Matisse Revisited

I have loved Matisse forever. I considered naming my daughter Camille, well…you get it. I’m happy with Camille and so is she. But I first saw Matisse’s Jazz (cut-outs which are pretty simple but amazing) at the old SFMOMA with a group of high school students I had brought there for a retreat. We had stayed at the Youth Hostel in the Marin Headlands for like $5 a night – then I took them to the museum. At night we studied the Gospel of Mark in an open exploration, then walked the beaches.


This picture here is a favorite. I took it (1988) of the entourage upside-down in the little SFMOMA elevator which had Art Deco lighting. It really captured the various personalities of the students on that trip well in an unguarded moment. Shooting upside-down can do that.

My next reintroduction to Matisse was really through my teacher, J. Rod Larson-Swenson. He had adopted so much of Matisse’s coloration and not a few of his subjects (including the fishbowl..,or was that Diebenkorn..see now I do not know!) I am forever indebted to Rod for so many things. I think one of the best things was his utterly unpretentious approach to art and his unselfishness in it. It is why I often give mine away or look for inexpensive ways of doing iot because for people to have and own original art is incarnational!  It is the opposite of consumer art and a protest against bad art and all that commodifies it. It also debunks elitism. If I can do a masterpiece (which may cost me $400) and sell it for under a grnad – that is a success. If I can do a Kanji that is truly beautiful and meaningful – in a frame – and give it to someone who has no art – costing me less than a dollar – I am wealthy.  Rod taught me so much of that – and modeled it for me. 

J. Rod Swenson with black bean dip in my house in Land Park. circa 1992.

Matisse Revisited

I came this time not really having any idea who Diebenkorn was or that I already knew his art. I do. It was like when I asked Camille recently (she was over to do art) if she listened to The Talking Heads. She said she didn’t know them until I put them on! Then of course – who doesn’t. Same with Diebenkorn. Inn fact a lot of his paintings I thought were Matisse’s. Now I get why they are bundled. And I have to kinda admit, now? I find Diebenkorn more, well…weighty.


It was Diebenkorn whose painting really hit and inspired me in this upcoming collage I am working on for Oak Life Church. It has been forming ion me for over a month – in pieces. Long purple gladiolas with peach backgrounds/.//Kanji words….the BIG RED CHOP in the bottom right…and BLAM – in the middle an aerial somehow is part of Lake Merritt. It’s a collage with various media – and the mode is abstract expressionism – which is NOT my normal deal (but who cares – peh).  Then I saw this!

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See now I don;t need anymore – and I don;t need to go and look at every one of his paintings and get over-saturated and waterlogged with Diebenkorn (there is a joke in there but I am passing it by).

People are way too derivative – or they steal outright. I don’t have to. I haven’t even asked anyone about reimbursement or anything. I just feel I am supposed to do this and have it – and a few others – hang in the foyer as people go into service on Sunday. I’m letting things influence me..but the ABSTRACTIONS are between me and God and the expressions come from within.

One of the things I have always admired about my daughter is that she has always known to trust her own instincts. She still does. We enjoy doing art together. Occcasionally we assist one another when asked. I really like her art – always have.  She started at 3 pretty much. I started at 30 (if you do not count photography……I dunno).

Dos it help “seeing it” in my mind’s eye? Yeah, sure. And that investment in the membership to SFMOMA was smart. I can go anytime – even if for 15 minutes.

Last point – (and this kinda  proves it) After I did my research and fled the exhibit – I ent down a floor and saw Joan Mitchell’s work. I could have sat THERE all day long because it is not what I am doing. It was wonderful and lush and – oh I just loved it in its expansive playfulness. Wow.



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