Liability as Asset

I know a business that turned a significant liability into an asset. The business is a bakery, and although they’re tucked behind a pizza restaurant, not even visible from the street, they’ve capitalized on their location with one brilliant move. The name: Hideaway Bakery.

Pay them a visit if you’re in Eugene, Oregon.

Artist of the Week | Kerry James Marshall, painter

I visited the Met Breuer about 6 months ago for “Mastry”, the survey of Kerry James Marshall’s prolific, punctuated work which also traveled to Los Angeles. The image above, “Black Painting”, took several minutes to adjust to. Upon close inspection, it was for me perhaps the definitive painting of the show. More on this later.

Wrestling with Waste

It occurred to me today that on so many levels, in every aspect of my life, I am wrestling with how not to create waste wherever I see it. In so doing, however, I run the risk of being penny wise and pound foolish, in addition to becoming less effective.

Now I don’t mean to suggest that my wife and I are never wasteful, especially in ways we don’t see, but there are countless moments where waste-consciousness can serve as a distraction, however well-intentioned.

The simplest example comes from my landlord’s garden. He’s growing food we didn’t ask for him to grow, yet he doesn’t eat. That’s his business, but sometimes I make it mine. There’s a direct principle here of reaping what we did not sow. And while it may seem like a good thing–“reaping” the fruits of his labor–such non-essential activities take time from more important things. The wrestle with waste becomes a self-inflicted wound at that point…to say nothing of our family’s own general striving against waste, toward efficiency.

Even in my fine art practice, I’ve faced the question many times in recent years: is it better to go back in time and reclaim/restore the many half-finished works (potential waste) in my studio, or is it wiser to begin fresh, discarding (perhaps donating) old things so that they don’t dangle like a weight around my neck?

Artist of the Week | Antonin Gaudi | Architect

“Those who look for the laws of nature as support for their new works collaborate with their creator.”

“The straight line belongs to men, the curved one to God.”



Sagrada Familia

sagrada familia


Borrowed Beauty

Think back to a time when you needed something: maybe you needed beauty, in some measure. It could’ve been a time of pain, a time of isolation, or a time of uncertainty.

I’m looking at a hibiscus flower I brought in from our back yard. There’s something about its beauty that charms, suspends, and even lends direction to a moment, (whether a positive or negative moment). Borrowing beauty means obtaining something lofty while in a low place, obtaining something noble while in a humble place, and remembering something worthy while in a seemingly worthless moment.

Isn’t it fair to say such a borrowed moment is capable of changing not only the recent past (by reshaping the present), but is capable of changing all of history itself? If beauty (and with it, goodness) can redeem and reshape an otherwise meaningless moment, whey can’t they also (in greater quantities) redeem the entire world?


Artist of the Week | Kenne Gregoire, Painter

Kenne Gregoire

It’s Not About What You Like

I wouldn’t say I like Miles Davis’ music…not yet, anyhow. Today I am listening to his, “The Birth of the Cool”, not because I like it, but because I have the opportunity to hear it. Hearing in general is a privilege, after all, and listening to music happens to be something human beings can do while working on other things. Music is one of the more convenient artforms to experience in the world.

There are so many conversations that seem to hover around the first question, “do you like it?”. I need to remind myself and others that there’s a vast playground of ideas beyond the question of liking something.

I remember a story about how Gertrude Stein told Picasso that his portrait of her didn’t look like her, and he replied simply, “it will”. I think if we can set aside what we like in the moment, investing and investigating time and energy…something of a transformation can happen. It might not fit your current tastes, but it might…or maybe “it will”.

Similar to wine, sushi, or Eastern Orthodox church services, I’ll probably like some aspect of Miles Davis as I learn to APPRECIATE Miles Davis.

Are you willing to appreciate things you claim you don’t like?


Artist of the Week: Ellen Altfest, Painter

Altfest’s work gives the viewer a chance to appreciate and stare in awe at an otherwise obtuse if not drab vignette. Her work gives incredible meaning to her subjects, whether a cactus, a tumbleweed, a torso, or a pile of gourds. If the medium is the message, then perhaps the painstaking act of looking–observing with joy and curiousity–is what makes these paintings so singular.

Ellen Altfest, "Head and Plant", 2009-2010, 10 x 11 in. (25.4 x 27.9 cm), Oil on canvas, Photo: Todd-White Art Photography
Ellen Altfest, “Head and Plant”, 2009-2010, 10 x 11 in. (25.4 x 27.9 cm), Oil on canvas, Photo: Todd-White Art Photography
Gourds (2006-07), oil on canvas, 48.3 x 96.5 cm, Private Collection. Photo: Bill Orcutt, New York. Image courtesy White Cube © Ellen Altfest / White Cube.
Ellen Altfest, Gourds (2006-07), oil on canvas, 48.3 x 96.5 cm, Private Collection. Photo: Bill Orcutt, New York. Image courtesy White Cube © Ellen Altfest / White Cube.
Ellen Altfest
Ellen Altfest, “Tumbleweed”, 42 x 52 inches, Oil on canvas, 2005
Ellen Altfest
Ellen Altfest, Torso (2011), oil on canvas, 26 x 35.2 cm, ONE2 Collection, USA. Image courtesy White Cube © Ellen Altfest / White Cube.