Monday, October 31, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

New Painting

I have completed a new painting called Elephant Hat.
Have a peek here.

Supermarket Circulars

I love looking at supermarket circulars. I see all of these foods I never buy. I examine the colorful pictures of foods and soaps and household conveniences. I fantasize about these items in the cupboards of other people's lives, lives I do not lead; sliced meats, liquid soaps, disposable mops, wipes and squirts, ziplock bags, puffy breads, pizza-flavored potato chips, frozen 'taters and shrimp, canned ravioli.

This love of looking reminds me of when I babysat two kids on my street when I was thirteen. When the kids were asleep I would look at the family album and the pictures on the wall. Then I'd rummage around their food pantry and sample Pepperidge Farm cheddar gold fish and pretzel nuggets and Taster's Choice instant coffee. While flipping through my math homework I'd check out the father's stash of Playboy magazines.


From a letter to a friend:
The beauty of writing is that it truly gives your power back to you and that is your birthright! You deserve to have it. Writing is such a direct way to examine and bring things to light. I am convinced that it can be purifying even when it is boring, frightening, silly, or sad. Perhaps it is the process that counts more than the words themselves. I don't even reread my notebooks. It's as if I speak onto the page and it washes away down the stream.

Last night we made a fire in the pit for the first time and I was mesmerized watching the flames. I sat out there with Bill and Lily in our rusty 1950's lawn chairs and the moon came up over the garage and shined like a big spotlight over us. The neighborhood was unusually quiet and I was grateful. Lily lay down on the damp grass and chewed on sticks. The delicious smell of woodsmoke permeated the air and our clothing, reminding me of summer camp. We stared at the flames, occasionally blowing on the embers and adding twigs.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.
-John F. Kennedy

The Search

From a letter to a friend:
I was thinking of what I could say about the search. I think for me the search became conscious when I got so depressed I wanted to die. That was when I was in my mid 30's. At that time I would be very dark for months at a stretch. A friend suggested I write in a notebook just to get the verbal chattering out of my head and onto the page. She recommended I scribble words each day when I first got up, before thinking too much about it. I did it for days, then weeks, months, and years. I was hooked, and the notebook became a friend. I call my daily writing my spittoon.

I think writing helped me more than all my years of talk therapy and gave me both an outlet and an inlet. To this day cutting loose on the page is a tool to help me find my center. The time I spend with my notebook is a bit like Quaker meeting and meditation combined. Perhaps giving myself permission to sit and explore and listen each day is the hardest part. I must remember that, no matter what, my freedom is in my mind. Giving it voice has been a long, slow process, like peeling an onion to its core.

Gilda Radner

While we have the gift of life, it seems to me the only tragedy is to allow part of us to die - whether it is our spirit, our creativity or our glorious uniqueness.
-Gilda Radner

Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next.
-Gilda Radner

I can always be distracted by love, but eventually I get horny for my creativity.
-Gilda Radner

Richard Kamler

In 1963, after graduating from UC Berkeley I went to New York to begin my apprenticeship with Frederick Kiesler, the visionary painter, sculptor and architect. One afternoon, not long after I’d begun working with him, I was climbing the stairs to his studio and heard him speaking with someone. He had left the door ajar for me and was talking to a museum director from Switzerland. I heard him say, “through art we can change the laws of the world.”

For the past 30 years, that idea has driven me towards the practice of art engaged in worldly affairs. It has driven me towards an understanding that art is as much a part of our life as is the air we breathe and the water we drink. That art is an agent for social change. It is our fuel and our glue.

I practice art to communicate.
I practice art to make the world a better place.
I practice art because it is the most meaningful thing I can think of doing.
I practice art to come to the table and engage in dialogue.
I practice art to have fun.
I practice art to be part of the global community of artists and to participate in our common and creative struggle for freedom.
I practice art because I sing while I’m doing it.
I practice art to respect my grandfather’s request when he screamed at me to show him the face I had before I was born.
I practice art to have ONE un-edited activity for the full swimming of my imagination.
I practice art to say YES!

-Richard Kamler

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lily and Spud

Yesterday in the late afternoon I walked to Turbesi Park. Lily was frolicking in circles, squeezing an empty plastic water bottle in her mouth, when she suddenly stopped to watch a tiny dog in the adjacent ball field with three girls running after him. The kids were having so much fun, as if they had entered the outdoors for the first time in their lives; running, jumping, falling, chasing this fast little burnt-sienna-colored dog with ears that stood straight up. Their dad was outside the fence watching them. They threw a ball and a stick for him to fetch, shouting "Spud, fetch!" but he ignored their prompts. He just ran around in circles.

After Lily was done running in circles I put her leash back on and we walked along the path behind the other ball field. Spud ran up to the fence and met Lily nose to nose. Spud was wearing a blue plaid wool sweater. The girls asked me if I would bring Lily inside to play with them. I said, "I'm worried about Spud getting hurt. He is so delicate."
"What does that mean?" the younger girl asked.
"He has small, fragile arms and legs. Is he a Chihuahua?" I asked.
"No, he's a red miniature Doberman Pinscher," the oldest girl said. She had wavy long blond hair and thick black eyelashes. "He's strong and not afraid and runs fast," she said.
"Okay, as long as Lily doesn't knock him over. I wouldn't want him to get hurt. How about if I keep the leash on Lily until they get acquainted?"
"Does your dog chase balls?" The oldest girl asked, handing me a baseball she had found.
"Yes, but she loves empty plastic bottles the best because they are light and she makes them squeak and crunch in her mouth." I threw the empty plastic bottle and Lily ran after it with the red-and-black harlequin-patterned leash trailing on the grass. I ran over and unclipped it. She and Spud circled the field with full energy and joy.
"She runs like a reindeer. Makes me wish I could be a dog and play with a plastic bottle in my mouth!" the middle girl said.
The girls laughed and ran after Lily and the dogs seemed to be laughing too as they ran in high speed circles and zig-zagged around us. The father was amused and stood, leaning forward with folded arms, watching and smiling.
"Careful, don't get knocked over," I shouted to the girls.

At one point the smallest girl draped her whole body in its shocking pink jacket over Lily, hugging her like a pet pony.
"Our dog doesn't like to chase sticks or balls," the oldest girl said.
"Lily is a Labrador Retriever. She's bred to retrieve ducks out of water for hunters. The bottle is like a duck to her, that's why she chases it. I'm sure your dog has special characteristics. Does he dig holes?"
"Yes, sometimes."
"Chase mice?"
"No, we still have plenty of mice."
"Guard your house?"
"Well, there you go, every dog has special traits. If you look in the encyclopedia you could probably find the special traits for your kind of dog."
"I heard from someone that the red miniature Dobermans are extra nice," she offered.

The girls didn't want me to leave and I didn't want to leave either. I stayed for a few more rounds of running with the girls and the dogs. Then Lily was tired out and was chewing on grass like a cow and biting at the clay field, which is what she does when she is thirsty and looking for water. I clipped the leash on her and started for the gate. Their dad called the girls to go home for supper. The oldest was carrying Spud like a baby in her arms. On my way home I saw the long-haired Husky trotting beside his master who was slowly bicycling down the street through the long, triangular shadows.

William Faulkner

Art is not concerned with environment either; it doesn't care where it is … the best job that was ever offered to me was to become a landlord in a brothel. In my opinion it’s the perfect milieu for an artist to work in.

-William Faulkner Paris Review

Francoise Gilot

Painting isn't an aesthetic operation; it's a form of magic designed as a mediator between this strange, hostile world and us, a way of seizing the power by giving form to our terrors as well as our desires.

-Francoise Gilot, Life With Picasso


I have never painted a portrait from life but perhaps I should try as a complete counterbalance to what I have been doing - working from my head. What would it be like to have a person sit on my couch while I stare at them?

Joyce Sutphen


by Joyce Sutphen

Morning falls out of its orbit
and swims up through the blue.
Last night, when I heard the news,
I forgot my human hunger.

Now I am making calculations
with a row of ivy and old hibiscus.
I am silent as a shadow in the ferns,
I am frond green and curled.

It may be necessary to drink through
the roots; I could eat sunlight and air,
start a green factory in each finger;
I could make each arm a branch.

Let me begin as stem and leaf.
I'll make something you can breathe.

Poetry of the Town

Culled gems from the Rochester New Hampshire Police Log.

8:52 p.m. — The peace of Colonnade Apartment is forever being shattered by a man and woman "yelling, screaming and swearing at each other."

10:26 p.m. — On Charles Street, a bunch of people in an apartment are yelling and swearing. Screaming seems to be avoided.

6:56 a.m. — Ketchup, mustard and cheese have been smeared on a Woodland Green vehicle overnight, rather than donated to Gerry's Food Pantry.

8:32 a.m. — Another note has been left on the Airport door.

9:04 a.m. — Police question a man in a vehicle parked on a street that is better not mentioned. He relates that he is equidistant between his home and that of a family member, and is hiding from his wife. He is not supposed to smoke, and this is his furtive spot to do so.

3:54 p.m. — A man tells a person on a phone outside city hall that "you and your kids are going to die." This is interpreted as a hostile remark.

6:46 p.m. — A man lying on the ground near Orchard Street is a homeless napper, who's moved along.

6:19 p.m. — On North Main Street the wife of a woman's boyfriend has written his name on her (the girlfriend's) mailbox. This is logged as criminal mischief.

12:13 a.m. — A gentleman and two ladies screech on Academy Street. Asked to quieten down, they get louder.

6:49 a.m. — A Dewey Street woman who wakes up at dawn has found a red mower parked out on her lawn.

7:35 a.m. — A man walks up South Main Street in a hospital gown. Frisbie [hospital] confirms he has been discharged.

9:40 a.m. — Trash has been dumped in the Shell dumpster on Milton Road, but not by them. They have found a credit card statement with a name.

10:48 a.m. — A dog whose name is Skipper, is quite the collar slipper, though Summer Street's his home, he's taken off to roam.

2:29 p.m. — There are loose boxers in Margaret Street — that's dogs, we think, not flappy underpants.

4:08 a.m. — On Summer Street a cat is yowling, it's got stuck way up a tree, round garbage cans it should be prowling, instead it shares its misery. Come dawn a kindly fireman might, pluck that moggy from its plight. Wait! In the air don't throw those hats, as I recall they don't do cats.

4:46 p.m. — On Myrtle Street, a couple in their early teens, skimpily clad, reportedly have their hands in each other's clothing. They have vanished when police arrive.

6:13 a.m. — On Ten Rod, a raccoon is struck, badly injured, out of luck; now it enjoys (so wipe that eye) the great corn patch that's in the sky.

6:15 a.m. — A fridge sits in the middle of Salmon Falls Road.

4:50 p.m. — On Lafayette Street blasting music, shakes, rattles and annoys the neighbors.

Read more about John Nolan's poetic police blotter here.

Robert Irwin

I am a firm believer in "earned talent"--the kind you acquire the hard way, through trial and error. My paintings reveal not only a timeline of my life, marking events, but a journey of continual change infused with self-examination and reflection.

When I was almost 40 I discovered that the affliction I had been living with since childhood had a name other than "stupid": attention deficit disorder. For many creative people, ADD is a blessing and a curse. I have learned to use ADD as an advantage, drawing creativity from the right side of the brain while understanding the limitations of the left.

-Robert Irwin

Henri Michaux


by Henri Michaux

What has been missing in my life until now is simplicity. I am beginning to change, little by little.
For example, now I always go out with my bed, and when a woman pleases me, I take her to bed immediately.
If her ears are ugly or large, or her nose, I take them off with her clothes, and put them under the bed. I keep only what I like.
If her underthings could use a change, I change them right away. That is my gift. If, on the other hand, I see a more beautiful woman passing by, I excuse myself to the first and make her disappear at once.
Some who know me suggest I am incapable of doing just what I said, that I haven’t the temperament. I once believed so myself, but that was because I wasn’t doing everything exactly as I pleased.
Now all my afternoons are good. (Mornings, I work.)

Translated by Nin Andrews from Someone Wants to Steal My Name, CSU Press

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

William Styron

A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted. You should live several lives while reading it.
-William Styron

I get a fine warm feeling when I'm doing well, but that pleasure is pretty much negated by the pain of getting started each day. Let's face it, writing is hell.
-William Styron

Mysteriously and in ways that are totally remote from natural experience, the gray drizzle of horror induced by depression takes on the quality of physical pain.
-William Styron

Reading - the best state yet to keep absolute loneliness at bay.
-William Styron

The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone's neurosis.
-William Styron

The writer's duty is to keep on writing.
-William Styron

Writing is a fine therapy for people who are perpetually scared of nameless threats... for jittery people.
-William Styron

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

It is much harder to judge yourself than to judge others. If you succeed in judging yourself, it's because you're truly a wise man.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupéryv

You become responsible forever, for what you have tamed.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Søren Kierkegaard

In addition to my other numerous acquaintances, I have one more intimate confidant. . . . My depression is the most faithful mistress I have known - no wonder, then, that I return the love.
-Søren Kierkegaard

Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.
-Søren Kierkegaard

The most common form of despair is not being who you are.
-Søren Kierkegaard

The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss - an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. - is sure to be noticed.
-Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

Love is the expression of the one who loves, not of the one who is loved. Those who think they can love only the people they prefer do not love at all. Love discovers truths about individuals that others cannot see.
-Søren Kierkegaard

God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.
-Søren Kierkegaard

The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.
-Søren Kierkegaard

If anyone on the verge of action should judge himself according to the outcome, he would never begin.
-Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

One must not think slightingly of the paradoxical - for the paradox is the source of the thinker’s passion, and the thinker without a paradox is like a lover without feeling: a paltry mediocrity.
-Søren Kierkegaard

People understand me so poorly that they don't even understand my complaint about them not understanding me.
-Søren Kierkegaard

What if everything in the world were a misunderstanding, what if laughter were really tears?
-Søren Kierkegaard

It is very important in life to know when your cue comes.
-Søren Kierkegaard

Take away paradox from the thinker and you have a professor.
-Søren Kierkegaard

Don't you know that a midnight hour comes when everyone has to take off his mask? Do you think life always lets itself be trifled with? Do you think you can sneak off a little before midnight to escape this?
-Søren Kierkegaard

Rachel Nguyen

I have been pondering courage lately. Fear gives way when love gets a

-Rachel Nguyen

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Charles Simic


To get into it
As it lies
Crumpled on the floor
Without disturbing a single crease

Of the way I threw it down
Last night
The way it happened to land

Almost managing
The impossible contortions
Doubling back now
Through a knotted sleeve

-Charles Simic

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ladislav Hanka

The Intimate Embrace of Process and Aesthetics

Etching is a technical medium about which even knowledgeable collectors often know surprisingly little. This medium, however, affects my imagery and my approach as surely as water flows downhill. Therefore, to help you understand the process, this chapter will welcome you into my world as an insider; I will offer you no secrets, no esoteric mumbo jumbo, but instead a process that is eminently comprehensible. The following Chinese parable is a doorway to my realm:

“ The emperor, born under the sign of the rooster in the ancient Chinese zodiac, wished to have a painting of this subject for his chambers. He was directed by his courtesans and calligraphers to an elderly master who agreed to paint a cockerel for his birthday – not immediately however, but for his next birthday. The artist’s conditions were, that he would receive a year’s pay, a well-equipped studio, and a quiet home with servants for this work to proceed without disruptions. After the year was up, he received a call from the emperor’s retinue. The two men retired to the studio together, leaving the others to wait. There, the artist unhurriedly rolled out paper, prepared his brushes and inks and then calmly sat down to paint. In half an hour he had painted an absolutely exquisite rooster before the emperor’s eyes. The emperor was at first delighted with the demonstration of dexterity and amazed with the beauty of the result. Soon however, he began to grow angry with the painter for his extravagant conditions, demanding to know why he had required a year’s wages for work that took only 30 minutes. The elderly artist in answer silently escorted him to a closed door, behind which the emperor was shown a room containing ten thousand paintings of cockerels. “ This,” said the artist,” is what I’ve done in the intervening year, in order to be able to perform that which you have witnessed today".

It is in the moment when I stand before the gleaming copper plate with etching needle in hand that ‘the ten thousand drawings’ come into play. I must have commensurate confidence that my actions will bear fruit; I dare not approach with trepidation – in dread of spending hours scraping down the metal and sanding out the blunder of an impetuous moment. The hours of disciplined practice, summing over the years to an intimate familiarity with my medium, are the dues I have paid. The reward I reap is the calm confidence with which I now proceed: I take a deep breath and fluidly engage with the material - dancing with the diamond point across the gleaming surface. Every nuanced gesture must convey authority; in harmony with all that has brought me to this instant, I am fully present and ride the unpredictable wave of surrounding circumstance and mood. If the spirit guides my hand, I leave convincing form in my wake.

-Ladislav Hanka

Two New Paintings

I have two new paintings to share.

The Embrace and Magic Trick

Have a peek.

Mark Matousek

Whatever it takes to break your heart and wake you up is grace.

-Mark Matousek

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Gustave Flaubert

Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be
violent and original in your work.

-Gustave Flaubert

Ladislav Hanka

My subject matter will tell you where I find evidence of the divine. I love to fish and gather mushrooms. I cannot get enough of ancient trees and the way their asymmetries and gravity bring me back to a place of profound stillness. The very idea that trees alive today were seeded at the birth of the old kingdom of Egypt and are thus as old as the written word itself, sets me free. I kneel at their roots and feel blessed.
-Ladislav Hanka

You know, I have believed all along that what I do has a deep spiritual value akin to meditation and prayer and that is something we talked about often among the students in Europe, but it is mostly dismissed in the US as your personal baggage and not really open to discussion.
-Ladislav Hanka, Works and Conversations

Our system here is not friendly to local and regional culture—seeing it more as a provincial backwater. But we do ourselves a disservice. Local and regional culture is the incubator from which the best art has always been born.
-Ladislav Hanka, Works and Conversations

We have mostly bought into unrealistic expectations that the best art is being made by stars of nearly unattainable status and that we should never settle for second rate —as if that were in any way susceptible to measurement. I suppose the common standard of greatness has become monetary. Thus it pains us all the more to read about all the speculative investment capital being invested in art, while dealers are cited bemoaning the lack of worthwhile art to invest in.

I contend that the vision is flawed and that nearly all art must necessarily come from a humbler place that is real and be spawned by individuals in a place that is their own. It isn't just a fallback position to save one’s ego, but a matter of who the audience is and why we make art. It feels great to walk into somebody’s house and see your artwork up, knowing it has found its place and is making a difference. So much is based in attitude, on being able to find satisfaction in the audience of one’s own people—those interested in what you're doing—and in the reciprocity of having your artwork engage those about whom you care.
Ladislav Hanka, Works and Conversations

Click here to visit Ladislav Hanka's web site.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Sun Shower

Bill and I were sitting having coffee this morning and suddenly Bill's jaw dropped. What? I asked. That guy is peeing off the porch. I looked out the window and sure enough, standing on the top porch of the gigantic four-story yellow-brick tenement across the street, a guy was peeing through the porch rungs. The stream was lit by the early morning sun. I went to the front foyer window and peered between the curtains to see if anyone was on the street below. Rosy had just pulled up in her big gray Buick and was parking in front of her variety store. She got out of the car wearing a big flowered shower cap over her curlers. I burst out laughing. What? asked Bill. It's Rosy, and she's wearing a shower cap. She's prepared!

Gene Fowler

Writing is easy: all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.

-Gene Fowler

Mark Matousek

There's a myth among amateurs, optimists and fools that beyond a certain level of achievement, famous artists retire to some kind of Elysium where criticism no longer wounds and work materializes without their effort.

-Mark Matousek

Arthur Rubinstein

There is no formula for success—except perhaps an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings.

-Arthur Rubinstein


Once upon the time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

-A Zen Buddhist Fable

Jeane George Weigel

Jeane George Weigel, artist and blogger.
Click here.

Works & Conversations

I just happened across this magazine called Works & Conversations. It is a treasure trove!
Click here.

Richard Kamler

Why is the first thing cut here in San Francisco--and all across the country--the arts? We have to cut the arts. Art is the thing that will save the damn city! I've worked with some gangs and I've found that if you give them a piece of paper and just say, draw please, it's incredible. Everything just settles down. I say, you cut the arts, okay, see how many more beatings you have on the street, see how much more of that stuff goes on. I have so many friends who do this work in prisons, do the art, and it's so transformative!
-Richard Kamler

Robert Irwin

To be an artist is not a matter of making paintings or objects at all. What we are really dealing with is our state of consciousness and the shape of our perception . . . The act of art is a tool for extended consciousness.
-Robert Irwin

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

David Bayles and Ted Orland

The dilemma facing academia is that it must accommodate not only students who are striving to become artists, but also teachers who are struggling to remain artists.

-David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art and Fear

Richard Whittaker

It seems to me, that experience is not honored in our culture. We're free to indulge in experience, but it's not honored as a potential source of real knowledge. The question is where do the ideas and the experiences intersect, right?

Interviewer: Yes.

I think they intersect in the realm of experience. That's where I live. That's where we all live—in the realm of experience. But somehow we have the idea that we live in the realm of matter, of things. We're convinced that it's a world full of things. But, really, the only way things come to us is through the experience of them. But the problem with the realm of experience is that it's not a quantifiable realm. It's not subject to academic, scientific, technological access. So therefore, in a way, it's a realm that has fallen into dishonor, or just disregard.

For instance in psychology thirty or forty years ago, there was still this idea of the unconscious, and what was required was a psychotherapist who was an artist of sorts, who could somehow interact in a way so that the unconscious, which used to be regarded as a reality, so that something was allowed, or made possible to take place there that would be healing. But nowadays we live in a different world. We've got neurochemistry and pharmeceuticals. We've got expert chemists, expert druggists. We have psychiatrists who give pills out to everybody.

So that is just one example where the realm of experience has lost its footing as a source of meaningful mystery, a kind of grandeur, a potential place of great secrets and discoveries and of great reality. I'd say that art, at its best, is operating somewhere in that realm. I call it the realm of experience, but even more specifically, in a way, it's the realm of a quality of feeling, I'd say.

Feeling. We don't know how to talk about feeling much. Music causes people to have feeling, and so everyone is feeding themselves with iPods. But isn't that really kind of a poor substitute?

-Richard Whittaker, from Interview with Richard Whittaker

Interview: Stephen De Staebler

Works & Conversations
Interview: Stephen De Staebler by Richard Whittaker
Click here

You have to burn through a lot of pretty work in order to love the gift of the clay-its randomness, its tendency to crack and warp. All the things that the perfectionists think are negative qualities are actually positive if you approach it from a different aesthetic.
-Stephen De Staebler

Somehow I'd gotten it into my mind that if you really wanted to become a serious artist, you went to Europe to get your grounding. So when I'm in this stupid state of mind, who do I meet but my true mentor? He was right there, virtually across the hall!
-Stephen De Staebler

The body is our sculpture. We live in our body like it is an animate sculpture. The fact that most art in civilization has been figurative is not by accident. When you're more aware of your body, you're more on the edge of survival. Look at Lascaux.
-Stephen De Staebler

Any person with consciousness has to know we are here between being born and dying. We were born out of eternity and we return to a state of eternity.
-Stephen De Staebler

When I say casually to people that I learned more about art playing basketball than taking art courses nobody ever understood what I meant. I never was really able to articulate it well. The thing about shooting a basket is that you have to sort of transcend your mind. It's all visual and spatial. So if you're going to groove as a player, you have to get into a space and a rhythm and endurance that is the same sort of thing it takes making big clay sculptures. It's similar for me, anyway. There's an excitement in moving in space. That's why I think I developed ways of jumping on clay, stacking them until they wanted to fall down.
-Stephen De Staebler

For my senior thesis - and you had to have one to graduate - I did mine on St. Francis of Assisi. He's a fascinating character, much more interesting than the gentle monk who is feeding the birds. He said tanto sa, tanto fa (you know as much as you do). Doing was more important than theology.
-Stephen De Staebler

I think what gave me peace of mind was the realization that you can exist on two planes, the plane of accomplishment and the plane of the spirit-where you need nothing but being to affirm being alive.
-Stephen De Staebler

Stephen De Staebler

Regarding a process of spontaneous archeology De Staebler has said that you take fragments that speak to one another and bring them into some kind of field that is more than the sum of its parts.
-Stephen De Staebler, The New York Times

We are all wounded survivors, alive but devastated selves, fragmented, isolated — the condition of modern man. Art tries to restructure reality so that we can live with the suffering.
-Stephen De Staebler

The human figure is the most loaded of all forms because we live in one. The figure obsesses not just artists, but human beings. It’s our prison. It’s what gives us life and gives us death.
-Stephen De Staebler

Howard Ikemoto

When my daughter about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college — that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, You mean they forgot?

-Howard Ikemoto, from Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland

Gregg Mazel

I too stare at the edge of the precipice when I begin writing music. Looking down, I encounter the ground and the sea. Looking up, I discover the sky. Looking in, I encourage myself to see.

-Gregg Mazel

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


The imagery for my paintings and drawings does not come to me fully formed. I poke around terrified on the edge of the abyss and leap in scribbling and wiping it away. I am terrified because I am an astronaut without the protection of a rocket ship. The terror comes from the vulnerability I feel when being out there receiving the signals. When I am not feeling this sort of vulnerability I am usually not in a painting phase. I require this particular sort of receptivity to make paintings which is also a painful state. Perhaps this is why it's called pain-ting. So I am painting when I am most frightened of it. Does this make sense? I am always hoping to accumulate some courage along the way or lessen the fear but maybe I'm just not designed this way. I must accept my way of being; fear in one hand and trembling courage in the other.

It is all very hard for me to accept myself I guess it is my life's challenge. I have two to three month spells of terror 'receive mode' which is when I paint. Then my energy shifts to sensory and physically hyperactive 'transmit mode' and I must bake and cook and write letters and vignettes and I feel overflowing energy with accompanying joie de vivre, confidence and optimism. I keep thinking I'd probably get somewhere in life if I was just one way. Bill says that's a myth I carry and anyway it's not an option. It's not how I was made. I know he is right but I am having a very hard time letting go of my notions. My pal Susan would say What is it about this notion that am holding onto and invested in? Perhaps I am still preserving my mother's voice that said I am all wrong with bad wiring.

My painter pal Ken Maryanski said years ago Change your beliefs. I have been told all my life that my internal energies are what enable me to paint. I think of the quote by Stephen DeStaebler Artists don't get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working. I am trying to convince myself and accept that this switching from internal to external is a gift and not an impediment to making work. But don't REAL artists face one muse every day? Not necessarily and many of my painter friends don't either. Maybe what I have to accept is I have two different muses one in my sensory body (love of words) and one in my haunted head (mind full of colors). I can barely use words when the paint happens and I can't paint when the words replace colors. I accept day and night and the four seasons, why can't I accept this?

In Early September when I went from sensory high energy this summer to dropping down into internal September mode I had a vivid scary dream. It was a predawn rollover dream.

I dreamed I was crouched on top of a friends refrigerator while I harpooned a big bear that was pursuing me. I apologized before skewering him a bunch of times. Then he was dead but as dream logic goes he was suddenly alive again and I finished him off with BBQ tools. Then I went around bragging that I killed a big brown bear with BBQ tools forgetting that the real work was with the harpoon.

I have been thinking about this dream for weeks. At first I just thought it was just a crazy rollover dream then I started thinking of the bear as a metaphor for my painting and how when my energy shifts I make light of the terror and the fight. I brag that I killed the bear with BBQ tools forgetting the real work is with the harpoon. Also in the dream the bear could be a stand in for my mother. She has been a big scary bear in my dreams before (and in my life) and perhaps I am still apologizing for having to kill her off to get on with my artistic life, and accept myself as I am. Another interpretation I had was I have a lot of tools and I must use them all. Another friend said that to him the dream means make do with less. I liked that too.

Kahlil Gibran

Joy and Sorrow

Then a woman said, 'Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.'

And he answered: Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?

And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, Sorrow is the greater.” But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy. Only when you are empty are you at a standstill and balanced. When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, your joy or your sorrow must necessarily rise or fall.

-Kahlil Gibran, from The Prophet