Melanie Daniel: 'Piecemaker' at Shulamit Gallery, Venice Beach

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The Long Way Home, 2014. Oil on canvas, 90 X 140 cm.

Canadian-born artist Melanie Daniel, whose work is currently on view at the Shulamit Gallery in Venice Beach, has lived in Israel for the past twenty years, including seven years in the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Jaffa. Her most recent paintings, which are vivid and thematically multivarious, are ruminations on personal identity that also reflect the hybrid culture and socio-political tensions of her adopted homeland. I recently interviewed Melanie Daniel to ask her about her background, her art and her sources of artistic inspiration.

John Seed Interviews Melanie Daniel:

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Melanie Daniel

Tell me about growing up in Canada and how it shaped you. 

I grew up in a city called Kelowna, British Columbia, nestled in a beautiful valley of forests, lakes and orchards. It is extremely arid and blazingly hot in the summer (up to 40 °C) and then winter inevitably comes and outdoor life continues on the ski slopes or in the gentler woods for snow-shoeing and tobogganing. My younger sister and brother and I were always outdoors in all seasons hunting for critters and frogs, fishing in the creeks or excavating clay from the cliffs behind our grandparents' house. We returned daily to our childhood haunts where only kids went, a parallel universe for us and our posse.

Those were different times, I realize now, and we were never supervised. Free to roam, we invented games, dares, bizarre rituals, and protocol for deep forest sport. The neighborhood creek, an all-season kid headquarters, also served as the final resting place for countless pet gerbils and lizards. At sunset, our deceased beloved pets were regularly sent downstream on blazing Viking ships improvised with popsicle sticks. On less somber occasions, being the avid pyromaniacs that we were, more than once we watched from a safe distance as the local firefighters extinguished the contraband Playboys that had started it all. My brother and his nervous friends would frequently incinerate their forbidden erotic stash once discovered by us, their older sisters, the killjoys.

Although we would have happily watched endless hours of TV sitcoms and cartoons, my parents were frequently heard saying, "shut that thing off and go outside", which we grudgingly did. But "outside" never disappointed. It was always a place to escape into and to be happy. The dead silence of snow, the smell of cut grass, the deafening drone of cicadas in afternoons and the melancholy return of autumn and the dreaded classroom - the reliable cycle of my formative years in Canada. It has never left me.

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Wrestling Bears, 2015. Oil on canvas, 99 X 101 cm.

Why did you move to Israel and what kind of culture shock did you feel? 

Love brought me to this place. Not adventure and certainly not ideology. In the early '90's I travelled through India and one day I set my eyes upon a curly haired, dark stranger. I was sure he was Italian. I knew nothing of Israelis. After a while, each returned to his respective country and only many months later did we commence a slow correspondence through posted letters. Email was not yet widely available. Rather impulsively, I dropped my final year of university studies in history and philosophy and boarded a plane for Israel, certain that I would be greeted by a swollen silver moon over Jerusalem. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Jerusalem was a rough city, its denizens crustier still. I returned briefly to Canada to make some money tree-planting and ultimately to figure out what to do about this man. Eventually I did return to Jerusalem, and I knew that my success or failure would depend less on matters of the heart and more about what I would do there.

Soon after my arrival, the prime minister was assassinated, later the second Intifada was unleashed, and all hell broke loose. It lasted five years and it changed everyone, deeply. Perennial engagement with mortality is humbling. I live in constant proof of the fragility of life and it's something that follows me everywhere. And although I don't believe that this knowledge gives me any advantages in life it has sharpened a keen regard I've always held for the present tense and a solid respect for the material/natural world. Communion with nature has always been enough for me and requires no further pontificating from men with snowy beards.

 The culture shock I experienced here was an ongoing hiccup, lasting years. Israelis are without a doubt the most tactless humans on earth but this abrasive quality has a very important flip side. They also happen to be the most generous, candid, creative and humorous people I have ever met. I have learned much from my Israeli friends. The other culture shock was Israel's natural landscape, the desert and its open unforgiving sky. I recoiled at my first encounter with the desert; I felt I had no where to hide. It took me many years to embrace this existential landscape as it was nothing like the towering pine giants that protected me in my youth.

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Patchwork Landing, 2015. Oil on canvas, 140 X 160 cm

Your art has been characterized as dreamlike. Have your narratives always been this way? 

Yes, I think so. Even at school I was painting when the craft was decidedly unpopular and to the dismay of my instructors, I was also bent on weaving impenetrable stories into the work. For me, the paintings invent the places and characters, not the other way around. My paintings are so much about physicality which despite their reliance on narrative are still somehow resistant to language, interpretation, or even memory. I hope to induce a sense of dislocation by being both strange and recognizable. By keeping the narrative dreamlike and just beyond reach, I let the viewer bring something of their own to the painting. The narrative can unfold once the sense of familiarity recedes from the encounter, those scenes familiar to us through the landscape genre. My art is anti-nostalgic because I don't try rehashing actual experiences but invent them at the edge of my perception.

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Scruffy's Emerald Secret, 2014-15. Oil on canvas, 140 X 120 cm

Can you tell me about one of your current paintings and break down some of its narrative and themes? 

One piece, Scruffy's Emerald Secret is a favorite of mine. It's moodier that the others and I can identify with the bare-footed loner sitting on a tree stump, hunched over his campfire. Behind him looms this tall green patterned tree, a beautiful freak specimen. It shouldn't be there, but it is. The man shouldn't be there, but he is. Where is his family? Why is he alone in keeping vigil over this odd tree? This piece is one of several in a group I call Piecemaker in which I incorporate conflicting cultural motifs, embedded traditional Arabic patterns in a Canadian landscape. They can't be fused and remain irreconcilable. Not unlike quilt-making I "stitch" together disparate symbolic forms and patterns from both of these worlds which have become part of me.

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Spellbound, 2014. Oil on canvas, 140 X 180 cm.

As you have dealt with the cultural and political challenges of living and working in Israel, how has your art sustained you? 

One of the conditions of my decision to remain here depended on my ability to carve out a corner for myself, professionally. Making art and functioning competitively in that arena was a necessity for happiness and my own sanity. I started from zero and got a very good education and training in the arts. Self discipline was already established from my previous five years at Canadian universities, and I was very sure about how I wanted things to play out. Unlike many immigrants who arrive as adults, I had a huge advantage: art school was a big lingering bear hug. All of my friends, my political views, professional networks, and direct access to Israel's cultural carotid artery were all gifted to me during those years. I would not have survived here without it.

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The Drifting Patch Tree, 2015. Oil on canvas, 190 X 180 cm

What are your interests outside of art? 

My family is the heart of my life, always. Everything else falls into descending order after that. I like being outside as much as possible. As a family, we do a lot of hiking and swimming, and picnics with friends. I live a street away from the Mediterranean Sea and need to see it daily. Most days are started with a run along the sea to stave off cabin fever in my studio. I'm an avid gardener and a member of a community garden and often get my son's kindergarten involved with horticulture. It's important for kids to understand where food comes from and to really see how we're all part of a shared life cycle. They also get a real sense of pride and ownership from their hard work. I read a lot, everything from Annie Proulx to Walter Mosley, mostly at night when everyone is asleep. Music, nonstop, but that's when I'm painting.

Who are some artists who have directly influenced your work? 

Daniel Richter: he's the best living painter as far as I'm concerned. I can look at as his works for hours and they just keep unfolding. Violent and absurd, apocalyptic. 

Peter Doig: a constant source of inspiration.

Cecily Brown: fleshy, carnal paintings that just disintegrate and then re-galvanize, pulsing. They take time to get into and you can't hurry them. This is one of the things what makes any good painting last. Brown overdoes everything, pushes the painting to the brink and I love that.  

Mark Bradford: layer by layer, he builds up a thick-skinned topography from cultural detritus. It's like he maps out these strange mute neighborhoods replete with their own secrets and you want to scrape down to get to them.

Velazquez: bold mark-making and outbursts of sensuality erupting through thick globs of paint. He didn't want a smooth porcelain finish but rather wanted to show us the true corporeal surface of paint. For me, moving paint around is a steady point of fascination and Velazquez always delivers the goods in that regard.

Dana Schutz: she's madly prolific, restless, ballsy, and brilliant. I hit a wall over ten years ago and discovered Dana's work. It was like rocket fuel for me.

David Lynch: His scenes are permanently lodged in my brain. An unapologetic storyteller of storytelling.

 Sally Mann: raw, haunting and achingly personal.

 Kwakiutl and Haida art and myths: I grew up with the imagery and stories of First Nations peoples of the Pacific Northwest. Masks and totems and legends are always with me even if they don't find immediate expression in what I do.

 PK Page: Canadian poet. Her vivid descriptions of fleeting moments of life hang in the air when I'm working. I just have to reach up and grab them. Here's a title: "Deaf-Mute in the Pear Tree."

James Ensor - He literally attacked his canvases with violent gusto, making these taut, weird and nightmarish scenes. Totally unsettling.

Melanie Daniel: Piecemaker 
Shulamit Gallery
17 North Venice Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291
May 21-June 27, 2015

Siddharth Parasnis at Campton Gallery, SoHo

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Siddharth Parasnis

Siddharth Parasnis, whose work is on view at Campton Gallery through May 31, knows how to play geometry against instability. His architectural fantasies are improvised constructions built from planes of color that collide, overlap and coalesce into form. Parasnis works from his memories of places he has lived and traveled -- including India, Guatemala, Costa Rica and the Honduras -- but it isn't quite right to say that his work has a sense of place. It would be more accurate to say that he creates new places that demonstrate his affection for buildings and cultures that haven't lost their souls. The buildings he admires, and the buildings he paints, all bear traces of eccentricity and individual effort in their construction. In a way, Parasnis manages to say some things about people without including them in his pictures.

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Installation View

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Eternity #65, Oil on canvas, 55 x 45 inches

A native of India who currently works in the Bay Area, Parasnis has hybridized a wide range of influences from Indian miniature painting to the works of Richard Diebenkorn and other American abstract painters. He has a dynamic color sense that enlivens his compositions with unexpected juxtapositions and fresh harmonies. Underneath the slight leanings of his structures is an ease with perspective and a firm, athletic command of line.

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Eternity #53, Oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches

Eternity #53, which balances representation and abstraction, features a brilliant blue door that is shaded by a slightly tilted corrugated roof. Surrounded by energetically carpentered planes and stripes that are streaked with underpainting, the door offers entry to an invented world that is both dilapidated and enticing. It seems to suggest a delightful state of deferred maintenance that goes with a slower pace of life and less concern for upkeep.

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Hometown #33, Oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches

In Hometown #33 a symphony of jagged rooflines, tilting timber and unstable planes is bathed by a pale blue sky. It is a remarkably welcoming picture that makes you want to knock at the front door... if there is one. Inside you would likely find people who are have learned to improvise as the world around them shudders. Like the artist who invented the world that they live in, these imaginary people would likely offer you genuine warmth and conviviality.

Siddharth Parasnis: Solitude
May 9 - 31, 2015
Campton Gallery
451 West Broadway New York, New York 10012

Poets and Artists: Heightened Perceptions

Here is a preview of my curated edition of "Heightened Perceptions."


More info and a $5.99 PDF version of the magazine can be found on the Poets and Artists site. 

Reflections on Five Years of Blogging for HuffingtonPost Arts and Culture

The past few weeks have been busy, so an important career milestone almost slipped by with my having noticed: May 13th was my "Five Year Blogaversary." On that date in 2010 my first blog appeared in the HuffingtonPost. Titled "Picasso's Recession-Proof Harem" it appeared in the HuffPost "New York" section, as the Arts page hadn't opened yet. HuffingtonPost Arts--now HuffingtonPost Arts and Culture--officially opened a month later on June 15, 2010 under the direction of its amazing founding editor, artist Kimberly Brooks.

"Picasso's Recession-Proof Harem" was the first of a total of 259 blogs (this one included) that I have posted over a five year span. That means I have averaged just under a blog a week over time. When I started, I had absolutely no idea that I was capable of writing so much or so often. Blogging has been a huge surprise for me: it has been a life-transforming experience and a door-opener.

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Ex-voto painting by Matthew Couper
Matthew Couper's wonderful ex-voto painting, sent me to me as a gift early in 2011 does a great job of capturing the spirit world of my newfound avocation. Seated productively at my computer, a grid of red circuitry connects me to Mat Gleason--another early HuffPost Arts blogger--and also to an all-seeing eye and to a painting by my mentor, the late Nathan Oliveira. A head by Jean-Michel Basquiat--an art world frenemy from many years ago--rises over the floor tiles to my left while my journalistic patron saintess, Ariana Huffington, raises a knowing eyebrow to my right. Christ, crucified for art, adds an additional touch of religiosity and devotion to the tableau.

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At work in my office
Matthew's painting captures some of the imaginative and psychological forces that surround my interest in writing. A photo of me at work in my real office shows some interesting correspondences. I do spend a great deal of time leaning over my laptop, and a work by Nathan Oliveira--one of his "Tauromaquia" monotypes-- does hang in front of me as I write. A large model plane that I built and put too much work into to actually fly hangs over my head, a reminder of a hobby of the past. The energy that I used to put into making things seems to all go into writing these days. After recently re-organizing a bookshelf in my office to contain all of the catalogs and books I have contributed to over the past few years all the effort suddenly seemed tangible.

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Art catalogs and books
The following list contains some reflections, notes and comments from five years of blogging:

  A few things I have learned: Every word matters. You never know who is reading your blog. Every blog is important.

  My favorite quote from an artist: "The bravest thing in the world is to take a position without a pre-planned fall back." - Kyle Staver quoted in "A Brother Honored"

My favorite reader comment: "Read it. Excellent. Loved the Mao." Steve Martin responding to my blog "I Don't Deconstruct" on Twitter:

Blogging is different from other kinds of writing: You wake up in the morning, drink your coffee, and blog about what you want to write about in the way that you want to.

Blogging is truly social: I have never had so many friends. Oh, and a few frenemies too...

Something I need to do again: The "Paintings and Palettes" and "Studio Visit" blogs were a lot of work, but a lot of fun too. Click here for one...

A common misconception. I have written predominantly about representational painters. For that reason, some people have come to think that I don't care for other types of art. That isn't true. I write about representational painting because there is simply so much good work out there that hasn't gotten the attention that it deserves.

Humor is important: You can say things with humor that you can't say another other way. A list of my satires can be found at this link. 

I'm often asked if I have a favorite artist: Yes, it is the artist I am writing about at any given moment.

Artists need to have their stories told: Interviewing artists has allowed me let artists tell their stories. An index of the 75 interviews I have conducted since 2010 can be found on my personal website.
http://www.johnseed.com/p/interviews.html
Some Acknowledgements: I owe a great deal of thanks to Arianna Huffington, Kimberly Brooks, Kathleen Massara and Katherine Brooks (my editors). I owe even more to my wife Linda who has supported me, even when I have been writing when there is laundry that needs folding.

To my readers: Thank you for reading. There is a lot left to write... more blogs are on the way.

To All News Agencies: Obscene Auction Results Are Not Art News

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Dear News Agencies, Newspapers and News Outlets,

This morning's news is full of reports about the sale of a Picasso painting for $179 million dollars. These reports are dominating the "Arts" pages of the world's newspapers and the "Arts" verticals of many websites. However, this is not an "Arts" story: it is a Business story.

Art is about expression: it was never intended to be an asset class. In the future, please report stories like this one in the proper section, which is Business. That way, real arts stories including reviews, profiles of artists and information about exhibitions will take their proper place on the Arts page. Stories about high-end auction results can and should be reported alongside stories about commodities transactions, the sales of corporations and fluctuations in the values of precious metals and pork bellies.

Stop confusing the public, as they are beginning to believe that art is something that should be detested. Thank You.

After Postmodernism: Michael Pearce Writes About 'Art in the Age of Emergence'

Postmodernity is being supplanted by a new emergent age, characterized by the internet's ability to bring together communities and give them the tools to organize themselves and express the truth as they see it. 

- Michael Pearce

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Michael Pearce: photo by Harold Muliadi

After hearing a 2013 talk by theologian Philip Clayton -- The New Sciences of Emergent Complexity: Evolving Religion in an Evolving World -- artist Michael Pearce found himself tremendously excited. Emergence, a cross-disciplinary theory which deals with the way that higher-order complexity can arise out of chaos, presented a powerful new model for aesthetics. For Pearce, a figurative artist and one of the founders of The Representational Art Conference, emergence opened a dynamic alternative to what he feels have been the reductive and culturally erosive tendencies of Postmodernism in art:

Complexity and emergence offer an explanation for the positive experience of the art object, and fills the gap critiqued by Adorno as the great failing of aesthetic writing -- that there is no metanarrative in a world in which idealism has been crushed.

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Art in the Age of Emergence
Hardcover: 195 pages
Published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing (January 1, 2015)

Serious discussions about emergence have been appearing in other fields since the postwar era, especially in physics, chemistry and biology. For example, in biology, emergence has been used to explain properties of life forms that go beyond explanation and transcend their component parts. In the words of one postwar biologist: "Life itself is an emergent property."

 More recently, In the field of theology, Philip Clayton has taken an interdisciplinary approach to emergence, and posited that emergence suggests a new approach to the problem of consciousness, which is neither reducible to brain states nor proof of a mental substance or soul. In his book, Mind and Emergence: From Quantum to Consciousness, he advocates emergentist panentheism and a Christian constructive theology consistent with the new sciences of emergence.

Michael Pearce's book is first major effort to use emergence as a model for aesthetic theory. Like Clayton, Pearce takes an interdisciplinary approach, weaving together quotes and observations by archaeologists, art historians, evolutionary biologists, philosophers, physicists, semioticians, and theologians. Partly a personal meditation, but also an exploration of scientific and philosophical ideas, Art in the Age of Emergence is intended to challenge the current orthodoxies of contemporary aesthetics.

In the book's first chapter, for example, Pearce argues for a new "authenticity" in works of art, which he feels is an antidote to the capitalist excesses of the contemporary art market. Pearce writes: The desire for authenticity is antithetical to the money dominated postmodern art world, in which those who purchase art are manipulated by cynical artists and dealers who exploit socialist pretensions but luxuriate in the benefits of a rampant, unregulated free market capitalism.

 Pearce's idealism will strike many readers as being gloriously out of touch: something which he would likely take as a compliment. As well-stocked as his book may be with elegant theories and interdisciplinary overlaps, Pearce is nearly alone among serious art writers in his taste and orientation. One of the book's insistences--that representational art is a favored manifestation of emergence--seemed worth questioning. I asked Pearce: "Why do you feel that Emergence works so well in relation to representational art? Wouldn't it work for abstraction too?"
Yes, it does. Emergent aesthetics support both abstraction and representation. But abstraction is only a part of the whole, not a theme that is superior to representation. To think that abstraction is superior to it is an idea that comes straight out of Kant, who thought that we could somehow detach ourselves from emotional responses to art and view it with "disinterested interest", with an analytical approach that distanced the work from the viewer. It's an idea that was promoted in the early twentieth century by modernists like Herman Broch and Walter Gropius, who were attempting to reinvent culture as a response to the horrors of the world wars. But the idea that we could detach ourselves from emotion dehumanizes us as badly as ever. Broch even said that beauty was evil! He wrote a lengthy essay about it, describing how kitsch led to it. He wanted to dispose of anything kitsch, and to get rid of sentiment. But sentiment is a thoroughly human quality -- what could be more kitsch than the mother holding a newborn baby? And how could anyone regard a moment like that without feeling the kitsch sentiment it inspires? To pretend that human beings can be detached from emotional responses like this is ridiculous. Again, I'm not saying that abstraction is bad and wrong -- but that it's only a part of the art we make as a response to human experience. We've tried to separate emotion from art for a century, but disinterested interest is a completely artificial imposition upon the way mind works. The emergent mind is founded upon sensory experience. If art reflects mind, then why would we attempt to deny the value and importance of sentiment in our art?
Art in the Age of Emergence is a dense book that is ultimately quite optimistic, and a genuine conversation-starter. In its postscript, Pearce states that "We are moving beyond the negative impact upon human consciousness caused by the first half of the twentieth century... We all know what an emergent experiences feels like: it is a moment of harmony, of wonder, of completion, felt both as a deep affirmative feeling of unity and as a physiological experience that takes place in the brain."

For Pearce's ideas to be validated his friends and admirers are going to have to make works of art that live up to his very high expectations. For the time being, Pearce is perhaps the only serious art writer in America who offers toasts to Bouguereau and looks to theology for ideas about aesthetics. He is already at work on another book which will deal with emergence and kitsch. For now, his ideas and enthusiasms mark Pearce as decidedly contrarian. Or course, in the art world taste can shift very suddenly and unpredictably. If things move in the direction Pearce feels they will, he will likely see it as a manifestation of emergence, something he noticed before everyone else caught on.

Raymond Berry: 'Hidden Hanover' at Randolph-Macon College

For more than 40 years, artist Raymond Berry has dedicated himself to plein air painting, exploring local landscapes in sequences that record their changes over time. Dedicated to direct observation, Berry sees his study of the land as search for realization that mirrors a "direct experience of our true nature."

I recently interviewed Raymond Berry and asked him about this background, his approach, and his ideas.

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Raymond Berry

John Seed Interviews Raymond Berry:

JS: Ray, tell me about growing up in Oakland. As a young adult were you aware of the art of the Bay Area?

RB: I would like to say that I started a gang in Oakland -- one that went out into the hills and stayed for days just painting the landscape -- but unfortunately, I left the Oakland area a few months after my birth (my Dad was stationed there/Navy) and came to back to Virginia and lived in Charlottesville until the early '60s. I did come to later have a great deal of reverence for the Bay Area and the Society of Six. I fantasized that I had some of their DNA in me -- Selden Gile died a year after I was born -- and it was appropriate for me to follow in their footsteps working so diligently in the open air.

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Raymond Berry: Hidden Hanover, Installation View

JS: How did you end up at the University of Virginia?

RB: It was the natural things to do: the University employed my parents and I grew up running around the school from as early as I can remember. I even went to kindergarten there: The wife of a professor in the biology department ran a little "college" for university progeny and we had graduations every year and wore caps and gowns borrowed from the school. I looked at other schools, but that's where I felt the best. I had a great education there.

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Gilmans, After the Morning Rain, March 26, 2015, Oil on Canvas, 12" x 16"

JS: Tell me about your mentors and your growth as an artist in North Carolina

RB: My time in Greensboro was a revelation and life changing for me. I had gone there on the recommendation of a New York painter, Warren Brandt, who wanted me to work with Peter Agostini, the sculptor. He told me it didn't make any difference that I was a painter; Peter was a great artist and teacher and if he liked me, he could help me. So, I took the chance that I would measure up somehow and enrolled in a class he taught in watercolor. I thought I was pretty good until he set up a little still life and asked everyone to paint the glow and the air around all the objects, not the objects themselves. I started to look really hard and pretty soon I began to see the air and the glow and I worked for three hours straight on that little watercolor. I was never the same afterwards.

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Luck's, Light Rain, Spring Colors, March 25, 2015, Oil on Canvas, 11" x 14"

JS: How and when did you decide to only paint from direct observation?


RB: I'm not really sure it was ever a serious decision, it always seemed so obvious to me. None of my mentors in college or graduate school depended on photography for imagery. My Greensboro mentors, Peter Agostini, Ben Berns and Andrew Martin were such amazing draftsmen that it was considered the only way to fly. If you could draw, you worked mostly from life or memory. If you sucked at drawing, you used photography and your work seemed mechanical and thin. For me, it comes down to learning something new every time I work and working from life allows that. I need to connect directly with my subject. It's also, not boring! I can see using some photographic references for certain details that might be necessary, but I have almost no need for that given my predilection for landscape. I rarely include architecture in my work. If I was a portrait painter, I'd probably be telling you how necessary photography is!

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Luck's, Fog and Light Rain, March 14, 2015, Oil on Canvas, 11" x 14"

JS: You are a veteran artist: how has your work changed over time.

RB: In the late '60s and early '70s, I did a little of everything. Op Art, Surrealism, Conceptual and of course, Abstract Expressionism. We all loved AbEx! I was good at those things and my work was often clever, successful and mirrored whatever was "in" at the time. I got real tired of changing every few months and depending on how clever I could be. I had been doing landscape problems since I was very young. I tried to draw a creek near my house when I was eleven, using my brand new John Nagy drawing set. I just couldn't get it the way I thought it should be and threw all my drawings away. I'm still trying to figure out water almost sixty years later... I think that my painting has become much more expressive and natural over the years. I'm less worried with formal concerns and more dedicated to painting about an experience. What I may be learning may not fit into a more conventional vision of what's a good landscape painting. I'm more concerned about being respectful to the landscape and the "liturgy" contained within. The Buddhists call this the "teachings of the insentient."
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Luck's, Rain is Near, March 14, 2015, Oil on Canvas, 6" x 12"

JS: From your long career as an artist: Do you have any favorite stories or anecdotes?

RB: As a landscape painter I've had a diamondback rattler crawl slowly over my boots as I was working and once, a huge black bear rumbled by five feet from me (I was just off his favorite path) while I was painting. He could have stopped and told me I was using too much white in my palette: I would have listened. A good story for the history books was one that Agostini told me back in the 1970's: he and Bill de Kooning were drinking together and complaining about how crappy the New York scene was (the usual conversation) and that basically no one that claimed to be a "New York Artist" actually was from New York! Everyone that was showing then was from out of town. This rankled Peter because he really was from the City, born and raised. It struck him that he was the only real NY sculptor and with the next realization that he was thus the tallest New York sculptor (he and Bill were short) and that meant Bill could be the tallest Dutch Abstract Expressionist in New York! They were both very happy with themselves: and taller somehow.

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Luck's, Frozen Pond and Dam, February 28, 2015, Oil on Canvas, 8" x 10"

JS: Tell me about your current exhibition, and what you are showing there.

RB: It's a body of work that covers about two and half years of painting certain specific sites around Hanover County where I live and where the college resides. The farthest motif is probably fifteen minutes from my office. I can confuse a student and then run out to my truck and be on site in very little time. Most of the work is smallish (in the '80s and '90s I worked big all the time, must have been compensating for something) although there are some pieces on hollow doors: A beautiful size and ratio for landscapes. About half of the work is oil and the other is encaustic. For most viewers, I think the show emphasizes the changes that happen in the land, the variations in temperature and light and the resurgence of growth and reclamation. I am more concerned with more meditative aspects and personal investigations; I think sometimes that my motifs are closer to sutras than sources for imagery. It's that Zen thing rearing its head.

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Luck's, Melting Snow, February 22, 2015, Oil on Canvas, 8" x 10"

JS: What wisdom can you pass on to aspiring painters?

RB: Be patient and disciplined at what you need to do to actually find your artistic identity. It is distressing to see creative people caught in the trap of trying to be someone else other than who they really are. They mimic others, they borrow others personal alchemy, and they take short cuts rather than earn something with hard work and a personal journey. Never have so many tried so hard to be somebody else! In the beginning we are mostly several influences, that's fine. But soon, discarding the things that are not ours or are holding one back from realization is a necessary task. The other side of the coin is to be open to ideas and concepts that may alter the path you had so carefully planned. Take the chance to be yourself.

Raymond Berry: Hidden Hanover 
April 19th through May 31st
Randolph-Macon College 
The Flippo Gallery: Dept. of Fine Arts 
Pace Armistead Hall, 114 College Avenue Ashland, VA 23005 
Click here for directions to the campus 
Hours: 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. Mondays through Fridays

Muse of Art Criticism Reportedly Hospitalized for 'Nervous Exhaustion'

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The Muse of Art Criticism: Image by Matthew Couper

(Not Reuters) - Pablo Art Market-Criticism, the eldest son of the muse and allegorical figure Art Criticism has confirmed reports circulating earlier today that his mother has been hospitalized. Speaking to several reporters gathered outside his offices in Chelsea earlier this morning, he issued the following public statement:
As many of you know, my mother has been under considerable strain since her separation and divorce from my father, The Art Market, in early 2013. I can confirm that after an unfortunate incident last week, she was admitted to a private psychiatric hospital where she is being treated for stress and severe nervous exhaustion. We ask that the public respect her privacy during this exceedingly difficult time.
Reached by telephone the next day, her friend Academic Eminence provided a few details about the "unfortunate incident" that may have triggered Art Criticism's breakdown. "We had decided to see the Björk Retrospective at MOMA last Friday and then grab some lunch afterwards, but I'm afraid we never made it to lunch. The long lines and the endless looping Björk clips put Art Criticism in a foul mood, and when we got into the actual exhibition she simply lost it."

Art Criticism's meltdown, reported first on Twitter and then on Buzzfeed, included the Oxford-educated muse tearing off her headphones and hurling them at a translucent mannequin wearing an Alexander McQueen wedding dress. Although there are varying reports as to what she was screaming while being escorted from the exhibit by museum security guards, several onlookers concur that they heard her exclaim: "Get me out of this fucking Icelandic-themed techno-crap hellhole."

After exiting the museum, Art Criticism drank Evian water while sitting on the curb, sobbing and telling stunned passersby: "This is the museum that gave Mark Rothko his first retrospective. I can't believe I just paid $25 to see pierced nipples and yak heads. I'm so done with this..." Moments later, she was strong-armed into a cab by several friends, still visibly agitated, and driven away.

Christie Sotheby's, a longtime friend of both Art Criticism and her ex-husband The Art Market, says that Art Criticism has been feeling "ignored and powerless for some time."

"It hurts," Sotheby's explained, "to see your influence fade so fast. Art Criticism once had the power to make or break an artist, but those days are gone. Plus, when people say that you could simply be replaced by Instagram, that really, really hurts."

Another source, an independent curator who declined to be named, believes that the continued success of the Art Market has left his ex-wife exceptionally jealous. "He is wined and dined by billionaires every day" the source commented, "while she can barely find work. Writing art criticism doesn't pay much these days, and nobody actually reads ARTFORUM anymore. They just look over the glossy ads."

Musée M. Bord, another family friend offered a frank perspective. "Art Criticism has said some very harsh things through the years, and that has understandably left many people angered. We are in a populist era now, and people want Top Ten lists not tantrums. She shouldn't be surprised that even art world professionals would rather just follow celebrity critics posting Medieval penis pics on Twitter."

"Of course," Bord continued, "as long as I have known her, Art Criticism has been in a state of perpetual meltdown, and we have disagreed about many, many things through the years. Honestly, I thought Björk was a lot of fun. At any rate I wish her well, and expect that she will make a full recovery."

Her ex-husband, The Art Market, who is traveling in Asia, could not be reached for comment.