Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Place at the Table
18" x 24"
oil and paper on canvas

What is the role of the American male today? Especially if he eschews the conventional role of donning a suit for a job and chooses, instead, to paint and carve out a "living" as an artist? This is a theme I've been grappling with for many years. This painting is laden with personal symbology, though that was not my intention at first. It all started out as a simple arrangement of objects, but at the end I see a personal narrative in this painting.

The background of this piece is actually collaged pages from an old childrens science book, probably around first or second grade level. On top of that, the still life was painted (from life). Some of the text and images appear through the lighter areas of the tablecloth.

When our daughters were little, I stayed home during the day to raise them since April was a teacher and had the steady paycheck. I was starting my painting business (walls, not art) and was more flexible with my time. April would come home at the end of her long day to take over and I would go out and paint apartments, empty homes, etc. at night and on the weekends. It was tough, but the reward was being able to spend quality time with my girls at such a formative age. I think this painting speaks of that time in our family history when gender roles (in terms of earning income) were switched. I always kept my hand in my artwork no matter how beat down I was from my work. Looking back, I feel I strengthened my male identity by being a stay-at-home dad and artist, that's who I was (and still am). I guess the old pliers in the painting are symbolic of that.

Speaking of dad stuff, I just want to wish Jessie a belated happy birthday. She's in the final few weeks of completing her Masters in Management, Science, and Engineering from Stanford University. Needless to say, the parental units are very proud. (I love you, Peanut!)

This week's studio music:
Social Distortion- Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell
Revolutionary Road soundtrack


  1. A beautiful post Denny that made me smile from deep within. I love the painting (of course) - those plates are not easy to paint..I teach people how to draw and paint and tell them it's easy but here I am doing a saucer at the moment and it's a pig.
    Beautiful daddy-daughter photo! Proud daddy for sure!

  2. Hey Denny a wonderful post from the heart that lets us peek a little into the window of what makes you the artist we all know and love!

    Your daughters are incredibly lucky, and I cannot believe Jessie (and my neph Ben, too) is graduating from Stanford in June..see you at the ceremony! Where did the last four years go??



  3. Denny;

    A wonderful post; I so enjoyed reading it. So much richness is added to our lives when we live in awareness of what is truly important. There are ways in which our society seems to discourage men from this type of consciousness. How blessed you and your family are that you have worked to maintain this understanding in your life. ~~ Love the painting; so meaningful.

  4. April~ thanks, and if I know you and your painting capabilities, you'll wrestle that "pig" into a wonderful little painting.

  5. Kit, I know, where did the time go? It was only a few years ago we were sitting in marketing class together talking about Jess and Ben starting at Stanford. Yow!

  6. Lynda, thank you. I am the luckiest man alive; to have a loving, supporting wife, awesome daughters, and have the luxury of devoting at least part of my day to teaching and making art.

  7. Denny. I did wrestle that "pig" but it came out like a runt...too small for the cup but hey ho. It's only for the kitchen wall. Thanks for believing in me when some days the paint says I'm getting it all wrong. lol

  8. The table setting really works Denny. Loved the Irish vase. great colors. Congratulations to your daughter. My oldest grand daughter graduates this spring in Pomona California and will be a full fledged Physical Therapist. Someone who is giving me great advise on this crushed heel. She is working now doing intern work at a hospital in San Diego.

  9. I love this! It'd be awesome to see it in person to see the pages showing through too. The picture of you and Jessie is lovely.

  10. April~ post that runt on your blog, now I want to see it!

    Gary~ Glad to hear you're getting that specialized care from your granddaughter.

    Fern~ Come on up to nor-cal again and have dinner with us, then you can see the painting!
    And bring your parents too!

  11. Denny...

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us and I see proud papa beams shooting out of your smile in your tender picture with your lovely daughter ... she'd be a great model for my class ...

    I also like the allegorical still life... the themes are endless ... dish .. hammer ... letter

  12. Thanks, Frank, I'm getting more allegorical as I get older, and that's not so bad I suppose. There's mystery in the most mundane of objects in our lives. We artists, poets, musicians... well, our job is to bring these mysteries to light, I believe, to hold to the world. Whether the world is interested or not probably doesn't matter in the end.

  13. Hey, Denny. Don't know if you recall me from college. My clearest memory of you is unfortunately you dressed as Hunter S. Thompson for Halloween, so I can't match the memory with the man I see in current photos.
    I began learning to paint a few months ago, after years of fandom. I'm still a big fan of yours, and this still-life is a great example of why.

  14. Tom, of course I remember you. And you were one of the first buyers of my art, remember the collage I made from the airline emergency card? Hope to see your work sometime soon, maybe on Facebook...April is going to get me set up on that soon. Great to hear from you and thanks for your kind words!