2021 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. The sharp-eyed visitor will notice that the year 2020 is entirely missing. I'll let you guess possible reasons for that. This year's will fill out as the moons go by. Meanwhile, let's get back to it.

“Stopping By The Woods on a Snowy Evening...”

Robert Spellman gelli print; a bunch of randomly generated shapes that could suggest a snowy scene in the forest

The title here is, of course, from the ubiquitous poem by Robert Frost. Maybe an odd choice for the beginning of June but hey, it's been a crazy year. This is another of a series of chance operations I've been doing with gelli prints and secret manipulations. The results are mostly outside of any control on my part. So the title here refers to whatever comes to my mind when I look at the result. I usually let the prints sit for a day or two or even a few weeks before giving them a title. I can claim that I meant to do what you see.

The various parts here vividly convey trees, branches, pools, drifting snow, even some animals; but the parts never coalesce into a coherent “picture”. This mimics something of the way that the Cubists broke down seeing into moments of perception that generally do not cohere as an optical “freeze”.

Music of the Moment

This one is called Kulintang. Kulintang is a general category of music originating in Indonesia. The Balinese gamelan being a well-known instrument in the west. This piece begins with a synthesized approximation of this music. What follows has very little in common with Indonesian music.

I have a page with more of these compositions in progress. Go here for a listen.

Full Moon ~ May 26th, 2021

1959 Dodge Royal Lancer

Robert Spellman painting - a triptych of a Dodge Lancer automobile from the 1950s

This is a work in progress, another item from the “Decaying Murals of the Ancients” series. This one has undergone quite a few permutations in the past two years and I wouldn't say it's finished yet. During the image research for this I marveled at the size and weight of cars during that time. Some of them weighed over two tons! Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the suburban assault vehicles on American roads today weigh about the same as 1950s sedans.

I suppose my attraction to these cars is pretty much the same as my interest in the fighter planes of the Second World War: aerodynamic, strangly stylish, seemingly invincible. Decaying Murals of the Ancients. This one is three panels, acrylic on canvas, 26 x 60 inches overall.

Music of the Moment

This one is called Vrangelya. Vrangelya is a remote island off the coast of eastern Russia, in the Arctic Ocean. The name and this song are picked randomly. Let's see how they get along.

A photograph of Vrangelya Island in the Arctic Ocean.

A photo of Vrangelya Island. (courtesy of Wikipedia).

I have a page with more of these compositions in progress. Go here for a listen.

New Moon ~ May 11th, 2021

Mont Blanc (detail)

Robert Spellman painting, well actually a paint rag designated as a painting of Mont Blanc in the Alps.

This could be a depiction of the famous Mont Blanc, which straddles the border between France and Italy; it's the highest mountain in the Alps. I say this could be a depiction of Mont Blanc because it's actually a detail of a paint rag pulled from the wastebasket.

I've lately been interested in naming otherwise abstract images using impulsive impressions. “This looks like such and such.” It's another form of play. You could call it deception or fakery. I prefer play. Or maybe playful suggestion.

Some of my teachers at Mass College of Art would have been horrified by this idea. Abstraction should never refer to something other than itself, they might say. Well, that was half a century ago, and now look where we are. Losing oneself in an imaginary snowy mountain scene using a found piece of stained cloth might be a momentary antidote to discouragement.

Music of the Moment

This one is called Sudath. I think I picked the name from an online random word generator. It turns out that Sudath is a common name in Sri Lanka. According to the website kabalarians.com, “The name of Sudath indicates you are a diligent and persevering worker who enjoys doing a job well and finishing what is started. Not overly ambitious, you have restricted your life to working at occupations involving routine.” I don't think this has much of anything to do with the music. But you never know (see above).

I have a page with more of these compositions in progress. Go here for a listen.

Full Moon ~ April 26th, 2021

P-47 Thunderbolt

Robert Spellman triptych painting of a World War II P-47 Thunderbolt fighter plane.

Here's a painting of a World War II P-47 Thunderbolt fighter plane. This painting appears in an earlier form on this site. I've lately been re-visiting and re-working many of the paintings in this series. One reason for this is seeing that some of them needed more work on the surface, the roughness of which is not entirely apparent in a digital format; or I may have not liked the color of the earlier version.

The second reason for the re-workings is to add the star insignia. This is to denote the American origin of many of the planes in the series. In the 1930s there was a poisonous spread of fascism in Europe and Asia, led by arrogant and deranged men skilled at whipping their people into a misinformed froth. Not unlike our own time. So adding the star insignia calls on an earlier time in the USA, a national facing down of global fascism.

Working on these feels like a way to invoke a certain American mythology of our having been the decisive force in that war. It gives me an idea for a film: The ghosts of American World War II veterans come back to the America of the twenty-first century to sort things out with present day American nazis.

Music of the Moment

This one is called Lumbricus Terrestris, which is the Latin name for a common earthworm. I don't know if this music has anything to do with earthworms but it does have a slightly creepy crawly quality of something slithering through the night.

I have a page with more of these compositions in progress. Go here for a listen.

New Moon ~ April 11th, 2021

Chance Operations

Robert Spellman print, an abstract composition based on the accidental behaviors of saran wrap and air.

This image is from a series of prints that make use of the accidental behaviors of plastic wrap, block printing ink, and air pockets. It's a kind of chance operation in which the results are quite unexpected and sometimes strangely inviting. The twentieth century composer John Cage made much use of this in his work and commentary. Someone once asked him, "If you don't like the result [of a chance operation] do you change it?" He replied, "No. I change my mind."

These prints seem to me to be free of artiface or intentional meaning. Even the arrangement of parts occurs without any guiding “aesthetic”. And yet the shapes can be so specific. To what, I'm not sure. Perhaps specific to themselves. The form also mimics the color and arrangement of Dutch etchings from the 1500s. Or Chinese landscapes from the same period and much earlier. 

Music of the Moment

This is an arrangement of a traditional Chinese composition called Akebono. Here it's played on the yangqin, a Chinese instrument resembling a hammered dulcimer, likely descended from the Persian Santūr  . The yangqin is in conversation here with a piano.

I have a page with more of these compositions in progress. Go here for a listen.

Full Moon ~ March 28th, 2021

Grumman Hellcat

Robert Spellman triptych painting of a 1937 Buick

I seem to have wandered away from any kind of website maintenance for quite a few few months by now. It's more like a year and half come to think of it. We're still in the thick of a pandemic, with a bit of hope that it could abate in the next several months. Meanwhile, I'm back at the website trying to remember how to use html and all of it.

I've been away from painting, too; but now easing back into it. This painting of a Grumman Hellcat is a re-working of an earlier version. I added the star insignia and changed the color scheme. While working on these paintings of World War II planes I find myself doing a lot of poking around online to find out more details. I was reading last week that when this plane - the Grumman Hellcat - appeared in the Pacific theater of the war, the Japanese pilots were, like, "Holy Crap". Of course, they only revealed this some years after the war was over. It seems this was quite a formidable fighter plane.

Music of the Moment

Last fall I did a series of musical sketches featuring a pan drum. The pan drum is a refined version of the steel drums common in the Caribbean and elsewhere. This sketch has a pan drum and vibraharp in a simple duet.

I have a page with more of these compositions in progress. Go here for a listen.

New Moon ~ March 12th, 2021