Friday, February 5, 2010


I have one more piece that was finished recently and photographed back in January but, because of a computer glitch, I just received the image. It was a real pain to work on. I revised the color combination at least three times, then, just as I thought I was nearing completion, I notice a large gap in one spot of epoxy that was too deep to fill with shellac. Consequently, I needed to sand down a section and reapplying shellac. It took another three tries to get the epoxy right an in between I attempted to build the shellac up before giving up and going back to the epoxy. In addition, I was working on a small section because I liked the colors of the rest of piece and I didn't want to mess them up, however, working on a small section of shellac is more difficult than working on a small one and that effort alone was very frustrating. At many points I knew I should have just given up and worked on something else. Then FINALLY, in December, almost a year after starting the piece (there were a number of large gaps in the time working on the piece during that period) I declared victory. The problem I'm faced with now, however, is that I've invested way too much time to justify selling it at my current price levels, so I've named it NFS (Not For Sale). If MoMA calls, I'll talk about selling it, otherwise, I'm happy to keep it in my own person collection.
shellac on curly maple, cherry, epoxy
15" x 11.5" x 0.75"

Thursday, February 4, 2010

2010 Show Schedule

Just in case you would like to see my work in person, and you are not going to be in Montpelier, VT anytime in the near future, you can also see my work at the following locations and times:

Paradise City Marlbourgh, MA, March 19-21
CraftBoston, Seaport World Trade Center, April 9-11
Paradise City Philadelphia, April 30 - May 2

After the Philly show I plan on spending the summer working on a piece that will win the ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, MI - September 22 to October 10. First place is $250,000 so I'll need to put a little effort into this one. I figure, if my goal is to be able to make a living making art, winning the ArtPrize would be a good start. I've been thinking about the project ever since meeting a couple from Grand Rapids over the summer who talked about what a great event last year's inaugural event was. After five months I've just about got it all worked out -- there is just one scenario that I'm worried about, if John Brickels somehow finds out about and enters the event, I'll probably have to settle for second place, otherwise, the cash is as good as mine. Prior to taking my winning piece to Michigan, you will be able to see it in the Vermont State House from when ever I finish it (sometime in August?) to mid-September.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Duncan Johnson @ Spheris Gallery -- Hanover, NH

Last week I was in Hanover, NH and happened into Spheris Gallery, the New England annex of Cynthia Reeves' Chelsea gallery, where I was surprised to find a show of wood "paintings" by Vermont artist Duncan Johnson. I hadn't been aware of his work so was happy to both discover it and find that he is a well established artist working in wood.

His work is an interesting blend of chance and intention -- raw, rough, weathered, found wood scraps that are meticulously cut, arranged, and assembled. The result is mysterious and thought provoking as the viewer alternates between thinking of the possible stories that preceded each piece finding its way into the work, and the fine craftsmanship that went into the final composition.

Bear Claw
47" x 58"
I like the bright color theme in Bear Claw both aesthetically and conceptually. I feel the brighter the color the more intense the questions about their origins -- Who owned them? What were they used for? Why were they painted with intense colors? How did Duncan come upon the piece?

This one below, Longitude (2009), is the largest of the show. Each piece of wood has been reduced to about 3/16" thick and attached to a light grid frame. I was told this piece weighs under 50 lbs. Quite an accomplishment.

Longitude (2009)
84" x 60"

Longitude (2008)
72" x 48"

With this close-up of Longitude (2008) you can see an important aspect of the work. Duncan ties the pieces together, both physically and visually, with two different types of nails that are placed along his horizontal and diagonal graphite lines. Mistakes aren't an option. Draw the wrong line and you aren't going to be able to remove it without disturbing the surface. Miss the nail and you'll leave a distracting dent. I'm not sure how he does it; a very stressful undertaking that I'm sure I would have problems with on both counts.
Longitude (close-up)
32" x 36"

24" x 27"
Stoke Hold
24" x 27"

His titles also add a level of mystery to the work. They probably have personal meaning for Duncan but, importantly, they don't take away from the art. It isn't easy naming abstract geometric work without being too detached or prescriptive. These seem to be a good balance.

Notably, Duncan is a 2009 American Academy of Arts and Letters award winner. A huge accomplishment and honor. It is nice to see the established arts community recognizing his unique vision and aesthetics.