Division

Separated, divided, yet always a part of one whole….latest piece

Division, 36x48 acrylic on canvas 2010

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Happiness

I have heard a lot of discussion recently about happiness:  Pursuing it,  how others find it, capitalizing on it in the gargantuan self-help industry. Defining it is subjective.    

Is it overrated? Can we settle for “it is what it is” and be done with it?  Is happiness like a drug – a fleeting flush of endorphins we hope to get again and again?   

Dumpster Flowers 3 - Marsha Mogowski

I am reminded of Thomas Hobbes’ claim that life in nature is “…solitary, nasty, brutish and short.”    

In nature, everything struggles to survive.   All living things must force their way in survival or perish.  A seedling pushes through rock and soil in a struggle to find warmth and sunshine.  It then competes with other plant life for sun space.  Competition, or as Hobbes calls it a “war of all against all” is the result.   Organizing ourselves with social contracts provides shelter from the war in nature.  So, by organizing into societies, we have provided ourselves with a bit of breathing room to pursue happiness.  Happiness is a byproduct.  Yet, we have taken ourselves outside of nature.    

I wonder… is our increased societal organization really offering us more opportunity for happiness?

Being Connected

It is an amazing study of human nature – our internet.

We build pseudo relationships all over the place.  We sit in our private spaces (bedrooms, basements, kitchens, whatever) and carry on conversations with the world and ourselves.  We feel secure in knowing that others are out there. 

We see what others are thinking.  That is the key.  We can be social without ever seeing another human being.  In this, we satisfy a need to be connected.

We are all familiar with John Dunne’s meditation written in 1623:

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
it tolls for thee.

I feel like I belong to an ant colony.

For me, art is a reflection of this social connectedness.  My work has substance only when it is collaborative.  It becomes something essential of the commissioner and the space into which it is placed.  These are my inspirations.

Represent Abstractly – When Is it finished?

I recently finished a piece commissioned by the James Rusnov- Nancy McCaffery team.  The challenge was to create an abstract image reminiscent of their home town, Cleveland, Ohio.   I chose to express the industrial feeling derived from the railroad tracks and iconic Huletts (massive ore-unloading devices).  To represent by-gone elements of the city, I used the gritty rust of the century old ore industry enhanced with a “Pollock-esque” technique to reflect the steel industry. It felt right to me. 

Working on this painting brought to the forefront the inevitable angst that cries out, “Is it finished?”  I would like to explore this sensation and invite others to share their own experience of determining when a piece is finished.  

 Click on the image to enlarge – see textures

Rusted Tracks 2009- mixed media on canvas - private collection McCaffry-Rusnov

Rusted Tracks 2009- mixed media on canvas - private collection McCaffery-Rusnov

Who Thinks Stimulus dollars to National Endowment for the Arts is Pork?

It has come to my attention that some of our fellow human beings believe that Art and the  Humanities are not worth stimulus dollars.  I would like to know what you think.

When an artist says something meaningful, the art becomes valuable.  Sometimes I think having less lets one see more.  It is liberating.    Those who make money buy art.  Those who make the art are rich in a realm the monetarily wealthy will never know.  So, I ask you, does it matter that the stimulus package excludes the Arts? 

Those who are educated in Fine Arts, Liberal Arts and Humanities must continue critical thinking and communication.  It cannot be about money.  It must be about putting our species in a place where we can survive our greedy selves.  Say it with meaning!

Bill Miller Warms the Soul

I am delighted to have come across the work of Bill Miller.  Bill Miller creates images made from recycled linoleum and vinyl flooring cut into pieces and thoughtfully put together into rich, warm, folksy, provocative and emotional works of art.   

His subject matter ranges from John and Yoko’s “bed-in” to the Cleveland Zoo, a portrait of Abe Lincoln and bucolic landscapes.   One can feel a soul in these images, a personal connection, some how.   The worn but colorful mosaic of flooring pieces seem to hold a sort of presence, a “je ne sais quoi”. 

There is something more.  I cannot help but to be reminded of  Paul Cezanne paintings.  I’ve put a few together for comparison.  See for yourself:  

Miller's Sweenyburg Farm 2006 & Cezanne's Monte Sainte Victoire 1900

Miller's Sweenyburg Farm 2006 & Cezanne's Monte Sainte Victoire 1900

  

Another example:
Miller's Abraham Lincoln 2008 & Cezanne's Portrait du Pere de l'Artiste 1866

Miller's Abraham Lincoln 2008 & Cezanne's Portrait du Pere de l'Artiste 1866

Visit Bill Miller’s site for more amazing pieces:  http://www.billmillerart.com/exhibitions.html
I have always believed that objects hold some of the energy of the owner long after the object is no longer in the owner’s possession.  I wonder if some of the essence of Bill Miller’s work comes from those who tread the worn out linoleum.  It could be that your footsteps have been immortalized in one of his pieces.  We’ll never know for sure, but I think we can sense it.