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Allen Memorial Art Museum's Henry Ossawa Tanner Oil

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Andria Derstine, the Director of the Allen Memorial Art Museum in Oberlin, OH sent out a holiday greeting yesterday and chose as an illustration an oil by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859- 1937),  Flight into Egypt.  I've always thought Tanner, an important African American painter, was too little known and was happy to hear my alma mater's art museum added one of his paintings for their collection in 2017. To me he's an impressive painter with supreme visual skills. Tanner was a religious man and depicted the Holy Family leaving Bethlehem in 15 paintings over his life time. Clearly this was a story the guy wanted to tell. His painting has a way of drawing you in whether or not you're traditionally religious. Painters tell their stories through how they shape things. Tanner first makes a crytalline sky that casts a mysterious atmosphere over the scene. Riding under a cloak of darkness we see the Holy Family with hardly a detail. But Tanner entices our eyes to focus on them by

What the Wicked Queen and Dracula Never Saw in the Mirror

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Deep Forest Pool,  oil on panel, 32 x 40 inches, 2020. I grew up in the last remaining old growth forest in my county. To be honest in summer it could be a bit dark and solemn under all those trees. But peppered through the forest were small stands of white birch. Even on the cloudy days their bark shone out with delightful energy. No wonder that's a theme I so often return to in my paintings. Yesterday I hung two of my birch paintings alongside a decorative mirror.  Stepping back to look I saw the oils and mirror resonated with each other. Got to thinking about how they connect. We put a lot of stock in mirrors. There's the Disney film   where the evil queen relies on her mirror to tell her if she is still the fairest of them all. Even worse, in the 1930's classic, poor Dracula's image wouldn't even reflect in the mirror, apparently because he had no soul. In any case we all use mirrors to try to find out who we are.  Light in the Forest,  oil on panel, 18 x 24 inc

Birdsong: Things Absolutely Nobody But Charles Burchfield Would Think of to Paint

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Charles Burchfield, Telegraph Music, watercolor Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY We cheat ourselves out of meaningful experiences.  So often we're too quick to turn the page and move on. We overlook things that matter. A job of artists is to say "Not so fast, there's still something here you should see." Art helps to enlarge and to deepen our experience. I can't think of a better example of this than the painter Charles Burchfield, an artist who loved to leave the well traveled path and find subjects in the unlikely and unexpected places. The sounds of nature fired up his imagination.  Burchfield Penney Art Center has an exhibition organized by Curator Nancy Weekly on just this topic- Birdsong: Audio-visual  Art by Charles Burchfield , but it ends soon- Nov. 29, 2020. Here's a link to the museum's page on the exhibition. It's odd how birds, while so ever present when we walk outside are notable by their absence in most of American art histor

New Heated Home for Dawn the Abandoned Cat

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  A few years ago one of our neighbors found a stray cat and brought it home. They named her Dawn. She was happy to be fed and petted by them which they did on a somewhat regular basis, but she stayed pretty thin. They also discovered she insisted on staying outside as much as possible. These neighbors abruptly moved away and left the cat behind. We were dismayed.  Dawn has made a few friends in the neighborhood and some of us started leaving food and water out for her.  Then we got a serious blast of winter wind and cold.  I couldn't stop thinking about Dawn spending her nights outside.  I have cat allergies or I would have attempted to bring her in to our house. Online I found an inexpensive electrically heated outdoor cat shelter. I bought it and set the thing up in our front yard. Dawn refused to have anything to do with it for the first two days, but the next morning I came home and found her furry behind sticking out of the shelter's door.  To say she's moved in and m

My Painting Included in Masterworks Exhibition at Cedar Rapids Museum of Art

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Philip Koch, Cape Cod Morning, oil on canvas, 33 1/2 x 50 inches, 1994 The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art in Iowa is commemorating its 125 anniversary with a feature exhibition 125! 125 Masterworks from the Collection (through Jan. 17, 2021). Sean Ulmer, the museum's Director  let me know my painting Cape Cod Morning is included in the Masterworks  exhibition.  It's a huge honor to me to be hanging alongside some heavy hitters from the museum's permanent collection including Grant Wood, Henry Ossawa Tanner and Lucas Cranach the Elder. How my painting came to be is something of a "throw caution to the wind" tale.  On the main highway that runs the length of Cape Cod there's a particularly intriguing building that housed a bank. Back in  the '90's was painted a subtle yellow color I just loved. The trouble was I like to paint from direct observation rather than photographs, and the best point of view of the house was right in the middle of the busy highway.

Ever Wonder What's in the Next Room in Hopper's Rooms by the Sea?

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Edward Hopper, Rooms by the Sea , oil on canvas, 1951, Yale University Art Gallery One of Edward Hopper's best known paintings is Rooms by the Sea that was based on his studio in Truro, MA. Its mysterious doorway leading to the ocean captivates our eye.  Did you ever wonder what the room through the painting's other doorway looked like? Last week a collector asked to see some of the drawings I made during my residencies in the historic studio so I photographed this drawing. Philip Koch,  Edward Hopper's Truro Bedroom: Afternoon  Sunlight , vine charcoal, 9 x 12 inches, 2012. To make the drawing I set up my French easel in the bedroom Hopper shared with his wife Jo for the three decades they lived in the studio. One of the room's two small closets centers the drawing. At the right is the doorway leading into Hopper's big painting room with his studio easel in the distance.  What inspired me to make the drawing were the intense patterns the afternoon sunlight made ove

I Really Didn't Like Charles Burchfield's Work, Then...

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Charles Burchfield, North Wind in March, watercolor, 47.5 x 59.5 inches, 1960-66. Ogunquit Museum of American Art When I first saw Charles Burchfield's paintings as a young art student I didn't like them at all. To my teenage eyes Burchfield's landscapes seemed cartoon-like and childish. It didn't help that he had lived in Buffalo, NY. I was from the next town over, Rochester, and wanted nothing more than to see myself as fully grown and sophisticated. Burchfield reminded me of everything I was desperate to leave behind.  Leaving home to go off to college opened a new world to me. Most exciting of my discoveries was modern art. I decided to become a painter, and early on worked abstractly under the influence of Minimal Art and Color Field Painting.  Burchfield seemed to go just the opposite way. Most of his strongest work is of his little hometown. He found there aspects we either overlook or outright fail to imagine. Somehow his art becomes a vehicle that take us to a