Artworks: A Benefit for Arts Gowanus

I’m pleased to announce that, once again, I will be contributing to this year’s ArtWorks — a benefit for Arts Gowanus!

This year’s event happens Thursday, May 11, 2017, 7 – 10 pm at Shapeshifter Lab, 18 Whitwell Place, Brooklyn, NY 11215.  I will be there!

So join me in celebrating the arts and artists of Gowanus and take home a piece of original artwork from a local artist!  I’m donating my painting Lifeworld 10 (2013):

“Lifeworld 10,” oil on canvas, 20×20″, 2013

Need I say that this is a rare and amazing opportunity to obtain one of my Lifeworld paintings at an amazing price?

By buying a ticket to the ArtWorks event you are buying a chance to “win” this fabulous painting along with 74 other great works made by artists working in Gowanus.  Plus you’ll support the critical mission of Arts Gowanus to promote, support and advocate for local artists and a sustainable arts community in the Gowanus neighborhood. Here’s a link to some of the other artworks available.

In case the art isn’t appealing enough, don’t miss the food, drink and revelry.

Tickets are on sale now, $250 single, $300 for couple, which entitles you to one original work of art… Click here to buy tickets!

Ticket sales are limited, so act fast!

Winter …

Winter–in the eleventh month
Snow falls thick and fast.
A thousand mountains, one color.
Men of the world passing this way are few.
Dense grass conceals the door.
All night in silence, a few woodchips burn slowly
As I read the poems of the ancients.

–Ryokan (Japan, 1758-1831)

Winter bamboo, Mt. Tremper, New York, 2015

Pinhole research – December chill

I’ve recently started up again with some explorations in digital pinhole photography.  How this works is: you take a digital SLR, take off the lens and replace it with a modified body cap that serves as the ‘pinhole.’  (I don’t recall where I purchased the pinhole cap, but if you Google ‘digital pinhole – Nikon‘ you’ll probably find it quickly).  Your camera needs to be sophisticated enough to have all manual settings — and most importantly, the ability to manually hold the shutter open — it’s called ‘bulb’ on my Nikon.

My old Nikon D-60 equipped with a pinhole body cap I found somewhere on the Internet. The cap is just an ordinary body cap with a hole drilled in it, covered with some film with a tiny transparent spot in the middle.

Shooting pinhole is a very different experience, and I imagine it is closer to what the earliest photographers experienced.  It requires patience and a great deal of practice.

One difficulty is that I can’t really get a good view through the viewfinder of what the shot is going to be.  It takes some practice to aim the camera body in the right direction.  Since the shutter needs to be open for a good 5, 10, 15, 20 seconds or more, one needs to be really immobile (a tripod or monopod helps).

Digital pinhole also suffers from the problem of dust on the sensor: something that wouldn’t normally happen with film pinhole technology, since each frame of film is virgin.  The digital ‘film’, i.e., the sensor, is hardly a virgin, as it gets used over and over again, and my Nikon is pretty filthy at this point.  Photoshop is a huge help at this juncture!

Prospect Park, December 2016. Digital pinhole photograph, liberally cleaned up and tweaked in Photoshop and Lightroom. A fun, ‘painterly’ process, but entirely digital.

Shooting this way is a [potentially] meditative experience.  In a recent outing, I came up with a number of really interesting shots that I can then liberally work with in Lightroom and Photoshop — it really brings photography closer to painting — and for me, provides fascinating subject matter for oil paintings I want to realize. (See Lifeworld series).  So this pinhole outing is a form of visual research.

Below are a series of abstract detail shots that were all created from the full image shown above.

Pinhole zoom-crop experiment number 1.
Pinhole zoom-crop experiment #2
Pinhole zoom-crop experiment #3
Pinhole zoom-crop experiment #4.

Which of these should I use for a painting?

Painting of the week: “Osage chiasm”

This week’s featured painting is an odd one I created way back in 2009.  “Osage chiasm” (that’s chiasm not chasm) is 20″H by 16″W, and is acrylic on canvas.  The piece is essentially a stylized portrait of one of my favorite trees: a very old Osage orange that lives on the Nethermead in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.  This painting has been in my living room for the past several years, and I look at it every day.  The photo doesn’t quite do it justice: the colors are weird and don’t reproduce well.  In the real life the blues of the sky are considerably more vivid.

“Osage chiasm” acrylic on canvas, 20×16″, 2009.

Featured painting of the week

This week’s featured painting is “Reach” — a triptych I created in 2012.  This painting and some other square format paintings I created then were precursors to my Lifeworld series, and should almost be considered honorary members of the series.

“Reach” (triptych), oil on canvas, 20″ x approx 60″. 2012
“Reach” detail, 2012.
“Reach” detail, 2012.
“Reach” detail, 2012.

Featured painting of the week: The House is Burning

This week’s featured work is a painting — actually a diptych (two paintings that form one work) titled “The House is Burning.”

"The House is Burning", mixed media on canvas, 30"x44", 2012.
“The House is Burning”, mixed media on canvas, 30″x44″, 2012.

The provocative title should make one think immediately of global warming – climate change.  That’s certainly appropriate, but there’s even more to the story.  Now seems like a good time feature this painting, since it appears that the house is not going to stop burning anytime soon.

So– The direct inspiration for this title is the famous “Parable of the Burning House” that appears in the Lotus Sutra — one of the most important religious texts of Mahayana Buddhism.  Here is an excerpt (lightly abridged) from the parable (Burton Watson translation):

“Suppose that in a certain town in a certain country there was a very rich man. He was far along in years and his wealth was beyond measure. He had many fields, houses and menservants. His own house was big and rambling, but it had only one gate.  A great many people … lived in the house.  The halls and rooms were old and decaying, the walls crumbling, the pillars rotten at their base, and the beams and rafters crooked and aslant.

“At that time a fire suddenly broke out on all sides, spreading through the rooms of the house. The sons of the rich man, ten, twenty, perhaps thirty, were inside the house. When the rich man saw the huge flames leaping up on every side, he was greatly alarmed and fearful and thought to himself, I can escape to safety through the flaming gate, but my sons are inside the burning house enjoying themselves and playing games, unaware, unknowing, without alarm or fear. The fire is closing in on them, suffering and pain threaten them, yet their minds have no sense of loathing or peril and they do not think of trying to escape!

“This rich man thought to himself, I have strength in my body and arms. I can wrap them in a robe or place them on a bench and carry them out of the house. And then again he thought, This house has only one gate, and moreover it is narrow and small. My sons are very young, they have no understanding, and they love their games, being so engrossed in them that they are likely to be burned in the fire. I must explain to them why I am fearful and alarmed. The house is already in flames and I must get them out quickly and not let them be burned up in the fire!

“Having thought in this way, he followed his plan and called to all his sons, saying, ‘You must come out at once!’ But though the father was moved by pity and gave good words of instruction, the sons were absorbed in their games and unwilling to heed him. They had no alarm, no fright, and in the end no mind to leave the house. Moreover they did not understand what the fire was, what the house was, what danger was. They merely raced about this way and that in play and looked at their father without heeding him.

“At that time the rich man had this thought: The house is already in flames from this huge fire. If I and my sons do not get out at once, we are certain to be burned. I must now invent some expedient means that will make it possible for the children to escape harm. …

I’ll stop there and not get into how the father managed to get his children out of the house. The parable is a powerful one. To me, it aptly describes the present human condition.

Yes, indeed, the house is burning. Will we notice? Will we get out?

October Art News: Gowanus Swim goes Natural/Unnatural

October is here and there’s a lot of art going on!

I hope everyone knows about my art at the Ploughman in Park Slope; if you haven’t had a chance to visit, my paintings (including Lifeworld 12 pictured below) will be on display through October 28.  The Ploughman is located at 438 Seventh Avenue, between 14th and 15th Streets, Park Slope, Brooklyn.

"Lifeworld 12" mixed media on canvas, 20x20", 2013.
“Lifeworld 12″ mixed media on canvas, 20×20”, 2013.

Meanwhile back on the canal …

Gowanus Swim Society has both an exhibition of member art and an open party coming up during the weekend of Gowanus Open StudiosSaturday/Sunday, October 15-16.

First, the party: Once again this year, Gowanus Swim is hosting the official Gowanus Open Studios Saturday night after-party at Halyards Bar (406 3rd Ave at 6th Street, Brooklyn)! The party features an exhibition of video art curated by Joonyun Hwang and Keun Young Park of Brooklyn Art Cluster/Square Dot Plus Studios.

Natural/Unnatural happens Saturday, October 15!
Natural/Unnatural happens Saturday, October 15!

We’ll also have live music by the bands The Vajra Temple, Hair Club and June Submarine.

The videos will be screened during the day (1-6) with the party getting underway at 6pm.  The entire event is free and open to the public, with drink specials all night!  Join us!

Then, the exhibit: throughout the weekend of Gowanus Open Studios, see my work along with other members of Gowanus Swim Society at Square Dot Plus Studio (at Spaceworks Gowanus) 540 President Street, BB, Brooklyn (between 3rd and 4th Avenues). The show will be on exhibit both Saturday and Sunday, October 15 and 16, from noon to 6pm each day.

I hope to see you during Gowanus Open Studios!