Did You See That?

A 360 view of a room in the National Gallery in London

A 360 view of a room in the National Gallery in London

In a network of immediate communication and images, I find myself more often than not being reticent to share my latest meal or endeavors anywhere on the digital networks that are at our fingertips. I’ve just gotten back from traveling for three weeks with twenty Juniors from my University, to various lovely locations in France and England. Not once did I tweet or post an image or report what I was seeing or doing. I’ll own in a sense it was an act of rebellion because everyone else was. By the end our adventure 300 photos were posted on our Facebook site and students had disposed of or downloaded numerous photos to various clouds of sharing often on a daily or moment-by-moment basis.

Traveling with a group of students has its nuances. Walk down a street in Beaune France, pause to enjoy looking at something. Take out camera. Take a photo; -flash- four to six students are surrounding you, jockeying for position to photograph the same thing. I don’t know. I do like them (or I wouldn’t take these trips) and maybe this is a way I can to help them see things. And yet, I’ve seen too much vacuous photo shooting watching individuals in a somewhat gluttonous manner photograph item after item in a museum, never really looking at anything they are photographing, simply walking on once they “have” the image. I found myself grumbling in the Musee d’orsay a little over a week or so ago, “Stop and look at the damn painting….” Rather than really experiencing the object or work, it becomes an image in a digital collection that has a high likelihood of never being thoughtfully looked at again. What comes to mind is thoughts from The Shallows by Nicholas Carr; we are using digital technology to externalize our brain rather than actually knowing these actual things and internalizing them.

Yup what you're looking at is the crowd of people in front of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre.  How many folks are really looking?

Yup what you’re looking at is the crowd of people in front of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. How many folks are really looking? And are there crowds like this in front of the other DiVinci pieces just a room away?

I have a desire for the experience itself not the facsimile. I want to soak in the richness of the moment, the smells, textures, colors, ambiance and nuances, and really experience it in full for what it is. There is an element of letting a piece of artwork or landscape be an individual experience before I share it with any others, before taking a photo to hopefully be an aid to remember the more nuanced experience itself. What comes to mind is a term from the blog, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows,


  1. n. The frustration of photographing something amazing when thousands of identical photos already exist—the same sunset, the same waterfall, the same curve of a hip, the same close-up of an eye—which can turn a unique subject into something hollow and pulpy and cheap, like a mass-produced piece of furniture you happen to have assembled yourself.

I have done an exercise with my classes where I will take them somewhere where I know they have spent time looking previously, like one of the art galleries on campus. I will have three students face the rest of the class, and simply ask the three to, without turning around, tell me everything that is on the wall behind them. What I always find curious is what students remember: dramatic items, people, items that are unusual or out of the ordinary, and what they don’t remember: things that to them weren’t important to look at or for like wall plugs, subtleties or items we have learned to visually skim over.

Perhaps my hope is if more internalizing of what we look at would happen, we’d be a bit more thoughtful in what we create, and understand a bit more thoroughly what we are looking at in the first place. We can try to document everything we see, without ever really understanding any of it.

And a 360 of the room of Pre Raphaelites in the Tate in London.  Certainly lots to look at here.

And a 360 of the room of Pre Raphaelites in the Tate in London. Certainly lots to look at here.

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Contesseration at OSU

If your grabbing some food in the OSU Memorial Union Gallery check out the three person show I’m in that is coming down all too soon here.  I had the opportunity to have the space exclusively but felt it was far too big, so juried in two very good friends of mine to join me.


Here are some photos from the exhibit:

Here is a shot of the twelve paintings currently on display.

Here is a shot of the twelve paintings currently on display.  I opted for simply pure paintings to display with them and felt these works fit nicely with the work of Andries and Heidi.

And another view looking the other way.

And another view looking the other way.  If you want to get some coffee, why the shop is just on the other side of the wall.  These images have greeted students as they have started their new school year.



This gives you a shot of 2/3 of the gallery.  My work is on the left, Andries Fourie is on the right. Heidi Peterson’s work is actually in the space directly behind the camera, so is out of view.

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Submission & Revelation; Balaam

Paolo Veronese; Allegory of Love; Infidelity.

Paolo Veronese; Allegory of Love; Infidelity, 1575 oil on canvas, about 6’x6′

My initial sketch for the painting.

My initial sketch for the painting. 2013

In May of 2011 traveling abroad with students in England I was smitten. At the National Gallery in London I saw in the flesh Veronese’s Four Allegories of Love. Painted around 1575, the awkward angles, staged narratives, and stilted compositions had me at “Hello.” I picked up postcards of all four paintings and put them on my studio wall in order to stay in dialogue with them. Meanwhile in the back of my head I was thinking I wanted to move from painting singular figures of which I had been painting for the past two years or so, back to narratives. I also desired to work big again. In terms of content I have been struck over the past years by what I can only call “messy” Old Testament stories, and so I decided to try my hand at mimicking elements of Veronese’s compositions with characters such as Balaam, Jonah, and Job. Submission & Revelation (Balaam) is the largest painting I’ve created since 2001, and is simply the first painting of four, each based on a Veronese composition from The Four Allegories of Love.


Detail of the Angel Figure and Balaam.  Originally Balaam had a very different head that was then transformed into the head of a German incense smoker.


In Veronese’s painting there are two putti in the lower corner observing the scene, in mine there four characters discussing the events two of which have the gaze of the original two putti.

Submission & Revelation; Balaam, oil on wooden panel, 4'x4' May 2014

Submission & Revelation; Balaam, oil on wooden panel, 4’x4′ May 2014; Here is the painting in full.

(This paintings have been made possible by a George Fox University Faculty Development Grant.)

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The Process of Balaam

I thought I’d give you a little insight here into  the process I went through when creating a recent work “Submission & Revelation; Balaam” One of the slides is actually sideways as the painting was turned on its side while I was painting the directive hands.

I started this with a bright under-painting and then worked up the painting accordingly.

I started this with a bright under-painting and worked up the painting accordingly on that vivid base.  You’ll notice in the 6th image the donkey looks like a real donkey, by the 7th she has been transformed into her toy self. (Click the image if you would like a closer look.)

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Finding old friends: (Consistency and Hope)

Do you remember when slides, were… well, actual slides?  Pieces of transparent film sandwiched between two white crispy pieces of cardboard, or if you were willing to pay the expense, white plastic.

I’m slowly in the process of getting artwork that I did years ago that is simply in physical slide form into the electronic world.  Below are two recent imports of works into the digital age.


Hope Firmly Rooted, Watercolor on wooden panel with oil varnish, linen, found objects, brass, & wood, 32″x42″x2″, 1995.  I was playing at the time doing watercolor on a gessoed panel, and then placing an oil varnish over it. The painting then had the looks of a glazed painting. The only trick was not getting any water on the piece as you worked on it as it would almost obliterate the work you’ve done. The friend who posed for this was Paul Bridgeman the set designer for the theater program at the time at Grand Canyon University.


The Consistency of Grace, Watercolor on wooden panel with oil varnish, bronze, doll head, linen, toy rail road parts, wood, 39″x27″x3″ 1995 Collection of Billy Thrall, Phoenix Arizona.  Hard to believe these works are almost 20 years old, but this one particularly makes me smile as this dear friend Nancy who is in this painting is still very much a part of my life.  Why I just received a book from her for my birthday.  Perhaps the Consistency of Grace is the friendship that she has given me over the years! A blessing indeed.

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Best of Show

A detail of "Best of Show" -photos courtesy Benjamin Holtrop

A detail of Best of Show.  What you are looking at are some Brean Bible memory cards created around 1918, some photos from around the same time, all along side a ribbon I won around 1978 at my grade school in Arizona. (Photos courtesy Benjamin Holtrop)

When Catherine Alexander, the director of the Bush Barn Art Center in Salem, asked me to be a part of Curios and Curiosities I felt I was invited to surrender to the process of art making.  I am by nature a planner with my work, more often than not doing a variety of sketches before ever beginning something, I know in my head generally what I want a work to look like way before I begin.  This time I worked differently, I simply looked at the materials I had at hand; the piles of objects, figures, detritus and Tupperware boxes full of assemblage materials, scraps, memorabilia and fabric and I let them talk to me.  I looked at what I had at hand and followed where it where it wanted to go.  The objects were the words that would create sentences, paragraphs and statements and I found they had much to say once they all got together.

"Best of Show" 24"x16"x3" Mixed media Assemblage

Best of Show  24″x16″x3″ Mixed media Assemblage (click to see a bigger image of it)

Often I create assembled figures and then use them as models for my paintings.  These figures more often than not sit on a shelf in the studio or get stuffed in a container to be forgotten or recycled years latter.  Best of Show began by placing in an old wooden box what was left of three of these figures.  At the same time, I found a ceramic rabbit and hound that never really had a home.  I had created these three to four years ago doing a demonstration in a sculpture class.  Those five characters were the sparks that began the work. They were gussied up, and I began finding a number of other materials that I had for years, including ribbons I won in the 70’s in grade school.  These too seemed to desire to join the piece. The pictures and memorabilia I conglomerated together on the walls of the work, reminded me of the studios of many artists I’ve seen like myself who have a spectrum of imagery of influence and interest taped or tacked in their studio.  All these things come together in one place to create a curious narrative of their own.

This figure has been a model for many works.  Here he is shot through with light, as the glass rods that are

This figure has been a model for many works. Here he is shot through with light, as the glass rods that are going through the back of the piece, are also the very thing that attaches him to the box.

This character was done for a painting called "Brothers" that was created over ten years ago.  I felt he needed a new hat/hairdoo for the piece.  He hadn't been out in a while.

This character was done for a painting called Brothers that was created over ten years ago. I felt he needed a new hat/hairdoo for the piece. He hadn’t been out in a while.

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Curios & Curiosities

I’ve been plugging away on three pieces that will be exhibited down in Salem in January (I’ll show them to you soon here I promise).  Below is the announcement for the show.  I’m very excited that two of my students Ben and Yixuan have had their work chosen to be a part of the exhibit as well. It’s going to be a pretty wonderful show. Besides interesting art I know the curator Catherine is getting a number of taxidermied animals loaned from Mt. Angel Abbey including a six legged stuffed calf (I’ve seen it, it’s down right scary).  If you’re in the neighborhood drop by for the reception January 17th, or get to show while its up through February 22nd.  Curiouser… and curiouser… indeed.

Curios-Curiosities Ecard 2014(v2) copy-1 copy

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