EXPLOITS: A Very Rare Painting Reboot

 

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Richard Bledsoe “The Ghost of Slumber Mountain” oil on canvas 30″ x 24″

The second version

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I have so many ideas for paintings, it is very rare that I would ever paint the same image more than once. In fact, there is only one occasion I can remember doing it. I was reminded of the circumstances recently while we were working on some home renovations, and I had to move 16 years worth of art.

I”ve written before of a troubled time in my artistic explorations, when for several years I made bad, unresolved paintings on wood panels. While most of these unsatisfactory works are exiled to my garage, while doing our rearrangements I found one stored in the house. It happens to be the only painting I ever explicitly repainted.

I am haunted by a story from the early days of film. In 1918 the stop motion animation pioneer Willis O’Brien made a movie called “The Ghost of Slumber Mountain.” Originally 40 minutes long, the distributors of the day cut the movie down to 19 minutes highlighting the dinosaur action O’Brien created.

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Innovator: Willis H. O’Brien at work

The plot that remains features a supernatural visit to a hillbilly cabin and a time traveling telescope. It’s unclear exactly what got cut out. That version still survives, but the rest of the film is lost. Commercial pressures destroyed a rare representation of the birth of a new art form.

The title alone evoked a vision for me, and some time  during the years 2004-2005 I tackled the painting, during the ebb of my artistic efforts. I wasn’t happy with the outcome.

But what I wanted that painting to be stayed with me, to the extent many years later, probably around 2008, I painted the image again. I was back in my artistic groove by then. The second version, depicted above, captures the eeriness I was after all along.

But what about the first version, which I did display in one art show before it was put safely out of sight?

Here it is, in all its dubious glory:

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Richard Bledsoe “The Ghost of Slumber Mountain” oil on wood panel 36″ x 30″

Version One circa 2004-2005

Ugh. I can only put this out there because it is so securely in the past. I have to say, out of all my bad paintings from the time, this is one of the better ones. Even now, I like the body of the creature quite a bit, and the rocks and trees of the skyline. But overall, a swing and a miss.

Seeing this made me feel maybe I should revisit some of the other works I failed to execute the first time round. There are still visions there that deserve to be manifested.

“It is the Stuckist’s duty to explore his/her neurosis and innocence through the making of paintings and displaying them in public, thereby enriching society by giving shared form to individual experience and an individual form to shared experience.”

-The Stuckists Manifesto

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Everyone’s a critic

Our cat Motorhead passes it by without a glance

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COMMENTARY: The Special Effects of Human Expression and Ray Harryhausen

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Gazing into the Mirror of Art: Ray Harryhausen

“I had to learn to do everything because I couldn’t find another kindred soul. Now you see eighty people listed doing the same things I was doing by myself.”
-Ray Harryhausen

A New Yorker article written after stop motion animation master Ray Harryhausen passed away in 2013 has some some hits and misses.  Harryhausen and the Expressively Imperfect World by Adam Gopnik captures something of the mystery, but is a little too pat in its Postmodern self regard.

Where the article goes awry is the typical “Of course I know how he did that” smugness and detachment that is the curse of the contemporary academic mind:

“Though who—at least among those who saw her at an impressionable age—can forget the snake woman who emerges, Play-Doh body writhing serpentinely, before the Sultan’s court—and is met by carefully directed gazes of awe and wonder and cries of ‘Allah, be praised!’ on the part of extras who are, rather obviously, looking at nothing.”

Gopnik undermines the nostalgic awe by pointing out that of course HE knows that it’s just a campy movie and that a sense of wonder is just kids stuff. It wouldn’t be so annoying if he and his ilk didn’t live their entire lives that way, and insist on telling the rest of us about it constantly.

People like that think picking apart the presentation is the fun part; not to better appreciate the artistry, but to try to out-analyze someone who is actually accomplishing something. That sort of thing is only fun for deconstructive wankers who assume others are impressed when they whip out their tiny little pride.

But the heart of the article gets it right in the following quote:

“For, deeper still, in some primal part of us, there is always a vital role for the not-too-perfect in our pleasures. Imperfection is essential to art. In music, the vibrato we love involves not quite landing directly on the note; the rubato singers cultivate involves not quite keeping to the beat. What really moves us in art may be what really moves us in “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”: the vital sign of a human hand, in all its broken and just-unsteady grace, manipulating its keys, or puppets, and our minds. Expressiveness is imperfection, and Harryhausen’s monsters and ghouls are expressively imperfect. ‘I don’t think you want to make it quite real. Stop-motion, to me, gives that added value of a dream world,’ he [Harryhausen] once said, wisely, himself.”

Wisdom is in short supply in our intellectuals, so that is a welcome admission.

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Since I wanted to make movies from a young age, and was enthralled by fantasy, it’s natural Harryhausen has been a huge influence on my art. Not so much purely in subject matter, but in atmosphere.

I never approached his movies with the clinical awareness of how-did-he-do-that while watching them; I just embraced the poetry of the moment. In any great art, there is level of fascination that defies verbal explanation and rational analysis.

Later, when I pondered armatures, miniature sets, and incredible patient craftsmanship, it wasn’t doubt that was intriguing, it was the power of the achievement.

Gopnik does acknowledge this as well, though he seems leery of being so lowbrow to actually admit he enjoyed something: “…we appreciate them poetically, not for what they did given what they didn’t have, but for what they did with what they did have. We genuinely like them more than things we know are better at doing what they seemed to set out to do.”

A description of painting in the Stuckist Manifesto captures what Harryhausen accomplished in his animated films: ” Painting is mysterious. It creates worlds within worlds, giving access to the unseen psychological realities that we inhabit. The results are radically different from the materials employed…”

As Ray Harryhausen was an innovator, visionary and solitary creative genius who made art for the people, I nominate him as an honorary Remodernist.

The legendary career of stop-motion and visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen will be showcased in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and SciencesÕ new summer exhibition ÒThe Fantastical Worlds of Ray Harryhausen,Ó opening to the public on Friday, May 14, in the AcademyÕs Fourth Floor Gallery in Beverly Hills. Admission is free.