bemusing musings of a bewildered brush-wielder







Okay, so I think it’s safe to say, at this point, that I have an inferiority complex when it comes to music.  My wife laughs, because whenever I describe my vision for my “dream painting studio,” I always say “and then, if the studio gets enough momentum, then, then we can have Irish bands come in, and there can be bluegrass, and, and, and some old guy who bobs his head like a pigeon when he plays the upright bass!”  I’m absolutely fine with this inferiority complex, in believing music to be the highest art form.  I’m not in awe of science, it oftentimes bores me with its testtubeyness.  But music, ah, it’s nice to be forever in awe of something, and to regards its creation as something resembling voodoo.

This painting came about something like this.  I’ve spent the past few spring evenings with my sons, going on long bike rides, wandering the beaches of the south shore, picking up shells.  I taught my two year old son, Evan, how to hang his head over the ends of a dock, and to spit.  He laughed hysterically, as we watched our saliva float away on the surface of the water.  A day or so later, as I went about my usual work in the studio, I thought of how music can depict a moment like this, the joy of a moment.  And then, I decided that I wanted to paint this, in a still life.  I was feeling still lifey.  And so, naturally, I grabbed my violin, set it down on a table, and set up my canvas.  The painting needed more, to convey this feeling.  Ah ha- I decided to grab my favorite article of furniture in the world, my blue chair.  The provenance of the blue chair is simply divine.  It was hand made, by the Whittenburg brothers, in a woodshop in late eighteenth century Concord, New Hampshire, where they hand hewn the Maldives mahogany timbers, lacquered the wood, and distressed a superbly exquisite patina of lapis lazuli, reminiscent of the Dusseldorf Germanic Carpenters who practiced cabinetry in late seventeenth century Philadelphia.  I acquired it in a simply marvelous antique shop in Lyme, Connecticut, where I spent a small fortune on the treasure.  I’m lying.  It is a worthless, old, blue chair that I found in pieces, lying in an overgrown patch of woods.  I picked it up, threw it in my truck, slapped it together with wood glue and drywall screws and… I think it is the most beautiful blue I’ve ever come across, especially when paired with the glowing red of my violin.

The composition was not done yet.  Hmm, I thought.  Perhaps I’d like to paint my boots.  As if I’ve never done that before.  I set them on the chair.  Hmmm.  I’ll paint my books instead.  I paused.

How about- my books, my boots, my favorite blue chair, and my favorite lager, all in the same painting?


….glory of the stars and sun; –
And these and poetry are one.
They, ere the world had held me long,
Recalled me to the love of song.
-William Bryant

8 responses

  1. Josiah

    This looks to be an interesting combination of items-reminds me of when I painted a still life of my sword and accordion. A friend of mine said, ‘look, all the things that go together-swords and accordions!’

    March 29, 2012 at 7:16 am

    • You have swords and accordions? Cool! A couple of weeks ago, I stopped by some random, upper east side gallery, on Fifth and 85th. I came across this incredible painting by Vollon, of a sword, a knight’s helmet, and a book. It was just beautiful.

      March 29, 2012 at 8:51 am

  2. DG

    You can only have the band if I can sing harmony on “Wild Rover”.
    Love the still life, damned boots!

    March 29, 2012 at 8:29 am

    • After I heard how you roasted Phil, for not playing the piano part of “Cats” well enough? No sir. I can’t keep up with that.

      March 29, 2012 at 8:52 am

  3. Music is the greatest of art forms–the one that makes us want to move our bodies in time with the beat. It is also the most mysterious. We know that an A-string vibrates at 440 cycles per second and an E-string at 660, a ration of 2 to 3. We know that a chord built on the fifth note of a scale (E in an A-major scale), the dominant, makes us want to hear the tonic chord. Knowing about vibrations and ratios doesn’t explain why this is so. We can analyze music, but we can’t explain what makes some music great.

    March 29, 2012 at 8:35 am

    • I once had dinner with a fascinating math professor, Nino Beltrami, and he told me that we, as a society, had lost the romance of numbers. He said we rushed to find the material application of everything, of turning numbers into product. Much in the same way that an old Florentine artist speaks tenderly about hand ground oil paints, the mathematician spoke lovingly of the Fibonacci numbers of pine cones and nautilus shells, the vibrating string ratio of E to A, 660 to 440, and the mysterious link of all these things to human emotion. Thank you, George, this is a beautiful thought.

      March 29, 2012 at 9:02 am

  4. Where’s the lager?

    April 2, 2012 at 4:40 am

    • I’m thinking it may be a cup of coffee sitting on the windowsill, with steam coming off of it. I’m not just sure, yet. How’s the little one, Ben? Margaret and I are expecting our third, this August. Are you guys still here, or are you back in Italy? Hope you are well.

      April 2, 2012 at 8:18 am

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