Tag Archives: painting

Cinat Paints Light — and Dark — to Explore Spirituality

14 Sep
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Close up of one of Cinat’s paintings; image via Eventsy
The members-only networking club Eventsy invited me to attend a special viewing, co-hosted by CATM New York, of Argentine artist Mariano Cinat’s thought-provoking exhibition “New Works” in The Narthex Gallery of Saint Peter’s Church, located at 619 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, on September 12. From dark and haunting to fluid and ethereal, his work elicited a visceral response, an impulse to examine one’s own beliefs and feelings through the cryptic scenes depicted in the paintings.
Average-sized paintings, the canvases ranged from 12” x 9” to 69” x 48”. During the Q&A, Cinat explained that his work was a particular size by request of the Louvre. He said, “I wish they commissioned me, but it was more like a competition.” Untitled, the paintings felt like a cohesive collection covering three intertwining themes: the Classical world in earthy tones; the spiritual realm in light, bright colors; and a mysterious interior of saturated colors.
Displayed in a gallery situated within a Lutheran church, the paintings took on perhaps more spiritual meaning than the artist intended. This religious interpretation of the artwork was helped along by the press release, which stated:
Be not afraid of spiritual idiosyncrasies but rejoice in the continuity of life. Experience the nuance of a master of color and emotion as Cinat refreshes the senses.
Many of the paintings varied from landscape scenes reminiscent of the Biblical-era Middle East, showing walls like one would envision in Jericho and simple homes in which one would imagine people tucked away breaking bread together, to more dream-like settings suggestive of ascension into heaven.
In one painting in particular, hung on a far wall, an image of a cross seemed to shine over a stone wall. And yet, the artist himself seemed put off that his work might be interpreted through a Christian lens. When I told Cinat of the cross I had discovered, he asked which painting I’m speaking of. He informed me he had not painted a crucifix in any of his paintings and sounded incredulous that I had seen such specific religious imagery in work. He told me:
“I’m spiritual but not religious.”
I suppose we all see what we want to see in art, or what we’re predisposed to see. Interpretation is left up to the viewer. Despite his surprise at my reading of his work, Cinat himself prefers not to explain his art to viewers. He said to the crowd of onlookers:
“Each one of us interprets it in other ways.”
Though he did reveal:
“I have a search for spirituality, and light is an element I use. It’s not a real place.”
His painting of figures seemingly ascending into heaven, then, may just as likely have more to do with a state of mind. The spiritual significance therefore changes from the physical presence of heaven and hell of Judeo-Christian to perhaps a transcendence of one’s mind through meditation in an Eastern religion. It could even be a bodily movement from one dimension into the next through portals. Of course, one may also interpret the work through a more metaphorical lens. In that case, a viewer could see it as impetus for change in one’s life, of moving on from the past and entering a future full of potential.
While those paintings seemed more clearly tied to positive spiritual themes, there were a series of paintings that seemed more secular, more human, but perhaps too almost more sinister. Unlike the other paintings, which used the browns and blues readily found in nature, and which depicted outdoor scenes, these paintings ensconced figures dressed in flame-like red and deep violets in rooms pitched in black. As with the other figures, their poses and placement on the canvases suggested an almost hypnotic state. If taken with the others as a reflection on religious matters, one may view them as agenda-oriented leaders of the Church—whether cardinals or kings—because of the way the figures are clothed in rich colors as they move about an interior that though sparsely decorated is vast and foreboding. These paintings hearken back to the works of Renaissance painters such as Raphael.
Taken to a more extreme secular interpretation, these darker paintings bring to mind the psycho-sexual Stanley Kubrick film Eyes Wide Shut, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Cloaked identities suggest secrecy and positions of power.
But again, this is just what I personally saw in the works. They may actually be situated in much more real and less portentous places. Cinat said he imagines everywhere from Utah to Japan, as he paints in Harlem.
When asked during the Q&A what inspired him, Cinat said it was opera that had inspired his work. “I went to see The Magic Flute,” he said.
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100 Facts on William S. Burroughs for His 100th Birthday

5 Feb

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The title say it all, and I’ve got a lot of ground to cover so let’s just get on with it!

      1. Burroughs was born on February 5, 1914, which would make him 100 years old today!
      2. But he passed away on August 2, 1997
      3. The S. in William S. Burroughs stands for Seward
      4. Burroughs is actually Burroughs II
      5. Burroughs’ father’s name was Mortimer Perry Burroughs
      6. Mortimer ran a gift shop called Cobblestone Gardens
      7. The II comes from his grandfather
      8. William Seward Burroughs I was the founder of the Burroughs Adding Machine company
      9. William S. Burroughs II named his son William Seward Burroughs III
      10. Burroughs’ mother’s name was Laura Hammon Lee
      11. Burroughs’ pen name was William Lee
      12. Burroughs’ maternal grandfather was a minister
      13. In the ’60s, Burroughs joined and left the Church of Scientology
      14. In 1993 he became a member of the Illuminates of Thanateros
      15. Laura Hammon Lee’s family claimed to be related to Confederate General Robert E. Lee
      16. Burroughs’ uncle was Ivy Lee, the founder of modern PR
      17. His family was not very affectionate
      18. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri and lived on Pershing Avenue in the Central West End section of St. Louis
      19. He attended the private school John Burroughs School, named after the naturalist
      20. Burroughs was class of ’31
      21. Burroughs’ first publishing achievement was at the school when his essay “Personal Magnetism” was published in 1929 in the John Burroughs Review
      22. He didn’t graduate from John Burroughs School
      23. On its website, John Burroughs School calls William S. Burroughs a “controversial author”
      24. After John Burroughs School, he attended Los Alamos Ranch School, an elite boarding school in New Mexico
      25. Another famous author later attended Los Alamos Ranch School: Gore Vidal (born 1925)
      26. At the boys boarding school, Burroughs kept a diary about his attachment to another boy at the school
      27. Burroughs was a virgin through high school
      28. Burroughs dropped out of Los Alamos too
      29. Next up, he went to Taylor School in Clayton, Missouri
      30. From there, he went to Harvard to study art
      31. At Harvard, he was part of Adams House
      32. Back home on summer break, Burroughs became a cub reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
      33. His beat? Police docket
      34. Surprisingly, he hated the job and refused to cover gruesome stories
      35. That summer he lost his virginity
      36. He shed his virginity to a female prostitute
      37. It was back at Harvard that he was introduced to gay culture when he traveled to New York City with his wealthy Kansas City friend Richard Stern
      38. Stern was apparently a bit like Neal Cassady when it came to driving: he drove so fast that Burroughs wanted to get out of the car once
      39. Burroughs graduated from Harvard in 1936
      40. After he graduated, his parents gave him $200 a month
      41. After Harvard, Burroughs went to Vienna to study medicine
      42. There he became involved in the gay subculture
      43. He also met his first wife there, Ilse Klapper, a Jewish woman fleeing the Nazis
      44. Burroughs and Klapper were not romantically involved, but he married her in Croatia so she could move to the US
      45. After they divorced in New York, they remained friends
      46. By 1939, he had become so obsessed with a man that he severed his own finger — the last joint of his left little finger, to be exact
      47. In 1942, Burroughs enlisted in the US Army
      48. When he became depressed that he was listed as 1-A Infantry instead of officer, his mother called a family friend, a neurologist, to get him a civilian disability discharge due to mental instability
      49. It took five months for him to be discharged, and he waited at Jefferson Barracks, near his family home
      50. Afterward, he moved to Chicago
      51. In Chicago, the Harvard grad became an exterminator
      52. The Burroughs family was friends with another prominent family, the Carrs
      53. William S. Burroughs II was eleven years old when Lucien Carr was born
      54. During primary school in St. Louis, Burroughs had met David Kammerer, who was three years older than him
      55. Kammerer had been Carr’s youth group leader and become obsessed with him, following him to the University of Chicago
      56. When Carr fled to Columbia University in New York City, Kammerer followed — as did Burroughs, who moved a block away from Kammerer in the West Village
      57. Carr met Allen Ginsberg at Columbia and introduced him to Burroughs and Carr
      58. Burroughs met Joan Vollmer Adams around this time, and he moved in with her
      59. In the summer of ’44, Carr killed Kammerer with his Boy Scout knife, and then went to Burroughs — Kammerer’s friend — for help
      60. Burroughs flushed Kammerer’s bloody pack of cigarettes down the toilet and told Carr to get a lawyer and turn himself in, but instead Carr sought out help from Jack Kerouac
      61. Burroughs and Kerouac were arrested as material witnesses, but Burroughs’ father posted bail for him (Kerouac married Edie Parker to get bail money)
      62. Burroughs became involved in drugs around this time, becoming addicted to heroin
      63. When Burroughs got arrested for forging a prescription, he was released to his parents in St. Louis
      64. When he was finally allowed to leave, he went back to New York City for Joan Vollmer Adams, and together, with her daughter, moved to Texas
      65. It was Joan who gave birth to William S. Burroughs III in 1947
      66. After Texas, the family moved to New Orleans
      67. Around this time, Burroughs was arrested after police found letters at Ginsberg’s place that incriminated him
      68. Burroughs, Joan, and the kids went on the lam to Mexico
      69. In Mexico, Burroughs decided to go back to school: he studied Spanish and the Mayan language at Mexico City College
      70. He studied under R. H. Barlow, a homosexual from Kansas City who commit suicide through overdose  in January 1951
      71. He also decided to take up a game of William Tell. It didn’t go so well: he shot Joan in the head, killing her
      72. He only spent 13 days in jail, after his brother bribed authorities to let him out while he waited for trial; witnesses were also bribed so Burroughs would appear innocent. Either way, Burroughs skipped town
      73. Burroughs considers his killing of Joan to be the beginning of his life as a writer; he wrote Queer at this time
      74. Queer was not published until 1985; Burroughs’ first book was actually Junkie, published in 1953 — four years before Kerouac’s On the Road came out
      75. Burroughs III went to live with his grandparents in St. Louis; Joan’s daughter, Julie, went to live with her maternal grandmother
      76. Burroughs himself went down to South America in search of the drug yage
      77. From there, he moved to Palm Beach, Florida, with his parents
      78. His parents paid for him to travel to Rome to see Alan Ansen
      79. They didn’t hit it off romantically, so Burroughs left for Tangier, Morocco
      80. When Kerouac visited Burroughs in Tangier in 1957, he typed up his manuscript for him and edited it into Naked Lunch
      81. In 1959, Burroughs moved to the Beat Hotel in Paris; Ginsberg, Ginsberg’s lover poet Peter Orlovsky, poet Gregory Corso, and photographer Harold Chapman lived there
      82. There, he discovered the cut-up technique of Brion Gysin, which greatly influenced his work
      83. In 1966, Burroughs went to London to seek treatment for his drug addiction and worked there for about six years
      84. Student editor Irving Rosenthal, of Chicago Review, lost his job for publishing excerpts of Naked Lunch and founded his own lit mag, Big Table, where he continued to publish Burroughs’ work. The United States Postmaster General found the work so obscene that he ruled it couldn’t be sent through the mail. This intrigued Maurice Girodias, publisher of Olympia Press
      85. A 1966 case against Naked Lunch remains the United States’ last obscenity trial against literature
      86. Back in the US, Burroughs’ own son had gotten involved in drugs and gotten arrested on prescription fraud (just like dear old dad); Burroughs took him to the Lexington Narcotics Farm and Prison
      87. Burroughs covered the 1968 Democratic National Convention for Esquire magazine; he refused to alter his style to fit Playboy‘s literary demands for another article
      88. Burroughs hated teaching because it expended all his energy and he felt like he got nothing back in return
      89. Bookseller James Grauerholz initiated Burroughs’ reading tour, which helped Burroughs remain in the public eye … and make money for it
      90. In 1976, Burroughs’ son had liver cirrhosis and underwent transplant surgery; Burroughs stayed with him in 76 and 77 to help care for him
      91. Burroughs III cut off his father, writing an article in Esquire that said his father had ruined his life, and died in 1981
      92. In 1978, the Nova Convention took place — a multi-venue retrospective of Burroughs’ work that included readings and discussions by Ginsberg, Patti Smith, Frank Zappa, and Timothy Leary in addition to concerts featuring The B-52s, Debbie Harry, and Philip Glass
      93. Speaking of musicians, in the 90s Kurt Cobain hung out with Burroughs
      94. In the 80s, Burroughs moved to Lawrence, Kansas, where he spent the remainder of his life
      95. Always the gun aficionado, there he created an art form in which he used a shotgun to shoot spray paint bottles that would explode paint onto a canvas
      96. In 1983 Burroughs was inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters
      97. He played a character from one of his own short stories in the 1989 film Drugstore Cowboy
      98. His collaboration with Nick Cave and Tom Waits gave birth to Smack My Crack, a collection of short prose and spoken-word album
      99. Burroughs died from complications of a heart attack
      100. He is buried the Burroughs family plot in Bellefontaine Cemetery

Adventuring with Author Larry Closs to See Jonathan Collins’ Beat-inspired Paintings

17 Sep

JonThat’s Larry Closs on the left, Jonathan Collins in the middle, and me on the right.

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Larry Closs and I took a mini road trip to attend the opening of Jonathan Collins‘ Beat-inspired paintings at the Paterson Museum (2 Market Street, Paterson, NJ). It turned out to be quite the adventure. You may remember Larry as the author of Beatitude, a book I stayed in on a Saturday night to read because I was so captivated by the story I couldn’t put it down. Larry also happens to be a great conversationalist with fascinating stories about the writers’ life, bumping into Beat authors, and his own world travels. I got so caught up in our conversation on the way over to Jonathan’s show that I didn’t pay enough attention to the train directions, and, well, if you want to know what happened, check out Larry’s blog.

The first time I ever saw Jonathan’s paintings, when he’d brought his portfolio down to Cornelia Street Cafe when I was reading with David Amram, they were so realistic I thought they were photographs. Seeing them in person for the first time I was even more impressed by their beauty. From Kerouac’s Moody Street Bridge to neon-lit bars, Jonathan’s watercolors evoke nostalgia. Larry put it this way on his blog:

The paintings illuminate—and celebrate—the sometimes hidden beauty and “mystical qualities” often overlooked in the ordinary, the everyday and even the dreary.

The show runs at the Paterson Museum through October 6.

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Jonathan Collins’ Beat-Inspired Paintings on View at the Paterson Museum

2 Sep

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Remember a while back when I did an interview with painter Jonathan Collins, who created stunning works of art featuring Kerouac’s hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts? Well, starting this weekend, he has an exhibit up at the Paterson Museum!

Here’s the press release:::

The Paterson Museum is pleased to present “Beat Traveller: New Landscapes By Jonathan Collins.” This collection of works will be his first solo show at the Museum. The opening reception of Beat Traveller will be held the museum on Sept. 7 from 7 to 10 p.m. The exhibition will be on view through Oct. 6.

The works of Beat Generation novelist Jack Kerouac and poet and Paterson native, Allen Ginsberg, inspired the paintings. Collins journeyed to San Francisco, California, Lowell Massachusetts, and Paterson, New Jersey and returned depicting striking landscapes, glowing in bold sunlight, hazy sunsets, and moody night scenes.

According to Collins, “Both Ginsberg and Kerouac spawned from supposedly dreary mill towns, but I found each place to have areas of great natural beauty, vast historical interest, and even mystical qualities. Also, my father was from New England, my mother from Paterson, and they met at the foot of the Great Falls in 1951. Consequently these areas have great familial and artistic significance for me.”

Collins’ paintings are highly detailed watercolors that have won him numerous grants and scholarships, enabling extensive travel throughout the United States and Europe.

The Paterson Museum is located at 2 Market St. in the former erecting shop of the Rogers Locomotive Works in the heart of the Paterson Great Falls National Park. The Museum’s visiting hours are Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. For more information contact the Museum at (973) 321.1260 or thepatersonmuseum@gmail.com.

Check it out!

Clip: One Subject Many Ways: The Sunflower

6 Aug

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I’m currently enjoying art critic Martin Gayford‘s The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles. Published in 2009 by Hachette, the well-researched book tells the story of how the artists ended up living in a house together in the south of France and how their time together influenced their work. It’s a great read for anyone interested in artists’ collaborations.

Both Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin painted sunflowers, but today we remember van Gogh’s still lifes better. It got me thinking about how even though van Gogh’s name seems synonymous with sunflowers, so many other artists throughout history have also painted this captivating flower.

Read more and see painting selections at Burnside Writers Collective.

Clip: New Abstraction News

24 Jul

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Back in 2008, I had the fun experience of doing PR for Lesny JN Felix‘s art exhibit at Gallery Bar down on the Lower East Side. I got to see his paintings, wrote up his press release, and helped him with set up for the opening reception. We also attended other artists’ shows and had a lot of conversations about the art world. I was thrilled when he asked me to write the catalog copy for his upcoming new exhibition.

Painter Lesny JN Felix is starting his own one-person school of art: the New Abstraction News. The Haitian’s show Instant Identification will debut at the Lower East Side’s pop-up gallery 215 Bowery (215 Bowery St., Manhattan) on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, with a free opening reception from 7 to 10 p.m. There will be one hour of hands-on silkscreen making.

The exhibition includes a collaborative painting with artist Rick Wray that emphasizes JN Felix’s unique New Abstraction News style and, in contrast with Wray’s style, explores the diversity found within abstract art. Fans and collectors will have the opportunity to meet both artists.

Since JN Felix’s last major show in New York, his work has matured into more complex abstractions. Read more here.

In the catalog copy itself, I explore how JN Felix works in a similar method as Jack Kerouac and how he is different than the abstract expressionists of the 1940s and ’50s. You can pick up a copy of the catalog at the show. Hope to see you there! It’s going to be a lot of fun!

Clip: Trading Text for Visuals: Poets As Visual Artists

25 Apr

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I had a really fun time putting together an article for Burnside about poets who are also visual artists. From the time I was a little child, I have been drawn to both the literary and visual arts worlds. Even in undergrad these two loves of mine co-mingled, as I majored in English and minored in studio art. My undergrad thesis looked at the relationship between writers and artists in New York in the ’40s and ’50s. It didn’t end there. While obtaining my MFA in creative writing, I took a poetry class on the collaborations of the poets and artists of the New York School. My article touches on some of the poets I’ve studied over the years, with of course a focus on the people commonly associated with the Beat Generation, but I pushed myself to find other examples as well.

Our cannons are so steeped in “dead white males” that it was important to me in stretching my knowledge to seek out poet-artists who did not play into that categorization. I was delighted to discover that Elizabeth Bishop painted.  Two years ago it was the hundred-year anniversary of the former Poet Laureate of the United States’ birth, so there were many readings and events to honor her work. Somehow, though, I missed the fact that she was a painter. Maybe it’s because she herself did not take it all that seriously, as I point out in my article. I happen to think they’re delightful, though.

A contemporary poet-painter I am quite interested in researching more about is Babi Badalov. As my article touches on, he mixes languages in his works, a result of having moved a lot between cultures to avoid persecution for his controversial visual poetry. As a writer, language is something I hold dear. My vocabulary is a key to who I am: the words I’ve picked up come from my mother’s midwestern phrasing and my father’s Greek tongue as well as the vernacular of northern New Jersey and the jargon of the institutes of higher learning I attended. I’ve found the preservation of endangered languages so critical because language is about identity. The idea that a poet has no language and has many languages intrigues me. When does Badalov express himself in his native Azerbaijani language and when in Russian? Is his use of English a political act?

In my exploration of the Beats as visual artists, I could have easily waxed on and on. In fact, I did not go into any detail about Jack Kerouac’s artwork, even though he has been the subject of much of my studies. If this is something you’re interested in, leave a note in the comment section below, and I’ll write something up on this. What I did try to do for the Burnside article, though, was show that the Beats were following a rich tradition that came long before them. I point to William Blake and the Chinese and Japanese calligraphers as forerunners and influencers on the work of Allen Ginsberg and Phillip Whalen, for example.

My article was limited to just a few examples, a small taste of the artwork of poets. I’d love to hear who you think should be added to the list. Maybe I’ll make a part II!

Clip: A Time to Laugh

17 Apr

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The post “A Time to Weep” seems more appropriate this week, after the Boston Marathon explosions, but yesterday my pre-scheduled post “A Time to Laugh” went up on Burnside. It’s just two works of art and a verse, like most of the blog posts in this “A Time to…” series. Sometimes, though, short is effective. If you need a little levity, silly renditions of the Mona Lisa might be just what you need.

Clip: Paintings in Praise of Poets

10 Apr

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Back when I was in undergrad at Scripps, my thesis involved the relationship between poets and painters. Later, at grad school at The New School, I continued to study the way visual and literary artists influenced each other other and collaborated with one another. It’s endlessly fascinating and much more broad than the time periods of the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s that I tend to focus on. Burnside Writers Collective just published a survey I did that shows painters honoring poets throughout the ages called “Painters in Praise of Poets.”

Jonathan Collins’ Beat Generation Locale Series

8 Oct


9 Lupine Road

When I first saw artist Jonathan Collin’s paintings in person, I thought they were photographs.  They’re stunning.  Incredibly detailed and richly saturated, his Lowell series captures with paint the Massachusetts landscape that Jack Kerouac captured with words.  More than just setting and subject matter, Collins’ use of chiaroscuro resonates with Kerouac’s literature.  There is light piercing the darkness.

When I asked Jonathan if he’d write a little artist statement, he sent me back an email with the below, saying he’d written it spontaneously and with no revision, according to Beat principles.

Visions of Lowell

Jack Kerouac’s Duluoz Legend has always been an important touchstone of literature and revelation of light and beauty to me. In my research of those heady days of the 40s and 50s, I found them not only to be thrilling, but all in the family.

My father, Don Collins, was also in the Navy in WWII , the Merchant Marines, and traveled the world as Kerouac did. My father came back home, worked and painted, Kerouac wrote!

I began this series of paintings of Beat Generation locales in 2010. Traveling to San Francisco first, via the California Zephyr , in 2007, I was astounded by the natural richness and depth of the American landscape. I strolled the streets of North Beach, with its glistening neons and vibrating nightlife. I recorded everything in my journal, sketchbook, and camera. Everything that rose the hairs on my neck in artistic excitement!

I had been to Lowell many times, from the mid 1990s on, but my trip in July 2011 was intended to document the birth and mystery of the seeds planted in Kerouac’s psyche. From the Lupine Road house, to downtown cobbled streets, to the glowing Grotto, I stood transfixed.

Paterson was where my mother was born, and my parents met at the bridge surrounding the Great Falls. Allen Ginsberg was raised in Paterson and grew up  a mere four blocks from these sites. I found Ginsberg’s poem, “The Green Automobile” to be an exquisite inspiration, tying the mythical past to present;”From Lowell’s Merrimack to Paterson’s Passaic.”

My main focus was not only the historical context both personal and literary , but illumination, literally.  Light is the essence of my paintings and a key ingredient in the tempest of Beat literature. From Rimbaud’s “Illuminations,” to Kerouac’s “Visions” series, Gregory Corso’s visionary odes, to Ginsberg’s “Howl,” his plea for understanding.

The need to shed light, to reveal hidden truths beyond words, to make sense of the beauty and sanctity of life, feeling the mystery in the shadows, was and IS, the artists’ true quest.

Just as the Paterson Falls continue to boom and crash, and the neons of Frisco glow endurably, and the spirit of Lowell pulses in the night, so will the work of the Beats continue to inspire, and illuminate generation after generation.

It is my hope that these paintings will enrich the hearts and minds of others, with a glimpse of the light surrounding us, and pray we honor and express the light within us all.

The Moon Her Majesty

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The Visitation

[The three paintings above are of the Grotto in Lowell and should be viewed from left to right in the order in which they appear.]