Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Flat Water


South Florida Flat Water, April 3, 2012 

 While this isn’t a particularly exciting photograph, it does recreate the feeling I have about calm spring days on our beach in south Florida. The huge expanse of smooth water and sky with all those varying shades of blue and aqua, the gurgle-chug noise of the Lilliputian crystal clear waves lifts my spirit to a level a few steps above spectacular. It’s akin to the feeling I had as a teenager (back in the dark ages) upon stepping over the threshold of the highest balcony at the Philadelphia Academy of Music - seeing the huge crystal chandelier hanging before my eyes, and the, to my eyes, immense cavern of the auditorium below, the gilt of the stage proscenium and columns - but more sustained. The feeling of hovering in space in both situations is exactly the same, though at the Academy of Music I was almost hovering in space as I took a step down the isle between seats on that steeply sloped balcony. The pre concert atmosphere of anticipation is not that different from my feelings as I walk down our beach because I know that Mother Nature can and will create magical music with daily variations for each walk I take on that shore.

 Today the Academy is dwarfed by the larger less spectacular Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. But the beach, all of it, east, west, north and south is, and will hopefully remain the same. It is my church, a cathedral made of sky, sand, avian and marine creatures, and of course the ocean itself. If you are a reader of this Web journal, you know about my concerns as demonstrated in The Waterworks. I write no conclusion here – just let this go, an open-ended question mark.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Back in Delaware

I write on three seemingly unrelated topics; 1) my art studio set up, 2) education and 3) a political diatribe 

 The studio is cleaned, art supplies unpacked and stored in their proper locations. All the pastels are unpacked. I have a 32” x 40” blank archival cotton fiberboard squared off and ready to go. The photo close-ups of several breaking waves are printed and squared as well. Now, I just have to start to work.

 And Then

Marlin Brando, Pencil and powdered graphite, 32" x 40" (1979) 

 After the wave is done I want to do an over-sized iconic head like the ones I did in powdered graphite back in the 1970’s and 80’s only in color with pastels this time, and I think India ink for the darkest areas beneath the pastel. I’m using the ink because I don’t want the dark areas to move and smear. Dark pastel will move mix so easily into lighter and brighter colors. I will also need to subtract from the dark areas and then work over them with the pastel. I haven’t figured out exactly how to do the subtraction part- perhaps white gesso or acrylic over the ink, allow to dry, then sanding with fine sandpaper so it will take the pastel.
And, most people think art is easy and fun. I guess they’re right about the fun part, but the easy part, NOT. Doing art is hard work, and a continuous problem solving process – true for all The Arts.

And, we interrupt this journal entry with a tangential thought.

The fact that doing any of the Arts is hard work and involves a problem solving process is exactly why the Visual Arts, Music, and Theater are so important to educating our children. Oh, would that our public education destroying Republican Party state legislators and governors understood all of that. I’ve just been reading from various Pennsylvania newspaper Websites about Governor Tom Corbett’s 1.5 billion dollar cut to public education in Pennsylvania’s new budget plan - the second year in a row of Brobdingnagian cuts to public education in that state. Reading the articles has gotten my steam up because I taught Art in Pennsylvania for 38 years at a time when our public servants and elected officials from both parties understood the importance of the public educational system, as well as The Arts, and Physical Education within that system. During my career I felt as though I was helping students to not only learn things, but how to think productively and creatively as well. Now I watch as 33 Republican governors and state legislatures cut public education to the bone in the first step in their effort to privatize it. Some school districts in Pennsylvania are contemplating dropping The Arts, physical education and sport programs, as well as kindergarten because of the draconian budget cuts.

Wow! From a journal entry that I intended to be about my art I’ve moved on to a political rant (almost). So, let me extend the almost rant.

When I was 12, my favorite program on television was Tom Corbett and the Space Cadets because it sparked my imagination and fed my – at the time untenable – desire for an honest to goodness space program complete with space stations, shuttles, and space cadets. As an ageing adult in the Twenty-first Century United States of America, I (and 300 million other Americans) actually have a partially dismantled space program, and a REAL Tom Corbett and 32 other SPACE CADET governors busily taking apart our public school system, and coincidentally destroying the future for American middle class blue collar, white collar, and working poor children!

Okay, now there is no “ALMOST” about this political rant!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pelican’s Dive Sunrise

Ten days ago I watched the sunrise on our beach in south Florida. The depth of color was more subdued that morning than others, softer as though Mother Nature wore a smooth fuzzy blanket over her shoulders. The sun came up behind a bank of clouds, and salmon and rose colored rays struck down toward the horizon. Suddenly, as I concentrated on clouds, sun and water, a pelican flew through the camera’s field of vision. Hurriedly I ripped the tripod out of the sand and followed the bird as it flew above the water. I changed the shutter speed to 320, upped the ISO to 400, and zoomed in as close as possible with the limited range of my standard lens. I watched excitedly, pressing the shutter repeatedly as the bird plunged into the water for his breakfast.

Today, going though all the images, a pitiful few are in focus. This one taken at the moment the bird prepared to dive looks impossible and awkward, almost like the bird has been shot in mid-air, by a gun, not the camera. When first dropped onto the Photoshop icon I thought it looked like two separate pictures put together, so I’ve added a second shot of the bird floating and silhouetted against the water, downing his catch.

By The Dawn's Early Light

The reason I go to the beach at sunrise is to visit my outdoor church, and to experience the thrill of a new day beginning, always the chance for a fresh start, always the possibility to make things just a tiny bit better. Dawn on the beach is a few brief minutes of hope as light spills over the dark sea. And, there is always the added possibility that something unexpected will make those moments still more thrilling than anticipated.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Waterworks

I’ve written about “The Waterworks” in the past.  However this is the first time I’ve put together a movie about the project.  The movie gives a brief overview of the project and presents my reasons for creating it.  The background music is Frederic Chopin – Nocturne in C-sharp minor, Op. Posth – played by Aaron Dunn and taken from the Musopen Website -  It is in the Public domain and I down loaded it at 4:19 P.M., Wednesday, May 9, 2012.  I suppose that Handel’s Water Music would have been more appropriate.  However I could not find a recording that was in the Public domain.

Note Once again, the video freezes from time to time on Blogger. If that should happen go directly to You Tube to watch.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


South Florida, May 10, 2012

So, here I am on the beach with camera and iPod just before sunrise. In the earphones I am listening to Giulio CacciniAve Maria.* In the southern sky a thunderhead makes dull flashes in its hoary depths. Just north of east, the clouds are fringed with silver and gold. First, I pan slowly from south to north and back again making video. Then I work with the camera which is mounted on the tripod so I can immobilize it. I set the camera for delayed shutter using f 25 at ISO 100, causing a slow shutter speed that blurs the surf but makes the clouds crystal clear. Second by second as I shoot more frames, the glow brightens as rays strike out across the sky. The sun’s rim rises above the cloud’s edge. Ocean and sky are filled with brilliant light. The clouds are lost in the glow. The iPod and camera moment is over, so I sit down now, relaxed and enveloped in my own glow. The beach is my church. 

*I listened to as many recordings of the Caccini Ave Maria on You Tube as I could, this one was actually one of the best though least played. So much for the discriminating Web public.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

"Out Clean Safe Wat" - Small Distressed Works

"Out Clean Safe Wat," Mixed Media Distressed Painting (8" x 8") July 12, 2011

These works are conflicted.  By that I mean that the accidental quality of the distressed painting technique conflicts with the compulsive need for order demonstrated in the crisp clean straight lines and the gridded presentation of interrupted text.  At the same time, the conflict works for me because all “The Waterworks,” are about the perfection in the natural order of our world, and the destructive process that man is imposing on it.

This is one of many small 8” by 8” mixed media distressed artworks produced in the past 2 years.  The small size enables me to get them out the door at a reasonable price ($125.00) including the sixty-five dollars spent on the framing.  They are part of the larger body of work that includes pastels, mixed media distressed paintings, and digital photo montages, “The Waterworks.”

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: A Metamodern Position

Sunrise #2, "Like a Prayer,"(32" x 40") Commissioned March 2011

I occasionally write about my religious/spiritual belief system because so many of my fellow Christians have become exclusive based on an evangelical institutionalized approach of Church to Bible.  Unfortunately, that exclusive evangelical form of Christianity leaves the rest of us out in the cold. It shouldn’t matter, but I am defensive about that exclusion. 

Having been a “Boy Who Came Back From Heaven” myself, I have a reference point from which to view the best selling book about a six year old child who had an out of the body experience. * I posit that Alex, the boy in the book understood that experience based on the teachings of his parents and his church, as do I. I wasn’t quite as young as Alex when I had my out of the body experience – I was fifteen at the time, and I chose to keep the experience to myself because in 1959 I thought that none would believe me including my religious parents and our Northminster Presbyterian Church family. Actually, the teachings of our church varied significantly from the contemporary Twenty-first Century return to fundamental eschatology. Instead, the concentration was on a Modernist (1950’s) understanding of Jesus’ promise to his followers. That understanding was based on love and inclusiveness, and we were taught to disregard the racial prejudices of the day. We were also taught that our relation with Jesus Christ and to God should be deeply personal, held close to the heart because it was not of this world. Instead, we should demonstrate our belief in God, Jesus Christ, and the church through our good deeds, and not so much by talking about our faith as I am doing here. Our relationship with the church included a strong admonition against involvement with matters of state as well as the understanding that the state must avoid involvement with affairs of the church. That prescription was based on Matthew 22:15 in which Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.” But I digress in order to explain that my interpretation of the out of body experience differed greatly from Alex’s.

As a six-year-old Alex heard and saw so many things, including angels, deceased relatives and friends, even an unborn sister. As a fifteen year old I did not see or hear anything because I was not in the body. I was spirit and with the spirit. I knew so many things in ways that transcended the senses and the flesh. I did not see angels, or deceased relatives. There was nothing other than the knowledge of God. At the same time I knew that I must return to my physical existence. God told me without speaking that there were things I must do on earth, and I had the feeling of rushing back though, there was no time or place much less an actual sense of motion. I awoke perspiring and sitting up in bed. I was shaken because I had experienced something I, personally, had no esteemed right to experience. However, that night and over the many years after I have had insights based on my experience of God. The insights while they do not directly contradict Alex’s are quite different from his. I will list three here.

I. Personhood is of this earth. It is not something we bring with us. We come into this life as close to God as we will ever be. We are named by our parents, and grow in the understanding of our individual person based on their precepts and teaching. Gradually we grow in our self-awareness based on the teaching of the social group around our intimate family, and finally of the larger culture beyond. Unfortunately, the knowledge imparted here on earth (the symbolic apple of Genesis) leads us away from God. Jesus had to go into the desert and suffer the devil to shed the teachings of family and culture as much as possible in order to be ready for his ministry. His understanding was that he was not the son of man, but the Son of God. And so, when we eventually return to God, we give up the things of this earth, and leave personhood behind.

II. Jesus was not exclusive. I know fundamentalism teaches that in order to be accepted into the kingdom of heaven one must accept Jesus, and those who do not, cannot go to heaven. However, I believe that Jesus - based on the inclusiveness he demonstrated in choosing his disciples and followers - if living today would say that we are all God’s children. And, based on my out of body experience, I know that beneath my many faceted and layered personhood there is the original bit of God that I brought with me into this world. I do not experience if often, but sometimes I find God when I pray. And, God finds me unexpectedly when I see absolute goodness in the behavior of others, no matter their particular religious affiliations and/or spiritual beliefs.

III. I know that my artwork is based on a God given gift, an accident of birth if you will, and that no matter what I create it is always an expression of the love of God and Jesus Christ.
From time to time I will list others of these insights in my journal, and as always I will indicate their presence in the artwork I make.

Note *

The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, Kevin Malarkey. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers (2010).