Sunday, July 30, 2017

Medicare and Medicaid Should be Strengthened, Not Gutted

by Gregg Chadwick

Fifty two years ago on July 30, 1965, in a groundbreaking act, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law. Both programs still stand as strong examples of the United States government at its best. Because of LBJ's vision and the thousands of health care activists that laid the groundwork before the bill became law, Medicare and Medicaid have brought high quality, affordable health care to seniors, people with disabilities and qualifying individuals.

The 1965 Medicare Act required that hospitals had to desegregate in order to get Medicare money. Medicaid, also, required the desegregation of skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). Both programs pushed the country forward towards a more equitable health care system. 

Instead of cutting back or repealing Medicare and Medicaid, which would give a massive tax break to the one percent, we need to build on the success story by expanding coverage and benefits. I am deeply convinced that we as a nation should make sure that every American has access to high quality, affordable health care. 

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs Medicare and Medicaid into law.
Courtesy LBJ Presidential Library

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Michelle Obama's Advice to College Students

A Message of Strength from Six DNC Speakers a Year Later

Good Morning Rabih Alameddine

 by Gregg Chadwick
Rabih Alameddine is a San Francisco based author whose most recent novel, The Angel of History,  is a masterful act of remembering. The scourge of AIDS ravaged the queer community in the 1980's. Alameddine honors the lost in his book that echoes Mikhail Bulgakov’s satirical, elegiac work The Master and Margarita. For those who have been asking me lately for book suggestions, these are both must reads.

Along with his literary work, Alameddine is a master at social media, especially twitter. If you are on twitter, follow Rabih Alameddine now. His feed is full of surprises, especially his engaging threads of artworks. Have a Happy Weekend!

Saturday Morning at Gregg Chadwick's Studio 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

First Reveal: Ask the Dust (Sergio Arau)

First Reveal - I have been working on this large painting 4.5 feet by 7.5 feet for quite a while now. Great thanks to @SergioArau and @YareliArizmendi for their art and inspiration. In process - "Ask the Dust (Sergio Arau)" #literature #art🎨 #artistsoninstagram #losangeles

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Transrights are Human Rights!

by Gregg Chadwick

On this day in 1948, President Truman ended segregation in the United States Armed Forces. Today in a hate filled series of tweets Trump brought it back. Trump's argument against transgender soldiers echoes one used against gays, women and blacks.  Even as I am calling my Senators and engaging in active measures to help preserve our healthcare, I am standing up against Trump's bigotry. Currently, thousands of transgender folks serve proudly among the 1.3 million active-duty members of the United States military. Brave souls who volunteered to put their lives on the line. Today, their commander in chief kicks them to the curb. The scale of this insult should not be underestimated. An unconscionable act by Trump. As the Women's March organization puts it:

"The care of trans people is not a "distraction"—it is a human right."  #TransRightsAreHumanRights

Air Force Staff Sgt. Logan Ireland is among the transgender service members presently serving in the military. (Photo courtesy of Logan Ireland)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Dance of Life

Thursday, July 20, 2017

"Elvis Has Left the Building" at L Ross Gallery in Memphis, Tennessee

by Gregg Chadwick

My paintings Pink Cadillac (Elvis at Graceland) and Memphis Train (Arcade Restaurant) have just arrived at the L Ross Gallery in Memphis, Tennessee for my latest exhibition. They will join my painting Suspicion (Elvis Presley) in the exhibition Elvis Has Left the Building which runs from August 2 - 31. This group show, which has become a notable annual event for the L Ross Gallery, will kick off with an opening reception on Friday, August 4 from 6 – 9 pm.

In my recent Clark Hulings Fund podcast with Daniel DiGriz, DiGriz caught me implying that Elvis is alive. On the walls of the L Ross Gallery this August, Elvis does live on, but as Fredric Koeppel writes,"his memory is slowly fading and becoming the stuff of rumor and legend tending toward oblivion." The show title makes this poignantly clear. I have been reading Ray Connolly's new book Being Elvis: A Lonely Life which deftly examines Elvis' life through the lens of Memphis in the 1940's and 1950's. Childhood poverty and class aspirations spurred Elvis on in a way that left no room for error in his art but left his life dangerously open to misfortune and eventual tragedy. 

At the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show in Tupelo, Mississippi on September 26, 1956, Elvis played a powerful, homecoming show in the town where he was born in a two-room shack 21 years before. Elvis had left Tupelo when he was thirteen. In the interim, Elvis had become Tupelo's most famous person. As Ray Connolly recounts in Being Elvis: A Lonely Life : "Elvis put on a special show that day...It was staged outside the fairgrounds in front of a large tent, and, as he sang in the afternoon show, he could see over in the background, a long freight train rolling past." Starting on that day, as the concert closed, Elvis and the band slipped off stage through a trap door. No encores that day nor in the future. Instead an announcer would express over the PA system that "Elvis has left the building." 

Gregg Chadwick
Suspicion (Elvis Presley)
36”x36” oil on linen 2016

“Gregg Chadwick takes the opposite stance in the oil-on-linen Elvis Presley (Suspicion). Here, a familiar depiction of the singer is rendered in blurry, shadowy lines, as if his memory is slowly fading and becoming the stuff of rumor and legend tending toward oblivion.”
                          - Fredric Koeppel, The Commercial Appeal

Gregg Chadwick
Memphis Train (Arcade Restaurant)
Boxed and Ready for Unveiling
20”x24” oil on linen 2017

My painting Memphis Train (Arcade Restaurant), is steeped in the musical history of the city and pays homage to Jim Jarmusch's 1989 film Mystery Train. The Arcade Restaurant which graces the painting is a major player in Jarmusch's cinematic ode to Memphis and Elvis. Across the street from the Arcade is Memphis Central Station which opened for railroad service in 1914. My painting reflects the rich, diverse past, present, and future of Memphis. I listened to the Junior Parker song Mystery Train, which supplied Jarmusch his film title, as I painted. I also listened to Elvis' cover version of the song. Two brilliant renditions. 

The city of Memphis itself tells many deeply American stories. Memphis can claim an important role in the development of the Blues and Rock n' Roll.  The legend goes that W.C. Handy, who lived in Memphis from 1909-1917, wrote one of the earliest blues songs, St. Louis Blues, in a bar on Beale Street in 1912.  During the 1940s and 1950s, Memphis was  home to B.B. King, Junior Parker, Johnny Ace, and Joe Hill Louis.  R&B and gospel music label Duke Records began in Memphis in 1952. Also in 1952, Sam Phillips started Sun Records, the seminal early rock and blues home.  Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins,  Jerry Lee Lewis, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Ike Turner,, and Roy Orbison created powerful early recordings at Sun Studio.

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Gregg Chadwick
Pink Cadillac (Elvis at Graceland) 
Boxed and Ready for Unveiling
24”x30” oil on linen 2017

My painting Pink Cadillac (Elvis at Graceland), like many of my artworks, went through a process of change and revision. Like a time traveler drifting into the past, Pink Cadillac, began in our present era and shifted as the painting developed back into the 1950's. As if in a dream, I found myself in front of Graceland watching Elvis slowly walk away. Knowing that Bruce Springsteen had written his song Fire especially for Elvis, I listened to a mix of Bruce and Elvis as I painted. As Ray Connolly writes in Being Elvis: A Lonely Life"at the time of Elvis' death" Springsteen was trying to get the song to Elvis in Graceland. Springsteen never learned if it reached the King.

Springsteen when remembering his childhood expressed that "I couldn't imagine anyone not wanting to be Elvis Presley." Springsteen's fandom reached a pinnacle when after a concert in Memphis on the Born to Run tour in 1976, Bruce jumped the wall outside Graceland that night and made it to the front door hoping to meet Elvis in person. Security guards told him that Elvis was in Lake Tahoe and not available and then escorted him back to the street.
 Springsteen described the night, "'And it took us out there in the middle of the night, and I remember we got outta the cab, and we stood there in front of those gates with the big guitar players on 'em. And when we looked up the driveway, in the second story of the house, you could see a light on, and I figured that Elvis has gotta be up readin' or somethin'. And I told Steve, I said, 'Steve, man, I gotta go check it out.' And I jumped up over the wall and I started runnin' up the driveway, which when I look back on it now was kind of a stupid thing to do because I hate it when people do it at my house.
'Anyway, at the time, I was filled with the enthusiasm of youth and ran up the driveway and I got to the front door and I was just about to knock, and guards came out of the woods and they asked me what I wanted. And I said, 'Is Elvis home?' Then they said, 'No, no, Elvis isn't home, he's in Lake Tahoe'. So, I started to tell 'em that I was a guitar player and that I had my own band, and that we played in town that night, and that I made some records. And I even told 'em I had my picture on the cover of Time and Newsweek. I had to pull out all the stops to try to make an impression, you know. I don't think he believed me, though, 'cause he just kinda stood there noddin' and then he took me by the arm and put me back out on the street with Steve. 
'Later on, I used to wonder what I would have said if I'd knocked on the door and if Elvis had come to the door because it wasn't really Elvis I was goin' to see. But, it was like he came along and whispered some dream in everybody's ear, and somehow we all dreamed it. And maybe that's why we're here tonight, I don't know. 
I remember later, when a friend of mine called to tell me that he'd died, it was so hard to understand how somebody whose music came in and took away so many people's loneliness and gave so many people a reason and a sense of the possibilities of living could have, in the end, died so tragically. And I guess when you're alone, you ain't nothin' but alone."
Elvis has indeed left the building, but the echo of his presence remains.

Gregg Chadwick
The Alchemist (Elvis in Headphones)
monotype, oil, and pastel on paper 14"x11" 2017

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The gallery is located at  5040 Sanderlin Ave., Suite 104, Memphis, TN 38117

And the L Ross Gallery Website:

Gregg Chadwick 
Pink Cadillac (Elvis at Graceland) 
24"x30" oil on linen 2017

Gregg Chadwick 
Memphis Train (Arcade Restaurant) 
20"x24" oil on linen 2017

A Compassionate Lens: Art Through the Eyes of Gregg Chadwick

I enjoyed this chat with Stephanie Case. Recorded in my studio, it provides a hint of the theme of compassion that runs through my artwork.  - Thanks for listening.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Have you called your Senator today? Tell them NO on Trumpcare!

by Gregg Chadwick

On June 27th, I posted a criticism of the GOP led Senate's horrific proposed healthcare legislation. Their bill is back with a few revisions and it is just as awful as before. The New York Times reports that, "The revised bill is broadly similar to the earlier measure that Senate leaders hoped to vote on before the Fourth of July recess, though the new version includes some additional provisions meant to entice reluctant Republican senators with varying policy concerns. Like the previous bill, it would end the requirement that most Americans have health coverage, and it would make deep cuts to Medicaid, capping payments to states and rolling back its expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Though some Republican senators expressed concern about how the previous bill would affect Medicaid, Senate leaders stuck with the same approach in the new version."

Also, the proposed new bill would allow insurers to offer substandard insurance packages that were not allowed in the ACA. McConnell is trying desperately to recruit “moderate” Republicans that are holding out, but he also needs to get the extreme rightwing to support his bill. That’s why he’s pushing a proposal from Senator Ted Cruz that would allow insurance companies to sell plans that have fewer benefits and fewer patient protections than plans currently sold through the health insurance marketplace do. They’d be allowed to do this as long as they sell just one plan that complies with the ACA’s protections. Health insurance that does not meet minimum standards would be disastrous. People with substandard policies will of course turn to emergency rooms looking for care which will flood and destabilize hospitals. These enormous costs of treating the under-insured will be passed along to all of us in higher medical costs and higher insurance premiums. 

Indivisible sums it up well:
"People with pre-existing conditions, especially middle-income families who don’t get tax credits, will have no choice but to pay higher costs in order to get the plans that cover them. This could also create serious confusion for customers buying through the exchange when trying to understand which plans cover the services and prescriptions they need-- and which do not. The ACA created standards for what qualified as health insurance and this proposal tears those standards away."

Senator McConnell hopes to hold a vote on what many are now calling Treasoncare next week. There have been zero public hearings on healthcare repeal in the Senate.
The GOP is looking for any excuse to support this bill and claim it’s been fixed. Let’s be honest, this bill is unfixableThis is an historically partisan, secretive, and undemocratic process for one of the most consequential pieces of legislation of our generation.  The Congressional Budget Office analysis of the bill's financial impact and how many people would lose insurance must is expected Monday. 

This is atrocious. So let’s fight it! As the husband of a cancer survivor I ask those who support Trumpcare- "How can you help pass legislation that you know will kill people? Where is your compassion? Where is your humanity?"
As Indivisible writes,"We are under no illusions that victory is assured here, but victory is possible. Every member of Congress voting on this bill will eventually have to get your vote to be reelected. That’s the source of your constituent power. That’s what makes them responsive to pressure. Remember in March when Paul Ryan embarrassingly called off his first TrumpCare vote? That happened because of public pressure. That happened because of you." The 2018 elections are not far off. 

Several GOP senators, including Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada, and Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia have made it known that they did not support the bill in its first form.  For the sake of our nation's future, voters across the country and especially in Alaska, Maine, Colorado,  Nevada and West Virginia need to call their Senators and demand a NO Vote on the healthcare bill. 

Remember - health care is a winnable fight. 
We’re not going down. Let’s stand together. Let’s win this.
Have you called your senator today?

Use the sample script below created by Indivisible for calls to your Senator’s office. This example is geared for Nevada. Find your state at:

Today, let Senator Heller know you oppose TrumpCare and this new Cruz proposal.
Caller:  Hello! My name is [name] and I’m calling from [part of state]. I’m calling to thank Senator Heller for announcing his opposition to TrumpCare. This bill would be terrible for Nevada and terrible for our country. I’m very glad he’s decided to oppose it. 
Staffer: Well thanks so much for calling. 
Caller: Senator Heller needs to continue opposing the TrumpCare bill, no matter what. There’s nothing he can negotiate with Mitch McConnell that would make this bill something he should support. I’m also strongly opposed to the new proposal from Ted Cruz regarding what kind of plans can be sold in the marketplace. Do you know if Senator Heller supports that proposal?
Staffer: I’m not sure.
Caller: That proposal would make things even worse for people with pre-existing conditions. It says that insurance companies can sell whatever plans they want -- no matter how low-quality they are -- as long as they sell just one plan that meets the ACA’s standards. That is a waste of taxpayer dollars because it means people will use tax credits to buy plans that don’t cover anything. And even worse, it means prices will go way up for people with pre-existing conditions, including 439,000 people in Nevada. 
Staffer: This bill protects people with pre-existing conditions. 
Caller: That’s not true. The bill allows states to let insurance companies sell plans that don’t cover essential health benefits, meaning people with pre-existing conditions won’t be able to get the care they need. And the new proposal from Ted Cruz makes it even worse. Someone who is in the middle class and doesn’t qualify for subsidies likely wouldn’t be able to afford the coverage they need because of the Cruz proposal. How could the Senator support that? 
Staffer: The Senator is waiting for a new CBO score to make a decision on the bill. CBO is scoring the bill with the Cruz proposal and without it. 
Caller: I see. Well I want Senator Heller to oppose this bill whether it has the Cruz proposal in it or not. There is no change -- not extra time, not extra funding, no policy tweak, and definitely not this Cruz proposal, that could make this bill something Senator Heller should support. 
Staffer: I’ll be sure to pass along your thoughts to the Senator.
Caller:  Thank you. Please take down my contact information so you can let me know how the Senator decides to vote on this bill.

Gregg Chadwick - Nursing Study: Post Op Recovery 
24"x18" oil on linen 2012
Collection of Theresa Brown

Soumya Karlamangla in the Los Angeles Times reports that,"The Affordable Care Act had a huge impact in California. The percentage of uninsured in the state dropped from 17% before the law went into effect to 7% last year, the lowest rate ever, according to data released this year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control." Noam N. Levey in the Los Angeles Times writes,"The coverage losses in the Senate bill would completely reverse historic gains in recent years under Obamacare. Over the last four years, the share of people without coverage in the U.S. has been cut in half, dropping to the lowest levels ever recorded, data show."

This is a raw moment for so many of us who have pre-existing conditions or who have children or family members who would be directly harmed by Trumpcare. My wife is a cancer survivor whose family is from Wisconsin, where over 400,000 stand to lose coverage if Trumpcare passes. Make no mistake - this is real, and this is scary. But we also know that we’ve succeeded for months because groups across the country have been fighting back on their home turf.

It’s critical that you’re showing up and that you’re calling your Senators every single day. All you need to pressure your Republican Senators, including DAILY scripts and new materials, is on our website.  Need more background materials? We’ve got ‘em for you here:

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Time to Start calling Trumpcare: "Treasoncare" — it is a deliberate conspiracy to destroy the public health of the nation.

STAND UP for the health of our nation and financial security of American families. CALL your Senator to say NO to #Treasoncare

Mueller Time 

Elephant Break!

More 🐘 please!

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Resistance to Trump is Local

by Gregg Chadwick

Have you resisted the Trump regime today? Please Memorize this number: (202) 224–3121 and keep up the calls to Congress about health care, climate change, and so many other key issues. For inspiration take some time to watch the video below -

Friday, July 07, 2017

Looking at Diebenkorn: Thoughts on Art, Memories, and the Marine Corps (Combat Town to Ocean Park)

by Gregg Chadwick

58.5" x 53.75" oil on canvas 1957
Private Collection

 "So distinctive are the pentimenti in Diebenkorn's art that each painting carries within itself the visible history of the artist's search."
- Arthur C. Danto

Outside my window, fireworks are streaking across the evening sky. A group of young adults are gathered down below. Lightly boisterous after a day in the sun, checking their phones for the next event. "Don't get too close", they say as they light a small firework in the park across the street. The group runs. The miniature explosive was a dud. Smiles and backslaps as they walk down the street. Further in the distance a dull thump echoes down the way as a firework lifts off - exploding at its apogee. In the rolling Santa Monica fog, the explosion is now a muted glow on the horizon.

When I was a kid, my family would drive to the local July 4th events. I remember when I was in High School watching the bicentennial festivities in 1976 from the Marine Corps headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. I gazed across the Potomac towards Washington DC at the French designed fireworks program and saw art in the skies.  Carter would be elected later that year and I felt a sense of hope in the future. My dad, a veteran of the Korean War and the Vietnam War never flinched at the explosions. But, years earlier when I played as a small kid with my toy soldiers strewn across the family room floor, I would often whistle an incoming shell sound that was inevitably followed with a "Knock it off!" barked from my Dad. It seemed like a game to me but it wasn't - I learned that many vets find memories of distress in the crackle of explosions and I now try to honor that.

I was only five in 1965 and the small gap in time between the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War defined my early childhood. My physical playground was often found in the hills of the Marine Base in Southern California we called home. Camp Pendleton sprawled across the maps my parents carried in their Buick. Pendleton still acts as a physical barrier between the southward sprawl of Los Angeles as it bleeds into its cousin Orange County and the northward creep of San Diego.

As Marine Corps dependents, military brats, we had almost free run of the base in Camp Pendleton. Dressed in cast off, or surreptitiously borrowed, uniforms of khaki or forest green military duds accented by denim and Converse shoes, my older brother and I with a crew of neighborhood kids played soldier in our fathers’ training ground. On weekends, when our neighbors gathered outside to barbecue freshly hunted venison, we would scamper to Combat Town.

This urban battle training ground on Camp Pendleton was first constructed during the 1950’s as a simulated Korean town smacked down in the California chaparral.  As if on a set from the TV show Combat, we acted out the parts of valiant sergeants and dutiful privates in this dystopian war ground.  Blown out walls reeked of cordite and sweat. The older kids would leap from open second story windows, writhing from imagined wounds. Younger ones like me would gather the spent shells and dull green ammo boxes that littered Combat Town. I would store my plundered gear in the garage and then find the others finishing off the last bits of meat from the barbecue or sipping on coffee in the dry California night around Chosin Circle. On base, the Marine Corps would often name streets for battle sites from their history. Chosin Circle, where our house was located, was named for one of the bloodiest battles of the Korean War. I grew up with stories of the vaunted 1st Marine Division surrounded by ten Chinese divisions. Running low on ammunition, the Marines radioed to headquarters for resupply using the code word for mortar shells. The code word was Tootsie Rolls and that’s what they got parachuted to them in the freezing Korean Winter. Fueled on by not much more than grit and the airlifted candy, the Marines battled their way out of the trap. My dad liked to quote 1st Marine Division General Oliver Prince Smith who, when asked if his company was retreating, barked back: "Retreat? Hell, we are attacking in another direction."

 More than memories of the Corps hung around our house, hints of my future passions were also hidden on Chosin Circle. Ours was a house of secrets. Once when probing the deep recesses of our garage, I found combat camouflage paint sticks in a green Marine Corps issue locker. Stacked nearby, I also found oil paint by number kits that my brother and dad liked to play with. I drew jungle green and black stripes across my hand with the camo gear and sniffed the sweet vegetable smell of linseed oil in the small do it yourself tins of paint by number paint. Theater and art gave me their secrets that day and I held tight to them.

The Beatles travel to  Shea Stadium via helicopter 1965 

 There was music too. The younger kids in our neighborhood often sang in their childhood falsettos spirited renditions of the Beatles’ “I want to hold your hand.” After we moved back to Jersey and my dad was on base in Da Nang, The Beatles played Shea Stadium in August 1965. They flew from Manhattan on a helicopter skimming above the city to the roof of the World's Fair building in Queens. My dad in Vietnam was on helicopters too. But in his photos, there was always a gunner leaning against his weapon and scanning the horizon for threats out of an open door.

Commissioned a second lieutenant in June 1951, my dad was an infantry platoon commander in combat in Korea and, later, a reconnaissance platoon commander. After the Korean War, he and my mom were stationed at the American Embassy in Paris, France. After Paris, he returned to his alma mater Columbia, where he earned a law degree and then a master of laws degree at my future alma mater NYU. Following a brief stint in private practice outside of the military when my brother and I were born, my dad returned to the Corps just in time for the Cuban Missile Crisis. His unit was on full alert and geared up and would have been part of the first US forces to invade Cuba if the crisis had not passed. And then there was Vietnam. My dad - Major Chadwick- was a 3rd Marine Division lawyer. After my family left the base for New Jersey and my dad joined the 3rd Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF) under the command of Major General Lewis W. Walt in Da Nang, Vietnam, Combat Town was transformed into a mock Vietnamese village. Reconnaissance and secrets are in his blood. And maybe I carried secrets too?

On this Fourth of July in 2017, I think of Santa Monica's best known artist - Richard Diebenkorn. Diebenkorn was/is a Marine. "Semper Fi!", I say. Diebenkorn's  artwork July created in 1957 is for me a quintessential American painting. LIFE magazine in their December 1, 1961 issue described the piece as a depiction of a silent fellow occupying a patriotic bench in a blaze of colors, creating a setting of "hot fields and sky." Tonight, we are a long way from the hope found in the early 1960's. That was an era of Camelot in the Oval Office. Yet, there is a hint of melancholy found in the shadows in Diebenkorn's painting. I am reminded of the paintings of Edward Hopper that Diebenkorn admired as a young artist.  Olivia Laing in The Guardian writes," Like Hopper, Diebenkorn was interested in evoking mood and emotion. Both men strongly felt the difficulty of painting, the troublesome and sometimes agonising passage from vision to completion. This is what Hopper described as 'decay': the inevitable, distressing gap between the luminous idea and its resolution on the canvas."

Richard Diebenkorn in his official United States Marine Corps portrait,
San Francisco, Calif., 1943
© Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

During World War II, Diebenkorn served in the Marine Corps from 1943 until 1945. While stationed at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, Diebenkorn often visited the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. According to the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, "He internalized influences from Cézanne, Julio González, Paul Klee, Joan Miró, Mark Rothko and Kurt Schwitters; certain key paintings, such as Matisse’s 1916 Studio, Quai St. Michel at the Phillips Collection were especially compelling for him." Matisse's Quai Saint-Michel creates an architecture of lines that seems to pre-figure Diebenkorn's Ocean Park paintings. The painterly scaffolding in Matisse's painting is transported to Santa Monica, California and put into the service of an American vision.

Henri Matisse, Studio, Quai Saint-Michel, 1916. Oil on canvas, 58 1/4 x 46 in.
The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1940

Richard Diebenkorn
Ocean Park #79, 1975
Philadelphia Museum of Art

When I was in high school, I also would often visit the Phillips Collection. I felt at home in DC. In many ways I was much more comfortable going from my classes at the Corcoran School of Art to the Phillips in Dupont Circle than I was traversing the suburban steppes of Northern Virginia where I lived.  The wealth of art in the museums still enthralls me. I can imagine Diebenkorn almost giddy in the bounty of painting in front of him. I went to art school at UCLA as an undergraduate, searching for the spirit of Diebenkorn who had taught there in the 1960's. Renowned sculptor Elyn Zimmerman was a student that Diebenkorn took under his wing. Her thoughts about that time are rich in detail and bring back to life Diebenkorn's artistic affair with Matisse:

"A favorite topic was Henri Matisse. He had a large poster of Matisse’s View of Notre Dame positioned on the wall near the huge windows looking out toward the beach and Pacific Ocean a few blocks away. When I recall his studio I remember thinking that he would see the poster and the atmospheric light of the ocean at the same time.
We also looked at Matisse reproductions of French Window at Collioure, Goldfish and Palette, and The Piano Lesson, and Diebenkorn spoke about the difficulty of making a gray painting—how hard it is to make something meaningful and able to connect when one of the fundamental elements of painting—color—is not present or is reduced.
I’m afraid given my youth and inexperience at the time I didn’t get all the substance of what he was sharing, but what impressed me even then were his intensity, focus, and seriousness. Painting meant everything. Work meant everything."

I didn't meet Diebenkorn at UCLA, but I did eventually move to San Francisco after graduate school at NYU - perhaps in an artistic search for clues left by the Bay Area Figurative movement that Diebenkorn helped engender. My painting, October Off Ocean Park traveled with me all those years. It was painted in a series of starts, stops and absences. Major compositional elements were scraped down or painted over. I worked on the painting over a series of months then years. My artistic engagement with the work of Richard Diebenkorn helped me finish the piece. I knew I wanted to get the light of a Santa Monica evening into the work. But I wasn't quite sure how to pull it off. Then finally in 2004, I moved into a studio at the Santa Monica Airport - literally off Ocean Park Boulevard. I could walk out the door and see that evening light filtered through my memories of Diebenkorn's Ocean Park series.

Gregg Chadwick
October Off Ocean Park 
72"x72" oil on linen 1982 - 2006
Private Collection, St. Louis, Missouri

Richard Diebenkorn
Ocean Park No.27 100" x 81" oil on canvas 1970

Arthur C. Danto, in Encounters and Reflections, writes at length on Diebenkorn's Ocean Park paintings:

"Ocean Park itself is a community in Santa Monica, where Diebenkorn traced a daily path between home and studio, but whether or not these works make the topical references to local landscape with which they are credited, they clearly are something more than abstractions with recurrent compositional motifs, cadences, pastel tonalities, scumbled fields and tapelike forms, and stunning juxtapositions of color swept on with masterful brushwork. Each of them, for example, displays the submerged record of its own realization, and so distinctive are the pentimenti in Diebenkorn's art that each painting carries within itself the visible history of the artist's search. The nearest parallel, perhaps, would be the great drawings of Rembrandt, in which certain crowded lines converge on the sought-after contour so that the drawing and its draw-ing are one, process and fulfillment inseparable. In my view, Diebenkorn's paintings are less about the bright skies and long horizons of Ocean Park than about the act of painting."

In Richard Diebenkorn's last years he moved back to Northern California from Santa Monica. Polar places of existence for many in the west. In Diebenkorn's work there is a difference in the light quality between the Ocean Park paintings created in Southern California and the more gestural and thicker pigmented works done in Northern California. It is too simplistic to ascribe these differences as solely about place. But I also find that my quality of vision differs as I view my paintings in these polar lights. Color seems to be more present, and perhaps more important, in my Southern California work. And space becomes expansive in my Southern California paintings as well. In San Francisco, the fog and the vertiginous landscape pull me close to the source.

As his health failed, Diebenkorn painted less but continued to create etchings at Crown Point Press in San Francisco. One morning on a walk from my Market Street loft where I lived and painted in the 1990's, with a book by Robert Hughes in hand, I spotted Richard Diebenkorn leaning up against a BART entrance watching the cable car turnaround across Market Street. He was captivated by the movement of the conductors as they spun the car around on a giant wooden turntable. I stopped, leaned up against a wall, and flipped through art writer Robert Hughes' book Nothing If Not Critical until I reached his essay on Diebenkorn. I read slowly, pausing often to gaze up at Diebenkorn as he gazed at the forms moving across Powell Street. Eventually, I closed the book, walked over and thanked Richard Diebenkorn for his art and inspiration. He smiled and tears seemed to well up in his eyes, as he said "Thank you. I am glad that my work inspires you. Is your studio nearby?" I nodded and tried to say something "about the interplay between figuration and abstraction in his work." Diebenkorn was frail at this point and seemed to know that he didn't have much longer to live. I didn't want to take him away from his moment alone in the morning light on Market Street. I thanked him again and moved on. Richard Diebenkorn died soon after in 1993.

I didn't mention the USMC connection to Diebenkorn that day in 1992, but I often thought about it. I wasn't sure how my early years rolling in the dust of Combat Town in Camp Pendleton would inform my art. It seems that most artists have a childhood memory that continually resurfaces in their artwork. I had found camouflage paint sticks and learned a lot about discipline and hard work. As Elyn Zimmerman remembered in her thoughts about Diebenkorn as a teacher - "intensity, focus, and hard work." I also remembered the Evening Parade at the Marine Corps Barracks in Washington DC.

Gregg Chadwick
48"x36" oil on linen 2004
Collection: National Museum of the Marine Corps

In 2003, as a United States crafted coalition invaded Iraq, a new engagement with the Marine Corps and my art began. After September 11, 2001, I began a still continuing Buddhist inspired series of artworks. Saffron robed monks appeared to me out of my memories and flowed onto my canvases. The painting, Arlington, was inspired by the funeral of Chanawongse Kemaphoom 22, of Waterford, Connecticut. Chanawongse Kemaphoom was a United States Marine who was killed in action during operations on the outskirts of An Nasiriyah, Iraq on March 23, 2003. Chanawongse was assigned to 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Chanawongse Kemaphoom was a Thai-American Buddhist, so his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery included saffron robed Buddhist monks as well as US Marines in their dress blues.

The Arlington Cemetery site describes the ceremony:

"Seven monks swathed in saffron robes padded onto the moist grounds of Arlington National Cemetery yesterday, followed by six uniformed Marines in crisper pace bearing the coffin of a fallen comrade. Even in death, Kemaphoom Chanawongse, 22, straddled two worlds -- the Thailand he left when he was 9 and the America he ultimately gave his life for. The corporal died in Iraq March 23, 2003, in an ambush outside Nasiriyah. Friends and family called him "Ahn." His fellow Marines called him "Chuckles," for his sense of humor and love of laughter. Chanawongse's last letter home still brings a smile to his elder brother's face, albeit through tears. In a letter dated March 13 from Kuwait, where Chanawongse served with the 1st Marine Division, he joked about the art of playing baseball with a stick. He said his camp reminded him of the sitcom "M*A*S*H," although he preferred MAHTSF, for "Marines Are Here to Stay Forever."As he stroked his brother's coffin yesterday, Kemapasse Chanawongse spoke directly to him for what he said would be the last time: 'Ahn, I love you. I am proud of you.'"

My painting began as an image of a US Marine in Iraq silhouetted against a gunpowdered sky at dusk. That painting was subsequently worked into and eventually over-painted with the present image when the reports and images in the New York Times of Chanawongse Kemaphoom’s funeral brought back childhood memories of watching “taps” played at dusk. In honor of Ahn Chanawongse and my father, my painting Arlington is in the permanent collection of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia.

Caption from the December 1, 1961 issue of LIFE Magazine:
"A trio of bench sitters takes the sun beside a lily pond in Schenley Park. The silent fellow on the left occupies a patriotic bench devised by California Artist Richard Diebenkorn, who, with a blaze of colors, created a setting of hot fields and sky.
He entitled the picture July."
Photo by Ben Spiegel from the article Art Spectacle in Pittsburgh.

Diebenkorn's painting July was carried from the exhibition at the 1961 Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture  (Now the Carnegie International) and photographed by Ben Spiegel for the article Art Spectacle in Pittsburgh published in LIFE  Magazine in December 1961. Even now as an observer 50+ years later, I fear for the painting. A gust of wind could blow the artwork into the pond. And furthermore, who in that Mad Men world decided that contemporary art was just a prop? 

Catalog from the 1961 Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture  (Now the Carnegie International)