One Year After

It has been a year since my heart attack. Since my cardiac arrest. Since the trauma I don’t remember and that my family saw. Since members of my family kept me alive until the EMTs arrived. Since the radical changes of diet and lifestyle. Since the shift in horizon.

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Three days before that I lost my big sister; a life of incredible value and service, gone. Two months afterward my estranged step-father died; a life wasted in self-concern and alcohol.

How would people have summed up my life one year later, if it ended that night?

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Since I didn’t go, I have to assess it myself. I know my life has been valuable. I know I have taken deep draughts of experience and thought. I have been astonished. I have been disappointed. I have known love and sacrifice. I have seen things that made me cry in sorrow and weep in happiness. I have tried and failed, then barely hoped and succeeded. I have yearned and yearned, in spite of cheesiness or irony. I have worked so hard and received so much through no merit of my own doing. I have believed and doubted. All through I have attempted to be honorable and careful, passionate and present. Sometimes I have succeeded.

img_0200I am SIMUL IUSTUS ET PECCATOR.

I am AGATHOKAKOLOGICAL.

I have tried to understand what it all means. I still don’t. But I think I have some sense of how it feels.

~

It feels a little like these songs (click the titles to listen):

 

At Last

I can say that I’ve lived here in honor and danger

But I’m just an animal and cannot explain a life

Down this chain of days I wish to stay among my people

Relation now means nothing, having chosen so defined

And if death should smell my breathing

As it pass beneath my window

Let it lead me trembling, trembling

I own every bell that tolls me.

 

Fox Confessor Brings The Flood

Driving home I see those flooded fields

How can people not know what beauty this is?

I’ve taken it for granted my whole life

Since the day I was born.

Clouds hang on these curves like me

And I kneel to the wheel

Of the fox confessor (on splendid heels).

And he shames me from my seat

And on my guilty feet

I follow him in retreat…

What purpose in these deeds?

Oh fox confessor, please,

Who married me to these orphaned blues?

“It’s not for you to know, but for you to weep and wonder

When the death of your civilization precedes you.”

Will I ever see You again?

Will there be no one above me to put my faith in?

I flooded my sleeves as I drove home again.

 

A Widow’s Toast

Specters move like pilot flames

Their widows toast at St. Angel.

Better times collide with now

The tears are warm, I feel them still.

They’ll heat to vapor and disperse

And cloud our eyes with weary glaze.

You raise your glass and may exclaim,

“I’ll put my hands on the truth, by God!”

But it’s faster, love, than you and me –

Faster than the speed of gravity.

That’s how it catches you from falling

And how it always, always, always slips away.

Specters move like pilot flames

Their widows toast at St. Angel.

Better times collide with now

And better times

And better times

Are coming still.

Neko knows what to say.

~

I find attention, clarity, and rightness in teaching. I find wonderful confusion in my art-making. I find solace and laughter in my wife. I find a strange wine of joy and frustration in my children. I feel both lost and found. I feel both at home (warm, in bed), and far away in the dark (clouds, wind). I’m in orbit around a great truth and yet my tether is strung out miles from safety.

Believe it or not, all of this is so much better than the 3 or 4 years before the heart attack.

I know that some would want me to declare something, some truth, some more faithful words, some thoughts that sound more spiritually centered. I’m sorry.

Today, I want to take the lessons – the cumulative astonishments of being – as they come. I want to have joy and camaraderie in my students. I want to be gentle and full of wonder with my children. I want to continue to cherish my wife. I want to be a better husband, father, son, brother, artist, teacher, mentor, helper, and friend.

No regrets. I have not loved every moment, but I have been given such grace and love. I’m thankful.

~

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A Couple Early 2017 Highlights

This Friday, a show of my collaborative works created with the great Joel T. Dugan goes up in Brooklyn, at es ef eff gallery. Head over to 893 Bergen Street at 7pm this Friday, February 17.


Above: a work from the exhibition, “Crest” – Acrylic, oil, pastel, colored pencil, and graphite with woodblock printing on paper mounted on panel. 11 by 11 inches, 2016-2017.

I’m also pleased to share that the Manifest Gallery painting anthology I was selected for has finally been published. It’s a beautiful volume (buy it here).



Above: one of my personal favorite paintings, beautifully reproduced. The INPA6 book features some amazing work by a lot of great artists, as well as friends and colleagues… like Nathan Sullivan and Melanie Johnson:


Above: detail of a Nathan Sullivan work from the book. Below: Melanie Johnson’s included work.


Pretty cool stuff! I’m thankful! There are a number of additional events happening this year that I will share soon – exciting times!

Stations of the Cross Project

Back in November of 2016, I bid on a commission at a cathedral, calling for an exploration of the Stations of the Cross. It has been a number of years since I created a series of works based on a biblical theme (I tend to do this every few years or so) and I wanted to at least feel out the idea a bit.

While I did not get the commission, I have continued to develop the work from the proposal. Below are a bunch of the pieces in progress. Each is made on an iPad Pro using an Apple Pencil in the ProCreate App. What I’ve done in these works is dovetail my own research of Eastern and Western Mandala forms into an exploration of Giandomenico Tiepolo‘s Via Crucis from San Polo in Venice (Click through here to see examples of his works).

Here are 6 of the 14 images, in progress:

img_1448Stations of the Cross #6 – Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus. Digital painting, 2016-2017.

img_1446Stations of the Cross #5 – Simon Helps Jesus Carry the Cross. Digital painting, 2016-2017.

img_1445Stations of the Cross #13 – Jesus Removed From the Cross and His Body Returned to Mary. Digital painting, 2016-2017.

img_1444Stations of the Cross #12 – Jesus Dies on the Cross. Digital painting, 2016-2017.

img_1447Stations of the Cross #1 – Jesus Sentenced to Death. Digital painting, 2016-2017.

img_1443Stations of the Cross #14 – Entombment of Christ. Digital painting, 2016-2017.

By investigating the color and composition of Tiepolo’s work without reproducing the details, I hope to draw out the relationship these works have with the tradition of contemplative spiritual works the world over. It is also humbling to realize that the source paintings were made when Tiepolo was around 20 years old. I see these as his MFA Thesis work, definitive proof of his mastery.

Having visited these paintings in person – more than 10 years ago – I still recall how astounding they were. Not as large as Tintoretto. Not as graceful as Bellini. Not as mystical as Piero de Cosimo. Not as abstract as Uccello.  But they hold their own as an expression of an artist growing into this own power and getting ready to pivot into his own realms of glory.

My aim for my versions of the Via Crucis paintings is to print them in large format (potentially to scale with their Tiepolo counterparts) then paint back into them, further developing the color and compositional shaping.

Color Drawing Gets Rolling, 2017

I am super excited for this semester – I’m really changing things up in Color Drawing and we started off by reinvigorating a group project from last semester. We integrate the past and boost into the future.

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img_1535This group drawing is based on Normal Rockwell’s amazing Civil Rights painting, Golden Rule (Do Unto Others) piece of 1961. Click here to see more about the piece.

Here’s to an AMAZING 2017 of creativity and aspiration.

Top Artworks of 2016

And now, my favorite artworks of 2016, made by me!

5) Untitled (WHENEVERWHEN). Crayon and marker on paper, 9 by 8 inches, 2016. Collection of Josh Matejka. February 2016. I made this one while still laid up after my heart attack…

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4) Recording With Black Phillip – an illustration I made for The Reel Friends Podcast. This episode was about The VVitch, and I was a guest commentator. October 2016.

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3) The Cloud of Unknowing Print I made, titled Unknowing. Woodblock print on Arches paper. Image is 15 by 15 inches on approximately 20 by 20 inch paper. October 2016.

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2) Sigil. Oil, oil stick, spray paint, oil pastel, colored pencil and bas relief on panel, 16 by 16 inches, 2015-2016. Finished April 2016. Collection of Derek and Charlee Zimmerman.

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  1. The C-Section. Gouache on paper, 6 by 6 inches. This is a small painting of a sculpture my oldest daughter made about Cesarean Sections. I really love this piece. March 2016.

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My End of the Year List for 2016

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End of year lists are jerky and predictable, and so I generally make fun of them while joining in. I almost always turn away from the year in question and just make a general ranking. I also like to make a list of material that’s been endlessly parsed already. Click on the linked songs to listen.

Today, I’ll be putting my own order on the nine studio albums of the great Led Zeppelin, a band I grew up hearing (one of my earliest memories is listening to records while standing against the Panasonic Thruster speakers my dad had). I’ll throw in a bit of commentary as I go. Happy New Year, folks!

Rank | Album Title | Order of Release | Release Date

9) Led Zeppelin I: 1st release – January 12, 1969

Key Track

  1. Your Time Is Gonna Come

8) Led Zeppelin II: 2nd release – October 22, 1969

Key Tracks:

  1. Whole Lotta Love
  2. What Is and What Should Never Be
  3. Bring It On Home

7) Houses Of The Holy: 5th release – March 28, 1973

HotH has a great opening quartet of songs; for me it is essentially tied with Zeppelin IV. Its drawback is a weaker second half, particularly (to me) Dancing Days and The Ocean.

Key sequence:

  1. The Song Remains The Same
  2. The Rain Song
  3. Over The Hills and Far Away
  4. The Crunge

6) Led Zeppelin IV: 4th release – November 8, 1971

This record is Zeppelin’s most well known. It’s classic and iconic, and always worth returning to listen to again. Four Sticks is, however, the real standout for me over time.

5) Led Zeppelin III: 3rd release – October 5, 1970

Obviously Immigrant Song is the most popular song here. But Track 5, Out On The Tiles, is my favorite. It’s all strut and bombast, much like Zeppelin was during this period of time. The stylistic development from 1968 to 1970 is mirrored across the songs of Zeppelin III. I especially love the weirdness of the final track, Hats Off to (Roy) Harper.

4) Coda: 9th release – November 19, 1982

I love Coda, a posthumous offering from Page and the boys. Basically a complication album made from unreleased tracks recorded during sessions for previous records, Coda shows how even the cast off bits from Zeppelin’s oeuvre were damn fine stuff. I really enjoy the opener (We’re Gonna Groove) and closer (Wearing and Tearing) of this fast-paced charge through the band’s years.

3) In Through The Out Door: 8th release – August 15, 1979

I am a sucker for the ballad/love odes All My Love and I’m Gonna Crawl on this album. But the epic core of In Through The Out Door is Carouselambra. This 10 minute powerhouse is a journey all its own. It retains its energy and over-the-top spectacle, and it sits next to Kashmir and The Song Remains The Same as an example of the real creativity and showmanship of Led Zeppelin.

2) Physical Graffiti: 6th release – February 24, 1975

Physical Graffiti was my main Zeppelin choice during my teens and early 20s. If I could go back and hear Kashmir completely fresh again I’d do it in a second. So many great memories… Also huge for me are In My Time of Dying, In The Light, and The Wanton Song.

1) Presence: 7th release – March 31, 1976

My go-to Zeppelin album over the last decade or so has been Presence. It is huge, sweeping, and doesn’t shy away from a kind of nerdy excess that would eventually be the realm of Prog Rock. In the 1970s they made most of this stuff without irony, and so the Genesis, Yes, Camel, ELO and King Crimson (etc, et al) albums of the 70s were earnest. In Presence there is a seriousness that, perhaps, earlier records didn’t always have. To me, you just can’t get more quintessentially Zeppelin than For Your Life, Royal Orleans, and Nobody’s Fault But Mine. It’s just about perfect.

Key tracks:

  1. Achilles Last Stand
  2. For Your Life
  3. Royal Orleans
  4. Nobody’s Fault But Mine
  5. Candy Store Rock
  6. Hots On For Nowhere
  7. Tea For One

Have you seen the bridge?

When a man loves a woman…

…he renovates the main bathroom as a Christmas present while she’s traveling around the world to adopt a daughter. 


New paint, rearranged lighting and towel fixtures, new faucets and drains, and new caulk and sealant on toilet, tub, and sink. New moulding top and bottom, new registers and venting, and a deep clean (wire brush, etc) of everything.

I always try to do a household project for my wife when something huge happens in our lives. Bringing FangFang home is a huge Christmas gift for our family. I wanted to have something special for my wife on her return. Adoption trips are so tough emotionally and physically. It’s nice to have a bright, clean, and cozy space for a shower or bath at home… 


So thankful to my wife and all of the others who have worked to bring this beauty home. 

The Mind’s I with Anne Harris

Over the last couple of days I had the great privilege and honor to get to work alongside Anne Harris on an iteration of her ongoing installation project, The Mind’s I (click here for more info). This version of the project took place at the University of Central Missouri. Two colleagues of mine who taught at Mizzou in the past and who earned their MFAs at Indiana University like I did – Melanie Johnson and Chris Lowrance – were involved as well, as were a number of other UCM faculty and students. I brought several of my grads along for one day of the project, then I went back to work again the next day. It was a great experience.


Anne Harris at work on the project on Saturday, November 4, 2016.


Zach Nutt and Nikos Karabetsos at work, November 3, 2016.


I focused on the abstract shaping of my head foreshortened in a mirror. The strange roundness of my neck was compelling; these are some of the first self-reflective observational/figurative works I’ve made since my heart attack in February.

Below: I also incorporated some linocut Cloud of Unknowing prints into a few of my works; I really like how they turned out.

Overall it was that bulbous shape I was interested in, and how the ceiling lights altered and occuluded what I could see of myself in the strange angle of the mirror.


All of my pieces are mixed media on paper, 11×10 inches, November 3 and 4, 2016.

As you can see in the panorama above, the works were arranged in a grid to fill the space, and each one included date and time information. The array of times were an important aspect of the installation, asking viewers to consider the ween and among the works and their makers. The sense of a shared space, with each person’s intentionality bent toward the question of perception and identity, was palpable.


My piece (center) is to the right of an Anna Harris drawing. Two Simon Tatum pieces project from the wall below.


It was particularly cool to see Anne working and arranging the installation of the works. On Friday, I got to spend several hours in conversation with her about tons of topics, from misogyny in art to adoption, from color theory to the goings on at SAIC (Anne teaches there, and I earned by BFA there in 20o1). It was an amazing time. Anne is smart, warm, and inclusive, and gave lots of attention to everyone who wanted to chat with her. It was such a treat to get to hang out with her!


Above are several more works by my students Nikos, Simon, Amy Meyer, and Guigen Zha.


Above: Honorary grad Simon at work. Below: our host, Melanie Johnson working a self portrait.


On Friday evening a group of us went to eat at Brown and Loe, a fantastic restaurant in Kansas City’s River Market area.


Thanks so much to Melanie for inviting me and my students to participate, and to Anne for the great conversation and generosity of spirit she has.

Becoming The Student: Jacob Luis Gonzales

“Right now I have a Left Ventricular Assistive Device (LVAD) helping my heart function. When the doctors at Barnes Jewish Hospital originally put this device in my body they said I had a 50% chance of living with it until July 2016, and I recently heard this a couple of weeks ago. This forced me to think about what I want people to remember about me if I do pass away. ” – Jacob Luis Gonzales, January 2016


Above: Conversations With Jake. Digital drawing, created in Procreate on an iPad Pro using an Apple Pencil. October 2016.

I’ve been wanting to work up a portrait of Jake for a while. The last year + of his life has been extremely hard. He went through 13 major (life-saving) surgeries over the summer of 2015, was resuscitated over 75 times, experienced fevers as high as 108 degrees, and has had to relearn how to do essentially everything. 

But I don’t want to just make some inspiration porn. Jake doesn’t need that. No one does.

I want to encourage you to hear his own voice, his own story in his own words. First, go read through some of that narrative at his blog. Second, consider donating to his on-going care. He needs help, from more complex stuff to just the basics. Go to his Go Fund Me page to directly donate. If you’d rather help out in a different way, I’m selling some artworks to help Jake and Ali: go here to see Situation and Circumstance Overcome – if you like it, order it, and I’ll give 100% of the sale to the Gonzaleses. Here’s what it looks like:


Lastly, if you are local and a friend, consider making time to go hang out with Jake and Ali. The time I spent drawing Jake was full of laughter, real talk, sharp wit, intense remembrances, and some solid sports and movie talk. They’re awesome people. 

Thanks for being a part of project, Jake (and Ali’s feet!).

Preparing for Halloween!

Once again we carved our pumpkins. It’s always a fun event and I look forward to it every year. Check out the kiddos’ works in progress:)


Atticus loved drawing in where to put the eyes and mouth for me to carve. Then I let him unleash the paint…


CaiQun really got coverage on her pumpkin!!


Finally, Miranda got hers underway with some intense primary colors, then some spray paint.

The girls did most of the gutting of the pumpkins themselves – a first for us! We also used LED lights in our pumpkins this year, which is also new. They look pretty epic:)