Monday, March 4, 2019

Oldie But Goodie: Molding Watermelon

Molding Watermelon
oil paint on canvas
24" x 24"

Thursday, February 28, 2019

My Health: Breathing, Eyeballs and Art

As much fun as this last year has been with building a new studio, trips, lining up several exhibits, and making a lot of art, I have been battling some health issues. I have had sinus problems and a cough for the past year that I think is due to living in close proximity to my art space. I paint with oil paints and the fumes of the paint and the mineral spirits make their way into my living space. I didn't realize it at the time, but almost immediately when I moved upstairs to live (I started renting out my downstairs), I started having sinus and coughing problems. I began to suspect my studio this past fall. Once I had the new studio space completed enough to move all the toxic materials, I did. In the last several weeks my cough and sinuses have begun to clear. I still have a cough and sinus problems and predict it will take months to completely heal. But I feel like I am on my way.

The new studio has an exhaust fan for removing the fumes. I am also letting my paint rags dry outside instead of sitting on my paint stand until they dry. I feel much better about the new space, especially in terms of my health. Hopefully, some of these issues are behind me. My family has many members who have lived into their late 80's and into their 90's. My hope is to set myself up to paint for another 30 years. Ironically, it was while I was improving my health that my next health issue popped up.

I joined a gym and started working with a trainer to improve my strength, flexibility and general health (along with my tennis game). One day after working with the trainer and pushing to new limits with weights I tore the retina in my right eye. The tear crossed a blood vessel and I had some bleeding in my eye. The doctor said it was probably only a drop but, boy, can one drop of blood cloud up your vision!

Of course, the incident happened on a Saturday morning and I couldn't see a doctor until Monday. The doctor examined my eyes and informed me of what happened to my right eye and that he would have to operate on my retina the next day. It would be laser surgery to, basically, spot-weld my retina so it wouldn't tear anymore. The procedure takes about ten minutes. While he was in there he was also going to strengthen some "lattice weakening" that could lead to some more retina tearing later. I went home and rested my eye until the next day when my sister picked me up to go to the hospital for the procedure. As crazy as all this sounds, the doctor said I didn't need someone to drive me. My eyesight would be fine right after the operation and there would be no drugs. I still asked my sister to take me.
For fun, I found eight different times I had drawn or painted my right eye over the years.

I went the next morning for laser surgery on my right eye. The nurse was very friendly and pleasant. She dilated my eye while asking me a lot of questions. My blood pressure was a little high, understandably. When my eye was dilated enough, a nurse escorted me to a room that looked like a normal eye-examining room. Instead of the usual machine that doctors examine your eyes with, there was a slightly different machine. The doctor had me put my chin in the chin rest and lean my head against the forehead rest. He attached a large lens to my eye that kept my lids from closing and connected to the laser. He looked around in my eyeball to find the problem areas and then began zapping his welds into place. With each pulse of the laser there was a green flash of light. When he was really in a groove, the constant flashing of green light caused me to see the veins inside my eye as an after-image. A bit freaky, but cool. There was some discomfort, but not much. While in there, the doctor found another small tear and spot-welded that one, too. He looked around some more, didn't find anything else that needed to be secured and was done. He removed the lens from my eye and he led me to a room where the nurse would do a final check with me before I was released.

I was glad to have my sister there because I could see nothing out of my right eye. It was so dilated and dealing with the trauma of such intense light and lasers that everything was a blur. I could have driven home with one eye closed, but was very happy to let someone else do that for me. Once home, I ate a sandwich we picked up on the way home and then took a nap. When I woke up my eye was still dilated but I was starting to see a little better out of that eye. The worst of it is that the outside of my eye got scratched a little from the large lens. But that should be better after a good nights sleep.

In a day my vision should be back to normal and then I have about 6 - 8 weeks of not lifting really heavy things or doing anything that could inappropriately jostle my retina while the scars form properly. I trust the next several weeks will go by without any problems. I'm sure I will feel fine... until I get the bill.

 UPDATE: Its been 3 weeks since my eye surgery.  I still have days where there are a lot of floaters in my eye, but I would say my eye is about 90% and getting better everyday. Sometimes, in the dark, I see dull flashes of light where my retina was torn, but not like when it was torn. This is similar to dull flashes that I saw after I had Lasik surgery ten years ago. My eye is usually tired by the end of the day, but I can tell it is getting better. As for my coughing, it is still getting better and I had two great days in a row but, of course, the third day sucked. It comes and goes as it seems to steadily improve.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Abstract Landscape 3

Abstract Landscape 3
Oil paint on canvas
48" x 48"

Now available at my website

Friday, February 22, 2019

Current and Upcoming Exhibits

New Landscapes April 12 - July 9, 2019
Westfields Hospital & Clinic, New Richmond, WI

Come see my large scale landscapes in person, instead of on a small screen. My abstracted paintings of the Northern Minnesota landscape will be on display.

Healing Landscapes

July 17 - October 6, 2019

Hudson Hospital & Clinic, Hudson, WI

Some of my landscape paintings from the previous show plus some new paintings exploring the healing nature of the rhythms of the Northern Minnesota landscape.

August 15 - September 15, 2019
Hopkins Arts Center, Hopkins, MN

I am very excited about exhibiting at this venue. The work that will be exhibited are from my food paintings: Obsessions and Sinkside Compost Series. Hopkins has made a great commitment to the arts, even redesigning their downtown to emphasize the arts. Very happy to be exhibiting in such an art-friendly town.

Untitled Exhibit  
Last week of August - TBD
International Falls, MN

The details of this exhibit are still coming together. This exhibit is part of an exhibit/performance that is being coordinated by singer Prudence Johnson in conjunction with the Ernest C. Oberholtzer Foundation.
Landscapes January 17 - February 23, 2020
The Phipps Center for the Arts, Hudson, WI

It will be interesting to see what develops in my landscapes over this coming year. I am hoping with all the exhibits and feedback that my work will blossom into something even more powerful and expressive. Stay tuned for details about an opening.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Abstract Landscape 2

Abstract Landscape 2
Oil Paint on Canvas
48" x 48"

My large landscapes are becoming more abstract. In the spirit of Arthur Dove and Charles Burchfield, I feel nature expresses something deeper about humans and is a far more complex entity than we generally allow ourselves to experience. My recent landscapes are an attempt to provide insight into my experience of nature and, therefore, I am straddling a line between pure abstract and representation. I believe that it is the very pattern of water, which is expressed through water's physical qualities, that connects with a deeper rhythm within humans. Physical qualities of water, rocks, plants and sky are the results of processes that are common to our own physical and intellectual development. This is why we connect emotionally with nature. For me this is expressed best by sometimes painting a recognizable object and sometimes by painting the patterning or energy of an object.

I've recently added some more paintings to my website, check it out.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Art Trip to LA

As soon as I completed my new studio, I left for LA for a week of making and looking at art and visiting friends. The day I arrived, my friend Soobin and I attended a Life Drawing session at ArtShareLA. It was fun to draw from the figure and also have a tasty dinner at Urth Cafe.

I stayed at a great apartment a block from Echo Park. Echo Lake is in Echo Park and is very close to downtown LA. I'm not sure if Echo Lake is actually a lake, it seems more like a large urban pond. But, they are restoring habitat in the lake and there was a great variety of birds enjoying the water that was also home to turtles and fish. The last full day I was in LA a movie was being shot in the park. I started each day with a walk around the lake. 

The rest of the week in LA I went to numerous galleries and museums. I visited the Getty Center and the Getty Villa in Malibu with my friend Kellie who does conservation work their. There are amazing vistas from the Getty Center. In fact, I made a gouache painting of one of the views - see below. Its hard to see in the digital version, but there is one more mountain behind the blue one. I did spend a couple hours a day either writing or painting. I also spent several hours eating every day.
On two days I visited galleries. I spent time in Santa Monica at Bergamot Station where several galleries and a nice cafe are located. I visited these galleries with my niece (once-removed?) Megan, who lives in LA. We had a lot of fun catching up with each other and looking at art together. She likes anything with animals in it.

On another day I visited galleries in Culver City with my friend Soobin. At first I thought Culver City was going to be disappointing. The first couple of galleries were closed or had moved. Galleries that were supposed to be just across the street didn't appear to exist. We eventually found an open gallery, Fresh Paint Gallery. The owner was very nice and he ended up giving me two free VIP tickets to the 2019 LA Art Show at the convention center for the next day. He directed us to several other galleries that were open. At first it seemed like I was going to have to apologize for dragging Soobin out to an area that had no art, but it ended up being the find of the week. If you do go to LA to look at galleries, I definitely recommend the ones in Culver City near Washington and La Cienega Blvd.

The same day that Soobin and I visited the galleries, she had reserved tickets for the Ai Wei Wei exhibit at the Marciano Art Foundation. It is a much bigger museum than expected and the Ai Wei Wei exhibit was outstanding. Much of the exhibit consisted of a boat and mythological creatures made with bamboo and silk using kite making techniques. He also had two large pieces, one of broken teapot spouts and one made of 50 million sunflower seeds on the floor in a large rectangle with beveled edges. The sunflower seed piece was particularly impressive in the Art Brute exhibit space.

My other couple of days in LA were also filled with art. I caught up with old college friends Jim and Nancy. We went out for lunch near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Nancy is the director at LACMA and she was kind to catch up with us between meetings. After lunch, Jim and I talked some more about what we had been doing since we last saw each other (25 or 30 years?) Before I viewed the art at LACMA, Jim gave me a short tour of the La Brea Tar Pits that are next to LACMA. What a strange natural phenomenon! It sits there and bubbles randomly. It can't be built on - it has to stay open. There is a fence around it and at places in the lawn there are safety cones. If you pick up a safety cone you will see a hole of tar that had bubbled up through the lawn. Very mysterious and weird! As a kid, I collected plastic models of animals from the tar pits: a saber-tooth tiger, a mastodon, etc. In my youth I was intrigued by this place that collected extinct animals. As an adult visiting the place, I am even more intrigued.
I did attend the 2019 LA Art Show at the convention center. There was a lot of bad art there. I'm glad I got free tickets to attend. It is one of these large exhibits with galleries from all over the world. Many of the galleries had obviously exhibited art made for selfies or to simply attract attention. There were a handful of good booths, but mostly it was bad art.  I also went to the beach in Santa Monica, near the pier. I watched a sunset. Here is a gouache painting I did of the sunset.
OK, maybe this has been a little too much like a slide show of my family vacation. The last thing I will add is that the day I left Los Angeles it was 71 degrees and I ate my breakfast outside at a restaurant. I arrived in the Twin Cities late that evening and by the next morning it was -29 degrees. That is a swing of one hundred degrees. I miss LA.
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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A New Year, A New Studio

What's cooking in the studio is a NEW studio. I have been spending the last several months turning a two-car garage into a new painting studio with lights, heat and storage racks. It has been a fun process converting the space. Its always fun to see a dream become a plan, become a project, become a reality. There is still a bit more to do (a shelf, another track of lights, trim) but I have been painting in it and enjoying it. Upgrades from the previous studio include one step to get into it instead of a stairway, an exhaust fan, carpeting and decent storage racks.

I'm looking forward to many hours in this studio. If you would like to come visit, please contact me. As with any move, I have come across many pieces and art supplies that I need to get rid of. I will probably be having a studio sale in April to clear things out for the summer. Details to come.