Sunday Afternoon

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I have always loved the intimate setting of the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC.  I have visited it for decades. I had an hour to kill when I was downtown near Dupont Circle recently, so I popped in.

It was hot and busy out on the surrounding streets, with people getting coffee, visiting the street markets…hustle and bustle.

When I entered the Phillips, it was cool and golden.  The art is purposely juxtaposed to present different styles and eras in close proximity.  It gives a richness to the experience of wandering through the rooms, just as this couple was doing.

The red chair, the bright stairwell, and the soft glow around the painting they have focused on is a magnificent play of light, shadow and color surrounding a superb collection.

“Sunday Afternoon at the Phillips”, 30 x 24″, oil on linen.

Divided

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The Kreeger Museum is a hidden gem in Washington DC.  Hidden in plain sight on Foxhall Road NW, it is just a few minutes from Georgetown and Key Bridge. The private, non-profit museum is set on 5 acres of sculpture-filled, tranquil gardens.  The museum is the former residence of David & Carmen Kreeger, and focuses on 19th & 20th Century art, as well as prominent Washington artists.

It’s truly a lovely setting to view art. I’ve always particularly loved homes that have been turned in to museums. These rooms in the Kreeger are conducive to contemplation, as seen by these two women.

Separated by William Christenberry’s “Dream Building II” and surrounded by Clifford Still’s “Untitled”, Sam Gilliam’s “Cape”, and Josef Albers’ Homage to the Square:Wet and Dry” the two women are each lost in their personal worlds.

I especially loved the play of sculpted shadows set against the color of the paintings.  The women become part of that neutral palette, allowing the art to really define the space.

Divided, 24 x 36″, oil on linen

Hidden Away

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My newest painting “Behind The Hedge” came about a few seasons after I visited a charming village near Bath, England, called Castle Comb. This often happens.  I will re-visit images from past travels.  Certain ones always seem to leap out again and again, and finally I find the time to paint them.

A special place stays amazingly fresh in my memory. This particular morning, after a stroll through the idyllic village, I walked past a hedge that was still changing color in early November.  The colors, the hidden cottage and the water rushing nearby all made for a very fairytale like scene. It was one of many hidden gems throughout the small historic village that seems to have escaped changing times.

It took me a few years, but I have re-visited the images of Castle Combe in the heat of a Washington DC summer, and can almost feel the cool, damp air and smell the fire smoke coming from chimneys.

I have been thinking more and more recently of re-visiting some of these English landscapes that I love.

They are so joyfully simple and beautiful. And the foliage and trees, especially for this late fall visit, offer an incredible palette of soothing color.

A magical escape.

“Behind the Hedge”, 14 x 11″, oil on linen

Seeing Red

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Sometimes an image will stay with me for quite a long time and pop out years later in a painting.  In the case of “Reds” (which I just finished this week) this image recalls a visit to MOMA in New York City in January of 2015. I had gone up to see the special Matisse Cut-Outs show. I was not allowed to photograph in the galleries for this particular show, but of course couldn’t resist a few photos of the happy art lovers waiting on line to get in.

But it certainly put me in the mood for the Matisse room of the regular MOMA collection, and “The Red Studio” has always been one of my favorites there.

The room was not as crowded as it sometimes is.  Maybe the Matisse lovers were in the special cut-outs exhibit.

But when I saw these three young girls, all in shades of pink…they just reinforced Matisse’s monochromatic palette filling his canvas and pushing out from the edges.

Whenever I would re-visit my favorite reference files of photos from museum visits, I would stop and linger with this one. It’s been tacked to the wall in my studio off and on for the past two years.

The figures seemed to mimic the happy floating objects in Matisse’s studio.

I wanted to keep the loose joy of the master work without directly falling into its style.  But, these three figures really are simply a perfect extension of the composition.

Reds are tough.  And Matisse’s red is such a specific shade, which I actually felt I could never quite capture, although I layered it many times trying.

But the sense of vibrancy and movement is there, and extends into the surrounding room.  How can anyone not be happy in the presence of a Matisse.

“Reds”, oil on linen, 30″ x 24″

 

Shared Impressions

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I have spent many mornings exploring the newly renovated East Wing of the National Gallery of Art since it re-opened last fall.  The old friend is still familiar, yet fresh and revitalized.

I almost always go alone to art museums.  It gives me the opportunity to really emerge myself in the art, and pick the little corner I want to explore that day.  But these three young women made it look like such fun to go with friends.

Tucked away to the left when you first come in the main entrance, there was a gorgeous exhibition from the museum’s French Impressionist collection.

These three women followed me through the collection, and exited to the main hall soon after I did.

Wedged between Andy Goldsworthy’s rock sculpture and the graphic detail of Madame Picasso next to the entrance (the original is inside!), the girls put their heads together and looked at their images on their phone.

I would love to think they had photographed images from the show, and were reliving the experience, but can’t know for sure.  But Madame Picasso, looking over their shoulders, probably has a pretty good idea what they’re talking about.

Whatever the conversation, I loved the camaraderie in a truly wonderful setting. “Shared Impressions”, oil on linen, 24 x 36

 

Counterbalance

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The entire East Wing of the National Gallery of Art finally re-opened this past fall after undergoing a huge renovation. Even this part of the main atrium, which had been open throughout the renovation, seemed fresh and new.

With Alexander Calder’s massive (920 lb) aluminum and steel mobile gently rotating overhead, the calm movement creates the perfect counterbalance to the busy world of Washington DC just outside the door.

The lone figure hurries across the bridge seemingly oblivious to the red and black wings circling overhead.

Rushing back to her office from lunch?  Or just enjoying the spectacle of this panoramic open space.

“Counterbalance”, oil on linen, 24 x 36″

Life in Venice

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On our summer trip to Venice, we were overwhelmed by the crowds of tourists pouring through the narrow passageways and squares. The canals were no better.

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We finally found peace in The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, an oasis in a wild world. I observed two visitors who also found this retreat magnetic.

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This museum was the art patron Peggy Guggenheim’s former residence.  Both the interior and exterior views were fascinating…therefore, Looking In and Looking Out, two small 10 x 10″ canvases that capture my experience in some small way.

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The interior was room after room of exquisite paintings that this intriguing woman had collected over her lifetime, set in the quiet rooms she lived in. And yet when you went to any window, or stepped outside on the patio facing the canal with its boisterous traffic of gondolas and commercial boats, you saw the craziness of the Venice world through the most beautiful dark black grill work.

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These two small works are little oil sketches I did exploring the two sides of this fascinating museum.  If you get to Venice, put it at the top of your list.

Teach your children well

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No matter what museum I am in, in any city, I will almost certainly see a group of school children visiting the galleries with their teachers and often a docent from the museum.

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The Art Lesson just happens to be a scene I witnessed in the UK, at the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge University. But it could have been at any great museum.

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The Museum itself is imposing, and when you enter you see cavernous ceilings, long halls lined in marble and a beautiful and eclectic collection of paintings.

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When I first walked in to this gallery of impressionist paintings, there was an energetic group of children loudly roaming all over this particular space. But they soon calmed down and took their place on the floor in front of the paintings. And there they stayed surrendering to the art.

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The casually relaxed children were clearly in stark contrast to the formal gilded trim and marble columns.  But with a certain intensity, they finally found peace with their surroundings.

 

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I could relate to these children.  I have often wanted to sit on the floor in front of a great painting and just let the images speak for themselves.

Winds of Change

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It has been a year of great movement.  And as usual my work in the studio tends to reflect what I am feeling emotionally towards my small world and the greater world beyond it.

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I have been working with the City Series for over 4 years now, especially the museum scenes, and I am still drawn to its theme of finding solace and refuge in a world gone mad.

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But I have also been thinking of other peripheral themes, including seasons of change and life cycles.

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I have no idea where any of this is going yet.  And I tend to be a bit distracted when going through these thought patterns with my art.  But the thinking never stops.

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This was an image I discovered in the mountains on a morning’s drive near Little Washington in Virginia, right after we first moved.  I’ve been thinking of these new images ever since, and how much they connect with images I have seen in England. Finally “Autumn Burn” popped out on canvas.

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Autumn Burn, oil on linen, 14 x 11″

Port Isaac, aka Doc Martin’s Port Wenn

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We love the British tv series Doc Martin.  It reminds us so much of our visits to the southwest coast of England.  This trip, we decided to visit the series’ filming location in person, on the north coast of Cornwall near Tintagel (the legendary location of King Arthur’s Court).

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It was a chilly, gray late spring day.  Typical for England.  And the village of Port Isaac (aka Port Wenn) was empty before the big bank holiday weekend coming up.

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We parked in the lot on the outskirts of town and headed down the hill to the town, hugging the coastline. As we turned the curve, things looked awfully familiar.

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The first thing we could pick out was Doc Martin’s surgery, and Burt’s “Large Restaurant”, although of course both were not really what they are on the British comedy series.

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Mike thought it looked very quiet and not like the show at all.

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The streets and shops were almost empty, the cast and crew nowhere to be seen on the quiet streets.

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I saw exactly what I expected, a typical Cornish fishing village that sometimes served as a movie set for a famous popular TV show.

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We headed back up the hill to our car for the hour drive to visit my beloved Brit’s cousins in St. Austell on the south coast.

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Magic.