Sunday, November 24, 2013

Peter Parks: Wall of Paint, Wall of Sound

Peter ParksYellow 13; 60 x 48"; oil on canvas; 2013
Courtesy Greg Moon Art and the Harwood Museum; Photo credit: Cris Pulos

Peter Parks has always had a great imagination. It has been his joyful friend and companion down a rocky road. What he could always count on. Through a difficult childhood. Through a turbulent adolescence in and out of schools and passed back and forth by divorced parents, countries, even continents, apart. His imagination got him through his service in Vietnam during the worst part of the war. His imagination got him through the unimaginably hard years of recovery after the war. For over 60 years Peter Parks's imagination has gotten him through and made him the artist, the painter, he is today.

Peter ParksRED 13; 60 x 48"; oil on canvas, 2013
Courtesy Greg Moon Art and the Harwood Museum; Photo credit: Cris Pulos

You could say that his paintings are a wall of sorts. The wall he faces everyday. In every sense. Like the blank canvas. Like the unknown. The wall he faces and finds a way through everyday. It is a wall of paint. A wall of sound. A wall of pain, of despair, and of hope. And above all it is a wall of triumph. 

Peter ParksBlue No. 7;(2010); 84 x 66"
Courtesy Greg Moon Art and the Harwood Museum; Photo credit: Cris Pulos

Looking at his work we face what he faces. The paintings put us in his shoes, locating us squarely in his shoes, locating us squarely in his experience. They dog his steps from the Midwest to Greek islands, to Swiss mountains, and every European capital, to Southeast Asia, the Southwest, California, Mexico, New York, and back to the Southwest, again with still more places in between, to right out on the Mesa, and into his Taos studio. The paintings feel that way. They vibrate. They resonate. They are marked, layered, travelled, streaked, stained, even scarred that way. The touch is seamless. The power is genuine. The result is kick-ass! 

Peter Parks owns his paintings, and they own him. His freedom. His power. His curse. His question. His answer. His doubt. His faith. They are his cave. Cave paintings. Cave walls. His walls. Walls of paint. Walls of sound. Howling at the moon. Howling at it all. The love. The mess. The joy. The tears. The loss. The laughter. Peter Parks has the imagination to put it all together. To make sense of it all. To make sanity of it all. In paint. In painting. In paintings.

Addison Parks

Spring Hill

Here are some links to Peter Parks's current show at Greg Moon, and the Harwood museum, as well as a wonderful article in the Taos News by Jim O'Donnell that is right on the mark.


Saturday, September 21, 2013 - Sunday, January 26, 2014


Gallery: Curator's Wall

Peter and Addison Parks; Crete; c.1960

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Martin Mugar, Charles Seliger, and the Patience of Painting

Charles Seliger; watercolor; 1988; collection of the author

I confess that at times I have been an impatient painter. At times I have panicked: that I might lose a painting, that I might not get there, that the distance to climb to the top of my painting mountain was too great, that I might lose my way, that I might not keep my promise.

Charles SeligerTEMPEST(1995) 14 x 14; acrylic on masonite; 
courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery

Painting takes patience. The patience to see it through. The patience to get it done. Follow through. Keep your head. Not panic. Stay the course. It is why I live in New England. Winter takes nerve. Winter takes patience. Winter teaches patience.

Martin Mugar at the Bromfield, April 2013

My friend Martin Mugar is a painter with patience, and it shows in his work. You could say that on some level his work is about nothing but patience. You would never think looking at his pastel textured abstractions that they were consummate Yankee.

Martin Mugar; 2012; oil and wax on wood

One of the most patient painters that I have ever known was Charles Seliger. In fact I should just give him the title, because he earned it. Most patient painter: Charles Seliger.

Charles Seliger

I met Charles 35 years ago at the Andrew Crispo Gallery in New York. He was younger than I am now but at the time he seemed older than his years. He had lost a wife to cancer. That would explain it, but I am sure that those who knew him best would say that he had an old soul. It showed.

Charles Seliger; 1971; oil on canvas board; 10 x 8 inches
collection of the author

We became fast friends. Over the years that followed he was generous beyond belief with his work. He would give me a beautiful and amazing painting for every occasion. For any occasion, or no occasion at all. I have tried to learn from Charles. Always. In every way.

Charles SeligerWIND BLOWN(1958) 16 x 22; oil on canvas; 
courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery

I thought of him today because for the last few years when my studio gets too cold in winter to paint, when the cold gives me headaches, I set up a little spot in my bedroom and paint there until Spring. It is there now. I love it, frankly. Always have, since I was a boy. I believe in living where I work and working where I live. I can see my painting when I wake in the morning, when I go to bed at night, and out of the corner of my eye anytime. My painting can talk to me anytime, even behind my back.

Charles Seliger: 1926 - 2009

Charles painted in his bedroom. At least he did when I first knew him. It was his thing. After a long day at work (He worked! Raised a family!), he would settle down with his paints and brushes and a little canvas or piece of paper and embark on a journey.

Charles SeligerFossil Series; 1992; acrylic on canvas; 6 x 4 inches
Collection of the author

Charles Seliger; 1997; colored pencil on paper; collection of the author

These journeys took him far and deep into some place that only his paintings can tell us about. Some place that took the patience of a Charles Seliger. A place that grew out of the world he knew from a young age and was a part of from a young age(Charles showed with the great and legendary art dealer Peggy Guggenheim at Art of this Century in New York and in Venice with the likes of Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso, Kasimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian and Max Ernst as a teenager!). A world of surrealism, biomorphism, dada, and abstract expressionism. A world of modernism, which he helped make. The art world of the 20th century. With all the patience in the world! 

Thank you Charles. I will try to get me some.

Charles Seliger; 1990; acrylic on canvas; 4 x 9 inches
Collection of the author

Addison Parks
Spring Hill

Winter bedroom studio

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Georgia O'Keeffe; Poppy; 1927

Like epoxy, this essay is a two part process, but unlike epoxy, reading and writing is linear, so I have decided that part two actually goes first. I guess that makes it part one.

Part one. You know that scene in Monty Python And The Holy Grail where the king tells the guard that no matter what he is not to let his son out of his chamber. There are two reasons why this gag works. The first is because most people encounter this sequence of events in their own lives on a daily basis. We ask for someone to do something for us and then they assure us that they will and then go and do something completely different, all the while continuing to assure us that they get it, when they don't. It is funny and exasperating at the same time. Why? And here is why this is so spot on. Because of the assurance! It is the perfect setup in life. Rest assured! That is always our first mistake. We rest assured!

Paul Klee

Never rest. Ha! It is the assurance that is the kicker. It tells us that everything is fine and going smoothly according to plan. When in fact it is anything but. 

The reason that this is really part two is that when I tell you part one you are going to assure me that you get it. But you won't, and here is why. The but. Yes, but...

"Yes, but" is a "no."  Plain and simple. Yes is the assurance and the but is something else altogether. 

We have "yes, buts" for everything. "I know smoking is bad but..." And so on. "I know" is an essential part of that equation. "I know" is part ego and part assurance, and all denial. Saying "I know" destroys any chance of ever actually knowing. Delusion 101.

Pierre Bonnard

Throw away all the "Yes, buts." Clear the shelves. Instead keep "Yes," period. "No," period, is good too. "Maybe," period is even ok! Know where you stand. Let other people know where you stand!

Now here's the other part, part one(two?): keep your eye on the ball! That's right. As banal as that sounds, keeping your eye on the ball is everything. Easy enough. "Yes, but..."

Now there are all kinds of balls to keep your eye on. But for starters we are going to stick with the metaphor. Baseball. You're at the plate. There is a man on second! Keep your eye on the ball. The pitcher might be doctoring his pitches. Keep your eye on the ball! Your parents are in the stands. Keep you eye on the ball! Some guy is shouting obscenities from the stands! Keep your eye on the ball! Etc., etc., etc.!

Liubov Popova; Painterly Architectonic; 1918

So here is the deal. Art deal. As an artist you start by doing this thing you love. Keep your eye on the ball! You start getting attention for it. Keep your eye on the ball! People appreciate you for it. Keep your eye on the ball. You sell some things you made. Keep your eye on the ball! You might go to art school. Keep your eye on the ball! Your parents want you to be happy, which means they want you to make a successful living so that they don't have to worry about you. Keep your eye on the ball. 

For obvious reasons if you take your eye off the ball you cannot move forward. Keep your eye on the ball and everything else follows. 

When you choose this thing you love, you can never lose sight of it. You take your eye off the ball for whatever reason and you are lost. You will have no chance. Don't throw the thing you love to the wolves.

So many artists at some point take their eye off the ball. The pressure gets to them. Distracts them. Almost no artist goes into art for the money, but at some point they succumb to this notion that either sales equal success, or worse, that selling their paintings will be the answer to their money problems. 

When they don't sell their work they get a false sense of failure; when they do sell their work they get a false sense of success. 

Marsden Hartley

And then there is glory and fame. Be careful what you wish for. Fate planned it perfectly when she made most artists famous after they die. Being an artist requires a healthy dose of psychosis; they have to believe in themselves when no one else does. Add fame to that and it isn't pretty. 

These things are black holes. Artists can never be famous enough. There is always someone more fabulous to torment them. Keep your eye on the ball! There is a very long list of artists who achieved some measure of fame and it wasn't good enough for them and they were miserable and even killed themselves. They blinked! They took their eye off the ball!

Mark Rothko; Untitled

Furthermore being an artist takes an extraordinary amount of time and space, time and space fame won't afford them, which is why successful artists so often pine wistfully for their salad days. 

So just be happy you're doing the thing you love. And never let go. This love is your green grass; don't go looking over the fence! This love is your horse; stop trying to load up that cart in front of it! Keep your eye on the ball!

Addison Parks
Spring Hill

I write these things, get them up, and then I work them. Blogs are a process like that for me. Like a print it may progress through several states. If you like something, or more importantly, don't like something, come back, it will most likely have grown and changed.

Monday, November 04, 2013

RIP Ulick Mahoney

Ulick Mahoney; 2008; oil on canvas; 20" x 16"

Ulick Mahoney blessed this world with a brute force for art. He loved it with all his being, and for that art loved him back and rewarded him with a prodigious talent for color and the invention of form. He pushed the boundaries of abstraction with a tireless passion and reckless abandon, like a bruising football running back breaking tackles. Last summer he died of a heart attack while camping in Vermont. The body of work he left behind is a powerful testament to an artist as gifted as they come.

Ulick Mahoney; 1985; welded steel

He came out of the Museum School in Boston as a sculptor. He did a tour at Triangle working with Anthony Caro, Karen Wilkens and Clement Greenberg. It made a lasting impression on him.

When I met Ulick in about 1985 through my friend Liane Thatcher, he was living the dream and he had it all: a gallery in Boston, a welding studio, a nice house with cats in Jamaica Plain where he could paint, and his own successful house painting business complete with truck and ladders to fund his passion. He was irrepressible, unstoppable and larger than life. His laughter boomed and roared with a crackling rasp. I once referred to him as the Fred Flintstone of the Boston art world.

After I lost touch with Ulick a few years later as our fortunes changed, I was shocked to find out that he had been devastated by the bottle and had lost everything, literally ending up on the street, and finally the Y.

Ulick Mahoney at UMASS Boston, 2008

By 1990 I was living in Boston and was walking through Harvard Square with my son Rory when I spotted him sitting in a Cafe. I had Rory go up and ask him if he was the famous artist Ulick Mahoney. The blast of laughter that erupted from him shook the buildings and sent pigeons skyward.

Ulick Mahoney at UMASS Boston, 2008

Having me back in his life as a friend and fellow artist, he claimed, made him want to paint again. And he did. Sculpture was out of the question, but painting small canvasses was possible, and that made him almost as happy; he started painting up a storm. Ulick loved to tell me how much money he saved at Utrecht's thanks to the sales. His life was pretty simple at this point. Mostly AA. Thanks to them he would get and stay sober for the rest of his life.

Ulick Mahoney; 1993; oil on oval canvas; 18 x 12

The next few years would be the time of his oval paintings. These musical abstractions danced inside the curving frame of the canvas, and I have to say, I don't think any painter has ever brought more to that rounded surface. They were pure delight, and they sprung from him like he had a workshop of elves going all night.

Me and Ulick(left) at Bow Street Gallery

Solo shows on Newbury Street in Boston and Cambridge kept him flourishing. The paintings and drawings always kept the sculptor in him alive, but fortune never reconnected him with that first love.

Ulick Mahoney; 2008; oil on canvas; 40" x  32"

He did, however, fall in love for real, and marry, and eventually move to Rhode Island. He kept painting and drawing, and worked with addicts and substance abusers. He enjoyed an extensive solo show of work at UMASS Boston in 2008. He did a stint at the Vermont Studio Program, and fell in love with the country up there.

Ulick Mahoney at UMASS Boston, 2008

We drifted apart the way friends do from time to time. When I heard the news from his wife Joyce my heart broke as well. Probably the most gifted artist I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, a great friend, with a heart as big as a Vermont mountain.

Addison Parks

Spring Hill

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Sunday, November 03, 2013

Winds of Change

Whether we like it or not there is going to be an education revolution in this country. Make no mistake; it is going to happen. The system is bad. The system is mean. The system is child slavery.

Adolescents are going to get wise. Adolescents are going to save themselves. It has already started to happen. A little piece of news this week: teenagers are turning off Facebook.

How millions of kids could be bullied and forced into a building and be made to go from classroom to classroom all day long and be force-fed a series of programs and then be forced to go back home and do more work for those programs is beyond belief. It is slavery, and it is not a life.

For what? So that they can sit in traffic and spend 2 hours a day commuting to and from a job they don't like so that they can have a family and sacrifice their kids to that same system by forcing those kids to do it all over again?

It is already changing. Twenty-something's are flocking to the cites, not buying homes or cars, and not having kids. The housing market is collapsing. The car industry is collapsing. You know that when you see ads aimed almost entirely had young people trying to convince them that it is cool and worth it to pay insurance and gas prices and parking so that you can sit in traffic and drive home to a life they can't afford to enjoy even if they had the time, which they don 't.

The only teachers that made a difference when I was a student were the new ones that didn't know better. They burned out fast. The tried to be real. To be available. To care. The only teachers that stay are the mean ones. That ones that learn to go through the motions. That don't care. That hold onto their jobs. That work for the system. Trolls. If there are exceptions, they prove the rule.

The only kids who excel in the system are the ones who use it to get ahead, or to get out. The mean ones get ahead, and the smart ones get out. Everyone else gets screwed.

There is going to be a revolution. And it isn't going to be pretty. Never is.

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