September 12, 2012

Big Picture, Big Draw

Jenny Saville with her painting "Plan" taken by Glynn Griffiths in 1994.
People by the thousands have been visiting my blog recently. On September 9 I had 5,164 visits to the blog. In the four days from the 8th to the 11th I had 8,624 visitors.
For a blog that gets a respectable 200 or 250 on a good day, these numbers are sensational.
Suddenly my art had been discovered by the masses? After all my last two posts were about my current show in downtown Pittsfield.
No such luck, according to the statistics generated daily for my site. The big draw was Glynn Griffiths' 1994 portrait of the British artist Jenny Saville, her painting Plan towering over the artist then in her early 20s.
Someone - actually lots of someones - was looking for that photo. And if you Google Jenny Saville and go to "images" you'll find that my site is the only place you could find it. (Of course you can find it on other sites if you add the photographers name and the title of the painting.
I used the photo with my post about Saville on July 19, 2006.

The lines that look like a topographic map here, I learned today, are derived instead from her study of liposuction and plastic surgery. I thought then and think now that Saville is one of the best contemporary painters. 

The self portrait above is extraordinary. From the moment I saw it, this piece was one of my favorites. The way she applies paint is masterful. The composition is spectacular. The wet, open mouth is arresting and disturbing. The painting, like many of hers, is confrontational, demanding, sensational.

Above and below are two of her recent paintings. She is now 42 and I like the stuff she was doing 20 years ago better. But she will be painting for a long time. I'm anxious to see what she comes up with.

Here's one of those earlier works, a commanding painting.

Here's a current photo of Saville, the mother of two children, in her studio in Oxford, England.
"It feels as if Saville is the lovechild of Willem de Kooning's violent misogyny and Lucian Freud's carnal hunger who, somehow, popped out as kind of a feminist," writes Priscilla Frank in the Huffington Post. I think Frank has it right.
Frank had another great line in her profile: "Her paintings are tender, not as in tender feelings but more like tender meat."
In an article in The Guardian by Rachel Cooke, I learned that it was while Saville was at Cincinnati University she was captivated by the sight of obese women at shopping malls. They became the subject of her 1992 graduate show at Glasgow University, a show that captivated Charles Saatchi - the British collector who introduced the crop of "Young British Artists" in the Sensation show, which seemed to have shifted the center of the art world from New York to Boston.
"I want to be a painter of modern life, and modern bodies..." Saville told the Guardian.
"In Britain, there has been a drive in art schools to describe and to rationalise what it is that you're making, and that is a death knell to painting," Saville said in regard to conceptual art.
America is more attuned to painting than England, she said, suggesting that might be because New York was the center of the last period of great painting - the Abstract Expressionists.

September 11, 2012

The Eyes of My Mother

Photo by Riley Nichols/All Rights Reserved
There are things I forgot to say when I gave my artist's talk at the BCC gallery. Two important things in any in depth conversation about her life and death.
One: She lived past infancy only because her mother saved her when their house burned in Calgary, Alberta. Her mother threw her from an upper story window in their house into the arms of someone below. Her mother, however, was unable to save herself.
Two: When my family moved to Tarrytown after my father was discharged from the Army Air Corps following World War II, he had a job in advertising in New York City that paid very well. After he lost that job, my mother, who was a nurse, returned to work and saved us from financial ruin. And she continued working for years as a private-duty nurse, often for 12-hour shifts for months without a day off.

Photo by Riley Nichols/All Rights Reserved

Other things I might have talked about was the once rocky course of their marriage. Of my mother's bout with TB when I was an infant. Of my mother when she was trying to fight off severe disappointment or deep depression singing to herself:
When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At he end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.*
I did talk about her manic depression and the electric shock treatments she was given. If you read One Flew Over the Cockoo's Nest you know what a toll they could take. I used the reds and yellows and purples in the large print because to me those were the colors of electric shock.
Photo by Susan Geller/All Rights Reserved
 But there were so many things to say about her. In a 15-minute talk you can't fit in everything**.

 Additionally it was extemporaneous. If I were doing it over, I'd make some notes. Those aren't notes in my hand in Susan Geller's photo above. They're photos (like the two below) I had printed to show people during the talks, which attracted more than 30 people combined.

My mother does a handstand.

My mother was able to do hand stands and walk on her hands. In a sympathy note to my father, a friend said she had done handstands at the YMCA even at 58, the age at which she died.

My mother and a friend.
This is one of the photos in our family album of a trip my mother took to Cuba with several friends when she was young.
Photo by Riley Nichols/All Rights Reserved
In this shot my granddaughter Riley, I have just been introduced by Lisa Griffith, the head of the Art Department at BCC.
I am tremendously grateful to her for asking me to do this show - my third for the community college - and for the insightful way she hung it. I took several studio art classes with Lisa when I was in my 60s.
Riley, by the way, has been my show photographer for about five years. She will be 13 next month.

*You'll Never Walk Alone by Rogers and Hammerstein from Carousel.
**I also forgot to say how very much I love her and my father. Maybe that's obvious.

(Visiting hours for my show at Berkshire Community College's downtown gallery on Columbus Avenue are from 2 to 5 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.)

May 9, 2012

Battlefield Angel

                  A majestic angel tops the State of Pennsylvania monument on the battlefield at Gettysburg.
                   I took the shots of the angel, carrying an olive branch in one hand and a sword in the other, from the observation platform, reached by a winding, claustrophobic staircase.
                   She was sculpted by Samuel Murray of Philadelphia, along with the monument's eight additional sculptures of Lincoln and significant Union generals in the battle, all on a heroic scale.
                    The photo of the monument itself was taken by Andrew Neil Dierks in 2005.


May 7, 2012


I think you can probably read  what it says on the driveway of this lakeside donut shop in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. But in case you're having trouble, it says:


The arrow points straight ahead. If you drove straight ahead your car would bowl over the warning cones and start filling with fish.

But as far as I know, no car has ended up in the drink.

October 14, 2011

Change of Address

To view Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man, which is posted every other day, go to

This self portrait of the artist and blogger was taken by computer yesterday as he was talking with his son and grandson in Louisiana. That's what put the smile on his face.

August 24, 2011

Golden Gown

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is a work in progress, the latest in my Runway series. It is oil over acrylic. Not too much more work until it's done. 

It's the first time in a long time that I've worked in oil, which used to be my standard paint, and I've been having fun. The figure has been done with pallet knives and my fingers so far.

The painting is six feet by four feet.

August 19, 2011

From Greylock

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

We drove up Mount Greylock the other evening and I got this shot of the setting sun. At 3,492 feet it is Massachusetts' highest peak.

It's eight miles up its twisting road - eight luxuriously smooth miles since its reconstruction several years ago.

It was our first ascent this year. It's a place of such beauty we wondered why we don't go up more often.

I used to climb it on my bike. I wish I still could. The ride up was work but the ride down was exhilarating. Once I pedaled up on January 1 on a day when the snow was only about an inch deep. 

On another winter descent I skidded in a patch of snow and landed on the side of my head. Those were the days before I wore a helmet. Almost knocked myself out.

It is a rare winter when you can ride up. Usually the snow comes early there, piles deep and stays until spring.

August 17, 2011

Grier Horner | One Life Photos 2011

VOTE for me. If you like the pictures I've entered in this contest - One Life Photos 2011. To vote, and see the pictures, click here. The winner gets $10,000. There's still time to enter. Thanks.

The Vote Count: at 10 a.m. , Aug. 19, - 25.

By the way, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man is back on its original spot - one that had been eaten and spit out by Lion.

When I bought Lion, Mac's new operating system to replace the beast had carried my burden previously - was it  Snow Leopard? - Lion killed Contribute, the software I use to do my blog.

Contribute is made by Adobe and that firm's Loveesh Kumar, exercising the patience of Job, talked this non techie through the harrowing procedure of installing the software on my iMac, which seemed to fight us every inch of the way.

Although my sites up and running again - I have a new post on it now - I may stick with blogspot for a while to see if I can built some readership here.

(Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved)