2018 MoonBlog

This isn't really about the moon, I call it a moonblog because a new homepage image appears twice a month on the new and full moon. The home page shows a featured image —sometimes freshly minted, sometimes seasonal, sometimes from years past— along with improvised ruminations, something like a leisurely blog. Previous years’ entries are here for your perusal; see the links, above.

Book of Dragonflies

A Robert Spellman painting of a dragonfly in a format that mimics an ancient book.

This one of a series on the theme of ancient books that keep coming around in my work, similar to the various folios elsewhere on this site. In person, these are larger than previous folios — these are 40 by 60 inches, reminiscent of giant tomes of yesteryear. Perhaps the sense of ancientness of these pieces is provoked by the rapid falling away of books as repositories of human wisdom, a function they have held for thousands of years. No one really knows the long term implications of digital media. It is both thrilling in its vastness and frightening in its insubstantiality and mutability. Books seem clunky by comparison, but they are substantial and their content is more difficult to change. These ruminations need not have anything to do with these dragonfly books, but they came to mind as I was putting this entry together.

New Moon & Losar ~ February 16th, 2018


A Robert Spellman painting of a persimmon.

This persimmon painting was just finished this morning. It will be donated to Naropa University for the annual Naropa Event, a fundraising gala for student scholarships. According to Wikipedia, the word persimmon itself is derived from putchamin, pasiminan, or pessamin, from Powhatan, an Algonquian language of what is now the eastern United States, meaning "a dry fruit". Persimmons have quite a variety of symbolic significances in various cultures. In Buddhism, six persimmons are said to symbolize the journey to enlightenment, starting with ignorance, the unripe fruit, proceeding all the way to the sweetness of the ripe fruit. I notice that the process of aging can go either way. Some of us become bitter rather than sweeter as we get older. Much of this seems to be up to each of us. It seems to be a moment-by-moment thing. There is a Navajo saying, "In old age, while traveling on paths of beauty, lively may I walk."

Blue Moon, Blood Moon ~ January 31st, 2018

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3

A Robert Spellman triptych of a World War II Russian fighter plane, a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3.

I've spent much of the past two weeks preparing work for a large solo show at Naropa University. It's partly a retrospective with some recently completed work. This painting of a Russian MiG-3 fighter plane from World War II is not in the show, but it seemed to be tagging along with other work that did make it in. This one probably isn't finished but I still like the look of things as they are cooking. One of the more reliable indicators of being on the right track with something is a quality of surprise or unexpectedness in the work. I could claim that I knew what leads to that quality but it's actually a mystery. It can't be contrived. Maybe that's what I like about works in progress, especially when they proceed by way of unknown byways.

New Moon ~ January 16th, 2018

Winter Dawn?

A Robert Spellman watercolor of what looks like a somewhat dreary winter dawn.

Today is the first day of 2018. Glad having 2017 behind us, and I do hope we have some reason for optimism in the coming year. It feels as though some global malaise has taken hold and it's easy enough to think that things are going to get worse before they get better. I've been reading One Man's Meat by E.B. White. He wrote these essays from his farm on the Maine coast during the late 1930s and into the 1940s as humans descended once again into self-inflicted chaos. There is some solace in realizing that even in the worst eras of discord that there are people maintaining sanity and decency. It's like a seed bank: protecting and preserving something for a future that can look awfully dim. As I write this a beautiful full moon is making its way above the winter-bare tree tops, and the days are ever so slightly longer.

Full Moon ~ January 1st, 2018

Ice Bucket &c.

A Robert Spellman diptych photograph of reflections in a silver ice bucket.

Some time I would like to make paintings that look like this, and do them big. For now this is a photograph that I imagine as a painting about six feet high and twelve feet wide. The great ease of digital photography and its ready enabler the so-called smartphone make image gathering very easy. It can be a great tool for composing possibilites of all kinds without having to commit to the labor of it. This can also be a danger in the same way that inherited wealth can rob one of initiative: it's too easy. But let's not moralize here; it's too hot.

Full Moon ~ July 8th, 2017

Mitchell B-25C

A Robert Spellman photograph of afternoon sunlight coming through curtains.

This painting started out as an attempt at re-creating a Pink Bomber. My second cousin Robert A. Spelman (yes, he spells it with one l; it's a long story) was a bomber pilot in the Second World War. After many weeks of arduous stateside training, he and his crew were assigned to a fleet of B25 bombers heading for North Africa. They were surprised and I suppose a little dismayed to discover that their new plane was pink. It was in fact painted Desert Sand, the color of camoflage still in use in desert warfare. After the war Robert wrote a highly readable book called The Pink Bomber, detailing some of his wartime experiences.

I had an image of a pink B25 Mitchell bomber painting in my mind but the result isn't at all pink. I'm not sure what happened but I was pleased with the result anyway. This painting is pretty good size: 42 x 114 inches. I expect I'll make another attempt at pinkness in a separate painting sooner or later.

New Moon ~ June 24th, 2017

Cortina de Sol

A Robert Spellman photograph of afternoon sunlight coming through curtains.

This is a photograph of afternoon sunlight coming through curtains. I've done watercolors of this same phenomenon. Some visual experiences arise unexpectedly out of everyday life. I wouldn't try to assign any specific meaning to this but it does leave a question: why do some sensory experiences stir us? The stirring seems to be something other than a reflex of liking and disliking. Perhaps our being stirred is a momentary suspension of assumptions, the dropping of conceptualized frameworks. The absence of assumptions and frameworks allows phenomena to appear freshly, without the dressings we arbitrarily assign to them. I think this could happen with anything – even with the most ordinary things. In fact, any expectation of fantasticness is a pretty sure guarantee that not much will happen; or as Samuel Johnson said, “There is nothing more hopeless than a scheme of merriment.”

Full Moon ~ March 12th, 2017

Rain Prayer

A Robert Spellman watercolor of rain clouds over a mountain.

This is a watercolor from a few years ago. It shows moist rain clouds nestled around a mountain. It is not generally known what the mountain was called in millenia past, but in the current era it is called Greenhorn, after an eighteenth century Comanche warrior chief named Tabivo Naritgant, whose headdress was adorned with green horns. For the crime of defending his ancestral land, Tabivo Naritgant was hunted down and killed by the Spanish.

The mountain is also called the Wet Mountain, a more recent name dating to a time of abundant rainfall. It is now much drier there. Images can express a supplication or a vision, for good or ill. This one asks for rain clouds to return to this very ancient mountain, that its springs and streams may flow with new abundance.

New Moon ~ February 26th, 2017