Synchronicities and Correspondence between paintings of Grandma Moses and Fairfield Porter

While gallery hopping recently in New York City , I happened upon some wonderful paintings by the great American master and ” Outsider” Folk artist, Grandma Moses. Grandma Moses was born as Anna Mary Robertson in Greenwich, New York in 1860. She starting to paint in her late 70’s and lived to be 101 years of age. Grandma Moses painted till the end of her days. Her paintings featured elemental and charming scenes, depicting simple country pleasures, and modest well articulated landscapes. She painted barn raisings, wooden carts crossing fields, grazing farm animals, and old white frame houses sitting in the early morning light. While looking at the art of Grandma Moses, it occurred to me how very much her paintings looked in spirit- and even form- like the landscapes and still life paintings of Fairfield Porter. Fairfield Porter was born in 1907 in Winnetka, Illinois and studied at Harvard, later entering the New York School art scene and producing representational art during the height of Abstract Expressionism. Porter’s art was both heartfelt and simple, depicting scenes of domesticity. Porter was fond of painting dappled lawns where the sun breaks through the trees and throws a pitter patter of small organic shapes on deep green lawns. Both artists painted white open farmhouses with front porches and shadows cast by large oak trees, painting the true American landscape. While Grandma Moses yielded a smaller brush and worked in a more detailed fashion, her appetite and love for the simple chores of life, the beauty of farms and villages and the charms  of a cloud about to nestle over a church...
Wabi Sabi: Impermanence, Art, and a Journey to Japan

Wabi Sabi: Impermanence, Art, and a Journey to Japan

I have long been intrigued by the Japanese concept of wabi sabi, the roots of which can be found in Zen Buddhism. Intrigued longer, it seems, than I have had a name for the idea. This changed shortly after I journeyed through Japan alongside my Japanese art Collector. Wabi sabi is a philosophy that deals with transience, imperfection and the incompleteness of objects that man makes and has been making for all time. Followers of wabi sabi believe that: Nothing lasts Nothing is finished Nothing is perfect I traveled to Japan on two occasions, once in 2007 and once in 2008. One of my Japanese Collectors is a prolific collector of antiquities from around the world. He saw my work at a solo exhibition in London, during the spring of 2006, and purchased a great many of my paintings that year. Soon after, he invited me to Japan to travel with him throughout his country. We journeyed east and west, north and south visiting many museums, fish markets, galleries, and teashops. While traveling with my Japanese Collector, who is well known throughout Japan, I experienced the country in a way very different than many others. At many stops along our winding route we would be served tea in the most wonderfully delicate manner. Amidst a good deal of polite bowing, the tea was always brought out in a beautiful clay pot and small teacups. My eye was drawn to how often the cups might be a bit misshapen or have slight cracks running across the surface. I puzzled over the somewhat irregular glaze. It was not until a friend...
Painting on the Edge vs Edges of the Painting

Painting on the Edge vs Edges of the Painting

For a Painter — whether abstract or figurative or somewhere in between — the edges of the painting are a very important thing. The average viewer may not consider the edges of the painting, may never think at all in fact about the edges of the painting as they are primarily concerned with what is going on inside the painting. Before the 20th century most paintings in the West provided a picture window through which one looked into the painting to see the unfolding drama, whether figures acting out some sort of scene on the battlefield or an interior drama in a Venetian ballroom. The point is that one looked into the picture and did not consider the physicality of the canvas or the nature of the edges of the painting. A viewer of an 18th century Dutch landscape painting with cows grazing on rolling green hills and a hawk flying above a dark and cloudy sky would scarcely be aware of the edges of that painting. In contrast, if someone were to graze that viewer with the edges of a sharp knife they would very quickly be aware of the edges of that knife. The point being that when working on a rectangular canvas, which was the accepted structure and format in western painting for hundreds of years, the painter had to be concerned with the edges of the painting as paint was certainly applied to those four edges but also because the edges of the painting helped to define and focus on the drama occurring in the rest of the canvas. In other words, the subject of...

Sex Sells and Sex Sells in Contemporary Art

It is no great secret that sex sells in advertising and has been doing this quite well for some time now.  A great many products from cars to clothing to perfumes to hair conditioners and even to food products — where sauces are slowly dripped into place and icings on cakes are licked with eager tongues — all use sex to help sell the product at hand. Sex also sells in Contemporary Art. Not only Contemporary Art, but art of the past several thousand years. Certainly images of loosely clad women in the Japanese and Indian and Chinese Silk drawings engaging in sexual acts illustrates that sex was on the mind of our ancient forebears perhaps as much if not more than in the present time frame. African sculpture, which is tribal and primitive and quite beautiful in its elemental simplicity, done since the time of Christ (and made for ceremonial  and tribal reasons and not for the art market which did not exist at that time), is chock full of phallic attachments. It is often humorous to me in its directness and simplicity. A standing figure will have a phallus longer than the individual is tall. Sex sells is evident in contemporary art More recently Courbet, the great French painter of the 19th century, created an infamous portrait of a woman who is nearly without clothes lounging on a divan, to the delight of the onlookers and the collector who finally bought the piece. It was exhibited privately for a number of years because of its saucy nature. De Kooning, the great Dutch painter of the last century, became...
How the American West Served to Expand the Depth and Breadth of Painting

How the American West Served to Expand the Depth and Breadth of Painting

There is an unexplored relationship between the expansion of the American West and contemporary abstraction in painting. The American West and the opening of the West to exploration and expansion were filled with mythology and bravado, plus a great deal of inaccurate reporting. The Western territories were already inhabited in the 16th and 17th centuries by Native Americans who were tribal and of course did not refer to themselves as Indians or Americans. And while the Territorial Expansion was not fair minded or kind in any fashion, it did allow Europeans and individuals from around the world to find a part of the world that was full of promise, enormous in its geographic range and chock full of nearly impossible possibilities. Europe had for centuries been developed in its architecture and cultural agendas and its peoples located in a kind of caste system that could limit creativity. This is not to say that Europe did not develop some of the greatest painters in the world between the 15th and 20th centuries.  But there was a kind of limited thinking in terms of scale and the possibilities of what pearly open space could do to affect the artistic imagination. There is relationship, in other words, between the amount of space that people inhabit and how very wide they can spread their wings and fly. Artists working in Europe had limited space physically, culturally and mentally The artists working in tight channels in Europe, in city lanes and wrapped around mountain villages, with few exceptions, did not have the space or the imagination to think far outside the historical and architectural limitations of...