subjects of personal interest

Monday, June 11, 2012

My Favorite Paintings in the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art

in some ways I wish this was me... boating with a friend.

I love the painting galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
I've been to the museum on a number of occasions over the past few years with different missions, but it is always the paintings that move me to want to create, to record the simple vanity of life.
The bottom line is that it's all pretty pointless- this painting of canvases thing.

We have cameras that capture frames of reality much more distinctly.
I love photography. Really, I do- I even have a Flickr site that no one visits but me.
Photography is arguably a lot more "fun" than painting.

Painting is hard work. Long hours alone in the studio (or wherever) staring at canvases in various stages of completion, trying to figure out how to make it convey the intended experience.
Painting,.... repainting.
Going cross-eyed with proportions and composition.
I don't think many people really care about paintings.
We live in a media-saturated culture.
What's another image?

Typical conversation:
"Oh, you painted that?"
"Yeah. I've been working on it for a while...finally finished it."
"It's nice..."
"What do you like about it?"
"Um, it's pretty. The colors are nice. Do you have others?
 (heard: ....I'm bored with this.. do you have another painting?  Quick!...entertain me...before I have to think about the whys and whats of your work..)"
"Yeah. I have lots more...
(but you would probably find them boring too..)"

I'm tired of boring people who want to be entertained.
They are... boring... and I don't have time to be bored.
I don't know if I've ever been bored for longer than the time it takes to think of something.
I have probably a couple hundred unfinished projects going on all round me.
Pretty much no one cares about any of them but me, but I'm definitely not bored.

My life is one un-boring, unfinished project that I happen to be right smack-dab in the middle of.

Well.... I wish I could say that I have an original thought or some great vision.
I don't...right now... just give me another minute and when one comes it'll be scribbled on a blue post-it and then it can join the medley of ideas stuck all over my walls..... Names, and themes, lines of verse, rough sketches of composition, to-do lists, and business ideas. Whatever.
I'm a pretty lame duck really. I've given some great ideas away to businessmen who in one way or another promised returns on the ideas, which have yet to arrive. Tons of slogans, logos, images, random verses, and creative ideas are always drifting across the fertile lands of my brain. Every once in a while I try to tame them and put them to work. Sometimes they're just sketched on napkins and left for the busboy.
Many of my clients have been honorable and financed their ambitions in the art department generously.
To them, I extend my appreciation. You know who you are. May it continue to go well for you!
I guess if securing bread for the day was a bit easier I'd be much more productive with my art;
but there's more to it than that. 

Like I said before, it's all vanity, and I didn't even figure that out myself-
I learned it in the Bible, in one of the most insightful books ever, Ecclesiastes.
If you never read it, now is a good time. It won't take long; it's a short book in the middle of the Bible.
So basically, today, I feel like saying, "I give up."
No one but God really cares.
I, too, should read Ecclesiastes. I would feel better.
We are all just a beautiful mess of dust and I'm tired.

You probably are reading this because for whatever reason, you like my paintings.
So, with true sincerity, I thank you for caring enough to read some of my stream of consciousness;
the same sort of pathetic drivel I usually skim-read on other blogs, and generally strictly avoid.
I'm having a weak moment.  What follows is an exercise in art therapy.
Yup. Now I can claim "quack-psychotherapist" on my resume.
Some folks pay good money to soothe their souls with this stuff.
For you, my dear, loyal reader, I provide it free of charge.

This is a selection of my favorite paintings found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
This post has been a work in progress. I've been putting it together slowly for about 5 months now.

I've tried to include links to the Met museum website so you can see high quality images and learn the background information on each piece.

We'll start with my favorite painting in the world:
"Wheatfield with Cypresses" - Vincent Van Gogh 1889

"Cypresses"  - Vincent Van Gogh -   1889   36.75 x 29.125 in.

"Regatta at Saint-Adress" - Claude Monet   1867    29.625 x 40 in.

"Boating" - Edouard Manet  1874    38.25 x 51.25 in.

 "View of Vetheuil" - Claude Monet   1880    31.5 x 23.75 in.

"Garden of Vaucresson" - Edouard Vuillard 1920 59 1/2 x 43 5/8

"Young Ladies of the Village" - Gustav Courbet  1852  76.75 x 102.75

"The Gulf of Marseilles Seen from L'Estaque" - Paul Cezanne   1885    28.75 x 39.5

Red Sunset on the Dhiaper- Arkhip Kuindzhi

sorry about the reflection on this one.."East River from the Shelton Hotel" - Georgia O'Keeffe  1928    12 x 32 in.

"Golden Gate" - Charles Sheeler 1955

"The Rocky Mountains" - Albert Bierstadt   1863   73.5 x 120.75 in.

"Soap Bubbles" - Thomas Couture - 1859  51.5 x 38.625

"Princesse de Broglie" Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres   1851-53   47.75 x 35.75 in.

"William Fraser of Reelig" - Sir Henry Raeburn  1801   29.5 x 24.5 in.

"Banks of the Loing"  William Lamb Picknell   c.1894-97   58.25 x 83 in.

"Oak Tree" - Wolfgang Adam Topffer   12.25 x 9.75 in.

"The Weeders" - Jules Breton   1868    28.125 x 50.25 in.

"Vetheuil in Summer" - Claude Monet
"The Eruption of Vesuvius" Johan Christian Dahl

"leogar" - Modrian
"Spectrum" - Ellsworth Kelly

Joan of Arc" - Jules Bastian-Lopage 1879

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Netsilik Eskimo Series- documentaries by Quentin Brown

The Netsilik Eskimo Series of documentaries (1967), directed by Quentin Brown,
are, in my opinion, the best documentary films ever created.
There is no polical message here, no clever marketing scheme, no depressing account of the world's ecological demise- just an endearing family of Netsilik Eskimos going through their daily routines.
I originally saw some of this series when I was at 18 in an anthropology course.
It was a life-changing experience for me.

These beautifully-simple films bring a completely foreign, but totally real, culture to life.
The films documented the daily survival of the family in the Far-North, over the course of a year. They take us, as the viewers, through the annual migration of the Netsilik people. A people who, up until the mid 1900's, lived like this with hardly any knowledge of the rest of modern people. With only a few metal tools, this family survives the year living in the traditional manner, traveling to the food sources available depending upon the time of year.

I would say these have been some of the most enlightening films I have ever viewed. Life may have a lot of difficulties in our current human condition of imperfection, however, very little with regard to possessions is required to live. These films help to remind me that, with a simple lifestyle and a supportive family, everything will be fine. The Netsilik family work hard at the tasks at hand and make it through each day- one day at a time. They seem to enjoy the daily activities and the company of each other.

These are not action films... They are slow-paced; it's like spending the day, the year, with a family from the far north as an invisible viewer.
One thing that really appeals to me is that no soundtrack was added to distract from the natural sounds of their environment and activity.
It is a documentary series of films in the purest and most beautiful form; a piece of media masterpiece that helps me to stay human.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

There are many more of these short films in the Netsilik Eskimo Series. Unfortunately the price to own them on DVD is ridiculous ($650+) or else I would definitely own a copy. Nevertheless, I'm happy to be able to put this short playlist in order thanks to the website which had made all of these available to embed here on my blog. You can visit the NFB website to view other cultural anthropology films.

I have attempted to facilitate viewing the series by arranging the links into chronological order so that you can enjoy learning about this culture without too much distraction.
If you know of a method to include more of these Netsilik Eskimo videos on this page, please leave a comment and let me know. Thanks. Enjoy!

1967 (31 minutes 56 seconds) In this short documentary about the Netsilik Inuit, more wildlife returns as winter draws to an end. The family is now living in a karmak. The man chips a hole on the lake ice and jigs the line to attract the fish. His wife joins him, and both remain at the hole through a severe blizzard.

1967 (26 minutes 40 seconds) Inuit families travel across the sea ice. Before night falls, they build igloos. A boy practices throwing his spear at a figure he has made in the snow. A woman crimps the sole of a sealskin boot she is making.

1967 (26 minutes 36 seconds) Men hunt seal through the sea ice. A hunter strikes, and takes his catch home to skin. A polar bear skin is pegged out to dry, and people nibble on raw fish from the cache.

1967 (26 minutes 35 seconds) A hunter, travelling alone with sled and dogs, snares and kills a squirrel. In camp, a sled is made from a polar bear skin. The family breaks camp, and moves ashore for the summer.



1967 (34 minutes 15 seconds) It is late June and much of the land is bare. There is plenty of activity in the camp as a man fashions a bow from bone and sinews while the children play. The following day the men move out on the sea ice to look for seal pups.

1967 (27 minutes 56 seconds) The men are out on the sea ice and the women work at tasks at the camp, such as drying out the sealskins, cooking sea gulls, gathering moss as fuel. Everyone ends up playing a juggling game.

1967 (33 minutes) The men are out on the ice catching seals and relishing their liver and blood. Upon their return, the women cut away the blubber from the meat and everyone sits down to eat.

1967 (30 minutes 20 seconds) It is the height of summer. The skin tents are up, and it is time to fish. The men go into the river to form enclosures to trap fish. Once trapped, they are speared with three-pronged leisters. A woman cleans the catch, which has been strung on a thong. Everyone enjoys bits of raw fish.

1967 (26 minutes 54 seconds) The summer fishing continues. The plentiful catch is stored in stone caches after the women have cleaned it. Some of the fish is cooked in a stone pot.

1967 length: 32 minutes 20 seconds An Inuit depicts the initial steps in the construction of a kayak. The run-off is in full flow and it is time for the Inuit to build a watercraft. The whole family is involved in shaping this invaluable tool.

1967 length: 32 minutes 46 seconds

1967 (30 minutes 17 seconds) The time is early autumn, the place an Inuit camp in the Pelly Bay region of the Canadian Arctic. A woman, a boy and two men are shown occupied with their various activities. A woman works on caribou skins. Men return from the hunt with another caribou. A boy picks berries and then plays at being a hunter.

1967 (29 minutes 27 seconds)  Two men join the four people at camp. The men build a row of inukshuit, manlike figures which they use to deflect the oncoming caribou into the water, where they are subsequently speared and floated ashore. A great feast follows.

1967 (26 minutes 18 seconds) It is late autumn. The Inuit move to the river valley where they build karmaks--shelters with snow walls and roofs of skins. The men fish with spears and their catch is cooked over an exterior fire. The family then eats inside the karmaks.

1967 (33 minutes 6 seconds) The family moves once again, this time into an igloo built by the men. A sleigh is constructed from skins, frozen fish and caribou antlers. When ready, it is loaded and the family heads down the river to the coast.

1967 (35 minutes 42 seconds) The Inuit family stop their trek and make camp. It is late winter when the cold is severe. The men cut blocks for an igloo while the women shovel the site. During the day, the men sit patiently on the ice, waiting for seals.

1967 (36 minutes 16 seconds) Life at the campsite. Children amuse themselves with makeshift toys. Women tend their children, make clothes, and repair the igloos. When the men return with their catch, everyone goes inside where work, story-telling and games occupy each one's time.

1967 (30 minutes 14 seconds) Work begins on a spacious community igloo. When the men return to their hunt, the women continue with their work and play games with the children. A seal is dragged into the igloo to be shared by everyone, including the dogs, who are called in to clean up.

1967 (34 minutes 40 seconds) The life of the community inside the igloo. A stone chip is removed from a woman's eye. Men and women gamble at spear-the-peg game. The day ends with a drum performance. The next day the big igloo is deserted and the Inuit are again trekking over the broad expanse of sea ice.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


a totally dated 80's girl - Patrick Nagel

Is this timeless art?
It's awesome 80's pop art that's for sure; but it basically screams its era its so dated.
So why write about this in my blog? Keep reading...

I had a great conversation with my friend Brian at an art gallery the other day.
It was about about "timelessness" and how paintings become dated by fashion.
The subject was a beautiful woman in a distinctively 80s ladies' suit (not the illustration pictured above.)
Even though I couldn't stand the lady's garb, it was a beautiful painting. 

I decided, right there and then, that I no longer care when subject matter and composition date a painting. My lack of appreciation for this lady's sense of fashion, at that time in her life, is really irrelevant to the painting. The painting is about her, not me.
The painting is her story and time marches on.

If people had forever, they might be less inclined to spend so much time
capturing moments with cameras and brushes.
That would be timelessness.
For now- we're all dated.
Art reflects that.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

-the conundrum of art- poetry by dkeil

-the conundrum of art-
by Doug Keil

What do you call a collection of colors and spaces,
by ways and places as divergent
as the products of humanity?

What do you call the creative processes
of reflection and reaction,
the call and response of mind and matter,
the bridges of intentions that effect communication-
often unhindered by time and culture-
from long ago to today,
from the heat of jungles
to the vast white seas of ice,
(and everywhere in between?)

History has heard many words
     voiced in attempt to define
the creative methods of human expression;
     the finest word of all being “art.”