Refugee from the Dreamworld

I am a refugee from the dreamworld
In this new home my wings don’t work
People here are suspicious of me
When I look at them, they look away
Artist: Cyril Rolando
I am a refugee from the dreamworld
Everything here makes too much sense
There is so little mystery
That I’m afraid to fall in love

Artist: Andre Masson
I am a refugee from the dreamworld
My old home has been blown to bits
People here use it for target practice
It only lives in my memory
Artist: Joan Miro

I am a refugee from the dreamworld

And I will never go home again
Home is a word that has no meaning here
My language has become extinct
Artist: Paul Nash

I am a refugee from the dreamworld

Maybe you are too
Tell me your story so I understand
Maybe we can build a new homeland


“Nature” is what we see—
The Hill—the Afternoon—
Squirrel—Eclipse— the Bumble bee—
Nay—Nature is Heaven—
Nature is what we hear—
The Bobolink—the Sea—
Thunder—the Cricket—
Nay—Nature is Harmony—
Nature is what we know—
Yet have no art to say—
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.
Emily Dickinson

Andrew Wyeth In Retrospect at The Brandywine River Museum of Art

“To have all your life’s work and to have them along the wall, it’s like walking in with no clothes on. It’s terrible.” Andrew Wyeth

On October 19, 1937, Andrew Wyeth had the first exhibition of his works, a collection of 23 watercolors at the Macbeth Gallery in Manhattan. Two days later all the paintings were sold and his name was rippling across the art world.

This year, in celebration of his 100th birthday, The Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania is presenting a rare artistic feast in collaboration with the Seattle Art Museum. Over 100 of Wyeth’s paintings and drawings are on display in breathtaking galleries that are part Guggenheim/part rustic barn on three levels surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows that bring the woods and river into the visual experience.  

“Artists today think of everything they do as a work of art. It is important to forget about what you are doing – then a work of art may happen.”

Like his friend Edward Hopper, Wyeth is a giant of 20th Century American art who is both revered and dismissed by critics. Abstract expressionism is often considered a deeper form of artistic expression than anything realistic or representational but Wyeth felt he captured something deeper than the objects he represented. The viewer can decide whether or not he succeeded.

You won’t find a lot of happy faces in Wyeth’s paintings. The closest thing to a smile may be the enigmatic one on the face of his wife and manager Betsy in the portrait from 1966 called Maga’s Daughter


“One’s art goes as far and as deep as one’s love goes.”

It is rare for more than one person to appear together on a Wyeth canvas. Most of his portraits have a stillness approaching emptiness that can be unsettling. 

“I think anything like that – which is contemplative, silent, shows a person alone – people always feel sad. Is it because we’ve lost the art of being alone?” 

On Christmas Eve 1967 Alvaro Olson died. His sister Christina died the next month. With the loss of two of Wyeth’s most dependable subjects, the artist needed new muses and found them in Helga Testorf and Siri Erickson. His nude paintings of this woman and girl were kept from the public eye for years but both are included in this exhibit. 

While the Brandywine’s exhibit does not include Wyeth’s most famous painting, Christina’s World (you can find it outside a men’s room at MOMA whose founding director bought it in 1948 for $1,800), the unfamiliar works on display are more rewarding for their freshness. Thin Icewas acquired by the Nagaoko Contemporary Art Museum in Japan and is on display for the first time in the US.   

“I’ve never studied the Japanese. That’s something that must have crept in there. But the Japanese are my biggest clients. They seem to like the elemental quality.”

There is a lot of empty space in Wyeth’s paintings. Or there is none. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

“It’s a moment that I’m after, a fleeting moment, but not a frozen moment.”

“I search for the realness, the real feeling of a subject, all the texture around it… I always want to see the third dimension of something… I want to come alive with the object.”

Wyeth’s later years and the deaths of other reliable subjects brought deeper musings of mortality to his art.

“I don’t think that there is anything that is really magical unless it has a terrifying quality.”

“I do an awful lot of thinking and dreaming about things in the past and the future – the timelessness of the rocks and the hills – all the people who have existed there. I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.”

The exhibit closes with the final painting of Wyeth’s career, Goodbye, completed the summer before his death in January, 2009 at the age of 91.

“I dream a lot. I do more painting when I’m not painting. It’s in the subconscious.”

The Brandywine River Museum of Art is 45 minutes southwest of Philly and 2 1/2 hours from Manhattan. The exhibit runs through September 17 and the museum is open every day from 9:30 to 5:00.

Maurits Cornelius Escher

If your name was Maurits Cornelius Escher, you might go by the name M.C. Escher too. Of course, if you were him you would also be one of the most fascinating artists who ever lived. Born on this day in 1898 in the Netherlands, Escher’s mathematical precision and surrealistic visions set him apart from visual artists before and since.


A 1922 trip to Italy and Spain exposed him to Moorish tessellations, interlocking geometrical designs that would have a profound impact on his artistic vision.


His increasing popularity in the 1950s and 60s put incredible demands on his time because he made every copy of his prints by hand.  You may have come across his works in museums, or in your dreams or nightmares.

The Rolling Stones asked him to do an album cover for them but unfortunately for those of us who are friends of both, Escher refused. His final work, a woodcut from 1969, is called Snakes.

The Summer of Love Experience: Visual Arts

NOTE: This is the third installment in a six-part series on The Summer of Love, inspired by The Summer of Love Experience exhibit at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco.

We’ve been down this road before: an unhinged, paranoid president; wars built on lies; emboldened racists and misogynists blaring their hate through mass media into the public forum. Fifty years ago this summer, a new way of confronting institutionalized madness was proposed in San Francisco. And it spread.


Wes Wilson’s Are We Next?

One of the defining moments of San Francisco’s Summer of Love took place two years earlier in Virginia City, Nevada. Bill Ham had been experimenting with light and electricity as an art form for a year when he installed a 4′ x 6′ light mural programmed to operate indefinitely at the Red Dog Saloon. San Francisco’s Charlatan’s were the house band at the Red Dog for this first psychedelic light show. These were no stage lights or spotlights – these were living works of art, paintings in light that reacted to the music and the audience. The audience became part of the canvas.

Experimentation with color, light, and imagery was as important to the summer of love experience as experimentation with words, sounds, sexuality, or drugs. Victor Moscoso noticed that when a friend hung Christmas lights near one of his paintings, the flashing red and blue lights cancelled those colors out in turn on the image, giving the illusion of movement. After that first experience it became a conscious part of his work.

Music and visual art became entwined in ways they never had before. Promoter Chet Helms hired Bill Ham to produce lightshows at the Avalon Ballroom and Bill Graham commissioned artists to create posters advertising shows at The Fillmore Auditorium. The artists rejected the methods of Madison Avenue in favor of promotions that were as creative as the shows they were promoting. These same artists – Stanley Mouse, Alton Kelley, Rick Griffin, Wes Wilson, Lee Conklin, as well as underground comix artists like Robert Crumb – were natural choices to create album covers when the bands moved from the stage to the studio.
Alton Kelley’s Skull Fuck

Second only to the degradation of sound quality in the transition from vinyl to CD to streaming is the loss of the visual art in the production of professional music. Gatefold albums presented a surface more than two feet wide and a foot high to use as any artist saw fit. Alton Kelley drew a skeleton wearing a crown of roses for the Grateful Dead. The band wanted to call the album Skull Fuck. Warner Brother rejected the title for some reason and the album is simply named Grateful Dead, though it’s also called Skull and Roses in tribute to its visual art.

The visual complement to recorded music often extended beyond the covers and included posters, booklets, lyric sheets, and other paraphernalia.

As had happened with fashion, the visual artists of the summer of love used hand-me-downs in their creations. Dadaism, surrealism, and pop art melded in a collage with the found art of advertising techniques from earlier generations.

Artwork from the cover of Jefferson Airplane’s 1969 album Volunteers

One from my teenage wall

Posters became more than vehicles for advertising. Teenagers’ bedroom walls were galleries for a new kind of art. Like clothes and music, posters were a sign of communication to like-minded friends, an expression of an emerging culture with values that differed significantly from the dominant American culture of the time. Conformity and incrementalism were rejected in favor of bold, transcendent imagery that spread across the globe overcoming barriers of language in search of new forms of communication.