Welcome to March 2023! Somehow, 10 years has elapsed since I completed this oil painting, “Manomayakaya #3 (Let it pervade everywhere).” Where does the time go?? Since I am offering this painting for sale through Artsy, I thought now would be a good time to reacquaint you with this wonderful artwork — one of my favorites.
And, for the occasion, I dug into the photo archives and found some cool process shots of the work on the easel from 10 years ago.
First a little about the title. You may well ask, what does manomayakaya mean? This is a term found in the Lankavatara Sutra of Mahayana Buddhism. Literally, it translates as “mind-made-body”, and can refer to the form taken by a buddha or bodhisattva in order to help sentient beings.
I love the idea of buddhas and bodhisattvas adapting to the needs of ordinary folks, and I also love the idea that the forms taken might be that of other sentient beings besides humans, or even beings not often thought of as sentient, such as mountains, rocks or trees — however, personally, I think of trees as sentient!
I paint a lot of trees, and this is the central focus of this abstracted, expressionistic landscape. What I imagine here is a buddha becoming a tree to give shelter to or enliven the spirits of sentient beings.
The sub-title of the painting is “Let it pervade everywhere.” This is also Buddhist inspired, and is a snippet of liturgical chant: For example, in the dedication to the three treasures (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha), we chant:
“Being one with the Sangha;
With all sentient beings, lead the people. Let harmony pervade everywhere.”
So that pretty much sums up the intent of this painting – to represent and to spread peace and harmony throughout the world. This is something that I hope art in general can do.
I can also add that this painting was inspired by a landscape I photographed in West Virginia, in late spring.
As I said at the beginning, this painting is for sale! It’s oil on canvas, 30 inches square (that’s about 76cm square), and about 1.5 inches in depth (3.8cm). Check out the Artsy listing, and let me know if you have any questions.
Happy President’s Day everyone! Well, it’s been a bit too long since I’ve last posted — let’s say I was hibernating. Now, Groundhog Day is well past, and while we can’t say that Spring is here yet, perhaps there is a hint of it in the air.
I’ve been spending these winter months getting organized, both for new art and in taking inventory of existing works I have for sale.
Thanks to Arts Gowanus, you can find me on Artsy! I’ve just added three more paintings to my collection of works for sale there:
Let me know if you have any questions or would like to purchase a painting.
These 15 works listed on Artsy are not the only works I have available. I’ve also been working on taking inventory and organizing my Flickr photo albums to more accurately reflect what I have in stock (I admit that I’ve lost track of some paintings, so the inventory is a work in progress!). I’ve got some great paintings still in my possession that would brighten up just about any space. For starters, take a look at my “Paintings” collection on Flickr, which is intended to represent my inventory of works available for sale (or for showing, if you’d like to put together an exhibition).
And by all means, feel free to browse all of the interesting stuff I have on Flickr, some of which goes way back!
Social media Round-Up
What social media are you spending the most time on these days? I’d say that the main platform I’m using right now is Instagram, and I also have a presence on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.
I’ve barely used Tumblr lately, but perhaps I’ll try to revive it. As far as Twitter goes, I’ve been kind of lying low there since the Musk takeover, waiting to see what will happen. But I think I will start trying to make better use of it in the coming months. You’re welcome to follow and contact me on all of these sites!
Next time: some updates on current projects and latest goings-on in the studio!
Hello everyone, wow I can’t believe it’s already October! And October means it’s time for this year’s Gowanus Open Studios, October 15-16.
I did my first Gowanus Open Studios in 2007, and each time I’ve done it I’ve enjoyed showing my work, seeing the work of my neighbors and meeting all of the interesting art-lovers who come out to support art in our neighborhood.
Hosted by Arts Gowanus, Gowanus Open Studios is Brooklyn’s largest celebration of local art and artists. More than 300 artists, businesses, and venues in Gowanus will open their doors, giving the public a rare glimpse inside the former factories, warehouses, and studio buildings of this vibrant neighborhood. Artists will be on hand to discuss their work, share their processes, and showcase their latest projects; this event also offers visitors the unique opportunity to purchase work directly from local artists.
This year I will be showing new work created since last year’s open studios (I may have a few older pieces on hand as well). It’s been a productive year. I’ve completed four new Lifeworld paintings, another Dharmadhatu piece and several small studies.
And, if you’ve been following me on Instagram (and I hope you are!) you know that over these past few weeks I’ve been completing some new landscapes which I will be debuting during open studios.
So I hope that if you are in New York City the weekend of October 15-16, you’ll stop by!
Gowanus Open Studios is happening October 15 and 16 (Saturday and Sunday) from 12 to 6pm. I will be opening my studio at Trestle Art Space – Greenwood, at 62 18th Street, off 3rd Avenue. You can find a map, details about various exhibitions, installations and events at artsgowanus.org
Good afternoon friends, Spring is popping here in Brooklyn and there’s lots going on!
Opening this weekend! Brooklyn Utopias: Along the Canal
I’m pleased to be included in this multi-site exhibition organized by ArtsGowanus and the Old Stone House & Washington Park (OSH). Opening April 9th and 10th, the exhibition features over 200 artists considering what a “Utopia” (or ideal place) would look like for the communities of the neighborhoods bordering the Gowanus Canal.
Brooklyn Utopias: Along the Canal consists of an indoor exhibition at The Old Stone House (OSH) and two public outdoor art exhibitions of artwork printed on banners hung on the fences surroundingJ.J. Byrne Playground andCoffey Park featuring a diverse group of local artists. Opening events on April 9, 12-5pm at Coffey Park and April 10, 12-5pm at J.J. Byrne Playground/Old Stone House will include outdoor bazaars with art and performances by local artists, with a gallery opening at the Old Stone House from 4-6pm on April 10. All exhibitions will be on view from April 10-June 26.
My piece “Dharmadhatu 3” (pictured above) will be among those reproduced on banners adorning J.J. Byrne Playground in Park Slope at 3rd Street between 5th and 4th Avenues. Dharmadhatu is a Sanskrit word that means “realm of absolute reality.” My utopian dream is that the absolute reality of Gowanus is as a place where sky, earth, water and all living things can co-exist in harmonious balance, like this sphere dancing on the horizon.
Lately I’ve been doing to retooling of my social media presence. This has resulted in some broken links, which I think should be all fixed now. My twitter page, formerly ZephyrusNYC, is now JohnAzelvandre, and similarly my Instagram has also been re-christened johnazelvandre. I’ve been leaning heavily into the Instagram of late, and right now it is the best way to stay current on my artistic endeavors.
These current endeavors consist primarily in settling in at Trestle Art Space on 18th Street in Brooklyn, where I am preparing several canvases for upcoming works in oil and also doing a deep-dive into learning techniques of Japanese moku hanga – woodblock printmaking.
Happy Friday everyone! Well, the big weekend is nearly here! If you’ve been following along on these pages, you know that Gowanus Open Studios is happening tomorrow (Saturday, October 16) and Sunday (October 17). It’s been a busy, busy couple of weeks getting ready.
I’ve moved into my new studio, unpacked, hung art on the walls, and most significantly —
I have completed the Common Grave painting project! In previous posts (here and here), I detailed this project. I have also created an Adobe Spark presentation that gives the whole story. (I do think the Spark presentation came out rather nicely – take a look!)
I completed the final panel (what I’m calling panel VI) last week, and by now the paint should be (mostly) dry to touch.
The full polyptych is now installed for viewing for the first time (and — who knows? — perhaps the ONLY time) in my studio! It is not to be missed!
So come on down tomorrow or Sunday. I’m at 62 18th Street, Trestle Art Space, 1st floor. I’ll be there 12 to 6pm on both days.
Visit arts.gowanus.org for details on the event and a map of all of the open studios. It’s going to be a fantastic weekend!
It’s been a busy couple of weeks settling into my new studio space on 18th Street in Brooklyn and getting ready for this weekend’s Open Studio tour. I’ll have several recent works on view during the studio tour, among them several recent Lifeworld paintings.
So, I’ve been looking at my writing about this long-term project, and massaged it all into a nifty Adobe Spark presentation. It’s all based on a pretty nerdy essay I’ve been working on for a while (I have to try to put the philosophy PhD to good use somehow, right?).
I’ve pared it back some for the Spark presentation, but the gist is about how I have been informed and inspired by Edmund Husserl‘s writings on phenomenology. Nerdy but fun! I really didn’t know much (well, nothing) about Husserl until I chanced upon the term ‘life-world’ (“Lebenswelt“) a few years back. But it’s been a happy encounter — this is a rich vein to mine! Perhaps I will publish more of this writing here in the future.
As I mentioned in my previous post, a ‘cult of devotion’ developed around the skulls and bones found in the Fontanelle cemetery. It is very much a religious, or at least ‘cultic’ site. And why not? Why shouldn’t all these remains, representing the lives of real human beings, our own ancestors — figuratively if not literally — be accorded some respect, perhaps even veneration? I’m quite fond of the medieval and early renaissance art form of the altar piece. One of my favorite examples of this art form is the Isenheim Altarpiece, by Matthias Grünewald (1470-1528), presently housed in the Unterlinden museum in Colmar, France.
Such altarpieces typically depict scenes from the life of Christ, the Virgin Mary or the lives of various saints. Why not instead create a sort of altarpiece honoring ordinary people? One devoted to these unknown dead whose remains fill up a giant cave in Naples? That’s the origin of my idea to create a six panel polyptych. Basically it consists of three pairs of paintings — a double triptych. In my conception, the square paintings join together creating one central image that is 40 inches across.
These two square paintings form the central panel, and are flanked by two pairs, each of which consists of a 20×24 inch panel and a 20 x 16 inch panel, thus also equalling 40 inches across.
So that is the basic layout of the piece.
Having many, many reference photos to choose from, I needed to settle upon a limited number from which to work. I narrowed it down to five different photos I took in 2013. Creating the paintings involved a somewhat painstaking process of preparing the ground, creating cartoon drawings on newsprint, transferring these drawings onto canvas and then, finally, painting. This process worked fairly well, but it was time consuming. Numerous interruptions made it even more time-consuming!
The ground: I experimented with using a colored ground on the canvas, instead of just starting with a white gesso canvas. Yellow ochre was used to create a luminous yet earthy yellow base for the paintings.
Once all canvases were treated with the yellow ochre, I could begin transferring the cartoons (hand drawn outlines of the images) from newsprint to the canvas.
This involved a slow process of tracing and retracing the images by hand. Once the outlines were in place on the canvas, actual painting could begin.
This is the fun part, and also the scary part. Moving from the realm of imagination to a completed piece in the real world is fraught with difficulties. In their excellent book, Art & Fear (1993), David Bayles and Ted Orland describe this very well. It’s worth quoting at length:
“Imagination is in control when you begin making an object. The artwork’s potential is never higher than in that magic moment when the first brushstroke is applied, the first chord struck. But as the piece grows, technique and craft take over, and imagination becomes a less useful tool. A piece grows by becoming specific. … the first few brushstrokes to the blank canvas satisfy the requirements of many possible paintings, while the last few fit only that painting — they could go nowhere else. The development of an imagined piece into an actual piece is a progression of decreasing possibilities, as each step in execution reduces future options by converting one — and only one — possibility into reality. Finally, at some point or another, the piece could not be other than it is, and it is done.”
Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking. The Image Continuum, Santa Cruz, CA, 1993. pp. 15-16)
I started with the middle panels, III and IV, then moved to the other pairs.
As I write this, panel VI remains incomplete, and my current task is to move it into reality! Wish me luck!
In January 2013, I had the good fortune of visiting the Fontanelle Cemetery – “Il cimitero delle Fontanelle (in napoletano, ‘e Funtanelle)” in Naples, Italy. This fantastic cemetery — really an ossuary — a repository of tens of thousands of human remains, is one of the more unique and bizarre attractions in an ancient city full of the unique and bizarre. It appears that Fontanelle got its start in the early 16th century when neighborhood churchyards in the city, the preferred location for burials, were overflowing with the deceased. Older bodies were moved to an artificial cave carved into the volcanic bedrock of the Neapolitan hills, then just beyond the city limits.
These bodies were added to over the succeeding centuries: plague victims found their final resting place here along with those too poor for a proper burial. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the cave was an unsightly, disgraceful mess. In 1872, Father Gaetano Barbati had the remains organized and a small church was constructed at the entrance to the cave. A cult of devotion sprung up around the skulls and bones, reaching its apogee by the mid-20th century. Feeling that the whole thing had descended into fetishim, Cardinal Ursi of Naples closed it down in 1969. It remained closed until the 21st century. Fortunately, it was restored and reopened. What restorations were actually undertaken, I don’t know. When I visited in early 2013, the remains appeared as if untouched for decades.
I must have taken hundreds of photographs (digital photography just makes this too easy), and soon conceived a desire to make art from my experience. Following a long period of gestation, I finally began working on my Common Grave polyptych toward the end of 2017. The first two canvases were completed by mid-2018.
Further delays ensued, but finally I am on the verge of completing the project. My plan is to have this project complete in time for this year’s Gowanus Open Studios.
Coming Next: details of the project and final steps.
For starters, I have listed 10 paintings for sale on the site. I intend to add at least a few more, and then perhaps rotate them occasionally. If you see something you like (or if you know of another painting of mine that is not there), feel free to contact me to discuss.
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