Friday, December 17, 2010

You'll pray for me, right?

Kevin Beilfuss's painting Valencia has this great quality of chaos about it, jumbles of color & brush strokes suddenly riveting your eyes & mind where it needs to go...the serenity & beauty of his model's face...her meditative quality: calm & pure.

This week I scurried off to our factory in Dalton for a hurried meeting. I was aching to get on the road as the impending ice storm was forecasted & I did not want to be in it. I was filled with anxiety about a myriad of complex business issues facing our factory and the newly relocated gallery & our homes in Florida. I was struggling to drag a heavy box of lights to my car to off load at the gallery & trying to figure out how I was going to get the hood open & worse yet how I was ever going to be able to figure out how to check my oil (I am such a girl sometimes).

Any way the neighbor man who had been digging ditches in the freezing cold rain all week ambled by and asked if he could carry my box. Of course I said yes. Then he volunteered to check my oil, again I gratefully accepted. He did, added a quart & then asked for a ride to the hospital which was 6 miles away as he had to meet his father for treatment for an on the job head injury. (He had intended to walk) Of course I obliged.

The man (about 28 years old) told me he had considered jumping off a bridge earlier this week because he was down to his last $11.00 and all he owned was his mp3 player & his ear buds & he doubted selling them would help much. He decided not to kill himself when he heard his best friend had just lost his home to foreclosure...and he didn't have a home to lose: so he figured he was much better off his friend and he just needed to shoulder on...

When I dropped him at the hospital he leaned into the car and said "You'll pray for me right? and of course, I'll pray for you..." I said of course I would and drove toward the gallery & my busy day with tears streaming. This man had nothing. Based on his education & circumstance he will likely never have anything, yet he could see through all the chaos of daily life to extend kindness, help me with my box, my oil, and then sensing my anxious state, my soul.

I find the Beilfuss painting a great allegory for "You'll pray for me right?" It simply moves you through the chaos of color & brush strokes to where your mind needs to rest: on her beauty & serenity. She seems to be reminding us "and of course,  I'll pray for you." This lovely painting is at M Gallery of Fine Art 11 Broad Street Charleston SC or on the web at

Sunday, December 12, 2010


When I shivered my way to the car this morning the thermometer read 35 degrees.  My husband in Georgia says its in the 20s and my daughter in Chicago is shivering in the low teens...The dogs refused to go out in the driving rain, I had to boot them (they both had on coats) forcibly onto the walk in front of my little Charleston Condo, lest they die of uremic poisoning. We scurried about, me in a badly mangled umbrella, sleep hair, jams & wet shoes. Checking email as we walked, I learned a dear friend had died. I felt punched bewildered and oh so sad. He had had surgeries but was doing better. It was sudden and felt so cruel. I wept, my tears running into the rain. Later as the dogs & I headed off to the gallery, we still looked crazy albeit more conventionally dressed, and were still teary. The southeast is all abluster and the streets are quiet. When I turned on all the lights in my beloved sanctuary of a gallery I glanced up at John Ball's wonderful painting of the unmade hotel bed and saw myself there: New York Times, room service coffee, snuggly cuddles. Later perhaps a stroll to the hotel bar for soup and a sherry and a discussion of the weather & of all things, the sports scores. No discussions of the economy, politics or local corruption. Only the cocoon of the room, the hotel, and the intimacies there in. A good painting takes you out of yourself, evokes another time & place, gives you perspective, comfort, strength. I love this little painting for its ability to lift the rain, dry my eyes, give me peace, take me out of myself. It and many other delightful gems can be seen at

A dear friend lost....

We lost one of the Gallery's dear friends, Mark Fried this weekend. He was a community treasure and loved by countless people who enjoyed his kindness, compassion, brilliant mind and delightful wit. He and his wife Barabara (pictured above) were commited to a lifetime of service for those who were in need. Both were the first in their families to graduate from college, and over the years, they have devoted significant time and resources to Virginia's community and state college systems, helping to make education more accessible. They have served under both Democrat and Republican governors to make housing more affordable for all Virginians. The Frieds have served and continue to serve as leaders for dozens of local charitable organizations throughout the state. Among their many personal projects, the Frieds co-founded Innisfree in Albemarle County, a pioneering model where adults with mental disabilities live and work in a village community. Mark and Barbara also established Charlottesville-Albemarle Riding Therapy (CART), a therapeutic horseback riding program for disabled adults and children. In their professional and personal activities, wherever they have lived and worked, the Frieds have strived to make their community a better place to live. They shared a life long love and were inseparable. Please join us for a quiet moment in memory of Mark and in condolence for his wife Barbara, their children, extended family and many friends. We will all miss Mark horribly.

Monday, November 29, 2010

December Madness Respite

December brings with it all sorts of holiday craziness: shopping, decorating, cooking, family gatherings, oh my the list goes on and on. I find the season both exhilarating & we all do. There always is a sense of gratitude for those gathered, always tempered by a sense of longing for those not present.

The Tony Pro / Brooke Olivares / Matteo Caloiaro show we have up for December at M Gallery in Charleston offers a needed break in all the acts of is a gift you can give your self: a delight and respite.

Our headliner Tony Pro is well know to many of you. Long respected among the art community, he has developed a bold style which serves him and his viewers well. In his fresh take on images like his snappers & roses we see a sensitivity and passion uncommon in the world of art. Tony's competently rendered paintings display his virtuosity as a painter, exploring contemporary and traditional venues...paparazzi to geishas & back. His quiet kiss on his wife's figure in Daydreaming shows a mature loving husband admiring the strength & passion he knows is his wife.

Olivares has images of beaches, dolls, home life. She shares her life with Caloario. Many of our good friends avidly collect Matteo's work and will find the couple's blending fascinating. It is hard to tell where one stops and the other starts.

As with many of our painters who are very close, we see a merging of images painted, skills learned. A painting partner is oh so beneficial, and lucky are the few who have one. The famous painting couples of our times have illustrated clearly the bounty to be had by having your mate as your artistic partner. It certainly is the case with these two.

Matteo's quiet rendering of his life, their apartment, Brooke sleeping unveil the tenderness and regard he has for her and their life together. Oh to be so loved! You'll enjoy it, I am sure.

All three painters will be with us in the gallery on Broad street both Thursday & Friday evening. Thursday is a quieter venue for lengthier interactions, Friday a more festive atmosphere. We will have Spanish guitar both nights, & of course, wine & hors d' oeuvres. Or of course on the web at M Gallery of Fine Art

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Olga's Masterpiece

Olga Krimon's painting breaks every rule in the book and is perhaps one of the finest figurative paintings we have every hung in the gallery. Which is saying a lot based on the caliber of artists we are fortunate enough to carry in our humble M Gallery inventory. She centered the figure, placed it too close to the top edge, etc., etc. yet the thing is a masterwork and belongs in a museum. Her paint handling, management of edges, values, chroma, drawing all speak of intense easel time, meticulous training, a great eye & remarkable talent. Ms. Krimon is destined to be a rock star painter. And, she has no idea how good she is...humble as a mouse she is typical of the best painters I see...for them "there is never there"  in terms of mastering their craft. "There is never there" for these painters in the creation of master works, studies or simple studio notes. Stop by the gallery in Charleston this week if you can...Olga's painting is on display along with several other of her works. We are in the midst of the chaos of hanging the wonderful works of Tony Pro, Matteo Caloierio & Brooke excuse our jumble. But come on by & visit or of course see us on the web at

Friday, November 19, 2010

Revolt, Revolution, & Regard

South Carolina has a long and proud history of independence and insurrection. As I begin to understand the strong complex character of the area, I am delighted by the wide range of cultures and values.

In York County, the "Four B" churches (all Presbyterian) of Bethel, Bethesda, Beersheba, and Bullock Creek became the first religious and social centers in this Scots-Irish stronghold and during the Revolutionary war were considered the "Four B's in King George's bonnet". Apparently, the four ministers of these churches preached the gospel of revolt, revolution, and regard for human they strongly advocated the ideas of separation from England and abolition of slavery.

Simon Kogan recently was sculptor in residence at Brookgreen Gardens where he served as a 2010 Rainey Master Sculptor. While at Brookgreen, Kogan depicted the "Four B's" in clay, and the pieces are drying in one of the salons at M Gallery in Charleston.

I envision these works at two times bigger than life-size, positioned on the four corners of the market in the center of Charleston. Simon captured the fire, movement, and conviction these historic men must have carried, sweeping the Carolina countryside, risking their lives for their convictions. It was as if he breathed life into their stories, made them real as they swirl about.

Also, Simon Kogan has designed the 2011 Brookgreen Medal, the 39th in its prestigious series, to be given next April to its upper-level members. As 2011 marks Brookgreen's 80th Anniversary, the medal's theme is especially appropriate as a celebratory symbol of not only the illustrious history of South Carolina, but of the founding of Brookgreen Gardens by Archer and Anna Huntington. In addition to the Brookgreen collection, the medal also enters the collections of the Smithsonian Institute, British Museum, American Numismatic Society, and National Sculpture Society.

The "Four B's" along with several other signature works can be viewed at M Gallery of Fine Art SE 11 Broad Street Charleston SC 29401 or at

Monday, November 8, 2010

Recipes from Frank Gardner's Reception

Many of the attendees at our Friday Art Walk & Reception for Frank Gardner requested recipes for the food I served. Most of them are slight adaptations from the La Sazon Cooking School at San Miguel (where Frank lives). So apologies to La Sazon if these are not exact and many thanks if they turn out for you.

I served:

Jicama w/Lime & Chilies

Peel the Jicama and slice into sticks. Coat in lime juice (a plastic bag is easiest). Serve sprinkled with chile powder and chopped peanuts.

Roasted Salsa

Roast the following on a griddle or comal:
Whole tomatoes
Whole unpeeled garlic
Whole unpeeled quartered large white onion
Blacken over an open flame an assortment of chiles according to your desired heat. I used poblano, serrano & jalapeno. Sweat & remove skins, de-vien, de-seed.
Peel the onions & the garlic, de-stem the tomatoes.
Throw the whole mess of vegetables along with a handful of cilantro into a blender or food processor. Pulse to a coarse chop. Serve warm or cold with tortilla chips.

Spiced Peanuts

Lightly brown salted roasted peanuts in olive oil with springs of fresh thyme, sprinkle with chile powder, squeeze a fresh lime over the nuts, use a slotted spoon & remove to a dish, sprinkle generously with coarse salt.

White Sparkling Sangria

1 quartered orange
6 sliced fresh strawberries
1 large cinnamon stick
Handful fresh mint
1 bottle cold non alcoholic sparkling strawberry juice
1 bottle cold Prosecco

Serve immediately

His painting Snacks in the Jardin can be seen at
or at M Gallery of Fine Art 11 Broad Street Charleston SC 29401

Friday, October 29, 2010

Why we moved to Charleston

Here is an article from the Washington Post outlining our reasons for relocating to Charleston..

Best Places to Retire in the South: Charleston, S.C.


Southern Charms

A steady stream of retirees are finding their way to Charleston and South Carolina's Lowcountry


Suzanne Hardie found herself drawn to Charleston, S.C., and its pedestrian-friendly, antebellum waterfront after wrapping up her chemical-engineering career with Procter & Gamble Co. She had been living in a small German city, where she walked everywhere and enjoyed the historical charm.

Journal Reports In fact, a few years before Ms. Hardie, who is 57 years old, and
her husband Frank, 62, moved to Charleston in 2008, they Read the complete Next: Living & Planning the New Retirement, bought a two-bedroom condo facing the Cooper River. Now they enjoy being a few blocks from the downtown hubbub while also
being able to watch porpoises and herons from their porch.

Best Places to Retire: Delaware's Sussex

"We have one car, but we hardly use it," Ms. Hardie says. "You see history wherever you go. If you look across the river from us, the USS Yorktown is stationed there. [And] I'm right by Battery which is where the Civil War started" with the shelling of Fort Sumter.

The Hardies are part of a steady stream of retirees finding their way to South Carolina's Lowcountry, an area that sweeps inland from the barrier islands of the Atlantic and extends some 150 miles along the state's coast. Charleston sits in the center of this landscape and reflects its multiple personalities: a mix of cultural offerings, entertainment, history and natural beauty.

Full Calendar

The city proper is relatively small, with about 115,000 residents. But new arrivals find no shortage of activities. Shops and gourmet restaurants are plentiful; schools reach out to older students (the College of Charleston offers a member-led Center for Creative Retirement with field trips, weekly meetings, study groups and lunches); and art festivals fill the calendar. Among the most prominent is the Spoleto Festival USA, a two-week extravaganza each spring.

And then there's Charleston's unique look. Its historic core, nestled between two rivers, features pastel-painted colonial homes and churches dating to the 1700s. The Battery, at the city's southern tip, features monuments and military relics,
overlooks the rivers and harbor, and is a favorite place for many residents to walk. Nearby are plantations and gardens open for tours, along with pristine Atlantic beaches.

"It's exceeded our expectations," says Allan Anderson. Mr. Anderson and his wife, Jane, both 67, initially settled on nearby Kiawah Island in 2004 after living in London for eight years, where Mr. Anderson finished his career with brokerage firm
Edward Jones. In 2007, the couple decided to move to Charleston. Now their home is a converted store with a walled brick courtyard.

Today, the Andersons often pack two events into one night, such as a reception for a nonprofit group followed by a College of Charleston basketball game. "I can't imagine not living here," Mr. Anderson says.

That sentiment is heard often among transplants to the area, particularly when the conversation turns to museums, galleries and the like. Last year, Anne Fortson, 63, and her husband David, 66, started splitting time between homes in town and on the nearby Isle of Palms. As a present, she gave him a membership to the Charleston Library Society, founded in 1748, which bills itself as "the South's oldest cultural institution." Among the benefits: lectures by authors associated with the city, including novelist Pat Conroy.

Fred Himmelein, 65, describes Charleston as a "cultural welcome wagon." He and his wife Abby, 67, moved to the city in 2006 after retiring from their careers in law and owning health-food stores in Indianapolis. (They still have a store in Muncie, Ind.) The couple's home in Charleston originally served as a Civil War hospital. Today, he serves on the board of the city symphony, while Ms. Himmelein participates in a women's giving circle that pools members' contributions to help women entrepreneurs in developing countries. She also is a volunteer advocate for abused children and works for a domestic-violence shelter.

Homes Are Pricey

Unfortunately, the city's appeal to tourists and second-home shoppers means newcomers won't find the housing bargains available elsewhere in the South. The median cost of an existing single-family home in the Charleston-North Charleston area was $197,500 earlier this year, down 0.4% from 2009, according to the National
Association of Realtors. The South's median fell 2% from last year to $155,500.

Prices in Charleston's historic areas are considerably higher. Ms. Hardie and her husband paid $2.1 million several years ago for their 2,500-square-foot condominium overlooking a waterfront park.

Another disadvantage: Beyond a bare-bones bus system, Charleston doesn't have much in the way of public transportation. But a local affiliate of the nonprofit group ITNAmerica offers rides 24 hours a day to older adults in the area.

Charleston also gets a bad rap, or used to, as a place where outsiders have a tough time joining established civic and social circles. But most new arrivals say cold shoulders, if they ever existed, are a thing of the past.

"If you're engaged in the community and are giving back, you're welcomed here," says Harriet Smartt, 69, a retired career consultant at George Mason University in Virginia who moved to Charleston 16 years ago. As a Carolina Art Association board member, she does fund raising for the Gibbes Museum of Art, which houses more
than 10,000 works of Southern decorative arts.

Ms. Smartt also says she's partial to Lowcountry cuisine, which features shrimp, grits and other Southern specialties.

"Charleston is a very European-like city to me," she says. "For a community this size, you cannot go anywhere and get a bad meal—unless you go looking for it."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Falconer Wanted: All Qualified Apply Within

One of the passages from Herodotus' The Histories (one of my favorite books of all time) Croesus is advised by the Oracle when asked if he is not certainly the happiest of men:

"One should always look to the end of everything, how it will finally come out. For the god has shown blessedness to many only to overturn them utterly in the end.
“call no man happy until he is dead”, says the Oracle to Croesus.

Croesus (King of Lydia) misreads the Oracle & proceeds to wage a disastrous war against Cyrus and goes from being a man of great wealth and a wonderful family to losing his son and being utterly and completely defeated.

Simon Kogan has this great sculpture of a falconer and his charge gently lighting on his glove, still tamed, still controlled, still safe. Although simply a beautiful work, I never understood the significance of this work until recently. Before emigrating to the US, Simon was Russian, born in Kazakhstan the largest inland country in the world, where China, Russia and the ancient Persian Empires meet. Falconry is one of the national obsessions of his native born country. I was reading the Yeats lines from "The Second Coming", where Yeats uses the image of, "The falcon cannot hear the falconer" as a metaphor for social disintegration as a part of my literary wanderings related to the Herodotus passage:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world...

Upon reading Yeats I understood why Falconry was an integral part of the Kazakhstan culture. The steppes of the great expanse of this traditionally violence torn contested wild land hold a fragile balancing act between control & act of coaxing and control, magic & manipulation, bond and freedom. Much like the falcon & its falconer. Much like the fate of the fabled King of Lydia: Wealthy & loved one moment, alone & destitute the next.

I look at our own great country and our current circumstance wondering how well our center will hold. I long for a falconer to call off our own harbingers of anarchy, bring back a time of reason for I am fearful we will be like Croesus and suddenly find ourselves unhappy & apart.

This wonderful bronze can be seen at M Gallery of Fine Art, SE 11 S Broad Street Charleston SC

Post Script: further reading revealed: Anacharsis to Croesus: O king of the Lydians, I am come to the country of the Greeks, in order to become acquainted with their customs and institutions; but I have no need of gold, and shall be qui...te contented if I return to Scythia a better man than I left it. However I will come to Sardis, as I think it very desirable to become a friend of yours.[10] (Anachasis (Anarchy) was the most famous Scythian. Scythia is now modern day Kazakhstan)

Having been informed by Solon that Anachasis was employed in drawing up a code of laws for the Athenians, described his occupation, saying

"Laws are spider-webs, which catch the little flies, but cannot hold the big ones."[11]

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sacred Moments

The absolute languid pace of these two boys astride their ponies headed home with the cattle evokes a sense of the sacred in my very soul. They appear to have all the time in the world...hence Frank Gardner's title No Hurry. It brings me back to my own childhood, astride whatever horse I could lure near the fence, flop belly first onto the broad back and grunting, slide my leg over, give a kick and an obliging tug on my twine string bridle, summon the dogs and go get the cows up for milking. The entire cast of animals all reacted with grudging kindness tolerating my lanky clumsiness, knowing far better than I did the routine and what needed to be accomplished to finish the day and get everybody into the milk stanchions and fed. Frank's boys gaze off into the woods: some noise perhaps? Ahead the light shines as if the Christ is about to appear around the next bend: All mysterious and luminous. As I recall that time from my childhood, the sense of eternal and everlasting etches my memory but now it is gone forever. I treasure these boys, their innocence, their timelessness. As I watch the hot light bounce off the backs of the cows I close my eyes as tears well with the poignancy of time & lives lost forever, not be be regained or revisited except in my mind's eye or through the spiritual transport of painters like Frank who give us generously of their gifts. It carries me to the words by TS Eliot in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock written in 1917:

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
It is perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
. . . . .
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets

And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
. . . . .
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?

But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,

And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”
. . . . .
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

It was the only poem ever recited to me from memory in full, by a man who loved me a great deal and presented it as a gift shortly before he died in a plane crash. He said we had time, I so wished he had been right. I look at the boys, feel the warmth of the Mexican sun and pray they have all the time they desire.

This painting and 30 others will be on display for the Magical San Miguel show of Frank Gardner's at M Gallery of Fine Art SE 11 Broad Street Charleston SC 29401 early evening on November 5, 2010. The show will remain up the entire month of November.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Scott Burdick Beauty Lecture & text

I am posting Scott Burdick's web page on Beauty which is incredibly important for all of us to read & understand. I have also included the You Tube link so you can play the 4 part video. Enjoy:

Here's some more links to videos on this subject.
"Why Beauty Matters" by Roger Scruton (1 of 6) BBC

Creature Comforts ART 1 - hilarious video where animals discuss what art is.

Here's a "profound description" generator from artist John Kilroy, for those of you who'd like to join the ever-growing BSism art movement.

The Art Renewal Center - an awesome website with tons of realist masters and articles.

Here's a link to an article on the Orange County Museum of Art's disgraceful selling 18 of its 20 historic California Impressionist paintings, many of which had been originally donated by the artists or their families nearly a hundred years ago. Here's the reason the Museum director gave for selling these masterpieces to a private collector. quote - "With the $963,000, he said, OCMA can acquire modern and contemporary pieces..." This is not an isolated case.

Here's a few interesting discussions on the video where you can post comments and read the thoughts of both sides of this argument.

Here's the full text of the lecture.

The Banishment of Beauty

by Scott Burdick

We’ve all heard of the great clash between abstract and representational art. How museums have become bastions of the abstract and realism has fallen out of favor. Here we have several paintings hanging right next to each other at the North Carolina Museum of Art that seem to illustrate this monumental conflict perfectly. On the left are three works from 19th Century artists, Robert Blum, Henry Mowbray, and Thomas Dewing, contrasted with four abstract paintings by Joseph Albers from the middle of the twentieth century.

Dewing’s paintings especially are full of emotion, exquisite craftsmanship, and firmly tethered to the aesthetic tradition of realism going back in time to the beginning of art itself. Dewing epitomized the height of what realism had attained in the 19th century art world, along with artists such as Sargent, Zorn, Sorrolla, Thayer, Gerome, and the long list of greats we are all familiar with.

Joseph Albers, on the other hand, is the epitome of the “modern,” twentieth-century artist’s rejection of the representational form and all that can be called traditional in art. He famously said, “Abstraction is real, probably more real than nature.” A student, then teacher, at Germany ’s Bauhaus School, he was one of the leaders in the abstract revolution that was to transform the modern art world.

Albers’ work can be summed up with one word, Squares. I don’t know if any of you have seen the John Malcovich film, “Art School Confidential,” but Joseph Albers reminds me a lot of the artist/teacher Malcovich played, except all his paintings were triangles, instead of squares – you can see one of his works in the background. One of my favorite lines in the film was when John Malcovich brags to a student that he was, quote, “one of the first to paint triangles, you know.”

So there you have it. Out-of-date realism, versus cutting-edge abstraction. One half-expects the paintings to jump off the walls and start fighting right there in the museum. Squares versus Angels! Certainly to judge by the vitriol on both sides of this artistic divide, one would expect no less.

Continuing on through the Museum, this all-out battle seems confirmed by one abstract work after another in the 20th Century section of the museum. Most include pretentious and, to my mind at least, ridiculous explanations to go with them. Here’s one example among many.

Titled “Blue Panel” painted in 1980. Quote, “Ellsworth Kelly reduces art to an essential geometric form to create an object that queries the definition of art and art making. His panel paintings are never just simple forms – the geometry is always skewed or irregular – and the shapes are inspired by chance encounters with the everyday world: an open door or window, a shadow cast by a tree, the spaces between things. In Kelly’s hands a painting becomes a sculptural form with volume and substance, and the architectural space around it becomes part of the work. As he explains, “By removing the content from my work, I shifted the visual reality to include the space around it.” His shaped, monochromatic canvases distill painting to pure abstraction, immersing the viewer in a visceral and voluptuous field of color.”

Wow….! Well, I don’t buy it, but one has to admit that he put a lot more effort into crafting the explanation of the painting, than in creating the painting itself. And the proof of his genius is that he’s hanging in a world-class museum, run by experts with impressive degrees in Art History, Art Theory, and far more qualified than me to say what is a masterpiece worthy of spending public funds to acquire and display.

But if that’s all there is to it – either you are an out-of-date realist who just can’t understand the “shifting of visual reality to include the space beyond the bounds of the canvas”, or a modern abstractionist who has progressed beyond realism in the same way the bronze age supplanted the stone age, then there really isn’t much to talk about. How can one really argue that one is better than the other when they are so completely different? Surely all of it just comes down to a matter of opinion and taste. Some people like angels and some squares, simple as that. Unfortunately this has turned out to be a very short slide show. Well, I guess we can all go now…

Except that…. As I continue on through the North Carolina Museum of Art’s modern wing, I must point out a few problems with this oft-repeated truism of abstract versus realism.

What about this painting on the right, by Susan Rothenberg, for example? Surely those are arms and hands, and maybe even an eye. And what about this painting by David Park? Or this one by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff?

In every major museum’s modern section, one can see numerous examples of paintings that are recognizable as something in the real world and thus, in a strict sense, representational. How can this be? Have we been lied to about the divide between realism and modern abstraction? What is going on here?

In comparing the representational works in the modern section to the realist works in earlier centuries of art history, one is struck by how poorly executed the modern works seem in contrast. The drawing is all off, the technique utterly amateurish, and even the abstract sense of design and color are way below the level of all but the earliest works of the past. The same is true of the sculpture in the museum’s collection. Compare these works by Rodin with the twentieth-century works in the museum’s collection.

Obviously there is a difference, but what? I’m tempted to say that modern work is just not as well executed technically, which is mostly true. Their disregard for the craft of art seems no accident. Let’s revisit the painting, “Orange Outline,” by Franz Klein, for example. Skipping all the syllogistic BS, here’s the description of Klein’s actual working method. Quote, “Klein’s painting gains a gritty honesty by the blatant roughness of its execution and the poverty of materials: cheap, commercial house paint slathered on a flimsy sheet of paperboard.”

So excellence of both materials, as well as training and execution, is dishonest? Maybe this is the essential difference, then. To be a modern masterpiece, either representational or abstract, the work can’t be done too well with high quality materials? Certainly most of the works in the modern section of the country’s major Museums would qualify.

But then I think of the work of Salvadore Dali and others that show a high degree of technical skill, even thought they are certainly in the minority. Take this work by Deborah Sperber at the North Carolina Museum for example. Created in 2005, using a computer program to map out a photo of the Mona Lisa, Sperber then placed 5,184spools of thread in the appropriate gridded positions the computer mapped out to recreate DaVinci’s masterpiece – upside down (I’ve noticed modern artists love things to be upside down – it’s just so “radical!”). While I don’t think this required much creativity, one has to admit that it did necessitate some technical skill, effort, and patience.

But I sense there is a difference on a more fundamental level that all the modern works share in common, be they abstract, representational, poorly or well executed, that distinctly separates them from the work I so admire in the pre-20th century sections of the museum and by many living artists whose works aren’t represented in the modern collections of major museums. It is obvious that works by Sargent, Sorrolla, or Zorn, would never make the cut at modern museums if they were painted now.

But if it’s not because they are representational, then what common element of traditional realist paintings so disqualifies them from inclusion in major art museums, or even the notice of contemporary art critics and media? Some are more muted and refined, some loose and colorful. Landscapes, figures, portraits, animals – some even containing areas that could be considered entirely abstract if reframed. Despite this variety, some quality unifies them for exclusion just as something else unifies the diverse modern works so acclaimed by critics and museums alike.

In his book, “The Painted Word,” Thomas Wolfe pointed out way back in the seventies that, quote, “Modern Art has become completely literary: the paintings and other works exist only to illustrate the text.” Wolf quotes the New York Times art critic, Hilton Kramer when he writes, “…given the nature of our intellectual commerce with works of art, to lack a persuasive theory is to lack something crucial…”

According to the modern art establishment, it’s all about concepts, theories and isms. Fauvism, Futurism, Cubism, Surrealism, Minimalism, Abstract Expressionism, Orphism, Supermatism, Dadaism, Vorticism, and on and on! Never repeat an ism or you are old and outdated.

Maybe that’s what we’re missing, then – a theory and an ism! Well, I was a master at making things up to get through high-school essays and, with a thesaurus; I should be able to come up with lots of obscure and impressively long words to go with one of my paintings. Why not take the Bull by the horns and call my new art movement and theory B.S.ism!

But this explanation still seems incomplete. Even with zero knowledge of the theories behind the modern paintings, it’s obvious that there is something different on a purely visual level from the masterpieces of the past. But if it isn’t realism, craftsmanship, or even theory, then what?

Walking to the 19th century wing of the North Carolina Museum and standing before Beagerau’s masterpiece, the contrast with the works in the Modern wing is stark. What has so changed in the art world that paintings like this are no longer considered great?

As I stood there, a group of teenagers came to a stop in front of the painting and stared at it with awe. “It’s, like, beautiful,” one of them said in a whisper. The others nodded, actually speechless. I found this reaction extraordinary coming from a generation that is so bombarded by far more technologically flashy and risqué displays, that one might expect a nude painting from a hundred years ago to seem dull in comparison. But something had bridged the gap of time, language, and culture to strike a chord in these teens.

“It’s, like, beautiful.” Were there ever more profound words spoken about a work of art? Here is our answer to the one element that separates modern, theory-based art from that of the past. Almost without exception, the one element missing in the modern collections of twentieth and twenty-first century art, be they abstract or representational, is something so universally pervasive in all the rest of the history of art, that its absence is rather astonishing when you step back and finally notice it.

That one element is beauty.

Aesthetically pleasing, uplifting, awe-inspiring, beauty. Those teenagers recognized it in the Beugereau painting in an instant. They didn’t need a masters degree in art history, didn’t need to read the “explanation” of the painting to feel its emotional power. Aesthetic beauty, while rare, is self evident. Throughout history many people have tried, and failed, to define what makes a work of art beautiful, to boil it down to a formula. The philosopher, Spinoza, put it best in 1674 when he said, “Beauty, my dear Sir, is not so much a quality of the object beheld, as an effect in him who beholds it…”

Contrast this to one’s first reactions to Picasso. A brilliant friend of mine who runs a biotech company near me went to a show of Picasso and told me that when he first saw the paintings he thought they were ridiculously amateur looking. He thought any child could do better. He certainly felt no awe or reverence for this universally regarded “master.”

But then he put on the headphones for the one-hour audio tour. “After hearing all the profound issues and meanings behind the paintings,” he told me, “I realized my first impressions had been wrong. I had been only looking at the paintings, which are rather silly, by themselves.” After the one-hour “explanation,” my friend told me he agreed that Picasso must be a genius and the paintings masterpieces.

I’m sorry, but if you don’t feel anything when looking at a painting, it is a failure as a visual work of art, period. No amount of talk or theory will change that, although it certainly does take a kind-of genius to brain-wash people into ignoring the evidence of their own eyes!

Here’s a simple thought-experiment that helps separate truly visual works of great art from the modern nonsense. Imagine walking through a junkyard and finding some work of art without its frame, signature, or any explanation. The average person would instinctively rescue the Michaelangelo, Schmid, Edgar Payne, Lyon , etc., from the scrap-heap. Its innate value would be obvious without anyone to tell them it didn’t belong alongside garbage, while even the trained art critic would have no way of identifying the modern art works from junk. Beauty is rare. It forces us to stop and take notice, to preserve it when stumbled upon.

A teacher at the Art Institute once told me that there was no way to determine if a painting was good or bad without knowing the theory and historical context behind it, but the value of beauty is unmistakable and universal. If you have to be told that a piece of junk is art, it is just a piece of junk.

It is not hard to make something ugly. Transcendent beauty, on the other hand, is a sparse commodity, something that helps make life bearable and spurs us on to heroic efforts to rise above the horrors of life. This is why beauty has been valued for all but the last century of the history of mankind.

Dostoyevsky said that “Beauty will save the world.” While this may, at first, seem an overblown claim, I think it is the most profound truth one can contemplate. The beauty of love, of the sacrifice of a mother for their child, of the natural world and all its wonders of earth, sea, mountains, and wildlife, these are the things that inspire and remind us of what is worth fighting to preserve, be it another culture or our own humanity.

I notice that the leaders of so many environmental efforts come from artists like Clyde Aspevig, Robert Batemen, and countless other aesthetic painters of the natural world whose life is spent documenting the beauty that is so worth preserving. Conveying the inspirational beauty of such things through artwork seems a far more powerful argument than ugly and depressing renditions of polluted streams, smokestacks, and the “statement” paintings one sees in the museums. Beauty is its own argument for preservation, a deep thing that pulls us all toward it, while ugliness, war, violence, pollution, merely pushes away.

The negative psychological effect of the sort of ugliness one encounters in utilitarian housing projects has been well documented by scientists. A world without beauty is one without hope.

By aesthetic beauty, I don’t mean only nudes, though the human form is undoubtedly beautiful; or baby animals, or children, or children holding baby animals; or mountains, pretty girls, flowers, or pretty girls with flowers – if someone would just paint a pretty, nude girl, with a baby animal, laying in a field of flowers with mountains in the background – and then hang it in the Metropolitan Museum’s modern wing, there very possibly might be an explosion on the magnitude of matter and anti-matter colliding.

Though these are certainly beautiful subjects that will instantly disqualify you from major art museums, no matter how carefully crafted a theory you add to it, there is no limit to the subjects and forms of aesthetic beauty. It can be seen in old faces, industry, and the most unexpected subjects imaginable – sometimes it is merely the play of light itself on a simple object. Tragedy, and even death, can be painfully beautiful subjects in the right hands.

There is no doubt that beauty exists even in the purely abstract, though it is m personal opinion that the impact of abstract forms and textures are far more powerful when combined with the emotions present in representational subject, just as the beauty of great poetry is both the pure lyricism in the words, combined with the representational meaning behind them.

Some may argue that my definition of beauty is too limited, that the works in the museum’s modern section are beautiful in their own way, that beauty itself is just an abstract term and is in the “eye of the beholder.” Well, don’t take my word for it, but let’s listen to the descriptions of the artists and curators themselves. Here’s one example from the North Carolina Museum of Georg Baselitz’s painting, “Male Nude,” that is very typical.

Quote, “Baselitz employs a self-consciously “primitive” style of art making. The image seems almost hacked into being: paint is brushed, scratched, scraped, and smeared with the fingers. What results is not a pretty picture but a haunting, even poignant, image of a human being alone and naked—and disoriented—in the late twentieth century.”

Whatever else modern art is, I think we can set aside the argument that it is aiming at aesthetic beauty. Over and over modern artists say their work is, quote, “not meant to be beautiful.” Is there any doubt they have succeeded? To consciously avoid creating something beautiful must, in itself, be an admission that such a thing exists and can be recognized generally. The very pride such artists take in their anti-aesthetics is key to understanding why beauty has been so thoroughly expunged from the major public institutions of art, universities, and art criticism.

One need only read the standard textbook titled the “History of Modern Art” that is used in nearly every university art department across the country to see how successful the anti-aesthetic movement has been. For a book that is 830 pages long, what is most telling is what it doesn’t contain. Once you pass into the twentieth century, one gets the impression from this book that there simply is no aesthetically beautiful art even being created. There are both abstract and representations works, but the title of the book might just as easily be called the “History of Art’s Regression to Ugliness.”

In the very beginning of the book there is a single reproduction of Sargent, Whister, and some of the impressionists, but it is made clear that their work is significant only in the controversial nature of paintings like Madame X and Whistler’s “Nocturne in Black and Gold” and the role they played in laying the groundwork for the much more “advanced” work of the modernists to follow.

Monet and the Impressionists are seen as a first step toward our “modern” art in his rejection of the tightly controlled Salon system, the rigidity of which is true enough, but it must be pointed out that Monet and the other impressionists were not abandoning the pursuit of aesthetic beauty, merely showing us a new, and in many cases, more accurate way of portraying the stunning effects of light and color of the natural world. Yes, their works were called ugly by others in the Salon establishment, but is there any doubt that one of the goals of such works is a portrayal of beauty? The Impressionists were genius’ in showing the world a new form of aesthetic beauty, in both subject matter and technique. But this doesn’t mean that ever work that shocks will someday be called a masterpiece. Unfortunately, the lesson was the rebellion itself and soon the pattern of rejecting the past in ever shocking ways to make headlines would soon become the crucial goal. Eventually all that was left to rebel against was beauty itself, and modern art was truly born.

For the most part, art students aren’t aware that an entire alternate history of art, a sort of Aesthetic Underground, has kept alive the principles of beauty and technical excellence during the past century of artistic madness. For each of the paintings reproduced in this book, one could show a masterpiece done the same year by an artist working under the public radar; selling their work, pursuing the age-old craft of aesthetic excellence, but essentially ignored by the Artistic Establishment, critics, and invisible to the larger society. I’ve had dozens of people with masters degrees from prestigious universities complain that they’d never even heard of artists such as Fechin, Blumenshine, Payne, Dixon, Steinke, or the countess other greats and even living artists of the modern era.

Here’s a quote from this Bible of Modern Art History that defines what is meant by modern art. Quote, “Modern Art (is) understood here to include progressive trends in the visual arts from the middle of the nineteenth century to the present day…”

Notice the word, progressive, meaning to improve, advance, surpass what has come before. According to such books, we have progressed far beyond the idea of aesthetically beautiful art for over a hundred years. Therefore, anyone persisting in such a pursuit is regressive, which certainly disqualifies them from inclusion in the book by definition.

The lonely exception in the 830 page book is two paragraphs on “Traditional Realism,” featuring Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World.” Here is what the author says about such regressive art. Quote, “In the United States, a pragmatic preoccupation with material reality, with the ‘old’ realism, so to speak, had been too deeply ingrained to die out…” One can almost see the expression of disgust on the author’s face at the stubbornness of the American public and such artists to dump their outdated notions of what good art should be. The author goes on to say that this painting is the most popular painting in The Museum of Modern Art in New York . Of course it is! It is the only painting of traditional aesthetic beauty there!

Wyeth is a lonely exception to the rule mainly because his name was already famous due to his father’s fame in that bastion of traditional beauty, Illustration, where many of the backward sorts of artists who refused to tow the modern line found refuge. Not being able to tar Andrew with the illustration putdown it used on artists such as Pyle, Rockwell, his father, NC., and the other popular greats, it was hard for the art establishment to maintain the same media and museum blackout it does with the rest of the Aesthetic Underground.

One artist whose work you will never see mentioned in the pages of such histories, or on the wall of the major museums like the MET or LACMA, or even discussed by art critics, is Richard Schmid, despite his fame within the Aesthetic Underground. One need only see the popularity of his books and instructional videotapes to understand the resurgence that is taking place outside the “modern” art world. On a recent visit to Richard’s studio, he spoke of first encountering the art scene in New York in the sixties and how the catchphrase of the contemporary establishment even then was, “If it’s beautiful, it isn’t Art.” I’ve run into this sentiment over and over throughout my own career as a painter. Beauty is not merely disdained, but actively oppressed, suppressed, and literally banned from the halls of our most esteemed temples of Art and culture.

So you see, it isn’t an argument as to what beauty is, since the art establishment goes out of their way in proclaiming that their anointed champions, with very few exceptions, are consciously and purposefully avoiding beauty, which they deem utterly superficial and beneath depiction in true works of great art. Modern art has been aptly termed “the cult of ugliness.” The basic conflict, then, is the validity of beauty itself.

Let me be clear, however, least you think I’m arguing from the other extreme. I’m not saying that all great art must be beautiful, just as I wouldn’t argue that all movies should be comedies. There are ugly and disturbing works that I find powerfully moving. But I am saying that aesthetic beauty has its own power, that it deserves its place before the public, and is vital to a healthy society.

Why do I bother speaking out about this? Why criticize anyone’s work at all? The reason was best answered in a BBC Documentary Jeremy Lipking sent me recently, titled “Why Beauty Matters,” by Philospher Roger Scruton. Here’s a quote from the program that I think sums it up nicely. “Beauty is a value as important as truth and goodness. I think we are loosing beauty, and there is a danger that, with it, we will loose the meaning of life.”

Viewing a beautiful painting, cathedral, or piece of music, we feel a tremendous uplift of spirit, a hope at the possibility of life and its potential. This is what I try and convey through my own paintings. In a world of ugliness, violence, and despair, we all need to be reminded of the real purpose and point of it all. Who of us has not sought consolation in a time of sorrow from beauty and art? Modernists say they are portraying truth and that beauty is but a superficial lie. When humans are surrounded by ugliness, by utilitarian buildings devoid of beauty, or artwork who’s stated purpose is to remind us of the worst of human nature, such art and architecture becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I’m often asked how this has happened. How could such an anti-beauty establishment so completely have taken over museums, almost every university art program, major newspaper art columns, and the vast majority of high-dollar collectors? To put it simply, how did we go from this, to this?

In answering the question of how, it is most important to understand the why. What is the appeal of such work to both the artists and, even more importantly, the curators, critics, and art dealers?

The appeal to aspiring artists is simple. If one can become rich and famous for simply painting a canvas blue, or displaying a urinal, or even one’s own excrement as seen here in Piero Manzoni’s celebrated 1961 work, titled, “Artist’s Shit,” then the goal is certainly achievable by anyone. With the problem of years of training to acquire the skills necessary in other artistic disciplines like music, dance, or writing dispensed with, all one really needs is a publicists, the seal of approval from critics, or a show at a major museum.

This certainly hands a great deal of power to critics and curators, which explains their stake in such a system. The final cog in the machine is the money side of art. To understand why a dealer would favor “anything as art” in a world where the name and fame of the artist is all that really matters, let’s hypothetically say that you had a choice of representing Picasso or Sargent.

From a business perspective it is no contest. Picasso and the modern artist beats the Sargents of the world every time. After all, if you invest the time and money to make them both famous, Sargent can still only paint so many great paintings a year, handicapped as he is by the need to make them of a sufficiently high quality, both aesthetically and technically, while Picasso can crank out as many monstrosities in a week as you have demand for in a year. This is evident when you compare the vast number of works created by a Picasso in his lifetime to those of Sargent, prolific as he was.

Sargent also has the drawback of subject matter, which may or may not appeal to the collector, while Picasso’s subjects really are rather secondary to the collector’s desire to simply have something with his signature on it. Picasso famously said that he could sell anything as long as it contained his signature, and he was absolutely correct.

This process of creating a famous modern artist can been seen in the movie, “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” While filming a documentary of some of the new stars of the modern graffiti art scene, like Banksy and Shephard Fairy, the filmmaker, Thierry Guetta decides to use the promotional tricks he’s learned from these icons and make himself a famous artist. The fact that he can’t paint is no problem, since he just hires some graphic artists with scanners and Photoshop to make slight changes to other artist’s photographs and paintings to crank out the usual garbage that passes as art these days.

Creating the apropos name, “Mr. Brainwash,” Guetta stages a huge art show titled, “Life is Beautiful,” which he promotes with all the well-honed graffiti marketing tactics of his friends (which used to be called vandalism) and earns himself a major cover story in LA Weekly and coverage by the art critics. Seven thousand people attend the show and Mr. Brainwash earns over a million dollars in one weekend at his first-ever show of work he didn’t even create himself.

Some say that the film and Mr. Brainwash are an elaborate hoax, but isn’t that what the modern art world is already?

I often hear stories of how these modern masters of ugliness turned away from the “easy” money of painting “pretty pictures” to follow their rebellious heart and seek “truth” rather than financial reward. They profess surprise at their success and the fortunes paid for their artworks. But this is a sham. If you look at the prices such nonsense receives, even compared to the most famous painters of aesthetic beauty, the lesson for any aspiring artist is clear.

If you are a young artist deciding what direction to take, given all the money, fame, and lack of practice required to become a modern artist, which would you choose? The very fact that there are artists pursuing the traditional path at all in such a climate is rather amazing, except that the pursuit of beauty and truth has its own rewards, beyond monetary success or the shallow sort of fame that Mr. Brainwash and the others like him have achieved.

Even with a good understanding of how that system works, I would never trade what I have for such empty success. Sure, Susan and my paintings sell for a fraction of the sales tax that the top modern artists do and it might take me a decade to make what Mr. Brainwash does in a single show, but there is great satisfaction to be gained by creating something of real worth and beauty. I’m just lucky that in the twenty-five years since I started pursuing art as a profession, there have been enough collectors who feel the same way and have allowed me to continue in the great tradition that has been all but discarded by the Art Establishment. If I die penniless, I will still feel pride at what I’ve created, not because it was new, shocking, critically acclaimed, or even up to the level of the great artists of history, but because it was an honest attempt to add something of truth and value to humanity.

But if people are so stupid as to buy a canvas painted orange, or be brainwashed so easily by the likes of Mr. Brainwash, maybe this is the art our modern society deserves. Why even bother fighting it? Those seven thousand people are no doubt gullible, but what of the millions of others who stayed home despite the media blitz? Not everyone is fooled.

60 Minutes’ commentator, Andy Rooney, is one of the few in the mass media to point out how threadbare the emperor’s outfit has become. In speaking of this sculpture, he said, “This is called ‘Two Indeterminate Lines,” and, while I don’t understand art, I do understand the English language and that’s called pretentious nonsense.” But for the most part, such silliness goes unchallenged. Story after story features nonsensical modern artists and I’ve yet to hear a single person in the media dare to say Picasso was a media-hyped fraud. Most ordinary people know this, but are afraid to say so, for fear of looking stupid.

The fact that Andrew Wyeth’s painting is the most popular at the Museum of Modern Art makes me suspect that if the artwork of the Aesthetic Underground were ever to make it into the public square, it would sweep away the pretenders in short order.

This is what really frightens the heads of the Art Establishment the most. The only shows of aesthetic beauty allowed at the major museums are ones such as Sargent, Degas, Monet, DaVinci, etc. from the pre-modern era, and it is no coincidence that they are the most popular. Even here in Laguna Beach , I observed the massive crowds that attended the Laguna Beach Plein Air painting events – far more than attend the quote, “contemporary” artist shows at the museum. My favorite part was the quick draw where kids from fifty schools throughout LA were given art supplies and a lesson from the professional artists and volunteers in the show.

And despite this popularity, or maybe because of it, the museum never acquired works from any of these artists for their permanent collection, despite a decade of successful shows. Worse still, one of the museum staff thanked me for helping raise money which they used to acquire more junk from some very “important” contemporary artists. The long list of amazing artists who’ve painted in the Laguna Plein air shows is astonishing. Matt Smith, Kevin Macpherson, Camille Przewodek, John Cosby, Ray Roberts, Peggi Kroll-Roberts, Ken Auster (heck, his palette and brushes are an abstract work of art alone!)

The list is far too long to complete here, but just think if the museum had acquired two of the best pieces each year from the show. They’d now have a contemporary plein air collection that people would travel across the country to see. I’m certainly grateful that museums like Laguna’s are at least allowing such shows as this, though I suspect it is more out of a need to raise money than an actual reassessment of the anti-aesthetic tenants of modern art dogma that holds such works in contempt. What do you think the founders of the museum, artists such as William Wendt and Edgar Payne, would think of their museum’s contemporary collection?

One curator I mentioned this to seemed actually surprised that I would be offended or think traditional paintings worthy of museum acquisition, saying in so many words that traditionally beautiful work is merely commercial, while the museum’s permanent collection is meant for art with deeper significance. He admitted that beautiful paintings were more popular but said it was the duty of the museum to educate the public to the superiority of modern paintings with their “deeper” messages.

This reminded me of the painting, “Love and Springtime,” by Francesco Michetti. Thanks to Clayton Beck for sending me some photos of it for this slide show, though there is no way a photograph can reproduce the technical mastery and utter joy this large painting conveys in person. I fist saw this painting at the Art Institute of Chicago, when I was a student at the American Academy of Art. When I mentioned how moved I was by it, my teacher, Bill Parks laughed and told me that, when he was a student after WWII, the Art Institute had done a survey of museum-goers to find out what was the general public’s favorite painting in the collection.

Despite being by a virtually unknown artist, “Love and Springtime” won this popular vote! So what did the museum do with this affirmation of Michetti’s obscure masterpiece? They took the painting off the wall and put it in storage, for years. Just like a parent with a stubborn child, the modern curator must protect the public from their own naïve and uneducated tastes. Even now, if you want to see this painting, it is hung in the Library that is only open to member of the Art Institute, in a cramped alcove above some computer terminals with horrible lighting. But I guess that’s still progress.

By contrast, here’s the exhibition by Monica Bonvincini that prestigiously highlighted the opening of the multi-million dollar modern wing’s new addition to the museum last year. Yes, those are just a bunch of florescent light bulbs hanging in the middle of the room, and, yes, those holes in the floor are on purpose and part of the work. You often hear people say they suspect that artists like this are making fun of people by telling them such things are great art. I wonder what Monica Bonvincini thinks of the general public, who’s tax dollars paid for the huge new modern wing of the Art Institute, but doesn’t seem all that interested in her installation?

That’s pretty much what I thought…

I’ve heard many painters tell me that they’re afraid of painting anything “too beautiful” for fear of not being seen as a serious artist. Their fears are completely rational if they ever want to be included in a major museum collection, or have their work reviewed by a national art critic. The two essential things are to have some “deep” message or artist’s statement to go with your work and to avoid “pretty pictures” or anything emotionally uplifting. It’s ok to paint nudes or any other subject, as long as they are ugly, depressing, or, if you really want to be a superstar, the more offensive the better.

I cannot count the times I’ve been asked in an interview, what “message” I was trying to convey with my paintings. I’m sure every artist on the faculty here has gotten this question. When I honestly say that there is no message in the sense they are seeking, that painting is above all a visual language, and to translate the positive emotion that beauty can convey into words is impossible, I find these words used against me over and over. “Traditional Realist painters admit it themselves – their paintings are meaningless, superficial depictions of beauty!”

This is the great philosophical dividing line between the aesthetic painters and the establishment painters. We aesthetics think that you should be able to simply look at a painting and be moved, to feel the emotion of the painter for their subject, just as you would be moved by a piece of music without a written explanation.

Each of these paintings are communicating in an instant a vast number of truths that could never be put into words. How could you possibly explain this painting to someone over the phone? You could try describing the subject, the colors, the thickness of the paint, but it would not suffice. You would soon be forced into explaining how it made you feel. Even given an hour, you would never succeed in transmitting these emotions to the listener on the other end of the phone.

Beauty and visual truth needs no explanation, no interpreter, no cultural guardian deciding what is good and what is bad for you. Is it any surprise, then, that those who control the art establishment have banned a visual language that makes much of what they do obsolete? Beauty is the most serious threat to the power of the establishment, and it is treated as such, not by the use of force, but by a far more subtle means – by ignoring it. When you control the art museums, college art programs, media and art critics, and even the purse strings of the NEA, it is relatively easy to advance the agenda.

In a talk at LA’s MOMA museum that Jeremy and Alexey recorded for me, art critic, Bennett Simpson observed, quote, “No doubt about it, positive reviews in the LA Times drive attendance. Negative reviews drive attendance, as well.” Reinforcing this point, Sharon Mizota, in the same discussion, said, quote, “If we don’t like it, we just don’t write.”

This sums up the art critic and museum curator’s power nicely. They know that their power lies in their total domination of what will be seen and heard by the wider culture. They do not stifle expression in the sense of having someone arrested, but merely by their lack of notice, they banish an entire artistic movement to invisible irrelevance - literally written out of books like the "History of Modern Art.” How many times have we all complained that none of the art we, and the general public, love is never covered by any of the major newspapers like the LA Times, the New Yorker, or any of the other leaders of cultural awareness. The power to ignore is their weapon and it has been wielded with devastating effect.

The individual critic or curator will object that no one tells them what to write or like, but the system itself is self-selecting. From the time you enter a university art history program, your grades, then your employment, depends on your endorsement of modern art theory. Those who object are weeded out early as anyone who has attended such art programs can attest. I have no doubt most critics and curators honestly believe the nonsense they proclaim. Self-interest is a powerful motivation to believe, especially when you’ve been convinced that the age-old definitions of what art is no longer apply. And isn’t it gratifying being among a select group that understands the deep, intellectual mysteries that are beyond the less-educated masses?

Everyone should read Tom Wolf’s description of how Alfred Barr and Dorothy Miller from New York’s Museum of Modern Art would set out each spring in the 60s to choose who would be featured in that year’s show schedule and anointed the next genius’ of the Avant-Garde. The artists job was to shock and otherwise do battle against the Bourgeoisie middle class (from which they usually came) to be showered with money and fame from the upper class (many of whom were also recent émigrés from the middle class and eager to prove their bona fidas as elites).

With a show at the museums a sure ticket to fame and skyrocketing prices, many a curator and critic made fortunes from their insider knowledge of who would be the next star. In the stock market there are laws against insider trading, but in the modern art market it is assumed that it is merely the superior ability of the experts to determine who is great before everyone else. There are no cattle in New York City , but this explanation is suspiciously familiar to something I’ve smelled on some Texas ranches and even in Africa among the Himba and Massai herders.

Modern art can be summed up thus. The rise of the art critic and currator, with the subjugation of the artist. The distress that was obvious in the MOMA talk revolved around the fact that their domination of the "means of production" is ending. The artist is once again banging at the door and demanding admittance, thanks to new mediums of mass communication like the internet. I laugh out loud every time on of these “experts” bemoan the fact that reviews are being done on the internet by people who don’t have the proper education necessary to “understand” art.

Beauty is universal to all cultures and religions, even those, like myself, without a belief in religion at all. My friend, Alexey, called beauty itself his religion.

The modern artist seeks to destroy the very ideas that elevate us above the materialistic world about us. Love and beauty become sick jokes in their hands, commercialized and mocked in the most distasteful manner. Is it any wonder that the general public ignores what most of the art museums vomit forth?

Beauty is not useful in any material sense at all. Beauty is simply truth. The message of beauty is beauty. It is the ultimate circular argument, which is why you cannot argue it in words. It is a thing beyond us, a thing that hints at the divine. Indeed, many religions see beauty as proof of the existence of their particular god, while others have banned its representation altogether out of fear of such powerful competition.

Listen to this quote from the Iconoclastic Council of 754 in Byzantium . Quote, “Supported by the Holy Scriptures and the Fathers, we declare unanimously, in the name of the Holy Trinity, that there shall be rejected and removed and cursed … every likeness which is made out of any material and colour whatever by the evil art of painters. Whoever in future dares to make such a thing, or to venerate it, or set it up in a church, or in a private house, or possesses it in secret, shall… be anathematised, and become liable to be tried by the secular laws as an adversary of God…” Now how’s that for the ultimate in art criticism!

Bernard Madoff, Enron, maybe AGI? What was the greatest financial scam of the past century? Which did the most damage to our civilization? Surely the modern art establishment must rank near the top.

Such art has become no different than a Ponzi scheme, or any other investment bubble, where the commodity itself means little, be it a flower, as in Holland ’s Tulip bubble, a tech stock, or thousands of mortgages bundled together and purposely meant to fail. When you see Damien Hirst’s shark in a vat of formaldehyde sell for 300 million dollars, then the next work sell for 500 million dollars, it becomes obvious that people are buying and selling these things as investments, rather than for any artistic merit they may have. Bubbles are easy to spot by their unsustainably sharp price elevations out of all proportion to the thing itself. Such doubling of vast amounts of money so quickly is irresistible to the speculative investor, but it cannot be sustained forever.

The speculative bubble surrounding these worthless objects and ideas will eventually collapse like all financial bubbles, and, when it does, it will be spectacular. I don’t know when it will happen, but it will, mark my words. The sooner, the better! Those left holding the bag of this junk will probably try suing, blaming those who told them a can of shit or a blank canvas was worth millions, but they will only have themselves to blame. Trillions of dollars will evaporate overnight like so much smoke. The greatest scandal will be the public dollars that were squandered by museums and which helped fuel and perpetuate the farce.

What will historians say when they look at such a vast conspiracy of fraud and mass delusion? How could so many be fooled for so long? This will be the real legacy of twentieth century art.

I could continue for a long time on the money aspect of art and the strangeness of determining a paintings value based upon the fact that a single person might be willing to pay a million dollars for something. After years of careful observation, I’ve noticed that paintings don’t change if the sell, win an award, or suffer that worst of all diseases, red-dotlessness.

Certainly there are superficial cultural differences between various countries and societies, but there are also definite universals that cause some buildings, sculptures, and paintings to achieve near universal awe at their beauty.

Mastering these rules of nature to create beauty is difficult, but not magic. The progression of art throughout history is a record of the slow unlocking of the secrets of creating beauty. Symmetry, balance, focus of interest, the various tools of seeing that allows the artist to analyze their subject and actually see the truth of what makes it what it is and select the parts to emphasize and those to minimize to accentuate the inspirational beauty contained within it. Throughout history, each artistic advance has led to the next and the slow progression of art is clearly seen as a result. These are the skills you are here to learn. These are the things that the Modern Art Establishment has attempted to destroy.

Above all else, beauty is truth. It cannot be faked, and that is why what masquerades as artistic truth in the Museums and auction blocks of our time will eventually fall. It can be no other way. You can only carry a lie, conspiracy, joke – call it what you will – so far and for so long.

Beauty and truth have been driven out of the temple. But despite the most ardent efforts of the Art Establishment, the flame of beauty has been kept alive by the members of an unofficial Aesthetic Underground who simply refused to fall for the nonsensical theories of art that seeks to degrade, rather than elevate, the human spirit. But the charade has worn thin for far too long. A revolution in art is coming. The Aesthetic Underground is slowing rising to public consciousness once again.

Sometimes they can be seen in plain sight, other times keeping to the shadows, night, or even far from they eyes of civilization altogether. Groups of them occasionally rendezvous secretly in foreign countries to plot revolution, for art and beauty knows no boundaries. They are a motley, sometimes dangerous bunch, so I’d approach those you see with extreme caution.

The evidence of the Aesthetic Revolution can be seen in the rising popularity of Plein Air shows across the country, in the proliferation of Classical Ateliers like Jacob Colins’ Grand Central Academy, at websites like Fred Ross’ inspirational “Art Renewal Center,” Alexey Steele’s “Classical Underground” and Novo Realism movement in LA, and at gatherings like this that American Artist Magazine has put together. Though the major museums and newspapers have held firmly to their cult of shock and ugliness, some of the smaller museums are starting to open up to contemporary beauty once more.

Modern art prides itself on being the anti-establishment rebel, but can one be seen as a rebel after a hundred years of domination? Probably the most rebellious thing a museum curator can do these days is to have a show of contemporary traditional painter’s works.

But I don’t really see the change coming from the top down. The almost cult-like brainwashing of the modern art establishment is just too firmly entrenched. Just think of all the people who own these monstrosities and their stake in propping up the system. No, I believe that the change will come from the ground up, like all revolutions, with the general public demanding control back of the hijacked institutions their tax dollars support.

But there have been predictions of the fall of the modern art establishment almost since its inception, so I’m cautious in predicting its imminent fall now. But hope and beauty springs eternal, so I feel confident it will happen someday, be it years, decades, or even centuries in the future.

We all owe a dept of thanks to those artists who have kept the classical skills of painting and aesthetic expression alive during the dark years of the anti-beauty movement that’s so dominated our century. Most of them will not see the promised land, but it is their clear vision of the truth that has kept art from dying out.

In the meantime, let me say, long live Beauty and Truth!

Beauty is not object bound;
But a gift internal found.

Lost of favor this fickle hour;
Trickling sand will restore the flower.

For none, say Truth, is immune;
From eternal aesthete commune.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Rouge Wave or Sea Change?

I have been in the art business long enough to know it is filled with more excitement than anyone outside of the art world suspects: intrigue, theft, forgery, genius, romance. But nothing prepared me for the reaction I saw last night at our Charleston French Quarter Gallery Walk. We hang this amazing painting of Sadie Valerie's in our front foyer above our guest book. Almost every visitor stops, stares and comments on the incredible beauty and skill manifested in this lovely work of art. We often discuss Sadie's technique, talk about the way the painting is constructed. The conversation often drifts to a dialog about art valuation, competency and the sad state of affairs in the popular media, academia and museology regarding contemporary art & its value. People are a-gog at the works we have in the gallery, noting how much they love the work and had no idea there was an entire world of painting going on, so different from the garbage they are typically presented as "art"...As my friend David Leffel says, "So many paintings, so little art..." Anyway, back to last night and the reaction to this painting: A fairly "artsy" looking woman saunters in (I have no idea who she was) and was literally bowled over by Sadie's painting. And I mean bowled over. She fell into the wall (and painting) behind her, recovered her balance (I caught the teetering painting - no harm done) and started to tear up. She held her face, cried a number of expletives and indicated she was moved to her very soul's core...had no idea any one could create anything like this work and held my hands thanking me for hanging the work. I mumbled something vaguely appropriate and watched her go back out into the street and drag her group of friends in to see the painting. They of course, loved it (as most people do) and then she continued to exclaim her adoration for the work, ask questions, etc. It was of course very delightful and at the same time humbling. Sadie's Bottle Collection often has a strong positive effect on people as do many of our painters & their paintings (I had some one threaten to marry a painting of Clayton Beck's once but that is for another blog...) Anyway at that point we had gathered quite a crowd, the gallery was filled beyond the ability to walk around...I squeezed by and asked everyone to allow in bound visitors past, only to be informed by our British Wine Merchant, Stephen, that we were out of glasses. Janice Rossmann & I scrambled about, washed a slew of plastic glasses, had Lawrence, in his sweet demeanor, facilitate a little crowd control, sold a couple items to customers and reflected for a moment on the woman's amazement. As I pondered her reaction and the reaction of most of our visitors to our works, I sense a great sea change. I did market research for many years and feel as if we are about to have a "Hundredth Monkey" phenomenon occurs where enough of the population has an understanding of a fact, a skill, an idea, and it magically emerges through the minds of most individuals. We seem to be reaching a critical fulcrum swing towards competence based art as opposed to -- oh my, I never know how to politically correctly describe it -- non representational? works...(I am trying to be more diplomatic as one of my previous blogs caused one of my neighboring galleries to print my blog, walk over, thrust it in my face and rather loudly complain that due to my writings people were calling him a huckster! He was quite incensed at me & later that evening my very ornate pots out front were vandalized. It may have been a coincidence, but I was a vexed at the degree of rancor and rage he displayed. As if a bit of decor like an Andy Warhol Soup Can painting would hold up throughout the ages next to a Richard Schmid master work...I mean, really?! Other than price paid (sucker punch anyone) who could possibly think there was any comparison?! I used to think the reactions to our work were exceptions to popular thought...rouge waves in the world of art. But since my angry visitor, visibly shaken by the comments he was getting from others, came charging in the gallery I have come to think of it as a sea change...a little like the absence of water at the shore before the tsunami hits...Not to cite the obvious, but doesn't Sadie's wax paper does resemble a big wave? A very, very big wave?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Charleston Rocks!

What a great city this is for fine art! The mayor of Charleston, Joseph P Riley stopped by the gallery along with our landlord, the esteemed attorney Capers Barr, Esq. to see our lovely space on Historic Broad Street. He asked questions abut why we chose Charleston. Well! I was delighted to explain to him the exhaustive search I personally did exploring every art market in the country, visiting hundreds of galleries and how Charleston was head & shoulders above the rest when it came to realism in fine art. I talked about how they support their merchants, how gracious every one was and what a spectacular collectors' heaven this is. He was concerned, interested and took the time to come in to meet us and welcome us to his city. Charleston has true southern hospitality and a clear understanding of the importance of our mission and galleries like us dedicated to furthering the skills of painting, drawing and sculpture handed down by the masters of the ages...thank you Mayor Riley, thank you Capers Barr what a truly gracious wonderful moment for us.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 6: Great friends & Great Art

Clayton Beck drew this most vulnerable woman and captured her welling tears and chin up nature. He is an absolute master of capturing expressions in his models; giving them the comfort and space they need to reveal them selves as he renders their very soul. I am always impressed when a painter can do this miracle of soul capturing. It never ceases to amaze me. There are so few painters who can actually pull it off and when they do as Clayton did in this piece it simply brings you to your knees. I have been humbled this week as new visitors to our six day old gallery in Charleston have reacted to the work on our walls. We have had such kind accolades and dramatic warm reactions to the work we hang it dawned on me I had ceased seeing the work clearly. I spent part of this morning before we opened gazing at paintings, thinking about the painters, realizing the attachments I have formed to them both as friends and as beloved images. I spent an especially long time in front of Joanna. She is extremely well drawn. Clayton's mastery of values, evident. His extremely facile handling of temperature a mark for all to strive after. But the thing that sets this work, and frankly identifies Clayton as a true master is, after all the skill and mastery he has pulled a little piece of this woman's soul out to share it with us. The piece is intimate, it is personal and it is lovely. This work and others like it can be viewed at our new M Gallery at 11 Broad Street Charleston, SC or on the internet at

Friday, September 10, 2010

A sucker punch

Enough is enough, really. This guy is selling paintings made out of chewing gum and or grass stains or other ridiculous materials and claiming they are art work. And, remarkably people are buying them Well, B. T. Barnum was right.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Refuges From The Storm

As many of you know, we recently relocated M Gallery to Charleston SC from Sarasota FL. We were feeling the excruciating pain of the protracted collapse of the Florida housing markets & the related economies.
We did thorough research and determined that Charleston was a strong market for the kind of paintings we carry and provided a nurturing environment
for museum quality representational art.

I found it ironic, that after years of drawing the
parallels between over inflated financial derivatives and non representational art, we would find our selves financially entangled in a collapsed balloon of a
real-estate market. We knew based on our adamant stance & experience in the art world, carrying works of tangible value that escalate slowly but steadily in value, that are competence and skilled based works of art by living masters, that the consequences of this collapse would be long lasting and we felt we needed to depart our beloved Sarasota.

I never imagined I would feel at home elsewhere our art community in Sarasota was so strong & loving. The minute we settled in Charleston, it was as if we had always been here. Everyone is so friendly, so warm. There is great appreciation for the work we carry and we fit in to the
existing art venues comfortably. We feel a bit like refugees that have come into safe harbor from a financial storm of unimaginable strength. What a relief to be here.

As my friend Clayton Beck reminds me, in the last 2 centuries, since the development of photography in 1829 the purpose of Art and the commercial enterprise of Art has drastically
changed. Historical rendering of events, scenes & persons no longer was required
by painters. Photography could document history much more efficiently and
cheaply. The commercial proliferation of artists as documentarians of life was
no longer needed. Peggy Guggenheim, Sotheby’s and the vast gallery network in
the urban centers of the world began to market & promote art works which were no
longer skill based (much cheaper to make & required less training) as an
alternative to the mass production photographs offered. These schools of art:
cubism, expressionism, abstract expressionism, minimalism etc hijacked the idea
of art and turned it into a Ponzi scheme of selling valueless works which
required no skill for great amounts of money.

As a result the general public and the collecting public became very confused.
Academia and the museum establishments embraced the absolute non-sense of what
amounted to art derivatives and invested heavily. Now consumers of art were
befuddled and began to say words like: I don’t know much about art (meaning what
they were taught in school made no sense) but I know what I like (meaning beauty
and skill interest me but I am embarrassed to counter such an overwhelming

The emperor had no clothes.
What has emerged out of all this mess is finally a recognition that the works
presented by these schools of art are no more than hucksterism and what is
occurring as a result of this understanding is a great resurgence in
representational work: Skill based & aesthetically beautiful. M Gallery’s
mission is to provide a commercial venue for these works, reflecting one of the
greatest art movements of our time. Our painters and their peers are the
vanguards of an art movement which promises to change the direction of the
future, rewrite our understanding of art history and restore an understanding of
art for generations to come.

We are tickled to be in Charleston’s embrace.
Robert Liberace's Crouching Man captures it all.

M Gallery is located at 11 Broad Street in the Historic District of Charleston,
SC. Hours are Monday – Saturday 10 am to 6 pm; Sundays 11 am to 4 pm.