar with the teachings of Lao Tzu, Mencius and Buddha) may have a firmer grasp on embracing fleeting existence.

That is not to say that the Hutterites are the only option for a wandering artist and moonlight-anthropologist. Possibly someone else would take the same region and prefer to explore the neighboring Blackfeet Nation in order to present a more accurate reflection of Native Americans in the 21st Century.

I admit that I have no immediate plans for a temporary sabbatical from my present travel itinerary; but that’s the funny thing about a home – although its very nature produces a sense of comfort, that same place can continuously maintain the mystery of return. I haven’t seen my little English cottage on the prairie in over a year. It has been even longer since I bird-hunted with my young friend while his black Lab, Mandy, scared pheasant from the northern Montana field bottoms. I can still hear his yell, “Hunt’em-up, Mandy!” For a brief moment, last week, when it came time to carve the Thanksgiving turkey; it was where my heart most longed to exist. – DN