I sat down with a small group of art friends and watched “A Bigger Picture” a David Hockney documentary, which made for a very pleasant evening, followed up with even more enjoyable discussion and debate.
There is much to appreciate; the free, intuitive work of the hand, the sense of ease and playfulness, and of course the color, witnessing his process as it evolves from relying on photography to exploring nature in person, how he deals with the challenge of completing a large scale 50 panel modular painting for The Royal Academy of Arts in a brief two week period. Luckily he has the means; resources that include hot and cold running assistants to set up easels and supplies, move canvases, and record, digitize, and catalog every piece.
I am intrigued with Hockney’s exploration of alternate forms of perspective, the “moving focus” that Hockney describes – very evident to us in Eastern art, in scroll painting, where the eye is always moving, traveling as the scroll unrolls, rather than locked on a single point. ”Clearly, human eyes do not see in the same way as a single camera lens does.“ How we perceive, how the eye sees, is an ongoing and very basic question for artists, and possibly different for everyone and part of what makes art so interesting.
Watching this documentary may have raised more questions than answers. At least one person didn’t wholly believe that the idyllic English countryside Hockney is painting is real. Fortunately one of our guests grew up there, and validated that the lush pastoral landscape depicted does in fact, exist. We wondered whether the effect in person of the size of the painting is as impressive as it is made out to be. How important is spectacle in art? Is it more than just a method to draw a crowd?
We all wanted to know what happened to Margaret, Hockney’s sister, who moved out of the family home when Hockney and company moved in? And where can we find our own “Jean-Pierre” an essential assistant who seems to take care of all the details that threaten to obstruct the creative process.
In making this large , “difficult” piece, that as Hockney declares, ushers us into the “post photographic age”, is Hockney sincere, or is he thumbing his nose at the art establishment? Hockney himself says, "It is very good advice to believe only what an artist does, rather than what he says about his work."
"Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature's darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature's sources never fail." John Muir, Our National Parks
Living on the edge of a National Forest, and the steepest mountains in the US, I am often reminded of John Muir, the "Father of the National Parks" and a person who considered the mountains his true home. Muir Woods in Northern California is well know and more locally isMuir Peak (elevation 4688') in Angeles National Forest north of Altadena.
On a Sierra Club Outing, author Albert Palmer tells of a conversation he had with John Muir on the trail. He asked Muir, "someone told me you did not approve of the word "hike" Is that so? His blue eyes flashed, and with his Scotch accent he replied:
" I don't like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains - not hike! Do you know the origin of that word 'saunter?' It's a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, 'A la sainte terre,' 'To the Holy Land.' And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not 'hike' through them."
- John Muir, as quoted by Albert W. Palmer, The Mountain Trail and its Message (1911) pages 27-28 - excerpted in A Parable of Sauntering .
I had the pleasure last weekend of visiting Return to Freedom, a wild horse sanctuary in Lompoc. These horses come from various herd families and many of
them are quite unique, such as the Sulphur Springs herd with theirdistinctive dorsal and leg striping, resembling the horses
painted on cave walls dating back to 26,000 B.C.E.
I took part in a Photo Tour lead by Kimerlee Curyl an accomplished equine photographer. There were many amazing photographers in the group and everyone there seemed to share a love for horses. For my part, the discussions about ISO numbers and F stops flew right over my head. Yet even though I am not a photographer, I got plenty of images of horses in the landscape. Some may reappear in future artwork.
In the meantime here are some images from the day.
The horses themselves ranged from the cautiously shy to curiously playful to bold. We stayed with each group for about 45 minutes. Some stayed quite still, clustered together. Anytime one of them so much as perked an ear, the sound of dozens of shutters releasing filled the air. I began feeling like paparazzi to the horses.
We moved on to a group of mostly mares, who in spite of the heat, with a little prompting from Kimerlee, were willing to gallop around us so that we could take action shots.
All except for one, who seemed more inclined to join the photographers and stand in the middle watching everyone else run around.
We visited the stallions last and what a difference. Bold. Fearless. Curious. Inclined to walk right up and see what was going on.
From San Diego to Vancouver, 100 Artists of the West Coast II covers 100 artists with over 400 full color photographs of their work. The collection includes art from private as well as public collections and installations, including the collections of LACMA, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art New York, and the New York Public Library to name just a few. I'm happy to be included.