Susan's "subject matter, context and medium...present a coherent artistic vision"
John Torreano, Clinical Professor of Studio Art, NYU

"Great stuff. Love your work."
Seymour Chwast

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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Castle in the Sky

Detail - Castle in the Sky, acrylic on linen, 36 x 24 inches (click to enlarge) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
MY GARDEN PARTY paintings have been  very well received up and down the East Coast. Well, why not? Who doesn’t like a party? After Garden Party’s debut at the Westfield Broward Gallery in Plantation, FL, Madame Garden Party was invited to be in the 75th Regional Exhibition at the Arnot Museum (NY) for the entire summer. Alice's Aura  from the group was exhibited at the Treat Gallery, NYC. and Castle in the Sky (above)  was shown at Manhattan Arts International Gallery as part of The Healing Power of Art exhibition and earned an Award of Excellence from  Renee Phillips, the gallery director.

I started painting Garden Party as just that: an outdoor party on a blanket on top of the earth’s soil where the guests' concerns did not extend beyond getting the last deviled egg, keeping dirt off the devil’s food cake and their clothing, and holding the local wildlife at bay. However as the series progressed, it became apparent to me that the work was so much more. Castle in the Sky depicts an evolved world where total harmony exists between humanity and nature. In fact, the two worlds have melted into one. Stylistically, society and its products (the girl, the castle and the chair) and the environment (the birds, sky, beach and water) have merged into one natural, utopian democracy. In this alternative airborne world, you can view the earth as we know it in snippets on the right side of the canvas. It’s between the girl’s torso and elbow and to the right of her thigh.

In all the Garden Party paintings, while technically painting a picnic, conceptually I found that I was exploring societal and environmental concerns by combining fantasy and reality. I used microscopic details to provide playful suggestions of a better, healthier world. This beautiful symbiosis is my "castle in the sky." Unlike the usual connotations that phrase carries, I believe it is perfectly achievable if we listen when the earth speaks to us.

I am not the first artist to dream of a Castle in the Sky. The master Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki designed his own floating world in an anime also entitled Castle in the Sky. Miyazaki said that he does not want to push any message on moviegoers; he just wants them to be happy after seeing his movies. I feel the same about my viewers. Still, I need to conclude this newsletter with a quote from the master:

"The earth speaks to all of us, and if we listen, we can understand."


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Air Drawing

Jennifer, Blush and eyebrow pencil  on open matchbook cover, 3x 1"

Bouquet, pencil, berries,emon juice and grass on napkin, 5 x 5inches

Bouquet No.2, pencil, berries, lemon juice and grass on napkin, 5 x 5inches

EVERYTHING AROUND ME  at Foxglove Cottage is so beautiful that when I look at things,  my fingers start twitching with mock drawing. This is similar to playing air guitar, so  I call it air drawing. Unfortunately, the seemingly purposeless movement of my hands is a dead ringer for the movements caused by the nervous disorder, St. Vitus Dance. My twitchy air-drawing fingers remind me of the James Brown song, "I Got Ants in my Pants (And I Want to Dance)."The only difference is that I got ants on my hands and I want to draw.

I felt better about this condition after I read Chaim Potok's novel "My name Is Asher Lev." It happened to the eponymous painter Asher Lev as well. Perhaps it is a common artist's affliction. Sometimes the purposeless hand and finger movement is gentler and less obtrusive, for example, if I am air drawing an outline of a subject. Invariably, though, it crescendos into feverish, frantic back-and-forth motion because I eventually have to air shade within the air outline that I have just  air drawn. At this stage, I am compelled to  find some implements with which to convert the air drawings into actual drawings. So, I  use whatever materials are on hand.

I am very fond of these urgent little drawings that I do on found paper with found implements–poor cousins to the careful, thoughtful drawings that I do in my well equipped studio.. They are urgent and uninhibited and that's what makes them fresh. Speaking of fresh, Matisse and Picasso both used to draw and paint using bodily fluids and products for pigment. Ugh! I draw the line there (pun intended). But I have used pigments derived from berry juice, grass, dirt, lemons, tea and makeup on matchbook covers or napkins, or even bare fingers on fogged-up windows. In a perhaps futile attempt to appear normal, I have to give my quivering hands some purpose, something with which to draw and something upon which to draw. It's either that or I will be carted off to the nearest neurologist quicker than you can say,"I got ants on my hands and I want to draw!"

Friday, November 24, 2017

Moon's Day Off

Detail Good Day Moon, acrylic on linen, 24 x 18"

  I THINK MY PERSONAL MOON  is in alignment with the universe. I have been invited to exhibit my most recent paintings with Irreversible Projects at Spectrum Miami 201(Booth 307) during Art Week in Miami. Everyone else under the moon will be in Miami during Art Week.

And speaking of the moon, in case you ever wondered where the moon goes when he is off duty…he goes home. Just like you and I do.
In Good Day Moon, one of two paintings I created for Spectrum Miami, Mr. Moon is pictured chilling at home, relaxing among his pets and flowers, and about to partake of his breakfast–coffee and a croissant with jam. He loves the way croissants taste, but he loves their shape even more because it reminds him of his own form when he is waxing or waning into his quarter–moon self.  As you can see, his home is quite like ours in all but one respect–it lacks a roof.

It’s kind of spooky how my paintings sometimes design themselves. At those moments I feel that I am merely a laborer following the guidance of some mystical art director. For instance, I had no idea when I started painting the interior background that it would become home to the moon. I was merely making a complimentary-colored backdrop for a bouquet. During the early stages of a painting, my decisions are mostly compositional. So when it came to painting the ceiling, I decided that I would leave the room open to the sky for no reason other than that the blues and whites of the sky would make a pretty backdrop for the flowers in the foreground.

To strengthen the geometry of the composition, I repeated the circle created by the lamp, although I had no idea what it would end up being.  So for most of the time I was working on the painting Mr. Moon was just a penciled-in circle. When it occurred to me that the circle should be the moon (there’s that mystical art director again) his home was already architecturally designed specifically for his needs. Of course the man in the moon would have no ceiling on his house. He wouldn’t use a door to enter either. He’d just drop down from the dawn sky and rise up again into the twilight when he had to return to work.

See you soon, under the light of the silvery moon!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Tingling Elbows

Susan and Alice's Aura at NSU Art Museum of Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

THIS IS THE FIRST TIME  I exhibited  my work in a museum. I was invited by NSU Art Museum's director  Bonnie Clearwater when I was a painting student at the museum. She loved and chose Alice's Aura  even though her assistant had selected another painting for the show.  The museum staff told me that Ms. Clearwater labeled me a cross between Frida Kahlo and Alice Neel.

At the time of my exhibit, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera were showing in the museum's main gallery. You know, your elbows tingle when you are rubbing them against the masters. I hope some of their greatness wore off on me! You can buy my work or prints of it here. My paintings are still cheaper than Kalho's or Neal's, at least until I get a few more museum exhibits under my belt.

Here's a better look at Alice's Aura . She was recently shown in the Treat Gallery, NYC.

Alice's Aura, acrylic on linen, 40 x 30 inches

A Letter to my Canvas

Golden Lady, acrylic on linen, 60 x 36 inches


I am work,
you are art.
Together we are work of art.
An implement used in your bidding
with no brain, no train of thought,
voraciously I suck in colors all day long
and stuff myself
with starry shapes from the night
hoarding them to spew forth
like detritus out of flu's belly
when creativity beckons.

As you glut yourself
with my sensual shapes and color,
I watch them seep into your empty whiteness
until you are saturated– with me! You laugh
as you are tickled by my brushes,
sable soft hair masagiing
my spirit into you nebulous soul.
I love and hate you, vacuous sponge
screaming for my cadmium red––my blood!
Selfless hands continue love's labor
giving you everything you want
to the detriment of all else.
We need each other more than ever now,
urgently our transaction is consummated and
We are one: work of art.

But then you leave me,
Just like all the others before you,
proud and independent
sychophants gawking.
You alone are work of art
And I am nothing without you.

I could join the others
but colors and shapes collide
inside my throbbing head
in their eagerness to be born.
I must help them,
let them out.
I am work.



Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Socialite

And introverted Hermit the Crab
Pondered his life on the beach––found it drab
One day as his pincers skittered along
He spied a beauty in shimmering thong.

Whined Hermit,"Permit me to blab my gab"
Misguidedly added, "Your claws look fab"
Frightened, the girl quickly shied away
He got angry and stammered, " st-st-st-stay!

Sure I'm a crab with pincers that stab
But inside my shell, it's as big as a cab"
She shrieked, "Get away!" gave a hell of a yell
With that he stuffed her under his  shell.

He crab-walked further on down the beach
Grabbing up all the girls within reach
Now he's ebullient, no longer up tight
Indeed, he's a veritable socialite.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Now and forever

NOW AND FOREVER, ART AND LIFE are so intermingled as to be indistinguishable. And so, for me anyway, are art and words...I hope, dear readers, that you do not think me an exhibitionist for showing off the burlesque of my skeleton in the name of art. Rather, I prefer to be thought of as an explorer of the physical world. To facilitate such exploration, I always try to put words to my art and art to my words. In this case I could think of no better way to draw the phrase now and forever than to juxtapose the "now" of my living flesh and being with the "forever" of my bones in the above split image.

I have not, as some have long suspected, taken leave of my senses or become morbidly depressed. I have wanted to do this drawing for a long time, but have been afraid that I would be hauled off to an asylum (if there are any left)–unless Halloween were impending when, for some reason, darkness prevails and skeletons become acceptable as a scary form of ersatz art.

I have no idea why our skeletal systems would be considered frightening. They are merely struts which enable our bodies to stand upright. Without a skeleton we would look like jellyfish minus the tentacles–just a tangle of gooey organs thumping around, loosely held together by a thin enclosure  of skin in a not-so-neat little wriggling blob. Now that would be scary!

I once viewed  my own skeleton during a visit to a radiologist who was assessing the damage an art- related injury had caused me. I had suddenly become unable to move my head, neck or arms after turning in an assignment to the New York Law Journal.  My doctor sent me to a radiologist who asked me if I had been in a car accident. Apparently every tendon in my neck and shoulders was torn. I wasn't paying the slightest bit of attention to him because I was fascinated  by the hundred or so x-rays hanging round us as if they were art.  I was amazed when I recognized my own among them as I had previously thought all skeletons looked pretty much the same.  But mine, in fact, was a dead (oops, poor choice of words) ringer for me.

Oh, the was not vehicular at all but spilled-ink-ular. While finishing up a drawing and happily anticipating the couple of hours of sleep I would get, my formerly careful cat and faithful studio assistant, Muse, knocked over my bottle of ink, ruining my drawing. I was beyond miffed, so  I slammed my fist with all my might into the drawing board, giving new meaning to the expression back to the drawing board. And then, in fact, I went back to the drawing board. Because, no matter what, art prevails.

Today my tendons have healed,  and I still stand gloriously upright thanks to my skeleton, but I realize there will come a time when I will no longer be alive.

Life is now. Only art is forever. so I...

paint on!

Got a Bone in my Leg

Got a Bone in my Leg, digital painting

Bone Jour,

I'M SITTING IN MY PORCH drinking coffee out of a bone china coffee cup and thinking about bones. And, yes, bone china is actually made from bones. This moderately creepy component of china has inspired me to post some thoughts on bones. But wait a minute, I have to get a sweater first, because I'm chilled to the bone from the cool, early morning air. I know a lot about bones. I became familiar with them at an early age. My father was an orthopedic surgeon–yeah, an old sawbones.

Make no bones about it, bones have done a lot for me. In addition to their more prosaic raisons d' etre of supporting my body, allowing me to walk upright and protecting my brain (moderately successfully), while I was growing up my bones helped me in any number of ways:

As any not-so proper doctor's daughter would have done, I viewed a lot of scandalous, X-rated photos when snooping around in my father's medical library.

Because my father was the team's doctor, I often sat in a box seat right behind the New York Giants' dugout. In addition to watching players break their bones at close range, I got to talk to Willie Mays, Hank Sauer and Bobby Thomson. They waved to us when returning to the dugout and sent us home with autographed balls and gloves.

My wishes would be granted if, while breaking the wishbone at dinner with my brother, Tommy, I got the long end. Bones also have their downside. I have a bone to pick over what we had to do as kids if we wanted our mothers to be safe from fractures. Remember hopping around avoiding cracks on the sidewalk so you wouldn't "Step on a crack, break your mother's back"? Nice! And the equally nice retort reminding us that bones break, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me."

Despite the breakage factor, boney though I was, I led an enchanted life.

For instance, when I went to visit my father at the hospital, I thought he was some kind of ghostly deity. He wore a long white coat which billowed out and fluttered behind him when he walked and sparkled when it caught the light. He was generally followed by a group of ghostlets in shorter white coats who stuck very close while listening attentively to his every humerus (pun intended) word. Soon the ghost and ghostlets became one–an amorphous, shifting form propelled down the hospital corridors above a flurry of locomotion created by the 16 or so shiny, loafer-clad feet beneath it.

I knew when I was going to get the brushoff. It was when we arrived at my father's office in the hospital. The brass nameplate next to the door read "Head Ghost." Actually it read "Harrison McLaughlin, M.D.," but I couldn't yet read then. Too busy floating around the hospital to enter, my father would stick his head in the office and say "Mrs. Graham, would you mind Suzie while the boys (those were the short-coated, adhered ghostlets) and I go take care of another one of these critters?" The "critters" apparently were the patients who were either waiting to get their bones sawed or those who had already had their bones sawed and were recuperating in various, slings, braces, and plaster casts, while hung from the ceiling in traction. I felt terribly sorry for all those critters because once they were seen by my father and his boys, they never walked again–they "ambulated."

I loved hanging out in the Head Ghost's office. A complete human skeleton hung from what looked like a meat hook in the ceiling. At first I thought it spooky, but then I made friends with it and danced with those merry, dangling bones in our private, ether-scented ballroom to the rhythmic clickety-clack of Mrs. Graham's typewriter. There was also a skull on the desk with whom I had many in depth conversations about, well, bones and other important matters (such as what had happened to the skull's teeth and what's it like to be dead) crucial to a 4-year old, while waiting for my ghost––I mean my father–to return.

When visiting my grandfather, Papa Bisgood, bones came up frequently. I would constantly invite Papa to come out and do things with me. Once in a while he would, but usually he said that he could not. When I asked him why, he never gave any reason other than "I've got a bone in my leg." Year's later I recounted Papa's excuse to my husband, and to this day he declines invitations with "I'd love to, but I've got a bone in my leg." It works; people just don't question such a regret.

My next encounter with bones occurred when I had an art-related accident (that's another post) and severed several of the tendons in my neck and shoulders. My doctor sent me to a radiologist for an X-ray of my head and torso. I entered the radiologist's office after the x-rays were taken, and noticed that literally hundreds of other x-rays were hanging on the office walls–sort of like art. Until then, I had always thought that skeletons were generic and would look pretty much alike. However, I was stunned and a little bit frightened to see that mine looked exactly like me. I could pick "me" out instantaneously–perhaps because my bones are petite and my face doesn't have much integument. I stared at the dark, empty eye sockets in that roentgenogram and my eyes itched to be cradled in them. Those bones claimed me. The skull, clavicle, sternum and all 24 ribs, some sort of grim, ersatz chorus, sang to me, "Yes, we are thee ! This is what you'll be sooner than you think."
For a while, I took solace in the fact that my bones will be around for a long time after the rest of me goes organic and returns to the earth. But they will not last forever. When I die, I will not have to say goodbye to them right away. Depending on soil conditions, it may take hundreds of years before they disintegrate and become one with the universe. But when they do, it's...

Bone voyage!

Paint on,

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Peacock Moon

Peacock Moon, acrylic on linen, 30 x 20 inches

 I TRY TO CREATE a feeling of stillness in my paintings.  I want the paintings to visually suggest a lull, a sense of portent, slowing a moment right down to its core of frozen energy. I do this because I know that each viewer will bring a different set of life experience to the art, and this enables them to be able to come up with a totally different “story” than the artist’s.

That said, the curator of my recent summer exhibition asked me to write the “story” behind each of my paintings and posted these mini-essays next to the paintings. She felt this would help viewers to engage with the art and that the artist’s “story” at least would give the viewer a platform from which to depart.

Above is the art, and here is the way it came about: I have always been enamored of an antique white garden bench which I have had forever. The bench sings a song to me with its swirling G-clef motif on the seat and rambling flowered vines on the back. I wanted to paint those delightful patterns. I then added a couple of birds to give the painting a little bit of color. In order to balance the composition, and for mystery, I added a bride and groom in their wedding finery rowing in a boat in the moonlight.

But here’s the “story” behind the art:

P. Koch and his bride, Henrietta, whom he called “Hen,” embarked on their new forever life. It didn’t turn out exactly as planned, however, because they got caught under the spell of the Peacock Moon. This moon was so exquisitely beautiful that Hen became enchanted and felli n love with it. This infuriated P. In an attempt to make himself more desirable than the moon, P. donned all of the jewelry he had brought on board to bestow upon his bride. When he finished, Hen told him he was indeed more dazzling than the moon and that she would love him forever.

As if in answer to Hen’s sentiment, the jilted moon started pelting them with jewels that were bigger and brighter than either of them had ever seen. P. quickly gathered and fastened the gems to his tuxedo tails to insure Henrietta’s continued love. The boat, now heavy with the extra weight of the moon jewels, sunk quickly.

Just as P. approached the bottom of the river, his bejeweled tails magically turned into colorful feathers which buoyed him up to the surface. Henrietta grabbed onto the feathers and together they floated downriver in the reflected colors of the Peacock Moon. Finally, they landed on an island with a single bench, where they remained for eternity.

P. Koch had become exquisitely beautiful but couldn’t do much anymore. With all the added weight, he moved slowly and awkwardly. He also lost his power of speech and instead had an ugly squawk for a voice. The formerly lovely Henrietta curiously started sprouting brown feathers all over. She had taken on all the colors of the Peacock Moon as they mixed together in her reflection in the river. Alone her colors were brilliant, but when mixed, they turned a muddy brown. And so did she.

As it became clear to the two of them that this was to be their forever life, and that there was no going back to their former existence, there was but one thing left to do. P. made a nameplate and hung it on their new home–the  bench.  It read: “Peacock and Peahen forever.”

Artists have long been inspired by peacocks. Here’s a painting done in 1683 by the Dutch artist Melchior d’ Hondecoeter. I could look at this one…


Friday, September 1, 2017

The Legend of Appel and Falleisha

Detail - Waterfall, Acrylic on Board, 36 x 24 inchesXXXXX

APPEL ALWAYS LEFT THE FACTORY for his lunch. He canned applesauce there. It was a bus man's affair of sorts–his lunch––because he always took an apple with him. He had discovered the perfect spot to enjoy lunch. He did not wish to spend his lunch at the factory with his fellow caners. After all, he was with them all day, every day, anyway. It was just a hop, skip and a jump from the factory to the secluded site where he could escape the harrowing noise of the factory.

Had there not been a waterfall, he would still have heard the factory noises, but the waterfall drowned all that completely out. He felt at home and sometimes thought he wanted to stay in that spot by the waterfall forever. No chance of that! At the end of lunch, back to the factory he went.

Appel loved the waterfall so much, he would sit there gazing upon it for his entire lunch hour. He was transfixed by its cool whiteness and purity. Indeed, he would not even eat his lunch because he wanted to give back to the waterfall all the beauty and pleasure it gave him. So, every day just before he had to return to work at the factory, he would stand up, and whisper, "for you my dear Fall" and drop his apple into the rushing swell. It made quite a splash. Had he not been such a practical, well- balanced young man, he might have even thought that it made the waterfall happy and that the resultant splashes were laughter. He stayed there for a few moments, watching the water play with the apple until it disappeared into its mighty current. As always, he wished he could stay there forever. Alas, he was rooted in reality; he would go back.

On one foggy day, Appel was just settling into his spot. He couldn't see very much that day, except for a rainbow which had arched through the misty grey skies to touch the waterfall. But he could feel the waterfall's presence. Suddenly, he had the sensation of being caressed, even loved, although no one was with him. It is just the spray from the falls, he thought prosaically. The fog lifted a bit and as his eyes adjusted to the prevailing light, he was startled to see that he was not alone any more. Much to his amazement and delight, a beautiful girl was sitting cross legged right in front of him. She was incredibly lovely, but so pale he felt that she was in danger of disappearing into the whiteness of the falls. He had not heard her approach over the thunder of the falls, but there she was, right there in front of him.

Appel chuckled to himself because the girl was glistening, totally wet with rivulets of water pouring down her cheeks and forehead, a diaphanous watery veil about her face. Large, sparkling pear-shaped drops of water dangled from her earlobes. He had never seen such gorgeous decoration! She must have walked too close to the Falls, he mused. She didn't say much, but he really didn't care about that. He was thinking out loud that he would love to know her name. She uttered something. He was not sure if the sound was from her lips or if it was one of the rushing, slurping sounds the Falls made. But he knew he heard something - Falleisha ... Yes, Falleisha! And he knew in his heart that was her name, no matter where it came from.

Then he noticed something odd. The girl had a plate in her lap as if she were at a picnic, yet it was empty. He reached into his satchel for his apple and placed it on her plate. She returned the favor and produced, seemingly out of nowhere, a bottle of water and gave it to him. He drank it and noted it was the sweetest, purest, most refreshing water he had ever tasted.

She did not eat her apple right away. Instead, she played with it, throwing it up in the air and catching it, spinning it, twirling it around in and out of the copious waves of her abundant pale blue skirt. She hid it behind her back, then finally rolled it down between her breasts and watched it fall onto her plate. Finally, she threw it into the rushing waters at the bottom of the Falls. They both watched it bob into and out of view in the watery foam. Then, as suddenly as Falleisha had appeared, she was gone. Having no apple to give to the Falls because he had given it to Falleisha, he stuck his face into the spray and quietly announced, "I'll love you forever."

The very next day Appel wore his best shirt to work. It did not matter to him that the guys at the factory teased him about it mercilessly. He wore it because he had a feeling Falleisha would like it. It was the rich brown color of healthy soil with a pattern of branches and leaves all over it. He could hardly wait for the lunch bell to ring. When it finally sounded, he ran as fast as he could to his special spot and awaited the arrival of Falleisha. It seemed to take forever, but she finally appeared. He placed the apple on her plate and at that very moment, the rainbow appeared and clarified what he was doing. He was bestowing youth, beauty, happiness and immortality upon the one he loved, Falleisha. When she gave him the bottle of water, she bestowed upon Appel her snow-white purity for the ages. He drank of the purity and noticed that the branches and leaves of his shirt seemed to be growing, digging into the soil and reaching out over Falleisha. They had also grown roots and were pushing way down into the earth. His soil-colored shirt had turned into actual soil. Observing this, Falleisha started laughing. Water poured off of her, bathing what used to be Apel's human limbs but were now limbs of a tree. His branches were sprouting something red. What were those red things anyway? Then a very familiar scent wafted through the air between his limbs. It was unmistakable. The scent was that of apples.

The rainbow faded away, Falleisha played with her apple a bit, dropped it into the rushing waters and once again watched it disappear. She was never to be seen again-ever! Nor was Appel ever seen again after that fateful day.

Two Hundred Years later ....

In the very same spot near the factory where Appel spent his lunch hours and met Falleisha , the Waterfall is still merrily rushing along. There is an extraordinarily huge, tall apple tree which has taken over pretty much the whole spot. The tree is as healthy today as the day it was seeded because its roots have grown mighty and reached down into the aquifer through which it is nourished and refreshed daily. Every day at precisely 1:45 in the afternoon, - you could set your watch by it - this handsome apple tree drops one apple into the waters of the Falls, where it dances and bobs as if it were flirting, until it is consumed. It is the highlight of the waterfall's day.

After that, things quiet down for the afternoon. The tree lubricates himself from the bottom of its roots to the tips of his highest branches and leaves with the falls' life-sustaining waters. When the wind churns up for the evening and starts whistling through the moist leaves and branches, it seems to be singing, "Falleisha is the apple of Appel's eye." It is said that if you are very quiet and listen carefully you can hear Appel whispering to Falleisha, "I'll love you forever."


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Kitchen People

Niagara, digital painting
 THE WALLS ARE ALIVE! With the sound of people!

 I am constantly amazed by my exploration of the world around me. I have decided to share with my readers an important discovery of mine. To wit: there is  another universe which is  teeming with life existing on my kitchen walls. Though strange, the little beings who live in this universe look  something like you and me and pretty much do similar things.  Since I was certain that people would not believe me, I started documenting this universe by painting its inhabitants.

The above painting, Niagara, is my first documentary painting. What's going on here I am not quite sure, but they are clearly there with a cascade of water behind them. They are just  two of the thousands of people carrying on the activities of their  daily little lives–in my kitchen–while I am making toast. They are similar to us in that they are laughing, singing, kissing, being nosy, having babies, celebrating and more.

Forget about being an artist in good standing in the history of art! After this discovery, I will probably win the Nobel Prize!

More kitchen people below.

Thin Ice, digital painting

Kiss, digital painting

Self Toast, digital painting

Newborn, digital painting

Nosy, digital painting

See! Now you  have seen the proof of their existence.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

It Lead Three Lives

Water Under the Bridge, which will be shown at Avance Gallery, is the third and final iteration of a painting that has lived three lives.

                             Water Under the Bridge, acrylic, 36 x 24"

All of my paintings start out as nothing but a plain white canvas and then evolve into something different. But in order to complete this one, I had to bury its first two lives under layers of new paint. Like former FBI Director James Comey, I feel slightly nauseated about this coverup and I miss the two inner beauties.  But they are, well, water under the bridge.

Water Under the Bridge began simply enough as one of a series of nude studies I was painting from life models. I called this group Shy Nudes. The series was exhibited at Fort Lauderdale's Fat Village, where Shy Nude #2 enjoyed its heyday as part of a Fat Village monthly Art Walk. I called them “shy” because I painted parts of their anatomy as flowers. I did this in an attempt to illustrate (literally)
the unity of humanity and nature.

The painting's second life was as Two Bucks (one human, one deer), which  embodied a further exploration of my belief in the essential harmony between humanity and nature. That life was ephemeral because I soon became more interested in the water and its possibilities than the two bucks. You can see both of these now-hidden beauties below.

                                           Shy Nude #2                                                                                 Two Bucks

It is this capricious, uncharted evolution and resolution of a painting that intrigues me. The discovery is thrilling! Can you imagine starting on a project with no notion of what the end will bring or what it will look like? Or even if you start with an embryonic idea, the finished work often turns out to be something completely different from what you originally contemplated. And then, even after it is finished, it evolves into something else and then morphs into something else again!

Many artists have painted over images for reasons ranging from lack of funds for a new canvas, discouragement, to change of vision–even Picasso! Yes, even his masterpiece Blue Room had two lives: t
he first, a hidden occupant just below the surface paint. You can see him here. If not for infrared technology, he would never have been seen again.

This transformative process of discovery is part of the thrill that I experience time and time again, here, there and elsewhere. That, by the way, is the title of my upcoming solo exhibition opening on August 25th at The Good News Gallery in Woodbury, CT. This will be my third show at this lovely setting. But we can...

Cross that bridge when we come to it,

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Portrait of A Wildflower

Wildflower, acrylic on linen, 30 x 24 inches, cropped x

WILDFLOWER IS AT ONE WITH NATURE.  Serpentine armrests  provide comfort and support as they frame and embrace her. A forked tongue wraps around her wrist, fashioning itself into a bracelet.  A butterfly sits atop her head as beautiful as any chapeau and even extends its veins onto her face as a decorative and symbiotic veil.  Wildflower's braids defy gravity, twisting and twirling gracefully through the air. Perhaps they take their cue from the snakes.  Wildflower is  botanically correct with  her pale pink decolletage of field roses. One hundred year old pressed wildflowersviolets, adorn her neck.

She is beautiful, independent, prolific and  grows freely on her own Still, nobody wants her in their garden; they say she is uncultured.  I don't know why.

She's  a natural beauty.


Elsewhere, cropped, acrylic on linen, 30 x 24 inchesxxxxxxxxx

As an artist, I am always on the move. Whenever I am working on a painting, I am thinking about the next painting and then the next painting after that. I want to be elsewhere.

However, this dropped me into a time and location warp: when I am in the here and now, it is impossible for me to be elsewhere as well. The problem is that when I get to elsewhere, I am there, so I can't be elsewhere. So the only way to be elsewhere is not to be there. All the while I was painting Elsewhere in order to be there, show it to you, my viewer, and to clarify it for myself, I had to think of my next elsewhere, which is my next painting. I was therefore not elsewhere while painting Elsewhere; I was only elsewhere when I was not painting it–while working on my previous painting and thinking about my subsequent painting (both elsewhere and Elsewhere).

While in this state of painting flux, I always had you in mind. I took you with me. That’s what painters do. Every one of you is right there with me in the middle of this canvas in the land of Elsewhere, or what was elsewhere before and after I painted it. Wherever it is, I’m always glad to have you with me. We’ve got to stick together–here and  there and…elsewhere!

Alice's Aura

 Alices Aura, 40 x 36 inches

MY STUDIO IS ON THE SECOND FLOOR at Foxglove. Mr. Depingo rarely ventures up there, so he doesn't really know what I'm painting at any given moment. I have ideal lighting in the studio, four skylights and two walls of casement windows facing north and south. When I'm almost finished with a painting, I want to see what it looks like in different lighting, so I bring it downstairs.

Last night, after Mr. Depingo, who is naturally skittish, had already gone to sleep, I brought my current work, Alice's Aura, downstairs. I had just finished watching Local Color, a movie about the relationship between two artists. Because most of my intellectual and emotional life is devoted to art, if I am not painting myself, I watch others paint. This film inspired me to study my own painting, so I brought Alice downstairs and propped her up on the wicker love seat on the porch.

Alice Bisgood, my late Aunt Oddie, was the model for this life-sized painting. I prefer painting someone I know rather than a professional model. Doing so adds depth to the portrait because of the non-formal dimension the model's personality brings to the painting. Even when I am painting a portrait, I am painting shapes, not facial features or anatomy. The fact that I knew Alice makes the painting of her more challenging because in addition to rendering her shapes accurately, I have to take into consideration the intangible quality of her personality. After studying Alice to determine what needed to be done to complete the painting, I left her on the love seat and went to bed.

In the middle of the night, Mr. Depingo was awakened by our dog, Bella, who barked to be let out. In that indeterminate space between dream and wake, he passed through the kitchen, and viewed my painting in the dim porch light. Startled, he jumped because he thought there was a strange woman sitting in our porch. I am glad he didn't try to stab her with a kitchen knife.

As a figurative painter with a formalist bent, like Edouard Manet, the father of modern painting long before me, I am more concerned with shapes and paint–its flow and the patterns and marks it makes. I know that they are the content of a painting more so than any model or subject matter. I know better than to try to paint my subjects literally or "realistically" although I have been accused of doing so. I explain to my accusers it is not even possible to paint realistically because my subjects are three-dimensional and my canvases are two-dimensional. So to even approach the look of reality, I or any other painter has to distort the subject severely when translating from a three- dimensional subject in a two-dimensional format.

Still, the image of Alice was "real" enough to scare Mr. Depingo. What does it mean that Mr. Depingo was startled when he saw the painting? Of course, it took him by surprise, but it also means that my painting techniques worked and Alice's significant form, true inner nature, or aura, if you will, rather than her mere outward appearance, emanated from the painting.

The painter's own aura can be sensed in a work as well. If you look at Willem de Kooning's Women paintings, you will sense de Kooning's aura immediately and strongly. The first time I saw one of these paintings in person, my heart raced, I hyperventilated and nearly fainted right on the floor of the Whitney Museum. The spirit of de Kooning lived on and emanated from the paintings. It seemed as if he were right there with me. It was overwhelming.

Because my use of paint captured Alice's spirit, the painting has a strong emotional pull. I am proud that this painting caused the visceral reaction that it did. It probably means that I am a competent  painter ...or...perhaps...

Mr. Depingo is a big baby.

Paint on,

PS. The philosopher Walter Benjamin asserted in his famous treatise The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction that with the advent of mechanical reproduction, the aura of a work is diminished. I believe that you cannot experience the painting's aura by viewing it in digital form either. This in turn means that you're just going to have to come to Out of the Blue at the Avance Gallery (July 9th  opening) if you want to really experience Alice's Aura.

Friday, June 2, 2017


Uncatchable, detail, mixed media on linen, 36 x 24" (click image  to enlarge)xxxXXXxXXXXx

UNCATCHABLE is one of the "guests" attending my Garden Party, a body of work containing 15 or so paintings exploring the theme of harmony between  humanity and nature. While working on these paintings, I did not know I was painting a garden party. Upon completion, though, observing the finished paintings leaning against my studio wall, I knew just where I was–at a garden party among my “guests.” And who doesn’t like a party!

Despite its theme, Uncatchable, is translucent rather than transparent, raising many questions. For starters:  Is the model morphing into a butterfly since her forearms are comprised of emerging butterflies and she has a winged insect adorning her face?  Is the butterfly a mask or is it part of her face? The butterfly's thorax looks remarkably like a human  nose. Is she in danger of being caught in the nets of the lepidopterists behind her? Is that what's causing "butterflies in the stomach"? Or does her composure and confidence tell us that she is immune to being caught? Or, perhaps in a broader sense she is a stand-in for feminism.

As to the question of why she sports caterpillars as garters? I can answer that...

so her stockings don't fall down!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Waiting for the Comedy

My shoes? Bernie Madoff with them.

how I got to be funny. The truth is, I don't really know. Because I like the out-of-control, exhilarating feeling and sound of laughter, I have always tried to do, say or draw things to elicit it. I could never even fall in love with someone unless he provoked me to laugh. But other than that, I have no notion of where funniness actually comes from or what causes certain people to have it while others do not. We all actually have a funny bone. The only thing funny about the funny bone, though, is that it's not a bone at all. It's a nerve–the ulna nerve–and that weird sensation you feel when you bump your elbow against something is the ulna hitting up against the elecrenon. So it might cause you to feel funny, but not to be funny.

While recently pondering funniness, I thought back to an anecdote Papa Bisgood told me some years ago about taking his little girls, Oddie and Babe, my aunt and my mother, to the Sag Harbor Cinema (which unfortunately recently burned down.) Every Saturday he would buy each of them a chocolate bar at the concession stand. As soon as the lights dimmed and the newsreel came on the screen, my Auntie Oddie would noisily open her candy and swiftly eat it. But Babe would just sit quietly, watching the newsreel, chocolate bar resting in her lap. Papa would lean over and say to her, "Babe, what's the matter, don't you like your candy bar?" My mother replied that she did, but was waiting for the comedy to start before eating it. Sure enough, as soon as the comedy started, and not a second before, my mother unwrapped her chocolate and commenced eating it. Alternately laughing at Popeye and Olive Oil and eating the chocolate, she made the bar last through the entire comedy.

I would have a really nice way of wrapping up this post if Babe had turned out to be a standup comic, but due to the smattering of journalistic honesty in me, I must tell you that she did not. She became a nurse. How embarrassing–thanks to my mother's non-risible career choice I have no clue as to how I can conclude this ...except...wait a's coming...

except ... EXCEPT ... that I finally have an answer to that baffling question about the origins of funniness. Yeah, I believe that in my sample of one I have proven beyond a scientific doubt that eating chocolate bars while watching a comedy leads to funniness. If my thesis is correct, you are probably asking yourself right now, "Then, why wasn't your mother funny?" That's easy to explain. Funniness skips a generation. That's why I'm funny! Thanks for having the discipline to wait for the comedy, Mom.

(Note to self) Great, now I have to draw a cartoon funny enough to support my candy bar thesis.

And my advice to you, dear reader, is to eat a chocolate bar while reading it.

PS If you don't think the above cartoon is funny, perhaps my thesis is slightly off and funniness actually skips two generations.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Painting in the Deep End of the Gene Pool


I love to paint portraits.

In addition to the sheer exhilaration I derive from moving paint around on canvas, it is the best way I know to thoroughly get to know another human being. It's fun and challenging to pose my model and set the right lighting. I study every feature of his face, body and posture. I take into account all of the physiognomy and combine it with intangibles such as personality, intelligence, and background.

While I consider all of these elements that will enable me to discover his true essence, the model subjects his body and being to my artist's gaze. It is an extremely intense and intimate experience for both artist and model because we are both giving something of ourselves to the other. A strong bond forms during the early stages of the painting and the intimacy between painter and model grows deeper as the portrait progresses. At least that's how I feel.

I especially love to paint members of the same family line. It is a fascinating experience from beginning to end of the painting. For example, before I started painting my nephew Madison McLaughlin, I would have thought that "a McLaughlin is a McLaughlin is a McLaughlin." This is not so, because many gene pools contribute to one's appearance. In painting a portrait, the different gene pools vie for attention. It's war between the bloodlines. Which side of the gene pool will win? Which will cancel out the other's features? Which is the stronger contributor to the model? Who, in fact, does Madison look like? The answer is that despite all these contributing genes, Madison looks uniquely like himself. It's my job to find him through exploration with my paints.

Even though I am a reasonably accurate portraitist due to the many years I spent working as an illustrator, when I began the Madison portrait, I might as well have been painting Madison's father. The painting looked much more like his father (my brother) than Madison. I made the necessary corrections –perhaps a slightly squarer jaw, a little longer nose or such– but those changes only made him look more like his brother. After a few more alterations, Madison started looking like a male version of his mother. This simply amazes me because, although I was painting Madison, three other related but uninvited faces had appeared in my painting.

At this point, I said to myself, "Well, it doesn't look like Madison, but at least you're in right gene pool–the deep end of the gene pool maybe, but the right gene pool nonetheless." Counterproductive as it might seem, sometimes I even have to resort to intentional distortions of what I actually see in order to make the painting look more like my model. Finally, I prevailed and Madison emerged from the paint as himself. By the way, that is the most significant difference between artists and non-artists. Most people will say, "I can't draw that." Sometimes I can't either, but I keep trying until I can.

Once I got out of the deep end of the gene pool, I finished the painting with Madison holding a net full of live and healthy butterflies, colorful and jittery as I imagine a young man of Madison's age would be as he embarks on the journey of his life. I entitled the painting "Catcher"–a nod to "Catcher in the Rye.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Art Trinity: the Painting, the Painter and the Viewer

The painting and the artist at Monmouth Museum
The painting and the viewers

The art trinity: Painting, Artist and Viewers


We, painters  and viewers, had a wonderful time at the fall 2015 opening of Portraits  completing the three-way transaction that exists among the painting, the painter and the viewer. The reason the shows are so satisfying is because the art trinity is not really complete without the viewers.

The paintings, in my case, Catcher, are the stars of the evening. For me Catcher represents harmony between humanity and nature. Once created, however, Catcher became an entity unto itself.

As an artist, I am merely the technician that made Catcher happen. I did this by filtering the model  and all the images that make him up through my mind's eye. I kept the final image translucent, so that viewers can bring their own interpretation as to its meaning.

Most of the viewers told me that they could not figure out whether it was a peaceful image or a disturbing one. That contrast in a work is what makes a painting successful. An art critic/journalist tells us which pieces he decides to write about:

"It is the paintings where I don't get what the artist is trying to do that attract me. They remain with me. I keep thinking about them, trying to figure out what the artist is up to. When I understand what the artist is doing, I say,  "Oh yes, that's nice," and move on because the work no longer engages me."

You're on your own now, Catcher; thanks for being thought provoking!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Post Modern Shark Attack*

Digital Painting:  Hirst's Shark attacking DuChamp's Urinal

Damien Hirst
Nearly burst
Trying to out-camp
Marcel Duchamp.
To top Marcel's conceptual urinal
Damien worked in an air force terminal.
Eventually something fishy did fit
For the iconoclastic, ditsy  Brit.
Executing his fame-obsessed wish
In formaldehyde he dipped a fish
The resultant preserved postmodern shark
Enclosed in glass,  made its mark.
Bought by a hedge fund guy... funny -
Only he could afford the money
No shrieks of envy pass my lips
I'd  rather have my fish with chips.

*My poem and painting above reflect my thinking on some of the art that's around today.  If you would like to read more on the topic, take a look at Simon Doonan's article, Why the Art World Is So Loathsome. In it he quotes Camille Paglia and lets us know why some critics are calling today's art the Post Skills Movement.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Flying Uni-brow

 Frida Kahlo
Lived in the shadow
Of Diego Rivera
Thinking her work was a flop.

She felt small as a  minnow
An amateur in tow
Diego Rivera
Made art hard to top.

The artist considered her uni-brow
"Ugh," she thought; then shrieked, "Wow!"
Mrs.  Rivera
Discarding her tweezer started to slop

Paint on canvas - uni-brows en masse
Deep in the crabgrass in order to outclass
Diego Rivera
Brow beating her man nonstop!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Modigliani's Model

From my book of poems, The Flying Unibrow

Searched  nook and cranny
Looking for the perfect model.
An  emotional wreck at full throttle.

He took his search
Through zoo and  church
On a very long trek
For an elongated neck.

Stifling an hysterical laugh
His feverish quest cut in half
Painted a giraffe.