“St. Theodosius Cathedral”

Posted on Feb, Fri, 2023 in Landscapes

St. Theodosius Cathedral

St. Theodosius Cathedral

This extraordinary Eastern Orthodox church, known or recognized by most Clevelanders, is a legacy of the 19th century, perched on Starkweather Ave. in Tremont overlooking a vast industrial landscape of steel mills. From its vantage point, one could watch as three to four successive generations of husbands, fathers and brotherscarried their lunch pails, descending the pitched slope each day to toil in the blast furnaces, coking ovens, open hearths, BOF’s, hot and cold strip mills and myriad support facilities that drove Cleveland’s economy through much of the 20th century.

Rt 490 and other freeways have severed the foot traffic that once wore paths down the steep grade of W. 7th.  The great assets of Republic Steel and Jones and Laughlin have since been been acquired by ArcelorMittal, a Luxembourg conglomerate. As industrial, economic, social and cultural changes have obscured much of Cleveland’s history in the last few decades, St. Theodosius still stands, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and still sustains a way of life and worship rapidly disappearing elsewhere.
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“Art, Context and Connection”

Posted on Jan, Fri, 2023 in Landscapes, Musings from Still Point

“White Oak’s, Between Snows, January”

Last month I released a limited edition art book (“Still Point, … there the Dance Is”) featuring 60 landscape images of northeast Ohio and northern Michigan, each accompanied by an essay of mine. My intention was not for these short narratives to prejudice or preempt the individual response of others to the landscapes, rather I hoped the essays might provide a contextual bridge for the viewer/reader to find their own connections. My interest was in determining the benefit or detriment, if any, in providing the additional written stories or commentary as context.

With that as background, last week I posted the image (see below) on Facebook, “White Oaks, Between Snows, January”, as an “experiment”, promising to explain more about it this week. It hadn’t been my intent to raise expectations for something revelatory, only to glean some small, additional insight into the evocative nature of a scene known intimately to me but not the audience. In this instance, unlike the recent book, there was no essay, not even a short descriptive narrative to inform the image.

So, what does one see and what generates a response or creates a connection? And how similar or distinct is that connection between the artist and the observer? The title here provides only a small bit of context, identifying the species of tree, the season and month of the year. The only other information is visual; that which may be observed directly or inferred from the various elements in the image itself. Whether or not a viewer connects in some way would seem to depend upon experiences and associations held in his or her personal inventory. Beyond that, there is the instinctive or intuitive response to the aesthetic -also dependent on experience and association. Since the posting I’ve had only a few responses; a few on FB and a few others in offline conversations.

George Bilgere, one of this country’s acclaimed poets, found connection through the visual elements, “I like that burn and sparkle of energy, the glitter of the winter-resistant leaves in the middle. … but I do sense the image’s forthright power.” And Michigan artist, Chris Hammack saw the trees as “silent observers”, much as I have personified them in my own mind. Another artist and friend, Laurel Hecht, commented, “The deep dark woods in the back..fun to think about.” This sense of mystery represents much of my own attraction to the image and locale as I visit here every week or two and experience a similar reaction each time, one I had hoped to communicate through the photograph.

This issue has far broader implications with respect to art and has been deliberated for centuries no doubt. The question which remains unclear here is, to what extent context or disclosure informs or detracts from a painting, a book, a photograph, a musical composition, etc.? There is no correct answer really, only the artist’s “intent” and ultimate judgement as to what information if any should be included to fulfill that intent. Some artists prefer that the observer draw on personal experience and associations to arrive at an interpretation; others write long disquisitions describing their work and process in minute detail to ensure it will be interpreted as intended. Providing clues or subtle detail through the title may be the most direct way but it remains unsatisfying to me personally. I hope to explore this universal question as time passes and welcome the thoughts of any who had the patience to read this post or the inclination to read the essays that I’ve drawn upon to illustrate the images in my new book.
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“Sycamores, First Flakes”

Posted on Jan, Mon, 2023 in Landscapes, Musings from Still Point

“Sycamores, First Flakes “

John Ruskin, many western scholars would assert, was the 19th century’s most famous art critic, though his reputation at that time as a polymath and contemporary Renaissance man elevated him into even higher spheres of ideas and endeavors. An extraordinary draftsman, watercolorist and philosopher, he championed the interrelationship of nature, art and society, positing:

“Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty.” J. Ruskin

In the spirit of his observation and my own obsession with American Sycamores, I post this image taken yesterday (November 30) late in the day after a light snow collected in the crevices and shadows of the forest floor just above the banks of the Chagrin River. This image, I think, is eerily reminiscent of Gustav Klimt’s slightly abstract portrayal of trees, especially the beech and birch forests that attracted him.

I would note there is no saturation or Photoshop compensation here, simply “nature painting for us … pictures of infinite beauty.”
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“New Haven Mills, Vermont

Posted on Dec, Fri, 2022 in Landscapes, Musings from Still Point

“New Haven Mills, Vermont”

Departing Hinesburg VT. (15 miles south of Burlington), 10 days ago, Kate and I drove south on Rt. 116 through small towns and villages like Bristol, Starkville and New Haven Mills before reaching the college town of Middlebury, home to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the oldest and one of the world’s most acclaimed writers’ conferences. Since its founding in 1926 it has attracted many of this country’s greatest writers, including such luminaries as Frost, Welty, Stegner, Cather and numerous other notable national and international poets and novelists.

Notwithstanding the picturesque Middlebury campus, the photograph below was taken in the small, rather nondescript village of New Haven Mills, immediately preceding the college. It showcases the old Lampson School (now a home) occupying several acres on a hillock overlooking the village and the New Haven Mills’ river. The scenery and 19th century character of the village can be intimated through this image. Built in 1868 and included in the “National Register of Historic Places,” it has been cited for its beautiful, Italianate architecture. For me it held particular interest having grown up in the Connecticut Western Reserve of northeast Ohio. We lived in a historic old farmhouse constructed originally in the tradition of a Connecticut home to which was added an Italianate styled section in 1843. The older, original section of the house (my childhood home) was constructed between 1815 and 1817 by John Seward, the first minister of the Connecticut Western Reserve.

Passing through these small towns and villages, experiencing vestiges of the past as we made our way to Hudson, New York and the Catskills, we reflected on the early days of America.
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“Autumn Grass, Hudson River Valley”

Posted on Nov, Mon, 2022 in Gallery Image, Landscapes, Musings from Still Point

“Autumn Grass, Hudson River Valley”

Back home only a week, missing and musing about this inspirational landscape for the Hudson River School artists. A scene from our hike of Frederic Church’s estate, “Olana”, perched above the banks of the Hudson River. The unseen reverse view captures the full sweep of the Catskills and the Hudson River valley below; a dramatic backdrop to the home of Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School. He well might have opined on the role of providence putting us in the valley at the perfect autumn moment. We counted our blessings.
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“Late to Flush”

Posted on Nov, Sun, 2022 in Landscapes, Musings from Still Point

“Late to Flush Mallards”

This morning (Wednesday, Oct. 19) provided for an unanticipated closeup as migrating mallards, after holding tight through freezing rain and the season’s first trace of snow, burst into flight at the west end of the marsh . In deeper water, 100 yards to the east a pair of redheads and a raft of lesser scaups, more backsides visible than heads, were tipping and resurfacing like “drinking bird toys”, as they foraged below.

A reluctant yet serendipitous decision to hike through freezing rain provided rare color as poplars, maple and wild cherry were already brilliant. White and red oaks are in early stages of rust and the sedge, rush and reeds range from red to light green at this moment. For a few days only, it is the latter, the light green grasses, that give the landscape another dimension.
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