Thanksgiving gets a lot of people out of the house. According to the travel organization AAA and Homeland Security, nearly 47 million of our countrymen will take to planes, trains, and automobiles for a journey of 50 miles or more for this long Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Count me out. I’m staying at home. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles has become a Thanksgiving must see film, and it was on tonight on the SyFY channel. I watched it as I usually do, and it is still funny. This film came out in 1987, nearly 30 years ago, and now, it is as ubiquitous on Thanksgiving as turkey, stuffing, and cranberries.
The news has been exceedingly depressing lately, and what with many of TV’s best shows having concluded their fall seasons, pickings on TV will come down to sporting events, or reruns.
But there are antidotes for many of the depressing events in the news, or the growing noise coming from our Presidential candidates. With each day, the Mouth That Roared (Mr. Trump) grows increasingly more shrill. Mr. Trump has decided to play the hate card again and again, which in one sense plays to people’s fears, and in another sense, his words have marginalized many in this country thereby pushing them in another direction. Mr. Sanders continues to wallop us again and again. Ben Carson seems to back pedal just as fast as anyone in recent memory. Mrs. Clinton has the experience and the know how, but is she trustworthy? It really is too much.
But there is one thing that I do on Thanksgiving to get away from all of the above. I trot out some art that appeals to me, and call it my Happy Thanksgiving gift to my readers.
Back in 1971, British rock and roll musician Rod Stewart and Ron Wood wrote a song called Every Picture Tells A Story. While this song has nothing to do with art lyrically, and has been called rude, racist, and sexist it does begin with a reference to self-discovery. And what could be a better message on this Thanksgiving holiday than to state that while the answers to the world’s ills will not be solved by self discovery, many of the issues that live within us surely could use some looking at.
Every Picture Tells a Story is the title of this post. I’ve been writing about art every Thanksgiving since 2009, and am proud to do so once again.
We will start with Norwegian artist Hans Dahl. Now Mr. Dahl died in 1937 – almost 80 years ago.
There was a period in his life (in the 1890’s) when his work came in for considerable criticism. Painting and the world of art was turning away from Romanticism and heading for Modernist themes.
Only Hans Dahl liked painting pretty girls in traditional Norwegian clothing, with the brilliant sunshine beautifully illuminating the models, the mountains, and the Norwegian fjords as the back drops.
Of course his works were romantic. I mean, how can one not like these works of art.
However his models had to make do without cars, or anything motorized. And speaking of those kinds of journeys here are two paintings that I like about getting somewhere.
The first is by Ron Gallo. It is a scene not uncommon here in Sarasota. Living in Florida, at least here on Florida’s west coast makes owning an automobile almost mandatory. Or else you’d have to live near a bus route. Except if you went to the beach or you’re living in a beach front home or condo.
Gallo calls this one Beach Patrol. Strangely enough, people who wouldn’t dream of walking to the store change instantly when you put them on a beautiful white sand beach, and then, you find that you can’t get them to sit down.
But not all journeys are as pleasant as strolling the beach. The Long Journey is by Mark Rohrig and this painting speaks of a harsher time.
Back at the water’s edge, we have Island View by Caroline Huff. I like the blue water and the blonde hair, and I have no idea if Huff’s model is Norwegian or not. But the gentleman below is definitely not Norwegian.
This is another by Mark Rohrig. Thunder Moon is filled with detail. Check the beads on his top, the details of the his feathers, and the way the spear blade is tied to the stick. But not all the Native Americans were either dressed for war, or preparing for war.
This next one is about living on the move. No supermarket shopping for these folk They brought their sheep and goats with them. In the Shadow of the Canyon is by Gerard Curtis Delano.
Staying out in the west, how about a triple look at one of my all time favorites. His name is Alfredo Rodriguez. His spectacular paintings of grizzled prospectors, trappers, and settlers have long caught my eye.
As has his work with beautiful Indian maidens.
The thing about Rodriguez is his attention to the small details. How labor intensive must this be? While I can’t give you a qualified answer to that question, there’s no denying the excellence of his efforts.
Staying out west, how about one more from Gerard Curtis Delano. He calls this one Quiet Waters. For the record, Mr. Delano is from Marion, Massachusetts. He died in 1972. In the painting above, I imagine the only noises are the sound of the paddle meeting the waters.
But canoes are used not only for simple transportation. In the painting above, artist Luke Frazier presents us with a question. Are the two gentlemen in the canoe, hunters or are they simply trying to make a swift and sure escape rather than having to deal with an annoyed moose?
You like portraits?
We can start with this one, called Ponytails by Cathryne Trachok. Forgive the small trickery played here. Trachok offers us only one portrait in this picture and the one portrayed walks on four legs.
But there are portraits a plenty in this year’s Thanksgiving gallery.
Golden Silk is by Lee Guk Hyun. And below are three by Cynthia Feustel.
The first is called At The Creek,
and the next one is called A Clear Day. That looks like a saddle that the young miss is carrying. She’s dressed for riding isn’t she. Denim, leather vest and chaps, a canvas duster, a scarf and an excellent hat. Did you notice the complex stitching in both the belt and chaps. By the way, Feustel is from rural Pennsylvania, and she now lives in Colorado.
She has this to say about her work –
I am intrigued with the subtle nuances of the human face and form and have always drawn my inspiration from capturing hidden expressions when a sliver of life’s truth and emotion is revealed. Bestowing significance to seemingly ordinary moments, I invite the viewer to have a heightened sensitivity to the feelings and life of the world around us.
I’ve got more portraits for you. From China (above) is a colorful dress on a Chinese beauty. I wasn’t able to find the title of this painting , but the artist is Zeju Guan.
Or this idyllic lake side view by artist An He, who is from Guangzhou in China. His specialty is elegantly dressed women, usually in a contemplative mood.
Now – three from Carrie L. Ballantyne. She’s made a career, now 30 years in length of painting her friends, neighbor, and relatives. Let’s start with Colleen.
Next is a cowboy. Ballantyne calls this one The Red Wild Rag. You know who I see in this painting? He’s appearing as Peter Quinn in the Showtime tv series Homeland.
Up next from Carrie Ballantyne is Country Cowgirl. I love this one not because of what the model might be about to do, or who she might interact with next. But when you see a woman able to look this good in a hat this big – you have to be impressed. I’ll have one more from Ballantyne later to close out this post.
Sometimes I select a painting or two simply because their appeal is in the maximization of one particular color. Since red and blue are both prime colors, let’s utilize them. The first one is called Wade and Spade, and the artist is Don Weller.
Though the blue sky is not the majority of the painting, the richness of the color is so striking, that I couldn’t resist including this painting. The second painting below is from Vietnamese artist Nguyen Thanh Binh.
He calls this work simply The Red. The remarkable thing about this painting is the lack of detail. We see no faces, and only the barest hint of a hand or two.Which makes these four girls wearing the traditional Vietnamese dress known as the ao dai simply leap off the page.
For every strong color, sometimes there’s a near absence of color which makes the work so striking.
In this work, by Wayne Haag, we see the stillness and the quiet of this forlorn Alaskan town. There is so little happening that in the foreground, you can see a daring fox make his way into town on a forage for food.
The Sporting Life is often the subject of artists. Particularly fishing in western streams. I’ve never done any fly casting, so I cannot speak to the allure of it. Maybe, the whole point, like a round of golf, is simply to escape out of the house for a few hours. Here are a trio of guys out of the house for a day.
First is Sunday on the River by Brett James Smith.
The second one is by Luke Frazier, and he calls it Grand Dad’s Three Piece. Frazier describes his work:
I’m always searching for things I want to draw and paint. I’m always following the light, looking for the different values, shapes and colors – the emotional power of a scene.
And the third is again by Brett James Smith. It looks like a companion piece to Sunday on the River. Its title is Riverside Rest. So how did Brett Smith get his start
“In his early years, Smith was introduced to the sporting life by his grandfather who exposed him to the gentlemen’s sport of quail hunting in the Longleaf Pine country of east Texas. Later he discovered a calling for sitting in cold wet marshes and swamps hunting ducks. This became his true passion and a great source of inspiration for his later works.”
And how does he discuss his art:
“What is important in these outdoor paintings is mood, a feeling of how things were and still can be. The idea is to convey the natural ruggedness of the sport without missing the subtle nuances that make the experience personal”.
Okay we are almost done. A portrait called Resolved is by Mia Bergeron. This work serves up a kind of a mystery. Who is this woman, and what can we deduce about her? I don’t think there are any correct answers. Bergeron writes in her blog:
When painting, put out lots of paint (don’t be cheap or fearful of this) and premix as many big puddles of color as you can for the painting you will be working on. Take fish oil daily it helps you concentrate. Try to still yourself . Eat a lot of vegetables and proteins.
While Bergeron talks about big puddles of color and lots of paint, Spanish-Chilean artist Sergio Martinez Cifuentes calls the above painting Ballerina in Monochrome. I call it brilliant.
Here’s another portrait. Ad it is another portrait bathed in mystery. The artist is David Cheifetz, and the work is called The Protagonist. The subject’s upper body is awash in sunlight, yet as your eyes move downward, it is as if we are looking now through some rain on the windshield without the wipers in motion. The artist has taken his subject from reality to a state of ‘what-if’.
Our last painting for this Thanksgiving 2015 is called Wyoming Blue Eyes. The artist is of course, Carrie L. Ballantyne. I see a bit of the actress Scarlett Johansson in this work. But that’s just me. I also see a young woman, not quite defiant, but surely confident. But that too, is just me – thinking out loud and on the record.
That’s it folks. I hope looking at these works of art has brought you some pleasure, has offered you a respite from the often dark and troubling news, and I hope I have offered you an opportunity to explore all these artists on your own. As a last word, I leave you with the words of Tom Ashbrook, the host of the NPR radio show, On Point. Yesterday’s show had guests and callers, and it was all about cooking the many and varied dishes for a Thanksgiving Day Feast:.
I don’t mind if something is labor intensive. Because everyone is there, you’re sharing the work, it’s almost part of the beauty of it – that you take the time to peel the apples, or what ever it is, and you just sit and talk and ENJOY. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.