Monday, January 28, 2008

An Indian Dream

A diptych  that I haven't  exhibited.  Two images that need to be seen together.

Indian Dream

I had these dreams for years after my uncle Wilbur took me out to hunt for arrow heads.  I guess he was familiar with the area where I would find a treasure.  Only later did I realize that a tragedy may have occurred  at that that site.  

Me on Lonely Pony

Post Card - Villa of Brule - Photo by C.H. Grabill  1891

My dad moved east during the dust bowl era to start a new life and a family.  He was from a family of eleven; once a necessity, but suddenly a liability on a farm/ranch measured in sections, not acres. We returned every other summer to help with the wheat harvest.  This was the highlight of my youth.  To become a cowboy, ride horses, mend fence.  We stored hay for the horses, collect eggs, milk the cows and slop the pigs.  It was a life I just longed for when I had to return to the east.  My fathers death came early, but I did return with the love of my life, Karen after we married.   My uncle Wilbur was immediately taken with her when she grabbed the shaggy dog Corny and brushed and clipped out all the mats. Plus Karen can ride with the best of the cowboys.  She was a hit and 30 plus years later we're still in love.

Red Thread

Now what does this have to do with my art? I became aware of the Indian plight and the horrible genocide our government waged against the indigenous  population.  In some ways my ancestors benefited from from this, even as I was struggling to become a cowboy.  In recent years my wife and I have spent weeks on the Pine Ridge reservation trying to help elevate the sad poverty in the midst of the vast wealth of our country.  For a great voice and force in trying to effect change in Pine Ridge visit Re-Member. (blogger is having problems so I can't link directly at this time so go to    I remain intent on using zen koans to silence that voice in my head whenever I want to sit and create.  No more lists of things to do, just stand in the moment and create. My red thread is art.

Sunday, January 27, 2008



How much does accident or serendipity play in art? I'm thinking about the connection between my sumi-e and my digital work. When I put brush to paper, the feeling and feedback is immediate; I know I've done it or I need to scrap that paper and try again. In the same vein when I try to combine photos in photoshop, even though I've thought through the concept I recognize when something is not working. Of course, many of us continue to try and make something work when it doesn't. I think that is the sadness we may face as artists; letting something with promise go. In both digital and sumi-e sucess seems to depend on being on the knifes edge of a controlled accident. In the sumi-e there are variables; the absorbency of the paper, is it sized or unsized, single or double weight. Of course, even the term rice paper is misnamed. The papers I prefer are handmade and have proprietary formulas and are not made from rice. These papers have family histories and the formulas and formation are passed down. The papers can have a variety of fibers and of various length. Brushes and their properties offer many more variables. Horse, hog, sable - most any animal can lend it's fur or hair to a brush; each one with a unique ability to absorb and release to ink. Now - not to over analyze this; any real artist in sumi-e can take a mop and produce a work of art. When I imagine all the possibilities it it hard to imagine any art at all. Talent, serendipity, accident and finding the zone. In one of Victoria Cummings blogs on falling, she mentioned that walking was controlled falling. My digital work has as many or possibly an infinite number of decisions. Deciding on theme, start with scans or photo, what resolution, combine; combine with what. Use blending modes, inverse, replace color. Well, the list is endless. There are so many possibilities that I need to return to sumi-e. Sometimes I think art is controlled serendipity.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


I recycle images.  Certain photo's I stage are attempts to invoke particular emotions.  One cycle of imagery I often return to could be described as personal mythologies.  Rusi is a traditional Thai mythologic figure I've returned to because over the last year I have become less than satisfied with my original attempt.  I've been experimenting with the 'despair' image although I have used it in the past in what I would describe as a satire piece, 'Ode to Dr. Strange'.  
Ode to Dr. Strange

The piece is based on a page from an old Dr. Strange comic book. I staged photo's of myself in similar poses of the main character.  Ultimately I came up with kind of a campy piece; but not  really in the vein of the direction I was pursuing.  Still, I felt I had a compelling image (at least one with some future possibility) sitting in the hard drive.  So the image may have more than one life; it may find new context in Rusi.  Or, I may have to keep exploring what my role or reaction would be in meeting the hermit that knows everything about you.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Art Exchange

A small change is running to the left in the difference series.  I've added an alternative version of my friend teri p's photograph entitled 'pair + pear'.  You can see the original at teri p's blog.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Cast in Stone


cement and vinyl tube

Many people advised me not to use 'Under Construction' as part of my title.  I realize the connection to sites that are not finished or are being rebuilt.  I've never been good at taking advice.  I started as a sculptor, so some things were set in stone - once upon a time. Now that I work in the digital world; things are always in play and always under construction.  I've worked Rusi again and again for several nights and below is a screen shot where I have left him.  He is still under construction until I capture the original magical feeling of seeing a Nang performance.

Rusi Under Construction

This sample is how I have worked Rusi in the last several days.   I'm not sure I'm in the right direction yet, I'm trying to stay true to the Nang tradition.  Much of my work involves placing myself into mythologies, either traditional or of my own making.  Rusi, I'm afraid is still under construction.   Also, I'm under the influence of a recent book - 'Practicing" by Glenn Kurtz; a story of a supercharged young prodigy in classical guitar. He became disillusioned even after many youthful successes.  A story that mirrors my own return to art - That it's mere practice is uplifting.  Most of us in the arts have second or multiple careers.  Kurtz puts into word the reflection many of us have at the point when the years of sacrifice have gained little audience. The key is that art needs to be collected by all who hold art dear.  My friend Sarah has a great essay on her website The Emergence Project. There are two links to Sarah in favorites.  Her Visual Influences also features two of my art works as a mail art project.

Monday, January 21, 2008

You Are What You Eat

This seal is another from my collection. This is
"Brush is flying, Ink is Dancing". It shows Hotei
not with his usual bag but with a mandala. Unusual.


I needed a break from so much computer work, so I
went back to an idea I had concerning my sumi-e.
Make a series of animals that caution me that you
are what you eat, along with other 'unwanted' advice.
The thing about sumi-e is that it is alternatively
immediately satisfying to put brush to paper, but
frustrating to produce anything of worth.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Construction of Wheel

Wheel is derived from several photos and scans.  A self 
portrait with a water wheel, a small stone disc, goat
pelt, leather and a bamboo fence.


The common thread concerns my uncle Jack, who passed 
away several years ago.  Jack spent his working years 
employed by Aramco, in Saudi Arabia.  His estate 
contained many oddities.  Except for the bamboo fence photo
all the elements were things I found in his house
after he passed.


This is part of a primitive pulley.  Crude but honestly 
constructed by nomadic bedouin tribesmen.  This object 
is used to pull water from wells.
Newspaper Photo 

Jack had a newspaper clipping showing it's use.  Otherwise
it would be hard to imagine what use the object would have.


This disc is more mysterious; carved stone, it is about five inches 
across.  It is covered with geometric design and writings.  I am
not sure whether it is a tourist item or has more significance. 
Otherwise; the goat hides and tanned leather were just tucked 
away on the back of  a shelf.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mayan captive

While I'm working on Rusi, another world entered my mind.
I'm thinking what is art history?    This is graffiti I captured 
on film back in 1978.   This graffiti most likely predates the 
               Conquest.  In '78 Tikal was quite difficult to get to.  
Tikal became a tourist destination, before the major 
preservation started. I believe the figure in the center 
is a captive, and in fact the figure to the right also may be.  In 2001, during 
my last trip to Tikal, this image was no longer visible, due to more 
modern graffiti obliterating it.  Art History is only the history
that survives.  

Monday, January 14, 2008

Rusi changes?

I started with this version, which I printed large,
about 12" x 50" but a year later I am not happy.
I suppose this is why my blog is "Under Construction"

I've never presented a work in progress before.  
  I've combined two images and am impressed
by the initial result.  I worked Rusi before but haven't
been satisfied that I've conveyed the initial astonishment
of seeing the original presentation by candle light.
I think I have to go with a black and white image.  

This is Rusi, I first met him in a Nang shadow
puppet theater in Thailand.  Nang is a traditional
shadow performance with Buddhist and Hindu 
influences.  The themes concern Karma.  Rusi
is a hermit you might encounter in the forest.
Unfortunately, he knows everything about you.

A  forest where I have met Rusi.


Nothing to Sweep/ No Dust
I wanted to do a triptych where bamboo elements
were present in each panel.  The broom, brushes and
smoke was a secondary element I played on.

Grapes All Gone/ Nothing to Paint
In this second piece a section of a bamboo mat
forms a background.  The brushes are a variation
of the broom from the first piece. 

Candle Went Out/ Nothing to See
This features a bamboo venetian blind in the background.
The broom and brush elements echo in the smoke.
These are painted on a shuen paper, each panel
is 12"x 28"

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bell Helmet Salvage

The Emerge image at the bottom of the blog started this way.  This is a photo I captured during a maritime museum visit in Kingston Ontario (?) I think.  It resided in Iphoto for several years until I was pondering a water inspiration.  I decided to use to bell helmet emerging in a lake to the view of a lotus.  I located a few landscape features as well as cloud photos to combine.  Learned to make water drops in the process.  Still something was missing so I scanned some sumi-e trees and a partial enso and put it together.  The finished product is centered on 13 by 19 Canon photo pro paper.  So far only one other copy has fallen into private hands. Alas, as it has been shown in several exhibits.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Ukiyie Blocks

These are two of the blocks used to make Crane.  Notice that the the left crane is a negative, while the one on the right is in relief.  A slightly damp paper is used to pick up the waterbased color from the block.

Monday, January 7, 2008


I love my crane despite the fact that he/she eats my Koi.  This is an example of my ukiyo-e. I have used five separate blocks to create my crane coming into feed as the sun rises.  Red Thread.


I once had a very curious relationship with a homeless man in NYC.  I worked at a gallery and one of my jobs was to evict Moses from our entrance every morning.  I found out that he was a Vietnam vet who just couldn't get himself back together.  I came across him in another context on one of my photography expeditions.  He was foraging for scrap metal in the hope of getting back on his feet.  His dream was to get out of the city and find some peace in the country.  One day he was gone.  Years later I came across an old black and white photo I had taken of him.  I worked in photoshop with several photos to finally give him that avenue to the country.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


This is sum-e I created using my new seal, whose meaning is "one of a kind" in Chinese.  The other seal is a one of a kind signature seal of my own creation.

New Seal

This new seal is a gift from Karen. I love my seal collection and use them to imprint sumi-e when appropriate. This small beetle is smartly carved in high relief. It relates to the red thread, as while insects are not normally considered individual, there is a connection through all life forms.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Red Thread Comment

As a lover of the Zen koan, I've been contemplating the "Red Thread" for awhile.  The traditional question is "Songyuan asked, Why can't clear-eyed Bodhisattvas sever the red thread?"  I've attached a red thread to my car mirror and meditate on this during the many long car trips I've made in the last six months.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008