PAINTINGS: Climb, Climb

Richard Bledsoe “Climb, Climb” acrylic on canvas 24″ x 30″

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Another 2017 painting. This one was begun long ago; the vision that produced this one was triggered by the lyrics of a Meat Puppets song, “Climbing.”

Climb, climb, I always climb
Out of bed in the morning on a mountain made of sand
And I know this doesn’t rhyme
But the clutter on the table has been getting out of hand

The image is not a literal illustration of the lyrics, but I appreciated the sentiment.

Back when I started the drawing came quick. However, piece then joined the works in progress stack of paintings stuck in the corner of the studio, where it lingered.

One of my mantras is there is nothing more inspirational than a deadline. When I was asked to be the featured artist for the exhibit “The Journey” at Desert Springs Community Church’s Call To Art, I knew this painting had to be part of it. Thinking about my own journeys in life got me very excited about finishing this piece.

I often describe painting as a series of interlocking contrasts: light and dark, abrupt passages and gradual passages, color against color. Another element I like to contrast is the naturalistic and the stylized. Here I put a very exaggerated figure into a rather subtle and realistic appearing landscape. Of course it is a green mountainside, which is not expected, but that was the vision I had. At my best I’m just taking dictation.

COMMENTARY: Art and the Heart of Darkness

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Richard Bledsoe “This Man Has Enlarged My Mind” acrylic on canvas 14″ x 11″

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“All great and beautiful work has come of first gazing without shrinking into the darkness.”

-John Ruskin

Darkness exists not only externally as a physical absence of light, but also references the state of mystery that abides inside every person. Part of the task of the artist is to go into that inner darkness and bring its contents to light. To reveal the hidden lets us know ourselves, and each other, better.
Visionary analyst Carl Jung referred to this as the Shadow Aspect of ourselves. Darkness does not necessarily equal evil, but evil is part of the terrain we must navigate in there. There is something in us all that remains primitive and covetous, the old animal nature, snarling over its prey.
In one of my favorite books, Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad took his own particular experiences working in the Belgian Congo and translated them into a universal exploration of the corruption of power.
His character of Kurtz was a great man gone wrong. He went into the jungle thinking he would bring enlightenment to the  savages. But like many a Classical playwright could have warned him, overestimation of one’s capacities leads to tragedy.  Hubris made Kurtz into the worst savage of all, a demon god demanding worship and tribute.
I’m very comfortable in my own shadowy depths. I see the dangers of it, but also the wonders contained therein. There is great vitality stored in there, forces beyond my own limited resources. It’s exhilarating.  In the Conrad book a ragged, youthful sailor  gushes about Kurtz, “This man has enlarged  my mind,” ignoring the poles festooned with severed heads of Kurtz’s victims all around him. Carried away with enthusiasm, he has lost all perspective.
But Kurtz himself, who unleashed those great capacities, who tried to live like he was above good and evil, can not avoid acknowledging the consequences of his own choices. He is left murmuring about “The horror” with his dying breaths, a confession of the life he sees flashing before his eyes-an admission of his ultimate failure.
Good intentions are not enough.
The ends do not justify the means.
I am humbled in the presence of the Shadow. I don’t make the mistake of believing its power is my own. I can accept the flaws it shows me I have. And as a artist, I can translate its secrets into a shared experience.
“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.”

ARTICLE: Michele Bledsoe in “The Labyrinth Beyond Time”

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Creatures Great and Small: Michele Bledsoe with her painting “Under the Pillow”

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I’ve written a number of times on the amazing creativity of my wife, artist Michele Bledsoe. 

Michele was recently the featured artist in an article in The Foothills Focus, a weekly newspaper focused on life in north Phoenix and its environs.

Read the article at this link: “The Labyrinth Beyond Time,” by Shea Stanfield.

The writer does a great job summing up the spirit of Michele’s painting by referencing a quote from Marcel Duchamp: “To all appearances, the artist acts like a mediumistic being who, from the labyrinth beyond time and space, seeks his way out to a clearing.” Stanfield goes on to relay significant details about Michele’s experiences and attitudes towards art:

“She filled tablets with sketches and ideas that bound through her imagination. Creatures great and small would eventually be rendered in paintings as she taught herself the techniques. By all accounts, Michele has been successful on all fronts. Today, she paints in her home studio in Central Phoenix, her canvases supported on an easel her father gave her for Christmas 25 years ago. His passing a few months later added an extra portion of meaning to his gift and confidence in her, as well as Michele’s inspiration.”

The art of Michele Bledsoe does indeed navigate a special vision, her own enchanting world apart. It was a pleasure to read this article’s commentary acknowledging her achievements.

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Forever (2)

From the article:

“Michele, over the last 20 years, has exhibited in various art galleries and venues.  Recently, she was invited to participate in an art show, at Skolkovo Art Gallery, in Moscow, Russia. The exhibit featured a number of international artists involved in the Remodernism Movement. As Michele would put it, ‘Who would have believed my painting “Forever,” a painting of a snail, is the one piece, out of all my work, that has ironically traveled furthest!’”

ART QUOTES: Do the Work

Rivera Frida

Diego Rivera “The Pan American Unity Mural” detail

His capacity for work breaks clocks and calendars.

-Frida Kahlo, on her husband Diego Rivera

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Jackson Pollock “Portrait and a Dream”

A man’s life is his work; his work is his life.

-Jackson Pollock

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Claude Monet “House of the Customs Officer, Varengeville”

When I work I forget all the rest.

-Claude Monet

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the-railway

Edouard Manet “The Railway”

I need to work to feel well.

-Edouard Manet

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M.C. Escher “Stars”

My work is a game, a very serious game.

-M.C. Escher

ART QUOTES: What is an Artist?

Bearden Dream of Exile

Romare Bearden “Dream of Exile”

If you’re any kind of artist, you make a miraculous journey, and you come back and make some statements in shapes and colors of where you were.

-Romare Bearden

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Burroughsgunshot

William S. Burroughs with his shotgun art

Artists to my mind are the real architects of change, and not the political legislators who implement change after the fact.

-William S. Burroughs

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Guston Sun

Philip Guston

We are image-makers and image-ridden… We work until we vanish.

-Philip Guston

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4x5 transparency

George Bellows “Cliff Dwellers”

The artist is the person who makes life more interesting or beautiful, more understandable or mysterious, or probably, in the best sense, more wonderful.

-George Bellows

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Steinberg

Saul Steinberg

The artist is an educator of artists of the future…

-Saul Steinberg

EXHIBITIONS: The Provocative Art Show

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Sabo “Hillary 2016”

ARTICLE: A Provocative Art Show in Phoenix, Arizona

What is provocative art in a hyper-politicized age?

It’s art that dares to express dissent from the orthodoxy of the ruling establishment. And despite their best efforts to camouflage the nature of their oppressive and destructive grip on the culture, the establishment these days is a hive mind of Progressive dogma.

In this era of integrated information, we are witnessing the most concerted attack on freedom in world history. The powerful are colluding to manipulate the powerless to act as the shock troops to enforce the agenda of the New Aristocracy of the Well Connected. From positions of power in government, administration, academia, media, and the arts, they promote lynch mob tactics against anyone who does not conform to their Orwellian programs of doublethink, thoughtcrimes, and Two Minutes Hates.

The festering ambition in the corrupt hearts of the elitists is unaccountable power for themselves; now they fancy they have the technology to make their tyranny truly global in scale. They like to proselytize about the direction of history, and appeal to idealism in order to sucker the useful idiots they need to act as their muscle. Yet in practice their proposed model will end up looking like every other attempt since Marx: a small group of privileged thugs standing on top of mass graves, while the enslaved populace toils away in fear and hopelessness.

There’s nothing progressive about what the Left proposes: it’s a regression to the same old feudalism that is as old as mankind itself, tarted up with some buzzwords and hypocrisy. The Gramsci long march through the institutions has been effective in degrading the culture to make a society ripe for totalitarianism.

We are on the edge now. All too soon, we will either see their plot succeeded, or we will find out what happens when their overreach crumbles, and their grand designs collapse under the weight of hubris and backlash.

What those who prefer freedom over submission do have in our favor is the reverse Midas touch of the Left: everything they take over, they turn to shit. Their dysfunctions can only be sustained when they can enforce a monopoly. There is perhaps no clearer visual evidence of the failures of the establishment than the contemporary art world.  Under the guidance of careless elitist caretakers, the arts are undergoing a crisis of relevance. This actually presents an amazing opportunity.

The elitists think they have the arts all sewn up. It’s the last place they expect a counterattack to come from. And yet, for any real challenge to the current establishment hegemony  to take place, it has to start in the arts. As a smart man once said, “Politics is downstream from culture.” This can be seen as a reiteration of what visionary English artist William Blake noted centuries ago:  “The foundation of empire is art and science. Remove them or degrade them, and the empire is no more. Empire follows art and not vice versa…”

Empire in this sense doesn’t refer to a specific form of government but more so a culture, the authority of a way of thought, a sense of shared values. The elitists have weaponized art into an assault on the achievements of Western civilization, but they have nothing coherent, useful or enduring to replace those achievements with; all they offer is their lust for domination and self-aggrandizement. This makes their program a very niche market.

So the answer is to bypass the filters of the establishment, and take the change directly to the people. In April, at Lotus Contemporary Art of Phoenix, Arizona, a group show of citizen artists took a stand. This will hopefully be the first show of many.

Coordinated by Provocative Art 2016, this exhibit brought together renowned artists from across the country, including Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Michael Ramirez, National Review cover artist Roman Genn, and controversial guerilla public artist Sabo. As organizer Melissa Dawdy states, “…what provokes interest today is artwork that that expresses freedom within the context of Western Civilization.  Artists are planting a flag in the sand, saying ‘Art is not about conforming to a political view.’”

It was an honor to take part in this show. Many concurrent streams of free expression were presented: street art, illustration, and fine art shared the space, displaying skill, humor and integrity.

As the revolutionary Remodernist Manifesto declares:

It is quite clear to anyone of an uncluttered mental disposition that what is now put forward, quite seriously, as art by the ruling elite, is proof that a seemingly rational development of a body of ideas has gone seriously awry. The principles on which Modernism was based are sound, but the conclusions that have now been reached from it are preposterous.

We address this lack of meaning, so that a coherent art can be achieved and this imbalance redressed.”

We are the swing of the pendulum.  This is only the beginning.

THE ART

floyd

               Floyd Alsbach “Solon’s Demon 2 (Ares Berserker)”

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The Collective

Richard Bledsoe “The Collective”

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Abstract

Denise Fleisch “Untitled”

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che obama

Roman Genn “Che Obama”

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lazarus dancer

Sharon McGovern “Lazarus Dancer”

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anchor

Michael Ramirez “The Anchor”

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cruz

Sabo “Ted Cruz”

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diminished

Tanya Slate “Diminished”

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obama

Marc Stolfi “Mmm..mmm..mmm”

Update: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please see other articles here for more commentary on the state of the arts.

ART QUOTES: On Spirituality

“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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Howard Pyle “A Wolf Had Not Been Seen In Salem for Thirty Years”

“Be it known that the spiritual world in outward appearance is entirely similar to the natural world.”

-Howard Pyle

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Billy Childish “Toni Kurz Descending”

“You have to have the guts to engage with your own spiritual journey, which is what life is for. It can be reflected in art, but art won’t take you there on its own. It’s not good enough. You actually have to use your inquiring mind and question yourself and the bullshit of things. You have to avoid getting tied up in intellectual and ironic gameplay, which will not liberate you. We want freedom, we want liberation, and you’re not going to get it in postmodernism. You’re going to get it through authentic engagement.”

-Billy Childish

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O'Keeffe-(hands)

Alfred Stieglitz “Georgia O’Keeffe, Hands, 1918”

“It is not art in the professionalized sense about which I care, but that which is created sacredly, as a result of a deep inner experience, with all of oneself, and that becomes ‘art’ in time.”

-Alfred Stieglitz 

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Paul Klee “Fairy Tale of the Dwarf”

“My hand is entirely the implement of a distant sphere. It is not my head that functions but something else, something higher, something somewhere remote. I must have great friends there, dark as well as bright… They are all very kind to me.”

-Paul Klee