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Exchange of Values

Exchange of Values
acrylic on board 48'X96'

"Structure of Color Perception"

"Structure of Color Perception"
48'X96' acrylic on board

Friday, July 31, 2009


" Ontological Essay" You can get this on a T shirt!


An explanatory essay requested by the tshirt shop "Eddy's," for a tshirt with one of my paintings on it, I wrote: "Written on the painting is that it is an "ontological essay, yeah, that's somewhat vague and sounds a bit highfalooten, but then that's often an effective trope to enshroud one's ignorance! I have had a long and ardent interest in the relationships among 'Being,' language, and ( little 't' ) truth--and, how these relationships might be explored in the visual arts. This painting addresses this interest head on by making language itself so explicit. Most folks seem to quickly decide that the unfamiliar squiggles, shapes and lines are some kind of language and not just meaningless abstract doodles. This is significant because it suggests that there is some innate ability in human beings to recognize and engage language. Indeed, some have argued that a good definition of 'human' is simply 'language making.' Next, usually people often want to know what it 'says,' and/or what does it 'mean.' There is a predictable assumption that language points beyond itself to some outer meaning to which it merely gestures towards; as if language is not a ' thing in itself ' but a mundane portmanteau thrown onto a train headed for some idealized destination where it is unpacked, deciphered, and put to it's intended use. But, maybe language is more than this; maybe it is the train, the track, the passenger, and, the destination all at once! Maybe there is no 'outside' of language, no idealized destination, maybe language always primarily directs itlelf towards its own beingness; and in that sense one cannot exceed the "prison house of language," as Heidegger wrote, not because it is constricting or confining, but for another reason, because we may not discover it's delimitation. "The limits of one's language are the limits of one's world" is how Wittgenstein put it, and in this painting I want people to encounter the limits of world/word, and then travel just a little bit further. Of course, one could simply paint all this on the canvass, instead of all those delphic pictographs and arcane texts, but then the explanation wouldn't really explain anything anyway, would it?. Rather it would merely obscure the impossibility of determining some ultimate 'meaning' or authorized translation. Now all this may just sound like a lot of metaphysical B.S. to cover up the fact that I just don't know what the hell it means. But I assure you, I believe a good portion of this, and reckon this is about as close to a 'statement' i can get.
Obliged, daniel

Thursday, July 30, 2009

My favorite Icon, commissioned by Justin the first 1600 yrs. ago and still hangs in situ in the monastery. I made this copy with minimal changes, 36'X50' acrylic on board. It is quite unlike any of the other Icons at the monastery. Painted by an unknown artist. One can see the original at wikipedia under "Blessing Christ," though that is not it's actual title. blessings, dan.


Monday, July 27, 2009


another post over at 'Journeying with those in exile'

I have been busy painting a copy of Van Gogh’s “Wheatfields with Crows,” for a ‘Forgery Art Exhibition’ I was invited to (aug 1 for any who are interested). It is a different experience than painting Coptic and Orthodox Icons I have been focusing on for awhile. Some years ago I read through the 3 vol. set of Vincent’s letters, he was an extraordinary theologian and writer. I have been re-reading them a bit and came upon one of his last letters to Bernard. Bernard had sent him a poem:

“…for hope has pored its neurosis into my bosom—Winter having neither a sou or flowers—Come from the blue plains—Paled by the length of leagues—Twisted on his spiraled cross.”

Vincent writes to Bernard: “But is seems to me you do not say clearly enough what you want to make felt--the certainty that one seems to have, and which one can in any case prove of the nothingness, the betrayal of the desirable good and beautiful things; and that, despite the knowledge, one lets oneself be eternally fooled by the charm which external life, the things outside ourselves, exercises on our 6 senses, as if one did not know anything, and especially not the difference between objectivity and subjectivity. Fortunately for us we remain stupid and hopeful in this way. ‘Twisted on his spiral cross,’ conveys very well the exaggerated leanness of the mystic Christ. But why not add that the anguished look of the martyr is, like the eye of a cab horse, infinitely sad; that would make it more Parisian where one sees such looks in the eyes of the superannuated nags of the little carriages as well as in those of the poets and artists.” Looking at Vincent’s self-portraits I think I see that look in his eyes; my wife says she sees it my eyes sometimes and it worries her. “Wheatfields” was Vincent’s last painting, he put down the brush, got his gun, walked out into the field and shot himself. After the show I am going to paint him into the picture, fallen, clutching his wound, praying, and surrounded by angels.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I may be sponsoring another "Stock Market Art Show" soon. I think it was an interesting experience the last time 5 yrs ago and worth another experiment. The following is the polemical, explanatory manifesto which was in part, a critique of Guy Debord's and Dave Hickey's excellent essays.

"Stock Market Art: A work of art is a commodity. Art is fashioned through the selection and arrangement of pre-existing elements circulating within an administered, visual inventory. The monetary value of art work increases as the art/artist is able to attract interest/capital by garnering the social investment of one or more of a complex of constituencies (mass consumers, patrons, galleries, media, academic institutions). In commodity culture the accumulation of Capital (money, youth, labor, information, celebrity, etc.) until it forms an image, produces spectacle; 'fine art' is spectacle re-presenting itself in sublime form. A share of stock, like other currency (or art) has no intrinsic value. Rather, stocks or money as abstractions, mediate our commitments, our faith, and our investments among interdependent (though unequal) systems of culturally constructed realities. Stocks, like grace, are public visible signs of private, invisible assets. the dependence of the arts superstructure on the economic base is often elided in promoting art's other functions: decoration, moral instruction, dis-interested aesthetic pleasure, class position, and perhaps most significantly providing power/capital with an impotent, institutionally controlled, avantgarde as a relief and diversion from any consequential challenge to it's authority. The stock market art show was conceived, in part, to make apparent the matrix of relations among visual culture and money culture. but. rather than attempting another superficial critique, this project exposes the sublation of the interests of capital in artistic production and expects to profit from it!"

Here is how it worked, I sold stock in the show for 5$ a share. The shareholders and the artists divided the profits, after expenses, among themselves. Stockholders were payed according to how many shares they held. The art floated on the market without reserve price.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Reckon I will reprint my occasional posts to other blogs here so I can review them. Over at one of my favorite blogs 'on journeying with those in exile' Dan posted: "In the same way that religion may be considered the opiate of the masses, the Arts should be considered the opiate of the middle-classes." Seems that many folks agree with him, I replied:

“secular religion?” “opium?” “shat upon by Jesus?”

Well, most of the writings of the Iconoclasts were destroyed when the Iconodules reemerged victorious after a couple hundred years of battle. One argument against icons that survived (by an interlocutor of John of Damascus I think) warned that “Icons enter the mind unimpeded by reason,” He went on to say that ordinary folks who possessed Icons in the home were like to have their imaginations stimulated in heretical or licentious ways lending towards magic and fanciful impulses and unhealthy stimulations. One might allow for Icons or stained glass in a church, he hedged, where the images would be surrounded by doctrine and the discourse of the church. Since most folks were illiterate, the church had almost monopoly control on written discourse, but lots of folks could produce or buy simple pictures of Mary or the saints and set up individual alters in their own homes and develop worship practices that sometimes fell out side the orthodox. When someone would get healed of some affliction while praying with an Icon, it would sometimes come to be seen as having special powers, and it’s owner might travel around with the miracle dispensing Icon and charge for it’s services—a kind of early teli-evangelism. Of course writing could become ensnared in biblical prohibitions against idolatry as well. There was a practice of writing out the name of Hashem in letters and wearing or praying with it like a talisman to ward off sickness or evil or even lightning strikes! Hieroglyphics, especially Egyptian, are a kind of midpoint between writing and pictures and are often condemned in early Jewish literature up to the time of Maimonides. The early Egyptians built a sculpture of a crocodile out of lead that is credited with keeping Cairo safe from these creatures. Often people speak of the “art of writing, or cooking, or making love.” An acquaintance has a house filled with the paintings of Thomas Kincaid, the evangelical “painter of Light.” Once a good investment they are now falling in value. Kincaid’s early work was almost void of humans. They strike me like apocalyptic, potemkin villages waiting for the raptured to occupy them in the afterlife. He is battling liver cancer and the paintings seem to comfort him. He chides me for my Romanism, but there is no one to pray to/with in a Kincaid painting; I think he pictures himself in one of those fluorescent English cottages with his wife who passed some years ago. The Icons at St. Catherines on Mt.Sinai survived the Image wars and are worth a visit. I painted a faithful copy of the “Blessing Christ” commissioned by Justin about 1600 yrs ago. I made minor changes. I added the Hebrew letter ‘ayin’ (looks like a Y ) in the center of the Bible Jesus is holding. It is a silent letter, a servant letter, so to speak, thought to represent the ‘eye of G-d.’ It is not the actual eye.

Obliged, daniel

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Back from Yakima, Brownstown, and White Swan, on the Yakama reservation in the lower Yakima valley.  Visited Joe at his cafe in Btown again, been going there for about 40 yrs.  Btown is largely a abandoned, burnt out, derelict 4 corner town and a regional treasure.  The 'cafe' is tilted and decrepit but still retains extraordinary character, including a great mural of cowgirls roping cows.  Joe was there along with 2, 90+ yr old locals, one (Mancy) a self-described 'Yakama Indian medicine man' with southern Baptist roots.  The other a French-Catholic (lots in that area) who covered Mancy's eyes and laughingly told us that he was a "witch doctor who would hypnotize us and steal our souls," I think they were both 'into their cups' as they say but they had lots of insights into local history and current politics to share (over the noise of another young Yakama watching  the movie "Dumb and Dumber" on video.  I encourage anyone traveling through the area to stop in and say hi and get some of Joe's chili.  It's on the way to White Swan, the area of some of the last Indian wars to be fought in this country, as well as one of the few Indian Shaker churches in the Northwest.  Lynda (my wife) got some great pics and if i knew how to post them i would.  obliged, Daniel