PAINTINGS: The Evolution of “Hollowsaurus”

 

Richard Bledsoe “Hollowsaurus” acrylic on canvas 24″ x 36″ 

On September 1, 2018, I finished Hollowsaurus, an epic painting 6 months in the making. It was an ambitious expansion of an image I first played with on a small canvas:

 

Richard Bledsoe “Table for Two” acrylic on canvas 12″ x 16″ 

 

I was so intrigued by this vision I was presented with that it inspired a whole series of images in my mind.  These pieces are the beginning of a new body of work for me. I have already started the next one. I feel the powerful symbolism flowing through these pictures. They speak to me without being reduced to mere words.

While I was making Hollowsaurus, I took pictures of its development. I think these photos give insight on how I build a painting, and how the works evolve.

Barely Begun 

 

 

Defining the elements 

 

 

Building Details 

“Spiritual art is not about fairyland. It is about taking hold of the rough texture of life. It is about addressing the shadow and making friends with wild dogs. Spirituality is the awareness that everything in life is for a higher purpose.”

-The Remodernism Manifesto 

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STUDIO: “Night’s Forces” Emerges from the Room of Shame

Richard Bledsoe “Night’s Forces” acrylic on canvas 30″ x 30″ 

Let me tell you about the room of shame.

The room of shame is the place where unfinished paintings are stacked, faces to the wall. It must have close to a dozen residents right now, some as large as 30″ x 36″. Some have been in there for many years.

These are paintings which I began, and then at some point in their development, I lost the plot, and the point, and my ability to finish them. This happens sometimes when working intuitively. The inspiration dries up before the work is complete.

I always have multiple works going. For example, right now, I have 4 unfinished paintings pending, 2 of which are practically done. So it’s no great blow to my productivity if I have to put something aside temporarily, or not so temporarily.

Some incomplete works are unsalvageable. I will paint over them, and create a whole new image.

But the paintings in the room of shame are worth completing. I still believe in them, and am waiting for their moment to return. They say the way you do something is the way you do everything. I may be slow, but I am persistent.

Case in point: Night’s Forces.

I began this painting in 2015. It was far advanced when I had to put it away. I’d had a series of studio sessions on it where instead of improving it, I was making it less effective, less resolved. It was a complex composition. I couldn’t get the colors and definitions to function. Off it went to the room of shame, where it lingered for years. Until a few weeks ago, when I brought it out again. I made some big moves on it, because at that point I had nothing to lose. The work would either crash, or crash through. Fortunately, it was the latter.

Night’s Forces is now finished, and I’m ready to move on with additional new projects. My wife Michele Bledsoe created a video of me working on it as it entered it final phases. See the video here:

Video-Remodern America: Renew the Arts and Renew the Civilization

As I state in my upcoming book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts will change the Course of western Civilization:

“Remodernism reboots the culture. Remodernism is not a style of art, it is a form of motivation.”

Sometimes a painting needs a time out followed by an assertive jump start. This return is driven by Remodernist motivation: I need to show you what I saw, so we will better understand each other, and life as a whole.

BOOKS: The Cthulhu Blues and Other Stories-by Richard Bledsoe

Richard Bledsoe and Michele Bledsoe

“Blind Mugwump Johnson” acrylic on canvas 10″ x 8″ 

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“We were led away from the others and sat under the shade of trees in the cemetery. As he arranged himself, sitting rather irreverently on a crypt, it gave me a chance to consider the hardships he must have suffered to reach such a condition. He was exceedingly tall but thin to the point of gauntness. His coloration could be described like that of an albino’s but instead of a pinkish tone, his pallor displayed a greenish tinge, with mottlings of purple. His unseeing eyes were squeezed shut, bulging behind lids that almost seemed to be sealed over. Unmindful of facial expressions, as the blind often are, he seemed to have a terrible snarl always about his lips, exposing his gums and a surprisingly strong looking set of teeth.

“Once he started to play his talent was evident, but it was not to my liking at all. The sounds he produced on his guitar I can hardly credit as music; his voice fluctuated between an eerie falsetto warble and an impossibly low croaking or gasping sound. Many of lines were delivered in some harsh language or dialect completely unknown to me. Those words which he sang that I could discern have shaken me to my very core.”

From the short story “Blind Mugwump Johnson and the Cooloo Blues” 

August 20th is the birthday of horror author H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). I have been a fan of his writings since I was a teenager. It’s amused me to watch his influence spread over the years, becoming mainstream commercial to the extent you could go on a Cthuhlu-themed shopping spree, if you wanted to.

Lovecraft invented an underlying myth for a series of short stories he produced during the early decades of the twentieth century. In his nightmare world, prehistoric Earth had been colonized by monstrous demonic aliens. These evil beings were still here, slumbering under oceans and desolate wastelands, waiting for their time to rise again. Encounters with these creatures or their human accomplices led to madness, death and destruction.

Many other authors have built on the haunted universe Lovecraft suggested. Here in Phoenix, H.P Lovecraft’s Birthday was a performance art event for many years, held at various venues. I took part in these shows, doing readings of a series of short stories I wrote, my contributions to the Lovecraftian Mythos.

These stories are collected in an ebook available on Amazon. The Cthulhu Blues and Other Stories.

My wife and I made a book trailer for it, which had us shrieking – with laughter.

The painting currently on the cover is a Lovecraft inspired painting I made in 2001; “Tendrils of the Dreamer.” However, when Michele Bledsoe and I first conceived the book, I decided I was going to create a new painting for the cover design.

I was going to produce a portrait of the character Blind Mugwump Johnson, the mysterious and sinister Delta blues singer. I started right away. However, as Michele assembled the e-book, I couldn’t get the painting right. It happens sometimes. Here is an earlier version, long before I quit working on it:

 

I covered this base coat with purples and unbleached titanium and then piled on more green, and redrew the mouth. It just wasn’t happening. Rather than delay the book, we went with another image, and the work in progress hung on the wall of our studio for months, unfinished.

Recently Michele and I started collaborating on paintings. After we finished our first one, she had another idea of how we could share a work. She asked if she could put her hand to finishing “Blind Mugwump Johnson.” She didn’t want to change it, just tweak it a little. I loved the idea.

She brought it to a wonderful resolution. With a light touch, she brought substance and subtlety to the image, and made it complete.

My next book is going to be “Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization.”  We are in the final editing stages now, we want it out this summer if possible.

But once that’s all complete, I look forward to returning to the shadowy depths spawned by Lovecraft, and discovering some more stories to tell about them.

 

 

COMMENTARY: Jeff Koons and the Establishment Art World’s Condescending Cult

 

Play D’oh! A Jeff Koons Pile of “Art” 

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“It’s a commercial world, and morality is based generally around economics, and that’s taking place in the art gallery.”

-Jeff Koons

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Part of what I want this blog to do is expose certain notorious figures of the commercialized contemporary art world to a new audience.

I’d like to help educate all you good people who, up until now, have been uninterested, alienated, or even hostile to the efforts of today’s networked creative classes, and their deep-pocketed supporters.

From what I see, the potential audience of the disengaged is practically everyone in entire world.

Elitist malfeasance has marginalized the visual arts in popular culture. Practically no one is paying attention to contemporary art other than a small bubble of artists, academics, institution apparatchiks, trophy-hunting high rollers, and those who wish to vicariously participate in their presumed sophistication.

Since most people have tuned out the shenanigans of this arrogant, decadent band of charlatans, you might be unaware of what the art world racket has been producing. You haven’t been missing much.

In this example, we have a major perpetrator of the corrupt art world status quo: Jeff Koons.

What’s up Doc? A Long Eared Galoot, and one of his Sculptures  

Throughout his career, Jeff Koons has racked up approximately $765 million dollars in sales. He does not make the pieces sold under his brand name. The actual work is done by anonymous skilled craftsmen. Koons contributes “concepts” that others execute.

And what kind of ideas has this mogul graced us with that have generated such windfalls? Treasures such as these:

Jeff Koons, “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” 

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Awww

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Jeff Koons, Poseur 

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Koons may be best known for a series of giant stainless steel replicas of balloon animals. An orange version of one sold for over $58 million. 

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Over inflated: Wiener Dog Art 

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Then there was the era in the 1990s when Koons married Cicciolina, an Italian XXX film performer. Koons commissioned a whole series of artworks featuring the couple engaging in hardcore sexytime action  (Warning: link is definitely NSFW). They were divorced in 1998; I can’t imagine why.

 

A PG-13 Version of Koons and His Porn Star Wife 

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Not everything is coming up inflatable tulips for the crafty con artist, however. Koons graciously offered to donate a monument to France for the victims of the  2015 terrorist attack: a 35 foot tall hand holding balloon flowers. He graciously expected them to install it next to the Eiffel Tower. The French not so graciously rejected this blatant attempt at product placement. Negotiations are ongoing.

 

An Indecent Proposal

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One of the top selling artists of this era of art specializes in obscenely expensive replicas of cheap toys, gimmicks, and smut. So what is the significance of this?

To understand, you need to look at one of the foundational conceits of art world elitism: the Marxist tinged struggle between the avant-gard and kitsch.

These terms rose to prominence in a 1939 essay by art critic Clement Greenberg. A devotee of the leftist Frankfurt School, Greenberg propounded his contempt for popular American culture. In my upcoming book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization, I explain Greenberg’s assertions:

“…he claimed the cultural world could be divided in two. The avant-garde (a military term referring to strike force troops, who go ahead of the main army) were forward-thinking sophisticates, whose radical creations were driven by a contempt for the tacky tastes of the general public.

“To Greenberg, the common people were too ignorant to appreciate the rarefied efforts of the avant-garde; these backwards types could only appreciate kitsch (a German word used for low quality art), a phony vision of art which tugged at middle class sensations like beauty, patriotism, and sentimental feelings. A Norman Rockwell painting on the cover of a popular magazine was the kind of thing that could make an intellectual like Greenberg retch.

“Greenberg declared, ‘…part of Western bourgeois society has produced something unheard of heretofore: avant-garde culture. A superior consciousness of history—more precisely, the appearance of a new kind of criticism of society, an historical criticism—made this possible.’ The consciousness Greenberg refers to as ‘superior’ just happens to be his own, as he proceeded over the next few decades presumptively acting as the ultimate authority on art.”

So how did the art world move from rejecting the tawdry stylings of disposable popular culture to glorifying them?

The secret is the art world cosmopolitans are still dripping with contempt towards most of humanity. What has been added is the soul sucking Postmodern gambit of irony. By celebrating the tacky, elitists are actually mocking their straw man version of what “ordinary” people are capable of. Our New Aristocracy of the Well Connected disrespect the intelligence and capacities of all those whose lives don’t revolve around relentless elitist status signalling contests.

They assume that all we can appreciate is tawdry junk, and so they are having a patronizing laugh at us by spending millions on art that carefully reproduces…tawdry junk. Now it’s avant garde to clone kitsch, which makes it totally different because of reasons. Isn’t it ironic?

If you think that sounds dumb, you would be right. Welcome to the inverse values of the nasty Postmodern world, where our betters try to force us to accept that bad is good and stupid is clever.

This isn’t about the money. The finances are just a side show for most art world participants. Big league art deals are exercises in money laundering, tax evasion, and insider trading, but not that many get into that high roller category. What is most concerning is what it says about those controlling our cultural expressions.

The real perk for most establishment art types is a sense of superiority. Supporting a hoax substitute for art gets converted into the gold of social prestige through the alchemy of Postmodern dogma. It’s yet another proof that our current crop of cultural elitists are really not advanced at all.

Elitists hype outsourced and infantile art because of their own limitations. They lack depth and real achievement themselves, so they can’t tell the difference. They embrace this failure of character as a badge of honor, and mandatory for admission to their tribe.

What Postmodern charlatans have been pushing for decades isn’t even art at all. It’s artifice, an empty mimicry of the outer appearances and gestures of art, without partaking of any of its true substance and significance.

The good news is Postmodernism is dead. It no longer captures the new dynamic spirit of the age. As I state in the upcoming Remodern America Manifesto:

“Postmodernism shows the folly which erupts when the spiritual center of life is denied. Shifting focus away from the soul gave rise to an art world floundering in obscurity, destruction, pornography, propaganda, excrement and carrion. Contemporary establishment art is treated as a wedge, a social signifier of elitist attitudes, and a decadent toy for the wealthy.”

The art done in the name of Jeff Koons typifies this hostile positioning. Its cuteness is a sneer at what suckers we are. The species of cultural rot inspired by Marcel Duchamp has become such a tired trope.

Remodern art restores respect for the general audience, and their abilities to have profound experiences. Remodernists understand art is for everyone. We can all be stirred by beauty, moved by emotional expressions, and gratified by the experience of truth. Western civilization used to understand how art provided those uplifting states. Our current cultural institutions largely fail to produce these positive outcomes; instead they want to pretend a multi-million dollar imitation of a party trick is good enough for us dolts. They are wrong.

The Remodern age will be the story of the dismantling of centralized power. An arts establishment which claims a sarcastic marketing scheme is a major artistic achievement is a juicy target for serious reforms.

Jeff Koons: Having a Ball 

 

Update: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit others posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

STUDIO: Collaborative Painting with Richard and Michele-Part 4, Completion

Michele Bledsoe and Richard Bledsoe “Tusk”

acrylic on canvas, 12″ x 6″ 

 

“The Remodernist artist formulates expressions of personal liberty in pursuit of higher meaning and significance.”

The Remodern America Manifesto 

Our first collaborative painting has been completed, and actually has been displayed in two shows so far.

Michele and I both created our own painting in our own unique style, but allowed a dialogue to form by the interaction of our individual efforts.

Michele compared it to having a conversation.

The process of working on a piece together was so enjoyable that we will continue to collaborate. We hope to someday have a show of just our shared pieces. Watch this space for future updates.

 

Read the series:

STUDIO: Collaborative Painting with Richard and Michele-Part 1

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STUDIO: Collaborative Painting with Richard and Michele-Part 2

 

STUDIO: Collaborative Painting with Richard and Michele-Part 3

 

ARTICLE: The Death of University Arts Programs, Part 5: Why Columbia Art Students Demanded Tuition Refunds

Money Well Spent?

From Columbia Alumnus Julia Phillip’s Exhibit Failure Detection

I’m Detecting Some Failure, All Right 

 

An important dispatch from Columbia University, the most expensive college in the United States:

COLUMBIA SPECTATOR: With decrepit facilities and missing faculty, MFA Visual Arts students demand tuition refund

“On April 5, the students in the program met with Provost John Coatsworth and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences David Madigan to discuss their concerns with the program and demand a full tuition refund from the University. Although Coatsworth acknowledged that the state of the program is a ‘disgrace,’ he told the students that Columbia would not be able to provide them with a tuition refund.”

Never mind the fact New York City has some of the highest costs of living in the world. What’s the annual pricetag for Columbia MFA students? Merely  $63,961 for the 2017–18 school year. The university had an endowment of over $10 billion dollars in 2017. Yet none of those funds seem to be directed towards basics like building maintenance or adequate staff. I wonder if their Office of Academic Diversity faces similar challenges.

As an artist myself, I view the complaints about their facilities with skepticism. I lived for two years in a warehouse space in Arizona with no air conditioning or heat. Back when I didn’t have a studio, I used to paint in my kitchen. I had to drag all the furniture around to make space, and be mindful that I didn’t set my cans of paint thinner too near the pilot lights on the gas stove. No one would have known the primitive conditions I had to work in by looking at my finished pieces. An artist must take control of their presentation, and not make excuses about the difficulties involved in production.

But reading this article about some offended privileged kids, there is another quote which reveals what really irks them:

“[The faculty] have gone above and beyond what their role is as a faculty member. They’re in the same boat as us, they’re trying to do the best they can with the restrictions that have been placed from the institution,” Travis Fairclough, a Columbia MFA student expected to graduate in 2019, told the Spectator. “[But] half of the faculty that are listed on the website is actually here, which is a huge blow, because the program is largely based on the connections that you have with your faculty members.” (emphasis mine)

A work by unhappy student Travis Fairclough. 

Connections with faculty members. Really, how much could a professor do for someone who produces paintings like this in an advanced degree program? But artistic achievement isn’t the real concern. In the Postmodern world, it’s not what you do, it’s who you know.

What the students are really protesting is the fact the school isn’t delivering enough chances to suck up to powerful folks who can act as gateways into the corrupt establishment art world.

In my upcoming book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization, I discuss at length the tainted practices of elitist power games:

An additional tool of Postmodern phoniness is brown-nosing.  When quality and accomplishment are no longer factors, life is reduced to a scramble to be noticed and elevated by the powerful. It’s a matter of who can most offend the disdained outsiders, make the most noise, and kiss the most rings, or asses. Our cultural institutions have degenerated into hierarchies of sycophants; the Postmodern establishment makes it clear that throne-sniffing is mandatory for advancement.

Why would students face massive expenses to study fine art at an Ivy League school? They expect it will pay off for them in the form of nepotism. They expected the chance to play courtiers to some mighty art world players, which would give striving students a shot at joining the ranks of the New Aristocracy of the Well Connected. Without being able to count on favoritism from cronies, Columbia students would have to try to earn an art career based on the merits of their art. Looking at the works above from a couple of Columbia trained artists, it is evident why they desperately need someone to grease the skids on their behalf.

It’s ironic that at least one of the missing professors, Thomas Roma, “retired” due to #metoo concerns. Guess he wanted to connect a little too much. Why are elitist institutions always such cesspits of harassment?

A Photo by the Inappropriate Thomas Roma 

The Columbia MFA students aren’t getting a refund. The administration calls their own program a disgrace, but there’s no money back guarantee. Caveat Emptor. The students feel violated because they thought they could buy their way into prestige. They expected take personal advantage of the Neotribal benefits Postmodernists offer up as the reward for conformity. Instead, their situation can be best summed up by Jon Kessler,one of the Columbia art professors who actually is there:

“’It’s almost criminal to endebt a student $100,000 to be a painter or a performance artist… and if this program was a third of the price, I don’t think we’d have quite the intensity around the tuition reimbursement,’ Kessler said.”

The Art of Jon Kessler, the who calls Columbia’s MFA program “Almost Criminal” 

Earlier entries in the “Death of University Art Programs” series

Part 1: Eric Fischl

Part 2: The Corcoran Collapse 

Part 3: Ignorance as a Method of Critique 

Part 4: The Subsidized Sedition of Establishment Art Schools

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

ARTISTS: Remembering Steve Gompf

Steve Gompf April 27, 1963 – March 4, 2018 

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Steve Gompf was the first person I met in Phoenix that became an enduring connection.

It was the winter of 2000 – 2001. I’m not sure of the exact month. I had moved to Arizona at the end of October; after being in town a couple of months, I finally made it out to the First Fridays art walk.

Steve Gompf was in the basement of the Luhrs Tower. He was working the Artlink table, passing out maps. Young, thin, Steve Gompf, with shaggy red hair and a beard. I had been involved with an arts non-profit back in Virginia, so I was curious about Artlink. I pestered him with some questions. I don’t think we even exchanged names. Little did we know what the future held. I certainly didn’t realize I had just met a visionary artist, who would become a significant co-conspirator and friend.

As time passed I kept running into to Steve, as the art scene is its own small town within the larger city. He was at parties, he was at openings, and when I joined the Artlink board, he was there too. Eventually I made the connection between Steve and the wondrous creations he produced: the televisors.

These were Steve’s signature body of work. He presented them as if they were historical relics: antique televisions, manufactured between 1889-1928. That time range happens to be before there was any practical television technology widely available, and definitely before there were any broadcasts being made. But the specificity of the dates effectively reinforced the idea the televisors were pioneering examples of luxury goods from a bygone age.

 

The Televisors

Steve knew enough about actual antiques to reference the styles of different countries and eras in his televisor designs. The amazing thing was he managed to pull off these creations using the most random bits and pieces he scavenged from thrift stores. The televisors were assembled from candlesticks and dog bowls and lamp fixtures, and just about any other scrap of wood and metal you can imagine. He arranged all the parts meticulously into an illusion of sophisticated industrial design. I used to joke they were only held together by gravity, but it’s pretty much true. All those fiddly pieces were just in place due to a series of Steve’s willful balancing acts.

Steve embedded monitors inside these elaborate cases, and showed his own video creations on them. This is where things took a darker turn, which added more complexity to the televisor experience. His video imagery was sometime soaring and celestial, but more often it was like Hieronymus Bosch fever dreams, It was as if the televisors  were receiving broadcasts from Hades. Steve took the sequential photographs of Eadweard Muybridge, and re-animated them into a grotesque cast of chimeras wandering in some lost nocturnal plane.

Reanimated video stills 

 

This video art culminated in his epic “Parade: The Absolute End of the World.” He worked on this video for 8 years. It literally has a cast of thousands of his wild beings marching past in formation.

 

I Love a Parade: Stills from Steve’s epic video art  

We got to spend a lot of time with Steve and his art in the 5 years we were members of Deus ex Machina Gallery. Steve’s televisiors were always the stars of the show there. They were instantly accessible and fascinating for our patrons.

The televisors worked on so many different levels. They were sculptures. They were assemblage. They incorporated video and sound, They were conceptual in the best sense of the word, hinting at an entire alternative reality. And they were unapologetically beautiful.

An hypnotic televisor at Deus Ex Machina 

We had so many special moments at that gallery. Steve like to set off smoke bombs in the street and play double dutch routines on the sidewalk with invisible jump ropes. Once Steve got his hands on a top hat, and serenaded my wife Michele Bledsoe with his rendition of “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka. The lyrics of that song applied very well to Steve: “We’ll begin with a spin/Traveling in the world of my creation/What we’ll see will defy explanation.”

Michele and Steve: Pure Imagination 

Like the ornate videos he created, Steve was a complex hybrid of traits. He could be bawdy and bossy and boisterous. No matter what shenanigans he was up to, you just had to say, “That’s Steve,” and roll with it. His infectious, anarchist laughter was a clue to his driven nature; part Elmer Fudd, part Woody Woodpecker, coupled with wide eyed enthusiasm.

In his teacher mode, Steve was a master of the blunt but accurate critique. He was one of the few people that Michele felt like she truly learned something from. And to this day his advice drives my artistic production: he told me once you should always have a long term, a medium term, and a short term project going, all at the same time. This wisdom has become my own method.

As a gallery partner, he was committed and supportive. As a friend, he was giving and affectionate in his own particular Steve way. Our home is full of the thoughtful little gifts he came across during his Goodwill shopping. I shared his fascination with strange history; he was always bringing me topical books to read. He recognized Michele’s love of beautiful trinkets, so he brought her exotic objects of glass and brass.

Ultimately Steve was a worker, always so excited to push his art to new levels, and to share his own strange vision with the world. He loved to be involved in events and happenings.

I will always be glad, in one of our last exchanges through Facebook, I invited Steve over for dinner. He responded by sharing a trailer of a cool movie he was excited about: Embrace of the Serpent. We didn’t confirm the date, and I kept meaning to follow up. I thought we’d have plenty of time to work out the details.

We wanted to see Steve before his birthday. I was already mentally planning the menu. Only later did I learn that not too long after that message, he was gone. We did not find out until weeks later.

The New Times provided a thoughtful eulogy to Steve, that stuck one discordant note. It mentioned how his works made you want to question more. Although the idea that art equals questioning is a dominant  piece of dogma in Postmodern art, it is a misreading of Steve’s accomplishments.

Steve did want not his viewers to question. He wanted them to experience wonder, which is not the same thing at all.

We loved Steve a lot and learned so much from him. We will treasure the time we got to spend with him.

 

Michele Bledsoe “Portrait of Steve Gompf” acrylic on canvas 

 

A Celebration of Life for Steve Gompf

Sunday May 20, 2018 7 pm

Alwun House

1204 East Roosevelt Street

Phoenix, Arizona 85006