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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Martin Mugar said...

Sometimes I use the word "waiting" to describe my work which is a cousin of "patience". In the end what I waited for may never come. All I have is the expectation.

I split my wood for the wood stove in expectation of a cold New England Winter.That is sure to come.

Addison Parks said...

Charles Seliger was the great believer in good things come to those who wait. He also believed that good things come in small packages, but that is another story.

Addison Parks said...

While I am happily painting away this morning I am reminded that having fun makes patience easy. Enjoying whatever you are doing makes it effortless. So it is not so surprising after all that your pastel textured paintings encourage your patience, Martin, because they show your fun. When I stop having fun painting, that is when I lose my patience.

Addison Parks said...

There is no mistaking that painting gave Charles Seliger boundless pleasure.