Name It Or Not [on DR Thursday]

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I sold this painting a long time ago. It’s a big piece, four feet by four feet. George Broderick sold it through his gallery in Portland, Oregon. The day we hung it in his space, he asked me what it was called. He was making a label for the painting with the title and price. I didn’t have an answer and said the first thing that came to me. “It’s called Four by Four,” I said. George wrinkled his brow.

True confessions: I’ve never been good at naming paintings. In fact, I used to resist it. I think a viewer should name the painting. I think a viewer does name the painting in the first moment they see it but then they dump their response when they read the label. But, reality has a way of setting in. As you might imagine, it nearly impossible to keep track of multiple paintings when they are all called Untitled.

For a while – a short while – I tried giving each untitled piece a number. Untitled 624. Untitled 29. “Cop out!” was the cry from friends and gallery staff. “What’s it called?” There was no mercy.

I was much more snarky then than I am now, I so I responded to the requirement of proper names by keeping a notebook of words and phrases that I liked. When a painting was being readied for a show I’d randomly pull a notation from the notebook and tack it to a painting. “There! A name!” That, too, was a ridiculous strategy. It confused everyone, including me. When it comes to tracking things, random associations are not very memorable and I’d inevitably lose the notation. I was constantly opening my notebook and renaming paintings. Plus, at openings, artists are always asked about the names they give to paintings and people were forever asking about a name/painting and I couldn’t remember which painting carried which random tag. More than once I stared blankly and stuttered until the uncomfortable patron moved on.

It has come as a great relief to me that Kerri actually likes to put names on my paintings. Nowadays, my foolproof naming strategy goes like this: “K.Dot, what would you call this painting?” And, without fail, she  always has a response.

“Why did you call this 4 x 4?” she just asked, hoping that the name would spark something to write about on her blog.

“I can’t remember,” I replied, lying outrageously. “What would you call it?” I asked.

She squinched up her face and studied it for a moment. “Slumber,” she said.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on 4 x 4

 

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4 x 4/Slumber ©️ some date in the past and really who knows and who really cares?

Reach Back [on DR Thursday]

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Artists are constantly reaching backward and forward through time. They daily pay visits to the work of the masters. They periodically revisit their own past creations. Their work sends ripples of inspiration and opportunity far into the future.

When Beethoven was young he wrote a ballet called The Creatures of Prometheus. It calls for a legion of dancers and is way too big for most contemporary ballet companies to attempt. Contemporary symphonies, on the other hand, desire to play the music because Beethoven, for the rest of his life, reached back into his ballet, mining for musical phrases, developing some of the phrases into his most famous work.

How to play the music from a ballet written in 1801 as a symphonic piece in 2009?

Yaacov Bergman, the visionary and laughter-filled director of the Portland Chamber Orchestra had an idea. Why not tell the story of the ballet. A storytelling would provide the connective tissue, weaving the music together into a cohesive symphonic performance. Because Beethoven wrote a ballet, 207 years later, I had the great good fortune to write and perform the story of The Creatures of Prometheus with the PCO.

And, since we were crossing time boundaries, why not cross a few artistic genres, too.  Yaki hired artist Liz Gil-Neilson to paint and produce a visual storytelling that was projected during the performance. Music, storytelling, contemporary visual art. Ripples, ripples, everywhere.

But, that was not enough. Since I am also a visual artist, Yaki asked that I translate my story into a visual statement. So, I painted three large canvases (Creation, Garden, Resurrection), one for each movement of the symphony, that hung with Liz’s original images during run of the symphony at the George Broderick Gallery in Portland.

Reaching forward. Reaching back. Today, more than a decade after our collaboration, I mine my experiences and paintings for inspiration. As new collaborations arise, as I stand at the base of a new series of seemingly impossible tasks, I’m fortunate to have my Creatures of Prometheus to remind me of the possibilities. They nudge me forward.  Like Beethoven, I reach back into my past work to find a path forward.

It makes me smile to know that in 1801 Beethoven, with a quill pen and ink, scribbled notes at his desk and those scribbles turned into dances and symphonies that inspired stories and paintings and a wacky multi-media collaboration (a phrase that did not exist during his lifetime). And more: a morsel image digitally altered for a blog post written on a computer keyboard. Pen and ink are hard to come by. Reaching backward. Reaching forward.

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about Prometheus morsel

 

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prometheus resurrection ©️ 2008 david robinson