Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Changes - David Bowie

Gregg Chadwick
Changes - David Bowie
41.5"x25.5"pastel on paper 2016

On January 8, 1935 Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi and in Brixton, London on January 8, 1947, David Bowie was born.

Bowie's decades of groundbreaking music and his shapeshifting persona inspired so many of us little aliens in suburbia to fight against conformity and become our true selves.
My artwork looks back on Bowie when he released his haunting song "Where Are We Now?", which is as much a painting in soft greys as it is a song. A quiet rhythm of drums and synth warp and weft with minor key piano chords and Bowie's plaintive, elegiac voice.
Set in a Berlin of memory and dream, Bowie's voice and lyrics question the themes of human bondage, release, freedom, doubt, ageing, and death. Bowie lived in West Berlin between 1976 and 1979 in the Schöneberg district in a house with Iggy Pop while Brian Eno and Tony Visconti were helping record Bowie's Berlin trilogy of albums Low, Heroes, and Lodger in the now legendary Hansa Studios. Years later, Bowie looks back in "Where Are We Now?" and echoes his words about Low, "Berlin has the strange ability to make you write only the important things. Anything else you don't mention."

The political and the personal merge in my pastel painting of Bowie. We are left with existential questions and are reminded that bodies age, marriages end, friendships dissolve and memories fade. But Bowie's quietly defiant voice does not give in to any dying of the light.

Late Light

Gregg Chadwick
Jordaan Window (Coffee in Amsterdam)
25cm x 25cm oil on wood 2010

Late Light 

by Philip Levine

(January 10, 1928 - 2015)

Rain filled the streets

once a year, rising almost

to door and window sills,

battering walls and roofs

until it cleaned away the mess

we'd made. My father told

me this, he told me it ran

downtown and spilled into

the river, which in turn

emptied finally into the sea.

He said this only once

while I sat on the arm

of his chair and stared out

at the banks of gray snow

melting as the March rain

streaked past. All the rest

of that day passed on

into childhood, into nothing,

or perhaps some portion hung

on in a tiny corner of thought.

Perhaps a clot of cinders

that peppered the front yard

clung to a spar of old weed

or the concrete lip of the curb

and worked its way back under

the new growth spring brought

and is a part of that yard

still. Perhaps light falling

on distant houses becomes

those houses, hunching them

down at dusk like sheep

browsing on a far hillside,

or at daybreak gilds

the roofs until they groan

under the new weight, or

after rain lifts haloes

of steam from the rinsed,

white aluminum siding,

and those houses and all

they contain live that day

in the sight of heaven.


In the blue, winking light

of the International Institute

of Social Revolution

I fell asleep one afternoon

over a book of memoirs

of a Spanish priest who'd

served his own private faith

in a long forgotten war.

An Anarchist and a Catholic,

his remembrances moved

inexplicably from Castilian

to Catalan, a language I

couldn't follow. That dust,

fine and gray, peculiar

to libraries, slipped

between the glossy pages

and my sight, a slow darkness

calmed me, and I forgot

the agony of those men

I'd come to love, forgot

the battles lost and won,

forgot the final trek

over hopeless mountain roads,

defeat, surrender, the vows

to live on. I slept until

the lights came on and off.

A girl was prodding my arm,

for the place was closing.

A slender Indonesian girl

in sweater and American jeans,

her black hair falling

almost to my eyes, she told

me in perfect English

that I could come back,

and she swept up into a folder

the yellowing newspaper stories

and photos spilled out before

me on the desk, the little

chronicles of death themselves

curling and blurring

into death, and took away

the book still unfinished

of a man more confused

even than I, and switched off

the light, and left me alone.


In June of 1975 I wakened

one late afternoon in Amsterdam

in a dim corner of a library.

I had fallen asleep over a book

and was roused by a young girl

whose hand lay on my hand.

I turned my head up and stared

into her brown eyes, deep

and gleaming. She was crying.

For a second I was confused

and started to speak, to offer

some comfort or aid, but I

kept still, for she was crying

for me, for the knowledge

that I had wakened to a life

in which loss was final.

I closed my eyes a moment.

When I opened them she'd gone,

the place was dark. I went

out into the golden sunlight;

the cobbled streets gleamed

as after rain, the street cafes

crowded and alive. Not

far off the great bell

of the Westerkirk tolled

in the early evening. I thought

of my oldest son, who years

before had sailed from here

into an unknown life in Sweden,

a life which failed, of how

he'd gone alone to Copenhagen,

Bremen, where he'd loaded trains,

Hamburg, Munich, and finally

-- sick and weary -- he'd returned

to us. He slept in a corner

of the living room for days,

and woke gaunt and quiet,

still only seventeen, his face

in its own shadows. I thought

of my father on the run

from an older war, and wondered

had he passed through Amsterdam,

had he stood, as I did now,

gazing up at the pale sky,

distant and opaque, for the sign

that never comes. Had he drifted

in the same winds of doubt

and change to another continent,

another life, a family, some

years of peace, an early death.

I walked on by myself for miles

and still the light hung on

as though the day would

never end. The gray canals

darkened slowly, the sky

above the high, narrow houses

deepened into blue, and one

by one the stars began

their singular voyages.


Monday, January 09, 2023

iPhone - Gamechange

by Gregg Chadwick 


Gregg Chadwick
The Station Agent (detail)
54"x54" oil on linen 2014
Private Collection, Los Angeles, California
Featured at the LA Art Show 2015 - 
LA Convention Center and illustrated in the catalog. January 14-18, 2015

In his biography of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, biographer Walter Isaacson describes the unveiling of the iPhone on January 9, 2007 at Macworld in San Francisco:

"Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything," Steve Jobs said. "Today we are introducing three revolutionary products," Jobs continued. "The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone. The third is a breakthrough Internet communications device ... Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices, this is one device, and we are calling it the iPhone."

In my paintings, I have often depicted communication devices. From phone booths in Tokyo and New York City, to a glowing computer lighting my daughter Cassiel in our Santa Monica home - people interacting with machines intrigues me artistically. In my graduate show at NYU, a public phone stands sentinel on an urban night in my painting "Oak Knoll Sandwich". In my more recent artworks "iPhone Light"and "The Station Agent" figures look down at their glowing screens as they make their way through life. I remember riding the subway in Manhattan in the early 1980s and looking across the rail car at the rows of seated figures looking down avoiding an unwanted gaze. Now, with cell phones in hand the downward gaze is ubiquitous across the world. Since the unveiling of the iPhone in 2007, we carry in our pockets and bags a device that is phone, music player, and computer in one. Thanks to the developments spurred on by the iPhone we are connected and protected. It is the availability of video on our phones that allows us to keep track of the abuse of force by unruly cops and get off my lawn civil no-gooders. And we can celebrate life by recording and posting silly moments of connection on Tik Tok and IG Reels. For many of us, all of life has become a film as we listen to the soundtrack of our journey across time via the music library in our phone. And sometimes we have to join Lizzo and ask - "Where the hell is my phone?"

Gregg Chadwick
iPhone Light
6"x4" oil on zinc 2013
Julie Weiss Collection, Los Angeles, California

Gregg Chadwick
Oak Knoll Sandwich
72"x96" oil on linen 1986
Private Collection, New York City 

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Happy Birthday Elvis!


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, Memphis, Tennessee

Since my artwork was included in a series of Elvis themed exhibitions at the L. Ross Gallery in Memphis, Tennessee, I have been reading and re-reading Ray Connolly’s 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 on January 8, 1935. 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 trapdoor. 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 
Elvis Wearing Headphones
monotype, oil, and pastel on paper 14"x11" 2017

Gregg Chadwick 
Memphis Train - Elvis with Portable Record Player 
oil on linen 40"x30" 2016

Saturday, January 07, 2023

Animal Stories

by Gregg Chadwick


Gregg Chadwick
Arctic Fox
30”x30” oil on linen 2020
Steph Yoon Collection, Irvine, California

When I was  in elementary school, I felt a great connection to the natural world and would often wander into the woods near our home to poke around in the creeks to watch tadpoles scurry about and find newts hidden under rocks. On trips to the public library, I would come home with stacks of books on animal life. There was so much to discover and I was determined to learn how to draw animals to learn more about them. I would take a sketchbook and drawing pencils to the zoo to try and capture the animals I encountered on my visits. On trips to the National Gallery in Washington DC, it was the animals in paintings by Delacroix and Rubens that drew me in. Over the years, I have continued to create artworks about animals and recently have created a series of paintings that shed light on climate change, the beauty of the natural world, and our place with other species. My oil on linen artwork "Arctic Fox" is part of this ongoing series and brings the natural world directly into our vision. In art and myth the fox holds a special place. From Aesop's Fables, to Reynard the Fox, to the foxes gathering on New Year's Eve in Hiroshige's "New Year’s Eve Foxfires at the Changing Tree, Oji", this crafty animal symbolizes intelligence and cunning over brute strength.

We are richer because of the animals in our midst. I first became aware of the fragile nature of our planet as an eight year old. For Christmas one year, I asked my parents for the book “Wildlife in Danger” published by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). They are still an important organization providing information, plans, and hope for our endangered earth. Worried about the environment as a kid, I drew pictures of animals constantly. 

Somehow in my childhood stacks of books, I missed Gerald Durrell's marvelous "My Family and Other Animals."  Prompted by viewing the Masterpiece Theater production "The Durrells in Corfu"  based on Gerald Durrell's "My Family and Other Animals" and its two sequels, I recently read Gerald's childhood memories for the first time.  The television series deftly translates Gerald's vivid prose into light soaked images. Durrell's book is a witty look into five years of his childhood on the island of Corfu. While his older brother, author Lawrence Durrell, was just beginning to make his way in the literary world and his sister Margo was learning about love and life, Gerald was digging in the dirt looking for animal life. Gerald created a home grown menagerie at their rented villa and began a lifelong appreciation of nature and the environment. 

Gerald Durrell was born on January 7, 1925 in India to British parents. His father died in 1928, creating an unsettled life for Durrell's mother who moved the family around England before arriving in Corfu, where Gerald spent the formative years of his childhood. As detailed humorously in "My Family and Other Animals" a series of private tutors attempted to educate the young Gerald, but natural history and his growing collection of creatures from scorpions to owls provided his main intellectual interest. In his adult life after World War II, Gerald went on numerous wildlife expeditions and wrote 37 books including "My Family and Other Animals", "A Zoo in My Luggage", and "The Mockery Bird." With proceeds from his bestselling books, in 1959 Gerald founded the Jersey Zoological Park and then in 1963 the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust with the goal of breeding endangered species. Gerald received the Order of the British Empire in 1982 and was featured in the United Nations' Roll of Honor for Environmental Achievement in 1988. 

As we collectively celebrate our beautiful planet, we are reminded by the words and actions of forward thinking environmentalists, such as Gerald Durrell and Greta Thunberg, of the urgent need to Act On Climate now. We must recommit ourselves to promoting and enacting solutions that will safeguard our planet for generations to come.

Gregg Chadwick
Sea Bear, Panda's Thumb, Panthera Leo, Red Fox
Each 7”x5” oil on wood 2021

Friday, January 06, 2023

Hold the Line: We the People Prevailed - Courage Under Fire - From the Civil War to January 6th

by Gregg Chadwick

Gregg Chadwick
Drum Taps
24"x24" oil on linen 2011

 I grew up in a military family. My father was a career officer in the United States Marine Corps. Many of my friends from my school days were also military dependents. In particular, my buddy Mark Stephens embodied the ethos of duty and fidelity that the Corps presented to us. 
His dad was also in the Marine Corps and fought in Vietnam as an artillery officer. Mark joined the Navy after we graduated from Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia. I remember him visiting me while I was a student at UCLA dressed for shore leave in his Navy dixie cup sailor cap and service uniform. Behind his welcoming bonhomie, Mark carries a fierce intellect. Befitting his future position as a history instructor at Chabot College in California, you needed to know your stuff if you were going to engage in debate with Mark. Especially military history, the US Civil War, and Monty Python. Mark would take on our Social Studies teachers if they dared enter into Lost Cause apologetics when it came to the Confederacy. We were in Virginia, but for Mark like me, the preservation of the Union was the real story of the Civil War. 

When I lived in San Francisco and often on return visits, Lawrence Ferlinghetti's bookstore City Lights beckoned. In 2012, I was with Phil Cousineau on a book tour for our joint effort The Painted Word, and Mark Stephens joined us. We were able to stand together in a packed upper room at City Lights and express our deep admiration for Ferlinghetti's inspiration. I presented my painting Drum Taps that night and let Mark expound upon the subject. I was inspired by Civil War era photographs of  young black Union drummers, especially Henry Augustus Monroe and Alexander Howard Johnson. Above the din of battle, the drum beat spoke, carrying orders, warnings, and inspiration. Beats and patterns  commanded the troops to advance, to halt, and above all else to hold the line. 

 Today marks two years since a violent mob of insurrectionists—sanctioned by the former President—descended on the Capitol in an armed and deadly effort to halt the peaceful transfer of power. To this day, Trump continues his attempt to poison American democracy with his Big Lie. In a rebuke to the former guy, President Biden today said “Two years ago on Jan. 6, our democracy was attacked. There’s no other way of saying it. All of it was fueled by the lies about the 2020 election. But on this day two years ago, our democracy held because we the people, as the Constitution refers to us, did not flinch. We the people endured. We the people prevailed.”

Watching the violence unfold at the Capitol via livestream on January 6, 2021, I was struck by the incredible heroism of the Capitol police and the DC police officers who fought against the brutal mob for hours to save our democracy. Our democracy held because they put their lives on the line in service to a positive ideal. During a ceremony at the White House, President Biden awarded a group of those officers with medals as he honored their courage during the January 6 insurrection.  

Thanks to the Capitol and DC police officers, we held the line. 

President Biden Marks the Two-Year Anniversary of the January 6th Insurrection During a Ceremony

President Biden awards s a medal to Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn as he marks the two-year anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection during a ceremony at the White House.

President Biden awards a medal to former D.C. police officer Michael Fanone as he marks the two-year anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection during a ceremony at the White House.

Thursday, January 05, 2023

Reaching for Light on Miyazaki's Birthday

by Gregg Chadwick


Gregg Chadwick
Tokyo (Shibuya Crossing)
30”x22” monotype on paper 2023

Since I was a kid, I have spent a number of holiday seasons in Japan. The time from just before Christmas to just after New Year's Day is a magical time in Japan. Families gather from around the country as students and workers take time off and return to their homes for celebrations of the season. The food is marvelous, the conversations are rich, and the moments are precious. My monotype on paper "Tokyo (Shibuya Crossing)" is an artistic nod to my memories of Japan. As we move into 2023, I wish you a Happy Year of the Rabbit! And I would like to wish a warm Happy Birthday to artist and filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki who was born on this day in 1941.

Pixar animator Enrico Casarosa said, "Miyazaki has this uncanny ability to add a childish sense of wonder to his stories. He’s able to make us feel like little kids again." 

Gregg Chadwick
Spirited Away
60"x48"oil on linen 2019

My oil on linen painting "Spirited Away" is an artwork that bridges realms. Light pierces shadow. The past enters the future. A woman on a meditative walk in the hills of Miyajima, Japan seems lost in reverie. Echoes of Japanese film, especially the animated works of Hayao Miyazaki illuminate our vision.

About ten years ago, I woke up from a dream that seemed to have been pulled from a Miyazaki film. In my dream a tender sapling reached towards the light as it sprouted from my wrist. Above, russet clouds moved in a cerulean sky. I look to my dreams as openings rather than fortunes. Yet, since I had recently returned from Tokyo, I remembered that in Japan the first dreams of the New Year, hatsu-yume 初夢, traditionally provide markers for the dreamer's upcoming year. I wrote about first dreams in my New Year's Day post on January 1, 2023 and feel that since my sapling dream ten years ago, I have made a conscious effort to reach for the light even when the world around us seems to be caught in a storm of hateful speech and actions. 

Celluloid Dreams at the Ghibli Museum, Mitaka, Japan

In December 2010, I was fortunate to visit the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Japan where I learned much about Miyazaki and his art.  Filmmakers Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata founded their animation studio in 1985 and named it after an Italian airplane first produced before World War II: the Caproni Ca.309 Ghibli. The word ghibli in Italian refers to the hot dry winds that blow across the Sahara desert.

Hayao Miyazaki
Sketch for My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro)
pencil and watercolor on paper 1988
(Ghibli Museum, Mitaka, Japan)

Hayao Miyazaki was born on January 5, 1941 just months before Pearl Harbor and the brutal battles in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. As a small child growing up in greater Tokyo, Miyazaki drew scenes of aircraft and aviation most likely inspired by his father's family business which built airplane parts for Japanese Zero fighter planes and also in the later years of the war, by his remembrances of the waves of Allied bombers which firebombed much of Tokyo into smoldering ruins.

Much of Miyazaki's mature work reflects his distaste for heedless violence and warmongering. Miyazaki also deeply cares about the environment and the place of natural beauty in a heavily industrialized Japan. Thirdly, many of Miyazaki's films feature a strong, brave, and resourceful main female character. On his birthday, I would like to give thanks to Hayao Miyazaki for his talent, vision, and deep concern for humanity. 

Gregg Chadwick
December Eyes/ Tokyo
72"x24" oil on silk 2011
Private Collection, Venice, California

 #art #film #poetry  #japan #miyazaki #miyajima #spiritedaway

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

Homage to Isherwood - Berlin Diary

 by Gregg Chadwick

Gregg Chadwick
Berlin Diary
30”x22” ink on paper 2018

Painted as an homage to Christopher Isherwood, "Berlin Diary" depicts a fleeting moment in a city of dreams. As I created this artwork, I listened to the haunting soundtrack from the film "A Single Man" based on an Isherwood novel set in Los Angeles. Painted in ink and gouache over a monotype substrate, "Berlin Diary" combines vibrant color and movement to create a scene of mystery and possibility. Isherwood's life in Berlin from 1929 to 1933 inspired his "The Berlin Stories" which was adapted into a play, a film, and the musical Cabaret. In 1939 he moved to the United States as war loomed in Europe and settled in Los Angeles. Isherwood's life and work helped spur on the gay rights movement. Isherwood's books include the novel "A Single Man" and his autobiography, "Christopher and His Kind." Isherwood died of cancer on January 4, 1986. Isherwood and his lifelong partner artist Don Bachardy were fixtures for years in the Los Angeles artistic community. Author Peter Clothier recently wrote this on his admiration for Isherwood: 

"Isherwood’s early stories and poems were the first I read that spoke directly and personally to a teenage boy who was struggling to find his own voice, his own individuality as a writer as well as his own place in the world. I gobbled up his “Goodbye to Berlin” and “Mr. Norris Changes Trains” as though I had written them myself. Later combined as “The Berlin Stories”, they were clearly fiction only in name, novels that so intimately described personal experience that their main character was called, frankly, Christopher. As a writer, Isherwood saw himself as the hub of everything that happened around him and his work invited this young admirer, gave him permission to do the same."

Isherwood and Bachardy in front of Hockney's portrait 
Photo by Calvin Brodie
via The Metropolitan Museum of Art  

Like Peter Clothier, I began reading Isherwood when I was in my late teens. I was at UCLA and became intrigued by Isherwood and Bachardy while looking at reproductions of David Hockney's 1968 portrait of the two of them. 

On the occasion of a brilliant reading of Isherwood and Bachardy's letters at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's MetLiveArts, actor Simon Callow said this about the portrait:

"When David first painted it, he and Christopher were beacons as gay men who were comfortably and unapologetically out at a time when that was very uncommon. It was the apparent effortlessness of it that made it so striking: their relationship was no big deal, they seemed to be saying. So this wonderful double portrait of a gay couple was, in its cool and unaggressive way, an affirmation of the normality of homosexuality, which was somehow even more radical than the already gathering voices of the militants. In a sense, Hockney and Isherwood and Bachardy were saying: 'Some people are gay. Get over it.' Like its 18th-century models, the portrait celebrates the quotidian: being gay doesn't have to be a drama."

#art #paintingsofinstagram #painting  #hollywood #Art #Jan4 #AYearInArt #GreggChadwick 

#ContemporaryArt #ChristopherIsherwood #DonBachardy