Poem: Abstract Art (3)


Abstract Art (3)

It hangs on the wall like a frozen wraith,
a brightly colored wall between the worlds
shielding the other word from yours,
or you from them,
or perhaps it simply waits, a tantalizing tease
for some etherial unveiling.

You stand before it,
unsure why it sings to you, or even
what song it is singing.
A dirge?
A hymn?
A siren song of unspoken desires?

You cannot say, aware only
of some call deep in your breast,
that this piece of stranger’s art
has forced you to feel
beyond images or scenes from reality,
to something more real,
a tease, subliminal and blatant both.

Your heart beats faster.
Confusion and chaos?
Yes, Joy,
odd and unexplainable,
it is enough to rejoice without reason,
to allow this assault on your senses
to rule over the kingly mind,
an unruly child,
charming and maddening both.

About this poem

I often go to art galleries and take pictures of things that touch me. I am good at taking pictures of the tags that tell you who the artist is, the name of the piece and perhaps a few paragraphs of history and explanation. I like giving attribution because I would want the same for anything I put out there.

For some reason, I did not take that tag shot of this piece. It lives in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and I’ve seen work from the artist in a few museums here in the Northeast. Yet the name of the artist eludes me. All of his work ( I remember that the artist is a he.) intrigues me. I can’t tell you why, but I often find myself parked in front of them for long enough that regular patrons probably wonder at me.

That’s OK. I wonder at me sometimes too.

I seem to write about Abstract Art often. This is the third poem with that title since I began this blog. I decided to make it official by giving it a number because somehow I am sure that title will show up again. I’ve said it before, I am less creative than expressive.

I did some painting myself yesterday. First time in a bit. Therapy.

It’s the winter solstice. A time of turning.

From those thoughts, this poem.


Artist’s Date: Mass MoCA, Space and Yearnings


Saturday, the woman I love and I went down to North Adams to visit Mass MoCA. 

I go there a few times a year because the exhibits change constantly. It’s never the same collection twice and I find myself constantly inspired. Recently they just added a huge addition, opening up one of the old factory buildings and transforming it in thousands of square feet of exhibition space.

I will be honest. There was not a lot of the current exhibition that sang to me.  There was some good work. Some odd work. Come curious work. But very little that sang to my soul and inspired me. What really sang to me though, was the space itself.


It began when we entered one of the first rooms. There were three little multimedia works on the wall. They did little for me, but as I stepped away, I saw them in a different light. There were three chairs set out for the devout to look at them at length, and the juxtaposition of the chairs and art, the spacing, space itself, struck me.


In the next room, one of the huge galleries, there was this installation called “In Bed (how will we sleep when the planet is melting?) by Sarah Braman. The piece itself was for me kinda “meh”, but as I walked around it, and saw it in space, it took on a life of its own.

And so it was the rest of the afternoon, particularly as we came to the new space.




I have been missing space. A decade ago I had a huge old farm house, about 4,000 square feet. There were five acres and outbuildings. There was space for anything I might buy or anything I might want to do. All that space was, I have come to realize, and incredible luxury.

Since my divorce, that house had to be sold. I lived in a couple of tiny apartments with a whole lot of furniture crammed in, and finally landed here in Vermont, where I have a nice house, what has been a perfect house for me and the kids the past several years. There’s plenty of room, plenty of light, but not much wall space. It is house on a smaller scale. It’s on two-tenths of an acre of land, which is nice when you travel like I do. Not much to take care of. But also not much to do things with. No sculpture gardens here. No workshops. No storage for strange and odd things that I might pick up. (because I do.)

I have to be economical with my space.

In the last year or two, I have been half-looking for a big space. A barn or large garage, or perhaps a section of an abandoned factory to move my studio into. I don’t know if it is a natural progression of my art, or some inner part of my spirit that feels the need to do bigger things again, create bigger art, impactful things, but I yearn for more space. Nothing fancy. Just space and light. Or even space without light (Lights can be bought, after all.).

And that’s what my artist’s date did. It brought that yearning back. Is that inspiration? In a way I suppose. But inspiration or not, it’s a reminder of what lies underneath this mild, economical facade I carry with me, and that has value. Without yearning. Without dreams, I am nothing. I am dead.

I learned that a long time ago. The hard way.

Be well. Travel wisely,



Poem: Art. Life.

museum site

Art. Life.

Color, and the lack thereof.

and at times, little more.

And emotion.
never forget emotion.
Without it,
everything lacks life,

lacks a reason
to be.

About this poem. 

I have an artist’s date to Mass MoCA planned for tomorrow. So art and how it touches life (and visa versa) seems to be on my mind.

The picture was taken in the west wing of the National Galleries in Washington, DC.


Poem: Purses at the Market


Purses at the Market

The purses hang at the farmer’s market,
bright and colorful, each one hand made,
each one unique, beautiful things you have no use for,
but gaze at for perhaps a bit too long,
letting the vibrancy fill your vision,
letting the ebullience push out your inner winter
and leave you twenty again,
innocent and free of baggage,  or triggers,
free of the mistakes that have piled up like so many weights.

The purses hang at the farmer’s market.
You don’t stare as much as meld,
letting the patterns feed your joy,
fill your parched soul, that tattered thing,
dry as dust, hungry for color, unknowingly
hungry for that lost innocence.
You are no longer seeing.
No, it is something more, feeling, rising,
oh yes, you remember now,

About this poem.

Too much going on here to write a pithy “about” section. Some of it has to do with age. Some of it has to do with the woman I love and all the color she has brought to my life. Some of it has to to with growing older. Some of it has to do with a talk I have to give later this month on “How to Look at Abstract Art.” Some of it I am still sorting out. Most of it, I am still sorting out.

But that’s why I write poetry most of the time, to sort things out.


Poem: Art



This is the thing.
I do not know if it is art
or not.
For all art does not live in museums,
but people’s lives,
color and line and placement
singing a song
they never imagined.

About this poem

I have an installation of paintings at one of the local libraries for the month of September, and last Saturday we had the reception. I spent some of the time taking people through the pieces, talking about what was going on in each one and how I got there.  My work is, like the installation above from MoMA, abstract, and the people I walked through things seemed to be happy to get some explanation.

My favorite people,though, are the ones who look at my paintings (or read my poems for that matter) and find their own meanings. At that point my art is no longer mine. It is theirs, or perhaps ours, as they pull something from it that I never even conceived of.

I love that.



Thoughts: How do they do it?


Last week I was in New York City and managed to squeeze in a couple of hours at MOMA (The Museum of Modern Art). Every visit there is a mix of visiting old friends and favorites, and new art. Every visit has me looking at some new aspect of art. I don’t know why one time I will be attracted to Picasso and another time I will be drawn to someone more traditional. I don’t know why at time Pollock draws me in and holds me for long stretches of time, and other times I just shrug and say “Meh”.

This trip, though, I found myself focused on proportion and spacing. Looking at paintings and wondering what led each artist to just that mix or space and spacing, wondering what would have happened if they had done this differently. How did they know just how to get it just right?

I know from my own experience that every brush stroke matters. I can work all afternoon on a painting and then, with a single brush stroke out of place, or a single color in a wrong place, the entire painting suddenly loses life, goes flat, is ruined. In some cases, you can paint yourself out of that problem, but just as often, you’re done. Time to whitewash the canvas, or cut the watercolor into bookmarks.

What is is that makes something “right”? And what is it that one thing out of place throws all that other good work out the window? And how did these guys know (or did they know?) how to get it right? Was it instinct? Was it formal education? Or was it dumb luck, with lots of trial and error and failures and whitewashed canvases until they stumbled on the right mix?

That same thing goes in any kind of endeavor. A poet wrestles to get just the right words. One sour note and the whole poem is sour. A photographer can shoot a dozen photos to get that one that is just so. A relationship can cruise along and one thing (for some) can end it all.

I suppose part of it is education. Photographers learn some basics about composition – the law of thirds, repetition, contrast, and the like. Painters have color wheels (or at least I do, even if I refer to it rarely) and learn about layering and other techniques that help them build a painting. Poets study rhythm and style and sound. Everything we do has an element of education to it. But if all we did was follow the rules, art of all kinds would be unbearably boring and filled with dull sameness.

Instead, what happens is that people do things. Try things. Take a leap. Experiment. Fail. Play. Tinker. Go wild. Toss some rules and adhere to others. Mix discipline and madness, and come out with something. Some times it’s wonderful. Sometimes it’s awful.

I spent my hours in MOMA looking at paintings of all sorts, looking for patterns of what works, what felt right, what appealed to me, and what didn’t. I was hoping I could find something to help me in my own painting. Mostly, when I paint, I am happy with my results. I am more instinctive than smart in my painting, but as abstract as my work is, there is far more thought that goes into it than most people realize. When I blow one, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out why? And what led me to think that really bad stroke or color was a good idea?

I never found the pattern. But it was fun thinking about it. It made me look at things differently. Not just in art, but in any visual thing – architecture, gardens, films. Placement. Proportion. The visual slight of hand that draws our eye here or sends our emotions there. And awareness of how much though goes into things we often pass over without thinking.

And most of all, an appreciation for people who DO think about design things. From our silverware (I bought mine because of how it felt in the hand, and someone designed that.), to our furniture, our spaces, the lights in our house, to the dashboards in our car – it was all designed. Hours of thought and inspiration and work made these things happen.

It amazes me how rarely we wonder how that design came about. What were they thinking? What were they feeling or going for? We pass it by and like it or don’t like it. Much as we do with people, never thinking about the journey that got them there.

That’s probably fine. I suspect we’d go mad looking for the “why” of everything. Our poor brains would break into overload. Probably explode. But I find life is so much richer when I do think about those things. It gives me a new layer of appreciation and gratitude. It’s why I can stop in the middle of a meal just feel the perfect balance of my fork, and smile. It’s why I can stare at a seemingly simple painting like the one above and savor it with its four colors and few lines. I do that a lot, stop and just look and think and wonder.

And I always come out with gratitude.

Hopefully, my brain won’t explode.

Be well. Travel Wisely,