Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Can I Dance With The Girl I Brought To The Dance?

As I mentioned a while back I am reposting the working sketches for my McCormick Place commission in Chicago. The site is over 800 feet in length and approximately 60 feet wide. ( I have posted an architectural rendering of the space. The color of the rendering of the site is not necessarily the final color of the area.) There are eight paintings. Each painting is 8 feet wide and 13 feet high. They will be done on one-inch thick aluminum panels, each weighing approximately 350 pounds. The center of each panel will be about 40 feet apart. The medium will be acrylic and oil. They are due for installation in mid 2007.

It is very interesting for me to repost these sketches. It has been almost more than a year when I first introduced them in my blog. Since then I have done a number of projects here in the States and in Spain. Also during this period I have had an opportunity to discuss with many of you my views on art and life. Some of these discussions have focused on ideas of creativity, authenticity and the relationship of memory and the past.

My initial proposal was centered on a style of abstraction that was consistent with the growth of my work over the last 25 years ( I have also posted a portion of the initial idea.)
Although the selection committee that oversaw the project was enthused with the initial imagery they wanted me to do something with more color. They also wanted something that related directly to “Chicago History.” Given those new parameters I then focused on Nelson Algren, now deceased, a writer whose work I have always admired. Algren’s relationship to the history of Chicago ( among other things) was one of a watchdog type character with his pulse on the politics that ran the city. Never one to shy away from a good fight, his series of essays, under the title “Chicago: City on the Make” are a poignant and insightful critical rendering of the political structure of the city he loved so much. It is also a poetic rendering of the city’s aesthetic ambiance as well. ( I should also mention, for those of you who may not be familiar with Algren’s art that he also wrote “The Man with the Golden Arm", a novel about addiction that was eventually turned into a very successful movie, and "Walk on the Wild Side.") It is from this position that I have developed the work that was accepted for the project.

As I've been typing and rereading some of the passages that inspired the images, many of the questions that I have encountered in our discussions have affected my rereading. Because of this a number of new issues have surfaced. On the one-hand it is a bit uncomfortable at this stage of the game, so to speak. But on the other-hand it is very exciting. I would like to focus on only one of them at this posting. In my posting each image is accompanied by a selected quote from Algren’s book. I am curious as to how my readers respond to abstract images as means to convey what I have selected as an insight or appreciation for Algren's work.

The history of abstraction, as it has developed over many years, has taken a direction much more suited to a formal appreciation of the medium itself. I would argue that the days when color, shape, and space were understood in the context of synesthesia (color, sound, etc. emanating and eliciting specific moods) has, for the most part, gone by the boards in contemporary times. And I think primarily because it can’t “speak” in a way literal enough to confront political issues, a subject that is especially prevalent now. I don’t mean to imply that the abstract art of the Russian Constructivist’s (of course Kasimer Malevich and his “White Square’ comes to mind) wasn’t political. Given its time and place the “gesture” surely was a political one as well as an ideological one, but that was more than 80 years ago!

It’s not that I don’t trust where I am at with these images or that I don’t feel as strongly as I did when I made them. But I think given the passage of time and the discussions that I have had with some of you, it could be another instance for me as an artist to grow. So I guess my first curiosity is: CAN ABSTRACT ART HANDLE A THEME SUCH AS THE ONE I AM ATTEMPTING TO DO?

I have had to post all of the images at one time in order to have a reference to the initial idea without repeating it ad infinitum. Therefore, I plan to leave this post up for at least a week. Please feel free to comment on any one or all of them. Including the issues that I mentioned above.

I noticed after posting that the text for images #6 and 7 is posted a askew of the chronolgy from the first five. However, given how they are titled, I don't think it should hinder an understanding of the images. My apologies.

McCormick Site Rendering

McCormick Site Rendering
Originally uploaded by lhombre.

Initial idea#1/will not be used

Initial idea#1
Originally uploaded by lhombre.

Initial idea#2/will not be used

Initial idea#2
Originally uploaded by lhombre.

Touches the shaded lamp...

Touches the shaded lamp...
Originally uploaded by lhombre.

Image# 1

“Touches the shaded lamp above the green-baized cloth and turns on the night.”

Chicago: City on the Make: An Homage to Nelson Algren

Excerpt from pg. 60: “Tonight, just as the daylight’s last sleepy Boy Scout is being tucked in with a kiss and a prayer, the sullen evening’s earliest torpedo slips the long cue silently from the shadowy rack. Touches the shaded lamp above the green-baized cloth and turns on the night.”

...not for their cold...

...not for their cold...
Originally uploaded by lhombre.

Image# 2

“…not for their cold pavement-colored eyes.”

Chicago: City on the Make: An Homage to Nelson Algren

Excerpt from pg.68: “And all the stately halls of science, the newest Broadway hit, the endowed museums, the endowed opera, the endowed art galleries, are not for their cold pavement-colored eyes. For the masses who do the city’s labor also keep the city’s heart. And they think there’s something fishy about someone giving them a museum for nothing and free admission on Saturday afternoons.”

"...he also wore...

"...he also wore...
Originally uploaded by lhombre.

Image# 3

“…he also wore a bright red bandanna about his dirty throat…”

Chicago: City on the Make: An Homage to Nelson Algren

Excerpt from pg.19: “Certainly the thief calling himself John the Baptist wasn’t one even though he left a religious tract at the scene of every theft. Even though wearing the ministerial black with the Come-To-Jesus-Or-Else collar. For he also wore a bright red bandanna about his dirty throat and never a shirt below or beneath at all.”

" whiskey..."

" whiskey..."
Originally uploaded by lhombre.


“Whiskey-and-vermillion hustlers, painting the night vermillion.”

Chicago: A City on the Make: An Homage to Nelson Algren

Excerpt from pgs. 10-11: “The portage’s single hotel was a barracks, it’s streets were pig-wallows, and all the long summer night the Pottawattomies mourned beside that river: down in the barracks the horse-dealers and horse stealers were making a night of it again. Whiskey and vermillion hustlers, painting the night vermillion.”

"...blowing..." ( for luz )

Originally uploaded by lhombre.

Image# 5

“…silently and all unseen, through blowing seas above the roofs.”

Chicago: City on the Make: An Homage to Nelson Algren

Excerpt from pg.75: “The pig-wallows are paved, great diesels stroke noiselessly past the clamorous tenements of home. The Constellations move, silently, and all unseen, through blowing seas above the roofs. Only the measured clatter of the empty cars, where pass the northbound and the southbound Els, comes curving down the constant boundaries of night.

"...great refineries...

"...great refineries...
Originally uploaded by lhombre.

Image# 6

“…great refineries wave an all-night alarm.”

Chicago: City on the Make: An Homage to Nelson Algren

Excerpt from pg. 25: “Wheeling around the loop of the lake, coming at Chicago from east and south, the land by night lies under a battle –colored sky. Above the half-muffled beat of the monstrous forges between Gary and East Chicago, the ceaseless signal-fires of the great refineries wave an all night alarm


Originally uploaded by lhombre.

Image# 7

“…Forty-seventh Street minstrel sometimes sings…”

Chicago: City on the Make: An Homage to Nelson Algren

Excerpt from pg. 46: if your white

‘a Forty-seventh Street minstrel sometimes sings, mostly to himself.’

If your brown,stick aroun’
If your black, step back
Step back
Step back
Step back

"...somewhere between..."

"...somewhere between..."
Originally uploaded by lhombre.

Image# 8

“…somewhere between…”

Chicago: City on the Make: An Homage to Nelson Algren

Excerpt from pgs. 76-77: “Yet on nights when the blood-red neon of the tavern legends tether the arc-lamps to all the puddles left from last night’s rain, somewhere between the bright carnival of the boulevards and the dark girders of the El, ever so far and ever so faintly between the still grasses and the moving waters, clear as a cat’s cry on a midnight wind, the Pottawattomies mourn in the river reeds once more.”

Saturday, November 26, 2005

A Musing?

I'm thinkin'

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Birds of a Feather... We Flocked Together


While posting this I couldn't help thinking about the so, so, many things to be thankful for. I have always marveled over the years how Thanksgiving throws so many things from the previous years into perspective. For me, they are almost too many to comprehend. But the friendships that I have accumulated and retained stand out high on my list. So thanks to all of you who have shared your time with me either in person or on our blogs. Have a safe and wondrous holiday.

I will not be posting again until Friday. Time now to prepare for family, friends, and......pies!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Still Standing...

The following poem, "Streetcar" is one I posted before I accidentally erased my blog a number of months ago. I am posting it again because in the interim, and after my recent post on alcoholism, I have been able to understand it in ways that I did not when I wrote it. I think it also ties into the discussion with fellow bloggers that took place a while back regarding memory, journals and their significance. At that time I think my thoughts indicated that I felt less significance with looking back on things while the majority seemed to acknowledge a larger importance on it. I believe I emphasized the need for me to look forward and not put so much significance on the past. I was hopeful that my post on alcoholism would shed some light on my position as I tried further to express how alcoholism recovery helped shape that belief as the dialogue continued.

Upon further reflection, and rereading "Streetcar" I thought I would share it with you again. As my life moves forward in the areas of creativity I am constantly surprised at the revelations regarding the coexistence between art and life. In the case of �Streetcar,� which reflects an experience that took place in Chicago on February, 12th, 1951, Abraham Lincoln's birthday, it seems appropriate to my thoughts because of the distance between the time of the experience, when I wrote it (2004) and today.

I have no illusions as to whether I understand it better today then at any other period in time. I think what really interests me in presenting this is that not too long ago I argued with great conviction that art and life are two separate experiences. That I might be contradicting myself here is why I need to revisit my thoughts. Hopefully, it can add something relevant to our discussions on art and life. Especially, in the context of life in the present.


A current of lines with wheels honed
A city�s gondola on cobblestone
A melody sung in the wake of rain
A song in motion with no refrain

A rider in step with the hum of rhyme
An exit in space to the fate of time
A view of the heavens from underfoot
A blackened carriage was undertook

A lapse in memory as to speed
A crawl to safety was in need
A dampness cold he did behold
A wonder that he could grow old

A sense of wetness he will carry;
A symbol of fortune's corollary
Aware that water had a role
As baptism did upon his soul.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Standing at the Shore of Life.......


I lay the glass down
And rest my eyes upon its ring
Of condensation

Buoyed to the surface
Of a mahogany sea;
Harbor of my mind.

As I focus
On the geometry
left there

I raise the vessel
And methodically finger
Each droplet of circularity.

As they get smaller
Under each probe
I watch them gather

With the speed of molecules
From the adhesion
Of nature’s way,

Until I become aware
Of an isolated dot;
Perspiration, at the end of a line

That wrinkles
My already aged

I offer this post not as a new direction but as an added dimension to my blog. Everything that I have written and will continue to write will in some way reflect what I am about to share. I have come to understand that it could not be otherwise. I hope that my readers will accept it as a gesture not unlike a handshake of trust.

I'm never quite sure where to draw the line as to what is and isn't appropriate to bring to my blog. Sharing seems to be the primary ingredient that blogs feed upon. At least that's my perception. Growth seems to be another. Taking that into consideration I have become more and more comfortable with the maturity and compassion that I have seen displayed on various blogs and have decided to introduce and share an intimate part of my life. For many readers it may not seem all that intimate considering that what I am about to share is a situation that pervades our society on many fronts: alcoholism

It is important for me that my readers understand that I am very sensitive to the feelings that they might have when it comes to reading about someone's very personal past; especially a stranger. I will do my best to respect that.

It is true that alcoholism is not an unnoticed malady in our society. It is also true that it is a malady that needs to be addressed head on. But one of the remedies, and herein lies a conflict, is a treatment that calls for anonymity as part of its general process toward recovery. It is also true that anonymity must be honored and respected within the fellowship of AA since it can affect others who are in recovery. But each individual in recovery decides for themselves the parameters for their own anonymity. For some, total anonymity is embraced at all costs, for others there are varying degrees of disclosure. I am choosing today to widen the parameters of my own anonymity because I think it might serve a purpose not only for my own recovery ( which is now more than four years of sobriety) but that it might lead to some insights that could better serve the malady in the many areas of life it touches. I include in that generality my own life, my art, and all the things that up to this point I have tried to share on my blog.

I would like to begin with an email I recently sent in confidence to a fellow blogger. My intention was to place into context some understanding of the position I had taken in an ongoing dialogue between us about my life and my art. It was the following:

Hi. I'm Dan. I'm an alcoholic.

When we discussed issues about memories, journals, and most recently symbols, my arguments have usually centered on what I called moments qua moments. I think of it that way because as an AA member I have come to understand that for me to go back into the past and try and resurrect instances of a life that has led to some very unhappy conclusions does not serve an alcoholic like me very well. In most cases I will tend to define much of what happened as "good" and try to relive them. When in fact most of it was an ego-induced fantasy about myself that in reality didn't serve me well. Alcoholics can easily find room to sit on the pity pot and blame unhappiness on a lot of things that simply haven't been true. In fact the fantasies that I built as an active alcoholic still haunt me at times. So for me, it is important that I understand that to move forward means just that; live the moment and don't look back. That's not to say that everything that happened in the past, especially my art, can't help me gain more insight into getting better, or recovering. It just means I need to maintain a grip on reality.

PS. Here's one of the poems I wrote that has been influenced by some of what I have said. It is a poem (thought?) that centers around regret and the idea of "If only" or "What if." It reflects an anxiety connected to a decision I made about a possible relationship. It's inspired also by part of the serenity prayer that says " God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change..."

I notice that the form, which is a centered format, does not copy that way. But, I think you can get a sense of what I have tried to convey.

Song to the sound of the waltz to “what if”

Missing something one has never had
Is like searching for the chord
That makes you sad.

“What if” has no part in this melody’s heart.

Like the wind that orchestrates chimes
Or rides on the waves of a cymbal
There is no doubt to its start.

“what if” has no part in this melody’s heart.

Aware of the sound and the source
Of its beat, the music goes on
To the end; to repeat.

“what if” has no part in this melody’s heart.

So a search for the chord of “what if”
In this melody struck in three-four
Plays to the sound of the riff:

Therefore, Therefore, Therefore.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Lady That Never Sleeps

On the heels of some thoughtful comments on karma,coincidence, and my "silent" muse in my recent post "It was the best of times. It was the...," I have posted below the tattoo that I alluded to along with the poem that it elicited.

I had this Tattoo drawn on my right arm when I was 14 years old at a Tattoo parlor in Chicago. It became a topic of conversation often in my previous marriage among my former wife Linda ( who referred to it as "The Lady Who Never Sleeps") and our two boys Matthew and Jason.

I used to draw tattoo's on my friends when I was a youngster. I used the old red and blue combination pencil ( I guess that's dating myself a bit!) to simulate the actual ( permanent) process. When I had my tattoo put on I was very anxious (scared might be more accurate) as to how my parents, mainly my dad, would respond. So...I lied! My dad knew that I drew fake tattoo's on my friends so I thought I could put the truth off for a while by saying that I drew mine also. To which my dad responded, " Aren't you right-handed?" Gulp! And the rest is history.

I have carried this identification(?) with great pride for reasons too many of which to elaborate on. But currently, on a very personal level, I have found many associations with her as regards my "silent" muse. In fact it was while reminiscing about my muse that the poem came about; a period where I was feeling very much alone and with a strong sense of ageing and mortality. But that aside, I thought it might be interesting to see if anyone might have some thoughts about the poem, the image, and the post's that I have been writing. I realize that many of the issues that I try to raise are at times not very clear. But the comments that I have received have been very helpful and at times...very clarifying!


Originally uploaded by lhombre.


in flesh

red and magenta
her sombrero,

to a siesta;


hat dance

the eventual

of eyes

have never

Thursday, November 10, 2005

It was the best of times. It was the...

What follows is an actual experience that took place a couple of days after I cited the quote from Suarah Hall's "The Electric Michelangelo," a novel structured on the theme of tattooing, in my post "The silent muse." It is the quote that I now use in my title bar. My interest in continuing to pursue this is directly related to my recent postings on karma and coincidence in my life as regards my muse.

So...I sashay into the steam room after my workout. Still on my mind is the passage from "The Electric Michelangelo" that I cited on Monday in my post entitled, The silent muse?".

I sit down at a convenient spot so that I can see the clock. It is extremely hot and I have come to learn that time and timing is important.

Out of the corner of my right eye I see (sense?) the outlines of numerous shapes. A dizzying array of blue's,red's, and yellow's awash in...I don't know...Sweat? Steam? All I know for certain is that he, the fellow to my right say's" Hey, never saw one like that before."

I quickly spin my head to my right and refocus through the steam. I say, " Yeah. Needs a little work though. The redness has dissipated over the years." Then I say, " Wow! Man. Not so bad yourself!

The last time I saw that many tattoo's on one person was in "Ray Bradbury's, "The Illustrated Man."

"That's a lot of ink you have there! How many years did it take you to accumulate all those tattoo's?"

To which he replied, "I don't count years, I count hours. The time spent drawing the images is more important to art than..."

What this little snippet above refers to in detail, as I try this round about way to come to understand how my muse works, is a tattoo on my right shoulder of a young lady wearing a sombrero that I got when I was 14 years old. I have also written a poem about her which at some point during these exploratory snippets I hope to post along with a pic of the tattoo. What is starting to unfold for me here is the beginning of a possible short story. I am starting to have some fun with this and am very curious as to where it will lead. My muse has taken me to so many different places that this feels like one more push of inspiration.

This is now becoming quite an unexpected and interesting direction for me. What I would like to do is have any of you who care to comment to add a line or two after the last line in the snippet..."more important to art than..." Kind of push me a little. It's a little bit like an "Exquisite Corpse", that wonderful play that artists and non-artists from time to time employ by connecting images in progression to complete an artistic and creative collaboration. The difference here is that I may not retain your idea in it's original form or perhaps use it at all. But I'm curious as to what happens! My muse seems to be getting a voice! Anyone want to join the chorus?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Mi amigo Richard Cohen has a post this morning that brought this to my attention!
Hermano, you must have been asleep as we drove through Andalusia!


Originally uploaded by lhombre.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The silent muse?

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, referring to a quote in the New York Times Book Review that “jumped out at me,” life’s moments can sometimes provide a needed and unexpected epiphany. I believe I associated it with“Karma.”

As I’ve indicated over the last few weeks since my return from Spain, I’m struggling a bit creatively and personally. The quote that I mentioned, however, has led me to reading Sarah Hall’s novel, “The Electric Michelangelo,” and lo and behold I come to find out that the quote in the novel refers to the “Blood of the sky”… “the northern bloodlights,” the Aurora Borealis! A most magnificent display of the sublime in nature’s light!

Sarah Hall, the author, whose writing is extremely imagistic, colors it with reds, greens, and white light, which immediately caused me to reflect on the series of red and white Luz paintings I just completed in Spain. Coincidence, Karma, I really don’t know. But on a very spiritual interior level it all comes together for me. I believe that timing is everything and this couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I have no idea where it will lead but it provides the one ingredient that keeps me going from day to day…hope.

There is an aside(?) to all this. The novel is centered around the art of tattooing, something that I was very much involved in in the past. In fact I have a tattoo, which I acquired at the age of fourteen that I have written a poem about. I hope to add that to my post soon.

As I have also indicated in previous posts my muse has been very quiet. But now I have to wonder! Has she?

I’m reposting an earlier poem, actually the very first poem that directed me toward many others dealing with my muse:


I looked…up

( Light )


she was…


Sunday, November 06, 2005

New Title Bar

I’ve posted a new quote in my title bar this morning.

In the last few years I have been obsessed, but in a healthy way, with my muse. My muse personifies for me the grandest of all metaphors regarding creativity, life, love, and in an especially mysterious way, the sublime. I often refer to her as Luz, the Spanish for “Light.” In my reach for an appropriate rendering that encapsulates what I feel toward her I have struggled with the visual arts, music, and poetry. During those experiences I have occasionally touched briefly on what is often fleeting variants of this strange and wondrous place. It is a place that has taken me deep into an interior of self.

There is often a feeling of dance and rhythm, a movement though time, space, and color that this place engenders. There are too numerous attempts on my part to isolate any one of them as best capturing my quest. But sometimes someone will come along and shout the obvious as it pertains to one’s personal journey and often at very unsuspecting moments. This morning was one of those moments.

As I was perusing the New York Times Book Review I came across an interesting review of a novel by Sarah Hall entitled, “The Electric Michelangelo.” What caught my immediate attention was a quote taken from her novel near the end of the review. It caught my eye prior to my reading the article from the beginning. Like so many experiences of coincidence (I tend to call it Karma) that have been associated with “Luz,” it jumped off the page! It is a rendering in words that comes very close to what I have often felt but have not quite been able to clarify as clearly through my work: "...light that had neither the impatience of fire, nor the snap of electricity, nor the fluttering sway of a candle. It was light that was nature's grace, unhurried, the slowest, seeping effulgence."

I am now in the process of reading “The Electric Michelangelo,” after the fact, of course!

There is a major problem with all that I have attempted to say here and over the years: I should be living it!
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