Ticket To Venice

August 22nd, 2017

Philip Guston book and tea on porch, Summer 2017

If I wasn’t so busy I’d be in Venice. Sure I’d take in as much as I could of the Venice Biennale but after the first good night’s sleep there I would start with the Philip Guston show at the Gallerie Dell’Accademia, “Philip Guston and the Poets.”

I travel as light as possible but when we were in New York last I spotted and picked up this book first thing at Hauser & Wirth Publishers on the first day there and had to pack it around the whole day on our gallery hop. Such a price. I have cherished every moment with this thing even if it is only a few dreamy pages before I nod off on the porch.

I superstitiously read the little slogans on the Yogi teabags even is most of them annoy me. But I’m taking this one at face value. “Love is an experience of infinity.”

Cereal Box Theater

August 21st, 2017

Covenant gathering in  Durand Eastman for eclipse

We walked up to the lake and spotted these witches gathering before today’s eclipse. Actually, they could be Presbyterians for all I know. They were dressed in white and one of them was wearing a cross around their neck.

Peggi had altered two Shredded Wheat boxes this morning and poked a pin hole in one end. We took them down to the pool where we put our backs to the sun and stared into the tiny theaters for an hour or so. I love it in there and the clouds that floated by made it all the more dramatic. I love the wide aspect ratio of the box end and the way the floor to ceiling screen appeared to be bordered on all four sides with a black frame. The perspective lines converging on the four corners of the black frame appeared to be fine white lines and it was easy to forget this wasn’t a life-sized room. We decided to save our boxes until 2024.

Bug Mug

August 20th, 2017

Margaret Explosion live at the Bug Jar 1998. Jack Schaefer - guitar, Paul Dodd - drums, Peggi Fournier - sax, Pete LaBonne - bass.

Our band, Margaret Explosion, played a Friday Happy Hour gig at the Bug Jar for two years in the late nineties. The band at that time was Jack Schaefer on guitar, Peggi on sax, me on drums and Pete LaBonne on bass. We eventually recorded a cd with this lineup but because Peggi and I were playing with a different Margaret Explosion lineup we called the band on the cd “Invisible Idiot.”

Casey, the Bug Jar owner and bartender, brought in vegetarian food from the India House and Rolling Rock beer was a dollar a bottle. One night, before the band began, I set up a stool, a light and white canvas background in the back room and asked whoever was there if they would like to sit for a photo. I remember not calling it a “mugshot” so that aspect wasn’t overplayed but the setting dictated the pose. I’m thinking about putting some of those prints in the show at RoC.

I was using a one megapixel Kodak DC210 camera that my father bought for me at the Kodak employee camera shop. I brought home about thirty photos that night and took them into Photoshop where I converted them into black & white bitmap photos with a pronounced dot pattern. I created Quark documents to scale and printed tiled pages on our laser printer. The print-outs were shown in the Bug Jar later that year.

Margaret Explosion as Invisible Idiot – “Abstract Express”
Margaret Explosion – Abstract Express

Big Dig

August 19th, 2017

Dodds and friends working on the pool at Hawley Drive in Webster, New York. Photo by Leo Dodd

I went looking through a box of clippings and old letters and stuff hoping to find an article from the local paper that was written in 1990 about my father during the Can of Worms reconstruction. My dad had taken an early retirement buyout from Kodak and he would go over to the construction site everyday and sketch the proceedings. Three of the paintings he did from these drawings will be in the October RoCo show and it would be nice to find this article for the display case. I did’t have any luck but my brothers and sisters are on the hunt.

I found this photo in the box and it reminded me how much fun we had hanging around our backyard. When my family moved out of the city in the sixties Webster was still a small town surrounded by farms. Although this place was pretty close to the four corners, our subdivision, referred to as the “Schantz track” by locals, was a muddy old corn field.

My dad decided to put a pool in the backyard and the idea was to dig it ourselves. You can see in this picture how much help we were. My dad did most of the work. My brothers did a lot more work than I did but I remember swinging a pick ax to break away chunks of hard packed clay. If you click on the photo for the enlargement you can see my dad borrowed a rototiller to break up the clay.

With seven kids in the family we would sometimes all have our friends over at the same time. There could be thirty kids in the backyard. And when it all got to be too much my mom would pop the back door open and order everyone to go to their own homes.

In this photo, from left:

Norm Ladd – Norm was a couple of years behind me in school but when I was a freshman, living in the dorm at Indiana University, his mom called and said, “Norm has run away and he’s coming out to stay with you.” As I remember it Norm’s future wife, an Indiana native, came to Rochester with some other friends to visit me. She met Norm here and they settled in Bloomington.

Paul Dodd – I’m shown in dress shoes with no socks talking to Norm. Norm also lived in the Shantz track.

Billy Mahoney and David Hill – These kids lived across the street. I used to babysit for them and I just talked to David at my mom’s funeral.

Frank Palozolo – Down in the hole, Frank, moved here from another town in our junior year but he quickly became school president.

Dave Mahoney – In his own world here, Dave came out to Bloomington after he quit MCC and we lived together for a few years. He was a fantastic drummer and he moved to San Francisco with his band, MX-80 Sound. He died rather suddenly. I think that’s the Mahoney’s car, last one in our driveway, a Chevy Impala or something.

Fran Dodd – That has to be my youngest brother, Fran, behind Mark in the group where Brad is holding court. Fran does high-end masonry for Rochester’s finest home builders.

Mark Dodd – Mark is in front of Fran. We shared a bedroom in this house. When our family lived in the city all five boys were in the same bedroom. Mark and I did everything together and shared a lot of the same friends.

Brad Fox – Brad was good friends with everyone in our family. In fact he lived with our family for a while during high school when his parent’s threw him out. He came out to Indiana too and stayed until he moved to San Francisco.

Tim Dodd and John Dodd – I love Tim’s t-shirt. I’m quite sure it was one of mine, handed down. Tim is an art director at Xerox and John designs and handcrafts exquisite furniture.

Joe Barrett – Joe says he doesn’t think this is him but that is his family car in the driveway, the Corvair, the same one he, Dave and I drove to Woodstock and somehow managed to find when we left. Peggi and I are working our way through the Twilight Zones on Netflix and I think of Joe almost every episode. I saw so many of them for the first time in his basement. He needs to pull his pants up.

My two sisters were understandably missing from this manly gathering. My dad took this photo.

Witness

August 16th, 2017

Boat coming in to Charlotte Harbor from Jetty Restaurant

I can’t believe how much work is involved with organizing a show. It turns out creating the work that goes on display isn’t even half of it. You have to sort the good from the bad (a moving target) and coordinate your choices with the gallery director. And to promote the show you need photographs of the work and then those images need to posted on the website for the virtual presentation. That could take a few days.

Of course there are the space considerations and the arrangement of the pieces within that space. The show needs a name and then a short amount of copy for a blurb. And the artist statement! Was it always like this? Did we always have bios and post cards and wall tags to explain the art?

But I am not going to let this ruin the summer. We drove north as far as we could in this part of the country and had dinner at the Jetty, the restaurant in the old Fast Ferry terminal.

Pete LaBonne – Artist’s Statement

Harnessing Summer

August 14th, 2017

Turquoise house on Wisner in Rochester, New York

Every morning I look at the dead branches on the cherry tree out back. I don’t know why cherry are like that but branches are always losing their leaves and the next thing you know the woodpeckers are working on it. Today I got our pole saw out and took care of it. Cleaned up a bunch of other small trees as well and then went for a big one.

I cut the wedge on the downhill side of the tree so the center of my wedge cut was pointed in the direction I wanted it to fall. And I looked up one last time before I made my cut from the other side. I saw Peggi motioning but I was wearing my Home Depot noise cancelling headphones and couldn’t make out what she was saying. The tree was only about eight inches in diameter, a maple with hardly any branches until the top, but it was probably sixty feet tall. If it went the wrong way it would hit the house.

This is where we turned to Jared, our next door neighbor. He advised us to throw a rope around the tree and take the other end of the rope down the hill where someone could stand behind a big oak pulling the tree toward them while I made the cut. Jared’s friend, John, volunteered for that. We dropped it just where we wanted it. I cut the tree into 16 inch logs and came up the hill just in time to hear Rick calling me for a game of horseshoes. I won the first and third game to take the match.

We planned to go down to the pool before bed for a midnight swim.

White Gloves

August 13th, 2017

Green forties car In Four Mile Creek Preserve in Webster, New York

We spent the afternoon in Webster where my brother, Fran, lives. He wasn’t home. He was working like he does everyday unless it rains. We stopped at the farm stand on his road and bought a dozen ears of corn. I wanted to make sure it was the right farm stand so I asked the lady behind the counter if this was where Fran bought his corn. She said “I knew you looked familiar. Fran lives on corn. He’s a real hoot.”

We were out here to pick up a few of my father’s paintings and to go through my father’s repository which is temporarily being stored in a spare bedroom in his home, my sister’s old room.

In preparation for the upcoming Rochester Biennial Peggi and I have been culling my father’s paintings. We have a few hundred on Leo’s website but there is only enough room for thirty in the show. The final decision as to which ones to use is up to the curator but we are making sure we can get our hands on the actual paintings in case they are selected.

There is a book shelf that fills a whole wall in this bedroom and it is stocked from floor to ceiling with Leo’s sketchbooks. We went through half and took a walk in the woods across the street from Fran’s house. That’s where we came across this old car. We’re hoping to make some of the sketchbooks available during the show. Maybe one of those white glove scenarios.

Totally Unfair

August 12th, 2017

Two farmers painted on silos near Torch Lake in Michigan

Our hosts on Torch Lake were kind enough to stop the car so I could take this picture on our way out of town. I had spotted it the day before and I couldn’t get the image out of my head.

We were visiting Peggi’s sister and she had recently retired so Peggi was pushing her on what she did with her days. Peggi wanted to know, “What is a typical day like?” I find that a totally unfair question. I certainly wouldn’t want to have to account for my time.

So what did we do on our first day back? We were still reading the paper on the deck when our neighbor stopped by to ask for help. He was trying to play an iPod through a small PA system and he couldn’t get the volume up anywhere near the volume of the mic channel. I told him I would stop by when I finished the paper.

He had a brand new cord, Sony stereo mini to stereo RCAs, running from the iPod to the back of the board. He played something for me and then plugged the mic in. It was loud as hell. I looked at the back of the board and saw that that the iPod was coming in the “Record Out.” An easy fix but surprising he got any volume out of it at all with that patch.

Meanwhile Peggi heard back from our nephew, an IT guy at a New Jersey bank and our one man geek squad. The neighbors on the other side of us had asked us if we could recommend a way to learn how to fly their new drone without cracking it up. They were even considering buying a really cheap drone to practice with.

Our nephew had taken birds eye drone movies of our neighborhood when he was up here and we had shared them with the neighbors. We passed their question on to him and he advised them to download an app for their phone and put it in “Beginners” mode. He said that was easier than trying to fly a cheap drone. Peggi went down to the neighbors house to to download the app and she plans to return when they are ready to launch.

With those issues under control we rode our bikes up to Wegman’s. Came out with two quarts of homegrown peaches, some wild caught scallops and a bin of plastic mixed greens. We needed an “LR44″ battery for our grilling thermometer but couldn’t find one at Wegman’s so we went up to Walgreens. The clerk there told me LR44 is the same as Energizer 357/303 so I bought one of those. You would think the brands would want to sell to their competitors and put that information on the package. Our last stop was Aman’s Market where we picked up half a dozen ears of corn and some homegrown Escarole.

By he time we got home it was almost time for dinner.

Parallel Universe

August 10th, 2017

Tiny house on fruit farm outside Traverse City

Northern Michigan is so pretty. It’s like Upstate New York except there are more lakes. Vineyards, fruit farms and corn are everywhere and the wildflowers, birds and vegetation are all the same as back home. Torch Lake is long and runs north south. We walked and biked along the shore in both directions but today we went perpendicularly, up the hill for two and a half miles. The road turned to dirt or, more accurately, sand as we crossed Route 31. And when it ran out we could see the next body of water.

There were fruit trees on both sides of the road. Cherry is king here and acres of trees were grouped by age. There were apple orchards and pears as well. We picked an apple and I shined it on my shirt. It was crisp and delicious.

We flew in and out of Cherry Capitol Airport in Traverse City. Our hosts bought cherry pies from two different farm stands and we discussed the merits of both. We bought dried cherries to bring back to our neighbor and on the way to the airport we stopped for a dish of cherry ice cream, the world famous Moomers Homemade Ice Cream.

God’s Permission

August 10th, 2017

Helicopter on Torch Lake

There is a lot of money in Traverse City. I couldn’t even have told you what state Traverse City was in before this trip. It sounds like a dusty old town in a cowboy movie. Torch Lake, somewhere near the size of the largest Finger Lake, is lined with big “cottages.” Half a million dollar places, the average cost, that are mostly used only in summer. The lake frontage average cost is $5000 a foot. I can’t help but think of this chart as I watch the boats go by.

I’m not complaining. The setting, though, does heighten the surreal nature of the news, epitomized for me in this statement from the president’s evangelical advisor. (As if those last three words weren’t surreal enough.)

“When it comes to how we should deal with evildoers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil. In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”

Gentleman Jack

August 8th, 2017

Full moon over Torch Lake

I should have bought that Tigers hat at the airport. I was swimming off the end of the dock when Jack suggested we ride down to the Dockside and get a little something to eat. So there I was in the back of his party boat in the blazing sun. All the docks were full there so we cruised down the Clam River a ways and Jack filled up the gas tank at a place called the Clam Shack. I looked at some Bell’s Two Hearted IPA in the cooler but I didn’t have my wallet so I let it go.

It’s beautiful here at Torch Lake in northern Michigan. Not Upper Michigan but at the top of the mitt. Eminem has a place here and Michael Moore had a place before his divorce.

There was a slip open when we came back up the river and Jack told me to grab the starboard side rope and hop out. I swung one of the rope around a post on the dock so the front end was under control but the wind took the back end out into the channel. Another boat was right behind us and the guy behind the wheel started hollering at us. If I had acted quickly enough I could have secured the front end and then pulled the back end in but that is only hindsight. Peggi and her sister were on the boat but could only watch as we sideswiped another boat. Jack handled it all like a gentleman but I felt responsible.

Going Green

August 6th, 2017

Dead tree just beyond green lake and trees in Durand Eastman Park

There is a point in every summer where there has been so much rain and it is so humid that everything turns green. Invasive weeds encroach on the paths in the woods. The trees are at their fullest and the woods is at its darkest. It is lush and beautiful. We are peaking.

Rebellion

August 5th, 2017

Citlali Fabian Pop Up Show at Culver and Merchants Road

I was surprised how many people were in the Cineplex Theater Friday afternoon. We had reserved seats for Detroit and in retrospect it was probably a little silly to be excited about seeing a movie about a rebellion. Peggi grew up outside of Detroit and remembers the curfew. Rochester had its own so called “riot” three summers earlier in 1964.

I really liked Kathryn Bigelow’s “Near Dark” and then she got all big budget. We had just seen Jacob Lawrence’s “Migration” series in New York and it was trivialized in her opening scenes. (One reviewer, apparently without knowing where the illustrations came from, called it a children’s book animation.)

The movie weaved a relevant storyline, for someone who came in from the cold, but considering how little things have changed in fifty years, Detroit’s retelling should have had a lot more meat on its bones. It was a big letdown for me.

Our First Friday gallery trot was short but sweet. A pop-up gallery in the North East Triangle, the area of the city that got trendy when we left, featured Mexican photographer, Citlali Fabian. She slowly leafed through her gorgeous, square format, black and white prints, all taken in her small home town outside Oaxaca. She told us a neighbor offered to shoo the dog away in the photo above but of course that would have ruined the entire composition.

Show Needs A Title

August 3rd, 2017

Me and Bleu Cease in my studio preparing for the RoCo's October Biennial

I had this date on my calendar for a long time. In fact I had a 3 page document on my iPad with notes for the meeting. But mostly I’ve been working on a batch of new drawings for this show – the subject of our meeting – the Rochester Biennial. MAG used to host the show with six upstate artists featured but they have given the concept and name to RoCo, Visual Studies Worksop and R Gallery. Each of those three places will feature two artists and RoCo picked one living and one dead, me and my father, Leo Dodd. On the surface the work is very different but the impulses are the same. The contrast is a quality.

I had just finished photographing twenty new drawings before our meeting. I had Duane’s light gear out, four Totas, and my tripod. I found the display on the back of my camera is easily twice as bright when its plugged in. It was so readable I kept finding that I would spot problems while viewing my drawings at that tiny scale. I know some people use a reducing lens for that.

Bleu, the gallery director, wants to show Leo’s Rochester paintings and he wants to show an overview of my ongoing “Models from Crime Page” project (Rochester faces). I showed him my Bug Jar Mugshots and he liked them so I’ll show ten of those. Bleu pulled these oil paintings out of a pile and chose a few triptychs as possibilities. I’m most excited about some new paintings that I’m working on.

Siempre Culver

August 1st, 2017

The summer weather has been a little spotty. I’m not one to complain about the weather but I will agree to that.

We met some friends down at the pool and when the sun moved beyond the chaise lounges I called in a pizza. There is really only one real pizza joint and they don’t deliver. Matthew offered to drive and we headed down Culver. It’s such a nice ride I told him about my Culver Road video.

Flower Child

July 30th, 2017

Doll clothes at Irondequoit Farmers Market

I told the women who made these doll dresses that I really liked them. I wasn’t familiar with the type of doll. My sister played with Barbies and Peggi still has her 2nd generation Barbie tucked away somewhere. The dolls above are almost actual size, on second thought, more like half size. The woman told us they are sold at some store I’ve never heard of but she said it like it was a really common store and she said they were reasonably priced. Peggi pointed to one of the dresses (not shown in the blow-up of this photo) and told the woman how much she liked it. I asked if she made clothes to human scale and she said, “People ask me that all the time but I don’t”

We had to move our car down the street tonight because our next door neighbor is having another house concert. One of those singer/song writer affairs. I get nervous in those sit-down, rapt attention situations so we usually skip them. But we did go to his first house concert about six years ago. It was Eric Taylor and Eric is back again tonight. So we might pop in somewhere after the break and check out a few songs.

We heard my new favorite band last night in the most unlikely setting. I already wrote about them when we last heard them in February so I’ll just copy paste that description here.

“Vocalist Debbie Kendrick has all the laid back confidence in the world and she backs that up with a voice that commands your attention in the most understated manner. The material is top-shelf gospel-tinged, soul and blues tunes like “John the Revelator.” She has the perfect band with Sean Pfeifer playing rythmic, percussive guitar. Bassist, Mike Patric, is as solid as a rock and drummer Pete Monacelli swings like crazy on one drum, a snare, that he massages with a pair of the most well seasoned, plastic brushes I have ever seen. This band in amazing.”

Volunteers Of America

July 29th, 2017

Marine Billboard near Record Archive in Rochester, New York

IMHO Jefferson Airplane peaked with “Crown of Creation” but they still had some magic when I saw them in the old football/then soccer stadium at Indiana University. My brother was in town, we had our drugs lined up and we sat on the lawn about a hundred feet from the stage. The draft lottery had not yet been instituted. We both had college deferments. Neither one of us were going to volunteer for Viet Nam duty.

Mountain opened with their cowbell thing. Loud as hell, so we had to clear out for a bit. The Airplane were touring with “Volunteers,” their followup to “Crown of Creation.” I heard Marty Balin was busted in his hotel room the night before so he didn’t perform. The sixties had turned its final corner. Nearly everything now had dark overtones. Which is what gave the seventies its edge.

Contemplation

July 27th, 2017

Lions at entrance to subdivision Williamstown, Massachusetts

I recently advised my friend, John, to call Apple for advice on migrating from his old eMac to a new iMac. That recommendation was mostly for time-saving, selfish reasons but John has spent hours with his new friends at Apple and recently thanked us for the recommendation. He stopped by the other night to borrow an old operating system so he can reformat his old machine before putting it out to pasture and he wanted to bring a few things to our attention, things he had learned from hours spent in his “library.”

He had book-marked pages in the recent “Genius” issue of National Geographic and he read those passages aloud to us. “The aha moment, the flash of clarity that arises at unexpected times—in a dream, in the shower, on a walk—often emerges after a period of contemplation.” His experience in stewing over a problem has found this to be true. And, although I didn’t say anything, I have found the same. I’d spend hours knocking out logo designs under a deadline and then hop in the shower to have the winning entry reveal itself. So, us common folk can at least recognize the concept. There’s also an “Age and Achievement” graph in the issue that charts peak output of a dozen geniuses and makes it pretty clear that in most cases that point is around thirty or forty. But what about Philip Guston?

Next passage, read aloud, voice of John: “This may help explain the astounding performances of jazz pianist Keith Jarrett. Jarrett, who improvises concerts that last for as long as two hours. When he sits down in front of audiences, he purposefully pushes notes out of his mind, moving his hands to keys he had no intention of playing. ‘I’m bypassing the brain completely,’ he tells me. ‘I am being pulled by a force that I can only be thankful for.’ Jarrett specifically remembers one concert in Munich, where he felt as if he had disappeared into the high notes of the keyboard. His creative artistry, nurtured by decades of listening, learning, and practicing melodies, emerges when he is least in control. ‘It’s a vast space in which I trust there will be music,’ he says.”

Esperanza Spalding, a professor at Harvard University, where she teaches composition and performance, plans to record her next album in a 72 hour live stream. She tells students that in order to speak honestly in your own voice, you have to control the urge to plan everything out. “Only play in response to what you just played — and if you lose your focus, then only play in response to that. This helps them focus on a conversational flow, maintaining contact with the energy of the moment rather than wandering through some calculated narrative. They get in touch with what they already have going on. Which is a lot.”

“I foresee that creating before a live audience will add excitement and extra inspiration energy. Knowing someone is watching and listening to what you’re making seems to conjure up a sort of ‘can’t fail’ energy. The necessity to keep going because it’s live draws up another depth of creative facility that can’t be reached when you know you can try again tomorrow. Having such limited time to write and record 10 songs will also force us to rely on improvisation and first instinct. Not allowing us time to judge, second guess, question, or alter the initial hits of inspiration that drive the creation of each song.”

Crystal Blue Persuasion

July 24th, 2017

View from Thomas Schutte Crystal at The Clark

The Clark in Williamstown, just down the road from Mass MoCA, is a jewel of a museum. We spent the night nearby after touring Mass MoCA and we thought we’d visit the place before heading home. We weren’t prepared for how substantial the collection was or how beautiful the grounds and buildings are. What is this place doing in the middle of the Berkshire Mountains?

The featured exhibition here is “Picasso: Encounters,” thirty-five Picasso prints and three paintings, including the Clark’s rare impression of The Frugal Repast (1904) and Ecce Homo, after Rembrandt (1970), made just three years before his death.

One of the coolest pieces in their collection is up on a hill outside the museum buildings. You can get to Thomas Schütte’s “Crystal” by taking a path through the woods from the building that is currently housing Helen Frankenthaler’s beautiful large abstracts. Once inside the Crystal I starting thinking of Tommy James, not his real name, and this song.

Wall Therapy

July 23rd, 2017

Sol Lewitt wall drawing at Mass MoCA

Sol LeWitt would kick ass if one of his wall drawings was executed here. We set the alarm and took off early for the Berkshires. They happen pretty quickly after Troy so we had most of the day to wander around Mass MoCA. We walked through the Nick Cave installation and started our tour proper with nine of James Turrell’s pieces. Not really light art, as he says, but art about perception. We had reservations for a view of his “Perfectly Clear.” I could have stayed in there all day but we were only allowed nine minutes.

Sol LeWitt has three floors of wall drawings in one of the giant industrial buildings, buildings that used to house Arnold Print Works, a company that specialized in printing cloth. They supplied uniforms to the Union soldiers during the Civil War. You don’t just look at Sol Lewitt pieces. You digest the concept that led to its creation. We spent hours here but didn’t have time for it all.

We saved the last hour of the day for Anselm Kiefer, on view here through 2028. His monumental nautical paintings, “Velimir Khlebnikov,” take up a whole building and we were the only ones, other than the guard, in it. Like DIA Beacon this old industrial complex makes an ideal setting for viewing art. The experience will change you.