Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Neat Little Find

I came across this surprisingly neat painting tag last week and thought I'd share the story with you.

A friend of mine was having an opening at the St. Botolph Club, which is an old social club in Boston with a focus on the arts, housed in a grand nineteenth-century brownstone mansion in the Back Bay.

In the entry vestibule, there is a full-sized reproduction of Sargent's radiant life-size portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner. The original hangs in her museum a few miles away, and sits in a curious gold frame in which the grain of the wood is prominently visible, and almost appears painted rather than gilded (I frankly never took a very careful look at the frame, though now I sure will next time I'm there).

I was at the club for a reason, so I didn't stop to look at it, beyond noticing out of the corner of my eye that the colors were all off but the frame was the same as the original.

On the way out, I was having a nice conversation with a slow-moving group of new friends, and when we got to the vestibule, we stopped and had a closer look at the reproduction. I realized that the thing I had casually disregarded earlier was actually something extraordinary.

It's an enormous Polaroid - probably 6 foot tall and 2.5 feet wide.

This is by far the biggest Polaroid I've ever seen. Elsa Dorfman is a Boston-based photographer well known for her Polaroid portraits , and she uses a 20x24 inch camera - one of only 6 created, and I was under the impression that those were the largest such cameras produced.

But... it seems a few even bigger ones were constructed, including a room-sized camera at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which was capable of taking 80x40 inch images. It's a fair bet that this was the camera used to make this Polaroid, since it's literally a block away from the Gardner Museum.

As I mentioned, the colors were all off from the original. Polaroids were never meant to be archival, and this photograph is probably decades old. It seemed like a dark vestibule when I walked through it, but it might also get some direct sun exposure at times of the day/year.

I wish I'd been able to get a picture of the whole thing, but it was big and the room was small, and there wasn't any way I could capture all of it. So, I took a shot of the tag, which is a delight in itself.

"Mrs. Jack" was Isabella Stewart Gardner's nickname. The club did not admit women as members until the 1980's, so she would not have been a member, despite being the unquestioned reigning queen of the art world in Boston (and beyond). "John S. Sargent" clearly was a member, and the original portrait was first displayed at the club in 1888. The "Edw. Land" who gifted this must be Edwin Land, the inventor of the Polaroid camera and an extraordinary individual in his own right.

The original Polaroid Corporation is long gone. Other companies seem to have licensed the technology and are providing film for the small-format Polaroid cameras, but film is certainly no longer available for the large-format cameras. So, it would appear that this is an absolutely unique artifact.

Have you seen this photograph? Have you seen other large-scale Polaroids?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Waterglass and Lemon

Today's painting for you:

"Waterglass and Lemon", Oil on Panel, 6x5 inches, 2010

One of the as-yet unread books on my shelf is Newton's Opticks.  I bought it several years ago just so I could better understand visual effects like this - where glasses of water act like mirrors and prisms.  My list of books to read is awfully long, so I haven't gotten there yet, but I'm looking forward to having a go at it.  Art and science are only opposed to each other in unhealthy minds.

I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Teacup and an update!

Today’s painting for you:

“Teacup”, Oil on Panel, 6×8 inches, 2007 (sold)

So yesterday was a state holiday in Massachusetts; Patriot’s Day, which commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord in the Revolutionary War.  I needed a day off, so I took it.  Feels great to just shut everything off for a day, and it also feels great to be back to work fully energized.


Meanwhile, you’d be right if you noticed that I haven’t been posting any new work for the last few weeks.   I had my show last month, and since then I’ve been working on an important project – redeveloping my website.

This hasn’t just been about a cosmetic upgrade, though it’s needed that for a while.  I’ve been hand-coding my website since 1999, and while it’s done the job, lately I’ve been feeling the limitations – over time it’s become progressively more difficult to work with.  Not to mention it isn’t mobile-responsive at all.

So, I’m migrating everything to WordPress.  It’s been a big investment of my time, since I’ve had to learn some new technology and also brush up on modern web design practices.  But… I think this will give me an excellent platform to move forward.

I have some big plans for my website — some rich new features I’m excited about and that I think you will appreciate — and once the new foundation is in place, I can start to build up those features.  My goal is to have the basic website live by the end of the month, and then I can begin to focus on developing the new parts of it.


We’re all here for the artwork of course, and I sure haven’t forgotten about that.  Once the website work is out of the way, I can get going on a new project I’m thrilled about.

Some long-time collectors have asked me to do a set of paintings for an unusual space in their home, and I recently went out to have a look at it and their extraordinary collection of great paintings.   They will sit above an large archway leading into their dining room.  While the dimensions are different (think very short and very wide), the location is well-lit, prominent, and dramatic, and I think we have the chance to do something special here.  I can’t wait to get going on it, so look for updates starting in about 2 weeks.


The painting I picked out for you today goes all the way back to 2007 – 10 years old!  It has a kind of stark and solitary quality that I appreciate.  It’s also nearly entirely monochromatic, which makes the few notes of color sing.

I hope you enjoy it!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Still Life with Olive Jar

Today's painting for you:

"Still Life with Olive Jar", Oil on Linen, 8x10 inches, 2013 (sold)

The most engaging part of working on this painting was the stone slab, hands down.  Capturing the veins of different colors, and especially the rough textures of the broken face, made for a whole day of intricate and absorbing work.

I don't let myself say this often, but this is one case where the painting is better than the photograph of it.  Looking at this now, I really wish I could redo it.  However, the painting is long gone so I have to be content with this one.

I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Quintet on Red Brocade

Today’s painting for you:

“Quintet on Red Brocade”, Oil on Panel, 2.5×6 inches, 2013 (sold)

So that is my studio reflected in the large steel marble.  I have a large window by my easel, which is the lightest area reflected on the left.  The sort of triangular black shape next to it is actually a wall shelf holding part of my props collection – heavily distorted in this reflection.  The brown area next to that is a cupboard where I store materials, and the black squarish object on the right is the shadowbox, where I set up most of my still life arrangements (but obviously not this one!)

Hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

First Among Equals

Today’s painting for you:

“First Among Equals”, Oil on Canvas, 20×50 inches, 2013

At 20×50 inches, I think this is my biggest painting so far, and to me it felt like painting a mural.  It now graces a corporate boardroom in Kansas City, which was an unexpected and delightful destination for it.

I hope they are enjoying it, and I hope you do as well!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Silver Creamer and Peeled Orange

Today's painting for you:

"Silver Creamer and Peeled Orange", Oil on Panel, 5x6 inches, 2011

Posting my older paintings, one a day, like I've been doing over the past month has been a great exercise for me.  Before this, I've never really taken the time to look at my whole body of work in a regular or systematic way.

Of course there's a lot that I'm no longer interested in or just weren't successful paintings.  You won't be seeing those.  But I'm also surprised at how often I encounter something in these older pieces that I'd like to continue working with in upcoming paintings, like specific objects, particular motifs, or compositional approach.

And this is one of them.  I had a good look at it this morning and simply thought to myself that I'd love to make more paintings like it - to pick up this particular thread and see where it leads.

I hope you enjoy it as well!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Some Good News...

Let’s take a moment to enjoy some good news, OK?

As some of you know, I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in July 2015, and was given a 10% chance of surviving through the end of the treatment.

And here I am.

Today I had my regularly-scheduled 3 month follow up exam with my oncologist, and I remain in complete remission.  Completely healthy, as far as anybody knows.  Moreover, I feel spectacular – literally the same way I did when I was in my 20’s, which you can see from my selfie is clearly not the case.

Everybody around me knows that this is very much a one-day-at-a-time existence, and things could change quickly, but that of course is true for all of us at all times.  That said, it’s now been over 14 months since the completion of my treatment, and I’ve had the most satisfying, productive, and HAPPY year imaginable.

I think everybody who is handed a cancer diagnosis immediately realizes that their life has just changed.  For me, the changes were all positive – paradoxically, I regard this as the very best thing that ever happened to me.  This experience has turned out to be a major turning point in my life – both inner and outer – and has become a gift of immeasurable worth.  I’m grateful for it every single day, and wouldn’t change a thing about it even if I could.  It has made me a better person in every single way I can think of.  Period.

This isn’t something I particularly need to – or wish to – talk about often.  I wrote about the experience in an extended blog post last year, and haven’t felt the desire to say much about it since then.  There are plenty of other things I’d prefer to talk about and you’d prefer to think about. In fact, my main motivation in saying all of this is so I can be some sort of help and encouragement to those who might be having similar experiences.

So… I hope that gives your day a shot of genuine optimism, and for me, it is time to get back to work…

Vita brevis, ars longa, occasio praeceps (Life is short, Art is long, and Opportunity is fleeting)  -Hippocrates

Orange Slices and Glass

Today's painting for you:

"Orange Slices and Glass", Oil on Canvas, 30x24 inches, 2008

I often have the sneaking feeling that I'm not supposed to like my older paintings - especially those that I made close to the beginning of my career.  That's because I've presumably improved somewhat in the intervening years.  While it's true there are some paintings from that time that I just would not show today, there are many - this one included - that I still like tremendously.

Of course there are things I'd do differently today - I think it's impossible to work steadily for years and not have your entire approach evolve - but nevertheless I enjoyed looking at this one.  I hope you did too!

Friday, April 07, 2017

Boston Art and Design in the 20th and 21st Centuries Show

Boston Art and Design in the 20th and 21st Centuries Show

One of my galleries – Powers Gallery in Acton, MA – is participating in this year’s Art & Design in the 20th and 21st Centuries (thankfully they shorten the name of the show to AD20/21).  They sent along a picture of their fantastic-looking booth, in which you can see a number of my smaller pieces on the table.

The show is being held at the wonderful Cyclorama building in Boston’s South End all weekend.  If you’re in the area, stop by and say hi to Larry Powers in booth #22.

More info is available at the show's website: