CDV_11.18.14_02

7″ x 10″
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This one has several cartes de visites painted on top of one another. The props and backgrounds from different photographs mingling. Not that it matters, because at the end it’s still just a painting.

Carte de Visite #5 (Horned Owl)

30″ x 40″
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I’m delighted that the New York Public Library put up a post on their Tumblr about my “Carte de Visite” paintings. Here is THE LINK a few thoughts about the ongoing series. Did you know Daguerre also invented the diorama? News to me. There’s a guy to have lunch with when the time machine comes together.

The uniformity of the carte de visite photos is intriguing to me. Often one figure is surrounded by studio props – rocks, birds hanging from the ceiling – in front of a painted backdrop of a landscape. It can actually be hard to tell where the room ends, and what is real, like one of those great dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History. Dioramas were also invented by Daguerre, so there’s that connection to photography as well. There is the sense that the subject is enclosed in a glass case. It has been fabulous to have access to the NYPL archive, to study images in detail, including the marginalia, and occasional edits by the photographer. As a painter, I find those fugitive marks captivating.

CDV 11.14.14_02

11″ x 14″

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The blobby dinosaurs wading in the bog on the left side are from a bit of a wall painting above a door at the Museum of Natural History. They show up again in a large oil.

Carte de Visite #4

30″ x 40″
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A continuation of a loosey goosey study of cartes de visite at the New York Public Library and the history of first communion photographs. In this one, the sitter (or stander) is visited by lavender orbs and a playful flower arrangement. Tucked in the lower right a very tenuous canvas of this painting, a print of which was a fixture in my grandparents’ dining room.

Walk #3

18″ x 24″

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Something happened in the translation of this image into oils; I wanted to be able to wander more freely through the forms. Things got more amoebic, self-contained shapes. I’d like to do a very large version of this, but sadly I don’t think I could keep my attention on it. Still, it has a fun atmosphere.

Apple Cart

11″ x 14″

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Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Philip Guston:

“I’m not so involved with what the other guy does. You’ve got to upset your own applecart.”

Carte de Visite #3

24″ x 30″

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From an ongoing series of oils based on a tentative study of ‘carte de visite’ photographs at the NYPL photo archive – the single figures, simple props and painted backdrops. The first communions portraits are a peculiar sub-genre, complete with fountaining head wear.

Vikings & Pink Lion

16″ x 20″
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The lion is more of a ghost lion, and has a shark fin, so it might actually be a ghost shark. Those are definitely vikings, you can tell by their round heads.

Brown’s Velvet

30″ x 40″

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The title of this painting comes from an image that is buried somewhere in what this painting turned out to be. If I titled all my paintings what I thought I was painting when I started them, almost all of them would have different titles. Maybe a good idea, I’ll put this into practice for a while. This one is called “Brown’s Velvet”, or “Here Comes the Brown’s Velvet Man.” He is still in there somewhere.

Two Man Saw #2

14″ x 22″

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If you like, listen to this Sacred Harp song “The Last Words of Copernicus” (recorded by Alan Lomax in Fyffe, Alabama, 1959). If I did a hundred paintings of this image and had them hanging all around with this song playing, that would be good.

 

Ye golden lamps of heaven farewell with all your feeble light
Farewell thou ever changing moon pale empress of the night
And thou refulgent orb of day in brighter flames array’d
And thou refulgent orb of day in brighter flames array’d
My soul which springs beyond thy sphere no more demands thy aid
And thou refulgent orb of day in brighter flames array’d
And thou refulgent orb of day in brighter flames array’d
My soul which springs beyond thy sphere no more demands thy aid

Kids in Summer

30″ x 40″

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A large oil version of the kids in summer. A little undercooked for an oil, but might work for this image. Or I might go back into it a little. Or maybe not. Or maybe just to thicken, like a soup. No maybe leave it. The kids are enjoying the end of summer. The lozenge-shaped thing and the floating object.

Two Man Saw

14″ x 22″

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This is from the New York Public Library’s photograph archive. I recently got an informal tour of the incredible archive by my good old friend David who has pretty much single-handedly brought order to approximately 600,00 photographs. When he asked what I wanted to look at, I had no idea where to start, so ended up rifling through boxes of ‘orphan’ photographs – no record of their provenance, photographer, location, date. I can’t remember if this is one of those photographs or not. I would make a horrendous archivist (and if I ever apply for a job as an archivist, please remind me to take this post down). David’s knowledge of the photographs is astounding; the mass of imagery is totally overwhelming.

Bricked Up Tree

11″ x 14″

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A tree around the corner near Hunt’s Woods in Mt. Vernon.

The Lion Who Ate Up Dixie

11″ x 14″

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I’m doing a large oil version of this destroyer. I recently discovered that I use the word “et” instead of eaten as the past participle of “to eat” – as in: those bagels will get et – which is what I said recently and the person I was talking to said Oh, how old-fashioned. I’m not sure how that crept into my vocabulary. Presumably through my Grandfather’s country side, though I don’t remember him ever saying it. At any rate, this is the lion who ate up Dixie. It was there, and then it got et.

Ethel

11″ x 14″

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My grandmother and her mother in 1917. I guess it’s possible Vivian will have a grandchild who, a hundred years from now, will paint a picture of me holding her when she was a baby. Assuming people are still painting then. I mean, surely. They’ll need paintings for their floating houses.

Alphabet

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Dorothy is an institution of progressive politics in Brooklyn and she has a lovely Greek Revival brownstone. This is painted from a figurative clock on the mantle in her front parlor. I wanted to do the rest of the clock, but I ran out of space. I guess I could add a piece of paper to the left and continue the image. Maybe I’ll do that.

Theatre

7″ x 10″

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A theatre of recollection maybe, or a screening room for a projection of memories. Words throw images against the wall of the mind, or whatever is the right way to say it; Ezra Pound said it better.

 

A Few Days

7″ x 7″

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This one owes something to Fairfield Porter, so here are a few lines by James Schuyler, with whom he lived for twelve years. These snapshot paintings have enough agita and melancholia without such lines, but there it is.

A few days
are all we have. So count them as they pass. They pass
too quickly
out of breath: don’t dwell on the grave, which yawns for
one and all.
Will you be buried in the yard? Sorry, it’s against
the law. You can only
lie in an authorized plot but you won’t be there to
know it so why worry
about it?

 

End of Summer, Adirondacks (And the Days are Not Full Enough)

8″ x 8″
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Another painting for the end of summer, along with a few uplifting lines by Ezra Pound. As I type, my daughter is playing in an inflatable crab-shaped pool in the yard. These summers go by one after another, it is as if life is already in an old photo album.

And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
          Not shaking the grass

 

Concrete Fawn

7 1/2″ x 10″

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In Mt. Vernon, a peg-leg fawn made of concrete. There are two, both in a poetic state of decline.

End of Summer

7 1/2″ x 11″

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This is an end of Summer painting. Different from a Fall painting, or a Spring painting, or a Winter painting, or even an early Summer painting.

Shore

10″ x 10″
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Along with an excerpt from Louise Glück’s “Summer Garden” (here in full):

Several weeks ago I discovered a photograph of my mother
sitting in the sun, her face flushed as with achievement or triumph.
The sun was shining. The dogs
were sleeping at her feet where time was also sleeping,
calm and unmoving as in all photographs.

 

Kitchen (or How to be Perfect)

10″ x 14″

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Here, this is an excerpt from Ron Padgett’s “How to be Perfect” and I’m putting it next to this painting.

Get some sleep.

Eat an orange every morning.

Be friendly. It will help make you happy.

Hope for everything. Expect nothing.

Take care of things close to home first. Straighten up your room
before you save the world. Then save the world.
Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.

Don’t stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don’t
forget what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm’s length
and look at it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass
ball collection.

Wear comfortable shoes.

Do not spend too much time with large groups of people.

Plan your day so you never have to rush.

Show your appreciation to people who do things for you, even if
you have paid them, even if they do favors you don’t want.

Hartley Park, Mt. Vernon NY, 1920

11″ x 15″
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This is painted from a photo I took with my phone of a small xerox of a magazine print that hangs, at a slight angle, in the entry of our building along with grainy pictures of notable Mt. Vernonites, like Art Carney and Denzel Washington.

Lincoln Ave., Mt. Vernon

11″ x 15″
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As a way of nosing around the city, I’m going to make some paintings of different sections of New York. I’ll start with this, around the corner from our little apartment.

Deer in the Snow

11″ x 15″

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Flipping through an old sketchbook, I saw a quick drawing of a wastrel and its image seemed to be cast onto a wall, like a projection, but a drawing of a projection, or a drawing of a wall drawing. Here’s one that’s of a deer in such a scenario.

Two Girls in Veils

11″ x 15″

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Finally got a good set of gouache paints. It is a volatile medium, each layer reconstitutes the one beneath. Like oil paint, gouache doesn’t stay put, tends toward chaos. I guess my resistance to planning things out is well-suited to uncooperative materials. Two girls, both in veils.

Tardigrades

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These are images that I made for projection in Laynie Browne’s play about the immutable invertebrates called tardigrades, or water bears. They can live in outrageously inhospitable environments. They can live through being boiled, dessicated, frozen.

Ortega’s Auto Shop, Santa Rosa, NM

4″ x 6″
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Moving across the country this week, car broke down in northeast New Mexico. Spent the day at the Ortega family’s auto shop where Vivian got celery from the nice women and played with Biscuit the tiny dog. They fixed the car enough to drive another day across the plains under vast skies and vapor trails. Now broken down in Ft. Smith, Arkansas where I didn’t buy a radiator from some sketchy truckers in a parking lot and now have time to post a drawing to the Workaday. Better than watching the crud they have on the tv here at the car shop.

Kind of enjoying the delays, good to slow down and appreciate our country and all its many simultaneous realities.

Land

8″ x 10″
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There’s a Work-a-Day Sale going on right now! If you’d like to buy anything on here, now’s the time, they’re about to go into deep storage for a few months while we move.

CLICK HERE to see the available pieces (about 250 of ‘em) and if any grab your eye, email me (noahsaterstrom@gmail.com) before Wednesday of this week.

Meanwhile, the vikings are still circling the orb.

Waltzing Matilda

8″ x 10″
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For some reason, we learned the Australian folk song “Waltzing Matilda” in third grade music class.

Wikipedia has a great synopsis: “The song narrates the story of an itinerant worker, or ‘swagman’, making a drink of tea at a bush camp and capturing a sheep to eat. When the sheep’s owner arrives with three police officers to arrest the worker for the theft, the worker commits suicide by drowning himself in the nearby watering hole, after which his ghost haunts the site.”

I’m not sure how this made it into the Southfield Elementary curriculum. Or, for that matter, why I remember it.

Rabbit & Cart

5″ x 7″
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I feel like if I could read the text I’d be able to get a grip on what’s happening here. It’s like the dream I had where I was trying to read text on a piece of paper but the words were upside-down, so I turned the paper around and they were still upside down.

Cannon

7″ x 10″

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Hard to say whether the cannon is firing into a house or out of one. Either way. This is an unused vignette from Babboo’s Moving Pictures; I opted for the cannon shooting the bottle off a stump, more action happens, though I was looking forward to the sound of this shattering window.

Lazy Moon (Come Out Soon)

24″ x 30″
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The song “Lazy Moon” was written in 1901 by Bob Cole and Rosamond Johnson, performed in unfortunate black-face by Oliver Hardy of all people in the 1930 film Pardon Us, then redeemed by Harry Nilsson in 1973, the version I know. The last line is: “What’s the matter, are you sleeping?”

If you put that line after the following passage from the epic of Gilgamesh, you could have the opening scene of a short play starring Gilgamesh and Oliver Hardy.

Gilgamesh (startled awake in the Forest of Cedars): Did you call me? Why am I awake? Did you touch me? Why am I so upset? Did a god pass? Then why do I feel so weak?

Hardy (singing): What’s the matter, are you sleeping?

Ghost and Mirror

7″ x 11″
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“These pieces, without preconceived connections, were written lazily from day to day, following my needs, the way it came, without pushing, following the wave, always attending to what was most pressing, in a slight wavering of truth – never to construct, simply to preserve.” – Henri Michaux

Softer Sunshine (Take Me Home)

30″ x 40″
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Continuing with paintings within paintings theme. It’s remarkable how many old photographs of musicians include paintings; the musicians posed in front of paintings, or painted backdrops, have paintings on drums, and so on. There is a lot of improvisation in these paintings, of course, this drum has a kind of figure encountering a ghost at sunset.

Carol Robinson Gallery

Hands and Arms

11″ x 14″
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“I think of everything I do as a form of drawing.”

“Every day I awake with the idea that ‘today I must teach myself to draw’. I have also each day to experience the fact that images can only emerge out of chaos.”

I love these quotes from Leon Kossoff, hilariously obsesses with drawing – as one must be. Images can only emerge out of chaos.

Sail Away to Dreamland

30″ x 40″
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from the classic “Lullaby in Ragtime”, which I sing to my daughter about ninety-five times a day.

So you can hear the
rhythm of the ripples
on the side of the boat,
as you sail away to dreamland.
High above the moon you hear
a silvery note,
as the Sandman takes your hand.

Back to Back

11″ x 14″
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A few uplifting quotes. Uplifting to me anyway.

“To say that in painting you are always working with the unknown – in practice, that’s devastating, if you really take it on. How can you know anything for certain about what you are doing?” – Ken Kiff

“My friends tend to be writers. I think writers and painters are really all the same – we just sit in our rooms.” – Howard Hodgkin

“I constantly have to negotiate with my doubts.” – Peter Doig

“You have to have a doubt sandwich. If you have the doubt at the front, you won’t do it, and if you have doubt at the end you’re probably going to kill yourself.” – Amy Sillman

“We are not all connected. We are bags of skin. We are all separate bags
of thinking skin.” – AL Kennedy, from What Becomes

French Horn

24″ x 30″

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A painting is an irreproducible singularity. Part of its charm – if you like that kind of thing. Or, you may, as many have since Duchamp, find the preciousness off-putting.

One pushes paint against a canvas and, predictably, a mark is made. But every mark is unrecoverable as weather. Direct transmissions from the body, no pure concept, contaminated by countless non-verbal impressions which collect to make, when it goes well, a coherent image. And somehow a highly-personalized idiom evolves, for better or worse, which is only somewhat in the control of the painter.

Maybe it’s too corny to say ‘painting is like life’, but there it is. Maybe those who love painting feel that connection very intensely. So is basketball – like life, I mean – and also handwriting, and a cheese plate, and math.

I try not to paint “about” the Old South, but this one has its fingers near that fan. It is, to me, eerily quiet for a painting of musicians.

King Oliver

18″ x 24″

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Or is apprehending an image necessarily a language-based process? Is it ever actually a simple absorption of mark, substance? As if vitamins, odor, or toxins? Is the mind ever without language long enough?

Lack of language response to image indicates indifference: unremarkable.
Or revelation: speechless.
(The first is common and long-lasting; the second, rare and fleeting.)

Here’s King Oliver and his band, a pianist and her double.