STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 5, Completion: In the Belly

Richard Bledsoe “In the Belly” acrylic on canvas 30″ x 40″ 

I have completed my latest large scale piece-large for me being in this case 30″ x 40″. In my first post, I showed the first crude underpainting. In the second post, I started making additional drawing decisions. In the third post, I started bringing out suggestions of the original vision-the whale not just as an animal, but as a gilded cage of chaos. In the fourth post, I shared how the processes of an intuitive artist can go awry.

But now the painting is complete. It’s often said a painting is never really done, and that’s true. There’s no end to the possibilities and potentials in the magical worlds we create by the means of a liquid medium smeared onto a flat surface. But the trick is recognizing when the art has become what it needs to be, and respecting it for what it is.

My wife, artist Michele Bledsoe, and I have a method for comprehending completion. In a work in progress, our eyes are drawn to fragments of the image, the parts that need fixing. It’s hard to see the painting as a whole while there are omissions or shortcomings still to address.

As errors are refined, other bits with flaws and weaknesses are exposed. The adjustments go on, until finally, as we near the end, we start to see the whole image again, intact.

In my book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization,  I describe integrity as one of the elements of looking at art with 5 Eyes (or “I”s):

The Physical: Integrity

In the physical sense, integrity means being complete. The art
is independently expressive in and of itself, all of its elements
working together to create a unified whole. When a work
achieves the level of art, it radiates a visceral presence that
can be felt by anyone, no explanation or education required.

It was a joy to work on this vision, and bring it into a form which can be shared. The story of Jonah describes a man who tried to dodge his responsibilities, and wound up being swallowed by a great fish-temporarily. How often have I lived this pattern! I put my experience into this painting.

I have already begun my next large scale painting project. Watch this space for future updates!

Previous articles:

STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 1: In the Belly

STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 2: In the Belly

STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 3: In the Belly

STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 4: In the Belly (Not All Accidents Are Happy Ones)

 

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I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a painting. Please send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you!

BOOKS: “Painting, Passion and the Art of Life” by Michele Bledsoe

 

 

Painting, Passion and the Art of Life

by Michele Bledsoe

 

“As artists, we are explorers.

Every blank canvas is the beginning of a new journey.”

-Michele Bledsoe

 

My wife Michele Bledsoe recently completed her first non-fiction book, Painting, Passion and the Art of Life. This collection of inspirational essays on painting and drawing contain universal messages on work, love, and what truly matters in our engagement with the world.

I love Michele with all my heart, but that does not cloud my artistic judgment or integrity.  I am glad to say what Michele has accomplished in her book is an insightful and moving presentation of the wisdom she has gathered through a lifetime of creative work.

Michele’s writing style is succinct. She is able to capture the essence of her observations using just a few brief phrases. Her meditations approach psalms or parables, she is so able to articulate the significance she has found in her experiences.  It all comes down to understanding that creativity is a gift from God, a means of communion and connection. She shows art can be a most humane form of human activity, meant to be a tool for growth and service. This warmth is demonstrated through a number of touching personal stories, gently relaying the positive meanings which can be found even as we go through times of struggle and sadness.

Painting, Passion and the Art of Life is a little book with a big message, but it also has Michele’s sense of humor and whimsy. These aspects come out clearly in her illustrations in the book, a collection of the strange beings which appear as she dreams over her sketchbooks.

This book is an important contribution to the rising philosophy of Remodernism. Remodernism is the return of art as a revelation. Michele has shared herself here, offering up unfiltered the essence of who she is, and what she has learned. It’s a joyful, uplifting read.

Painting, Passion and the Art of Life gives creative people of all ages the motivation and enthusiasm to cultivate their gifts, share their talents, and recognize their place in the fellowship of life.

“Remodernism is the latest iteration of the American character: ordinary people working as explorers and inventors, optimistic, self-reliant and productive. The Remodernist artist formulates expressions of personal liberty in pursuit of higher meaning and significance. Remodernism is the pursuit of excellence.”

-Richard Bledsoe, Remodern America 

 

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I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a paintingPlease send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you!

STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 4: In the Belly (Not All Accidents Are Happy Ones)

Work in Progress: In the Belly 

 

I am currently at work on my latest large scale piece-large for me being in this case 30″ x 40″. In my first post, I showed the first crude underpainting. In the second post, I started making additional drawing decisions. In the third post, I started bringing out suggestions of the original vision-the whale not just as an animal, but as a gilded cage of chaos.

The painting is coming along well (see above). But working as an intuitive artist, obstacles arise which could not be foreseen. I am presented an image in my mind; they come to me in a flash, complete. It becomes my task to translate that vision into a form that can be shared, filtered through my individual artistic personality. I paint my works directly onto the canvas, without preparatory drawings, all the better to take advantage of sudden discoveries and inspirations.

However, in art as in life, there are problems that come along with the opportunities.

Pablo Picasso, that human kaleidoscope, explained something like the dilemma I recently faced in my painting, when he talked about a visit he made to his Cubist colleague, Georges Braque.

 

“I remember one evening I arrived at Braque’s studio. He was working on a large oval still life with a package of tobacco, a pipe, and all the usual paraphernalia of Cubism. I looked at it, drew back and said, ‘My poor friend, this is dreadful. I see a squirrel in your canvas.’ Braque said, ‘That’s not possible.’ I said, ‘Yes, I know, it’s paranoiac vision, but it so happens that I see a squirrel. That canvas is made to be a painting, not an optical illusion. Since people need to see something in it, you want them to see a package of tobacco, a pipe, and the other things you’re putting in. But for God’s sake, get rid of that squirrel.’

Braque stepped back a few feet and looked carefully and sure enough, he too saw the squirrel, because that kind of paranoiac vision is extremely communicable. Day after day Braque fought that squirrel. He changed the structure, the light, the composition, but the squirrel always came back, because once it was in our minds it was almost impossible to get it out. However different the forms became, the squirrel somehow always managed to return. Finally, after eight or ten days, Braque was able to turn the trick and the canvas again became a package of tobacco, a pipe, a deck of cards, and above all a Cubist painting.”

 

He Was Only 5’3″

Braque and Picasso Get Squirrelly 

So, in the process of trying to evoke a painting experience, something unbidden had worked its way onto Braque’s canvas. Or maybe Picasso was just messing with him. I wouldn’t put it past him.

But recently I had a similar misstep while working on In the Belly.

My wife, artist Michele Bledsoe, and I were working in the studio. She noticed I suddenly started raving and muttering at my painting; lost as I was in the moment, I didn’t even realize I was talking out loud.

What was the problem? While I was trying to render where my whale’s fin attached to his body, I was horrified to see an equally horrified emoji had appeared on my canvas (outlined in red, below).

Is There An Emoji For The Scream of a Lost Soul? 

This could not stand. Mumbling about “wiping that look off your face,” I attacked the problem area with more marks and shading.

When I stepped back, I saw that I had succeeded…succeeded in giving the unwanted face eyebrows and a hat.

Facing the Problem

Needless to say, I had to cover over this whole area, and start again. It happens with the methods I use. As I state in my book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization:

“I vanish while my paintings get applied to the canvas. I have the continuous experience of stepping back from the work to see it, and it’s like I’m stepping out of a trance. I’m constantly surprised by what I see has appeared on the painting, because I have no memory of doing it. Turning myself over to this receptive state allows something beyond my own capacities to take over. My best achievements are works done through me, rather than by me.”

The point of this post is, although I have the upmost respect for The Muse, sometimes she’s got a strange sense of humor. I’ve learned to laugh, enjoy the message, and move on.

 

Previous articles:

STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 1: In the Belly

STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 2: In the Belly

STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 3: In the Belly

 

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I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a paintingPlease send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you!

STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 3: In the Belly

In the Belly: 

Colors Developing 

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I am currently at work on my latest large scale piece-large for me being in this case 30″ x 40″. In my first post, I showed the first crude underpainting. In the second post, I started making additional drawing decisions.

I ended up rejecting some of the drawing elements shown last time. The figure was all wrong. I covered it over with a skein of gold.

And that’s when things started to go strange.

Because I never intended this to be a realistic depiction of a whale. The vision I had showed me Jonah not inside a sea mammal, but in a gilded cage of chaos. I rendered the figure again in a more dynamic pose-from the fetal position, to a more reaching out posture, limbs akimbo. This change is philosophically meaningful. It’s exciting to figure it out as I work. The painting tells me about myself, and my own mental, emotional and spiritual states.

As I state in my book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization:

“Remodernism is the return of art as a revelation. We are showing particular things about ourselves that can also be universally recognized. Our art symbolically represents flawed, searching humanity participating in birth, existence, growth, and death. It is mysterious and moving, comic and tragic, clumsy and elegant. Remodernism is a celebration of the beauty and weirdness of the life God has granted us.”

 

This painting is taking a hallucinatory turn. Watch this space for future updates!

Take a Trip 

 

Previous articles:

STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 1: In the Belly

STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 2: In the Belly

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I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a paintingPlease send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you!

STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 2: In the Belly

In the Belly

Evolving Imagery

I am currently at work on my latest large scale piece-large for me being in this case 30″ x 40″. In my previous post, I showed the first crude underpainting for a piece that I will be working on for the next several months.

These images show the progression.

Even though my paintings originate in inspirational visions, where I am shown what the imagery needs to be, it’s up to me to make that image appear through painterly technique. It’s hard to translate the subtlety of thought into tangible forms. But that is the fun and challenge of being an intuitive painter.

I don’t make preparatory drawings to figure out compositions. I paint the picture directly out onto the canvas. My process involves lots of editings and revisions along the way.

Having Jonah in there is vital to this work. This is how I put him in initially.  The painting has changed greatly from these early stages.

 

As I state in my book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization: 

Making a painting becomes more than just a matter of how to represent something. It symbolizes the artist’s engagement with life. We want so much to make an image that says, “This is who I am, and this is what I saw.”

When we do it right, everyone who sees it will find that image inside themselves as well. It becomes a moment we share, and which can be visited over and over, with new understandings always unfolding. This is the power of art.

Ultimately a painter doesn’t replicate the real world, but creates a world in the painting that exists nowhere else. There are no limits for a painter; every decision in the work can be freely made to best suit the desired result.

Watch this space for further updates!

 

Previous article:

STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 1: In the Belly

 

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I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a paintingPlease send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you!

STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 1: In the Belly

In the Belly

A New Painting for the New Year

 

I am currently at work on my latest large scale piece-large for me being in this case 30″ x 40″. The image above is my first crude underpainting for a piece that I will be working on for the next several months.

The current subject came to me in a vision, as my imagery often does.

Right now I don’t have to fulfill any commission. I don’t have create a piece for any particular theme show or call for entries. Being so free to choose out of the many painting ideas I have could be challenging. However, as an intuitive artist, I am provided guidance. I know the right idea to proceed with because it’s the one I keep thinking about. I can’t get it out of my mind. I’m going to need to paint it out.

The story of Jonah describes a man who tried to dodge his responsibilities, and wound up being swallowed by a great fish-temporarily. One of my favorite artists, Albert Pinkham Ryder, painted this subject before.

Albert Pinkham Ryder “Jonah”

 

I have visited this theme before, in a small work.

Richard Bledsoe “Leviathan My Friend” acrylic on canvas 12″ x 12″  

2020 looks like it’s going to be the year of getting stuff done. We can’t remain the bellies of the various beast that consume us. We must do the work we are called to. That is the energy I am pouring into this new piece.

It’s powerful theme, that everyone can relate to in some way. As I state in my book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization: 

 

 

As I work on the paintings, I come to interpret them. Patrons will often share insights with me on my works as well, telling me meanings that I didn’t even realize, but which become clear once indicated.

Such is the seductive beauty of symbolic expression; even when manifesting universal archetypes, a symbol caresses the spectator in an intimate manner. While symbols can communicate concepts shared in common, each person experiences the thrill of recognition in a unique way, different as fingerprints.

 

I will periodically post updates on this work, and share the progress.

 

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I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a paintingPlease send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you!

 

 

Films Like The Lighthouse and Joker Signal Postmodern Totalitarianism is Losing the Culture War

The Lighthouse: A Beacon, a Warning

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Most movies fail to achieve the status of art.

Film evokes a passive experience in its viewers. For a set period of time stimulating imagery washes over us, engaging on a superficial level, holding our attention by prodding our lizard brains with safely contained visuals of action, conflict, or eroticism.

Real art isn’t a transitory activity, relaxing while absorbing an overload of tricks and mock thrills. Experiencing real art is a slow, internal realization that grows and expands. It changes us. It takes us outside of time.

One of the main themes of this blog is that the ruling class establishment is working mightily to purge the experience of real art from our culture.  They’ve managed to make the enduring human activity of art into something isolated and irrelevant. Removing art from the people facilitates the elitist intent to lord over a befuddled, ignorant, and dispirited populace.

That being said, I don’t look to the film industry to deliver art. I like to be entertained too. But even that enjoyment has been harder to find over time. Mainstream movies have degenerated into virtue signalling wankfests, pandering to the sensibilities of woke critics and decadent yet sanctimonious industry insiders. The ruination of the movies is just another aspect of the Postmodern totalitarian gambit.

Hollywood is horrible these days. More and more productions are reduced to shrill leftist political proselytizing. It’s not like this is what audiences want either; this is a top down driven campaign. The New Aristocracy of the Well Connected are determined to shove their propaganda down our throats through every aspect of communications in their control. Thanks to the success of the Long March Through the Institutions, they pretty much control them all. Not only movies and art, but the media, government, academia, big tech, corporate boardrooms, and non-profit agencies are all in lockstep, driving the cultural Marxist agenda.

The market is glutted with homogeneous films, endless rehashes seasoned with heaps of obligatory politically correct posturing and diversity scoring keeping. It doesn’t even matter when the audiences reject the offerings. The globalist corporate studios are so huge they can afford to take a financial hit when their crappy agitprop movies fail. I’m very suspicious of book cooking and money laundering in the reported bottom lines anyway. How much of a contemporary movie’s box office comes from the manipulated Chinese marketplace? There a Hollywood movie may do well-if the ruling Communist Party wants it too. What should that tell you?

After seeing Star Wars in 1977, I spent most of my formative years dreaming of making movies. I still follow the film industry, keeping current with upcoming productions and results. It was only after I discovered painting in college that I found a better way to show my visions to the world without having to chase down expensive equipment and funding. Being a painter is an individual journey to a much more profound destination. It does not demand the compromises of working collaboratively. I recently stumbled across a small piece of evidence on how the movie producing scheme is now unfolding.

I follow film reviewer Chris Stuckmann on Youtube. I don’t always agree with him, but he presents his analysis with integrity, good humor, and a strong knowledge of film history and technique. Stuckmann wants to do more than just talk about movies. His channel covers his ongoing efforts to make his own films. I would love to see what would happen if he got a chance to apply his cinematic insights onto his own creations.

Towards the end of a recent review of a poorly made horror movie, Stuckmann gave a telling quote about what is happening behind the scenes. Pointing out an irrelevant #MeToo story line that was shoehorned into this cheap thriller, Stuckmann explains the feedback he’s been receiving from studios:

“This subplot has nothing to do with the movie, and I know exactly why it’s in there. For the past year I’ve had multiple scripts that I’ve talked to many studios about, and some have showed real interest…one of the biggest notes I’ve always gotten back is that if you included some sort of social commentary, or something that was in the news today, something that people are talking about a lot, that might make your script easier to sell.”

Forget about quality. The message is SJW posturing is mandatory if a creative is to get any major opportunities. Parroting the progressive line guarantees favorable reviews and support from fellow travelling film wonks. however there are signs the apparatchik monopoly may be slipping.

The non-stop ideological haranguing really soured me on film. For years I hardly ever went to a theater to see a new release, waiting for dvds or streaming. Now something is changing. In 2019 I actually went to the movies three times, which I probably haven’t done in at least a decade. I saw, and enjoyed, Midsommar, Joker, and The Lighthouse. These smaller releases, lumped into the niche genres of horror and super hero movies, show a pattern of defiance against the stifling status quo. I see how they indicate an evolving direction for the zeitgeist which is not following the political/media combine plan.

Once the spirit of an age turns against the powers that be, nothing can save their prestige and power. It’s only a question of how damaging their downfall will be.

So what was in these movies that made them different? Note: there will be some spoilers in the discussion below.

Stop, Children, What’s That Sound: Midsommar 

 

Midsommar was the most flawed.  I attended this one based on the director Ari Aster’s powerful first film, Hereditary. Midsommar couldn’t match the infernally machined plot of Hereditary, or actress Toni Collette’s fiery performance as a grieving artist and mother. Midsommar had the conventional horror trope of college student types lined up to be massacred, but in an unexpected setting: under the bright sunshine, in flower strewn fields. The villains are equally sunny collectivists, smiling as they dispense hallucinogens, torture and death. Midsommar worked best in evoking an uncanny atmosphere and showing off trippy visuals. Still, the movie exposes the nasty murderous pagan impulses underpinning Green New Deal style objectives. The fanatics seem so well-intentioned, right up to point when they commit acts of cruelty and slaughter; not the typical Hollywood attitude towards back-to-the-land commune dwellers.

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The Success of Joker is No Laughing Matter 

I dropped out of the seemingly endless and increasingly monotonous super hero movie grind ages ago.  Joker was different. It intrigued me with its gritty but luminous trailers. Joaquin Phoenix has turned in many intense performances before. But what got me to buy a ticket was the cancel culture frenzy which took aim at this movie.

A lot of hysterical commentary got vented about how sinister right wing incel violence was bound to erupt due to this movie about a downtrodden clown gone wrong. Well, the projections about bloodshed were baseless, but the SJWs were right to recognize the threat the movie posed to their dogmas.

Set in the 1980s, the film repeats beats from Martin Scorsese’s dystopian 1970s films. ‘ While contemporary critics are desperate to tie the Joker’s decline and fall as a symptom of Orange Man Bad’s America, a different comparison is more apt. Joker gives a depiction of Gotham as a typical Democrat run urban shithole, and the suffering of those trapped in the blue state model. The out of control crime, filth, decay, and discord is happening today in cities from San Francisco to New York, from Los Angles to Chicago. All these blighted places have been under corrupt progressive dominance for decades.

Joker skewers media malfeasance as well, another sore spot for the activists. They hated this movie, but their efforts at fear-mongering and boycotting failed. Joker is going to make a billion dollars. It’s the top grossing R rated movie ever.

In the case of Joker,  massive audiences ignored demands to obey the latest politically correct diktats. A gap exists between the cultural commissars and the people, and that gap is growing. It helped that the movie made corrosion look colorful through comely cinematography. There were enough hints of the Batman mythos to provide fan service. Phoenix delivers an engrossing take on gross humanity, a delusional villain who still elicits some compassion as he dances down as an engine of destruction.

But the strongest film I watched this year was The Lighthouse. It’s also the film that most effectively demonstrates an aspect of the new spirit which is stirring-which is actually very old spirit indeed.

The Lighthouse

Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Man, Man vs. Himself

On the surface, the story is about two men either going mad or being bewitched, fueled by isolation and drink. It works on that primary level very well, but there’s more to it. The Lighthouse is influenced by Western cultural information that has long been ignored or attacked by what are supposed to be our cultural institutions. This creepy little period piece draws power by partaking in the rich traditional stories society used to treasure. It echoes the great works of religion, mythology, and literature which formed the West, and informed the generations who built up an amazing civilization.

This isn’t an academic exercise, where you play spot the references to prove how clever you are. This is visceral, a gut level reverberation; archetypal frenzy channeled. The same spirit which drove the geniuses of the past is effectively evoked in The Lighthouse, telling its own unique variation on timeless themes.

Once the hinted heritages on display would have been kind of shared language, common knowledge for all. That has been stifled by our governing class, on purpose.

I was thrilled to see and hear moments that recalled classical myths, the Old Testament, Coleridge, Melville, and Shakespeare. There’s some David Mamet, Samuel Beckett, and H.P. Lovecraft in there too. Imagery took form like the artistry of Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth, and William Blake.

A viewer doesn’t need to recognize the ghosts of the canon crowding into the frames to be enthralled by the film. It stands on its own merits. It’s a visionary, tense work. But seeing those salutes to the accomplishments and knowledge of our forefathers adds potent nuance.

The movie also handles the past as its own distinct character. It doesn’t feel like today’s sensibilities just dressed up in costumes, which is the typical default Hollywood shtick. Another era seems present in every detail.

The Postmodern philosophy has been used as a bulldozer against our culture. The agenda has been for a great leveling to take place, to knock over the soaring achievements of Western civilization. Our elites are grinding our legacy into rubble under the treads of their reckless pursuit for power. But a new philosophy has emerged, to counter the planned destruction. Like always, this new direction first appeared in the arts.

In 2000, Billy Childish and Charles Thomson, two British artists, wrote a statement years ahead of its time. The Remodernism Manifesto delivered a compelling alternative to the lies and presumptions of the Postmodern contemporary arts-and by extension, the practices of the whole rotten establishment. They were the first ones I saw who declared what could come after the fall of the corrupt Postmodern ethos; a self-determining Remodern era, where the great advances of the past can be built upon, instead of trashed.

These founding artists inspired creatives around the world. They created an open source art movement for the 21st century. As I state in my 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. We express the universal language of inspired humanity. We do not imitate what came before. We find in ourselves the same divine essence of love and excitement which has inspired masterpieces throughout history. We are strengthened by drawing on traditions thousands of years old. We integrate the bold, visionary efforts of the Modern era into a holistic, meaningful expression of contemporary life. Remodernism seeks a humble maturity which heals the fragmentation and contradictions of Modernism, and obliterates the narcissistic lies of Postmodernism. Remoderism is disruptive innovation applied to the moribund art world.

What you have in the arts, ultimately you will have everywhere. The arts show us how to be. When Andrew Breitbart stated “Politics is downstream from culture,” he was reiterating what mystic artist William Blake knew: “Empire follows art and not vice versa…”

This model is upheld by the changes I’ve seen unfolding over the 20 years since Childish and Thomson wrote down their ideas about art. They called for a DIY, spiritually driven revolt against the status quo in the incompetent and arrogant well-connected art world. Extrapolate that, and the message is clear.

Our betters, are not. Our servants aren’t serving. They have squandered their credibility, and have no authority. It’s time for the rest of us to outgrow the limitations the elites try to force upon us. That message isn’t just about art anymore.

Postmodernism is a form of dysfunctional global tyranny that must be opposed. The Remodern hunger for renewal is driving the populist insurgencies remaking the world.

I also see some of the same stubborn insistence on expressing a unique voice in these three 2019 movies. If the covert independence these films represent continue make it through the establishment filters, I’ll be going to the movies a lot more.

The Lighthouse: Yo Ho Ho 

 

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I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a paintingPlease send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you! 

STUDIO: Highlights from my Image Morgue

Inspiring Imagery Fuels the Image Bank in my Mind 

 

An update of an earlier post on how I collect the images I need to create my work:

 

STUDIO: The Image Morgue (May 20, 2016) 

These fragments I have shored against my ruin: a sample of my reference material

“The model is not to be copied, but to be realized.”

-Robert Henri

In painting, there really are no rules. But understanding painting as I do, there is a prevalent practice these days which I find completely undermines the integrity of the act.

Projector artists. Artists who cheat themselves and their audience by projecting an image onto their canvas and doing a paint-by-numbers routine to create their works. Artists like this have reduced themselves to a mere cog in a mechanical reproduction process, not creating, but taking dictation from their gadgets. They let their tools make their discoveries for them. It is an inferior mode of creation.

If you’re an artist, do your own rendering.

Now I am not rejecting the use of source material. I learned the hard way, through years of artistic practice, I lack the omnipotent powers of observation and recall to paint strictly out of my own mind and produce the results I want.

How do a frog’s legs attach to its body? How many wings does a mosquito have? What is the musculature of a horse? These are just some of the composition problems I have encountered. I can’t see clearly enough into my memory to reach the level of realism I want in my paintings.

So I use source material. Not all the time, but when it’s important to get something right, and I can’t summon the depth of detail I’d like to. When needed, I find photographs on the internet of what I want to portray, print them out, and study them.

But then-and this is the really important part-I put the photograph down, and paint what I remember about it, what I learned about it.

The image passes through the filters of my consciousness and becomes more me. And that is vital in art: depicting your own unique sensibility…

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I’ve been busy since I wrote that post, I’ve made many paintings, and envisioned many more.

This morning I added a picture to my digital image morgue folder for a new painting I’m contemplating. I haven’t printed it out yet because the painting is not yet begun:

  Ancient Olive Tree

 

I started browsing through the folder. Some of images have been used in paintings, possibly in ways you’d never recognize. Others were more particular and identifiable. I wanted to share this window into the workings of my creative procedures. These are some of the pictures which have caught my attention, out of the endless resources of the internet.

 

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As I state in my book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization, art isn’t about just reproducing appearances.

 

Making a painting becomes more than just a matter of how to represent something. It symbolizes the artist’s engagement with life. We want so much to make an image that says, “This is who I am, and this is what I saw.”

When we do it right, everyone who sees it will find that image inside themselves as well. It becomes a moment we share, and which can be visited over and over, with new understandings always unfolding. This is the power of art.

Ultimately a painter doesn’t replicate the real world, but creates a world in the painting that exists nowhere else. There are no limits for a painter; every decision in the work can be freely made to best suit the desired result.

 

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I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a paintingPlease send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you! 

“Bill Wants To Be The Bad Boy:” A Me-Too’d Art “Maven” and the Postmodern Abuse of Art

Circling The Drain:

Taking Advantage of the Decline of Artistic Expectations 

They say the way you do something is the way you do everything.

Here in Phoenix, Arizona, an all too familiar drama is playing out. An affluent influencer has been accused of sexual aggression towards multiple women. The details offered are lurid, and awful.

No charges have been filed. There is no proof I am aware of, beyond mostly anonymous statements given to journalists. In this country, we are all innocent until proven guilty. This must be a very difficult time for everyone involved. Pray for all of them.

Unlike Joe Biden, I was not there 3,000 years ago, when Isildur took the ring and the strength of men failed. But I was there in 2002, when landscape architect Bill Tonneson took the title of artist, and the integrity of the art world failed. I met Bill Tonneson at one of his first exhibits, at the old Paper Heart Gallery.

It was a poor showing. Mostly patterns of found objects mounted on wall hung canvases. But it turns out, these examples of bland decor were the opening moves of a grand strategy.

Back then, Tonneson had decided he would make himself the world’s third most famous artist in one year. In a Phoenix New Times interview at the time with art critic Robrt Pela, Tonneson explained his gambit. The article is full of telling quotes:

A year ago, architect Bill Tonnesen launched a career in modern art. His 12-month goal: to create 100 significant pieces, and to land a one-man show in a notable gallery. He chronicled his experience in the self-published Tonnesen: 12 Months to Fame and Fortune in the Art World. The book pictures many of his mixed-media assemblages (a frame filled with teacups, another jammed with hundreds of Bic pens) and is full of revelations (“As I surveyed the art world, there seemed to be a lot of paintings. Crazy abstract stuff that looked relatively easy to do.”)…

NT: There’s that old line that you always hear about modern art: “Hey, my kid could do that!” Your career as an artist strikes me as a big riff on that whole notion.

Tonnesen: That’s a subject I love to talk about: understanding art. The notion that one painting deserves a more important place in the history of art. It’s very convenient for uninformed people to think that their opinion is the equal of someone like [deceased MOMA curator] Robert Storr’s. What makes contemporary art so unique that suddenly everybody is an expert? Why can some idiot walk in off the street and think his opinion about a painting has any value?…

NT: …You actually made an A-list of artists in your book. What is that based on?

Tonnesen: Primarily on auction results.

NT: So for you, it’s all about the money artists make, and not what their work is expressing or how it moves you.

Tonnesen: Well, money is a measure of collectibility. So are references in textbooks, a presence in museums, and mentions in publications like Art News, which essentially make the art world. But the common currency is money. It’s the most concise way of determining an artist’s popularity.

NT: That’s a pretty arrogant position to take, to create a list that values artists based on how much money they make.

Tonnesen: The list is the least controversial aspect of what I’ve done. Essentially, it’s unchallenged, partly because if you survey the horizon of thousands upon thousands of artists, people like Jasper Johns and Gerhardt Richter are the ones who rise up, and it’s relatively . . . I can’t think of the word.

NTYou seem torn between saying that the art world is full of shit and wanting to be part of it.

Tonnesen: My goal is to point out that the art industry is a market, like any other. I am a libertarian, laissez faire capitalist. I believe in markets. What I’m interested in doing is studying how the art market works and competing there, but not at a regional level. I have worked now for one year in this regional environment, and now I’m ready to compete on a larger stage…

The interview concludes with this nugget of Tonneson analysis: “I don’t think people really have much insight into what is art and what is not art.”

Bill Tonneson has been relying that disconnect ever since.

In the interview above Tonneson expresses the perspective of a Postmodern partisan. The attitudes are all there: the relativisim. The appeals to authority. The derision towards the little people who dare to have their own opinions. The lust for money, fame and power. Tonneson states the values of the establishment art industry, which are of course the values of the establishment in general. Our elites are corrupt Postmodernists to the core.

His take-over-the-art-world book is still available (Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,664,166 in Books). Needless to say, that initial scheme failed. But the marketing blitz made Tonneson a player in the lively Phoenix arts scene.

British artist Charles Thomson, co-founder of the Remodern art movement, has attributed the crisis of relevance in the contemporary arts to “…a Postmodern ethos that puts celebrity, cynicism and commerce above any spiritual or deeper human values.”I would add a fourth C to that list: controversy. Since 2002, Tonneson has worked those unappealing angles to keep himself as an artistic presence.

Like in 2012, when he plunked this beauty down in front of his house, so the nearby pre-school and church could take a gander at it:

 

“Arizona Man Feuds with Neighbors Over Statue of Obese Naked Woman,” reported the New York Daily News.

“I love it,” Tonnesen said. “I’m crazy about it.”…he wishes his neighbors could see it as a work of art, and not just a nude woman. His neighbors aren’t alone — Torrenson said his wife doesn’t like the statue’s placement and made him cover with a sheet.

“Until I can work something out with my wife, we’re going to leave it covered,” he told KNXV.

That poor long suffering lady. I read a later article which said Tonneson had added a bikini made out of money to the piece, but I couldn’t find an image of it.

He was at it again in Tucson in 2013: “Artist Hopes Nude Statues Cause a Bit of Outrage:

Tonnesen has created a pair of statues — torsos of nude women jutting out of a tower of truck tires — that sit in front of an apartment building at 2230 E. Fort Lowell Road.

In Phoenix, Tonnesen is a bit of a bad boy. Some of his large-scale pieces, often in prominent spots at apartment buildings, are in-your-face nudes. One, an obese nude woman sitting on a wall, faces a church. Another nude — it looks to be of the same large model — holding a urinal at her crotch (presumably an homage to Duchamp) is on display at the front of an apartment building not far from the Phoenix Art Museum. Protests to the works were loud.

Tonnesen, who solicits publicity, loves the controversy his art creates…Tonnesen calls the works, molded from a live model and made primarily of plaster and epoxy with a steel frame, “Domestic Totems.”

Two female torsos sit on top of 11 gleaming black tires, raising the works up to about 16 feet, nearly reaching the top of the second story of the two-story building.

The torsos are white. Each has large, exposed breasts.

The figures are draped with a shawl and have headpieces made of pots, pans, dishes and other accouterments of domesticity. One has an electric hand beater as a necklace, a mop covering her eyes as though they are long bangs, a baby sitting on top of the headpiece, and a mouselike figurine on top of that. The woman’s mouth is opened in a sort of shocked “O.”

…“My grandson doesn’t like them; he thinks they’re nasty,” says Marybeth Davis, who lives there with him. She, on the other hand, has no problem with the bare breasts. It’s the works themselves that bother her.

“I don’t call them art,” she says. “I call them gaudy.”

Tonneson’s controversies aren’t limited to art. Even before the recent allegations, in his landscape architecture business there have been some very vocal dissatisfied customers, and neighbors. His plans for a Phoenix Holocaust Memorial spiraled out of control (Illusions of Grandeur, New Times March 2005).  The project was not completed. And then there was the time he convinced the former mayor of Tempe to convert a local landmark into a Bill Tonneson theme park. (Bill Tonnesen, Contentious Tempe Developer, Aims for Immortality, New Times November 2012)The city council didn’t go along with that one.
Quotes from the linked articles paint an evocative picture:
On renovations:

…At first, the pair enjoyed getting to know the charismatic designer and his workers. They even bought a few pieces of his artwork, including one with orderly rows of coffee cups featured in Tonnesen. He assured them it would only grow in value as his art career took off.

But the piece hasn’t aged well; one of the coffee cups has fallen off its backing, and in its place, Dacquisto has stuck a movie stub from Kill Bill Vol. 1. Like the artwork, his relationship with Tonnesen also deteriorated precipitously, after the project dragged on for nearly a year…Worst of all, when the partners went to talk to a lawyer, the lawyer gave them a piece of information that caught them totally off guard: Tonnesen Inc. didn’t have a license to do electrical work, which it had done. Or a mechanical license. Or a plumbing license. Or a residential contractor’s license. Tonnesen never should have been allowed to redo their kitchen in the first place, their lawyer explained….

The Holocaust Memorial:

Tonnesen claims, repeatedly, that Phoenix’s memorial will be the only one in the world to show six million objects. It’s a contentious claim: After all, schoolchildren in rural Tennessee recently collected more than six million paper clips to display in an old German cattle car. It was an improvised effort, without a master plan or a visionary architect, but the exhibit now draws thousands of kids from all over the Southeast….

But that doesn’t count, Tonnesen says, not under his criteria. Sitting in a big pile, the paper clips aren’t visually distinct.

Similarly, he doesn’t count the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston, which shows six million numbers etched on six glass towers. “That’s different,” he says.

He can’t seem to acknowledge that any previous effort has hit the nail on the head. This, after all, is a guy who dismisses the Vietnam Veterans Memorial: “Beautiful idea, but immaturely executed.”

There goes the neighborhood, and the Tempe Flour Mill:

…And always, Tonnesen’s sculptures — many of them life-size statues of Tonnesen himself, in various guises: holding an umbrella, pointing at a giant thermometer, perched atop an air-conditioning unit. But his accolades…often are drowned out by the moaning of people who’ve had dealings with Tonnesen.

Like the employees worried that he talks too much about working without proper permitting. And the city officials who felt he was forcing his public art onto the Tempe Flour Mill site, after he sneaked two of his sculptures onto the site on the evening of its grand opening…

“The problem with Bill isn’t a lack of talent,” says a colleague of Tonnesen’s who refused to be named because, he says, any public commentary on Tonnesen leads to days and days of e-mails and phone calls and recriminations.

“It’s that he doesn’t listen, and he wants everything his way. So you ask him for a glass of water, and he brings you a swimming pool. And you say, ‘Put the swimming pool in my backyard, then,’ and he mounts it on your roof and plants 70 trees around it and then encases it in a big metal box made out of recycled refrigerator shelving, because it’s what he wants.”

…”His houses are ridiculous, and they don’t fit in on our street,” says one of Tonnesen’s Tempe neighbors, who won’t go on-record because she’s heard other neighbors complaining about Tonnesen screaming at them. “I got yelled at by people on the block, because I had seven wind chimes on my front porch. But this guy can have a giant metal box and a hundred trees in the front yard, and everyone’s thrilled!”

****

“I’m hard to work with,” Tonnesen admits. “When I hire someone, the chances of it working out are tiny. I only care about two people’s opinions — my wife’s and my assistant’s. Everyone else is just workers, and I’m hoping they won’t screw everything up.”

“Bill does things first and asks permission later,” that ever-vigilant assistant, Samantha Staiger, says. “That bothers people.”

“You gotta make your own opportunity!” Tonnesen yells excitedly. He’s an imposing presence: 6 1/2 feet tall, wearing his signature uniform of pressed blue jeans and a white Oxford shirt with his last name stitched above the pocket. His smooth hairstyle recalls the blunt bob worn by Gloria Vanderbilt in the ’60s and ’70s. “I’m not sitting around waiting for permission. I try to be proactive and to make things happen…”

***

“I had some grandiose ideas,” Tonnesen admits of his Flour Mill plans. “I want to do the unexpected. I want people to be curious and confused by the art things we put in. So I drew up an elevated walkway with a hole in it, and we would have someone sitting by the hole, and maybe spraying water on people or videotaping them as they walked by.”…the Tempe City Council wouldn’t go for a walkway with a built-in hooligan, so Tonnesen came up with a second plan: a giant Advent calendar-like cabinet filled with his own custom statuary.

“I had it dripping with my sculptures!” he bellows gleefully. “And of course no one had any money to do this. I would have done it for free! When it’s an iconic structure in my own town, I’m on board!”

To rehabilitate his reputation, Tonneson worked with Alison King, a web designer and co-founder of Modern Phoenix.

Shining up Tonnesen’s public image was no easy task, King admits. “It was among the hardest jobs I’ve taken on,” she says. “Bill wants to be a bad boy. He can’t help it. It’s who he is. He would rather ask for forgiveness later than ask permission first.”

But then, in his most ambitious art move yet, Tonneson got his theme park. Thwarted by short sighted city bureaucrats, he installed his monument to himself, himself. Bill Tonneson went to the Lavatory.

The Lavatory is the name of Tonneson’s solo act art museum. Seriously, what is it with these elitists and their juvenile caca fixations? 

“Big Fun Art’ Spreads to Phoenix” City Lab December 2018

Illuminated by floor-recessed lighting, the bottom half of a 1,500 square-foot subterranean room is suffused in pink, slow-curling fog. By one wall is a life-sized plaster-cast statue of a bare-chested woman, head concealed in cloth, holding a naked infant upside-down. A gaunt female model with an alabaster face saunters languidly through the space, like a mute witness to some macabre ritual. The 50 or so patrons, who each paid a $30 entrance fee, tentatively explore the room’s perimeter, wading through the puffy fuchsia tide, when a baritone voice registers through speakers:
“Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to be buried alive.”
Following a New Year’s Eve-style countdown, a huge net tethered to the ceiling releases 120,000 three-inch plastic iridescent balls, eliciting instantaneous glee from the crowd. They now occupy the largest, most bizarre, adult ball pit playpen in the world.The “wizard” behind the curtain is 63 year-old Bill Tonnesen, who serves as MC at the Lavatory, a risqué, if not outright scatological, art exhibition housed in a 16,000 square-foot, two-story commercial building just north of downtown Phoenix…in addition to the “pit,” [it} includes other themed rooms (one requires a non-disclosure agreement to enter). Also featured are two claymation cyclorama booths with professional portrait quality lighting conditions; a claustrophobic ten-by-eight foot room filled floor-to-ceiling with 18 functioning toilets; and many, many pieces of artwork by Tonnesen himself.

“A traditional experience at a gallery or museum is to look at a painting on a wall,” the artist told CityLab. “We’re working on a mechanism to make that painting fall if you get too close. My goal is to confuse.”

There is some confusion going on here all right. Clarity can be reached by looking at the broader, top down goals being inflicted on our culture.

The Postmodern establishment is trying to exterminate the experience of art. As I state in my book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization: 

Art is undergoing a crisis of relevance. Elitist malfeasance has marginalized the visual arts in popular culture. In doing so, the New Aristocracy of the Well-Connected block access to powerful resources. They deny our society the inspiration to live up to ideals, the encouragement to think and feel deeply, the yearning to harmonize with truth and beauty. As a result, the mass audience has turned away. People instinctually reject the superficial and nihilistic contemporary art championed by an imperious would-be ruling class.

Ruling class totalitarians use Postmodern art as a tool of oppression. Elitists have weaponized art into an assault on the foundations of Western civilization. This deceitful cabal seeks to destroy any principled perspective on the lies, manipulations, and abuses they commit. The scourge of Postmodern relativism as a cultural force is no accident; it’s a top-down driven campaign. Hyping soulless, unskilled art has a toxic, weakening effect on society as a whole.

There’s more than one way the elites have attacked art. The really prevalent one right now is to turn art into just another form of leftist activism. 

But the more insidious one is to replace art with the fleeting, tacky thrills and tawdry spectacles of a carnival midway and sideshow.  This is why you now get things like giant slides in art museums.

The Tate Museum’s Downward Slide 

Sure, that looks like fun, but is it art? No, it is not.

Depsite Postmodernism’s efforts to redefine words to suit the vast agendas of control, real art is the very opposite of the whirl and swirl of the county fair. Real art freezes a particular moment and makes it reverberate with timelessness and deep meaning. It doesn’t immerse us in sensations which drive us to distraction. Real art moves slowly in us, but with massive force. It is an enduring and abiding experience. Real art inspires  awe regarding human potentials, and takes us out of ourselves.

The elites don’t want us to have those profound moments. Too much risk of uplifting, transformative wisdom occurring. The ideologically driven artifice they favor can’t provide the moving qualities actual art delivers. So, using their hold over our cultural institutions, they are doing a massive bait and switch. Call something art, but then deliver cheap, lewd variations of Chuck E. Cheese attractions. They substitute the intensity of traditional art with an empty buzz of quick hit one-liners.  That will keep the ignorant proles in their place!

The Future of Art? 

The Lavatory fails the achieve art. It might pass as a fun house, but it doesn’t really look like much fun. It’s over burdened, trying to prove its art cred by dragging in stale Duchamp references. The images from it suggest a sinister, sleazy vibe, which recent reports only amplify.

Scenes From the Lavatory. Ick.

After the Me-Too style allegations surfaced, the Lavatory has gone dark. Tonneson shut down his Instagram account, and from the vicious commentary left showing on his Facebook page, it seems to be untended as well. Venues have started removing his works from display.

Tonneson’s come back before from scandal. He may be back again. If so, we can hope he will be able to deliver an authentic artistic experience, rather than just another tacky destination for selfies.

Bill Tonneson: Say Cheesecake 

 

 

Update: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit other articles for more commentary on the State of the Arts from a Remodern perspective.