Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Evening, Beach and Shells

My partner and I were walking on our devastated Juno Beach the other evening just before sunset. The beach is almost gone and the sand drops as much as 9 feet from the Sea Grape covered dune behind the beach. I’m assured by almost everyone here that it is normal - the beach disappears and reappears on a regular basis. However, the same folks also inform me that the beach here has to be replenished on a regular basis. Thus, it reappears because we (mankind) make it so.

In any event, I took a couple of photographs of the missing beach and sand cliff at dunes edge in disgust, then began looking for other subject matter. I glanced down at an itchy toe, scratched and noticed the shadows and gradations of light on the shells, sand, and footprints around me and had one of those moments.

Ah- ha!

Republicans Balk at rescuing U. S. automakers

I have a suggestion - I left the Republican Party back in the late 1980's because of the increasing hate turned against LGBT people. Now, it's time for those to leave the Party who are concerned with the total collapse of the U.S. and World economies due to parsimonious Southern Republicans unable to see past the danger to the foreign automakers in their own states.

What, and you folks don’t think that the foreign automakers are in trouble when Americans stop buying cars?

Merry Christmas to you too Scrooge!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Opening: "Pastels of Ocean, Beach and Marsh"

I actually wrote this piece on Wednesday, December 10, 2008, though I am just putting it in the journal due to my frantic last minute preparations for the show.

It’s been a mad dash. However I’m almost ready for Friday evening, December 12, 2008, the opening to my exhibit of pastels that runs to February 18, 2009 at the Juno Beach Town Center, 340 Ocean Drive. I have twenty-four pastels, many of them over-sized works that range in style from quite abstract to almost hyper-real. I must do a short presentation about my pastel technique at the opening, which is totally different from the approach most artists make to the medium. Instead of rubbing, blending, and smearing colors together, I rely totally on mark making technique. The individual pastels themselves do all the blending together of color. I know I shouldn’t be apprehensive about speaking, but I haven’t done any public speaking since retiring from a thirty-eight year long teaching career over three years ago.

There is still one 32” x 40” drawing at the framer, and I have to put my card on the back, and place numbers in the lower left hand corner of the glass on ten of the pieces, but then I will be ready to transport all the work to the site of the installation tomorrow morning. I’m looking forward to seeing the work installed. It’s a huge space, and it will be the first one person exhibit I’ve had since 2002.

I’ve decided to give any profits I might make to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center here in Juno Beach because there is little or no beach left after the series of coastal storms during the past year, and the sea turtles have no place to lay their eggs. However, I worry about the abysmal economy because I have a huge investment in framing and art materials. The framing is especially expensive, even though I’ve framed all work smaller than 32” x 40” myself. In other words, I can’t make any money to help sea turtles until I recover those costs if I’m to continue my bad habit of buying art supplies for, completing and framing future artwork. I’ve also had little luck at obtaining publicity about this donation, since I was unaware of a three week lead time Palm Beach County newspapers require for press releases about such. I did, however give my information to Loggerhead Marinelife Center in hopes they are able to obtain some publicity about the show before or after the opening.

In any event, it will be exciting to see so much of this body of work installed as opposed to stacked in studio storage.

To end on a positive note, anyone who sees these pastels raves about them - perhaps the artwork will be that compelling as to sell despite the worst economic crisis in a century. Afterall there is in history a group of Great Depression American artists, such as Regionalist Grant Wood whose artworks were successful. I shall just have to put that positive thought into the space around me.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Proposition 2

Once again I’m writing and making art about politics instead of concerning myself with Art or my art. I’ve read many critiques and arguments and/or diatribes against this venomous measure. Most of these state that, and I’m paraphrasing – “It’s about Love.” I agree - I want my partner of forty years, the man I love, to be entitled to the same rights as any heterosexual partner in "marriage," though I’ve got to get past my anger at the over sixty-two percent of Floridians that seem to think that, instead, he (and I) should be second class citizens.

As a resident of Florida I’m more concerned with the effects of Proposition 2 than with Proposition 8 in California, or with the measure passed by the citizens of Arizona. Proposition 2 is the most malevolent of the 3 in that all persons not married are persecuted by the written addition to our state constitution. All civil unions, same sex or otherwise are invalid. Anyone not married may not adopt his/her partner’s children whether heterosexual or homosexual. Unmarried partners may not pass on their estates to partner or children in death. Partners have no say in medical practice when one is incapacitated without having drawn up expensive legal documents in advance. Unmarried partners must file income taxes separately. And, there are at least sixty other rights that married heterosexual partners take for granted. However, Proposition 2, voted into existence by so many of Florida’s citizenry who would prefer not to live in an actual participatory democracy, but rather to live in a Republic of privilege based on sexual preference - strikes most venomously at heterosexual senior retirees who have lost their married partner. I wonder - do these voters including seniors who hate LGBT people, and who voted for Proposition 2 - realize that they have created constitutional law that requires that they personally live as second-class citizens whose freedoms are limited by law? I doubt that most have bothered to think their vote through to its actual effect on our state’s social and political life. Unfortunately, and I am paraphrasing Lincoln here, so long as one man is not free, so all men are not free.

From a personal point of view, I am angry. I am most angry with those mean spirited individuals responsible for having drawn-up the acrimonious provision in the first place. I am perhaps only slightly less angry with those who voted for Proposition 2 based on religious belief, since my Christian upbringing has led me to believe that Jesus Christ himself was an inclusive individual, and that the good news of his Gospel is that God loves us all. I am also angry with those who voted for Proposition 2 out of ignorance. In fact, at Thanksgiving, my brother-in-law proudly announced that he had voted for Proposition 2. When I confronted him with the actual legal ramifications of that addition to our state constitution, he changed his statement to, “I actually meant to say that I voted ‘NO’ on 2.” So, did he actually vote “NO?” Or did he not understand the legal language and/or implications of the proposition as written? I’ll never know. However, I do know my brother-in-law to be a reasonably intelligent individual, who though conservative on many political issues, has demonstrated that he harbors no ill feelings concerning my partner’s and my almost forty-one year commitment to one another, and in fact is pleased that he and I are equals within the family. Thus, I am left with the concern that many otherwise intelligent citizens voted for Proposition 2 without even a basic understanding of its ramifications.

Though this is a hot button emotional issue, it is also necessary to think practically about what must be done in order to remove this malignant constitutional – and, I believe ultimately illegal – amendment from our state’s constitution. We must educate Americans into an understanding of the difference between emotional and intellectual thought processes, and their responsibilities as practicing members of a democracy. And, we must make sure that the language used in our political process is clear and easily understood, not obfuscated in complex legalese.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bonnet House

We had family visit us during the Thanksgiving Holiday. In the past we have always done the visiting, so this was a nice change. I knew that our family likes to explore, and we have pretty well explored the immediate environs of North Palm Beach County in the past, so I went on line and googled both Broward and Palm Beach Counties, discovering Bonnet house in the process. Briefly, it was built from 1920 to 1925 by Frederic Clay Bartlett for his wife Helen Birch, and was used as a vacation home by his second wife, Evelyn Fortune Bartlett until 1995. It is the only 35-acre site of preserved natural habitat in all of Fort Lauderdale Beach. The house is at once pleasant, a bit dowdy and un-stuffy, but quirky small mansion / vacation home in the Moorish style. We had a fabulous time exploring the place and will definitely return. It was some find, and I will write more a bout it in my next entry.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cary “Candyass” Leibowitz

I’ve been looking all week for a gay male artist whose work is not about the magnificent male physique, and who has become increasingly well known during the final decade of the 20th and first decade of the 21st centuries. Today, I found him, and it shouldn’t have been so difficult as he has achieved certain notoriety in the Art World. Born in 1963, Candyass, A.K.A. Cary Leibowitz is 19 years younger than myself, a mere child at forty-four. However, he has accomplished a body of work that is consistent in its subtle and humorous ironic dissing of cultural norms such as gender, masculinity, sexuality, ethnicity, and the commodification of all these. His artwork consists of cheaply produced groups of found objects that he alters with hand painted or printed slogans containing stereotypical, and humorous reference to the above mentioned “cultural norms.” These clichés, often self-deprecating, subtly refer to cultural tropes that allow the shabby objects to carry a much broader and ironic cultural signification.

Candyass’s artworks have as antecedents "ready made" objects such as Duchamp’s Fountain (1917), Picasso’s Bull’s Head (1942), and Joseph Cornell’s much more elegant assembled constructions based in saved and found objects. So, Leibowitz has a rather special historical lineage in the Art World that lends a degree of legitimacy to the work not obtained by many other works. In fact Cary Leibowitz functions in the rarified intellectual atmosphere Duchamp claimed for himself through all his ready made objects.

How so you may ask. Well, his chosen moniker “Candyass” is an ironic reference to the stereotyping of gay males as pansy, swish, faggot, fem, fruitcake, candy-ass, and so on. Thus, his “chosen” name functions as an exact reversal of Duchamp’s “Fountain.” *2 Duchamp by so signifying the urinal, removed the actual object from it’s mundane cultural location and purpose to place it in the rarified atmosphere of Public Art. Instead Leibowitz uses the chosen label "Candyass" to remove his legitimate personal identify and place it in the realm of debased cultural stereotyping. I am inclined to feel a bit legitimized myself (finally) in the separation of Twenty-first Century Gay Male Art into two categories – 1) art about the magnificent male physique, and 2) art about a special “gay male vision and its relation to gay male sexuality” – because of “Candyass” alone. Though in this context we are also talking about gay male vision and its relation to cultural texts mirrored in the individual. Thus, I may have found a third but extremely complex and subtle differentiation in the gay male artist’s approach to art production.

In any event, I’m loving Carl Candyass Leibowitz!


*1 Objects from "Accumulated Crap for Collectors," 1989 to 2005, at Clifford-Smith Gallery,, viewed 12:41 A.M. EST, Saturday, November 22, 2008. (It is known that one time use of images for scholarly purposes is acceptable in most circumstances.)

*2 The Concept of reversal to which I refer here was developed by Jacques Derrida in the following texts, and amplified by others including Jean-Francois Lyotard.

Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore & London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976)

The Truth in Painting, trans. Geoffrey Bennington & Ian McLeod (Chicago & London: Chicago University Press, 1987).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Two Weeks After Election 2008: Thoughts of an Artist

With an idealism remembered fondly from my youth, I want Barack Obama to be the great one, the man of the moment, the man chosen by destiny, and all those clichés one associates with the greatest American presidents; George Washington (the one whose Surname was Washington), Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and I am sure there are others who I should name to that august pantheon. However, enough is enough. The point is that we need a leader today who is capable of uniting the nation as the second Roosevelt did with his fireside chats, the ethereal symbol of the visible nationwide organizations that gave real people jobs, the working people that were the reality of his leadership in lifting us out of the Great Depression. I hesitate to use Abraham Lincoln as an example because we look at him through the lens of assassination, and I want Barack Obama to be remembered as a great president because of the important things he does to bring us together as a people, as well as those great and important things he does after leaving office. For example, I think of Jimmy Carter and Habitat for Humanity as well as The William J. Clinton Foundation that had taken on climate change at a time the sitting president had refused to recognize the problem, worldwide HIV/AIDS and malaria as well as childhood obesity among other problems. Yes, I want Barrack Obama to be the man, the great man of the moment!

And, it seems, so do many others. The pundits are already talking about an 8-week to two-year window for him to achieve enough of his proposed projects to keep public opinion on his side. The Republicans are talking about the same window of opportunity before they can pounce and take the country back. Damn!

This recession/depression - the result in part of 8 years of an oil oligarchy Republican administration, has gone unrecognized for at least one year as it gathered momentum until the extremely visible crash two months ago - won’t have bottomed out for another two years minimum, and they want Obama to have solved our problems before that. What idiocy! No wonder our nation is in trouble.

Oh, I do so want this man to be the great one and transcend all the short sightedness.

Here’s my little bit of hope sent out into the universe as a prayer.

And, I plan to stay positive even though my show opens in less than 4 weeks at a time when Art is the last thing on most people’s minds. I will, however, at the least, get to see most of this body of work hanging in the Town Center Council Chamber. That will be “awesome!”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Delmas Howe: The Western Male Physique, Howe’s Vision, and Gay Male Sexuality

One of the final entries on this topic
Delmas Howe paints, in oils, rugged, magnificently muscled Western men in the canyon, gulch, and butte settings of his home state, New Mexico. The landscapes are detailed and done in rich vibrant primary and secondary colors, backgrounds concave as though viewed through the camera lens rather than the human eye. Often Howe uses various foreground structures and/or one point perspective to anchor the composition to the edge of the picture plain. Interestingly, this practice seems to flatten the foreground, and the variance between flattened foreground and hollowed background leads to a greater sense of depth and space within the canvas.

Philosophically, Howe says, and I am paraphrasing, that he has been fortunate to live in a time and place in which he was able to obtain an education, travel, and be exposed to both rural Southwestern and urban East Coast life styles, discovering who he was in the process. He believes his artwork displays the result of that process.

Rereading the Introduction to Rodeo Pantheon (1993) written by Edward Lucie-Smith, I refreshed my memory as to how hopeful outsiders could be in the early years of the “gay nineties.” Even though the far right had already succeeded in attacking the National Endowment of the Arts for supplying public funds to various artists on the fringes (mostly gay and including Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano) Lucie-Smith was pleased at the time that the visual arts provided a platform for those of us on the fringe of the culture (reads races other than Caucasian, religions other than evangelical and Catholic, sexualities other than heterosexual). He even sites Mapplethorpe as an example of token acceptance on the part of the mainstream culture though Mapplethorpe’s exhibition at the Corcoran in 1989 had been the cataclysmic calamity that marked the end of any possible societal acceptance of visual art produced by anyone who might fit the category of The Other. Since that time, the mainstream visual art, that which is funded in part by public funds, has become increasingly bland and non-committed to anything that might resemble the now politically incorrect, neutralized and passé Avant-garde. Lucie-Smith does, however, correctly identify Howe’s work with the postmodern use of 18th and 19th century classicism, and that puts Howe firmly at art’s (for the time) “cutting edge.” Additionally, I would place both Howe’s and Mapplethorpe’s art in my first category (See entry for Monday, November 19, 2007), “gay art about the magnificent male anatomy," and that first category is subsumed within the second because gay male art, including the myopic view of the male body has always been about the relationship of the gay male vision to sexuality, and that includes the artists I have examined who lived before the term “gay” meant anything but happy. As I look back through all the entries on this topic, the separation of the two categories is artificial and false. Instead of creating two separate categories as I originally intended I have now broadened the first to include that which many gay male artists including Delmas Howe have already been doing. In other words, gay male art about the magnificent male physique is already about the relationship of gay male vision to sexuality.

*It is understood that a single use of a low quality reproduction of an artwork for scholarly purposes is acceptable and does not infringe on copyright.


Lucie-Smith, Edward, Rodeo Pantheon. Gay Men’s Press (London) 1993. Copyright ©Heretic Books 2000 Ltd., viewed Monday, November 10, 2008, 10:10 AM EST>

Gay Men’s Press Website,, viewed 8:30 AM EST, Monday, November 10, 2008

Howe, Delmas, Delmas Howe, Viewed 10:00 AM EST, Tuesday, November 11, 2008.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Link All You Want Senator McCain

You can link the economy and national security till the cows come home. The failed Republican national security policy and our economy have both blown up in our faces already. They are both broken! We need someone with the vision for change. We need someone who can fix them, not link them!

Friday, October 24, 2008

McCain, Driving Joe-the-Plumber & Other Lies Home!

There he goes again! Senator McCain is accusing Obama of spreading the wealth. And that's a bad thing? I can't believe that we middle class Americans are going for this ridiculous scheme of McCain’s that somehow Joe the (middle-class idiot) plumber, who earns but $40,000.00 a year will somehow be negatively affected by Obama’s tax plan to increase the taxes of the rich corporations who have so greatly contributed to the economic collapse that continues on it’s hyperbolic curve to oblivion even as I write.

Joe the working-class-plumber-being-fooled-by-Mr.-“Joe”-the-Rich-guy-McCain into thinking he’s better off with these super-rich-folk staying in charge even after causing the collapse of the world economy needs his head examined. And, so do any others of us who think we need to add another 4 years of a new Republican administration in Washington so perhaps even more of us can loose our homes and jobs. And, yes, I’m not working because I’m retired, so instead of worrying about loosing my job, I have to worry that my retirement fund will collapse due to these very same rich “BLEEPS!”

I’m on a rant here. I’m so tired of these (BLEEPING BLEEPS) thinking that they can lie to us, cheat, and screw the middle class “ad infinitum, ad nausium” and get away with it, that I could spit acid coated nails. I do have to admit that these BLEEPS are indeed a minority of the wealthier classes. However, these particular rich folk have to go.

Ah well, keep spewing those JOE-guy lies Senator McCain, and maybe, just maybe we'll actually all begin to figure out that your just making things up as you go along.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Yes to Colin Powell's endorsement of Senator Obama!

Once again I am doing national politics instead of Art. I refuse to apologize!

As I listened to Colin Powell this morning on Meet the Press I sighed with relief because he addressed all my fears about the possible outcome of this election including those I discss below.

It depends on which news service and / or pundit you are following at any given moment, however, it does appear that McCain is managing to chip away at Obama’s lead a fraction of a point at a time with each new diversion or divisive slur. Today’s new slur is that Barack is a European style socialist, which seemed absurd to me until I realized that not everyone was listening forty-seven years ago in my high school “American Democracy” class when our teacher held forth on the similarities and differences between communism and socialism. And, I realize that because of my all to human tendency to forget over time I would also be hard pressed to compare and contrast the two in detail today. Never the less, I will look them up and reacquaint myself with both terms instead of confusing them. I also know that not everyone of my fellow citizens has the perseverance or desire to do as I will. Thus, another fraction of a point in Obama’s advantage is chipped away. It’s sort of like Plymouth Rock, hewn away flake by flake over many generations until it is little more than a pebble imprisoned safely today in its Roman Doric Portico.

Part of my answer to the communism v. socialism question was found on YouTube in this very bizarre piece created by three exuberant college students as part of a class assignment in “American Government.”

A Question and an Answer

Thus, I have arrived at a question for Obama’s campaign. How does Obama defend Obama from such devious propaganda?

However, it would also appear that Colin Powell and my attempt to compare and contrast communism v. socialism have answered my question.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Racism Against Barack Obama!

I know. This is way off target for an Art Journal. However...

I found this posted by Johnnyb098 on the CNN Website. It is a most reasonable and clearly reasoned request that all of us “get our facts straight” in this election.

Amen, brother!

I’m looking forward to the debate tonight with some trepidation because I think Democrats have gotten over confident since the economic problems became visible. I say “became visible” because I date the beginning of the economic downturn to September of 2005. True, the current recession/depression/whatever didn’t begin until about nine to six months ago. Never the less, the big-bird with a damaged wing has been headed for a bumpy landing since the downturn in the housing market back in fall 2005. The over-stuffed turkey-luky of an economy had to be lurking in the nation’s subconscious for a long-long time, blocked because of some willful fear on the part of those who should know better, lack of knowledge on the part of many of us, stupidity by some, and greed on the part of still others, or any combination of the above. I think fear is a huge part of this equation, and fear needs a scapegoat. I think some in the Republican base, running on fear and anger have decided to make Barack Obama the (scapegoat) target of their fear and anger. We have all been watching the attempt to paint him as The Other, “that one,” foreigner, Muslim and terrorist by the McCain-Palin campaign. The result has been abusive, hate filled language in their audience such as; “off with his head,” “kill him,” “He’s an Arab” (And when did all Arabs become evil?). As a retired educator, I know that I did not – reads could not afford to- accept fear and hate filled language in my classroom, because it always was the mark of something much more ugly hiding just beneath the surface. I suppose my personal fear is that these Republican folks can use our baseless fears and anger about the run-away world economy as a place to deposit American fears of the other, our Caucasian bigotry against those of color. If they succeed in such a scheme, Barack Obama becomes the scapegoat target and he either looses the debate and election or, finally, some maniac fanatic on the far right assassinates him. There, I’ve put into words the exact fear I’ve heard expressed by so many friends. It’s even been expressed by some of my conservative friends as the reason they can’t vote for Barack Obama. How bizarre is that?

Damn! I can’t wait for this election to be over.

I hope whoever wins the election is able to put all the broken pieces, and nudge all the broken people back together again.

God bless us all, each and everyone.*

*I know I'm paraphrasing from Tony Kushner here, possibly quoting directly from Angels in America, and that Tony Kushner was quoting Charles Dickens.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Blow-up Garbage Bag Creatures

Look at these sculptures by Joshua Allen Harris. We should all buy a small air pump, and start playing with our old plastic grocery bags.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Part II: Gomes’ The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus, my past and future

The last entry about the Presbyterian Church Sunday school of my youth was preamble to Gomes’ “Scandalous Gospel,” because that book brought so many wonderful memories flooding back. I was fourteen in 1958, so I was receiving religious instruction during a period of perhaps enforced American innocence, and a time when the liberal church was still in the ascendancy. JFK was yet to be elected much less assassinated. Martin Luther King was beginning to cause a stir, and McCarthyism was a thing of the past. Hope was palpable. It was in the air - and our church was teaching us to breath that air. That religious instruction is the reason I am a liberal Democrat today.

Last week I bought Gomes’ book because of the title. I foolishly wondered how the Gospel could be so outrageous. I should have known better, and reading The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus made me feel as though I had come home. For instance on page 79 Gomes writes the following.

“The love of God is not just a sentimental obligation but the incorporation of a worldview that we respond to God as God acts toward us. To be created in God’s image – a view from Hebrew scripture that is reiterated in the Gospels – is to realize that we have been made worthy by one who is worthy. There is something of the divine, of God, in everyone of us” (Gomes, p. 79)

As I read that statement, it was as though I had been transported back in time to that Sunday school classroom. I realized that that classroom and the religious training I received there has been at the center of my life ever since. My belief in that scandalous Gospel has allowed me to do things I might not have done otherwise. It is the reason I do volunteer work. It is the reason I work with all my heart and mind not to be prejudiced against any kind of human being or for that matter to classify human beings as to type. It is the reason I have tried to give a decent percentage of my salary away to charity (not institutionalized religion) each year of my adult life. It is the reason I have pursued my ability as a teacher and talent as an artist (though not always successfully). The alternative would have been to ignore an accidental but fortuitous piece of God that dwells within. It is the reason I took on extra activities in career and life that at times threatened my health. Jesus’ teaching is the reason that I am not defenseless when faced by those who would do harm to me, including those who use their religion as a tool against me. When I have been selfless, generous, kind, and caring toward others than my family and closest friends it is in large part because of those Sunday School classes.

No, I don’t believe I’m some kind of saint. I’m a BIG TIME sinner, and I know it. However, God loves me anyway. And I do pick myself up every time I fall, and promise once again to try to do better. In fact, I’ve gotten rather good at forgiving myself because the world kicks me often enough for sins I have and haven’t committed.

Strangely enough all of this is the main reason that I believe this election year to be extremely important. It is increasingly apparent to everyone that the nation has arrived at a crossroad. Each of us must decide not only for which candidate to vote, but also each of us must decide whether to continue down the well-trodden road paved with greed, fear and hate of the past 8 years. Or do we decide to turn down the poorly paved but well marked alternative road and reaffirm the lessons learned at parents knee and our places of worship. Do we choose the road less traveled in which Jesus’ very real teaching of love and inclusion is applied to the ordinary world in which we live? Can we accept that practitioners of the world’s other great religions might travel alternate routes to the same destination? Can we create hope and change? Can we make a human planet in which we perceive the world as God’s loved creation? Can we each begin to expect all of us to demonstrate love for one another no matter what race, ethnicity, creed, religion, sex or sexual preference? Dare I hope for such a thing?

Gomes, Peter J., The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What’s so Good About the Good News? Harper Collins Publishers (New York) 2007.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gomes’ The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus, my past and future

“There was a time when we could sing, preach and pray about radical social justice in church and not be ashamed; there was a time when we could hold all of American society to a common standard of Christian Morality that had implications for our economy, our foreign and domestic policy, and the use of our resources and our neighbors”

(Gomes, 163).

My dad had been sent to Houston, Texas by Rohm & Haas company as part of the team to construct a new plant there. I was thirteen, and I spent my eighth grade year in Houston and it proved to be one of the best years of my life as a public school student. It wasn’t because of the high quality of the schools; they weren’t up to Bucks County schools. Instead, it was the warmth of the people. In Pasadena I made friends easily. Also, Pasadena was, at the time, one massive middle class suburban complex. It had none of the stratified caste system of Bucks County - a concentric ring of towns arranged by economic and social status in order from lower to higher, proceeding northeastward across the county. Oh yes, I was kidded about being a “damn Yankee,” and my peers made jokes about the way I pronounced words like oil. “It’s o – i – l,” they’d say as they spelled and then pronounced it in their drawn-out South Texas drawl, “not o – y – a – l.” However, it was all based in congenial camaraderie. As long as I laughed with them, they were more than willing to draw me into the social life of South Pasadena Junior High School. I quickly adapted to the easy society of my southern friends, and the slower pace in the greater Huston area. To demonstrate just how laid-back it was, one day my dad came home at lunchtime and announced, “we decided to close down for the afternoon.” Mom and I laughed because such a thing could not possibly happen in the driven Northeast. I’m not sure it could happen in the Huston of the 21st Century. Never the less, I absorbed the slower more relaxed attitude of the deep south like a sponge, and was not prepared for the return to the fast paced and snooty stratified school life encountered upon our return to Pennsylvania.

After being away but one year and three months, Bucks County was a cultural shock. In fact, the only pleasant social part of my fourteenth year was the little Church my parents belonged to. That year I attended the Presbyterian equivalent of Catholicism’s catechism, a class designed for young teenagers who were to become members of the church. During those classes Reverend Stone presented to us the “Good News of Jesus’ Gospel.” We also covered the books of the Pentateuch with the goal of preparing for that good news. Reverend Stone would often stop during those Sunday school classes and ask, “So, what is the difference between the vindictive, angry and jealous God of the Old Testament, and the God Jesus presents to us in the Gospel? We studied Jesus’ teaching; the parables, the beatitudes, and the miracles. We were allowed to question the Bible, and lively discussions ensued. Did science provide answers concerning some of the miracles? Could a miracle still be a miracle if it was possible to explain it scientifically? Reverend Stone often answered our questions with another. “Why couldn’t a miracle still be a miracle if you could explain it scientifically?”

Those Sunday school classes showed me that God loved all of his creation, and that included everyone, everywhere, even communists, criminals, all Caucasians and all the various races of man. As corollary I also learned that in order to be a good citizen I had to love all of God’s creation, just as God loved me. Additionally, I learned that I had to practice love through “good works,” and I was required to demonstrate that practice at church and in our community before I could become a member of the church. In short, Jesus had long ago taught his disciples, they in turn spread the good news, and finally the written word of The New Testament was teaching me a way to (at least try to) be in this world.

To be continued.

* Gomes, Peter J., The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What’s so Good About the Good News? Harper Collins Publishers (New York) 2007

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Election Season Economic Crash Fears of an Artist

The following is a total rant.

As a gay male artist, I must admit that out of necessity I am a liberal both politically and in the practice of my Christian religion. Thus, I am constantly angered by the Republican, self-righteous Christian Right’s use of “Values” (like the rest of us don’t have any) and questionable political practices (like lies) to obtain their ideological goals to limit my freedom as an American citizen. At the same time, I am horrified at the stupidity of my fellow middle and working class American citizens in allowing themselves to be hoodwinked into accepting the increasing limitations being placed on their ability to work toward the American Dream by the current administration, and the Neo-con Republican ideologues. * I am even more appalled by the fact that racial prejudice among the (white) middle class may cost Obama the election in November. *2 Darn, I sound frightened and angry as I read this. Its just that the possible extension of this Republican pro corporation, “anything goes” system, for 4 to 8 more years through McCain and Palin scares the (BLEEP) out of me. And now, McCain wants to postpone the first presidential candidate’s debate because he’s suddenly concerned about the economy (bull-BLEEP!)

In fact, part of the reason I am so frightened is because I’ve been watching the economy take its hyperbolic slide down hill since September 2005 with increasing anxiety as greed and denial eliminated the first two and one half years of the slide from our collective consciousness. Yes, September of 2005, three entire years ago. If you notice Bush and McCain have only begun to admit there is a problem during the past 2 weeks, and we are now three years into the worst economic crises since the 1929 crash and the super depression of the 1930’s. *3 Am I the only American that understands the fact that this economic crisis has been brewing for three years or more? Actually the crisis goes back more than thirty years, since it is based on the super-rich Republican Oil Oligarchy’s “lazy fair” ideology, that you let the economy regulate itself, and then (their) wealth (the super-rich oil oligarchy’s) will gradually trickle down through the rest of the upper classes (those rich families worth less than 5 billion dollars each) to the middle (those earning 5 million a year according to McCain) and gurgle as a happy sludgy brook through the professional and working classes, and finally over the edge of a cliff as a tumbling trickle to dust the poor with a bit of rarified black oil oligarchy mist.

I also find it very interesting that there is that portion of the rich and super-rich upper classes that historically, whether Republican or Democrat, define themselves in ways that make sense to me. These honest rich folk feel a responsibility to distribute their wealth through providing well paying jobs to millions of workers, through charity work and endowments. They do so because the very foundation of their philosophy and religious practice makes them responsible for their brothers and sisters, for they do see humanity as one family (which it is genetically). In fact in the good old days the rich Republican understood that not only did government have to be financially responsible, but that responsibility took into its province the provision for its citizenry of the best possible environment in which to grow in spiritual, emotional and physical wealth. I’m not sure what happened to these Republican and Democratic rich folk. I think they are still around; it’s just that the greedy folk have gotten the upper hand.

As an artist I am faced with putting my work out before the public this winter (after the presidential election) and I hope that there is enough wealth left in the United States that a few people who like my work might be able to afford to buy it. You see, I know that original artwork is the last thing people will buy in an economic crisis. And, rich folk, whether Republican or Democrat, are going to look for an Old World, Modern or Postmodern masterpiece. I’m afraid I don’t fit into any of those categories – not yet anyway (I am writing this last with a smile on my face.)

Oh, and now my fellow middle class and working class Americans don’t want the government to rescue Wall Street because the rich greedy fools caused this mess. “U-u-u-h-h-h U-u-u-h-h-h!” Do these nay saying middle class folk really want to let all those bad mortgages turn to dust and watch all those families turned out on the streets, all those billions of dollars in assets evaporate? The "smash-up" such a mess would make causes the 1929 crash to look like a walk in the park! The Democrats in the Senate and Congress have it right here. Here are some of the restrictions that must be put on the bailout. First, don’t allow the CEO’s of these companies to walk away with millions for having put their companies in harms way. Second, make sure that the now government owned companies pay back as much of the tax payers money as possible over time. Third, the rescued companies must be forced to buy back their stock at some point in the future. Fourth, at least some of the money earned from these buy-backs should end up in tax payer's pockets.

My Excuse for this Diatribe

Because of preparing for my show and the concerns that groundwork has generated I’m in a political panic, thus, this entry in “The Art Of John Bittinger Klomp.” In the end I must allow my spiritual self to have the upper hand - that part of me which understands all of this entry to be based on worldly concerns - that God has a much larger view of things including the entire universe, not just this tiny bit of consciousness on this tiny spec of dust of a world lost among the hundred thousand stars of the Milky Way Galaxy which is itself lost among the thousands of other galaxies spread across empyreal space and time.


*Perhaps the American Dream needs redefining or at least the original American dream needs to be reemphasized. It seems to have become increasingly coupled with the idea that one works toward becoming buried in manufactured junk of all kinds, rich beyond anything Midas could have imagined, and entitled to any/all assistance that the government can provide, provided that anyone of any other political, social, religious, racial, sexual persuasion is not so assisted.

*2 (09-20-08) Yes, this will be something of a rant. I was just reading this morning's news, specifically the Associated Press Article titled "Racial views steer some white Dems away from Obama," The article states that racial prejudice on the part of Democrats and Independents may cost Obama as much as 2 and 1/2 percentage points which will go instead to McCain. The article discusses the fact that 40% of whites in America still harbor some prejudice against blacks according to a recent Stanford University study. This is an academic study done with care and precision, not a national poll taken by one of the news services. I personally am ashamed of my fellow Caucasian Democrats who still exhibit such foolish prejudice in the 21st Century. We as middle class whites complain that Latin persons are taking our jobs away from us, when illegal aliens are the only folks who are willing to dig ditches, do public and domestic gardening, wash dishes, as well as other menial jobs. We complain that blacks are lazy when we ourselves would refuse to lift a shovel to dig a hole. Well, I've got news for most white middle class Americans - your present Republican government headed by G. W. Bush has put you in an economic space so dangerous that you may well end up having to do those jobs that the lazy black folk of your imaginings won't do, and the illegal aliens actuality do, because you personally, corporations and local governments won't have the money to pay to have them done. So much for prejudice being alive and well in America!

*3 In view of the fact that I began writing this article last week - the sudden recognition of the worst economic crisis since THE GREAT DEPRESSION has finally happened with the government bailout of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers and AIG and many others - we are now a socialist state. Isn’t that nice to know. And all of this has taken place under the Republican, GW - “Lazy Fair” -Bush administration!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Marden Hartley (1877-1943)


Universally agreed upon, Marsden Hartley was probably the most innovative and important artist of the group of modernist artists assembled by Alfred Stieglitz in the early 20th century, though it is arguable that Georgia O’Keeffe was the more important painter of the two. Marsden Hartley would, of course, have known Charles Demuth of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, another of the Stieglitz circle, also a homosexual man. Hartley was not only a painter, but a fine critic, writer and poet, whose texts demonstrate the complex nature of his scrabble to come to terms with the sense of abandonment caused by the loss of his mother at age eight, and by the lifelong struggle with his sexuality at a time when public acknowledgement of ones homosexuality could lead to total humiliation and ostracism. . Hartley’s life and his work demonstrate the living conundrum that homosexual men and women experienced at the end of the 19th and during most of the 20th century. That being said, his worship of the German War machine, and affair with a German officer (Karl von Freyburg) at the beginning of and during the first years of World War I is at best difficult to understand even from this nearly century remove in time. His painting, one of a series, “Portrait of a German Officer,” is the symbolic representation of the body of, and pays homage to von Freyburg.

It is said that the necessity of the closet created the need for Hartley to reinvent himself and his artistic style and philosophy repeatedly during his career, first as a modernist in which the requirement is that the artist’s innermost self be visible in the work, and later as a painter of the various regional American landscapes – he traveled to New Mexico, California, Massachusetts, New York, and of course returned to Maine - and created the series of abstracted portraits of plain fishermen and their families, in particular the Mason family in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. There, he worshipped the two Mason sons who were drowned at sea, and he wrote Cleophas and His Own: A North Atlantic Tragedy, perhaps his best writing, based on his experiences in Maine and Nova Scotia.

Hartley’s portrait of himself as a young tank-shirted stud, painted toward the end of his life, is emblematic of his lifelong battle to recognize his inmost homosexual self, and his career and work both as an artist and writer demonstrate that constant conflict with his sexuality. He is enigmatically, a gay male artist who dealt with the male body, often tangentially through symbols to represent that body, and through writing about his great love for men that he must express also indirectly through metaphor and disguised as brotherly and/or familial in nature, and that love is then finally invested in the American landscape through his painting. Thus, his work is all about Hartley’s gay vision and its relationship to his sexuality.

*It is believed that it is acceptable to use this copyrighted image under the "fair use" section of United States copyright law for scholarly purposes. The original work, "Sustained Comedy," by Marsden Hartley belongs to the Carnegie Museum. It was a gift (1939) of Mervin Jules in memory of Hudson Walker, and is 28 & 1/2" x 22."


Weinberg, Jonathan. Speaking for Vice: Homosexuality in the Art of Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, and the First American Avant- Garde. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.

On the Web Sources

Gonzales, Ken. Hartley, Marsden, glbtq: and Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Queer Culture. Last modified January 13, 2006, viewed 9:24 A.M. EDT. , Tuesday, September 16, 2008.

Hartley, Marsden, "Sustained Comedy."Carnegie Museum of Art, Viewed Thursday, September 18, 2008, 10:24 A.M., EDT.

Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, Hartley, Marsden. Last modified August 16, 2008, viewed 9:00 A.M. EDT. Tuesday, September 16, 2008.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Robert Mapplethorpe


One in a continuing series of entries about gay male artists and their work

On first glance who wouldn’t say that Robert Mapplethorpe’s work is all about the male nude, and thus the male body? Instead, I would say that our culture gets in the way of our accurate perception of Mapplethorpe’s oeuvre. In fact, if there is such a thing as my thesis statement - that there is this new (or perhaps it’s old) trend in gay male art about gay male vision and its relationship to gay male sexuality – then we must look at Robert Mapplethorpe keeping that possibility in mind. As proof of the possibility, there are those beautifully lit, technically perfect and composed images of flowers. At the same time, there is no denying that Mapplethorpe was about pornographic male images. Very often his men are engorged, and the photographs of well-endowed black men tell of his predilection. I would contend that both types of images are all about Mapplethorpe’s vision, but the second, the male nudes, are also about how his vision relates to his sexuality. His is the self-indulgent eye looking for the erotic subject that stimulates his own sexual desire. Mapplethorpe disproves that my two distinct types of gay male art are distinct. Instead, Robert Mapplethorpe demonstrates that one type is merely subsumed within the other. So, I’m wondering if I haven’t just spent more than a year looking at gay male art and photography through the oculus of a thesis statement that obfuscates rather than clarifies understanding.

*Mapplethorpe, Robert, "Ajitto, 1981." The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation,, viewed 10:00 AM EDT, Friday, September 12, 2008.
This is a copyrighted image though it is believed that use to illustrate an article about Robert Mapplethorpe is acceptable as long as the image is not to be repeated in any other venue.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Once Upon a Nasty Pea Stone Driveway

It had been pea stone since the house was built fourteen years ago. Weeds grew in it, and had to be dug out and/or poisoned every spring. It was washing away at one corner, and the lip of the garage concrete pad was left floating in the air. Over time all our neighbors paved their driveways with asphalt while ours just got more weed filled and the wood edging timbers rotted and started growing things as well. Through all the gradual decay we kept postponing paving it because we both hate macadam/asphalt.

Now, if HGTV came to make an episode about our new driveway, perhaps they’d call it “Instant Driveway Curb Appeal,” though it wasn’t so instant. I can also hear one of their talking heads saying “you’ve more than doubled your money on this one.” Seriously though, as you can see, this concrete looks like limestone cut from an ancient reef. We watched the workers create our new drive over a 5-day period, and the process is amazing. Once the excavating, pouring, and leveling were done, they had to catch the drying tan colored concrete at exactly the right moment. Then, in something of a rush because they had a several hour window, they used about six different sized rubber molds that were stamped randomly into the wet surface at various angles. Next, as the surface dried further, again at exactly the right moment, a gray powder was scattered about a quarter to a half-inch deep over the entire surface. The powder reacted chemically with the drying concrete to create deeper and lighter tones in the cement surface. When the concrete had cured properly the powder was power-washed away, revealing the darker toned crevices and pits in our faux stone driveway. Finally, after the concrete dried again, it was sealed with silica over and over. Now, when I look at the driveway the ersatz stone surface is so convincing that I know our concrete specialist created a piece of cement artwork, and I’m convinced that our concrete guy is an artist in addition to being a skilled laborer.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

David Wojnarowicz and Peter Hujar

One in a continuing series of entries about gay male artists and their work

I’ve looked all over the Internet, and found a great deal about David Wojnarowicz’ art, less about the artist, and still less about his relationship with Peter Hujar. I did read that Peter had acted as a mentor to David. I also read about the photographs David took of Peter, dead of AIDS in the hospital corridor. Perhaps I know a small amount of the rage David must have felt toward the disease that took his friend/lover and that he knew would ultimately take his own life. I also know something of the alienation he felt toward the society he lived in, having felt like a space alien stranded on earth myself as a teenager and young closeted gay twenty something art educator.

However, I had a good family history with two loving parents, who did everything they could to get a cure for my homosexuality. Yes, a cure. Don’t forget, it was 1962 when I came out to them. Homosexuality was just about the worst thing that could happen to a parent. Besides, obviously and happily it didn’t work. Ah, but I digress. David, on the other hand, had a dysfunctional family history, ended up on the streets of New York as a teenage hustler, spent time traveling as a street person all over the continental U.S., to the West Coast and Paris, and (to my mind) was rescued by Peter Hujar. The artistic training David received was from Peter, and he lived and worked as an outsider in a world that gave him little, and stole the life that David built for himself out of the nothing he had been given.

Anger! Yes. The amazing miracle is that he was able to take the hand he was dealt and turn it into a full house for the rest of us. Did he explore his life in relation to his sexuality! You bet! Did his lover, Peter do the same. Absolutely! Thus two more gay artists disprove my original thesis statement.

*"David Wojnarowicz Majic Box," Beatrice Glow, October 24, 2007 entry,, viewed Thursday, September 4, 2008. This is a copyrighted image though it is believed that use to illustrate an article about David Wojnarowicz is acceptable as long as the image is not to be repeated in any other venue.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Barack Obama's Acceptance Speech

The speech was incredible! I know there are all those Republican and McCain criticisms floating about. However those which worry me, are the statements by Toby Harndon of the U.K. Telegraph. His is an objective summary of that which the Democratic Party and Barack Obama are up against in the last years in the first decade of the Twentyfirst Century.

Never the less, the speech was magnificent (no baseball metaphor here - such American tropisms!). Barack's my man - can't help it. He inspires me. Hillery does too. Just wish we Democrats could pick a candidate that Republicans could like. H-m-m-m-m - is that an oxymoron?

I know the pundits will pundit on, and meanwhile I will return to my art, and HOPE for the best.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

And Hillary Was So Impressive Last Night...

as always!

I wish we could have co-presidents. And while I'm doing pie in the sky stuff, why not wish that my idealistic vision for America could actually happen, that all the petty prejudices and stupidities were not able to exist in our wonderful country. No need for people to be upset over Hillary's defeat because that "glass ceiling" no longer existed. No need for Barack Obama to be fighting an up-hill battle against John McCain because of the politically incorrect but ever present division between black and white. No need for me to be so terribly aware of the difference between myself and my heterosexual brothers and sisters because LGBT people would not be second class citizens. No need for various religons to be set in opposition because conservative practitioners see themselves as chosen above all others.

What a fantastic country that would be!

Ah well, perhaps my fellow country men and women will actually demonstrate that they are ready to create change in that direction in this November's election.

I can only hope.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Michelle Obama and Ted Kennedy's Speeches at the Democratic Convention

I jus had to create this digital photomontage based on my watching and listening to Teddy and Michelle speak last night at the Democratic National Convention.

We have to make this change in national priorities!

Here’s what I wrote to a friend about last night.

“Wow! I know I'm in the right party. Our vision is the clear-headed combination of intellect with a connection to human concerns, God and country. The Republican Party stole family values and true Christian practice from us, altered and damaged them! It's good to see the party reclaiming true/actual family values and Christian practices as its own (and that includes separation of church and state).”

All those other “should be” inconsequential issues aside, I’m proud to be a Democrat.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Peter Hujar

As part of the series of Journal entries about contemporary alternative gay male art versus traditional gay male art I explore the history and relationship of photography in general to gay male photography in particular. In order to do that I investigate the lives and careers of many photographers.

Born in Trenton New Jersey in 1934, Peter Hujar died in New York City in 1987. I’m saddened that I cannot find much more than these two biographical tidbits about Peter Hujar. There are many reviews written that speak to his photography as presented at various venues including The Mathew Marks Gallery, New York City, The ICA in the UK, Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, among others. There is the oft-sited fact that he and David Wojnarowicz were lovers, but nothing more about their lives together. There is, however, once again reference to photographs, this time created by Wojnarowicz, of Hujar as he lay dead from AIDS in the hospital corridor, a transcendent smile fixed upon his face.

The living Hujar had sharpened his photographer’s wits as a fashion and advertising artist in New York City during the 1950’s and 1960’s. At the same time he perfected a discerning technique and eye with which he was able to pierce the psychic aura of the living, find the hidden seat of humanity beneath the surface, as well as demonstrate the omni-present but invisible arm of the grim reaper. Most reviewers seem to agree that Peter was a master of composition and a technical perfectionist who influenced other more famous photographers such as Nan Golden and Robert Mapplethorpe. However, at the same time they do not discuss his work in relation to the diurnal facts of his existence. It is almost as though this portrait photographer was himself a spectral being moving among the denizens of the night, and the demimonde of a city immediately before all were decimated by the plague.

As of today, I have not been able to obtain permission from the Mathew Marks Gallery for use of any of Peter Hujar’s images, so the following link will take the viewer/reader to the New York Times Website and a portrait of David Wajnarowicz, Peter’s lover, “lighting up.” *


Hegarty, Antony. “The Outsiders.” The Guardian Weekend (December 1, 2007): pp. 42-50.

*Hujar, Peter, “David Wajnarowicz” (1981) New York Times on line, August 10, 2006, viewed 9:43 AM EDT, August 21, 2008.

Hujar, Peter, “The Frankel Gallery, January 3 - March 2, 2002,” The Culture Vulture, Viewed 8:19 AM EDT, Monday, August 18, 2008.

Lazere, Arthur, “Peter Hujar,”, January 8, 2002. Viewed 8:47 AM EDT, Tuesday, August 19, 2008.

Pitman, Joanna, “Peter Hujar’s Love for the Lonely, The London Times on Line,, viewed 9:21 AM EDT, Thursday, August 21, 2008.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Butterfly on Partner's Head

I was going through and organizing images for my Morgue this morning (file of photos to be used as an aid to drawing, painting and making photomontages), and I found this photograph that I hadn't looked at previously. At least I don't remember it. It's from Butterfly World near Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I apparently took the photograph in 2007 during one of many visits.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Peter Hujar and David Wojnarowic

"Peter Hujar Dreaming/Yukio Mishima: St. Sebastian," (1982)*

Peter Hujar and David Wojnarowic were lovers. That statement would make a great song or book title. And, right there my nasty alter ego jumps in.

“Why not for this essay, John?” (said sarcastically)

“Your making fun again.”

“No! But you’re such an incurable romantic!”

“Like that’s a bad thing.”

“The incurable part isn’t real great. And, of course we all know how the tale ended.”

“So - - - they both died of AIDS, first Peter (1987) then several years later, David (1992).”

“End of your story. Essay over.”

“But it isn’t over. I think their lives and work would make a wonderful play.”

“Fabulous, John!” (Said even more sarcastically.)

“Yes, well why not? In a way, Peter saved David’s life, helped to give him purpose and meaning. David took Peter’s death, and the deaths of so many others, and turned them into his personal crusade. His photographic montages / paintings became a scathing condemnation of a culture that was and still is perhaps as sick or more so than any poor soul dieing from AIDS.”

“Be that as it may…”

“No, I won’t be cut off that way. In future journal entries, as part of the series about gay male artists and the two kinds of artwork they create, I’ll take a look at the lives of Peter Hujar and David Wojnarowicz. I will show how they impacted one another’s lives, and I’ll discuss whether or not their work is just about the male body. I have a feeling that once again, the work of both men is more about the relationship of their vision to their sexuality, as well as to the culture in which they lived. I also think that we should especially revisit David’s work with an eye toward capturing his concerns about our culture. We might just be able to address current issues with more care. Perhaps we might even be able to make some corrections here and there.”

“Ah,” as I said, “Forever the incurable romantic.”

*The Image was taken from Queer Arts Organization Website,,"Peter Hujar Dreaming/Yukio Mishima: St. Sebastian," 1982. Acrylic and spray paint on masonite, 48” x 48”.
Collection of Evan Lurie (a bequest of Keith Davis), New York. Visited Sunday, August 10, 2008, 9:40 AM EDT. (The censure is my own doing due to fears of government pornography law.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Kitty Butt Shot

Whenever friends visit us and we are walking or hiking and we approach a beautiful spot, my partner often says, “It’s butt shot time.” He knows that I will ask everyone to look out over valley vista, or seascape and shoot several photographs before I ask everyone to face the camera. I have a collection of these photographs of various groupings of friend’s posteriors framing the view of horseback riders on the beach, giant waves crashing onto the beach at Rehoboth or the view of the Atlantic Ocean between sand dunes on Cape Henlopen, among other panoramas. So, when I saw our cat, Anna sitting in the dining room window mezmerized by that presently stationary bird or bug out in the yard, it was time to get the trusty Sony camera from my closet and hope she would still be there when I returned. Fortunately the outdoor critter was safe from our spellbound cat who remained framed by window and bouquet.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Eternal

and Human Presence

I don’t usually display the pastel paintings in my art blog since I have a separate site for those, “John’s pastel Drawings.” However, I had promised to display this one in my July 20th entry. It is finally finished, and I’ve moved on to two smaller drawings. As a reminder, it is titled “The Perfect Day,” and it is based on the feelings I had when walking on the Beach in South Florida back in March when the sky, water, and weather conspired together to create a day like no other. I felt as thoroughly a part of the universe and God on that day as is possible for me to feel, calm and at peace with a sense of well being literally percolating through my person. At the same time, worldly concerns vanished, so this seascape is devoid of all evidence of human habitation.* It is the ocean and beach as it was before human kind, and as it will be after we pass, as perfect and close to the eternal as is possible on this one white, blue, brown and green marble. In other words it was as though I wasn’t present. Instead there was on the beach that day a sense of wellbeing and happiness.*2 That is all. Nothing more.

* To my mind, "The Eight Worldly Concerns of Buddhism" - all "motivation," "external behavior," - those behaviors that are learned from the culture - a baby's mind at birth is a clean slate - it is the original mind just arrived in the world from God. It has no worldly concerns. Sometimes, as an adult I am able to arrive at a spiritual state close to God when I am able to relieve my mind of most of its cultural training and come close to that original state of mind, that clean slate.

*2 I define happiness in this context as that sense of fullness one feels deep at the center of the chest. It is that simple. There is no more to it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Barack Obama Uses Crapper Too Often While Overseas!

“A new McCain ad that began airing Saturday in selected markets also chides Obama as disrespectful for making "time to go to the gym" during his European visit while at the same time canceling the visit with wounded troops.”*

My personal reactions to this ridiculousness are - Doesn’t this all begin to sound sort of like children arguing in the school playground? What happened to substantial issues? Feels like we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel here. Next, they’ll be criticizing him for going to the bathroom too many times while campaigning!

ME: "I know, my journal is not supposed to be political."

ALTER EGO "It’s an Art Journal, John."

ME: "I just couldn’t stand the absurdity any longer."

ALTER EGO "Well, just don't do it again!

*“McCain campaign: Obama shortchanged injured troops,” AP, on,, Released approximately 4:00 AM EDT, Sunday, July 27, 2008. Viewed 10:22 AM EDT, Sunday, July 27, 2008.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Henlopen State Park Bike Trail

It seemed as though I stopped every few seconds to remove the camera from my backpack and shoot another section of pathway, or marsh, and I shot 183 photographs total. So, now I have amunition for at least 4 new pastel paintings. There must have been 100 or more people walking, jogging, and riding their bikes along the trail. The weather was perfect if a bit hot and muggy, crystal clear, like a hot day in the tropics complete with deep blue sky and puffy white cumulous floating gently over woods and marsh. The reflections of sky and cloud in the calm water stole the show for me, though the alternating layers of sun and shadow across the land and waterscape competed beautifully for second place. I don’t mind summer heat, so the day was perfect.

At the southern end of the path I came to a sign that pointed to Henlopen Cay, which I know is over by Gordon Pond in the area known locally as the North Shore. I thought that I might ride to the Cay, and so stopped at the entrance kiosk to read the map. Unfortunately there is no connection between Wolfe Neck, where I was riding and the Cay. Instead, I realized that I would have to ride into Rehoboth Beach itself, cross over to Rehoboth Avenue, take the new circle to Columbia Avenue, then to Surf, and ride north to Gordon’s Pond. People ride their bikes in heavy summer season traffic in Rehoboth Beach all the time, but I’m unwilling to take the chance because so many drivers today, but especially some of those on vacation, are competing in a demolition derby in which they use no common courtesy. They do not use turn signals where expected, and do use them where least expected, talk on cell phones, read road maps and magazines while attempting to drive, do not follow posted speed signs, and drive under the influence. In short, I refuse to become road kill. Instead, I will load the bike into the trunk of my Saturn and drive to Gordon’s Pond so that I can ride the Henlopen Cay trail on another beautiful day, something to look forward to.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Green Cay in South Florida and Griping

So, it’s been an incredibly busy week, and I haven’t been shooting new photographs and working on the pastels as much as I’d like. The economy has me down, though so far I haven’t lost anything other than a large percentage off the value of my stock portfolio. I suppose I could be one of those poor slobs who got taken with an interest only loan and has lost or is now loosing his/her house and home.* It’s just that I have the nagging feeling that much worse is to come, and with some trepidation I am hoping it comes before Bush leaves office.

The busy week is partially my own fault as I retained my dentist in Lancaster, Pennsylvania when I retired. I’ve been back and forth 5 times since we got back to Rehoboth Beach from South Florida in May. I know I’m ridiculously foolish for doing it this way, but I spent 20 years of my life looking for a dentist I trusted, one who would not inflict horrible pain, and who would not invent work to do on my admittedly terribly soft teeth. So, this week was another trip to the dentist in Lancaster, where we also stayed with a dear friend overnight so we could weed and mulch her gardens – a dirty and sweaty job in 90 degree heat. I’m not complaining except that for thanks we were accused of messing up her plumbing with adult wet butt-wipes! Ah well, – and to think I could have been doing a pastel drawing at home.

“Such is life,” as the same friend would say. I still love her dearly, and we will visit. However, we won’t be imposing on her hospitality for an over night stay again if we can help it.

Today I will ride my bike through the Rehoboth Beach to Lewes bike path – part of Henlopen State Park - so I can get some more photographs of saltwater marshes, and perhaps some shaded walkways to draw and paint in pastel. Then, back to work on the 32” x 40” pastel of “The Perfect Day,” so called because the water at Juno Beach was purest turquoise and the sky was practically cloudless, the ocean like a big lake of electric blues lit from within one ideal day back in March of this year. I’ll post the drawing when I’m finished. Meanwhile, I’m posting this photograph of a water foul from my Green Cay photographs. I’ve written about Green Cay in the past. I wonder why we aren’t trying to diversify our urbanization in South Florida with more reclaimed wetland and natural areas like this one. Could it be that greed gets in the way?

“No, John? There’s no such thing going on in this culture,” his alter ego said facetiously.


*Actually I couldn’t have been one of those folks with one of those disastrous mortgages. I would not have been that desperate. Greed rears its ugly head once again in order to take advantage of people desperate to own their own home.