Terra Cotta Warriors

October 12, 2017

Terra Cotta general

Picturing this exhibition of 8,000 clay statues, I imagined tabletop action figures, as far as the eye could see. Toy “army men” fashioned for grown-up royalty. But what was I thinking – royalty gets the royal treatment, after all – this army, whose purpose was to guard China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, during the afterlife, was larger than life-size. Yes, these statues towered over me, at over six feet tall.

The size (and conditions) prevented more than ten warriors from traveling for this exhibition, which was just a little disappointing for me (because I love the idea of multiples), but what the exhibition lacked in quantity, it completely made up for in specificity and gravitas.

Instead of royalty playing with dolls on chessboards (or something like that, as I’d imagined) this was much closer in nature to Egyptian art of the pyramids because these warriors were actually buried with the emperor around 210 BCE.

There were several different types of warriors, including generals, cavalrymen, and archers. Their uniforms and hats were so specific. For example, archers had loosely cut pants because they needed to easily kneel and aim. Cavalrymen had specific chin straps to hold their caps on. Generals had heavy armor that left them unprotected in the back, purportedly because they were so brave and noble as not to need further protection. You could identify each warrior by their uniforms and caps, if you knew what to look for. I loved seeing the treads on the soles of the Kneeling Archer – that kind of detail almost makes me pucker up to cry.

Cavalryman’s shoes

Soles of shoes of Kneeling Archer warrior

The fabrication of this army was also fascinating to me. More than 2.4 million pounds of clay were used – incredible. It was an assembly line arrangement that ran from least to most skilled as the terra cotta was uniformly shaped and extruded for bodies and limbs, ending with skilled artists who handcrafted each unique face, down to individual hairs and features. Facial recognition software says that no two are the same.

Terra Cotta Warrior

The army was uncovered in China in the 1970s, and there’s still some mystery surrounding it. For example, there was a pit uncovered that was full of armor, made of terra cotta. Why would the warriors need suits of armor made for them, when they already had protective clothing – essentially built-in armor? And if they had needed it, why was the armor tossed into a pit all together, instead of being placed on each warrior? One theory is that these were offerings to dead comrades or dead enemies. But the explanation that I love is that it was an armory. An armory! An imaginary armory for imaginary soldiers.

This magnificent undertaking was humanized with the sobering information that the workers who made this army were almost certainly slaves who were coerced and tortured. Evidence of shackles, assorted injuries, and cuts on bones of human remains prove this.

What a show. There’s a museum in China with more warriors and presumably, more artifacts. I’d like to someday see the Acrobat figures that were in charge of entertaining the troops.

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Studio Sale: 20% off all artwork October 14 only

October 12, 2017

I’m preparing the new studio for its official opening on Saturday, October 14. In honor of this move, I’m offering a one-time-only 20% discount on all work that evening.

I’m celebrating the new space, a return to my art practice after a serious hand injury, and my wife’s adventures – she is moving to Italy for nine months that very day. So this is a special occasion!

Here are some available works – many more will be on hand at the studio.

If you have any questions, or if you’re not in the Seattle area, but you’re interested in a piece, please feel free to contact me. (Price guide is below).

Thank you for your interest in my work, and for helping me to inaugurate my new studio in this wonderful way!!

Prices below are original prices, before discount; sales tax will be added.

Paintings on wood
Extra large (48 x 48) $1000
Large (48 x 36) $800
Medium (24 x 24) $400
Small (12 x 12) $100
Extra small (8 x 10) $60
Teeny tiny $30

Mixed media paintings (matted and framed)
Includes Italian series, Chicago, Khalidiya
Large (approx 16 x 18) $300
Medium (approx 13 x 15) $200
Small (approx 5 x 7) $50

Digital collages (Matted and framed) $50

Unframed works on paper
Large (approx 18 x 24 ) $110
Medium $80
Small $35

Paintings on canvas
Large (36 x 36) $200

Unframed Paintings on matboard $30

Fish relief sculptures $50

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First moments in new studio…

October 8, 2017

Sitting on the floor in my new studio. Just kind of calmly sitting here in the dust of the unswept floor, no lights on, no company. Plenty of daylight coming in the windows, even though I can see it just started to rain. No sound except some windowpanes creaking, sometimes the sound of traffic – air, train or car. I just want to be quiet for a few minutes. My heart is beating. I can smell paint and wax, faintly.

The first few minutes in my new place. I’m a little nervous (there’s lots to do) an a little sad (Mia’s leaving – in fact, will be gone by this time next week) but also excited to get back in the swing.

Old paint, old sills, old floorboards…these surfaces are speaking my language and are already like old friends.

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Physicians, Heal Thyselves – with Art!

October 5, 2017

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, my old stomping grounds, is hosting art workshops for local medical students – dermatology students from Harvard and med students from Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The former group is learning to hone their clinical observation skills while studying art, while the latter is learning to bring humanity to their bedside manner. And who doesn’t want more of that in a doctor? This means, among other things, developing their empathy by studying Egyptian sarcophagi and pondering the meaning of death and its implications for their patients and their loved ones. It also means learning about coping skills for themselves, such as studying Buddhist art and learning about meditation to calm their minds.

What a novel concept. Everything is connected. Everything intertwines. Hooray for these programs and for the museum.

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New Studio in Seattle!

October 5, 2017

We’re open once a month, on every second Saturday, 6 – 9 pm as part of the Georgetown Art Attack. Come by on October 14th for the very first one and receive a 20% discount on the purchase of any of my work.

I love this old building.

I share the space with four other artists – incredible energy!

Everything you see here is on sale – some oldies but goodies. Time to start unpacking!

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The Oak and the Cypress: Mal di Mare

October 5, 2017

Mal di Mare, 48 x 36, Mixed media on panel, 2016

…And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

Excerpt from “On Marriage” by Kahlil Gibran

This body of work is about being married, or in a long-term relationship.

Nine years ago, the first time Mia and I were in Europe together, I collected (OK, I may have ripped it down) part of a poster that was displayed on a wall in Sicily. Although I liked the poster for its graphics and colors, its message is a political one about the state of the navy, border control, and various civic concerns related to the waterfront.

I took the title, Mal di Mare, from these graphics. Although it sounds quite lyrical in Italian, it actually means “seasick”. I hope this doesn’t sound too negative in tone, but I think it’s part of the ups and downs of a relationship, the bargain you make in a long-term commitment.

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The Oak and the Cypress: Hesitation Change (Waltz)

October 5, 2017

Hesitation Change (Waltz), Acrylic on panel, 48 x 36

…And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

Excerpt from “On Marriage” by Kahlil Gibran

This body of work is about being married, or in a long-term relationship.

Mia is an avid dancer, and the waltz is the unofficial dance of love. My interest is picqued a little more, not by dancing the steps, but watching them being danced, and even by the visual pattern of diagramming the steps. A Hesitation Change is a real step in the waltz, although this diagram depicts the Whisk, and a Natural Turn. I liked the suggestion of the title, related to changing patterns within a relationship.

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The Oak and the Cypress: Roadblock

October 5, 2017

Roadblock, 24 x 24, Acrylic and mixed media on panel

…And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

Excerpt from “On Marriage” by Kahlil Gibran

This body of work is about being married, or in a long-term relationship.

Being married usually means in-laws, and I’m lucky to have a very good relationship with mine. My father-in-law and I have a special relationship, one that’s humorous and tender. I could be wrong, but I don’t think our relationship would be nearly as sweet if I were a son-in-law. Recently, I’ve been thinking about him quite a bit. As the owner of an auto body shop for many years, he has a love of cars and driving. When I see something related to cars, I think of him.

I’m always on the lookout for found objects for my artwork, and often come home with something in my pocket. Besides the road reflector I found while running (I brought that dirty thing all the way back from Maui in my carry-on; I just had to have it), this composition is based in part on a diagram I saw of a fuel injection system. This depiction is so stylized as to be make-believe, and I don’t think any car buff would see it in there, so I didn’t mention that part to Frank.

But when I told him that I’d made a painting about him, he was quite moved and said with a real sense of wonderment, that no one had ever made a painting about him before. Only because you don’t know any other artists, Frank.

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The Oak and the Cypress

October 5, 2017

The Oak and the Cypress, acrylic and mixed media on panel, 48 x 36

The Oak and the Cypress, acrylic and mixed media on panel, 48 x 36

…And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

Excerpt from “On Marriage” by Kahlil Gibran

This body of work is about being married, or in a long-term relationship.

The seeds of this painting were planted when Mia asked me to paint her some cypress trees one day, because they remind her of Italy. This painting began its life as a fairly straightforward, but boring, depiction of cypress and oak. I tried a few adjustments, but the painting needed a bigger leap, something less expected.
In researching oaks and cypress, I came across images of an illustrated manuscript from 14th century Persia. I used the original layout, more or less, including the primitive style and spatial depiction. The story concerns a prince who goes off in search of a princess with whom he’s fallen in love. In the style of an epic, he encounters many adventures, including one where the princess in question, while in disguise, challenges him to a duel. He has no idea that he’s battling his love until he wins the duel, and she reveals her identity. The quote contained within the painting is the exact caption that is displayed (in Farsi) on the original manuscript:

Defeated she removes her helmet before making up the quarrel”.

Something about this moment affected me: the choice to be vulnerable, put aside whatever argument you’ve had, and take the first step to be friends again.

The title comes from a line from the Kahlil Gibran poem, “On Marriage”.

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The Oak and the Cypress: If Love Is Like Wine: You Are My Predilection (Neruda)

October 5, 2017

You Are My Predilection (Neruda), 24 x 24, 2016

…And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

Excerpt from “On Marriage” by Kahlil Gibran

This body of work is about being married, or in a long-term relationship.

This title is a quote from a love sonnet by Pablo Neruda, which was read aloud at our wedding. The poem is silly and profound at the same time. The letter M stands for Mia, who is obviously my predilection, and sometimes my muse. Some of the graphics came from a wall poster in Siena that I photographed while we were there.

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First-ever Studio Sale!

October 4, 2017

I’ve outgrown my last studio. I’ve overcome a serious hand injury. My wife is moving to Italy for nine months. Time to lean in, and move up!

Come celebrate with me!
Saturday, October 14, 2017
6 – 9 pm
5626 Airport Way S.
Seattle, WA 98108

My studio participates in the monthly Georgetown Art Attack on the second Saturday of every month. This will be the first of many open studios, but the only time to enjoy the 20% discount.

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Just wanted to share

February 18, 2017

New Year's card, 2017, mixed media

New Year’s card, 2017, mixed media

At the height of my hand injury, I was going stir crazy about not making art, not knowing when I would be able to make art, not having control with my painting hand, and not even being able to write properly. My writing looked like a child’s.

I decided to keep busy making things, in whatever way that was possible. I tried opposite-hand drawing (for me, that’s left), which is supposed to be liberating. I’ve used it as a technique in my own classes to encourage students to loosen up, yet also delight in the resulting drawing. Well, I reached the conclusion that it’s all well and good when you’re simply taking a break from your self-critical ways, but when it’s all you’ve got, it stinks. It’s fairly demoralizing, in fact. I quickly moved on from the left-handed drawings.

I tried a few other things, eventually settling on the idea of using a sewing machine to continue making mixed media works. Why a sewing machine…in college, I had occasionally used hand sewing in pieces as a repetitive, anxious, angry technique (which was echoed years later when I saw a woman embroider a protest message that said something to the effect of “I just made this so I could stab something 38,000 times”)…although hand sewing wasn’t an option due to the state of my hand…the feminine history of sewing appeals to me at this point in time, and I figured I didn’t need any finesse or precision to shove some things through a sewing machine. Whatever happened, happened. I think also, I felt like mending things metaphorically. I was certainly broken; the country felt broken. So I decided to sew. At this point, I couldn’t even use a pair of scissors, and didn’t trust my hand to cooperate in making new work that was good, so I found old show invitations, paintings, and pieces of this-and-that in drawers.

I needed cheering up after a pretty difficult, by any measure, year. I heard lots of people expressing the same feeling, so I decided to make cards to mark the new year with a hopeful new start.

True to my word, I began shoving things through a sewing machine I bought used in a parking lot (it was speckled in glitter). I loved the messiness and jumbles of thread that revealed themselves. I made ten or so cards and the machine stopped doing anything. I could settle for messy and jumbled, but not nothing.

I got another machine. I took a sort-of beginner’s lesson. I sort of broke the second machine, but it’s still with me. I’m still slowly making New Year’s cards, even though the worst of my injury is behind me now.

This is one of the first batch of cards. I think this one went to my kindergarten teacher, who sees me just as I am.

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Dore Ashton, In Memoriam

February 5, 2017

I always loved reading Dore Ashton’s writing. It’s clear, but elegant and beautiful. Her friendships with artists put her in the unique position of being able to reveal anecdotes that cast their work in a new, more personal light. In her hands, they were significant yet little-known accounts that further enlightened the artists’ work; they were never gossip, nor did they ever inflate her own role. Not many writers can pull that off.

It’s because of her writing that I am charmed by the thought of Joseph Cornell, the shyest of shy people, holding a small afternoon gathering at his house in Queens, at which he was uncharacteristically charming and voluble. At the end of the party, he gleefully whispered to Ashton about Octavio Paz, who was in attendance with his wife: “Was he really an ambassador?”

That childlike wonderment has informed my sense of his collage boxes ever since. What a new and delightful way of looking at them.

Another personal favorite is Ashton’s account of a visit to Mark Rothko’s studio in the late 1950s, when Rothko deliberately kept the lights off. Ashton compared the silence and dark to that of a cathedral, and as her eyes searched in the dark, she felt, more than saw, the presence of his paintings. At one point, a white cat walked into the middle of the room; the visual contrast was enough to startle her. For me, this story reinforces the two most important things about Rothko’s work: the theatricality of it all, and also the weightiness of his search for morality and truth in his paintings.

Thank you for some of the most graceful and captivating writing about art.

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Happy Imbolc!

February 1, 2017

St. Brigid, Mixed media on board, 4" x 5"

St. Brigid, Mixed media on board, 4″ x 5″

Imbolc is a Celtic holiday that celebrates the coming of spring, as the days get longer and the very first buds make an appearance. It’s still celebrated today in Ireland, as folks make St. Brigid’s crosses and hang them over their doors for protection. This day is another in a long line of special days celebrating light, or perhaps more exactly, the return of light, as the shortest day of the year recedes into the rearview mirror. These festivals are ripe with new beginnings and directly or indirectly reference light: Winter solstice (the days start lengthening again), Christmas (Christian adoption of the solstice celebration, literally adding lights to trees and other objects, Hanukkah (the Festival of Lights), New Year’s (fireworks and sparklers, perhaps), now Imbolc. (Thank you to a yogi friend for pointing out this connection to me recently).

Imbolc falls halfway between the winter solstice and spring equinox, so this is the last of the light festivals, since soon we can celebrate spring itself!

I’m grateful for any chance to make a new start. This year, I’m especially starved for it.

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Wishes for the New Year

January 24, 2017

New Year wishes for 2017

New Year wishes for 2017

2017-01-24 20.10.02

It’s been one long, extended rough patch, hasn’t it? I’ve been craving something positive, then realized that I’d better initiate my own positive…

So here it is. I made a batch of cards with wishes for the New Year, sent them off to some folks and share one now with you all.

In the spirit of turning the page, and stepping forward – not back – here’s to 2017.

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