Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year

It always does some weird nostalgic thing--the coming of the new year. So here is a photo of three boys in the river (the Hudson) one idyllic summer day. I like that you can't see what they are looking at or how wide, how deep the body of water is. There is an ecstatic freedom when swimming in a huge river in the midst of summer--floating between depth and sky, supported by volumes, bathed by the sun.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Outside and In

Un and Ah, Outside and In...the contrast from my fire escape view to that of what goes on atop my green shelves (they remind me of lime lifesavers). There is a fair amount of traffic in both.
The cab takes a right/the Fragile Army guards an image of atomic biology...the dark bars of the fire escape's supports/the shadowed recesses of the kitchen...the stopped movement of cars on the street/the stride of the catspider frozen on the blackboard...
so goes the artist's mind all day long... the way, if you melted down those shelves you'd get this (the meaning of fish):

...and a big pile of art books.

Between Un and Ah

This painting was done many years ago. It is one of my son's favorites. The central image of the blindfolded man was taken from a newspaper photo of a Viet Cong prisoner. The two flanking guys are referenced from Buddhist Temple guardians (Un and Ah---in breath and out breath). The place is the Florida mangroves.
Just another day in the life...

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Having just come back from one of those seemingly endless treks to family and friends involving long drives and bus rides, not to mention dipping yourself in everyone else's reality show--I've put this up:
Its a painting about memory and loss, but also the after mirage of a very beautiful, real place.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

see thru

One day I set this up and painted madly for three hours. It was a little challenge I set for myself, curious to see if I could paint water in a glass bowl. A little dance with my friend, oil.

fish into the dark

With the wink of gold, the scales of light, into the night the pisces leaps.
Watch out. Even trailing poetry you might get in trouble.
(ink, watercolor and acrylic on paper)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Eye Feed-kissing the ghost

When my son was very small I didn't get to paint much. I compensated by drawing as much as I could. I was living in an isolated area of upstate NY and began to really miss people. I started xeroxing drawings, collaging, redrawing and collaging and re-xeroxing. Then I made books out of them and sent them to friends. I called them eye feeds.
Eventually I got around to color xerox.....this was before everyone had scanners...and made a book out of drawings, photographed paintings---repainted and collaged. This one was called kissing the ghost, and included the image of Straightforward Magic, other allusions to magic, and a poem called The Painter's Favorite Cliches. This was the cover:

Inside were many variations on particular Wolffian images...

Straight Forward Magic

This is a paper painting--watercolor, ink, acrylic, and a bit of pencil. It pretty much says what I feel about art. It is all magic---even the things lying around the studio as in this case: the big bottle and the stick with the taxidermied turkey wings wired onto them. You add pink and its magic.
Everything I make is an epiphany passed on. A telegram, letter, an email to the world in visual form. Reality is illusionistic, or as the spiritual biggies say: it is illusion. I can only talk/paint about it in terms of the magic real of it. The wonderful logical illogic of the event that kisses you in the brain and washes away the scrim of norm.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Cielo que Ondula

This is an older painting, pretty small, now visiting my best friend, Indigo, out in Indiana. It was in a show in the East Village eons ago. During the show Indigo went out on the sidewalk and dragged some unsuspecting guy in. He was a Rasta fellow with a cane. He began looking at all my paintings, and then he began to talk about them to whoever was there. He was brilliant. He just got them, and he could articulate what he felt. He didn't know who I was so I just sat silent on the window sill listening. When he came to this one he had a couple that was following him around, completely intrigued with his words. He said a few things and then he said: this is about freedom. Not what I would have said if asked, but after thinking I decided that he really had nailed it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

studies for Shackleton

These are two of the watercolor studies I did for Chaos and Oasis. There was at least one more but it got itself framed and went off to live in my brother's house.
Interesting to see where my mind was wandering on the way to where it ended up.
Also the different weight of the mediums. Watercolor is so light even when used for a story so fraught. Oil can go many ways but seldom has the peculiar sense of float that watercolor does, even when applied in washes. I've used both out of the studio and in, and love them equally. They are like friends from opposite cultures that can sit at the same table.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Shackleton's Endurance

I've had a fascination with Shackleton for a long, long time. This is the second painting I did about him. I sometimes see it as a body metaphor as well as a straightforward depiction. The blue light around the boat would be a very hot flame, as though the heart (the ship) were putting out an intense warmth in a land devoid of such. Or the emanation of ice's breath
The title is: Chaos and Oasis/Shackleton's Endurance

Sunday, December 16, 2007

bird, hand(s), and skull

In the studio the stillest things come begging for theater. They ask for wings, they ask to be held, they ask for the curlicue flourish, and they encourage me to direct with iridescent willfullness, pencil coming in later as an aside to the audience, and my own hand given the supporting role.
Those ghost arms and hands--I don't know whose idea that was...

Paperback Novel

In desperation for distraction, at the airport, you see this across the tiny store of glossy magazines and abused people.
..and down the rabbit hole of unusual geometry and aggressive color you fly

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Tree of Undreamt Dreams

This watercolor was directly inspired by an image in a Patrick White novel. I don't remember which one--although I think it was one of his stories about painters. He wrote beautifully about artists.
For me, who has lived my whole life drenched in the colors of my dreams, it is a perfect visual. White was into exposing the demons. He liked to fill them in in all their glorious, awful details. of the reasons I like his work so much.

Friday, December 14, 2007

At the Zipper

From last Sunday night: on the left co-producer-Carla Cantrelle, on the double lyra-Britt Nhi Sarah, and on the right-myself the trainer.
photo by Jan Meissner

Heart in Traffic

That Catskill creek turned out to be an important place for me, visually as well as emotionally.
In this, the second catspider painting I did, it became the heart of the painting both literally and figuratively. The colors of the hybrid beings are a direct result of my having spent a week in Japan before I began work on the painting. Japan is a place that is unafraid of color. Its OK to have a lavender backhoe, or a man dressed in orange, pink and gold at the Kabuki (OK, onstage). And when I was there the telephone booths were brilliant green.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

From Andes

There was a time when I spent summers up in the Catskill Mountains in the town of Andes. I stayed in a little house on top of one of those rolling hills (small mountains) that ripple through that part of New York. The view from the house was always in the throes of incoming weather: summer clouds, wind, morning mist, and thunderstorms. It never held still...

Down the hill in the middle of the field there was a creek, blissfully clean and cold, running between the high banks it had cut for itself. It emerged from a culvert beneath the dirt road, the circle of metal reflected among the happy summer jumble of rocks and wild flowers...

It made its way into the hemlock forest where, under the huge trees, it muscled its way around gigantic rocks furred in moss, in between fountains of ferns and tangled wild blackberries, all the way down to the reservoir miles below...

In the meadow a spring ran from underground in a scribbled wetness that joined the creek through a miniature realm of dark-mud deltas, greenery and shadowy, reflective chaos...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


S0 now: a bird, water, reflections, rambunctious light, and a tree. An aerial creature flashes its colors on a singular arboreal, waiting for, most likely, your gaze.
The undersides of the wings talk to the Red Spirit's orchid feather extravaganza. The water coupled with intermittent light presents a myriad of possible illusions. The Wolff is momentarily appeased.

Void Step

This is a triptych that I did several years ago. It has something in common with aerial thinking although not in a literal circus way.
The first canvas (left image) is Red Spirit. The design of his wing's coloration is based on orchids:

The second canvas (middle image) is based on something I saw in the subway. I was waiting on the platform and heard the train coming down the tunnel from the left. I looked to the right, and dead center in the black space was a white, white pigeon flying straight towards the oncoming train. At the last minute it swooped up in a steep arc and avoided the huge rush of metal. I combined that with the idea of old church structure and the gold of the Holy Spirit's white bird emblem. The symbol on the front of the train is a wing. Bird in Subway:

The last canvas (right image) is myself walking down a street in NYC . It is loosely based on a place in the East Village. I had a friend take a whole series of photos of me waking down that street. The vapors of gold and pink are layers of my spiritual self unwinding into the wind.
Wolff Walk:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


At this point in the rehearsals we had a pretty good idea of the structure of the piece, but didn't have all the specific moves, shapes and transitions. Often I would draw while Britt Nhi would experiment--so that we'd have an exact scribble of the things that happen in the midst, by mistake & on purpose, and still have my hands free--a lot easier to drop a sketch book than a camera. Or suddenly I would say---That! Can you do that again? Or: Can you levitate around the hoop? And sometimes it would turn out that she could.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Last Night at the Zipper

Last night at the Zipper theater there was an aerial performance. My student, Britt Nhi Sarah, was performing on the double lyra. It was a beautiful, difficult piece involving swinging, transferring from hoop to hoop and a continual, graceful line. The photos were taken by Jan Meissner

Saturday, December 8, 2007


The penguin came out as an elegant bird with some allusions to a monk-like persona, perhaps because of the robe body. I like the image below of him gliding cross the grass, the velvet beak's long, gentle curve dipped down at the autumn lawn. And I love the light on the black fur:

...pausing to assess penguinhood:

Friday, December 7, 2007

Horse Heads

About ten years ago I was asked by my son's teacher if I could make some horse heads for the upcoming play (a Norse myth). I went into the studio and made a small drawing of what I took to be the pattern for a three dimensional head that would fit over a human head. I then enlarged the drawing on heavy bristol board, cut it out, scored the lines and bent it into shape. Many hours later after much gluing, correcting, painting and adding on of ribbons I had two heads--one black and one white.

Here, in mufti, out in the wintry light:

...and here in the midst of theatrical rehearsal as Loki:

..and then, of course, the artist got hold of those heads again and tweaked this little event:

Thursday, December 6, 2007


One of the great painting challenges is depicting fur. Its one thing to do it with line and humor, as above, but its another to do it in paint. At the Frick Museum there are three fantastic examples: a Titian portrait , a Vermeer, and a Rembrandt. Every time I go I spend time with my nose right up to the paintings trying to understand the mush of brushwork that becomes tangible, visceral fur when you step back.
In the painting below--the fur isn't bad, although the painting itself isn't one of my favorites:
...Sphinx fur detail: