Sunday, December 30, 2007

Truth Observed or Perceived... Equal Lies?

I’m reading a biography of the pseudo-bear-idiot from Alaska-via-California, Timothy Treadwell. You may recall a few years back, the “Grizzly Man” living amongst the brown bears of southwestern Alaska that was mauled by his “friends”. Despite how much I disagree with his naïve approach to dealing with the local wildlife, I can’t help but understand his dismay with the standards of the academic experts/authorities on the subject of bear habitat and relationships. While this fool may have gotten himself served-up as breakfast to a couple annoyed browns, he was also one of the only people that has ever been able to recognize and document the unique characteristics and personalities/family dynamics of such a large collective of bears - firsthand.

I have a similar conflict with anthropology and the manner in which it takes an “outside-observer-only” approach to society. The essence of my paintings is held together by the manner in which I incorporate symbolic representations of experiences from my interaction with unique communities at the “artist-in-resident” level.

“Your standing so close, I’m not sure if those are my toes I’m feeling or yours.” – I believe that line is from the Tom Hanks film, Nothing in Common

Close proximity is not only the best way to know what motivates someone’s actions; it is the only way to nearly guarantee some measure of truth… particularly in art… but that’s another question entirely isn’t it? Is art ever really true? Is that what makes an image art… the artist’s own bit of manipulation as the representation travels from the eye, to the mind and out the hand. – DN

Now, Never, Whatever... Life Always Brings Richness in the Details

I wonder how marriage has changed me. Its been so long I question if I recall the former-self, whom I may have been. Now its your turn and I wonder the same of you.

Your story of caravaning middle-aged friends motorcycling across western Africa was inspiring because it made me believe that some things... some future travel opportunities with my friend will not disappear; but it also made me sad to stop and consider that those unattained moments could just as easily dissolve into nothingness. I adore my wife and children, but also am kept alive by the infrequent travel jaunts I take with the childhood friend I've known since I was five. With your spring marriage galloping into view, maybe you won't be able to skip away this July to help me scrape and paint my home in Glacier County, as we had once discussed (including allowing enough time to run the gamut of Banff, Yoho and Jasper Parks, north of the border- you have yet to see them and I have been a dozen times already). Perhaps, in a few years, your availability will diminish and I'll have to venture to Denali's interior, alone, if I actually ever find myself rewarded with one of their few early-summer artist residencies. Maybe the secrets of British Columbia's Stikine Valley, my other nearby goal, will only flow from one of the two artists... the travel painter, rather than the travel writer. Then again, I've put-off these last two life-changing journey's longer than my pride can admit... for something as simple as my own perceived family obligations.

I know you will experience great things in marriage. I am one of the fortunate few that can still feel the newness of marriage to my own bride after twelve years. When one finds that they've gotten the crucial detail of a good marriage before them... its like blushing. The sudden rush of warmth in satisfaction. The pang of guilt and pride, knowing your secret perfection is exposed. These are innumerable beauties that a few more days on the road, with me, will never match. I am so glad for you in your new found happiness and I hope it does little to domesticate either one of you. -DN

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I found the above picture on the latest update of the PostSecret blog. Life may often feel lonely, but we're never alone in our feelings. - DN

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


A few years ago, notorious art critic Dave Hickey was a guest lecturer at California State University, San Bernardino. This is an excerpt from a review of the talk:

In his lecture, “Art and Democracy”, Dave Hickey observed that democracy is run for average people and those "special" people (artists) are a big pain in the ass. Even when accepted by the establishment, any artist worth his/her salt can't mollify normative ideas, for to do so makes art invisible. Only art that challenges established ideas has a life, which makes it harder for artists to fit in, and that's as it should be. Unlike Europe where artists are "protected" from society, here it is society that needs protection. Good artists, in Hickey's view, are basically pissing in society's punch bowl and he chastised us to come to terms with this, stop trying to be normal, and start acting like great artists.

Hickey emphasized that our obsessive mobility is a great thing. Artists leave home to find places where they fit in and places that embrace chaos and change, because art cannot survive in an environment where change and excitement are not privileged. Our country is clearly divided between those places that resist and hate change and those places that embrace it: the red states versus the blue states. This makes art an almost exclusively cosmopolitan practice and separates it from provincial art, which confirms the assumptions of mainstream culture. – Afterimage, Thomas McGovern, Nov-Dec 2003

Click here to read the entire article. - DN

Monday, December 17, 2007

Obligations to Prove Merit

I watched the “Sunday Morning Show” on CBS, yesterday, with disgust. The feature that left my early morning disposition in tatters focused on “Writers Who Paint”. Over and over it was the same story… “writing is such hard work, writing can be such a difficult art form… that’s why I’m so relieved to have my painting to run to when writing gets too difficult, because painting is just easy fun”. Of course due to their renown as writers, they had no trouble, what so ever, getting their half-assed painting attempts exhibited in recognized galleries. It was insulting… but probably no less contemptuous than the hoards of “artists” that wait to create until retirement. There were roughly 20,000+ “artists” in Santa Fe that were so enamored by the “artist friends”, that they had made while living in the region, that they too awoke one day to the sound of trumpets and smell of pre-packaged Grumbacher oil paint. My wife asked me just the other day, “why is it that everyone seems to think they can paint, if they can’t do anything else?” Is this the true legacy my beloved modernists and abstract expressionists have left in their wake?

The above complaints bring me full-circle to the technical prowess of drawing. That telltale art form that separates the men from the boys. A former teacher, Mrs. Clark, was in attendance at my last opening at the Harwell Museum. She brought a small gift. A Derwent Sketching Pencil Tin. I was at once reliving my once forgotten love for simply drawing. I sketch for paintings, I sketch to workout ideas… but I couldn’t recall the last time I sketched for the sake of drawing. Now here I am, a few weeks later. I’ve once again picked-up my search for that perfect contour line. Reliving the blending of base mediums such as charcoal, graphite and terra cotta-colored chalks. – DN

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Perfect Line

Movement, space, transition… they can all be defined with pure contour line; but how do we determine the specifics of a perfect line? While my search for flawless line has lasted over a decade, my explicit reach for a particular type of motion to create such a line in the figure has been at the forefront of my mind for exactly three weeks in a row, now. I eat and watch the movement of my daughters jaw-line flex in and out of view, hidden and exposed with the actions of drinking and chewing. The reach of my sons’ outstretched arms pandering for the last morsels of food from centrally located serving dishes. The shifts of the curve in my wife’s neck as she turns her gaze from child to child and at last myself. Gathering and consuming… the revealed motions of nature’s easily exposed sense of pure contour line? - DN

Saturday, December 15, 2007

More Watts

“The future is unknown. Prophecy contaminates it with the past, which is why liberated people do not bother with fortunetelling or astrology, and why the happy traveler wanders and does not let himself be the slave of maps, guidebooks, and schedules, using them but not being used by them.” – Alan Watts

Friday, December 14, 2007

Watts' Words

“To be human is precisely to have that extra circuit of consciousness which enables us to know that we know, and thus to take an attitude towards all that we experience. The mistake that we have made – and this, if anything, is the fall of man – is to suppose that that extra circuit, that ability to take an attitude toward the rest of life as a whole, is the same as actually standing aside and separate from what we see.” – Alan Watts

Monday, December 10, 2007

Painting Offers the Permanence We Seek

Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: "It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea." – Dylan Thomas (for whom my youngest was named)

As we enter yet another holiday season when our government boasts consumerism and promotes fighting the terrorists by importing more crap from cheap Chinese labor; I lament at the loss of our humanity to a plastic age. Now more than ever, the world and the things that fill it are disposable. I, personally, cannot recall anyone I know that lives in the same home his or her grandparents owned. My own parents have owned and lived in four different homes, in one town, since my youth. The famous back-to-the-earth Englishman, John Seymour, once said – “If houses were well-built and the population was stable, everyone would inherit a good house.”

Creating an inheritance for my children. Maybe that is my underlying purpose in painting. Perhaps it feeds my enduring love for my solidly built 1939 English cottage on the prairie outside Glacier National Park - to have something permanent in the face of my own wandering nature. – DN

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Drifting Down, Drifting Home?

I'm in a down-cycle right now... and actually I'm still watching Netflix movies. I ran across some good Jackson Pollock documentaries and it was a relief to hear the famous art critic Clement Greenberg discuss how even Pollock would have a down time of weeks and sometimes months after a big show.

I have avoided booking any more shows for 2008. I have maybe 1-2 instead of my standard 6-8 solo ventures. I'm trying to think about how to approach the next 365 days. The past three years have been fantastic for my exhibition record and getting my name out there, but I have been painting so frantically that it has left little room to breathe. While it has been adventurous and always entertaining… I have suddenly had the time, with my last big show of the year now hung, to wonder where I actually prefer to live and how my painting style should best reflect that motivation. Like everything in life the simplest answer is the most courageous one. Consumerism for mass-produced goods, however seems to abound now more than ever. Family and friends can’t understand why someone would desire a place without easy access to the offerings of the global economy; while I want to run screaming from it each waking morning. As the evenings turn bitterly cold and the late nights grow increasingly silent, I drift more often into dreams of a distant heated studio, a forgiving model and freshly mixed oil pigments - all of which seem (in my fantasy) to be located in that far away Montana home on the corner of 1st Street and 6th Avenue.

How does the statement go… “I looked into the abyss and the abyss looked back at me”, or something like that. – DN

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Netflix for one, please...

I’ve become quite addicted to my Netflix subscription. I have always had the most obscure taste in films at the oddest moments in my life. Netflix has a fantastic selection, I go online, put in my request and a day or two later, there it is… much cheaper than buying a DVD for that once every-five year film urge and good luck finding classics like “Metropolis” or “Nosferatu” at the local Movie Gallery store.

Typically, at this time of year the popular choice is one of the fifty versions of Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”, for me however, this season is different. Yesterday, with the last museum opening of the year now past (though the show is still up through December 30th); I was feeling a bit of the fatalist sneak upon me and sat down to watch Ingmar Bergman’s “Wild Strawberries”. Although they are very similar films, I always find Bergman is (depressingly) more fulfilling.

I spent much of Sunday browsing the most authoritative portrait painters’ web sites that I could find. I can’t give much reason why, except that the first work I started when I returned home from Saturday’s opening was a life-size figure painting on rice paper. Literally, I walked in the front door at 10:30pm on Saturday, took off my jacket and walked out the back door towards the studio.

… but back to those portrait painters… I was unimpressed, which I realize isn’t necessarily saying much, because so little that people do artistically does “wow” me. Maybe it comes from knowing when I’m seeing a trick, looking directly at a painting that only seems to work because of a slight of the brush to shortcut to a cliché. After all these years, I’ve seen and reproduced all the deceptions that “make” a painting easily popular… and 99% of the deceit revolves around ultra-realism. The most common point of repeated pride on these portrait painters’ web sites was the acceptance of a gold medal from one society or another that in-turn recognized them as a master of their craft. Here were artists that had mastered technique to a mind-numbing consistency and all they had left at the end of a career was… consistency… and a gold medal.

I love realism when it is mixed with a healthy dose of contour line and loose full-body painterly motions – what some refer to as an abstraction of the form. In the end my relationship with realism is not unlike the difference between how Dickens and Bergman approached the presentation of moral lessons. A Christmas Carol slaps you in the face and says, “hey, change your ways or your gonna die and no one will miss you”. Wild Strawberries looks around at the life so far completed and says, “ya know… you only have a little while left wouldn’t everything be a bit more enjoyable if you forgave and asked for forgiveness”.

Life is the reward itself, what comes after is for something else. The same goes for painting. The act of creation is the carrot. If you can’t explore and have a little fun stepping outside the lines, why make art? There is no better compensation, and certainly not something as insignificant as a gold medal can replace the rush of painting when utilizing the motion and extent of one’s full-body. – DN

Monday, December 03, 2007

It ends and begins with a really nice stick... (or where would you like me to put that stick for you?)

On Saturday, the Harwell show opened with my 60 paintings and this morning I found myself wondering what new work to start on first.

The reception was well attended and everyone was complimentary of the work, but it never fails that there is always at least one detractor. Now I realize that for art to grow it requires a healthy dose of the occasional constructive criticism, but sometimes I wonder if the local flavor of critical art connoisseur isn’t motivated by a touch of spite. The exhibition was arranged so that the entire top floor of the museum features the collection of hanging scrolls and folding screen painting. I hadn’t been upstairs the entire evening, as I was primarily catching conversations with patrons as they trafficked through the main floor. Near the end of the reception I finally caught a break to move to the second floor and take-in my favorite part of the show. I wandered around the second floor gallery pleased with myself and the work presented, the only other person still upstairs was a man in his fifties standing in front of a scroll with an odd look on his face. I asked if he needed help with the symbolism and he replied, “Are you Daniel?” I nodded and then went on to explain the numerology and repetitive tracks and trails through the multi-perspective landscape. After a moment he said, “well you make real interesting work”. After enough years I’ve learned that interesting is code for “I still don’t get it” or “I get it but still don’t like it”. The conversation suddenly turned to his own life-long obsession with photography and how he finally opened a studio after retiring from a drudgery life of community college administration. He was starting to fade-out as I tried to think of a way to leave and then he piped-up and said (while pointing at one of my scrolls), “I’ve tried to show here, but have never been accepted. I don’t know what the problem is, it looks to me like they’ll hang anything on the walls and call it art if they have a couple extra sticks lying around”. Then he walked-out of the gallery and down the stairs… before I could give him a good shove, I suppose, but I could’ve sworn as he walked down the stairs I heard him mumble “real interesting”, one last time.

Like I said, I’ve had similar experiences before, I recall a show in Livingston, Montana where a man and woman were attempting to read my artist’s statement and finally (with me standing behind them) the man threw-up his arms and said... “If I have to think about it that much I don’t even want to look”, at which point they both walked away.

Maybe my perspective on art and the process of creation is a bit skewed. I just can’t justify taking the time to create work without purpose. My thoughts and impressions are often inseparable, combining as one to serve as both my demon and my muse. I suppose some people just can't get past their desire for a pretty picture for the sake of a pretty picture. – DN

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I spent Monday delivering and assisting in the hanging of my exhibition at the Margaret Harwell Art Museum, which opens this Saturday in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. I delivered roughly fifty paintings and will round-out the show this Friday, when I deliver and install the final three works, including two 70” tall oils and a six-foot-by-four-foot folding rice-paper screen. I had not had the opportunity to help in the hanging of my own show in a couple years and I found that my involvement in the process was nearly as invigorating as creating the works, themselves.

Today, I woke early to handle chores that have been overlooked for the past few months and found that the morning had been christened by the season’s first heavy frost. Freeze may be a better a description, as my deck and the path which constitute a short trek to the studio were completely frozen, with grass breaking crisply under each step. The moon was still in full wonder and I found myself trapped by its gaze. There are few locales that offer as much of an opportunity to experience natural originality as the moon or Luna as my children call it (due to their early indoctrination on “Bear in the Big Blue House”). There are certainly changes to the physical landscape… space garbage, if you will, from various moonshots. Though few have actually set foot on the moon, we have all left our slight footprint on the surface. Luckily, from this distance, we’re able to ignore the signs of imperialism and lunar landers and simply view the rock as our ancestors saw it.

My work over the past few years has searched for that same premise in the American west. While it is easier to imagine an open unoccupied territory in Wyoming or central Washington than say Ohio… the perfect illusion of naturalistic virginity is none-the-less gone from all of the places that one could visit. Then again who is to say that type of virginity ever existed? How much of the term “virginal” means abstinence and how much just describes any person, place or situation that has not been over-manipulated? - DN

Friday, November 23, 2007

Buy "Original" This Year!

As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in 1844: “... it is a cold, lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy me something, which does not represent your life and talent, but a goldsmith’s ..."

I write this on "black Friday", the ultimate American shopping day of the holiday season. Before you blow your money at Wal-Mart or such, stop and consider purchasing original artwork. It doesn't have to be mine (though I won't complain), just consider supporting artists that concentrate on producing only original work. - DN

Friday, November 16, 2007

Laughter, Medicine, ya know....

A long-time fan of "Craigslist", I recently ran across a hilarious knock-off site called "Khraigslist".

Click here for a laugh. - DN

Thursday, November 15, 2007

When Intellectuals Collide...

A fun article from the NY Times opinion page...

Click here. - DN

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lost and Found

Nearly fifteen years ago, my closest friend gave me a small hand-written note-card on what was to ultimately be the last day we would ever see one another. The small rectangle of paper was no more than one and a half by two and a half inches. This is what it said:

In life you will be faced with many options or roads to choose. Just keep these 3 rules in mind while you are deciding – and always be true to yourself – no regrets.

Nietzsche’s system of how to judge if something is good.

1. Can you make it a universal law?

2. Treat everyone as an end, not a mean.

3. Every person must learn and choose his own system of beliefs.

After all these years, I still keep that note-card in my wallet. There has never been a day that I was without that piece of paper. I have a feeling that if I were robbed; the money would not matter nearly as much as losing those words. – DN

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

End of the season...

So after the upcoming Harwell Museum Show (50-60 paintings), I believe it may be time for a bit of a break. Time to reflect and paint half-naked ultra-conservative-types for a year or so, rather than continue my roller coaster ride of 200 annual landscape/abstractionist paintings for 6-8 solo shows and a handful of group exhibitions per twelve-month cycle. Sure, I have to keep my name “out there”, so I’ll still have a couple shows set for 2008, but nothing like the tumultuous painter’s endurance course I’ve been carrying for the past couple years.

Having said all that, I’m in the final two weeks prior to delivery of artwork for this last show of 2007. I’m measuring and re-measuring half a dozen times on every canvas, paper, mat and frame – a true test for my OCD behavior. Last night, I caught myself literally blowing on a 26”x70” oil painting in the hope that will dry enough to avoid cracking when I re-stretch it over wooden bars, next week.

All this work leads to one thing if sales are less than stellar in the course of a year’s exhibition – cheap scotch. I hate cheap scotch… I’ve been nursing bottles boasting the red label for far too long this fall, so here is my request everyone: come out and buy a piece, if you can’t make it to the show in December, than pick-out a painting online and place an order via e-mail... ‘cause Papa is craving some Johnnie Walker Blue, this holiday season. - DN

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Any takers for reasonably priced work with the possibility of increasing your investment over time?

What Happened At Sotheby's? Van Gogh wasn't the only artist getting no love from bidders at yesterday's Sotheby's auction. 20 of 76 lots failed to sell, including works by Picasso and Miró. Some think the tumbling stock market may have made buyers cautious, but a Christie's auction did better under the same conditions. The New York Times 11/08/07

No Takers For $35m Van Gogh "A Vincent Van Gogh painting has failed to sell at an art auction in New York. Sotheby's was hoping The Wheat Fields would fetch up to $35m, but it failed to reach its undisclosed reserve or attract a bid over $25m." The painting is believed to be Van Gogh's last completed work. BBC 11/08/07

Well, I’m certainly glad that urge to buy ancient art is over, I was afraid that the bulk of my collectors would spend all their winter money on these old pieces of canvas, and not have enough left-over to buy some of MY newer paintings. – DN

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Birth of a Lifestyle Leads to Birth of a Movement?

A number of years ago, I wandered my way to Wyoming, then Jenny Lake at the Tetons finally south into Jackson Hole for a shower, shave and some sourdough flapjacks from “Jedediah's House of Sourdough”.

I liked the look of the town and decided I had had enough of my past week of camping and wanted to sleep in a place that felt like home, despite my distance away from everything familiar. I was not quite yet the tourist-repellant anti-social butterfly of which you are now familiar. I soaked-up the glam and kitsch of the town’s cowboy culture for about a day, then searched out a week-long apartment rental. I found a space located upstairs from a restaurant on the main downtown drag. Boasting a kitchen, wrap around balcony and VCR, I settled into my first brief stint of acclimating myself to an unfamiliar town’s local culture. I shopped at the local grocery stores; I drifted in and out of the used book sanctuaries. I attended an opening, one evening and an artist talk on another, at the small contemporary Arts Council that was doing its damnedest to promote something outside the realm of “traditional western” art.

Spent half-a-day in a used record shop talking to a guy about Leo Kottke’s duet album with Mike Gordon, titled “Clone”. I learned that Krispy Kreme donuts cost $12 for a glazed dozen (don’t ask how much specialty donuts were) because they are delivered fresh every morning to a small convenience store in Jackson Hole, Wyoming from somewhere 200 miles northwest in Idaho. I discovered that the dollar menu at fast food joints is really a $1.33 plus tax (it is the same in Santa Fe).

I even visited a couple roadside flea markets and found that even the “junk” in Jackson Hole is over-priced. After a week of briskly cool mountain evenings spent on my private balcony, watching locals hide amongst tourists, I returned my apartment keys. I learned a few things about myself and traveling in that brief tenure: I could never afford to live very long in an over-priced tourist magnet of a town (I had to relearn that lesson in Santa Fe) and traveling somewhere to live like a local is so much more relaxing than walking around on an itinerary like a Japanese tourist. Hence, immersion travel was born…- DN

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

This could be interesting... not art-related, but.....

An Obama/Ron Paul ticket in 2008! I'm just talking out of my head, so don't get your hopes up. - DN

Monday, November 05, 2007

Making Art = Making Success Far from Home?

“A River Runs Through It” is a common stereotypical motivator for men wanting to return to the place they only knew they loved after reading the novella or watching the Robert Redford film.

The story of two brothers raised along the trout rivers of Montana, at the turn of the century; the tale presents two intellectuals… two artists with two decisions. Both writers, thanks to their minister father’s love of the written word; the older brother, Norman, leaves the land he loves to pursue his craft in far away cities and colleges of academia. During the remainder of his long life spent primarily in the Midwest, he only has time to return north for brief holidays and summer breaks. The other younger brother, Paul, remains in Montana, finding a way to utilize his intelligence to eke out a living as a reporter, in order to support his fishing, drinking and gambling addictions. Dying young, Paul is the epitome of the tragic artist, living only briefly (but in the place he loved), compared to Norman’s long life of respectability, outside the world of Montana and the American west.

My question is this: Which brother was right? When I think of the manner in which I left my northern home to search for success in the Southwest, I think of this story. Specifically, I’m reminded of that famous fortuitous line uttered by the character of Paul when Norman asks him to venture east, to Chicago, in order to work and live by his brother’s side – “Oh, I’ll never leave Montana, brother”.

Does making art depend on metropolitan dreams of promotion and success?

So given two choices, in this time of travel and rapid region jumping across the nation, I occasionally stop and wonder – would any of us if we found the perfect spot early on in life, but chose to leave for dreams of greener pastures… would we return to that place? Would we really go back? Would I really go back to relive an old life? If we leave and return is it ever the same? – DN

Friday, November 02, 2007

Interesting, but genius? C'mon, really?

A list was compiled in the UK that “decided” the top 100 living geniuses throughout the world. Created by a consulting firm using email, I have to wonder who exactly they decided to contact via email phishing.

While I understand and may even agree with a number of entries, I have to question the inclusion and placement of a few “winners”… I mean come on I like the old country song “Jolene” as much as the next red-blooded American, but Dolly Parton included in a list of the world’s greatest living geniuses?

Mohammed Ali is there too… but he can't keep that top fifty spot of the treasured number 43 all to himself, he’s tied with that genius of cultural evolution: Osama Bin Laden.

Click here to laugh, cry and scratch your head at the results. - DN

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Reason to Live, Reason to Make Art... One and the Same?

Is there a heaven… is there a hell? Paul Tibbet, pilot of the plane that dropped the Hiroshima atomic bomb, died today at the age of 92. Does he now know the answer to the ultimate question regarding afterlife? Does it really matter? I really like the following article, because it drops the pretensions of afterlife and capitalistic intentions and asks the very basic question – in the single opportunity at the life that you've been offered, do you want to be an artist or citizen? - DN

“If you want to be an icon of virtue, this is the moment because you’ll stand out”
Dave Hickey 29.10.07 Issue 185

The question of how to sell without selling out is especially relevant in the contemporary art world and there are few people better qualified to grapple with this thorny topic than Dave Hickey.Not only is he Professor of English at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Hickey is also one of America’s best known art and cultural critics, admired for his aversion to academicism and his robust analysis of the effects on art of the rough and tumble of the free market.Last month he delivered a keynote speech at Frieze: “Schoolyard art: playing fair without the referee.” Here we present an edited transcript.

The title of this talk comes from a legend about the great basketball player Julius Irving, Dr J, who was famous even in his schoolyard days; he wanted to be a professional player so much that he always played by the rules even on the school yard. He would call fouls on himself. Any of you who have been around the art world for the last few years will realise the aptness of this comparison because whatever rules there may have been, no longer apply.

There are people out there who like art more than money. The only bad thing is that there are a lot of artists who like money more than art. This is a problem but consider the benefits. There has never been a better chance to draw attention to oneself by behaving honourably and honestly and meticulously. If you want to be an icon of virtue, this is the moment because you’ll stand out.If you behave well, if you behave correctly, if you make art that will still matter in 200 years, all you can lose is money.

Did anyone get into the art world to make money? I got into it for sex and drugs but not for money. Why is everyone worrying about money? What are you going to do if you get a lot of money? Are you going to buy a boat? Are you going to buy an apartment in Paris? Jesus, stop it! Unless you have an incredible drug habit, I don’t really see any reason to have money at all.I really don’t care about money, as my wife will tell you. I do care about being right.

My rule is Leo Castelli’s rule and a lot of what I’m telling you today comes from Leo.Leo said: “You can’t be right all the time but you can never be wrong.” If you go by that rule, you’re going to be ok.Leo’s idea of being wrong was to sell something for too much money.

The example he gave was a painter named Jennifer Bartlett, who was represented by Paula Cooper Gallery. Jennifer had a little bubble moment, she began selling her pictures in the high six figures—they really deserved to be sold in the low twos. So I asked Leo what was wrong with that and he said: “It hurts Carl Andre’s prices.” Which is to say, the prices of everybody’s work are compromised by selling art for too much money. For a dealer, this is virtually impossible to avoid these days.

My friend Bob Shapazian, who was director of the Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles, quit. And why did he quit? He said: “I’m not an art dealer anymore. I sit around, a crate comes in, I see who the crate’s from, I go to the waiting list, I make up this outrageous fucking number and send it out. That’s not being an art dealer. I am creating value but it is not real value.”What we have here is a strange moment which is the return of primary practice.In the 80s and 90s, you had one of the biggest hypocritical moments in the history of art. You would walk into a gallery and in the front room would be the work of somebody called something like Hernando which was completely composed of confetti and dog turds. There would be a serious essay about confetti and dog turds—their interchangeability, their social relevance, the way they relate to late capitalism. And then, if you could get into the back room with your shoes clean, you would buy the Donald Judd that was back there.

We went through two decades of what was mostly a secondary market in which the front room was just a place to put up installation art with popcorn machines, that nobody had even the faintest interest in selling, as a loss leader to lure people into the back room to buy the Donald Judd and the Claes Oldenburg.

With the collapse of this moment, a lot of things happened. The public funding disappeared. With public funding gone, the power of the museum receded. Kunsthalles closed like little violets across the country. At the same time we have seen the development of a business world which benefits from a condition of borderline hyperliquidity.

I was talking to the president of the Venetian Resort hotel and casino in Las Vegas. He said: “You wouldn’t believe it. We are bringing money home by the bucketful, we bring bucket after bucket of money. We are running out of buckets.” When you run out of buckets, when you run out of places to put your money, that’s hyperliquidity. And I needn’t tell you that hyperliquidity is good for the art world because if you really want to piss away some money, the art world is the place to do it. There is so much money out there at the moment it just makes you cry. And it’s harder and harder to get hold of it unless you’re selling art.

So we have a bubble. Art bubbles are great. Art bubbles suck money into the art world. Who gets hurt in an art bubble? Greedy artists; stupid collectors. Who else? Nobody with their wits about them gets hurt in an art bubble.Also institutions today have the power of sucking all the money available in the community into the museum.

I said to a friend of mine who runs a museum on the West Coast: “You’ve had 17 installation art shows, are you ever going to show any objects again?” He said: “If I show objects the people on my board just buy them, and then they don’t give me the money.”

What has changed is the whole format of the art world as it existed before 1970: you had artists who worked in their studios; they took their work to galleries; the art galleries sold this work to members of the community. When a community had purchased a critical mass of this work it was presumed that it had some aspect of public virtue and you had to show it in a museum. So what we’re dealing with for most of the 20th century is the transformation of objects of private delectation into icons of public significance.

This is what happened when I was growing up in Fort Worth. There was a moment, and I’m ashamed to admit it, in which every mid-century modern dining room in Fort Worth had a Maurice Lewis on the wall. So, quite naturally, the museum had a Maurice Lewis show because it presumed you could look at a Maurice Lewis and figure out something about Fort Worth—which you could but you didn’t want to know it. And the presumption is: We don’t have style development anymore because history is over.

I date the end of history to the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in 1968. When they shot JFK everybody said “Oh God, it’s so terrible it’s the end of the world.” When they shot Bobby, everybody said: “Oh no, not again.” And the end of history is pretty much marked by: “Oh no, not again.” The problem is that even though history may be over—time keeps on going.

I am bored with giant cibachrome photographs of three Germans standing behind a mailbox. It doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means I’m fucking bored with it.This is the crisis that happened, with the death of installation art, with the enormous escalation of available capital, with the collapse of institutional authority; all this created the world that we live in today and the art fair is the embodiment of it.

Another appropriate analogy: a couple of years ago I was at one of those hotel art fairs, where you walk down the hall and every door is open and there are little sculptures sitting on the bedspreads and light works stuck up on the walls. I was walking through one of these, and I was thinking it was kind of strange, it was like Amsterdam without the prostitutes. You’re walking down the hall and looking into all of these rooms with all of these things. Then I went home that night and turned on the television. This was two days after Americans had entered Baghdad and overthrown Saddam Hussein. There’s a guy with a camera, walking down the hall of the Baghdad Hilton and every door is open. In here you can buy Xerox machines, in here you can buy ancient Sumerian artefacts, in here you can buy everybody’s medical records in Iraq. Every room was full of stolen shit.

And the analogy between that little moment in the hotel and the little moment in Baghdad put a special spin on the art fair phenomenon for me, the idea of absolute, raw, rapacious capitalism.I have no problem with it, I love it when people buy art. When I walk through Frieze looking at everything, I’m saying to myself, “Does this meet my standards?” My standards for any gathering of art are: is 99% of this bullshit? Yes. But, is 1% of it interesting? Yes.That’s about your percentages for anything in the world. Eventually some dealer will think, “I’ve got this great idea. I’m only going to show art I like.” Everybody else will go, “Oh, no, don’t do that. You’re fucking kidding.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Names in the news and reasons to exhibit…

I should have been stretching paintings for the exhibit, last evening, instead I started painting a new 32”’x 78” oil of another map, only breaking to eat and watch the last-half of a rerun of “House” staring Hugh Laurie.

As I enter the final 4-5 weeks prior to my next museum exhibition, I realize that I’ve hit the stage of the game where I put-off the detrimental exhibit details - such as framing; ordering glass; measuring for stretcher bars; compiling a final list, for the museum staff, of each piece I actually plan to place in the show. How do I usually spend that time, instead of preparing for my show… ironically, I paint more large pictures, which in turn leads to needing more solo exhibits to sell the work; so I can make more room to paint in the studio. Vicious circle…. Like most process-oriented artists, I could really care less about having/getting to exhibit my work. I do it, however, as an end to justify the means.

Artnews has a list of who they believe will be famous in 105 years. But "Jeff Koons, whose collectors include billionaire Eli Broad, and Damien Hirst, whose shark is owned by hedge-fund manager Steven Cohen, failed to draw a vote from museum curators nominating artists who'll be famous in 105 years' time for U.S. magazine ARTnews." Bloomberg 10/30/07

Yeah, I need exhibitions to sell (and survive?)… but… how much of the commercial aspect of the art world game is truly inconsequential? Does the fact that two of the highest selling living contemporary artists, Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, never actually “did it for me” suddenly have some deeper meaning in my own search for artistic immortality? If I won the lottery and just gave away everything I painted (hence, not needing the subsequent income)… would my value to or place in the future of art history be diminished, flawed or non-existent? - DN

Monday, October 29, 2007

Do Explanations Help Art?

"It is a commonly held view in the art world that the public resists conceptual work because it is difficult to understand. Its reputation for being pretentious and "not as good as painting" would improve, they argue, if it were properly explained. In many exhibitions - the pavilions at the Venice Biennale this year being one example - reams of text, and even books, are handed out to visitors to help them interpret what they see." – The New Statesman, 10/18/2007

I’ve included narratives with my paintings for as long as I can remember. In my work, the story is inseparable from the initial reason to make the painting. –DN

Friday, October 26, 2007

Serial Monogamy

My hiatus from writing has been influenced by the mad rush to complete works for the upcoming December show at the Margaret Harwell Museum in Missouri. While I should be busy stretching paintings from the pile of completed canvases on the corner studio shelf, instead I find myself working to create from those final surges of mad energy often associated with works of greater dimension.

Currently, I have two large (3’x7’) oil map-paintings stretched and drying. Its never a question of what to paint, just one of where to put them whilst they dry and I carve out a new one. I’ve returned to oils with these last two works and I find myself swimming in the continuous inhalation of mineral spirits I temporarily abandoned. Maybe its related to the process of marking, tracing and manipulating the movement of space across a composition that forces the frantic desire to continue my painting narratives. I build these make-shift stretched canvas structures as quickly as possible so that I can lay my hands down and allow the rotation of my arms to overtake their sockets and my perception of depth. Painting with one’s entire body is a sensation unmatched by anything constructed outside the natural world. A computer mouse and Photoshop have nothing on a jar of the purest thinned paint and two fists of Chinese brushes, brayers and sticks.

Once the work is dry, I re-stretch over heavy-duty kiln-dried stretcher strips, exhibiting with wrap-around painted sides and deliver unto the outstretched paths of the world… allowing me to forget them and love another. - DN

Thursday, October 25, 2007

He was good... but not scientist good...

"Jackson Pollock, famous for his dripped and poured paintings, was one of the most explosively innovative American artists of the 20th century. But was he also decades ahead of his time in terms of the paints he used? Did he have access to pigments and resins that weren't marketed or patented until well after his death in 1956?" The question arose after several supposedly authenticated Pollocks were found to contain such pigments. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 10/24/07

Click here to read the entire article.

ahem... (cough) forgery... ahem... - DN

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Old... Modern Art

Archaeologists have discovered an 11,000-year-old work of art in northern Syria. --The Telegraph, London, Oct 10, 2007

Maybe the modernists did come first…click here to read the entire article. - DN

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


So many contemporary art movements want to accentuate the artistic freedom to work without boundaries or formats. While I appreciate and often even feel lured towards this creative perspective… I have to stop and wonder what qualifies the members of an “anything goes” art movement as a group?

At what point does the philosophy of an art group’s manifesto have to give way for actual cohesion of style or subject, so that an actual art movement can form? My own work runs the gamut of (1) travel-inspired works, (2) abstracted landscapes that propel movement as a binding force and (3) introspective anthropological narratives – at what point do I take one or all of these directions and build some sort of unified front to stamp a permanent spot upon the present or future art world. Within my lifetime will that even be possible for a painter stuck in the current conceptual art time warp? After all these years, try as I might, I can’t help but feel more passion for painting over all other mediums. – While I still don’t believe they hold the answer for the direction I see my work taking, I think I just had a small epiphany with regards to what motivates the Stuckists’ art movement.

Could the most ridiculous of all the twentieth century questions (Is painting dead?), be the button that sets me off? My personal motivator to prove that painting is or should be the high art of choice? Surely the contemporary art world has not branched so far out that something as simple as stating “I am a painter” is a call to arms or binding factor for an art movement... I am a painter. - DN

Monday, October 15, 2007

Defense of the Ignorant - the art made me do it?

Vandals Slash Serrano Photos In Swedish Gallery - Around 3:30, half an hour before closing, four vandals wearing black masks stormed into a space known as the Kulturen Gallery while shouting in Swedish, "We don't support this," plus an expletive. They pushed visitors aside, entered a darkened room where some of the photographs were displayed and began smashing the glass protecting the photographs and then hacking away at the prints. By the time the masked men had finished, half the show — seven 50-by-60-inch photographs, worth some $200,000 over all — had been destroyed. The men left behind leaflets reading, “Against decadence and for a healthier culture.” The fliers listed no name or organization. - The New York Times 10/09/07

Read the complete article, here.

So violence leads to a healthier culture? I appreciate that not everyone approves of the works produced by Serrano, but who grants the right to destroy the property of another in the name of decency? The entire concept of destroying art to prove righteousness is absurd. Its right up there with bombing abortion clinics to stop “murder” or claiming that disagreement with the government is unpatriotic.

However this phenomenon is not limited to only the most controversial of art, last week, another vandal destroyed a Monet… a Monet… who would have something against a Monet? Ninety-nine percent of Impressionists’ paintings do nothing more than feed the human soul with goodness and beauty. Vandals. I hate it when the world reminds me that there are still dregs in society. - DN

Friday, October 12, 2007

More about the crack at the Tate...

Click here to read a few other opinions about the crack at the Tate and its art "worthiness". - DN

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Living with Art...

Now this is a great story... the last line in the article is the best:

A crack in the floor which forms Tate Modern's latest installation has claimed its first casualties. Three visitors lost their footing and fell into the gap made by Doris Salcedo's art work. They were among more than 12,000 people who viewed the installation, which runs the full 167 metres (548 feet) of the Turbine Hall.

The Tate said the trio did not sustain serious injuries. "We can confirm that three visitors missed their footing and tripped in the Turbine Hall at the opening event. "They were attended to immediately by Tate security staff trained in first aid but there have been no serious injuries. Twelve thousand people visited the installation on the first day and there have been no further incidents," a spokeswoman said.

"Tate staff are monitoring the space carefully to ensure the safety of our visitors. "Tate has a lot of experience handling complex installations and visitor safety. We have thought carefully about visitor safety, working closely with Southwark Council and there are measures in place. There are no plans to barrier off the work at this stage."

Tate staff are on hand with leaflets warning about the dangers of getting too close to the piece. Gallery attendants have also been instructed to give verbal advice to visitors.

Brazilian sculptor Salcedo says the work, entitled Shibboleth, symbolises racial division.
The crack represents the gap between white Europeans and the rest of the world's population. According to Salcedo, the fissure is "bottomless... as deep as humanity"...
However, it appears to be around three feet at its deepest point. - UK Times Online, Oct 10th
Always nice to know the human condition really only rates three feet... - DN

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Why Immersion Travel Art?

I recently met my most interesting local, yet, in the southern Midwest… given the fact that I’m originally from this area – that’s saying a lot.

The woman was a teacher in her late fifties, both employed and residing within fifty miles of where she was raised. That in it’s self is not uncommon, I dare say that many of my neighbors have rarely (if ever) made the three-hour-drive north to St. Louis or south to Memphis. However, the person, to whom I refer now, seems to have traveled, though exactly how widely, I do not know. She herself is well educated and her daughter is a writer, currently living in Los Angeles and doing script-work for the television show “Jericho”. None of this is what stood-out in our conversations, though. Instead, I was completely intrigued by her stories of attending the “Negro School” prior to desegregation taking root in the Mississippi Delta region of southern Missouri.

I expected tales of want and discomfort and instead was met with … a happy childhood. While she made distinction that not all students of segregated education had a “fine experience”, she remembered her own experience as boasting a school that offered limitless opportunities for education as it was well-funded with new books, a nice well-kept brick building and only the best support materials (new chalk-boards, desks and such). "We had everything the White School had," she told me. The Negro School was located behind the White School (adjoining properties), with the playgrounds divided by a gravel road. She told me that when one side’s ball would bounce over the line, the group of children on the other side would happily toss it back. It was a surreal discussion on race without any real mention of color or class distinction.

Located in the middle of corn and cotton fields, only a few miles across the Mississippi River, with Dyersburg Tennessee as the nearest neighbor - this pocket of uncommon racial co-habitation continues to exist to some degree, today. The schools are now joined as one, with the former Negro School serving as the district’s Middle School. The interior of the school boasts photographs of the school district’s history, hiding nothing in the shadows. Proudly displaying throughout the halls images of multi-racial graduating classes from their school, over the years. Even now, there continues a small black population mixed intermittently amongst the predominately white classrooms, but the race relations seem nowhere near the strain found in other regions of the country, or even other neighboring sections of southern Missouri.

Why Immersion Travel Art?… for stories and interactions, just like the one above. I could have never heard this story from the mass media, or read about it in a travel brochure provided by the local Chamber of Commerce. Now what do I do with this information, this aspect of “knowing” that exposes intimacy of relationships and turns my mind and actions from tourist to indigenous. – DN

Monday, October 08, 2007

Mass Marketing Dreams

Another great website, click here to view. Interesting to read about others' dreams. Sure some are ridiculous; many are materialistic and consumerist-driven… but then there are those beautiful few that want nothing more than a moment of guileless unrelenting quality… a dream worth something from a purely individual standpoint not based on the skewed perspective of society.

What is the exhibition of art, but a dream to attain acceptance from society? Why else display it? I don’t paint to a mold, do I exhibit towards one? Is it really possible to display work with the same individuality as one creates art? – DN

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Looking for art in a technical world...

For a while I’ve read, in silence, the occasional abbreviated words of another. “Nietzsche's Wife (Ecce Mulier)” is probably my favorite blog - minimalist, simple, and indignant of others.

Even the postings in the archive read as if they are indifferent to time, her blog lives in the moment… “Nietzsche's Wife” has quite possibly figured-out how to turn a simple blog into process-oriented art.

Click here to read. – DN

Friday, October 05, 2007

Morris Graves Museum

Opening tomorrow, click here. - DN

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Endorsements and Labels of Affection

“Teachers Endorse Hillary” was the headline I read this morning when I sat at my computer, coffee in hand, for my morning news overview. That’s curious, I don’t recall anyone EVER asking me whom I endorsed during my itinerant public school teaching career. I do remember something having to do with political buttons leaning hard to Democrat while I was under the guise of the local teacher’s union in St. Louis (guild of thieves is probably a better description), more than a handful of years ago. Don’t get me wrong… I tend to lean Democrat, despite my disgust with the party and politics in general… but I still don’t like the implication that one has to check their brain at the door when voting, just because a union demands the final say… it seems twice as despicable when you consider that we’re discussing teachers or the molders of minds... relenting their objective right to choice.

Which leads me to the question of “how to endorse a style or genre of art?” I’m sure this is not a unique area of conflict… every artist that is interested in creating work for the sake of the process, must at some point grow tired of pigeon-holing into a series, style, subject…etc. Yet, do we place ourselves into the position of defining our art or do we simply cave to societal pressure?

I would have to say the most common question that accompanies, “so whadya do?”… has to be “what kinda art?”

After all these years, I still have nothing short of a half-assed response when faced with this question. “uhhmmm, I paint a lot, no really a LOT”. But what happens if I start to utilize the kiln in the corner of my studio (you know… the one under the box of travel books)?

Some additional common questions I field:
Is it landscape or abstract (what about when I venture into figures)?
Is it paint or ink (what about when I mix the two... mixed-media)?
Are scrolls still paintings, in the strictest commercial sense of the word, if they’re not on canvas or framed behind glass?
And my favorite: Does it hurt your value if you produce too many paintings in a year (supply and demand)?

By the way, I don’t care for any of the candidates but I dislike Obama the least, so that's how I lean in our current political climate. - DN

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Enough is Enough?

Now this link is interesting a little story on a modern Secessionists in the USA and its not exactly whom you would have thought. Click here to read. - DN

Monday, October 01, 2007

Individual Narratives

"Samuel's Drawing, age 4", Sharpie & Watercolor on HP Photopaper

My son has already acquired an interest in working with non-traditional painting media. This painting, along with ten more, was completed a month before his fifth birthday. Since that time he has started an intensive pre-school program that has been wonderful for his social development and maturity, but has done serious damage to his natural artistic technique. That nice three-dimensional figure you see above has been replaced with traditional stick figures with scribbles for bodies. Today, when we work in the studio, we’ll have to practice the process of unlearning what I refer to as… idiot-socialized art (the faux-modesty that occurs when a student joins a group of peers and suddenly prefers to paint or draw like everyone else in order to be accepted as “nothing-special”).

Which brings me around to narratives. Stories about life, seemingly insignificant moments in time, and what happens to dreams when mortality gets in the way. That special desire to be accepted as less than exceptional, particularly in the South and Midwest… Garrison Keillor has used the ideal as the basis of his writing and radio program for nearly forty years. That concept that extols – what’s good enough for one man should be more than enough for a generation.

But I’m alluding to the negative, again; who’s to say mortality can’t emphasis rather than unravel a fantasy of self-confidence and artistic alienation. After all, it’s the richness in the details of existence that make life worth living.

Abstract concepts in a literal world, occasionally, are harshly received. I’ve previously mentioned my admiration for the writings of John Haines. A painter turned poet that wrote every word like the scratch of a minimalist painter searching for the perfect brushstroke. His beautiful genius for detailing metaphors from analogies is a rare find in the most perfect of situations. However, it was even more out of place for an east-coast native with an on-again, off-again romance with mid-twentieth century Alaskan homesteading. Innumerable winters and a couple wives later, he was suddenly old. No longer in the place he loved. Instead he was conducting readings in New York and other university-infatuated cities along his book tours. He learned his lesson and returned to the source of his passion, unfortunately… naturally, though… lives continued while he was away. The best moments seemed to have passed into realms of technology and we only have his poems and prose as a record of that time as a path to relive it. His best poems and stories were the ones derived from chance encounters with locals along lonely hunting excursions and the very occasional all-night storytelling camps with fellow sourdough dreamers in remote shacks reserved as meeting places originally intended for joining men with whiskey.

Humans are social beasts, but that does not mean that we should lose our individuality for the prospect of further association; quite the contrary, it is our individual character that defines our purpose. – DN

Monday, September 24, 2007

New Varnishes

Click the image to see enlargement...

"Casting Stones", Sumi and Acrylic Inks and Paints on Canvas, 12"x30"

My “to varnish or not to varnish” philosophy is cyclic. My scroll paintings are all unvarnished in the sense that I do not add a final sealant to the paintings… yet they are protected in the manner in which I initially mix my painting grounds.

Since recently returning to canvas from a long period spent working primarily on paper, I have begun to research new mediums (and rediscover past ones, as well) for “finishing” my paintings. Today, I finally decided upon re-exploring my previous dabbling in the land of encaustic painting. The work, pictured above, is “pre-varnish”; as soon as I find my errant half-empty jug of Dorland’s Wax medium, I’ll re-stretch (because I stretch flat over wood panel to paint in my destructive fashion and then release from the panel to stretch open over bars)… and seal/polish the painting and finally re-post for inspection. While I know the local viewer will immediately recognize an observable difference, I’m curious how much change will be noticeable from the on-line perspective. - DN

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Number 33

Click image to See MORE!... well actually, just larger.....

"Late Spring, Missouri Storm", Oil on Archival Board, 8"x40"

This is an older piece completed after my childhood home was destroyed by the nearly simultaneous strike of two tornadoes in southern Missouri, a few late springs ago. I was the age my daughter is now, when my father and I spent a spring and summer building a home that seemed luxurious by our standards, during my father’s 33rd year. He has always claimed number 33 to be his lucky number. It took my own marriage, family and a long time of both to understand why he held that figure to a near holy proportion. Building his family a home was his Mt. Sinai. Only a few months from that age, myself, I wonder what grand plans await my little family and I. - DN

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Poison in Motion

Click the image to see the detailed view:

"Burning Field Rows", Sumi & Acrylic Inks & Acrylic Paint on Canvas, 6"x16"
The sense of movement is a continuous underlying theme in my work. Countering directions and currents of change in typically stable entities marks the compositions of my paintings.

The nearby fields have been burning for over a week, now. My daughter's asthma is reacting with the chemical-heavy smoke that billows unnaturally overhead like dirty-brown mushroom clouds. That type of reaction from a simple field burn cannot be normal. The cotton is halfway through the harvest and the soy was low on production. So its time… time to raze the fields and prepare to start again. Mounds of raw cotton line the county roads running parallel to the interstate, like dollops of cream trailing home. – DN

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Desires Without End or Just Without Merit

So if I made alyah to Israel, how long would it take to grow bored? How soon would my wife find me spending my Sunday mornings in a Jerusalem cafe... hidden down some two thousand year old alley, drinking cappucinos, reading the NY Times - focus shifting between the travel and arts sections... and daydream of living somewhere else? Does it end? -DN

Monday, September 17, 2007

Southern Abstraction

You know the routine... click the image to see the enlarged detail...

"Tallit, Southern Fields and Shmita", Sumi and Acrylic Ink and Paint on loose Canvas

Shmita is the law in Torah that states every seventh year the fields must be allowed to rest. According to the Jewish calendar, this is the year (5768).

My creative burnout factor has greatly increased over the past few months, as I find myself overwhelmed with continuous exhibitions and new land to explore and paint. To keep my interest-level and rapid production high, without degrading my level of quality… I have returned to my earlier forays of abstraction based upon the surrounding landscape.

My work has held a certain degree of abstraction to its mast for a number of years, but only occasionally have I driven my art towards a complete series boasting nearly 100% non-representative qualities. Yet, here I am. Attempting to usher in a Modernist art movement that already lived a full-life outside the southern states. While I realize that there have been plenty of other artists that explored the realm of abstraction while working in the South (Robert Rauschenberg and Julian Schnabel – both Texans which doesn’t necessarily constitute Southern; and of course, the artists of Black Mountain College, etc); I have to wonder why in this singular place, the concept of Modernism hasn’t stuck… at all? Imbued by barn paintings on saw-blades and actual old “pieces of wood salvaged from a barn”; I believe I know the answer and it’s hidden somewhere in the traces of a disappearing bible-belt, the slow advancement of higher education and an overall desire to remain socially simplistic in a radically ____________ world (you fill in the blank).

I’m not always sure why I chose a specific location when the need to move arises. Sure, I give myself a laundry list of reasons and rationales, but deep-down… I really only understand that most basic of desires - I need a journey. Part of needing a journey goes hand-in-hand with taking a break from the comfortable to explore that part of the psyche that we don't parade at parties. Rauschenberg probably said it best, though:

"You have to have the time to feel sorry for yourself in order to be a good abstract expressionist."

Happy Trails (or dark convoluted ones if that is what you need to get your creative juices flowing) - DN

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Click the image to see the detailed view.

"Eclipse: Crowley's Ridge Under a Red Moon at 3AM", Sumi and Acrylic Inks and Paint on Canvas

A recent late evening/early morning eclipse created a blood-red moon... as it moved over the nearby rise of Crowley's Ridge. Looking at it during the hours between waining sleep and the faint of wakefulness, I wondered it it was an eclipse or simply G-d peeling a blood orange in the sky. - DN

Monday, September 10, 2007


"Cottonfields" Acrylic and Sumi Inks and Paints on Canvas

Click on the image to see the larger work. My last posting of new work was not actually of new Missouri-based paintings, so I thought I'd start showing them on a regular basis to prove I am painting here! - DN

Friday, September 07, 2007

Is it just the name... or does it matter that paintings are ...GOOD?

If the two dozen small paintings discovered by Alex Matter five years ago in his deceased parents' storage locker are not by Jackson Pollock, then I'd like to congratulate whoever did make them. Now on view for the first time in a fascinating, much anticipated exhibition called "Pollock Matters" at Boston College's McMullen Museum of Art, they are beautiful little pictures… And what if the paintings are never proven to be Pollocks - or proven indisputably not to be Pollocks - will they then become worthless? The best of them are still lovely to look at - or so it seems to me. What matters most in today's market-driven art world, the artist or the art? The object or the brand? – Boston Globe 9/2/2007

How often are artists (and collectors, gallerists, curators, critics...) found fighting for overall personal name recognition as opposed to battling for significance in an individual piece? The process is all that matters, the singular work created during that illuminated moment of lucidity that transfers a person from human to god, from painter to artist. Enlightenment is fleeting. It’s as fickle about leaving as arriving, and it can only be found in the flash of the creative process… not saddled to drudgery of an imperfect life. – DN

Thursday, September 06, 2007

New Work

New pieces created specifically for the Morris Graves Exhibition... (among a group of 28 paintings). Click on an image to see the detailed version. - DN

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

No Such Thing as a Quiet Revolution?

"In art, all who have done something other than their predecessors have merited the epithet of revolutionary; and it is they alone who are masters."--PAUL GAUGUIN

... and then there is always the back-handed inspiration of Graham Greene:

"In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo de Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock."--GRAHAM GREENE

I have always heard the art world is only a faithful mistress to young artists. I look back at other, more successful, artists I have known that burned-out… “You had a good run, thank God you were young before it passed you by, too bad your youth didn’t allow you to enjoy it.” Or maybe that’s just my jaded opinion of what I saw.

Sunday, I tossed more logs on the fire, barely refreshed after completing, crating and shipping twenty-eight paintings to the Morris Graves Museum, last Friday. I was once again stretching canvas and painting into wet gesso, without the patience to even formulate a coherent thought before I drug my roller and brush over the surface, disfiguring the clean white with abrasive combinations of red, yellow and violet. Starting and finishing a bottle of a French cerulean blue-colored concoction called “Hpnotiq”; like water in the hundred-degree heat matched by true southern humidity. I’m beginning to wonder if my painting process will ever relax to a slower pace. I’ve read that even Pollock couldn’t slow down, he either painted feverishly or he didn’t paint at all. Looking backwards, through the bottom of a bottle, at an unbelievable ten-year-run gone past, it’s said that Pollock didn’t even paint for the final eighteen months of his life.

I often daydream of returning to my Hi-line home in the northern Rockies, spending my days hunting pheasant and evenings quietly painting my distant neighbors from the Blackfeet reservation or half dozen Hutterite colonies. My painting style would either be repugnantly dismissed or unique enough to merit the regular occasion to attain models and practice my craft. Like most opportunities in life, I can only assume that it would fall within some middle ground of acceptance. Someone, just this morning asked, “Do you get bored easily?” “My God, Yes!” I wanted to declare… and here I am later, daydreaming of my northern home and still wondering if it’s possible to slow my near-rabid painterly pace. – DN

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


I've been messing around with the layout of this blog as well as another overhaul of the main portfolio website. Thanks for your patience. - DN

Monday, September 03, 2007

Scam or Need an Editor?

So I got this via e-mail, today...

Córdoba, Argentina.

Dear Visual Artist

Daniel North

Found out its work quality, we considered your incorporation in the book "THE AESTHETICS AND THE CONTEMPORARY ART" produced by ATcultura.

Biographies and images of artists ; commentaries by prominents reviewers, messages and essays of Contemporary Art, will be present in this highquality book, big format, it will be distribuited on first universities and museums of the world.

Book will be edited in illustration paper, with photocrom illustrations and in a fancy box, covered by a luxe cloth binding, bilingual ( Spanish and English).

Artists invited to take part of edition, will invite by a selection criteria of quality.

Atcultura is sponsored only formally by the Government and enterprises but solicit not subsidies from they, wherefore ATcultura prefer avoid any possible conditionament, this colaborative project solicit to artists one minimum monetary contribution.

Previous books of ATcultura include artists like Caio Fonseca, Natasha de Wet, Perez Celis, Carole Feuerman, Regina José Galindo, etc. You can see in or in our page

If would be interesting participation in this book for you, we require you as soon possible reply to: with a brief biography for be larged to future, adress and phone number, to be considered one of selectioned artist for receive own proposal.

Best regards.

Dipl. Ricardo Lescano Grosso

Director. ATcultura.

My first instinct was that this originated in Nigeria, but the website was real and the blog was real... so is it an elaborate hoax or amazingly bad editing? - DN

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sometimes, I Do Consider Money as a Motivator...

Lately, I’ve been considering a change in my preferred mediums. A painter at heart I could never easily abandon my palette mixing and kung-fu action painter moves. There is a simple majesty to being able to build flawless compositions with only a myriad of colors and image defining contour sumi-e ink lines.

Yet, I’m also interested in returning to sculpture, most specifically figurative work in clay; a medium I haven’t done much with, professionally, in a decade. Remember an earlier post of my newly acquired kiln… well the guilt of neglect is beginning to set-in… so I’ve been sketching figures for a new series of clay forms. Maybe nothing will come of these small designs, then again maybe I need to review the commission standards for sculptors versus painters in commercial galleries. I know a few of you may be scratching your heads at this point, wondering what commissions have to do with anything, well the industry standard is 50/50 for paintings and 60(artist)/40(gallery) for sculpture. Not huge differences but definitely something to consider for all those little college art students unsure of choosing a 2D or 3D major in Art. – DN

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Sunday was Samuel’s 5th birthday. He loves baseball and we planned on buying Cardinal’s tickets to take him to his first game on the special day. Then about a month ago he said that he wanted a Superman birthday party with all his friends, a big cake and piñata. He’s never had a big party… these past years we’ve lived too far away for family to attend and he’s always been too young to have many friends since he hasn’t yet been school-age and we have done our level best to abstain from organized religion.

This month, we enrolled him into pre-school two weeks prior to his birthday, just so he’d have a large group of friends to invite. Friday came and went and no one had responded to the RSVP as requested, we did our best to prepare ourselves for the onslaught of tears to come on Sunday. On the 26th, the house was full, nearby family did what families should do and filled the void left by friends. Not one of the twelve invited children arrived. A few cousins came, but the age difference is drastic. I slowly recalled being told more than once that this nice southern town took it's time accepting new residents. However, the day was not lost, Samuel was glad in his gifts and his younger brother helped him break-open the piñata. Everyone had double helpings of cake and ice cream, so he wouldn’t notice the leftovers.

Later that evening as he prepared for bed, I asked him how he felt about his day. Samuel said that he had fun then paused and said, “It was too bad my friends couldn’t come, I wanted to see my new best friend Keaton, but at least my family is big”.

I’ve come to realize, in fatherhood, that some people are simply born stronger than others and no amount of growth or life-long conflict can match that inborn strength. Knowing this about my son, I realize that I probably learned more from this experience than he; then again... maybe we would have all just been better off if I had purchased the goddamn Cardinal’s tickets. – DN

Monday, August 27, 2007

Just one question, before continuing to the next painting.....

Stories are as important to my work as the finished paintings. Having said that… how much of this “new” art movement is about travel and how much is just a consuming desire to find a good personal narrative? – DN

Friday, August 24, 2007

Minor Artists Living Major Lives

Morris Graves gained a minor notoriety for outrageous pranks such as one in which he filled a baby carriage with rocks, made a trailer for it of toothbrushes, and pushed it into the dining room of the Olympic Hotel, the forerunner of the Four Seasons Olympic. He placed a rock on each of several chairs around a table, and sat down with them to order dinner.

In 1953, he staged the first Northwest art "Happening," although that word still lay several decades in the future. Museum officials, collectors, and art world notables all had expressed a desire to see a house he was building of cinderblock in a wooded area north of Seattle. He and several artist friends sent invitations to everyone on the Seattle Art Museum mailing list (a list surreptitiously obtained) saying, "You or your friends are not invited to the exhibition of Bouquet and Marsh paintings by the 8 best painters in the Northwest to be held on the afternoon and evening of the longest day of the year, the first day of summer, June 21, at Morris Graves' palace in exclusive Woodway Park."

Recipients chose to believe that the invitations meant they were invited. They arrived by droves, some formally dressed, to find the gateway to his house blocked with a table that held the moldy remains of a banquet 10 days old, complete with tipped cups and wine-stains, soaked with the drizzle from an overhead sprinkler. A recording of "dinner music" was interspersed with a recorded pig fight. Graves stayed out of sight, laughing nonstop as he observed the outraged guests through a chink in the cinderblock wall which abutted his gatehouse. - DELORIS TARZAN AMENT (author of Iridescent Light: the Emergence of Northwest Art, University of Washington Press, 2002).

Graves never took society or the formalized business-aspect of the art world too seriously. Though few outside the art world or the Pacific Northwest may recognize his name, Graves’ works are housed in the permanent collections of many of our country’s major museums. There is often a fine line between conceptual art and prank and although I assume that Graves never considered himself a conceptual artist, it’s fairly obvious that his dedication as a “process-oriented” artist overlapped into his daily life. The life of a seemingly “minor” artist is often no less fraught with adventure and dedication than that of any of the critically proclaimed masters. – DN

Thursday, August 23, 2007

New Faces

Driving south to the delta lowlands, this morning, I passed a caravan of Mexicans towing empty vehicles. My assumption was that they were hauling auction-purchased vehicles from St. Louis to the deeper reaches of the south for resale at used car lots. It wouldn’t have been even a noticeable occurrence if it had been just the standard one car pulling another via chain as is so often found in the southern Midwest… but this was literally a troupe of seven to eight vehicles dragging that same number of ratty trucks and beater vans down the interstate with little more than a rusty chain and a prayer. The fact that all the drivers were Hispanic in a region once empty of their presence… jolted me.

This place I once called home has changed drastically in the ten years I’ve been away. The corn and bean fields of my youth have been replaced with rice paddies… driving-up the number of mosquito infestations in the region, without the added beauty of the terraced hills found in stereotypical National Geographic images of southeast Asia… few mountains exist in this flattened river bottomland and occasionally I forget the loveliness of the people and the food and the culture and my reasons for living here… and simply dream of once again climbing high and reaching for distant mountain peaks in other places I once called home. Not all change is for the worse, in fact often change is nothing more than a new face on an old routine.

I’m putting the final touches on my scroll paintings for the show at the Morris Graves Art Museum in northern California. Morris Graves, the artist, traveled the world and eventually found his solace in the northwest, painting the last of the evening light as it dangled over the Pacific. Rebuffed by critics for his ink paintings on paper that resembled Asian motifs and adopted-imagery, slammed especially hard for his attempt to create hanging scrolls in place of traditional stretched and framed canvas. I find a kinship with this man, a commonality in practice, though our work may present differing views of society. I feel justified in this next show, a natural progression in my travels… to exhibit in a place named for a fellow traveling painter imbedded in the process of making art and the arrogance to continue painting when not everyone “gets” it. – DN

Monday, August 20, 2007

Shoplifting Greatness

Woody Allen On Ingmar Bergman - "To meet him was not to suddenly enter the creative temple of a formidable, intimidating, dark and brooding genius who intoned complex insights with a Swedish accent about man's dreadful fate in a bleak universe. It was more like this: 'Woody, I have this silly dream where I show up on the set to make a film and I can't figure out where to put the camera; the point is, I know I am pretty good at it and I have been doing it for years. You ever have those nervous dreams?'" - The New York Times 08/12/07

On occasion, even the most formidable of master artists feel unworthy of the burden brought on by the creative process. Then again, there is always an abundant supply of critics to stomp on one’s life’s work and remind the masses that no one is special…

"Nearly all the obituaries I've read take for granted Mr. Bergman's stature as one of the uncontestable major figures in cinema.... Sometimes, though, the best indication of an artist's continuing vitality is simply what of his work remains visible and is still talked about. The hard fact is, Mr. Bergman isn't being taught in film courses or debated by film buffs with the same intensity as Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles and Jean-Luc Godard. His works are seen less often in retrospectives and on DVD than those of Carl Dreyer and Robert Bresson...." - The New York Times 08/04/07

Sometimes we just have to follow the path of desire to learn how one piece of art can influence the creative process in other artists and their works…

Still selling briskly at 50, "On the Road" "has far outlasted many other cult classics. Part of the reason for the novel's staying power is that popular artists keep referencing it. (A new movie version, directed by Walter Salles, who made 'The Motorcycle Diaries,' is scheduled to go into production early next year.) Everyone from Bob Dylan to the Beastie Boys has been inspired by Kerouac. ... But keeping it on hand can be difficult: among book-world insiders, 'On the Road' is known to be a heavily shoplifted work...." - The New York Times 08/15/07

How often does the critic claim an artwork or artist to be kitsch, when simply the act of deriding the work or person is the essence of the cliché?… the unrefined masses are occasionally more apt to recognize greatness… how many shoplifters are known to work at the New York Times… wait don’t answer that.– DN