Wednesday, February 22, 2017

From Standing Rock to Salish Sea: Protect the Water

by Gregg Chadwick

Today as the trump administration and its henchmen are about to overrun the water protectors at Standing Rock, I am moved to repost this post from July. My thoughts are with the Standing Rock protesters today. They've defended land and water bravely. Today at 2pm they will be overrun. Last night many of their tents and structures were burned in defiance. We must continue to resist. Thank you🙏🏽  to all those who protect the water and thus our nation. #NoDAPL

I often think about the rivers, lakes, towns and cities we have named after the original Americans. The absence of most of their culture in our increasingly mini-malled landscape points to the brutal erasure of Indian tribes across the United States. The dominant culture in America seems to continually romanticize, while at the same time ostracize, the rich history of Native Americans.

Gregg Chadwick
Salish Sea
30"x24" oil on linen 2014 

Two years ago on a technicolor blue day, I stood on the deck of the Wenatchee ferry cutting through the choppy sea from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. The vessel was named for the Wenatchi people who originally lived in the shadow of the Columbia and Wenatchee Rivers in Eastern Washington State. We are riding on a ship of memory.

In the Yakama language, wenatchi means "river flowing from canyon." The Wenatchee River was home to a vibrant salmon run prior to the damming of the Columbia River which impeded the salmon's journey. Like the fish, the Wenatchi tribe was also blocked from its ancestral waterways as the US government rounded up the Native Americans in Washington State and collected them in reservations far from their native lands. 

I often think about the rivers, lakes, towns and cities we have named after the original Americans. The absence of most of their culture in our increasingly mini-malled landscape points to the brutal erasure of Indian tribes across the United States. The dominant culture in America seems to continually romanticize, while at the same time ostracize, the rich history of Native Americans. The writer Sherman Alexie will have none of that, thank you. Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington before graduating from Washington State University. Alexie is a major player in contemporary writing. His well-received novels, Reservation Blues and Indian Killer helped pave the way for his foray into film with Smoke Signals and The Business of Fancydancing. Alexie writes with courage about his experiences as an Indian in a white culture. Alexie also writes, as Andrea Vogt in Washington State Magazine reported, with "brutal honesty-some might even say disdain-about ignorance, alcoholism, and other problems on the rez."  

The Business of Fancydancing leads Gene Tagaban (Aristotle Joseph), Michelle St. John (Agnes Roth), and Evan Adams (Seymour Polatkin), with writer/director Sherman by Lance Muresan
Courtesy Washington State Magazine
For Alexie and other Native American activists ignoring the problems exacerbated by systemic racism in the US is out of the question. With that in mind, for over 20 years an annual inter-tribal Canoe Journey has been held on the Salish Sea. The Salish Sea is a 6,500 square mile ecosystem consisting of the Puget Sound Basin (US) and the Georgia Basin (Canada). 
Canoe Journey 2016, Paddle to Nisqually, continues the inter-tribal celebration and annual gathering of Northwest indigenous nations. The website for Paddle to Nisqually goes into great detail about the history and significance of the event:
"Canoe Journey gatherings are rich in meaning and cultural significance. Canoe families travel great distances as their ancestors did and participating in the journey requires physical and spiritual discipline. At each stop, canoe families follow certain protocols, they ask for permission to come ashore, often in their native languages. At night in longhouses there is gifting, honoring and the sharing of traditional prayers, drumming, songs and dances. Meals, including evening dinners of traditional foods, are provided by the host nations.
When Europeans began exploring the region, the tribes were used to meeting and welcoming strangers who arrived by boat. Sadly, the Europeans did not understand the hospitality culture of the coastal tribes as the tribes were displaced over the next two centuries. The canoe culture, as practiced by the Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest, had all but disappeared until the Canoe Journey events began to grow in the 90’s. Techniques of canoe making and use had largely vanished and fewer and fewer tribal people knew how to pull a traditional canoe. Now...a new tradition is well into the making and a cultural resurgence is underway."
The Salish Sea is a 6,500 square mile ecosystem consisting of the Puget Sound Basin (US) and the Georgia Basin (Canada). 
The theme for this years Canoe Journey is "Don't Forget the Water" in honor of the Nisqually Tribe's Mountain story.  

The Nisqually Tribe finds hope in the annual canoe journey and its focus on community building:
"The Nisqually River Council’s Nisqually Watershed Stewardship Plan (NWSP) recognizes that community wellness is a key component of creating a sustainable watershed. We embrace the people who live in the Nisqually watershed, their sense of identity and responsibility that has existed for generations. Strong communities require, among other things, access to the arts and high community health indicators. Paddle to Nisqually represents a unique opportunity to highlight the many efforts the Nisqually Tribe makes to promote community wellness, including a culture free of drugs and alcohol, access to traditional and healthy foods, and close ties to Nisqually heritage."
Looking back now on that day on the ferry, I see things through the veil of my painting and the complicated history of the region. There is an accumulation of memories gathered in this Salish Sea as the Wenatchee ferry carries its passengers towards their destination. How many canoes over the centuries have traversed this same path?
In my painting Salish Sea, who is the rider on the bow of this ship of memory? 

Gregg Chadwick's Salish Sea was on exhibit at Saatchi Art through September 29, 2016 in the group exhibition Cross Currents. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Thanks for a great opening at Saatchi Art!

Thank you to everyone at Saatchi Art for a marvelous opening on Thursday night and for everyone who braved the oncoming storm to get out and visit the show.

Gregg Chadwick's painting Trento Night
at the Mark-Making Opening at Saatchi Art in Santa Monica, February 16, 2017 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Trento Night

by Gregg Chadwick

Far from the haze of Milan, stars glimmer in the clear night sky over Trento. The city hums on this sultry night.  Trento at night is like a Fellini film: an otherworldly beauty tinged with memory. An elegant woman in a black slip of a dress slides by silently. Only the sound of the water flowing from Neptune's fountain can be heard. The actress Francesca Neri was born in Trento. Perhaps she is the siren gliding by us? 

Much of Italy often feels like a movie set. Intimate squares and piazzas backed by stage lit cathedrals and frescoed corridors. As if in a film cut, the darkened piazza is now lit by a swarm of electronic fireflies. A group of university students just left a nearby ice cream shop and their cellphone's blue glow creates a path across the square. Soon the quiet is broken as phones ring and calls are answered. I think of the innumerable conversations that have filled this spot. It is as if time has stopped. Almost perceptible shadows linger in a haze of half remembered experiences. 

A distant train whistle echoes off the Cathedral looming over the piazza. We are close to the Brenner line that runs from Verona along the Adige River up through the Dolomites and into Austria. The train quickly reaches the city. The rumble of its linked wheels seems to bounce off the pavement beneath our feet. Then, as if it was never there at all, the train hurtles forward into the future. And we are left in this city of memories.

Gregg Chadwick
Trento Night
24"x18" oil on linen 2016

In the Trento Cathedral during the Counter-Reformation, the Council of Trent convened from 1545 -1563. First proposed as an ecumenical council that was open to hearing the concerns of Protestant leaders, by its end the Council condemned dissenting Protestant views with the phrase "anathema sit" ("let him be anathema").  The 25th decree of the Council of Trent censored artists:

'every superstition shall be removed ... all lasciviousness be avoided; in such wise that figures shall not be painted or adorned with a beauty exciting to lust... there be nothing seen that is disorderly, or that is unbecomingly or confusedly arranged, nothing that is profane, nothing indecorous, seeing that holiness becometh the house of God. And that these things may be the more faithfully observed, the holy Synod ordains, that no one be allowed to place, or cause to be placed, any unusual image, in any place, or church, howsoever exempted, except that image have been approved of by the bishop'

Superstition, beauty, exciting to lust, unusual images -  sounds like the almost naked statue of the pagan god Neptune sculpted two hundred years after the council of Trent and placed on top of the fountain in the center of the cathedral square. From my vantage point it seems that the fountain designed by Francesco Lavarone topped with the sculpture of Neptune by Stefano Salterio pokes fun at the conservative decrees from the council of Trent. Time moves on. Art is a long game. And art in Trento often has a sense of humor. In the Castello Buonconsiglio, not far from the Piazza del Duomo, a witty fresco of a 15th century snowball fight  emphasizes that joy in living is not just a modern concept. In fact, fun and laughter are part of what it means to be human. Art can often provide a ray of light in a dark time. 

 January Snowball Fight
fresco c. 1405-1410
 Castello Buonconsiglio, Trento, Italy, 

Back in the square, looking out towards the Brenta Dolomites that circle Trento in a stony embrace, scattered patches of snow can be seen high up on the mountain peaks. The heat of summer will soon cool in fall and the snows of winter will move down the mountainsides and perhaps alight on this piazza. Trento seems to hold ancient stories hidden in the stones around me. 

"Trento Night" is part of a series of artworks inspired by and created in and around a recent art residency in Northern Italy. The historic city of Trento is named for Neptune's trident. In my painting, a glowing representation of Neptune's fountain graces the center of the scene. 

Trento Night is on view at Saatchi Art in Santa Monica in the exhibition: 


Recent Works by LA-Based Artists

with Special Guest

Danielle Krysa aka The Jealous Curator

Opening Thursday, February 16, 2017

5-6pm Meet & Greet with The Jealous Curator

5-9pm Opening Reception

MARK-MAKING is a new exhibition on view in Santa Monica and online at Saatchi Art. Curated by Saatchi Art curators Katherine Henning and Jessica McQueen, the exhibition continues our series of shows around the world.
The exhibition highlights the work of 25 emerging artists represented by Saatchi Art, the world’s leading online gallery: Jess Black, Gregg Chadwick, Jonas Fisch, Maria Folger, Carlson Hatton, Jessus Hernandez ,Melissa Herrington, Lucie Hinden, Bryan Ida, Campbell Laird, Chase Langford, Robert Lee, Jesús Leguizamo, Tahnee Lonsdale, Michael Microulis, Pete Oswald, Relja Penezic, Aaron Stansberry, Annie Terrazzo, Laura Viapiano, Robert von Bangert, Wayne Chang, Donna Weathers, Adrian Kay Wong, and Vahe Yeremyan.
The exhibition is on view from February 16 to June 1 at Saatchi Art, located at 1655 26th Street, Santa Monica, CA. Gallery hours: Monday through Friday 10am-5pm and Saturday by appointment. Please email to schedule a visit during gallery hours. Gallery contact:
All works will be on sale at the exhibition and online at Saatchi Art.
1655 26th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90404

#MarkMaking #TrentoNight #GreggChadwick

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Heroic Ruby Bridges

by Gregg Chadwick

Norman Rockwell
The Problem We All Live With
36” x 58” oil on canvas 1963
Collection The Norman Rockwell Museum

With the insensitive political cartoon posted today by Glenn McCoy lampooning Civil Rights icon Ruby Bridges, I again am drawn to think about this iconic Norman Rockwell painting. The Problem We All Live With depicts Ruby as a young girl on her way to first grade after the school board mandated the desegregation of two New Orleans schools in 1960. Six year old Ruby Bridges was escorted by Federal Marshals to New Orleans' William Frantz Public School as its first African American student, ushering in the integration of the local public school system. Painted in 1963 when young Ruby's courage was still becoming global news, Rockwell created a cinematic scene that brings the viewer directly into the moment. We must ask ourselves - do we walk with Ruby and help protect her? Or are we the howling mob tossing rotten produce and fierce epithets at this brave girl?

Norman Rockwell's The Problem We All Live With hung in the West Wing of the White House outside of the Oval Office until October 31, 2011 during President Obama's first term. Ruby Bridges visited the White House on July 15, 2011 to view Rockwell's painting with the president. Norman Rockwell faced harsh criticism by some when his painting first appeared as the cover illustration on Look magazine's January 14,1964 issue. Over time, the painting has become a defining artwork in the continual struggle for human rights for all.

President Barack Obama, Ruby Bridges, and representatives of the Norman Rockwell Museum view Rockwell’s "The Problem We All Live With,” hanging in a West Wing hallway near the Oval Office, July 15, 2011. 

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama, Ruby Bridges, and representatives of the Norman Rockwell Museum view Rockwell’s "The Problem We All Live With,” hanging in a West Wing hallway near the Oval Office, July 15, 2011. 

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

More at:
Norman Rockwell’s “The Problem We All Live With” Continues to Resonate as Important Symbol for Civil Rights

Friday, February 10, 2017

Listen for the First Time: I'll Stand By You Always (2001 Demo for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) - Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen wrote a song for the first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and offered it to the director Chris Columbus. However, the film studio Warner Brothers turned the song down and it has languished in the vaults ever since. Backstreets Magazine recently ran a letter from Columbus agonizing over the song and his love of Bruce. Read the letter and listen to the song. What might have been...

Fifteen years ago, on November 16, 2001, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone was released. Being in a bit of a nostalgic mood, I checked into Backstreets (which I do every day, sometimes two or three times a day). I saw the interview with David Heyman and wanted to respond to it. David got most of the facts right, but there is a little more detail that I wanted to share with you guys.

As a kid who grew up in an Ohio factory town, my future looked pretty bleak. Both of my parents were factory workers, and it certainly looked like that might be my future as well. I developed a love of film in high school and was fortunate enough to get a scholarship to NYU film school. At first, I was out of my element at NYU. I didn't have a tremendous amount of confidence and felt intimidated by many of the other, more sophisticated students. There were several times I thought about leaving school and moving back to Ohio. Just didn't think I could cut it.

Then the summer of '78 happened. I picked up a copy of Darkness on the Edge of Town. I listened to it all night long. It spoke to me. The same way it spoke to millions of other listeners. But I took this music personally. It felt like a challenge.
That summer, during the night shift at Alcan Aluminum where I worked, I'd hide from my snoozing boss between gigantic racks of aluminum. And there, I wrote my first screenplay. I got back to NYU in the fall, showed the script to my professor who passed it on to his agent. The agent took me on as a client and, within three weeks, managed to sell the script to MGM. I suddenly had a career. I suddenly had a future. All because of one Bruce Springsteen record. All because of Darkness.
I never forgot that. As I spent the next decades working in the film industry, and seeing a hundred-plus Bruce shows, I wrote, directed, and produced countless films where I wanted to use Bruce's music. But we usually didn't have the budget, or we were turned down by the record company. Thankfully, I struck up a close friendship with Steve Van Zandt, who wrote many great songs for my films. And I was lucky enough to feature Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes in my first film, Adventures in Babysitting.

But I always dreamed that at some point, somewhere along the way, there would be a Bruce song in one of my films.
We were in post-production on Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone when I got a call from an executive at Warner Bros. He said, "You're not going to believe this. But someone... someone really huge... I mean, a big, big superstar, has written a song for your film." I asked, "Who?" thinking that because of the extremely British nature of the film, it was probably someone like Sting or Paul McCartney. The executive said, "Bruce Springsteen."
My fucking heart leaped into my throat. Here was my chance, my opportunity to finally have a Bruce song in one of my films. The next day, the Bruce CD arrived at Leavesdon studios. I tore open the Fed Ex envelope, ran into my office, and closed the door. I needed to hear this first, I needed to hear this alone. I looked at the title on the CD: "I'll Stand By You." Already, a classic title. I placed the CD into my boombox and hit play. 

My first reaction was sheer joy. "I'll Stand By You" was one of the most beautiful songs I had ever heard, one the most elegant and emotional songs that Bruce had ever written. I played it over and over. I drove home and played it for my wife and kids. They all loved the song. I went to sleep that night thinking, "My dream has finally come true."

- image via, which explains that in addition to being sent to the Sorcerer's Stone producers, the track was "exclusively given out on an in-house promo CD-R to some very few top executives at Columbia Records" in 2001.

The next day, on the mixing stage, I asked the editors to put up the final reel of Sorcerer's Stone. This song deserved a great place in the film, and I was determined to play it over the end credits, as the Hogwarts Express takes Harry, Hermione, and Ron back to their families. Within a few minutes, the song was synched up with the final credits.
We played the reel. We played it again and again. I probably viewed that reel for the next four hours, creating a sense of anxiety and over-budgetary fears into the hearts of my producers. I wanted that song to work. I wanted to fucking will that song into the final credits. But there was one issue. 
The first 130 minutes of the first Harry Potter film were intensely, deeply British. Every single actor who appeared in the film was British, their dialogue culled more from the British versions of the book than from the edited American versions (things like "jumper" were replaced by "sweater" in the American versions). The sets were historically British. And John Williams' roaring score was also, in its heart, extraordinarily British. 

Bruce's amazing, heartbreakingly beautiful song slightly shifted the mood of the film from England to back across the pond. Back to America. It would be the first time in our film where we would not hear a British voice. Also, complicating matters... John Williams had already written a full eight minutes of an orchestral piece to end the film. I would have to face the Maestro and tell him that I was planning to cut his eight-minute symphony. This certainly would have sent John running for the hills, ending our working relationship forever. Had I done that, John would definitely not have scored the subsequent two Potter films.

I was fucking devastated. I'd waited over 25 years for a Bruce song. And finally, I received one of the best songs he'd ever written. And I couldn't use it. 
I was lost, depressed, and truly, truly upset. I did the only thing I felt I could do. I decided to write to Bruce, to explain what had happened. So I started writing... and writing... and twelve pages later, I finished what was part apology, part explanation, part historical journey of my own personal relationship with Bruce and his music. 
Bruce wrote back to me a few weeks later, saying he understood and may even take up my offer for him and the family to come visit the Harry Potter 2 set. That unfortunately never materialized. But as you would expect with Bruce, he was incredibly gracious and understanding and made me feel a whole lot better with one line: "You gotta do what's right for your movie." Of course Bruce would care about what's in the heart of the artist. 
Over the years, I've had the great opportunity to meet Bruce several times. We never discuss the song. It never comes up. But deep in my heart, I feel I still owe him one. I still feel I owe him something, for setting me on a path that led to my beautiful career, and for giving me a future.
I hope that someday, someday soon, Bruce will release "I'll Stand By You." It deserves to be heard. It truly is a classic, timeless piece of music.