An American Journey

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My show Intimacy at the White Cloud Gallery, Washington, D.C. Nov 3 – Dec 14, 2017

Art Universe

Last year I was painting life-sized nudes, mostly monochromatic, in my Idyllwild cabin with my dog Frida for company. It was like living in a dream, get up in the morning, enjoy my coffee, and then enter into the universe of art. As I painted, I would play music in the background, listening to complete sets of Beethoven’s Symphonies and Handel’s Oratorios, or binge on the complete series of Star Trek Next Generation and Voyager. I was exploring new and challenging ways to express love, myth, and beauty on the canvas. One challenge was how to paint an explicit lovers’ embrace in order to capture their primary feeling of love. Another challenge was creating the deepest space I have ever done. In creating this body of work, I felt my prayers to contribute to a better world being realized.

The art universe, for me, is not the world of exhibitions, collectors, and recognition. Rather, it is about learning from my favorite buddies from art history and then going my way; making art an issue between me and god (nature). Art cleanses away all the bullshit of news, postmodernism, politics, Hollywood drama–I think this is one of the appeals of the hermit life, no?

Show in the Calendar

It was almost the ideal art existence.  As I finished the paintings and saw that they were forming a coherent whole, I experienced a pull to display them, which runs counter to the solitary life of painting. I was happy, content, and financially okay. Why mess that up? Why throw a wrench of a solo show into the works? I wasn’t sure that I wanted to put time and money into a show that I could use instead for another two or three future paintings. I wondered about the expression that a pianist freezes when playing for an audience but is good alone. And I wondered about the ultimate art cycle from creation to viewers witnessing the work in real life.

The clincher was that I was invited to show in Washington, D.C. by my friend, artist, and gallery owner Miguel Perez Lem at his beautiful White Cloud Gallery. He has a great respect for my work, and he was more than willing to show life-sized nudes.

Trip Underway

My friend and collector, Geir Friis, flew out to nearby Palm Springs to accompany Frida and me as we hauled the paintings across the U.S. He is a bit of an expert in road travels and mechanics, and he gave truth to the saying “prepare for the worst and hope for the best.” (Zero issues came up with the car there and back). I picked up the U-Haul trailer in a rural area straight out of a Steinbeck novel. I drove by the pick-up location twice not believing the app directions. But right it was, and our journey started at the Diamond Valley Market.
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Just picked up the U-Haul trailer at the Diamond Valley Market, in Riverside County in California.

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We packed the paintings in about an hour. No fuss.

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So kind, Conrad Allen, offered his Texas cabin for a stop.

Chattanooga – The Seasons

The most inspiring stop along the way to Washington, D.C. was in Chattanooga at the entrance to the bridge spanning the Tennessee River. This illustrious spot is the location of my friend Daud Ahkrive’s The Seasons, four larger-than-life female sculptures. Not only did Daud create beautiful and expressive works, but he managed to get those humanistic semi-nudes placed prominently in a bible belt city. The inspiring message was that anything is possible but it takes talent, cleverness, and grit.

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Geir Friis with One of Daud Ahkrive’s Seasons, Chattanooga.

Doubt

Fear doesn’t play much of role in my life, and I have rarely felt it whether living alone in Greece or Holland, or facing emergency room test results, but faced with indifference towards my art puts me out of sorts. I feel disappointed with that segment of humanity. And it makes me wonder what is the point of sharing art. Where is the magic pill that transmits my soul to theirs? There is the expression, “build it and they will come.” What if no one comes? Perhaps I fear apathy, but less about people not liking my art, and more of what a horrible decision it would be not to continue making art.

Ha! That is the bane of most artists I know. But like my sister, Janny, always told me, even before Nike existed, “just do it!”
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Arriving outside the Gallery in D.C. with Geir, Katie (the painting), and Miguel. After 3,000 miles, some rural dirt roads, and mountain curves, they arrived perfectly.

Arrival

The art in the trailer arrived perfectly–without so much as a half-inch of settling. Hanging the show with Miguel was a pleasure. All of his placement choices were excellent. And before you know it the opening began and lovely people showed up. A subliminal but noticeable result occurred and recurred on later days: when I was introduced as the artist, most people lit up, conveyed their respects, and opened up about their feelings about the art and themselves without any self-consciousness. It was as if they took the magic pill and trusted me to understand them. It reminded me a little of my experience being rushed to the hospital. I came away with so much respect for the 40 to 50 health professionals who interacted with me. Both experiences restored my faith in humanity.

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Opening, Luxman Nathan from L.A. in the foreground.
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With Marilyn Moore, my beloved copy editor.

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With Thomas C. McCollum III, author of Tainted Blood and Uncle Norm.

It was an honor to have the show reviewed in The Washington Post  print and online editions by Mark Jenkins, who said about Icarus,  ” … his depiction of Icarus, included in White Cloud Gallery’s “Intimacy,” is as contemporary as traditional. Posed serenely in midair, naked and wingless, the boy might be rising rather than falling. The emphasis is on physical beauty, not the original fable’s cautionary moral.”

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Journey Home – Pastel Landscapes

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One of the 40+ pastels on the trip home.

Before I had time to worry about the show’s traction, I was back on the road home and drawing pastel landscapes and photo referencing the beautiful land and skyscapes along the way. I hadn’t been doing pastels for some years, and it was a pleasure to revisit the medium with my newly updated knowledge of depth and light. My favorite place to draw was New Mexico. You can view an album of over 40 of those landscapes here:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10211166815587387.1073741878.1267526600&type=1&l=6e8eabe60e

Some are already in private collections, and the rest are studio inventory.

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Frida (the Champ) getting a water break in Arizona.

The Sublime

While driving I had a lot of time to think about friends, art, new projects, and the sublime. With these magnificent vistas I was contemplating landscapes as backgrounds for futuristic paintings. Especially the natural and beautiful colors. Jules Verne visuals of sea creatures and planets kept popping into my head. I had never done science fiction, and I wondered, “could I make it feel real as if we were there on the spot?” The answer was definitely “yes!” So, I started planning for the next series of big works.

On the way during breaks I was participating on a social media thread about Kant’s aesthetics, accompanying my opinions with Kant quotes and postmodern examples. I have published and lectured in the past on his aesthetics, yet I was brutally accused by a respected literary scholar and friend of being a “criminal,” and “ridiculous,” for my claim that Kant’s definition (his specifically) of the sublime established the foundations for postmodern art. The conversation rekindled my interest in further inquiry into the role of the sublime in art.

I looked again into the history of the aesthetic definitions of the sublime but couldn’t find any close to my intuitive understanding of it nor to the common use dictionary definition. In a nutshell, the sublime historically turns on experiencing displeasure. Ever since I was 13, I wanted to paint states of elation, meaningfulness, nobility, fulfillment, and I wanted to paint light. There is nothing grotesque, shocking, or displeasing with that. Something was wrong with the art worldview of the sublime. So after decades of practicing art and theory I decided to form my own definition:

The experience of the sublime is to be looked for in art. Art integrates senses, emotions, and thought. The sublime in art elevates our sensory experience, taps and heightens our emotional potential, and furthers our knowledge. The sublime in art can also give us a moral, a stance towards living. At its best, the sublime in art inspires awe in our human potential and gives us a path to evolve as a whole being and as a species.

Empathy

One  interesting consequence of my solidifying view on the sublime in art is that I became more empathetic to collectors and other artists. Before, when I would see their art or discuss art with them I would frown and think “that art is not me,” and become frustrated. Now with more clarity about my work and motivations I enjoy celebrating the differences with other artists.

Arriving home to exquisitely beautiful Idyllwild, I reviewed the whole of the journey and asked if it was worth it.  It is still a little too fresh to know with certainty, but I do know that because of the recognition of friends and strangers, I feel freer and clearer. And perhaps without going on this American journey the new understanding and new visions would have not come about.

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Arriving home under the gorgeous Tahquitz Rock.

New Journey

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At the end of one journey is the beginning of a new one. Here is a work in progress of Venus of the Planets, my first science fiction work, oil on linen, 48 x 64 inches.

 

 

 

Idyllwild Paintings 2013 – 2017

Idyllwild Paintings 2013 - 2017

PREVIEW

Just published, available in Coffee Table Book and Kindle formats.

From the inside jacket cover:

Idyllwild Paintings is a journey from the indifferent art scene of Downtown L.A. to the granite mountains of Idyllwild. In danger of losing the meaning of being an artist, Michael Newberry sought a place to explore depth, death, love, and light. Inside are over 45 paintings of narrative, abstract realism, and larger than life-sized portraits.

Through new mentors he was introduced to evolutionary theories, sandwich techniques, and to his dog Frida. An abundance of studio time enabled him to explore painting techniques, color theory, and pushing the boundaries of two-dimensional space. He also explored the fragile inner workings of love themes and symbolism.

Throughout his experience the nurturing environment of Idyllwild’s people served to make what could have been a lonely life, one filled with love and visibility.

Note: Idyllwild Paintings was a labor of love, it is my pleasure to offer no mark up on the coffee table book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter

 

Idyllwild is a mythic place, if I were religious, I would say it one of God’s gardens. Indeed, if you were to wander the remote paths, you might actually come across a forest nymph interacting with nature. This year I made friends with Katie Bolin and her mate Ivan Ellirand, starting with a life-size painting of her pregnant and nude. This painting, Winter, is the follow-up and Ivan kindly granted me use one of his photos as a reference.

While painting it, I imagined it being one in a series of the four seasons. What do you think? Can you see it?

Throughout the day I see rabbits and squirrels scurrying and birds bounding and flying about. For fun, I embedded two birds and one rabbit in this painting, they are pretty well camouflaged — I doubt you find all three. Let me know if you do!

Icarus Landing

Icarus Landing
Icarus Landing

Flying high and higher, experiencing everything, yet instead of burning and crashing, as the legend tells us, he gains love and wisdom and gently comes home.

Icarus Landing was completed in 2001 in my beautiful Turkish home/studio in Rhodes, Greece. There is a saying about staying at a friends home, leave it better than when you arrived. Art is a little like that too. If you borrow from history, don’t just copy but add to it and hopefully making something better out of it.

Continue reading “Icarus Landing”

Art and Ideals by David Kelley

Just published for the first time.

On October 6th, 2003 The Foundation for the Advancement of Art presented this conference at New York’s Pierre Hotel. David Kelley, a philosopher, gives the talk Art and Ideals.

0:05 Stephen Hicks introduces David Kelley
1:54 Chavet Cave, images, music. Why artistic artifacts? Some evolution theories.
7:00 Universality of Art, cognitive and emotional needs. Concept of abstraction; language, science. Foreknowledge.
10:27 Earliest narrative in written form, The Epic of Gilgamesh. Choice, normative concepts, good and bad.
12:39 Moral codes, emotions. Issues of life and death why through art? Concept of love. Homer, Shakespeare. Art gives the power of immediacy to our abstractions.
21:20 Modes of the ideal. Polyclitus, exemplars such as Christ through Michelangelo. Beethoven, Chopin, Delacroix. Hunger for ideals.

Innovation in Art by Michael Newberry

 

On October 6th, 2003 The Foundation for the Advancement of Art presented this conference at New York’s Pierre Hotel. Stephen Hicks gives the introduction to the conference and to Michael Newberry’s talk, Innovation in Art. Part 1

0:09 Stephen Hicks Introduction
3:03 Michael Newberry Innovations in Art
4:11 Zuburan, Mondrian, John Moore
6:05 Color and Light Theory, Vermeer, Monet, Rothko, Rutkowski
7:59 Illustration of Ideas, Bosch, Magritte, Larsen
10:48 Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Newberry
12:54 Form, Henry Moore, David Smith, Martine Vaugel
14:17 Sublime, Egyptian, Michelangelo, Stuart Mark Feldman

Michael Newberry is Artist-in-Residence at The Atlas Society. He has exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Athens, and Rome. In the Fall of 2017, he has a solo show at the White Cloud Gallery in Washington D.C. Follow him on Instagram at @artnewberry.

Art and Judgment

Over three decades ago, in 1982, I booked a private telephone consultation with an Objectivist philosopher (associated now with the Ayn Rand Institute) on reading The Romantic Manifesto, Ayn Rand’s classic non-fiction work on aesthetics.

At 24, I was both an artist and an Objectivist.  A fine art major; I had taken several art history classes including contemporary art theory. At the time, I had just completed the painting Promethia, and even though it was a thematic work, I didn’t understand how one objectively identifies a theme of an artwork. With that in mind, I was excited to be mentored by an Objectivist philosopher.

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In our consultation, he pointed to Willem Kalf’s still life painting in the classic art history book, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages.

“How do I discover the theme?” I asked, genuinely.

“The theme of this painting is malevolent because of the dark background!” was the swift and vociferous response.

This was “obvious” — i.e. self-evident — he said.  No further reasoning or discussion was necessary.

I ended the session and never consulted him again.

Alas, I had yet to learn how themes work in painting. So I returned to what Ayn Rand herself had written.

Continue reading “Art and Judgment”

Energizing the Eye: Abiodun Olaku

“In the broad valley, far below him, in the first sunlight of early morning, he saw a town. Only it was not a town. Towns did not look like that. He had to suspend the possible for a while longer, to seek no questions or explanations, only to look.”

The above was Ayn Rand’s description of Howard Roark’s Monadnock Valley development in The Fountainhead. Rand is revered — and reviled — as a philosopher and novelist, but to me she was also an artist. She defined art as a recreation of reality according to an artist’s values, and in her work, she recreated an inspirational world of heroes, light, and flourishing.

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That is why The Atlas Society chose art as an arena for intellectual and spiritual engagement with Ayn Rand’s ideas.  The 25-year-old philosophical organization capped 2016 with winners of first annual Atlas Art Contest. Over 400 entries were narrowed down to 21 artists by a panel of four judges: Sabin Howard, sculptor; Judd Weiss, photographer; Agnieszka Pilat, painter: and myself. The public was then invited to vote, further spreading the engagement with the outstanding work of our finalists.

The winners were, from first to third place, Abiodun Olaku, Eric Armusik, and Danielle Dalechek. Given Ayn Rand’s aesthetics, it is rather fitting that Olaku won first prize with his clean style, perspective, and nuanced light.

Continue reading “Energizing the Eye: Abiodun Olaku”