All the Pieces in Place

March 23, 2017

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When I rolled into Palestine late this Friday afternoon, I was ecstatic to see the new signs in place and couldn’t wait to go inside and continue setting up the show we started hanging last weekend. I am extremely short on sleep and have set my alarm to rise early in the morning, so regretfully, I’m not going to write any further, but just post pictures taken throughout the installation process this afternoon and late this evening.  Thanks for reading. I’m excited to open this show tomorrow at 10 a.m., and even more ecstatic to learn that I have a number of friends trying to break loose and make the long trek out here to this east Texas venue.

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All of your courage has been my tower of strength, thank you for all the kind words you readers have posted in the past weeks.

The Weary Blues

March 21, 2017

Highway 61 Blues

Highway 61 Blues–$500 matted

There is no adequate description for the weariness dragging down my body today.  The travel over the past week, accompanied by the adrenalin rush of getting things together for this weekend’s show opening are beginning to take a toll. But still, life is good and I’m excited.

Since I have a brand new blues-related watercolor going into the show, I have decided to pull out this one from my past.  It is matted and shrinkwrapped and will be in the bin rather than hanging in the gallery.  I have priced it at $500.  The setting is the old Silver Dollar Tavern in Old Appleton, Missouri. I watercolored it years ago and have an image to show below.  That painting has long since been sold.

silver dollar tavern

The site is a sad wreck these days:

silver dollar photo

My father danced upstairs in this tavern when he was young, before entering the Korean Conflict.  With the painting going into the show, I chose to pose myself with guitar on the steps of the old site which sits on historic Highway 61, the Blues Route.

blues

Here is my newest painting to enter into the show.  I’m still waiting to pick it up from the frame shop. Only a few more days before show time and still plenty of details to clean up. But everything is progressing nicely and I couldn’t be happier.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Living the Dream

March 20, 2017

Aunt Bea Coke

Beneath our loquacious chatter, there is a silent language of our whole being which yearns for art and the beauty from which art comes.

Rollo May, My Quest for Beauty

In the midst of this whirlwind week of finalizing details for my show opening Friday, I just made the acquaintance of a buyer who has offered to purchase the first edition of a giclee print of the painting posted above.  The original watercolor is 20 x 20″ and will be a part of my show, but I never got around to setting up an edition because I’ve been tending too many details, and now I’m gratified to know that someone loves it as much as I.

When I mounted the sign on the garden gate, I immediately was flooded with memories of my childhood when our own garden gate was choked with honeysuckle and clover. I still remember the smells of that era, and knew that I was wanting to paint this image as best I could. Painting this scene brought pure joy and memory to me, and I got lost in the details of the Coca-Cola sign with its rust and deterioration. When I have opportunity to paint and put my work on display, I am living the dream. I cannot thank the gallery owners enough for giving me this splendid opporunity for the one-man-show. I wish it were starting tomorrow.

There will be 500 prints of this image available at the same size as the original, and I am offering the print at $100.  The print is on paper, and shrinkwrapped against a foam core backing. This original painting is matted and shrinkwrapped and offered at the show for $900.

There is still much to do, and the midnight hour has already come and gone.  I regret rising at 6:00 every morning to teach, but I still have a job to do.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Counting Days till the One-Man-Show

March 20, 2017

one man show

Installation in Progress

On Friday morning at 10:00, we will open the doors for the first time to The Gallery at Redlands, 400 N. Queen St., Palestine, Texas.   For the first time in my life, my entire collection of art will be on display and sale in one venue–104 pieces total. The show will feature 68 watercolors (39 framed, 29 matted), 34 matted drawings, and two large giclee prints on canvas (one framed, the other gallery-wrapped).

On Sunday, we managed to hang 24 of the framed pieces, and made plans to present additional ones on easels and in the store windows.  I still have five more framed watercolors to deliver later in the week. There is still plenty of work to be done this week, but we’re on target to be ready by opening time.

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Redlands Historic Inn

The new gallery will open on the ground floor, and the “Artifacts” sign will be replaced by one labelled “The Gallery at Redlands.”

My excitement is growing as the day draws closer. There is still so much to be done.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Day Tripp in St. Louis

March 16, 2017

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A brilliant sun punctuated the 27-degree morning as my family piled into a passenger van and motored into south St. Louis.  The interior of the van was flooded with conversation punctuated by AM talk radio. Surrounded by my father, sister, brother and niece, I nestled into a “Day Tripp” dedicated to exploring St.Louis landmarks we always knew existed but never really “saw”. I also wanted to re-visit some areas where I lived but was too young to remember with full detail. The AM talk radio was eventually replaced with Son House as we entered the neighbohoods of south St. Louis, and the bottleneck blues served as a perfect soundtrack for what we viewed.

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Watson Road @ Hampton Avenue

The first stop was the apartment building where I lived from the age of 16 months to three years.  The two windows at the top right were kitchen windows, and the two left were bedroom ones, where Mom and I would sit on the bed and look down across the street at school children changing buses.

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Eventually, we moved downstairs to the back of the same building. The porch and driveway have since been removed.  I was nearly three by this time, and I remember looking down at my father pulling out of the driveway in his white-over-powder blue 1955 Pontiac 2-door hardtop.  To the right of this picture was a car dealership–Hale Motors. He sold Willy’s Jeeps. Behind the dealership was their body shop, and mechanics worked in the garage with the windows open during the summer.  I would walk down to the shop with a story book tucked uinder my arm, sit on top of a dirt pile where they could see me, and wait for them to come out to eat their lunches. They would then read my book to me. In those days, three-year-olds could wander around their yards and neighbors in the city without danger.

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University City, adjacent to Washington University, is one of my favorite places to haunt. Fitz Rootbeer was a St. Louis tradition when I grew up, and this sign continues to stir memories.

berry statueChuck Berry monument

Lunch today was at Blueberry Hill where Chuck Berry used to perform one Wednesday night a month until 2014. The place boasts the best burger in St. Louis, and we decided to enjoy lunch there and peruse all the memorabilia, including Chuck Berry’s Gibson hollow body guitar.

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Berry used to own and operate The Southern Air restaurant in Wentzville, Missouri.  Back in the 1980’s, I visited the establishment for lunch and saw him in the dining area, smoking a cigarette. I was taken at the sight of his magnificent hands, and am glad to see they’ve since been casted and installed at Blueberry Hill.

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Fenton, Missouri

Once we returned home, we found Mom feeling better (she didn’t feel healthy enough for the day-long excursion). As we talked of our past and its memories, she expressed a willingness to jump back into my vehicle with me and visit the places I lived from ages three to five. They moved to Fenton, Missouri, west of St. Louis (and only seven miles from where they live now) when I was three, and settled on this street. Their apartment has long since been razed and replaced by the Fieser Nursing Home on the right side of this street.  All the buildings across the street are the same as they were back then. On the nursing home site where our apartment stood was also the Fieser Funeral Home. They had a basement where they allowed Mom to hang laundry during the cold winter months. She was spooked by the old clothes of the deceased that hung all about the walls, and I was spooked by a large red furnace that made an incredibly loud noise when it kicked on. I thought it was something living that was going to eat me.

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High Ridge

Mom and Dad now reside in High Ridge, in the home where I lived since it was brand new in 1961. But before we moved into that home, we would live in four other locations from my ages of three to six. This apartment was our home for a short time, and Mom’s only memory of me was my running all around the back yard pulling a red wagon with a toad loaded in it. Somehow I instinctively knew when the toad would leap out and I would immediately stop, retrieve it, and reload it to continue the fun ride. She also shared that when I got as far away from the apartment as possible I would stand with feet far apart, refusing to move until she would come all the way out there and carry me back to the house for a clean up.  It had something to do with #2.  It took me awhile to outgrow that. I’ll stop the story there.

hs home

We moved to another location in High Ridge shortly afterward. I have chosen not to visit or photograph it this time.  All I will say now is that a mentally deranged woman owned the property and our time there was not good.  My brother was born during our time there, and I was four years old.  We then moved four miles west along Highway 30 to House Springs. The house where we lived is no longer there.  Above, I photographed the rough terrain alongside Byrnes Mill Road where the house stood. I have dozens and dozens of stories to tell of my time there, because I was old enough to retain those memories and sensations. But that will have to come at another time. I feel I have rambled long enough on this one.

Thanks for reading. I’m still absorbing the memories of today’s visit, and more than two typed pages of material Mom and Dad shared with me as I questioned them this evening about those sketchy memories of my life between the time of 16 months and three years.

Time with Friends in the Winter Wonderland 

March 14, 2017

The ten-hour drive to St. Louis was exhausting, but I’ve been greeted with two days of scenic snow, and I’m still in a swoon over the sights. After catching up on some much-needed sleep, I got to experience today the genuine joy of lunch with five friends from my high school graduating class, some of whom I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing for forty-five years. Stepping into those conversations and memories today enriched my soul like I haven’t experienced in decades.         And . . . we were so taken up with each other that none of us thought to take even one picture! So, my mind’s eye will have to do. Mark, Wayne, Mitchell, Shirley and Tommy–thank you. I love you all, and cannot wait for the day we can do this again.

Silence

March 11, 2017

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Elected Silence, sing to me

And beat upon my whorlèd ear,

Pipe me to pastures still and be 

The music that I care to hear.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The Habit of Perfection”

One of my precious friends, Dian Dar, a retired English teacher, recently shared with me poetry from Gerard Manley Hopkins, and the timing was sublime. Spring Break has arrived, and I slept in soundly this Saturday morning, waking to a dark and rainy day.  The watercolor above I have just delivered to the Texas Friends and Neighbors Regional Art Exhibit to open in Irving, Texas April 29.  About half of the remaining 75 pieces had already been submitted and I was able to peruse the gallery and see them up close.  The show is a very strong one, and I am honored and humbled to be included. This evening I plan to attend the gallery talk given by the juror and view the slide show that has been assembled of all the works. I’m sorry to wait a month and a half for the exhibit to open.

Spring Break has arrived and I certainly need the rest.  Today has been burned up by delivering art work and catching up on all my college grading that was a week old.  I still have week-old high school stuff to grade as well, but I guess it can wait another day or two. Strangely, I’m not in the mood to paint today though my heart is filled with artistic aspiration, strange as that may sound.  I have been more inclined to read, and especially to spend time lingering over poetry.  Hopkins certainly has not disappointed me on this gray day.  He and Paul Tillich have filled my weary soul with ideas that are uplifting and satisfying.

I devoted some considerable time to staring at this painting before delivering it, because I won’t have it around for viewing for quite a long time.  That is the downside of exhibits–it’s nice to know others are looking at my work, but I do miss some of the images when they are no longer on my living room wall.  I still remember the hours spent in the garage (man cave) studio when I worked on this one.  And I recall the thrill of finding the creel in a Missouri antique store, of my good friends and fly fishing buddies lending me the antique fly box to open and include in the show, of the bamboo fly rod given me by an equine instructor in Colorado whose father had it custom made for him when he was a teeanger.  The hat has spent years on my head, and I took delight in baptizing it in the Atlantic, Pacific, Aegean and Adriatic waters.  The chair I found in a Missouri antique store. This picture just overflows in personal memories, and I was attached to it ever since I saw it taking shape beneath my brush.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Finding a Home for my Intellectual Heroes

March 9, 2017

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All arts create symbols for a level of reality which cannot be reached in any other way.

Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith

I am posting a photo of this collage I created in 1989, my second year of teaching.  Paul Tillich became one of my intellectual heroes and guiding forces as I developed a course in the Humanities at Lamar High School in Arlington, Texas.  In 1996, when I transferred to Martin High School across the city, I imported Tillich into my Philosophy classes.  He, along with Emerson, Thoreau and Nietzsche were my main pillars as I sought to challenge students to think independently, to find their own voice.

As I have wound my way through this final year of teaching, approaching retirement, I often looked up at Tillich’s portrait from my school desk, thankful for all that he brought to my interior life. Today I’ll say Good-Bye to this image, as a graduate from this school returns from the university to purchase him.  I’m always pleased when a student thinks enough of one of my heroes to buy my artwork created in tribute.  Earlier this school year, a current student in my art history class purchased my framed collage of Gerhard von Rad, another hero of mine that unfortunately I could not work into my curriculum with the depth that I did Tillich.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Firming Up Details for a One-Man Show

March 8, 2017

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Serene Catholic Contemplation

I am re-posting this image of a watercolor I completed on a full-size sheet of paper a few years back. It has just been delivered to my local frame shop. The new gallery in Palestine, Texas is getting ready to run an ad in the local paper.  Though I’ve ceased the daily blogging, I’m thinking seriously about daily posts from now until showtime.

My website has been updated with the relevant information (www.recollections54.com).

And the new gallery, opening with my show on March 24, has opened a facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/thegalleryatredlands/photos/a.1817965165135990.1073741827.1817960541803119/1817963798469460/?type=1&theater

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To my delight, I’ve been told that accomodations have been made at the hotel for me to be at the gallery all three weekends of the show, March 24-April 9.  I had always hoped I could have a “presence” during the show’s weekend hours.  The proprietors of this new adventure are wonderful friends and working tirelessly to make  the gallery show a success.

Thanks for reading.

Art Still Has Truth. Take Refuge There

March 5, 2017

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Late last night, I finished this watercolor, then spoke to a Sunday School gathering this morning. The discussion following my presentation was stimulating for me, and I’m happy to share the text of what I presented this morning.  Thanks for reading.

ART STILL HAS TRVTH

TAKE REFVGE THERE

Years ago, when visiting my parents in Missouri, I was listlessly driving around the greater St. Louis area, looking for something to do, not feeling in the greatest of spirits, and I don’t recall why. That is no longer important. The Saint Louis Art Museum, since my high school years, has been an anchor in my life, and Forest Park remains a virtual paradise west of downtown St. Louis.  So, I decided to park my vehicle there and wander around the grounds.  The museum sits atop a piece of real estate called Art Hill, overlooking a magnificent lake far below, with the skyline of St. Louis sparkling in the distance.  For those of you who have visited the Amon Carter Museum of Art in Fort Worth, and looked east out on that vista toward downtown, you get my general idea—only Forest Park in Saint Louis is about four times the acreage of that lying between our own Amon Carter and the skyscrapers of Fort Worth.

After strolling the parks restlessly for about an hour, I decided to enter the art museum, but entered it at a side door for the first time in my life—I had always used the main entrance with the overhead inscription carved into the granite:   DEDICATED TO ART AND FREE TO ALL.  Well, this south side entrance had this carved above the huge portal:

ART STILL HAS TRVTH

TAKE REFVGE THERE

I discovered later that that was a quote from Matthew Arnold, but on that day, the inscription could have been for me the Delphic Oracle.  I took it seriously, and strode into that museum on that personally historic day, the way a medieval man on a spiritual pilgrimage would finally enter the massive doors of a city cathedral—and my outlook on the arts changed indelibly.  I spent an entire day wandering through galleries on three different floors, finding respite.  I exchanged my Bible for a journal, and as I sat in silence that day, listening, I wrote page after page of thoughts as the oracle continued to echo down the chambers of my innermost being.  I relaxed in the shadows of Van Goghs, Rembrandts, Picassos, Monets, and Renoirs.  I lingered beneath the canopies of Medieval altarpieces and scrutinized sculptures of Rodin.  There slowly emerged in my consciousness that day the conviction that my own life—like everyone else’s—was tied with a chain to the commonplace.  However, there were sanctuaries overflowing with abundant, timeless treasures—works of art accompanied by testimonies of artful lives—right there in our domain, inviting the weary travelers to enter and find rest.

ART STILL HAS TRVTH

TAKE REFVGE THERE

At my present age, I have difficulty separating Art from Religion, when I talk of ultimate values, when I talk of excellence and virtue.  Think about this—when we talk about our core, our essence, we often choose words such as “religious” or “spiritual,” but “artful” could also be added to that vocabulary.  The theologian Paul Tillich urged upon his students this observation that the most direct way to understand a culture was not through its history, not through its literature, not even through its religion, but through its art.  Art, Tillich argued, opened up avenues of knowledge and experience not present in other disciplines.

When I speak of Art this morning, I’m using a capital “A” to distinguish it from art work, or art history.  To borrow from Plato’s worldview, he pointed out that we are confronted with a world filled with change, a world of motion, often a world of confusion.  Plato argued that we get frustrated with this moving target and often seek some kind of anchor or fixture to hold things in perspective.  We want an Absolute in the mist of all this change.  For years I’ve spoken of how religions on this planet have continually evolved, declined, splintered, renewed—always on the move, always changing.  And yet, all these religions claim to pursue some kind of Absolute.  A god, a morality, a code, a creed—something that will stay in place and organize all those other loose details.

The religious experience splits on that model of Plato.  Those who seek the permanent in religion are seeking some kind of fortress, a sanctuary, a safe zone.  And those who favor the dynamics of a changing religion pursue it as on a path, an odyssey, a journey of faith.  Religion appears to offer both dimensions—an absolute for assurance, and a journey for discovery.  And I believe we require both.  Sometimes language of God falls into that split category.  One hears talk of God as though this deity were elusive.  Karl Barth once said that one’s attempt to discuss theology was like trying to paint a bird in flight.  Woody Allen, listening to the testimony of Albert Einstein that God does not play dice with the universe, once retorted: “No, he plays hide and seek.”  Yet those who speak of the elusive God also like to discuss God as an enduring Presence.  One book by the Old Testament theologian Samuel Terrien has been titled The Elusive Presence.

            And it is that “presence” that comforts.  Art provides that presence.  A poet once recorded these poignant words:

Everything passes—Robust art

Alone is eternal.

The bust

Survives the city.

John F. Kennedy once alluded to Art as that presence which remains as a foundation.  One month before his assassination, he stood before his audience at Amherst College and voiced these words:

When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his           limitations.  When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses, for art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.

This morning, I am addressing Art (or Religion) as something experienced in both realms of our divided world.  By divided, I mean that realm of constant change vs. that realm of repose.  Change addresses that odyssey element we all know too well—when we are on the move and always exploring, always encountering.  Life can be a pilgrimage.  But let us not forget that restful side—that need to stop, to pause, reflect, recollect.  It is that stopping side that I want us to focus on for the moment.  That need for refuge.

ART STILL HAS TRVTH

TAKE REFVGE THERE

The artists, the famous creators of history, have left behind their visual testimonies of life abundant.  Even when we lack their talent, we still have their eyes and their appreciation.  We have our senses that “feel” what they felt, and we can understand the same beauty that attracted them.  Let me read this testimony from Ian Roberts, author of Creative Authenticity:

If you read accounts of enlightened people, you will notice that because they are so open, with so few filters on perception, everything for them is poetry. Everything is alive, asking for attention.  Attention to what?  To the divine that hovers beneath the surface of all life.  What we respond to in the great paintings of history is the depth of attention the artist had focused on the project.  We could even use the word prayer—not in a religious sense, although for some artists that might be accurate.

The reason we can feel the beauty that drove those artists like a religious sentiment is because we carry that same sense of beauty within us.  As Emerson once testified: “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”

I call attention to the quiet, restful side of religious experience, because I feel that the reason art and religion so often slip from our grasp is because we are too busy with industry to let it soak in.  Art can be found in the silences.  Rollo May wrote it so beautifully: “Beneath our loquacious chatter, there is a silent language of our whole being which yearns for art and the beauty from which art comes.”

If Plato is correct in dividing our world between the motion and the rest, I say that most of us find ourselves out of balance because we spend too much time in one of those realms, and too little in the other.  My perennial problem has been too much time spent in the action realm.  Because I consider myself a man of contemplation, I know the frustration of being too much “on the move.”

I have wasted too much time in the past poking fun of public figures in politics, Hollywood and professional sports who cannot seem to get enough attention, seizing the media spotlight in every way conceivable. You know who they are. I’ll leave the names unspoken.

Many of you might be unaware of this, but Ralph Waldo Emerson got caught up in the same public whirlwind.  In his early career, he had four years of silence following his wife’s untimely death and his resignation from the Unitarian ministry.  He thought, he traveled, he reflected, he scribbled ideas in his journal.  Then he came out with his small book titled Nature, which was a distillation of his four years of seething thoughts.  Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.  That small book took our young national consciousness by storm and suddenly thrust Emerson out in front as a national figurehead, a public orator, called upon to expound these new ideas to a hungry America.  He realized after four years of speaking and writing that his well had run dry, and he needed to retreat and regroup.  He didn’t.  Whether he liked all that public speaking, or just felt that he was needed, he didn’t retreat.  And the writings of Emerson from the mid 1840s on lose that impact that so punctuated his early, most often-quoted works.  He may have had more to offer us down the road had he taken the less-public route of Henry David Thoreau.  But alas, we second-guess.

Let’s return to ourselves.  What about us?  Where do we stand in this juncture of our religious pilgrimage?  Have we balanced our action with our stillness?  If so, then we probably flourish.  If not, then where have we tilted?  For anyone this morning who feels sedentary and lifeless, then perhaps you’ve spent too much time in the sanctuary and need to get out into the world of action.  Perhaps it’s time for you to explore a cause, an exercise, a pursuit that allows you to put your religious sentiment into action.

As for those of you who are weary and drained from too much industry, then for certain it is time for you to retreat into the sanctuary, into the stillness, into the solitude.  A life of contemplation awaits you and offers rest and restoration.

ART STILL HAS TRVTH

TAKE REFVGE THERE