Monthly Archives: March 2010

changing the windows

Now that the paintings are out of the studio, I have been taking time to clean and reorganize the space.  Over the last ten years I had allowed the windows at the east end of the studio to stay dirty, because I liked being aware of the glass while including it in a number of paintings.  But this seemed like a good time to start fresh.  Two afternoons and a bucket of muddy water later, I am again admiring a clear view of the world outside.  My precarious work on the roof reminded me of a small book of poems by Jerome Mazzaro called Changing the Windows.  I picked it up at a used book store in Bloomington, Indiana in 1997 while visiting a few other young artists there with my friend Mark Green.  Here is the poem from which the book draws its title:

CHANGING THE WINDOWS

When I am forced by circumstance and heat

to take the winter windows off the house

spotted like bass who will be stripped of lice,

I think of that old woman down the street

who got by the Depression renting rooms

to seven lonely bachelors in a row,

the last of whom fell from an open window

changing the screens one sunny afternoon.

Called Mother Witch by city columnists

who wrote how all the seven perished strangely,

each with an ample paid-up policy

made out to her, she didn’t snare one jurist

in all the headline months her trials ran–

through winter changed to summer as it must.

She sat reading a favorite Evening Post

as if no court could judge her for her sin.

Thinking, too, of her full-grown idiot son

who scavenged in our ashcans after that

feeding himself with cast-off bits of fat

until a court ruled he’d too lost his reason,

somehow I think of husbanded black widows

and savage birds who sometimes eat their young,

and wonder at the web this world becomes,

then scuttle off to unhinge all the windows.

A few of my recent paintings incorporated ideas of memorialization and the inevitable challenges of sentimentality and over-simplification.  I include one more of Mazzaro’s poems, below, as a nod to his own efforts:

DEATH WAS A TRICK

Death was a trick I taught him as a pup

like fetching till he mastered both to race

my ordered stick back clamped between his jaws,

ignoring once too soon the whir of trucks

whose chirring crushed whole worlds of growing up

and set him broken in a makeshift box.

Across blind roadways he comes running yet,

small-terriered, black-footed, slow in death.

In the midst of the reorganization of the upstairs studio, I have been keeping busy in the shop.  I’m working on another bench made from reclaimed lumber.  This one is composed of African Mahogany that had dried with crazy twists and curves.  I’ve been sorting through the deformed boards and dreaming up applications for the undulating surfaces.

16 Mar top rough blog

bench top after glue-up to the "keel" support

bottom of bench seat showing the sag and twist of the matched boards

bottom of bench seat showing the sag and twist of the matched boards

trimming the "keel" flush while begining to scoop out the bench top

trimming the "keel" flush while beginning to scoop out the bench top

I was able to match two boards with similar curves to make a seat that shifts from being relatively flat to being sharply cleft along its length.  I continue to carve, scrape, and sand out the top face in an effort to create a comfortable hollow.  I have started to think of it as a kind of “aqueduct” design, as the form reminds me of terraced troughs used move water for mills, irrigation, etc.

new work

installation view with bench

installation view with bench

Friday’s opening was an enjoyable one, thanks to the large crowd that didn’t seem to want to go home.  I had a real sense of accomplishment seeing the 12 pieces on the wall and under the lights, with six of the paintings being finished very recently– some as late as March 2nd.  Many thanks to Ellen Gochnour for orchestrating the exhibition, which will be on view through March 26.  I have included images of the most recent work, below.

love seat, oil on canvas, 54x 64, 2010

love seat, oil on canvas, 54x 64, 2010

annunciation, oil on canvas, 41x 30, 2010

annunciation, oil on canvas, 41x 30, 2010

we’ll work with what we’ve got, oil on canvas, 50 x 46, 2010

where we stand is beginning to end, oil on canvas, 50 x 46, 2010

a tree for our sorrow: memorial, oil on canvas, 40x 54, 2010

a tree for our sorrow: memorial, oil on canvas, 40x 54, 2010

a tree for our joy: memorial, oil on panel, 9.25x 10.5, 2010

a tree for our joy: memorial, oil on panel, 9.25x 10.5, 2010

our geometry is a fiction of cleanliness, oil on canvas, 64x 54, 2010

our geometry is a fiction of cleanliness, oil on canvas, 64x 54, 2010

each valley as a mountain

John Sarra email

Tonight I’ll be putting the finishing touches on two final paintings for Friday’s opening at Fontbonne University Gallery of Art.  Although I do have a habit of working up to the last minute, it is not due to procrastination.  I just enjoy taking full advantage of the challenge posed by a firm deadline, and am always eager to squeeze in the most recent pieces.  At this point it looks like I will be showing 11 paintings (5 brand new) and one bench.  In the following weeks I hope to be updating the site with all of the new work and a larger selection of older work, too.