Something very last minute — My art during Gowanus Open Studios

Hello everyone!  I had not planned to show any work during this year’s Gowanus Open Studios (happening this weekend, October 20-22), but a last minute opportunity presented itself.

Abby Subak, Director of Arts Gowanus, reached out to artists who formerly had studios in Gowanus, and asked us to participate as “Gowanus Emeritus Artists” in the “Silent Auction & Garden Party: One Piece Per Artist GOS 2017” show at 313 Butler Gallery.

So — my piece, “View from beneath the surface #1” will be included in the show.   The event, a silent auction, happens Saturday night, October 21 from 5-9 at 313 Butler Gallery, at 313 Butler Street in Brooklyn, New York.  The art remains up through November 13.

“View from beneath the surface 1,” oil on canvas, 12″ diameter, 2014.

The full event description can be found on Facebook, here.

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?

See my work during Art Slope!

I’m pleased to announce that my work is appearing at The Ploughman in Park Slope, Brooklyn as a part of Art Slope, a week-long arts festival in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  The Ploughman offers Artisanal Cheese / Charcuterie / Craft Beer and Beer on Tap.  It’s located at 438 7th Avenue, Brooklyn, between 14th and 15th Streets.

Featured at The Ploughman are four paintings from my Lifeworld series.  The paintings will be on display through October 28th.

Clockwise from upper left: Lifeworld 12, Lifeworld 27, Lifeworld 10 and Lifeworld 29.
Clockwise from upper left: Lifeworld 12, Lifeworld 27, Lifeworld 10 and Lifeworld 29.

Art Slope started September 17 and runs through September 25.  Read more about the event here.

In other news:

Are you a video or performance artist? Do you know someone who is?  Gowanus Swim Society has an open call for video and performance art.  The work will be displayed during this year’s Gowanus Open Studios (October 14-16).  But hurry! The deadline for submissions is this Thursday, September 22! Click here for the open call.

New Lifeworld paintings online

The Lifeworld project continues, and I’ve recently published definitive photographs of the latest paintings in the series.  Here they are:

"Lifeworld 36," oil/mixed media on canvas, 20x20", 2016
“Lifeworld 36,” oil/mixed media on canvas, 20×20″, 2016
"Lifeworld 37," oil/mixed media on canvas, 20x20", 2016,
“Lifeworld 37,” oil/mixed media on canvas, 20×20″, 2016.
"Lifeworld 38," oil/mixed media on canvas, 20x20", 2016.
“Lifeworld 38,” oil/mixed media on canvas, 20×20″, 2016.
"Lifeworld 39," oil on canvas, 20x20", 2016
“Lifeworld 39,” oil on canvas, 20×20″, 2016.

So I’m making [slow] progress toward my goal of 108 Lifeworld paintings.  To read more about the Lifeworld project, click here, and to see all the Lifeworld paintings completed so far, visit my flickr album here.  As always, Lifeworld paintings are for sale.  Contact me for more information.

Art Works 2016 – a Benefit for Arts Gowanus

I’m pleased to announce that I will be contributing to this year’s Art Works — a benefit for Arts Gowanus!  The mission of Arts Gowanus is to promote, support and advocate for local artists and a sustainable arts community in the Gowanus neighborhood.

The Art Works event is Thursday, June 2, 2016, 7 to 10pm at the Gowanus Loft, 61 9th Street in Brooklyn.

I’m contributing my painting “Magnolia,” pictured below, to the event.  This painting can be yours when you buy a ticket to the event.  Tickets are available now at this link!  I hope to see you at the event.

"Magnolia," oil on canvas, 12x12", 2014
“Magnolia,” oil on canvas, 12×12″, 2014

A new year well underway, Lifeworlds continues

Hello everyone from frigid New York City on this Valentine’s Day 2016!

I’ve been retooling my studio set-up and finally (last weekend) completed the firstsecond oil painting of 2016 (and the next in the Lifeworld series).  So here we have it:

Lifeworld 36, oil/mixed media on canvas, 20x20" (51x51cm), 2016
Lifeworld 36, oil/mixed media on canvas, 20×20″ (51x51cm), 2016
A detail shot of Lifeworld 36
A detail shot of Lifeworld 36

Lifeworld 36 continues the adventure. I’ve also been exploring the ever important topic of studio safety and reducing toxicity in oil painting.  I’ll write up more of my findings on that topic soon.  In the meantime, enjoy the paintings and stay warm!

The new painting on the easel chez moi
The new painting on the easel chez moi

*actually, the first oil painting of 2016 is this little sketch (below) – a trial balloon for a suite of paintings I’m planning that are inspired by the Fontanelle cemetery in Napoli, Italy.

A quick sketch to check out the new painting setup, January 2016
A quick sketch to check out the new painting setup, January 2016

Gowanus Open Studios: A personal retrospective

Gowanus Open Studios is mere days away (you’re coming, right? – Saturday, Oct. 16 and Sunday, Oct. 17, 12-6pm — details here)! Looking back, I’m amazed to see that this year’s tour will be the NINTH that I have participated in.  Yes, that’s a “9”!

So, in celebration of this big number 9, I thought I’d offer to you a little photo-retrospective of my past nine years in Gowanus.

It all started in in 2007, when I begin renting studio space in a cool place then known as “Brooklyn Artists Gym“.

Lifeform (polyptych), acrylic on canvas, 2003-2007.
Lifeform (polyptych), acrylic on canvas, 2003-2007.

That year I was bound and determined to complete an ambitious polyptych I had conceived and started way back in 2003.

In 2008, I continued the general theme with a new polyptych:

Me with new work at AGAST 2008.
Me with new work at AGAST 2008.  Damn, I look young in this photo!

By the way, back then, the studio tour was known as A.G.A.S.T., which means … what the hell did it mean?  Anyway, fun times and boy do I look young in this photograph!

2009 began a shift in my work toward single-canvas pieces, and the beginnings of an evolution in style:

AGAST in 2009. Individual canvases and lots of small work.
AGAST in 2009. Individual canvases and lots of small work.

During 2007-2009, I worked and displayed in BAG’s communal space.

Starting in 2010, I began working in the semi-private studio space you’ll find me in this year:

The studio tour set-up in 2010 -- my very own permanent (semi-private) space!
The studio tour set-up in 2010 — my very own permanent (semi-private) space!

At some point along the way, Brooklyn Artists Gym became Brooklyn Art Space, and A.G.A.S.T. became Gowanus Open Studios.  Exactly when, I’m not remembering — the years are starting to run together.  Here’s 2011:

Gowanus Open Studios in 2011. That year saw the start of the "Manomayakaya" series.
Gowanus Open Studios in 2011. That year saw the start of the “Manomayakaya” series.

2012

Open studios in 2012: Reach triptych, Manomayakaya #2 and Lifeworlds 1-4.
Open studios in 2012: Reach triptych, Manomayakaya #2, Lifeworlds 1-4 and lots of other good stuff.

2013

Open Studios in 2013.
Open Studios in 2013.

2014

Lifeworlds and Paysage planétaire (Colden) on display during GOS 2014.
Lifeworlds and Paysage planétaire (Colden) on display during GOS 2014.
Le Poulpe (the Octopus) escaped from the Gowanus Swim Society exhibition on Governor's Island and resurfaced during GOS 2014.
Le Poulpe (the Octopus) escaped from the Gowanus Swim Society exhibition on Governor’s Island and resurfaced during GOS 2014.

So there you have it!  I hope you’ll come out for this year’s Gowanus Open Studios!  This weekend, October 17-18, in Gowanus, Brooklyn!

Breaking News: De-Natured, at the Old Stone House

Sorry for the last-minute announcement, but this all came together very quickly: I’m pleased to let you know that I will have work included in a show at the Old Stone House in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  The show opens TONIGHT (October 15), 6-8pm.

About the show:

Nature is often bent to man’s needs and wants. The Gowanus Canal was once a marshland and now has been channeled and distorted into the managed and controlled canal that it is today. Once messy and natural, it is now contained.

Similarly, the paintings, collages, and photographs in this exhibit all begin with nature-based subject matter. Through the art-making process, that subject or motif is interpreted, distorted, and adapted to become something else entirely. In some, the original image is completely hidden, sometimes it is still clear.

All of these artworks grapple with the role of nature in our man-made world.

Curated by Abby Subak, Director of Arts Gowanus.

The Old Stone House is at 336 3rd Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215.

Lifeworld 21, oil on canvas, 20x20", 2014.
Lifeworld 21, oil on canvas, 20×20″, 2014, by John Azelvandre