Posts Tagged ‘painting’

Parsing The Criteria Of Great Art

17 Aug


"Ancient" by William Blake


Originally published on September 17, 1996

Landry wrote: This reminds me of an argument I had with my friend Brad who is a painter. He said that painting is art and writing is craft. What do you think?

Someone should kick poor mad William Blake up out of the grave. He called Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples the greatest ARTISTS the world has ever seen about the same time his friend Thomas Paine was facing the wrath of the English & American church leaders with his revolutionary AGE OF REASON, written mostly while sitting in the Bastille awaiting the guillotine for refusing to badmouth his friend King Louis, whom Paine held in high esteem for the king's much needed assistance to the colonies during the war against the English crown. Uh, now THAT reminds me of a peculiar intrigue Tom Wolfe's THE PAINTED WORD invoked with his fictional world reknown artist (this was a book about the NY painting scene where one's greatness as an artist is inseparable from the superior qualities of the particular THEORY of the art, brownie points for the thinker, nee writer once again, it seems) who while sitting in an unremarkable bar in an unremarkable mood suddenly had a great idea. He had only a glass of water and a paper napkin at his disposal. He quickly dipped and began etching, but just as suddenly as the idea had dawned in his mind's eye the world famous artist collapsed on his barstool and expired. Obviously his etching evaporated, but the question remained in Wolfe's assessment, was the idea that the now dead artist had expressed ever so briefly been that artist's, and therefore, perhaps the world's greatest work of art?


William Blake

Blake did it all in a sense, a man of deep thought and adroit action like American contemporaries—with his large body of wood etchings, paintings, poetry, his literary criticism, his anti-clericism, his involvement in the politics of his day, his strange mystical nudism, his sagacious love for his wife, all tempered by his touch of madness, and yet he called Jesus the GREATEST ARTIST. This same Jesus who never wrote or painted a damned thing except to draw some line in the sand, and there are those biblical scholars who amazingly even claim this was an apocryphal tale (now famous as the "he who is without sin, please please cast the first stone" scene) they insist was inserted by later scribes. This viewpoint leads of course to the idea that ideas are the guts of art, NOT shapes, lines, colors. Paintings may certainly express an idea, or several, but one is never exactly sure what that idea is unless the artist is part of that Clement Greenberg (the NYC art don) regime boasting an idea per brushstroke...

So it goes without saying that I tend to agree with Blake that it takes everything you've got to create art, but then (to answer your question), can paintings lie, cheat, and steal the way words do?


Awesome View of Ohio River, Wheeling Island, and Opportunity

28 May


Watching The River Flow


Okay friends and foes, Chuck [Fithen] has posted a few pix he snapped with his cell camera of me on my first day of sloshing paint against the new Wailing Wall running some eighty feet along the second floor of Yesterday's Draughthouse & Stage, 1054 Main. The new bandstage with its backdrop of floor to ceiling triple-threat of push out glass windows opening onto Main Street a few feet above the marquee is an immediate draw. Once the windows are pushed out to reveal the picturesque landscape below now expanding to embrace the once mighty Ohio River whirling along the edges of Wheeling Island, and even beyond the western banks of the state of Ohio, a visual and spiritual welcoming includes a gorgeous panorama at dusk, a stunning canvas of color, old architecture, and future promise of a mid-America character still the home of the brave and strength of our nation.

Chuck says he's posting only a teaser; doesn't want to spoil the first impressions of all those curious slammers and slackers who pass muster and make it past security into he and his partner Raj predicts will be a seething house of sights and sound worthy of a space where such country music greats as Johnny Cash and Wilma Lee Cooper liked to once gather for a song and a beer.

Breaking news: The following statement will run the course along the top edge above the painting on the wailing wall at Yesterday's Draught House & Stage in Wheeling:

“As a cull poet and loner among the lonesome, I am now determined to speak for myself, to speak from every speck of my ignorance, to speak from whatever’s left of my virtue in the wisdom that I must shoulder my own perspective, or else I die without individuality, landscape, or divisibility by zero (the latter a latter day expense of extinction), a mere sad crack in the sidewalk of battles beneath the cold shadows of others who knew not me in my struggles, but only themselves in theirs.”

True sneak preview. Many of Chuck's close friends have already eyeballed the wall in progress and frankly, response has been overwhelmingly positive. Are they all liars? You be the judge. If any of you out to lunch friends of mine buckle to the highway jones, why don't you swing by and check out the black palace called Yesterday's. Opening soon, very soon...

Just sign me,


Ex-patriate of WDC
(the city that NEVER
speaks the truth,
by it)

Liberty Wheeling

06 Apr


Wheeling Suspension Bridge


After a month and several big AND small truckloads back and forth from DC, I'm finally nested here in my new "art studio" in Wheeling. Can you believe that parking in a Wheeling city lot at the end of my block only costs $1/month?

Compare that to $300/month to rent an outdoor space at my condominium in Washington, WHEN one is available, which isn't often. All roads I now figure lead to Wheeling, even the proverbial strait and narrow one apparently, if all these churches and ecumenical billboards populating hill and dale are any indication, although frankly the only straight & narrow road I've seen since I got here to the Mountaineer State is the short narrow stretch of I-70 running through the Wheeling Tunnel.

The studio sports a wonderful sun porch panorama of the historic Ohio River at the rear of the apartment with nothing between my eyes and the river but a blacktopped bike path and a couple of modest trees that will probably block my view once nature goes for the annual green once again. And the I-70 Bridge with its continuous clout of eighteen wheelers grinding to the gears of American ego can be seen just a few hundred feet south. Aiming to get the word out that I am here and ready for action, I've been working the past few days on the STEEL & GRISTLE website, my "What the Flummox Am I Doing in Wheeling, WV" calling card, so to speak, but I'm obnoxious, and in the mood to take brush to canvas again. Stalled since quitting in January to prepare for the February show at MOCA DC and the subsequent quest for new space, only the April lions of interesting architecture from a bygone era can fathom what pose the paint will strike next.

Another dead space in this vast here I am, a risky fighter to the last drop of blood in these cholesterol paced veins. The lion roars until the end. Listening to KMFDM's World War III on the radio. My painting calls from the studio, a door beyond the room with no ears, and yet I am just such a stalwart to refuse to quit the word when she squats to the scarlet carpet in search of a nickel song. We've both had enough changes in our lifetimes, we feel ready to pine for posterity now, until we recall how boring, how quickly and decisively boring that would be. Like eating toast on one's deathbed.


Neighborhood Drama, Training Wheels & Street Dynasties

08 May


Boss Man Blues


Date: 08 May 99 12:55:00 -0400
From: Sue Hedrick

Well, Chris & Byron worked for an hour, then Chris rings the doorbell and says Byron has to work somewhere else today so he can be paid today, that he didn't understand he would be paid by the week. Byron says no, that being paid by the week is fine, but he needed some money today, so he contracted somewhere else to work this afternoon. I said to Byron would he be here in the morning, & he said yes & he understood he would not be paid tomorrow. Then it really looked like imminent rain, so Chris & Byron cleaned up. Chris said he would leave the paint & brushes there on the front porch so he could start early tomorrow morning without disturbing us. They put the big ladder back on the fence and washed the brushes.

Chris rang the doorbell again, and said Byron said he would like his hourly wage now, and I said to Chris, how much is Gabriel paying Byron. Chris said $8 so I gave Byron his $8 for one hour. They leave and a few minutes later Chris comes back and says he will get someone else to help him tomorrow, and that Byron was not a good worker, that he went off down the road and came back & had another job. Chris said if Byron shows up tomorrow, we should tell him we got someone else. I said I would let Gabriel handle it.

I think Chris had some argument with Byron and just doesn't want to work with him.

Anyway, I am going out now & I wanted you to know what happened and where everything stands. I will call you later.


Sorry sweetie, that you were forced to "go native" today. You and I both know that Chris is next to nothing but harmless, especially to us. We've known him for over a decade now, and since that rather ugly beginning he has nothing but the highest regard within his somewhat limited powers for us. Navigating the world of Chris Titus is complicated business, an excruciating maze punctuated by petty weights and half measures, hurry ups and waiting times, fleeting experiments with truth that usually crumble like the lad himself as he works through his three primary goals. One is to defend us against the unrest of any the indigenous population, and the second is to assert his own favored position within the more troubling element. The third is when one on one, and there is something we do for him, like hire him to cut our five minute lawn so we can give him five dollars, he must show his independence by refusing to show up at the appointed time so that he feels he is in control of his own time, infuriating at the moment of impact but funny when taken as a personal trait so predictable that it's non-negotiable but damned near bankable. It's a subtle dance of two cultures clashing, not in spite but in deference to distinction, to markings, of momentum, of control. Unfortunately, that's just how it is, this plight facing our two races when we find each other deep in the neighborhood of the other, roles reversed but similar, and subject to the laws of continuity.

He actually told me I was the only person who came to see him there. I didn’t question him, but how could not his mother with whom he lived, or his cousin Bembo, well, they were often out of sorts with each other, and what about all those other people who lived in the same house, nobody? But…there was no point in me digging holes in his front yard on this issue or any issue because I didn't even know exactly where in the neighborhood he lived after all these years—just down the street somewhere in disguises and the bounce.
Battles which begin and end beyond each of us but are consumed with intrigue, battles to be won or lost, or pushed on down the road until the next time. Remember when Reggie ripped off my camera, my $500 Nikon at my birthday party after we'd invited him in to share in the festivities, no less.

Relying on Chris for inside intelligence puts him a particularly unenviable position, but he usually tells me the truth when pressed. Of course, I've had to exert my own school of hard knocks mojo over the years to earn this confidence. In his words, I'm his nigger, but don't say to him when he says he wants to join our softball Sundays, "Okay Chris, make sure you and your boys make it to the field Sunday at noon." He howled as soon as boys of summer left my mouth. Stunned, not by my own usage of a harmless figure of speech, but upon recognizing how deep race-baiting political correctness reaches into the vocabulary, and it took me a second, maybe two to even comprehend the playful enough reaction. I then quickly took the liberty of schooling him about the Boys of Summer, a traditional reference to baseball, and the men who play it. And just as quickly, that was that. But who's kidding whom, it's not like Chris is some PC fiend, or even a vociferous agitant...

No idea exactly how old Chris is, maybe 30-35? No spring chicken anymore. Beaten down by his own earlier poor choices from a rougher past he claims he has long left to others, the train stuck on the tracks at his station in life is hauling few passengers. He lives in a large noisy household, he escapes to the streets to survive one day at a time, so it's actually a classic snapshot of human dignity packaged in physical humor to see his lanky skeleton of a body slinking around the neighborhood just to be keeping an eye on things, as he might say.

Occasionally while we are standing around chewing the fat, he revisits the afternoon I made time with him at DC General where he was hospitalized for a highly contagious form of pneumonia. I was told by his nurse that I had to put on one of those white paper masks just to be allowed to duck into his private room for a few minutes. I stayed about a half hour. He was in pretty good shape, laughing and talking in his normal slow drawl in what was the middle of a two week stay. Need to find that polaroid I snapped of the three of us that day. Chris, myself, in mask. He actually told me I was the only person who came to see him there. I didn’t question him, but how could not his mother with whom he lived, or his cousin Bembo, well, they were often out of sorts with each other, and what about all those other people who lived in the same house, nobody? But—there was no point in me digging holes in his front yard on this issue or any issue because I didn't even know exactly where in the neighborhood he lived after all these years—just down the street somewhere in disguises and the bounce.

But these welfare divas could be heard screaming at U a full block away trying to get their point across. Problem was—they didn’t speak English either. I know I could barely make out half of what I heard being barked into U's plastic cage over the years, and I spoke in a rather thick unrecognizable crayon myself at times. It’s no slur to tell you some of these pistol-whipped, baby-toting, spam talking shoppers were thick in crayon…
Of course I would ask. In the beginning his responses were vague. Later they got a little more specific but never as easy as an exact address, something that I could remember. In a neighborhood of same-colored similarly designed row houses from the 1940s running west to east, north to south, well, you get the picture. Then at some point Chris Titus is rumored to have moved. I've moved (and relocated the precious things I keep close) often in my life, but never just a few doors down like he did, imagine how strange that must feel, or to the next adjacent street like big chested Angie did, and rarely even in the same zip code that Furious Big George with the huge stature and wonderful bass singing voice did—periodically—since the DC Jail tanked a few acres a stone's throw south of the nearby hospital grounds, and Big George liked to get drunk and throw his weight around, fire guns, slap his women around, and generally live poorly, but man, when we first moved to Eighteenth Street, we would hear this booming but sorrowful voice in the black night riffing through the back alley, a voice as powerful to our ears as what we remembered as Paul Robeson's gift to the B/W movies of the 1950s, a voice from the row of breeze-riddled trees along the punished and cracking alley but we could never to a face to the voice until we met the big man under the light of day a year or so later, under different circumstances, circumstances disguised as a man, as a stranger wanting to borrow two dollars to buy himself another forty while already standing in line to talk to Mister U. That is his correctly spelled surname. Vietnamese. Thai. Never pinned that down. But the bullet-proofed plexi-glassed cage at his bodega where we bought our six packs of Black Label did a whopping business. In DC entire stores are behind plastic. The vendor grabs the items from the shelves or refrigeration room, tallies the tab, asks for the money via a bullet-proof package passage, and once that is complete, he passes the bag or bags of merchandise through. Alcohol sales has to be his biggest seller, but lots of poor people with no immediately convenient mode of transportation will waste any dollars they've got at corner convenience stores. That's why this generation of immigrant shopkeepers risk their lives every day to buy and operate these death traps in neighborhoods like these. It's a living. Perhaps it's mildly lucrative. But no match for gun wonks looking for an easy score.

Mister U barely spoke English. He understood what he needed to understand, but don't try to engage him beyond what the tax man considers valuable assets, and he is offering to sell you. But these welfare divas could be heard screaming at U a full block away trying to get their point across. Problem was—they didn't speak English either. I know I could barely make out half of what I heard being barked into U's plastic cage over the years, and I spoke in a rather thick unrecognizable crayon myself at times. It's no slur to tell you some of these pistol-whipped, baby-toting, spam talking shoppers were thick in crayon...

Two Forks In The Road

14 Jan


"Ballad of the Fork & Spoon" by G.Thy


Gabriel, hope that I answer the questions you had in mind—but the Europe trip report will have to wait—today another rush to leave by noon for Jax to catch a flight to Miami. Of course to see KK but she won't be home tonight, so we will go on to Ft. Lauderdale to see a boat David put a contract on yesterday—sight unseen. Then we will stay with Karen and Gary on Friday and maybe Sat nights.

Chip's boat that was Gary and Karen's sold that first week for $25,000. So sorry that I did not get back with that information. Don't worry, David will have other boats in and out and I'm sure one will most likely be just right for you. What price range do you have in mind?

You are right about your Granddaddy and steaks. One of my favorite memories is having steak and eggs for breakfast (any steak left over usually from Fri or Sat night splurge at the grocery store on payday). Oddly enough, I am reminded of this every time I have traveled to Europe, mainly because steak and eggs are a regular breakfast in most of the places we go, and people in Europe hold their fork and knife in the familiar way that Daddy ate—fork in the left hand, never putting the knife down from the right. In fact I will tell you about a gift I had put aside to give you in September, but the time was never just right for the occasion.  The night you came to dinner was my plan but somehow when Tina did not return to the table, it threw me off track.  It is one of two forks Daddy ALWAYS ate with, we had five smaller forks, one for each girls and Mama and two dinner size forks that we DADDY's only.  I gave Karen one last summer and always planned to give the other to you at some special moment (the way we are traveling, I should not wait for the "right" time, although Karen has been aware that the matching fork to hers is for you and would see that you get it).  I'm also giving you the extra place for Sue to use as MaaMaa's fork.

I hope you'll be pleased—after all it is only befitting that a man once named Spalding should have it (Karen's middle name is Kenan). I love you dear nephew and hope you know you were the "apple of your Granddaddy's eye " too, not to leave out that you certainly were the darling of MaaMaa! There were never any spoons or knives to "match" these forks by the way, just odd pieces that were always there ever since I can remember. Mardis may have given them to Mama and Daddy. One thing Evey was always known for is been generous with strings attached!  Well I do request one small favor—that one day you or Sue see to it that Daddy's big fork along with the token of Mama get to another of the clan with one of his names, named for him.  Thanks, and forgive me for asking because I think that you and Sue would do that anywayMuch love to you, David is here now so I must leave with this unfinished letter.

Laurie's book, I can't wait! I tried to buy a painting of John's through Peggy, told her I'd spend $300-$500 sight unseen at his or her choice but I never got anything or even a response from your brother John.

Love to you my sweet,


Thurs. January 14, 1999

Back Then Even The Agassi Foundation Wasn't Untouchable

06 Apr


Making Curtains


Date: Mon Apr 6, 1998 6:56:21 PM America/New_York

Greetings Rick!

Sorry to hear you still haven't gotten your new laptap Mac. The grapevine speaketh. However, what I really wanted to discuss was the possibility of doing business together.

This weekend I conducted a short Alcalde & Fay client ist Internet search. I was surprised that among the many clients I searched who do not currently support a web site, the Agassi Foundation, was one of them. The Foundation was listed among others on several sites giving thanks for donations, and some included a link to another Agassi page, which unfortunately is no longer active. However, several sites profiling the Foundation were:

* The HSA Architects, Inc. site includes two photographs of the Agassi Center For Education in Las Vegas, along with a brief description of the Center
* The Peter Max site includes a graphic depiction of the Peter Max painting and subsequent poster which were used to raise money for Andre Agassi's Grand Slam for Children
* The Genesis Art gallery site includes a graphic of a commissioned lithograph designated to support the Andre Agassi Foundation

...and a host of sports sites mention the tennis star, but there is no formal site for the Foundation or the tennis player. I might point out that many athletes and special foundations host functional web sites for many different reasons. I noticed in this past weekend's Post that Mr. Agassi is fast approaching a Top 20 ranking again, after dropping out of competitive tennis for several years. I'd like the opportunity Rick, to discuss working with you in developing a website with a strong focus in providing the public greater access to the information and the charitable work of the Foundation.

If you feel my proposal is inappropriate for this particular client, then perhaps you might have other clients who can better profit from my web design & maintenance services.


Gabriel Thy
Creative Director
Graphic Solutions Ink Systems


"Ignorance and virtue suck on the same straw. Souls grow on bones, but die beneath bankers' hours.""