Saturday, April 16, 2016

Air Sitar

Zohra Bai (of Agra)
8 x 1o inches, oil on board, 2016
From a photograph that may depict Zohrabai Agrewali (1836-1913). Zohra Bai is from Agra, not to be confused with another Zohrabai, who was a classical singer in Hindi cinema. There are many pictures of Zohrabai Ambalewali (1918-1990) available. Zohra Bai of Agra has amazing long hands and in interpreting the photograph I purposefully left out the sitar to focus attention to her right hand. Later I also removed the toddler on her knee and held in place by her left hand. Not just air sitar then but also air baby. The left hand was left in place and feels strangely out of place (it still needs a little work but the position won't be altered). The song represented, Dadurwa Bolay Mor Shor Karat recorded in 1910, is of course not about her hands but about her voice, which as sinuous as her hands.

Friday, April 8, 2016

M.I.A. Stencil

stencil on paper, 2016

A stencil per semester to trade with students, this will make it six. The second of M.I.A.

The Competition

Jennie Williams and Natalie Frost
12 x 16 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2015

Jennie Williams and Natalie Frost (separated in the painting) are holding hands while performing a Katajjaq, a throat-singing game of imitation. A boy holds up a microphone. The singer who first laughs or misses a beat loses. I don't remember who wins, it doesn't matter.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Medieval Music

Barbara Sukowa as Hildegard von Bingen
7" x 7.5", watercolor on paper, 2015

Women, during the middle ages, attained influential and high ranking positions. Hildegard von Bingen was the head of a monastry, communicated with the highest authorities, and wrote a number of important books both on secular (medical and herbal) and religious topics. She was the composer of a number of musical works including what is considered the first opera, and was also a scientist. As a woman she could be considered as a so called ‘Renaissance man.’ The film Vision (Margarethe von Trotta, Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen, Germany, 2009) is based on the writings of Hildegard von Bingen and maintains therefore a high level of historical accuracy. The film has a strong feminist vantage point. Hildegard von Bingen is played by Barbara Sukowa. The music in the film is not von Bingen’s but the group Sequentia, an ensemble specializing in medieval music, recorded the complete works of Hildegard von Bingen in the 1990s. Eight CDs were filled to the max, O orzchis Ecclesia is the 15th and final song from the second CD Voice of the Blood.
The watercolor depicting the actress Barbara Sukowa will be reproduced in You Are an Artist! to be published in August of this year.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Beth Orton
18" x 24.5", watercolor on poster, 2015
We have now the post-postmodernist era, post-internet art, metamodernism, zombie formalism, hypermodernism, and post-capitalism. From looking at it you can't distinguish post-internet art from post-internet non art, happily exploited by the commercialization of the internet. The characteristic of metamodernism is that it has characteristics of both modernism and postmodernism, floating between idealism and realism, between “a modern enthusiasm and a postmodern irony, between hope and melancholy, between naïveté and knowingness, empathy and apathy, unity and plurality, totality and fragmentation, purity and ambiguity.” [Vermeulen, van den Akker, 2010] Our culture in simply confusing, we have learned that truth subjective and illusive, and that falsehood is true. We have learned that identity is flexible, we can't distinguish between human nature and the human condition, we don't know what is knowledge and what is experience. It's all a big blur. There's an overload of information and images. There's too much (art). How to navigate? Rather than to cry about it we should embrace this condition of confusion. Doesn't the lack of any certainty create a sense of freedom? We know too that this era of post-postmodernism will end, perhaps there will be a future philosopher who, like Confucius, will make sense of this mess, and provide spiritual stability. Until then: let's enjoy this period of confusionism.

The watercolor of Beth Orton was painted on a poster with a reproduction of a work by Ikki Matsumoto featuring three spoonbills. The portrait was painted in the ground (negative space) that is the bodies of the spoonbills, which is at the same time the figure (positive space). The top 100 song: Safe in Your Arms from Comfort of Strangers.

Thursday, August 6, 2015


16" x 12", oil on canvas paper, 2015
The painting of Airto was created on top of a landscape demo done in a new episode of landscape painting at the Alliance in Fort Myers. The landscape is situated in my back yard but was painted from memory. I turned it upside down to have Airto emerge out of water. I just added some waves to make the landscape become a reflection of itself. The top 100 song is called Andei (I Walked) and comes from the double album The Essential Airto featuring Flora Purim & Special Friends from 1976. The special friends are Hermeto Pascoal, Ron Carter, and Sivuca. There is a second version of Andei on the album on which Airto's wife Flora Purim performs her characteristic scat singing style. Usually I'd pick a version with a woman's voice but here I didn't. I guess I'm not a big fan of scat singing. I've painted Flora Purim before in a double portrait with Hermeto Pascoal but never Airto Moreira. It's a beautiful song.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Primary Colors: Tuareg

Tuareg: Camel Tournament
16" x 20", oil on canvas, 2015
Music for a Camel Tournament performed by Tuareg women was recorded during the Henri Lhote Expedition of 1948. A small black and white photograph taken during the recording sessions dons the liner notes. They are the notes to the album African Music from the French Colonies which is Volume 2 from The Colombia world Library of Folk and Primitive Music series compiled by Alan Lomax. On the recording one can hear a chorus of women accompanied by a tindi (a mortar converted to a drum) which is played, witnessing the photograph, by a little boy. The setting is in Algeria in the Hoggar Mountains of the Sahara Desert. I can't discern any mountains in the photo but I'll take Lomax's word for it. It was my intention to paint one red dot in the sky, which could possibly have been interpreted as the sun. Once one starts to place dots...

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Obituary: Ornette Coleman

Ornette Coleman
12" x 16", oil on canvas paper, 2015
Randolph Denard Ornette Coleman died last month (June 11) in New York City. He was 85 years old. Coleman's legacy is an enormous discography and the concept of free jazz, which was also the title of one of his earlier recordings. I've made a number of Coleman paintings over the years, some belong to the best the archive has to offer. He is included again this year, established months before he died. NPR critic Kevin Whitehead reviewed Coleman's newest record (which turned out to be his last) New Vocabulary on February 10th this year. The album was recorded in 2009 with Jordan McClean and Amir Ziv and released on System Dialing Records in 2014. In the 2000s Coleman was not very active any more but this record sounds as fresh as his early 1960s recordings. The song in the top 100 is Baby Food, but likely others will follow as I've played many of his records (and YouTube videos) since. With the passing of Coleman the world has lost one of the most influential jazz musicians and one of the top 100 musicians in my 33 years of counting.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Primary Colors

Suicide (Alan Vega, Martin Rev)
10" x 16", oil on canvas paper, 2015
The image of the women in the center comes from a 1920 photograph by an anonymous photographer and is part of the Uwe Scheid Collection. It's getting a little ridiculous, these series of musicians flanked by anonymous (nude) women from that collection (the photos by Gerhard Riebecke that were used last month also belong to the collection) and it will stop soon (there is one more on its way). Why these women appeared in the paintings in the first place has to do with the Buzzcocks painting that was part of the previous series of paintings (with the musicians superimposed on found paintings). A very objective reason indeed. (There are more subjective aspects to it too. The mind wanders places and the unconscious is being well taken care of.) Anyway, here's Suicide, the two-man band consisting of Alan Vega and Martin Rev. The song, no surprise, is Ghost Rider, the track used by M.I.A. in her song Born Free, the number one in consecutive years. As noted in Bun Bun, Martin Rev (who co-written the song with Vega), appears on my favorite version of it. Ghost Rider appeared on Suicide's self titled debut of 1977, in which format it appeared in this top 100. The current version listed is however a live recording found on YouTube filmed at CBGS's in 1977 or 1978. The audience boos and Vega anticipates.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Happy Anniversary

Maria van Boekel
oil on canvas, 2015

Out of context in terms of the top 100, but you're number 1, you always were and will be. Happy 15th anniversary!

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Peliatan Dance Troupe
16" x 12", oil on canvas paper, 2015
Sekar Jupun is the title of a gamelan performance by the Peliatan Dance Troupe, it was uploaded to YouTube in 2012. The Peliatan Troupe is from Bali, Indonesia. In the context of ancient art history I used this video to talk about a music tradition in south-east Asia dating back to the bronze age. Gamelan, however old it is, doesn't go that far back in time. (The oldest depiction of a gamelan ensemble is found on the walls of the famous 8th century Borobudur temple on Java. According to local lore gamelan dates back to the 3rd.) The clip was a substitution for music performed on bronze age bells from China which is rather boring. About a month later I saw the same clip posted on the Facebook page of a friend in Columbus, Ohio. The central figure in the painting is based (again) on a photo by Gerhard Riebicke, photographer of a German nudist movement, taken in 1925. The painting reminds me of a painting by Linda Gall that another friend from Columbus owns. (Love that painting.)