Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book of Hours

Dear darkening ground
you've endured so patiently the walls we've built
please give the cities one more hour
and the churches and cloisters two
and let those who labor
let their toils still hold them for another five or seven
before that hour of inconsolable terror
when you take back your name from all things.
Just give me a little more time
I just need a little more time
because I am going to love things as no one has thought to love them
till there real and worthy of you.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Monday, December 27, 2010


"Every culture offers its citizens an image of what it is to be a man or woman of substance. There have been times and places in which a person came into his or her social being through the dispersal of his gifts, the "big man" or "big woman" being that one through whom the most gifts flowed. The mythology of a market society reverses the picture: getting rather than giving is the mark of a substantial person, and the hero is "self-possessed," "self-made." So long as these assumptions rule, a disquieting sense of triviality, of worthlessness even, will nag the man or woman who labors in the service of a gift and whose products are not adequately described as commodities. Where we reckon our substance by our acquisitions, the gifts of the gifted man are powerless to make him substantial." Lewis Hyde

"The human gaze is not the closed, fixed view of a camera but is creative and constructive. Both the gaze that sees and the object that is seen construct themselves simultaneously in the one act of vision." John O'Donohue

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Stories of Earth Keeping, Gary Snyder and Ellen Davis

The Sanctified Life
ink, gesso on text, 2000
Dan Callis

Today I listened to a really interesting podcast with Gary Snyder: poet, environmental activist, and Zen Buddhist. Over all the Snyder interview was a good overview of the last 50 years of American Environmentalism punctuated by Snyder's lyrical, free verse poems. I did take issue with one pint Snyder makes which is a small one within his interview but it is a theme that comes up again and again in the Deep Ecology writings.
Snyder talks about how his Buddhist world-view informs his practice as an earth keeper. He states that the first ethical precept of Buddhism is to "cause the least possible harm." He then equates that to the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments: "Thou shall not kill." He then states, "but in the Abrahamic tradition, ie, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, thou shall not kill applies only to human beings and there is absolutely no concern for the rest of life." He strongly implies that these traditions have a deep responsibility for our current environmental problems.
I am mindful of the scholarship of Dr. Ellen Davis, Hebrew scholar and Old Testament professor from Yale, now at Duke Divinity School. She has been writing on this issue for years and more recently she has been collaborating with Wendell Berry on issues of environmental stewardship and earth keeping grounded within faith traditions. She states, "According to the Judeo-Christian scriptures we are part of an intricate web of physical relations that are at the same time moral relations." "We are placed creatures, we are placed within an order." She speaks of the first book of the Hebrew bible, the Tanoak, the book of Genesis. According to Davis the narrative account of the fifth day of creation God offered a blessing to the creatures of the sky and the creatures of the sea. It was the very same blessing God offered the created man of the sixth day: the same. She states, "So we are living amongst creatures that are blessed before we even come into existence." According to the Genesis account, Davis says, "Humans occupy a special place of power, privilege and responsibility in the created world...a condition of "skilled mastery" (the Hebrew interpretation of Gen. 1:26) It is set by the precondition of the blessings of the creatures of the sea and the sky. The human can not undo the prior blessing of the creatures by God." "How we see the world is how we value it", Davis says, "and according to the Hebrew Scriptures, "God saw the world and said it was good." In the Christian New Testament John 3:16 states, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son...God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." The world. All of it.
Let us not so easily place blame based on an impoverished understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures where the care of the land is considered a sacred task. Let us admit more quickly that we have more then likely arrived at our current dilemmas from a post-enlightenment, materialistic form of consumerism then by our religious traditions. If I am honest with myself it is my own selfish appetite that brings me to this place of environmental mourning not some ancient religious narrative. Perhaps it is in these narratives we can find some applicable wisdom for a more sustainable way of living.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

In Praise of Burton Blatt

wait, graphite on paper, 1989, D. Callis

I was going through some files and came across a paper I presented on the work of educator and reformer, Dr. Burton Blatt. In 1965 Burton Blatt, then director of the Division of Special Education at Syracuse University and his friend, photographer Fred Kaplan, visited a number of east coast residential facilities for the developmentally disabled and documented the visits with a small camera mounted in Kaplan's belt buckle. the images were first published in Look magazine and later as a book entitled Christmas in Purgatory. As Kaplan's images profoundly disrupted the psyche of the American imagination with visuals that aggressively denied the mid-century believe in the goodness and compassionate care of our medical and education institutions, particularly as it provided for our most vulnerable citizens.

Blatt spent the rest of his professional career reconstructing an American imagination that concerned the developmentally disabled using his skills as an educator, writer, poet and Catholic layman. As an educator he served on several presidential committees on educational reform, he is credited with establishing most of what we now teach in our universities concerning educational mainstreaming. As a Catholic writer and poet he worked from a cosmology that could confront evil and suffering and at the same time locate grace, celebration and profound joy. In his novel, The Revolt of the Idiots, he asks us to imagine a peaceful revolt in which disabled residents shed their label of patient and take on the role of citizen, demanding their civil rights and simply walking out of the institution and into a small town which had realized the value and worth of these odd people. In the story one of the townsman argues with compassion, "each man's life means everything, or it means nothing. He is the only man or no man exists. Each life and each death is a profound event, or no life - not a single life ever - was of any consequence. Everything matters or nothing has mattered.

In another reforming work entitled, Exodus from Pandemonium he recounts his participation on an inspection team. The team has just toured one of the back wards of a state institution for the long term care of the mental retarded. He recounts, "I have seen it all too many times. A gust of fresh, clean air rushed around us as the front door was unlocked, but the relief at regaining my freedom was shattered by a scream from above, "Good-bye, you fuckin doctors!" A shirtless man, his face twisted in anger, was waving his fist from the second-story window. I smiled and waved to him. He waved back and, as anger gave way to a smile, he waved again, this time with open palm. This was Building 8, a "custodial dormitory" for people the institution has labeled "severely mentally retarded" and for people who label their keepers "you funckin doctors."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

a few new things

yet to be titled, #3 & 6, oil on canvas, 14"x14", D. Callis

The autonomy of the painted experiential object. In these works I have introduced an indexed image or a fragment of an image that is trying to signify an additional, external meaning but it is in tension with the absorbing visual field.

Today I received the announcement for the next exhibition at CB1 Gallery in downtown LA. CB1 is a really exciting gallery space with a very strong painting program. The next show opening Friday, July 78th is a group show including Edith Beaucage, Alexander Kroll, Matt Lifson, and Lily Simonson. In the introduction of the show gallery owner Clyde Beswick quotes New York Times, art critic Roberta Smith. While discussing current trends in the "art world" Smith says, "What's missing is art that seems made by one person out of intense personal necessity, often by hand. A lot but not all of this kind of work is painting, which seems to be becoming the art medium that dare not speak its name..."
That's it, isn't it!
"Moments of pleasure are the remnants washed ashore from a shipwreck, bits of paradise extended through time. We must hold these relics lightly, and use them with humility and restraint. Never seize them as our entitlements." G. K. Chesterton

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Jonathan Lasker

all images Jonathan Lasker, LA Louver, 2010

"over the last two years, there has been a gradual increase of interest in abstraction. During this time, I've puzzled over what this so-called return to abstraction could mean. I still cannot imagine it. For me, abstract painting finished with the black paintings of Frank Stella. The goal of a modern painting, which represented nothing but its own pure form, had been attained. When I began working, my objective was to find a way to make a painting discursive, rather than monotopical. I also wanted it to be discursive on its own terms, rather than in literary terms. Painting had already achieved this minimal monosubject, ie, the subject of its object reflexivity. To me, this existential objecthood was now ready to be depicted as subject matter in discourse with the additional component of the subjective psyche. It was possible to use our experience of the elements of painting for their associative powers, in a poetics of painting. A poetics which could also embrace broad topics, such as memory and presence, materiality and transcendence, and the flattening of high and low culture.
It is towards this end that I have painted unhappy marriages of the biomorphic and decorative, the mark of the "loaded brush" land the geometric, the psyche and popular culture. I want a painting that's operative. I'm seeking subject matter, not abstraction."
After Abstraction (1986), J. Lasker, Complete Essays 1984-1998

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Semester is Over, Summer is Here

The Sea that has no ending, oil on paper, 2009, D. Callis

You can always tell when my semester is over because I get active on my blog again. It was great semester but I'm loving the full-time in the studio. I have been rereading G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy. Take a read at this:

"It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore. Heaven may encore the bird who laid an egg. If the human being conceives and brings forth a human child instead of bringing forth a fish, or a bat, or a griffin, the reason may not be that we are fixed in animal fate without life or purpose. It may be that our little tragedy has touched the gods, that they admire it from their starry galleries, and that at the end of every human drama man is called again and again before the curtain. Repetition may go on for millions of years, by mere choice, and at any instant it may stop. Man may stand on the earth generation after generation, and yet each birth be his positively last appearance."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Rachel Whiteread @ The Hammer

a beautiful lesson in drawing; process, mapping, design, representation. see the show!

close the window, pull the curtains

Whiteread, Rothko, Hopper

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Annual Art Symposium

Biola University Art Dept. annual arts symposium this week end, Mar. 5th & 6th.
Fri. night 7-9:30, Sat. 9:30 - 4:30. This years theme is "Metropolis, how art in the city influences our beliefs and actions." featuring internationally recognized sculpture, Janet Echelman, LA's Lynn Aldrich and Marc Pally, curators Liza Simone of Phantom Galleries LA, Paul Hebblethwaite of Art and Shelter, Charlene Melhorn of Artology for BuildaBridge.
It's an amazing line up and its free!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

self portrait, P. Bonnard

John Fante

Just started reading John Fante's The Road to Los Angeles. An amazing rant by Arturo Gabriel Bandini after he decided that his chosen vocation of writing was too difficult (after a 30 min. attempt) and that perhaps philosophy would be easier.
"A Moral and Philosophical Dissertation on Man and Woman, by Arturo Gabriel Bandini." Evil is for the weak man, so why be weak. It is better to be strong than to be weak, for to be weak is to lack strength. Be strong, my brothers, for I say unless ye be strong the forces of evil shall get ye. All strength is a form of power. All lack of strength is a form of evil. All evil is a form of weakness. Be strong, lest ye be weak. Avoid weakness that ye might become strong. Weakness eateth the heart of woman. Strength feedeth the heart of man. Do ye wish to become females? Aye, then grow weak. Do ye wish to become men? Aye, aye. Then grow strong. Down with Evil! Up with Strength! Oh Zarathustra, endow thy women with plenty of weakness! Oh Zarathustra, endow thy men with plenty of strength! Down with woman! Hail Man!
Then I got tired of the whole thing. I decided maybe I wasn't a writer after all but a painter."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Thomas Nozkowski

Robert Storr

In an interview in The Art Newspaper, Robert Storr, critic, curator and dean of the Yale School of Art, was asked "what kind of advice are you giving art students now?"

Storr: I'm telling them that this is actually a fine time to be in art school because, when I was in art school, when a lot of people I admire were in art school in the 1960s and 1970s, there was no money. If you go into it knowing that you will probably not be rewarded lavishly, but you can in fact continue to work, you're o a much better footing than if you go into it trying to make a huge impact when you're 23 or 24, and then maintain that for the next 60 years. You know Jonh Baldessari is someone whom everyone admires, but people by and large forget that he destroyed all of his "successful work" and started all over again. I'm interested in people who make good art, whenever they make it, and I think a lot of the best artists today are late bloomers. I'm a big fan of both Raoul De Keyser and Tom Nozkowski, who I put in the Venice Biennale (2007). Tom is 65 and Raoul is 78 and neither one of them really hit it until they were way past the age when most people think it would be the end of your career.

TAN: Maybe there's less of a focus on the cult of youth.

Storr: There isn't less of a focus yet, but it's going to dawn on people that it's not working. It's always nice to be a coming attraction, but it's murder to be a has-been. If it hasn't happened for you yet, you can at least console yourself with the idea that it might. It's a fashionable world and even good artists go out of fashion. If you've never really thought about what you're going to do when you go out of fashion because you've never been out of fashion, it's much harder to take than if you've gradually come into your own, gotten through difficult times and know that you can survive.

Raoul de Keyser

Thursday, February 4, 2010


am light in my studio
1 hour old monarch outside my studio

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Amy Sillman, Untitled, 2007

"Sometimes when I am getting into a painting I try to paint around what I think is the great part. Then the great part becomes this ugly little tumor that has nothing to do with anything else in the painting, and finally I just have to paint it out. In writing it's called "killing your darlings." Sometimes there are beautiful places that you have to keep, but there are definitely always struggles between one state and another. The paintings are the results of those struggles. Other times I try to go back to the original impulse for a painting after it has become unrecognizable. I'll take out the original drawing that I was looking at the use it like a compass because the first thing I was doing might have been the best thing." Amy Sillman

"Painting seems like an impossibility, with only a sign now and then of its own light. Which must be because of the narrow passage from diagramming to that other state - a corporeality. In this sense, to paint is a possessing rather than a picturing." "To will a new form is inacceptable, because will builds distortions. Desire, too, is incomplete and arbitrary. These strategies, however intimate they become, must especially be removed to clear the way for something else - a situation somewhat unclear, but which in retrospect becomes a very precise act ..." Philip Guston

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bill Jensen

Bill Jensen, Louhan, 2006
"Artists are people who go in a room everyday, let the art drag them a little further, and then sitting back twenty years later say, "How did I get here?" Bill Jensen
oil on panel

some new things that i'm excited about. i've been thinking about structure and order, collapse and reconfiguration.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

Friday, January 8, 2010

Art Residency in Spain

Can Surrat, a three hundred year old winery converted into an artist residency. Situated in a grotto on the outskirts of the small village of El Bruc, 45 mins. from Barcelona. Five visual artists, five writers. 4 weeks working in the studio. 24 paintings. Great working environment, great people.
Two of the books I read while I was there were John O'Donohue's, Beauty, the invisible embrace and Musa Mayer, Night Studio, a memoir of Philip Guston.

"there is nothing predictable here. For the artist there is a sense of frightening vulnerability, for anything can come, anything can happen. The unknown outside and the unknown interior can conceive anything. The artist becomes the passing womb for something that wants to be born, want to become visible and live independently in the world." John O'Donohue

"Some other quality of mind, some crazy, driven insistence on getting it right, on shinning the glib and easy reach, on letting the line down through the surface glimmer, past the lotus blossoms and bait fish in common view, into that murky place, into obscurity, and once there, waiting - no, not patiently, but waiting - for the deeper tug of truth." Musa Mayer (Guston)

(top to bottom)
my studio first two weeks
my studio second two weeks
works produced
works produced
works produced

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Basel to Barcelona

(top to bottom)
Joan Miro Foundation
Muse d'Art Contemporiani de Barcelona
Sagrada Familia Cathedral

From Basel I traveled to Barcelona, Spain. Spent four days in the city before going to the artist residency. First time in Barcelona, wow. So much to see: Miro, Picasso, Gaudi, Tapies. From a city of museums I will mention just a few of my favorites. The first is the Joan Miro Foundation. The museum opened to the public in 1975. It was to be a site dedicated to the artist's work and also to provide a space to promote and publicize the work of contemporary artists. The Foundation's collection currently comprises over 14,000 pieces: 217 paintings, 178 sculptures, 9 textiles, 4 ceramics, and almost complete graphic works and some 8,000 drawings.

Another site for contemporary art is the Mueseu d'Art Contemporiani de Barcelona. The MACBA opened to the public in 1995. The building, which I found interesting but a bit sterile and institutional, is nested in the historic Gothic district. During my visit the two shows, ironically, where of Americans: Ray Johnson and John Cage.

Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) You can't think of Barcelona without thinking of Gaudi. His architectural genius and eccentricity ( love or hate his work) defines a major part of the urban landscape of Barcelona. Almost all of his works where executed in Barcelona including his masterpiece, Sagrada Familia. It is worth the entrance fee to tour his work. Don't miss the cathedral and Park Guell. If you've been in the presence of his work you know that words are not sufficient to explain what has been made manifest. All I kept thinking is that Frank Gehry seems so conservative.

Basel and Colmar

Fonation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland
Isenheim Altarpiece

I will continue to archive my adventures of the last several months. In October I had the good fortune to spend time in Europe, most of which was doing an artist residency in Spain at Can Serrat located in El Bruc just outside of Barcelona. I started my trip visiting friends in Basel, Switzerland. While there I visited the Fondation Beyeler. The Beyeler is the life work of Hildy and Ernst Beyeler, who over a period of fifty years, as collectors and dealers, built up an exceptional collection of works by modern masters. Their collection, which was transferred to a foundation in 1982, was first publicly exhibited in its entirety in 1989. currently comprising around 200 works. The opening of the Fondation Beyler in 1997 provided the Beyeler Collection with a public museum. The building was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. Works by modern master such as Cezanne, Picasso. Rousseau, Mondrian, Klee, Ernst, Matisse, Newman, Bacon, Dubuffet, Baselitz. What was on exhibition during my visit was a great show of drawings, paintings,and sculptures by one of the Beyer's favorite artists: Giacometti.

While in Basel I also had the opportunity to drop down into the north of France to Colmar to visit the Unterlinden Museum, specifically to see the Isenheim Altarpiece. The museum, which opened to the public in 1853, is housed on the site of the former Dominican convent of Uterlinden. The Grunewald masterpiece was executed between 1512 and 1516 for the monastery of the Antonite order in Isenheim, a village 15 miles south of Colmar. This religious institution had a hospice on the premises where the monks ministered to victims of Saint Anthony's fire, a disfiguring disease now called erogotism caused by the ingestion of rye infected with ergot.
To stand in the presence of this work (because of poor weather I was in the room with only two other people) was a profound experience.