Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Enchanted Forrest

The Enchanted Forest
Jackson Pollock 1947 
Kia..what?  It had been a while since I’d created a commission for the interior designer, Amelia Handegan, and as if to make up for lost time this was a big one, a large mural and several paintings for the River Course Country Club on Kiawah Island. 

Four panels from my Kiawah mural

19th c. Japanese folding screen

My original rough sketch ready to be faxed.

First version watercolor rendering for mural.

Second version watercolor rendering for mural.

It was a short cold winter day ending in that kind of absolute darkness you only experience far from light pollution, the night lights of city living that I’m so accustomed to.  All the roads were lonely, mostly deserted, so I had no choice but to trust the directions that sent me further into oblivion. By the time my rental car reached the Island I was practically giddy with anxiety. But a beautiful cottage, stocked with food, cozy and inviting, restored me after my transcontinental flight and ramble in the car. I was here in the low country to meet Amelia and Leonard Long, the developer, to find out what they had in mind, to pass muster, and to make a proposal on the spot. All went well and I was sent back to my California studio to create.

Above: various views of one side of my mural installed.
 “Just get it up, get it up!” If memory serves that’s what Amelia told the installers when she saw my mural unrolled. If it’s on the wall she reasoned there’d be no turning back. The developers wouldn’t be able to reject my work as she felt they might. Too radical? Not country club enough? Probably. I’m not sure. Anyway, not only am I not a landscape painter but my background is purely fine art/ art school, no special training in painting technique. The work is essential made up of abstract expressionist gestural painting mark making and washes. Who does that? Well, a lot of people, Jackson Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler, even traditional Japanese brush and ink painting but not the sort of thing you see in local South Carolina artist where grass always means green and the sky is sky blue. That’s exactly what they got for the additional paintings, not part of my commission as it turned out.

A professional shot looking straight down the hall,
my mural on either side.

Above: view of the mural on the opposite wall,
including details for comparison to the Ab Ex's.

Helen Frankenthaler, Barometer, 1992

Painted in 2006 by 2010 all went up in smoke. Well no, they saved the blue and green paintings but my mural and the structure: a total loss.  Looking back over the photos my work still looks good to me and it lead to a number of other commissions. The project nurtured my intuitive sense of Wabi-sabi, to trust my instincts, and let go on a big scale. The wild low country landscape is part of my DNA at this point, a metaphor for much in life, our lack of control in the grand scheme of things: Nature with a capitol N as Frank Lloyd Wright was fond of saying.

The finished clubhouse above and the beautiful disaster below.

A couple of my reference photos, the imagery that became my mural.

Well you do enough talk
My little hawk, why do you cry?
Tell me what did you learn from the Tillamook burn?
Or the Fourth of July?
We’re all gonna die

We're all gonna die

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Within Artistic Circles

From left to right: Agave attenuata, David Lynch, and Agave Americana

Note, the art life of David Lynch on the floor in the corner awaiting transport to the Leo Castelli Gallery, NYC.

Lynch has been on my mind. His Twin Peaks has returned just as predicted and there’s a theatrical biopic out that explores his artistic development.  So I dug out of my files a House and Garden magazine piece from 1988 that explores the enigma that is David Lynch. It’s just a sketch really, a brief article with some teasing shots of his Lloyd Wright Hollywood Hills lair. Still, I remember pouring over it, fascinated. At the time I was living in Atlanta so his backyard fauna looked especially alien, of course the inside looked pretty freaky too but I was drawn to both. In the house on the floor leaning against the wall was one his works of art, something other than a film. What was it? In fact, this was one piece from his debut show at Leo Castelli’s famed New York gallery.

Above,  a selection of my works show in context. Contemplative gifts.

Fast forward to 2017 and David Lynch and I are in the same artistic circles. No, we’re not actually, but without any planning or awareness on my part I’ve been mining a similar vein of minimalist imagery, concentric circles. Here in Los Angeles David shows his work at Kayne Griffin Corcoran so I’ve seen his most recent work and it bears little resemblance to the piece seen in House and Garden.  He’s changed. Meanwhile I’m quite happy to take up the cause. What we need now are more places to stop and contemplate the quiet Zen hum of the Universe. Art must be transcendental. That’s the way I see. What about you?

P.s. Want more? It's here.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Walk in the Park

Me and my shadows, a mural of Central Park, studio view.

A Walk in the Park

I flew round trip LA to NYC recently and watched on the plane:  Arrival, yet another Amy Adams movie. Trippy. The movie was trippy. I guess my trip was trippy by default and like the story told in the movie I experienced time in something other than a strictly linear manner. It’s Spring as I write this. The seasons turned to Spring while I was in NY but it was a wintry Spring, mostly.

My photo collages for the mural composition. Gallery, top and stairwell bottom

The paper model I made to keep everything straight in my head and on the canvases.

Last winter I completed a mural for an apartment on Central Park South. The subject matter is contextual, it’s the Park. The mural consists of eight panels that line the entry gallery and stairwell. The compositions are the direct result of a walk in the park lead by a knowledgeable guide from the Central Park Conservancy. I had a certain criterion for the trek. I needed a number of views across water to get enough panoramic width to satisfy the area I had to cover. Then I needed height for the stairwell itself and came up with a grotto motif for under the stairs. If you know Central Park you can pick out specific identifiers in the mural that are unmistakable and this was another directive to satisfy.

First view upon entering, the Lake in front of Bethesda Terrace.

Above:Entering, turning to one's right and seeing all gallery panels of the mural.

Above: ascending the stairs up to the 21st floor level.

This apartment on the Park is not ostentatious, really. The area of the mural is relatively intimate so it was decided the painting should be sophisticated, urbane, yet low key. The palette is grisaille but actually consists of color washes created from three distinct hues, a warm, a cool, and a neutral. The value range is so narrow that at times the composition seems to vaporize before your eyes much like the space craft in Arrival. Have I come to the realization that it’s more important knowing what to leave out of a painting? What do you think? Is there anything there, really?

The distinctive green roof makes the apartment building easy to spot.

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