October 28, 2019

A hex is a spell usually meant to curse someone or something. This piece, "Hex", is based on the panels placed on barns, starting in the early 19th Century in the Pennsylvania Dutch countryside, to ward off evil and invite prosperity on the farm. The word itself is from German referring to casting a spell, but I like the notion of both meanings. A word that means both itself and the opposite of itself has been a fascination of mine for years. "Sanction" means to say it's ok to do something. AND it means that nobody can do the thing. "Dust" means to remove dust or it means to cover something, like "dusting" the cookies with sugar. "Cleave" means to cut AND it means to hold fast to something. Divide and not divide. "Overlook" means to have missed something AND it means to look over something to be sure nothing is missed. Language is so slippery. Makes me crazy. "Hex" is both the spell and the thing to ward off evil in your space. (The patterns on the metal are based on the precise mapping with 3D laser scanning technology of the energy fields surrounding pyramids recently discovered buried in South American jungles. Pretty sure. Maybe...). Around 2005, I did a piece called "Angor Wat" that referenced this same energy mapping of the massive temple in Cambodia. For millennia, this religious monument, the largest on earth, was the spiritual center for countless believers. Seemed to me that a satellite view would be helpful as none of those people ever saw it from above. Uluru, the sacred sandstone mountain of the Pitjantjatjara aboriginals in Australia, was just closed this last week to tourists wanting to trek to its summit. I made an art piece in 2003 named "Uluru" to celebrate its stark magnificence and spiritual potency. The strand between these art pieces is the energy within objects. Painted, constructed, or naturally occurring, we humans endow things with power. Or maybe they have power that we perceive. Either way, "Hex" is part of this continuum--the overview of the invisible energy. And, by the way, "strand" is one of those contronyms, as a verb and then a noun.

P.S. Send me your favorite contronyms if you have any. If not, let's all agree that language is whack. AND, look around for objects with energy... those are my specialty.

October 2019
I Like it Here

OK, wade right in. 29% of the birds in North America have disappeared in my lifetime. That's around 3 billion birds. July 2019 was the hottest month in human history. New estimates show that at current levels of production, by 2050 there will be more plastics in the ocean, by mass, than fish. People in positions of power and wealth to effect the necessary revolution don't seem to care. Hell, I have heard, is really hot too. It's over for our children. We are doomed. Let's race cars and buy crap.


Wait a minute. I'm sorry. Here's what we know:

The diameter of the Earth is 7,917.5 miles. Yaks and their shepherds live at around 16,000 feet. The Small Himalayan Jumping Spider, who makes his little snug hut/web at 22,000 feet, is the highest living critter we know about. (This fact bugs me a bit since spiders are all carnivores, so what are they eating up there?!) The Bar-headed Goose migrates over the Himalayan Plateau and has been confirmed flying over Mount Makalu at 27,825 feet. Upper atmospheric sampling has found bacteria living from 5-10 miles above sea level. Speaking of seas, the Mariana Snailfish was found living at just over 5 miles down. I don't really want to know what they eat. Ice cold debris descending from the pitch blackness?!

A quick bit of math shows us that life as we know it lives in a layer that is 10 miles thick, maybe 15 if we add those upper atmosphere molds and bacteria. This is a very, very, very thin film. Relative to the Earth, all life lives on only about .189% of the planet and that's a figure based on distance as opposed to mass.

Right now, utilizing the Hubble Space telescope, the farthest we can see visible light is from a galaxy we named GN-z11 that is 32-billion light years from Earth. Hubble has also established the observable universe, using all frequencies of radiation, to be about 46.5-billion light years in all directions, or roughly a sphere with us in the middle that has a diameter of about 93-billion light years. That is what we know. That is as far as humans can SEE and that is how our giant brains do the math and physics and determine the size to the very edge of everything. And as awesome as this vision is, as sophisticated as our sensors and computational analytical skills get, we have not found ANY evidence of other life ANYWHERE.

Ok. All life that exists is the thinnest film of green scum right here. All life. Every last bit. Just the merest wall of a bubble, a layer of almost nothingness, relative to the planet AND  the great beyond. This little film is all the life in the universe that we know about for real. As the atmosphere around us, and the oceans and weather and land changes, life will adapt, or die. Extinction events have happened repeatedly, just none involving us.

But, I believe in our humanity and the power in these massive brains. If we can detect a bee on the moon by its heat signature, we can do this. If we can bring back the bald eagle, we can do this. If we can build a Hubble and tune it repeatedly, we can do this. I recently read a sign held aloft by a school kid saying, "It's too bad we don't have an unlimited source of energy floating across the sky everyday." We can fix this plastic tsunami. We can make food for everyone. Tasty food. In my next blog thingy, I will explain how. Maybe. Probably... In the meantime, I would like a little help from you guys to spread the word.

Save the Thin Film and Maybe our Kids' Kids.

Catchy right?

August 2019
Thursday and the Tsunami
Howdy good friends, 

The license plate on my car says "QUASAR". When asked, I always explain: "It's a mysterious, deep space object emitting massive amounts of energy." They are, in fact, super luminous galaxy cores whose light typically started traveling billions of years ago. Their emissions are across the entire spectrum of radiation. The crush of annihilation into a black hole spins out particles--death of matter, creation of energy. How super luminous? These are tsunamis of cosmic energy--charged particles moving in waves 99.9999999999999999999999 % the speed of light, just a smidgeon below warp speed. Without our cozy blanket of of magnetism and atmosphere we would all be cooked.

But, it's Thursday. I'm willing to bet you didn't wake up this morning thinking about galactic cores. Or that today--Thor's Day--is named after the Norse god of thunder, at least in English. In the Romance languages, today is named for Jupiter, the god of the sky and thunder. In Latin, today is Jovis Dies, Jupiter's Day. Spanish say "Jueves." French, "Juedi." Strangely, or not, depending on how you think the mind of man is collectively wired, Danish, Dutch, Slavic, the languages of India, Nepali, Thai, even some Meso-American languages have the god of the sky and thunder as this day of the week. Tezcatlipoca is the god who is best understood, according to the smart humans focusing on this heritage, as the embodiment of change through conflict. Thunder is most certainly conflict. The god with the giant hammer is certainly trying to change something. Every week.

This morning I was running and saw two birds harassing each other next to the trail. After I got home and did the homework, I identified them as Black-billed Magpies. Big, sporting a striking black and white outfit with a slight iridescence, these guys were really having a problem together. What could be the issue? Apparently these are among the smartest birds on the planet. I'm a bit of a bird freak. They are the only living descendants of dinosaurs. Couple that with the notion they can fly and we have surrounding us ancient animals with super powers. Why were these two having a battle on such a lovely morning?

From some reading recently are a couple stories that stitch this together. First, a monk asked his class, "What is the pitcher on the table?" One student began to speak about the pottery and its function. He was waved off. Another came to the front of the class and knocked the pitcher to the floor, shattering it completely. A smile. Class over. In another class, the teacher began to speak about the nature of all things and a bird began singing by the window. The monk went silent, waited till the bird finished his song and flew off. The monk smiled. Class over.

Conflict and change are the natural order of all things. From the searing radiation bathing the universe to the birds on the morning run on a Thursday, the nature of all things is temporal, temporary, push and pull. Life is defined by our response to this reality, and, if I can express this with even more focus--there is a duality to beauty. A thing--the sunset, a painting on the wall, a favorite song is a beautiful thing that comes and goes. A feeling--the sight of your child, a kiss, the endorphin rush of a hard run, is a thing of beauty that is profound and fleeting. But this duality is an illusion. Both of these, the outside experience and the inner emotion are within your head. Shakespeare said, "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

Change, the destruction of things, the sun sinking away, the passing bird song... is the nature of every day. Our defining of this day is how we roll with these infinite inputs. Loss. Yep. Conflict. Always. Music, as much as possible. Every Thor's Day, I consider the smiting hammer. My license plate is the cosmic surf reminder. Between the swells, I try to make beautiful things that will outlast me and share them as much as possible. "Keep on Growing," sang Trey Anastasio and The Tedeschi Trucks Band this past Saturday night at the Lockn' Music Festival. Go look that up if you are a Clapton or Duane Allman fan. Most importantly, see the broken pitcher as the nature of all things. But, listen to the singing bird.

Hugs help too, don't forget. Hugs are both inner and outer beauty. 

June 2019
And Be yond

"If your paddle isn't in the water, you're slowing down."  

I have been told this from numerous sources--friends, my brother, a coach, and plenty of articles that encourage stand up paddle boarding as a sport and not simply a nice little bit of fresh air out on the lake. The point is that the board really has no inertia to keep going on its own. If you don't have pressure with your paddle on the water, you are losing speed. So, cadence is the key. Quick. Chop chop chop...

As usual with this sort of observation, I tend to expand it into the greater realm of our time on the planet.  Stop efforting for even half a second and you are slowing down. Chop chop chop... or start falling behind. I have done a share of paddle races and this is the truth. The athletes who paddle snick snick snick are the ones out in front.

Competition speed climbing is coming to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The goal is to scale a 5 degree overhanging wall, 15 meters tall with standardized holds and smack a mechanical switch at the top to beat your opponent, who is climbing the exact same route at the exact same time just 12 feet to one side. The men's speed record is held by Reza Alipour Shenazandifar from Iran in 5.63 seconds. That's the equivalent of scaling a nearly 5 story building in less than 6 seconds. You are either going up very, very quickly continuously or gravity is trying to pull you to the center of the earth. We all climbed trees. 50 feet up a tree in 5 seconds?!? I'm not sure I could fall out of a tree that fast...

Wallace's Giant Bees (megachile pluto) are the largest bees in the world. They were thought to be extinct after their initial discovery in 1858 until specimens were observed in 1981. 37 years of searching and, until earlier this year, no video footage existed of the 1 ½-inch long insects. They are resin bees, black with a white band around their middle and have a wingspan up to 2 ½ inches. These monsters are on the "25 Most Wanted" list from the Global Wildlife Conservation "Search for Lost Species" initiative.

The common thread here is the "paddle in the water." Don't. Slow. Down. Don't wait. Scaling a 50- foot wall? Practice and focus and a young athlete is doing something unthinkable. Don't even mention the Alex Honnold miracle documented in "Free Solo." Want to find a lost species? Spend 37 years in Indonesian lowland forests to find a giant bee living in termite mounds.

But, and there is always a but. Socrates said, "Beware the barrenness of a busy life." When I walk in the woods, I take it slow.  I’m shooting pictures. Listening for a spider walking. Paddling? Some are sweat fests. Some are more about the liquid violet and gold light on the moving mirror or the way rays project out of your head's shadow on the water’s surface when the sun is high. 45 years of throwing a frisbee around with my brothers and sons isn't accomplishing anything. But, I'll do it every chance I get.  Feel like throwing a little 'bee? Always...

Get busy, my friends. And then don't. Making art is this tightrope everyday: Get it done. Now what is it for? Intense effort followed by relaxed analysis. Paddle hard and then stroll... Be fast. Bee patient. 'bee always.

Vertical flow. Horizontal flow. Same same.

Mostly, be passionate. And, YO Summer!! 

love love.

March 2019
Forty Times a Second is Just Right
It was Pi Day, March 14th, Einstein's birthday, and I was reading about how a new computer program had figured out Pi to five trillion digits and I was thinking, "So what... Why do humans need to know this stuff? Can't we just accept that it doesn't repeat or end? It's just a ratio." A few days later, I was tv shopping and ran smack into the new 4K resolution benchmark for the "best" new tvs. You mean my "old" tv with the 1080p hi-def screen is now four times not as good as the new ones? Feels suddenly ancient, doesn't have enough dots. Pixels. Little colored bits... Guess I need more tiny flashing blips of color... Maybe 8 million will be enough...

In Warrnambool, Australia, some researchers have just discovered "middens,” which are charred remains of possible human settlements that date from 120,000 years ago, effectively doubling the age that has been the accepted figure for humans being on that continent. North of there, in the Pilbara region, are rock paintings that are conclusively dated to 40,000 years ago, making them the oldest art pieces on the planet. To this day, Aboriginal artists make imagery of the creation of the cosmos, art rooted in dreamings, the "Dreamtime," when the spirit/hero/wanderers traveled across the formlessness. The tradition of these paintings and carvings manifests the energy of "dreaming," the energy of an individual that existed before birth and continues after death. We are all of our ancestors as we are of ourselves, moment to moment, inseparable from our place and our time, yet bound to the continuum. The art from this tradition spans at least forty millennia and is overwhelmingly characterized by dot patterns. Thought, spirit, the cosmos is organized, rhythmic, small blips of color. (I highly recommend a book called, "Dreamings, the Art of Aboriginal Australia," published in 1988).

In 2015, Dr Li-Huei Tsai at MIT made the first mouse disco. The mice invited to the strobe-lit box for an hour every day were genetically engineered to have Alzheimer's disease. After a few (sq)weeks of getting down with their bad selves on the maze floor, the dissected mice showed significantly lower levels of two different brain proteins that form the plaque characterizing the disease. Cells called "microglia," debris clearing and cleaning cells, were stimulated by the light pulses, which seemed to be most effective strobing at a frequency of 40 times a second (40 hertz). This is the first proven cellular response to manipulated brain waves. Further, when sound at this same frequency was added to the treatment, it significantly improved function in other parts of the brain--the hippocampus, which is used for memory formation, storage and retrieval, and the pre-frontal cortex, which is the seat of judgement, attention, and higher-order reasoning. (I need this for sure).

 Researchers have discovered the firings of neurons in the brain work rhythmically. Gamma waves sweep through the brain at 25 to 140 hertz during peak concentration. (That's networks of neurons firing 140 times a second, just to be clear). Deep delta wave sleep is .5 to 4 hertz. Meditative adults have theta waves around 4 to 8 hertz. Dr. Tsai has formed a company, Cognito Therapeutics, using gamma wave entrainment to potentially alter the course of Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other neurological disabilities faced by an aging global population. Therapy without drugs is a paradigm shift of massive scale.

The didgeridoo originated in northern Australia and is believed to be the oldest surviving instrument. Cave paintings show it being played 3,000-4,000 years ago and anthropologists suggest it may be as old as the 40,000-year culture to which it is attached. The strongest frequencies played are in the 40 to 200 hertz range, although many have infra-sonic waves below the 20 hertz threshold of common human hearing. Anyone who has listened to a group of didgeridoo players can attest to the sound as being frequencies you feel and hear, as well as being sound from a different time. Primitive music, absolutely. Gamma wave entrainment? Maybe.

Did the Aboriginals figure out how to have healthy brains? Maybe. Will I buy the 8 million pixels so my mythological beings in the movies are really contrasty? Maybe. Should teenagers be allowed to pump 40 hertz into their ear canals? Maybe. Maybe I need more music and sparkly lights for my brain fitness. Maybe all these light manipulations I play with every day will let me live as long as my kids. Add music and that sounds like a grand plan.

Rock steady, and I mean steady, my friends. Apparently, it's really, really important.  

And buy art. That way, in 40,000 years, people will recognize my initials and know you had great taste.

And, as always, before time and after, while the petroglyphs fade and before this walkabout we call life ceases, love love, everyday....

We don't repeat and we don't end either. Like Pi. Yep.


February 2019
Synchronicity and the Glint of Two Lights

Here's a quote some of you of a certain age or bent mind should recognize:

"A lot of people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidents and things. They don't realize that there's this, like, lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything. Give you an example, show you what I mean: suppose you're thinkin' about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly someone'll say, like, "plate," or "shrimp," or "plate of shrimp" out of the blue, no explanation. No point in lookin' for one, either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness."

Over the holidays I was in a bookstore doing last minute Christmas shopping and an Edward Hopper book caught my eye. I pulled it down and flipped it open to this page:

Bingo. Two Lights! I had to snap a pic with my phone because of the randomness of the moment. I have a client in Maine whose house has a view of the Two Lights lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth; we have been discussing, for some time, an art piece to speak to the place and the light and the history. He once was walking years ago and met a very old neighbor who actually remembers Hopper sitting and painting Two Lights right there next to his property.

Back to the holidays: less than 24 hours later, I went to see the movie "Aquaman" with my son. It's a DC comic come to life in epic scale and BOOM! there is Two Lights. It's the house where Aquaman grows up. His dad is the lighthouse keeper. Same same from the Hopper painting, complete with the golden light. Bizarre. I thought, "I need to mention this to Tom in Maine."

The next evening I was watching another superhero movie on the tube with my boys. "Ant Man and the Wasp" is a Marvel comics epic special-effects mashup involving interdimensional travel using a massive machine with steam punk details and space ship vibes. Right there in the middle of the movie is the machinery for shrinking and transporting, and the primary element of the machine looks exactly like the Two Lights lens-- a complex, highly engineered, cylindrical construction of glass and brass that weighs nearly a ton. The actual lens was commissioned in 1874 and shone for 120 years before being upgraded to a modern beacon. Then Antman's girlfriend's genius scientist dad bought it?!

Plate of shrimp effect EXACTLY.  What is the universe doing to smash a lighthouse into my reality with such emphasis? Three times in two days? True, "Light House" is kind of where I live metaphorically but... Come on...

I'm sitting here writing this in the studio, music playing, and in the background are the lyrics:

"Everything that falls your way, I say
There is a deeper world than this that you don't understand
There is a deeper world than this tugging at your hand
Every ripple on the ocean
Every leaf on every tree
Every sand dune in the desert
Every power we never see
There is a deeper wave than this, swelling in the world...”
Can't make this stuff up. Sting is singing. I am scribbling.  I was planning to write about quantum entanglement to sew this together, but it's stitched. Tight. 

That quote that starts us off is from the 1984 movie "Repo Man."

Be sure to listen to "The Seventh Wave."

And stay tuned for how this all shows up in my art. It always does. Love love. After all, it's the seventh wave.

"At the still point of destruction
 At the centre of the fury
All the angels, all the devils
All around us, can't you see?
There is a deeper wave than this rising in the land
There is a deeper wave than this nothing will withstand."

Love is the seventh wave, but it's up to us to see it, make it real. All together now,

Bruce R. MacDonald

P.S. Coincidence--(n.) a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection. "Life"— See above--"lattice of... "

December 2018
The Force and Cookies

"In the old time” is how the story starts.  The indigenous people of North America of the Algonquin tribe have a tale of three brothers who went hunting in early winter. They set out, found the trail of a bear and made chase.  When you look to the north, there are circumpolar constellations visible at all times of the year.  The simplest and most familiar to most of us is the Big Dipper.  The three stars of the handle are the brother hunters, and the polygon of the dipper is the bear.  The constant in the night sky since childhood for so many of us is this grouping of tiny lights, always there, every night. The two stars on the right side of the bear point to the North Star, Polaris.  This star never moves. To quote Bill Shakespeare’s sonnet #116, "It is an ever fixed mark.” All things revolve around this one thing. By the way, the sonnet is about love, love as a constant.

Speaking of constants, what is the strongest thing in the universe? Electromagnetism? Stellar winds? Gravity? Nope.  It’s a force known to physicists as the Strong Force.  (Got to love the poetry in science---it’s strong and it’s a force. Boom.) It’s what binds two quarks together. (Quark is a word stolen from James Joyce’s novel Finnegan’s Wake, in case you were wondering.)  The Strong Force is a fundamental law of nature that binds subatomic particles together to make things like protons and neutrons, which combine to make atoms and, therefore, EVERTHING. This force can inextricably bind together a whole family of disparate particles such as gluons, mesons, baryons, hadrons, uncles and cousins. If these particles are pulled apart, and the "distance” (about 10 to the negative 15 meters, which is a fentometer or about the width of a proton) increases, the force also increases, like a tiny but all-powerful rubber band. The Strong Force is 137 times stronger than magnetism and 10 with 38 zeros after it stronger than gravity.  In fact, the Strong Force between two quarks is so powerful that they cannot exist alone; if two are forced apart, the massive energy required to separate them spontaneously creates new particles, new quarks, which are bound together.  No "free” quarks exist, nor ever can.  Law of the universe. 

Here in Vermont in early winter, people want to be home together. "Home is where the heart is” is a proverb so old and ubiquitous that no one seems to agree where it came from.  Home is a sort of geography, but it is really where your people are: your partner, your kids, your true friends, your clan, your family.  You can’t see The Strong Force, but you can see that smile from those who love you, your  mom’s  embrace, your sister’s knowing looks, your son’s strong arms.  And you can’t beat the expression of bliss that your dog brings when you arrive home. The internet is jammed with the gyrations of a dog overjoyed to be with its humans, the dances, the zoomies, the happy cries of love made visible without the inhibitions of our complicated brains.  Home is where that dance happens.  Where cookies are baked.  Where fires warm and lights are lit.  Hugs nonstop, yes please.  

With the holidays here and our hearts turning toward home, I think the science guys are only partly right. The true Strong Force is the magic string that binds us over time and distance to our families, to the ones we love. As the fundamental law states, distance can make it pull stronger.  Love is the force.  It is a constant of the universe.  Take your time, my friends, to pull the strings snug. 

If you look in the sky tonight and find the three brothers, look to the middle star, the middle one of the handle three. Look very closely and you will see two there.  The larger we call Mizar; the smaller is Alcor.  In the native story the little one is the dog along on the hunt, and his name is Hold Tight.

Warmth and peace to all my friends and all of yours, and may they overlap more as the days go by. 
Big hugs through the solstice.


November 2018
Fast, Slow, How Do You Know?

What does fast mean? Or slow? Seems like a terribly relative distinction. There is a freak of a star discovered in 1961 by Antoni Pryzbylski (say je-bel-skee, one of the all-time great names) with a still inexplicable elemental nuclear recipe that is "rapidly" rotating. Scientists this spring determined the speed to be one rotation every 188 years. (?!) As always, I’m trying to make sense of this in human terms; for instance, a major league fast ball is 100 mph, so a batter has about 400 milliseconds to decide what to do. Blinking takes between 300 and 400 milliseconds. Super fast. Almost two centuries to pirouette? Slacker star. Who calls that fast?

On Memorial Day this year, I was standing on the roof of Fenway Park with my buddy Wily who flies F-16s for the Vermont Air National Guard. We were up there because he was directing the flyover of planes at the end of the national anthem. As precisely as possible, the words "And the home of the brrraaavve…” conclude with the roaring of four Viper turbofan engines plowing through space. Since the jets are going five miles a minute, it’s a tricky dance, with Wily coordinating the song duration from rehearsal with the tower at Logan International Airport with the lead pilot Dan "Gump” Finnegan, who is doing  "an east west bowtie hold"  north of Hanscom Air Base.

So it’s a rhythm thing too. We average 60 to 100 heartbeats a minute. The national anthem from the last eight Super Bowls has averaged a minute and 56 seconds, which is about the time frame Wily was working with. If you are doing CPR, don’t sing "The Star Spangled Banner.” Sing "Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees. It’s the correct 103 beats per minute. "Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen is the same tempo. Just saying. Human hearts are fairly slow, but they do have a steady rhythm.

In October 1944, a professor set up an experiment in a lab in Dublin to demonstrate fluid dynamics using a funnel filled with asphalt that looks solid but is actually a very viscous fluid. It has dripped once is 69 years. The goop is two million times more viscous than honey. But hey, rhythm. Seriously boring rhythm. In human terms, no rhythm at all.

What holds all this together? "Man is the measure of all things,” according to the smart guy Protagoras from 2,400 years ago. Stars spin. Bees making that honey have wings beating 230 times a second. Wily and his pals stroll through the atmosphere at speeds over Mach 2 when they are off leash.  That's humans doing 1500 mph. I hit 57 once on my bike and it felt like Mach 2. My fast is his pokey. Those fastballs are unhittable unless you are Mookie Betts. Phish sang the national anthem once a cappella in a minute and 37 seconds. Radical relativism is the catch phrase, so let’s just agree: it’s not the tempo but the funky rhythm. It’s not the speed; it’s the heartbeat. Timing is everything. Make your entrance at the proper moment, especially if your ride is a jet. Turn before the tree. Don’t miss that wave. Keep breathing.


October 2018 

Who's Got the Blues?
I do. I have the blues. I have turquoise and aquamarine and cobalt and sapphire and navy. And I'm feeling blue, kind of low, pretty dispirited really. No, my dog didn't run off. Nobody stole the truck. Nope, the blues are generally matters of the heart if you listen to any of the great blues musicians like T Bone Walker, Furry Lewis, or John Lee Hooker:"They call it Stormy Monday, but Tuesday's just as bad. You know, Wednesday's worse, and Thursday's oh so sad..." It's a state of being that everybody knows. Listen to "The Sky is Crying." Or not, the title sets it up...

But then there is azure and cerulean, the color of the sky in Colorado. Blue jeans. Indigo. Picasso had a blue period. Lapis lazuli is the blue stone crushed and inlaid with gold in the tombs of the pharaohs to remain fiercely brilliant for millennia. In 2009, chemists in a lab discovered, completely by mistake, a blue pigment made by superheating the elements yttrium, indium and manganese. This new color is arguably the first synthetic blue pigment invented since cobalt blue in 1802 and was subsequently brought to the public by Crayola with a crayon named in an open competition. After 90,000 submissions they settled on Bluetiful. (Haven't we learned by now not to let the public decide things?! Hello, Boaty McBoatface, elections....) This new compound absorbs red and green light waves for a vivid and durable peacock blue.

Speaking of light, and wings, when I was a kid around five, my grandmother had a plate on the wall of the room where my brothers and I slept made of butterfly wings under glass. Aside from the terrifying clown portrait, it was the most amazing thing in her entire house. It was electric blue, almost radiant, lighted magically from within. As an adult, I learned the color of the Blue Morpheus wings was a result of lightwave interference as opposed to an actual pigment in the bug. Check out this link for a bowl I made of anodized titanium around 20 years ago that was exhibited in the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College.

The anodizing process creates a layer of clear oxide on the metal surface that is only millionths of an inch thick. Light bounces off the surface of the metal AND the surface of the oxide to cause wavelength interference, cancelling other colors and letting the blue shine. When one views from the side, the oxide layer is just infinitesimally thicker and hence, purple. The latest science news is about "Quantum Blue," but that is all nano-particles and complicated, and we can deal with it when it makes it into a crayon.

Why does anyone sing the blues, if it's all about misery? How could this art form exist? Books have been written to explain this, but I'm going to use Wile E. Coyote instead. Life, like the Road Runner, is fast, relentless and it never stops. You cannot win the race that makes us worm food.Wile E. Coyote is our existential hero. He never wins. He never, ever, catches that bird. But, regardless, he tries every freaking episode. No matter how bad the blues can be, there is the voice and the guitar, Wile E. with his rockets and springs and anvil, Stevie Ray and Derek Trucks playing their hearts out. Texas Flood, Blak and Blu. Statesboro Blues. The blues is the sound of spirit over odds, defiance over the inevitable. Life is full of tragedy. Even kings die. B. B. King is gone. Floods come. Fires too. Partners leave. The tests are bad.

But midnight blue and the robin's egg blue of morning are not so far apart. Dusk. Deep blues. Dawn. Acoustic blues are good early in the day--Michael Hedges, Tommy Emanuel's version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." "Blues Power," by Eric Clapton told me forty years ago that "I got the boogie woogies in my very soul..." And I have come to believe him. B. B. King is gone, but have a serious listen to a twenty-two year-old Marcus King. He is the real deal. As a singer, as a song writer, he can explain Wile E. Coyote in the context of love and life and a flamethrower guitar solo.The notion that these two blues legends each have the last name King should tell us something. Royal Blues...

John Mayer sings,

"Joni wrote Blue in her house by the sea,

I gotta believe there's another color waiting on me...

To set me free."

 "There's no way to delay that trouble coming every day..." sang Baltimore's brilliant son. Sorrow and pain are part of destiny, but we have Miles' "Kind of Blue," and "All Blues." We have "Stella Blue." "Drifting Blues."We have "Blue Sky," which will ALWAYS lift. We have bluebirds. We have blueberries. Yves Klein. Blue eyes, which, by the way, have no actual blue in them. It's all light scattering, like my job. Deep blue sea and the dusty powder blues of the distant Adirondacks at sunset. James Turrell. The sparkle song of a hermit thrush soloing in the woods.And, naturally, light with a dominant wavelength between 450 and 495 nanometers...

That should cheer up anybody.

Peace out all you humans,

Don't be blue, unless you want to. Then be ultramarine...

P.S. Dear friends, and by this I mean those who take the time to read these musings about life and stars and dogs and weeds... I'm not trying to win the day or convert your religion. We are all off the cliff, airborne, waiting to hit the bottom of the canyon with a boulder or anvil following us down. This is precisely why we need love, levity, tricky art and fine music. Without these it's a simple math formula of time, velocity and gravity. "Gravity is working against me, and gravity wants to bring me down..." That's either Sisyphus, Wile E. or John Mayer and the last one has the best voice, I'm sure.

Rock Steady


August 2018
Transitive Nightfall
Greeting astute humans,

Three weeks ago I was in the studio late and came outside to a moonless, dark night. Stars were bright. I drove a couple blocks to the lakeshore and a spot I know with no street lamps next to the Burlington Surf Club, one of our magical paradoxes in Vermont--a surf club...  I laid back on a huge towel in the grass (sans ticks, i hope) to watch the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. August 11th. Acclimate the eyes. Relax. As always, it's a bit anticlimactic for those of us who love movies with the God of Thunder holding fast in the searing torrent of a dying star's energy blast...

Zip. A momentary streak of white light. A minute later--zip--white line in the blackness over the lake. Silent. Ephemeral.

In 1968, the Grateful Dead released a two-and-a-half minute song as a single that sold around 500 copies. In concert, this song, named "Dark Star," became the de facto anthem of the band's psychedelic journey. Many concert versions of the song i lasted up to a half hour; they played it in Rotterdam for over 48 minutes. Then the band stopped playing it for four years. It appeared on New Year's Eve in 1978 and then disappeared. In the following eight years, they played it once. Ultimately, it returned as a staple, and myriad live recordings preserve the special auditory dance that defines the "Dark Star."

After a few streaking meteors, I thought about the difference in the light I was witnessing. Old light, the specks of twinkling white I perceived, were photons generated millions - tens of millions - of years ago. Hundreds of millions of years... The dying dust incandescence of a meteor was new light. Fresh. Instantaneous. Just created. Old, constant. New, a flash...  Poetic. For me, a juxtaposition sublime.

Then, I rolled up the towel. Hopped in my car. Flipped on the headlights. New light!! HA! What a crock. I'm making new light all the time. Snap.

Right there, I was hit with the the definition of poetry. We make the distinctions. Our sensitivity and our spin are what frames all of this reality into moments of beauty. That is us. It's what we do. Dark night, white light. Frame it. Delight.

 The Dead sing,

"Dark star flashes, pouring its light into ashes...

...Shall we go, you and I while we can,

through the transitive nightfall

of diamonds..."   

Yes we can. It's all we get. Good thing it's made of diamonds...

Peace and love ya'll.

Bruce Mac

July 2018
Light Wobbles and Evil Weeds
Yo Mates, 
EXPRESSO is an instrument designed in 2013 and first tested in 2016. As the most sensitive spectrograph ever built, it is engineered to study the tiny wobble in starlight, the minute changes in color caused by gravity, which are created by the orbit of a rocky exo-planet. We are looking for other Earths billions of miles away. It's funded in part by Netflix in the hopes of finding the successor to "Friends" and "Game of Thrones." Nope, sorry, made that last part up.  

Light. Tricky stuff. Along the roadsides in Vermont right now is an invasive weed related to the infamous Giant Hogweed, called Wild Parsnip, which can cause phytophotodermatitis. Its sap, the oils on the plant, can get on your skin and when exposed to UV or sunlight will cause second-degree burns. The scars can last for years... Who designed that plant? In 2017, the EU created the Giant Alien Fund to combat the spread of this wicked weed, whose evil had been forewarned by the British band Genesis in 1971 with their song "Return of the Giant Hogweed." Nobody ever listens to prog rockers...

As you know, the sky is blue because that end of the visible spectrum has a shorter wavelength than the red end so blue is scattered more by the molecules that make up air, primarily oxygen and nitrogen. Longer wavelengths pass through, which explains why the sun and the moon near the horizon appear more red. The direct light of the sun has to pass through much more of the atmosphere at the low angle of day's end, and hence, more blue scattering. Also, the dust and water vapor and pollen and smoke allow the longer wavelength red light to pass more easily. We all know this, but the magic of spectral analysis is studying the specific frequencies or lines that are being absorbed. With this analysis we can determine what is in the atmosphere of an exo-planet-- exactly what elements are present and in what ratios and concentrations. We do these because we are fundamentally curious animals. Oh, and by the way, we can determine if it might be habitable for us humans, once we are through destroying our current planet. Or not. It's up to us. Current studies show plants and animals moving away from the equator fifteen feet per day...  

This summer in Vermont has been the most superlative I can remember for sunset watching. Nothing like a daily binge on a non-TV channel with no content--no characters, no plots, no ads....  Just light, water vapor, billowy white up high, then mauve, purples, gold... Watching over a plane of shimmering  H2O helps quite a bit.

While the smart humans and their instruments are analyzing the spectrum of planet HD2O945AB, an exo-planet kind of like Jupiter, billions of miles away, I'll be here with all you guys taking notes on these summer evenings of waves and wavelengths, gleams and sparkles.

Has to be art in there somewhere... Better get back to polishing...

Avoid the flowering roadside monsters. Pay attention in the twilight.

June 2018
Pink and Green, Same Same
Season's greetings,

Recently, I was down at the Battery in NYC and looking across the water at the Statue of Liberty. Back in the '80s, during the restoration work for the centennial celebration of the Statue, I read all about the crazy engineering of this massive sculpture. It's 305' 6" from the base to the tip of the flame. 100 tons of copper panels held with 300,000 rivets are attached to a wrought iron frame with no contact between these dissimilar metals. Copper touching iron in salt air would disintegrate the iron rapidly through the ion flow from galvanic reactivity. A giant self-destructing battery was not the idea. The restoration engineers marveled at the builders’ architectural stratagems, but wondered why such primitive iron - chock full of impurities with a strangely high carbon content - was used, only to realize eventually that the impurities prevented cracks from propagating. Blazing sun, expansion, snow, wind, ice, lightning, salt, fog... Yep, ready for all that. Gustave Eiffel helped design her before he became famous.

Looking at "Lady Liberty Enlightening the World" - the actual name of the artwork - sent me back to my little infinite library to look up "Hyperion". Not the god, not the moon of Saturn. At 380 feet tall and 600 to 800-years-old, Hyperion is the tallest living thing on earth. Lady Liberty is huge out there in the harbor, but there is a coastal redwood "hidden" on a steep hillside in northern California. The size of a thirty-story building, its actual location is kept secret for its own safety, but, in truth (excepting Man and his tools, of course), these life forms are nearly invulnerable: foot-thick bark; pink heartwood impervious to insect predation; and, even when all the limbs are consumed by fire, the tree will sprout new growth. Hyperion is young and still growing. The normal lifespan of these monsters is up to 2,200 years. Sheer size is helpful too--up to 30% of its moisture needs comes from fog, harvested by the leaves and limbs of these living, literal skyscrapers.

In 2017, someone paid 71.2 million dollars for a rock that weighs about four-tenths of an ounce. It was dug out of the ground in 1999 in Africa and, after two years of study, was cut from 132.5 raw carats into The Pink Star. It's now a 59.5 carat oval and is technically a "mixed cut Fancy Vivid Pink Internally Flawless Diamond".

So, what’s the thread? Giant art. Monster living organism. Tiny sparkly rock. Green. Green (and brown). Pink. Big. Bigger. Pipsqueak. Well, it's #6 on the Chart. Carbon. The high carbon content in the big lady’s iron was intentional and primitive and brilliant. Most of the armatures lasted 100 years, only to be replaced with 316L stainless steel, the exact material I use to push light around. The "L" stands for low carbon. The ancient redwood forest stores more carbon dioxide per acre than any other forest on the planet, including the tropical rainforest, with 1,000 metric tons per acre, double the rate of most forestlands. And, of course, the most concentrated form of pure carbon is a diamond. Impurities like boron make a diamond blue, nitrogen makes a diamond yellow, but pink is thought to be not from impurities, but a specific crystalline lattice structure that simply absorbs green light, therefore reflecting a pink hue. Pure. Purist. So, carbon impurities, good. Carbon capture, really good. Pure carbon, lovely.

Where do WE come into the discussion? Take away the water in my body and I am more carbon than the next element by a factor of ten. I am way, way mostly carbon. The point here is diversity--a single element is all of the above goodness, and in the manifestation of 160-pound me, self aware, creative, arguably the most complex carbon assemblage we will ever know. (Personally, I am not that complicated. But, you know, US, together, all together). One atomic bit can take all these forms. Me and the tree, Lady Liberty and the Pink Star. I like this club. A lot. Art. Plant. Rock. Animal. Diversity is pretty magical when you peer into it--one thing, many forms.

Thanks for following along my friends. Summer is here and time for big Art visits and trees and as much sparkle as possible. 

April 2018
Moving Air, Moving Art 

Often it is easy to overlook the thing that is glaring and large, the obvious can get overshadowed by the details...

In the news this week was the UK running entirely on wind energy for five and a half hours. Denmark has operated for days on wind power alone, as has Portugal. In California, scientists have modeled a solar and wind grid for our country. Their calculations consider that wind is intermittent and solar is well, naturally, doing nothing at night. If we had twelve hours of energy storage capacity, we could be 80% sufficient, and with three weeks of battery storage we could be 100% renewably powered. Buy stock in battery makers...

But this is not the point of my missive. The point is that sometimes we need to state the obvious to truly comprehend the whole picture. When comparing wind power to coal or natural gas generating plants, it is easy to overlook the obvious. Build a fossil fuel facility or a wind turbine? Well, with one of these you never need to buy fuel. Let that sink in.

So, what does this have to do with art? On the right hand, nothing. It's just my way of saving the planet via enlightenment. On the left brain, stating the obvious about art is that it IS and stays being Art. The obvious is that art stays. Bach, Shakespeare, Cézanne... Always right THERE, dancing its little dance, humming its little hum... Actually, Bach in a cathedral with a pipe organ...

But you get the drift. Our lives are awash in flitting images and sounds -- flashing screens, endless words assimilated and replaced moment to moment. Art endures. Great art has tenacity and endurance, permanent awe attached. I am stating the obvious. Yep. But then again, it doesn't need any fuel either.

March 2018
Pointy Wings and Flying Economy 
A frigate is a fast warship. It's also the name of a bird that I have noticed in Florida flying extremely high and never seeming to flap its wings. I stared at one for a while and concluded that it must be some kid's kite just sitting there all geometric angles and solid black. After a little homework, I identified that living kite as a Magnificent Frigate Bird, separate from its other pals, the Great, the Christmas, the Ascension and the Lesser Frigate Birds. Fabulous naming work. Ornithology crosses into poetry at some point. It's also called a Pirate Bird for reasons I will get to. 

This is one of nature's architectural masterpieces. It's a sublime point of evolution, a simple silhouette of precision aerodynamics. Although its body is over four feet long and has a seven and a half foot wingspan(!), its bones weigh only four ounces and are hollow. They are half the weight of its feathers. One-fifth of its body is devoted to a complex respiratory system that flows through its bones for cooling. This creates the largest wing area to body weight ratio ever recorded. Satellite tracking followed one bird aloft over the Indian Ocean for two months straight! They have been documented at two and a half miles up, and one was recorded gliding forty miles without flapping its wings.

Magically above, hollow, effortlessly soaring, it lacks the correct anatomy to waterproof its wings so it cannot land on water. Huge sodden wings could drown it. It loves flying fish, thermals, and billowing cumulous clouds. A gliding marauder, it practices kleptoparasitism by harassing smaller flying birds until they disgorge their last meal, which the Frigate Bird snatches from the air. It's the Pirate Bird for this reason.  It doesn't swim. It can hardly walk. Its bill is hooked. Its tail is forked for maneuverability, although from the ground that is not apparent. All black with a metallic green or purple gloss, the male has a bright red throat sac only visible during mating season. It is global, soaring the trade winds.

Locally, wouldn't it be nice to flap just once every six minutes to stay on course?  But, we don't. We run around like our hair is on fire. Our hearts beat around 115,000 times a day. Those little Chickadees that just showed up in the yard and are making a total racket have heart rates around 2,000 beats a minute or 2,880,000 beats a day. My bones weigh around twenty four pounds. The Chickadee's little spherical body weighs a total of about four-tenths of an ounce and they never fly far. So, what is the point?

Art. As usual, is the point. We hairless apes balance between the languorous and the speedy, the wanderers and the homebodies. We can't soar, but we can make symphonies. We know too much about too much, but have the capacity for delight. Our super power is creation. All things reproduce, but we alone see, feel, and interpret.   

On that note, spring is here my friends. Time to open some windows and let the fresh air in. As always, there is art apparent--thoughts and hands and tools and insights push light around for specific effects. That's the best. That's what makes us special creatures - it's our invisible wings.

Love love my friends,

Please share these thoughts wide and far,

Bruce R. MacDonald

P.S. Last week I drove through West Yellowstone and saw a bald eagle standing on a rock in the middle of a nearly frozen stream. It was fishing patiently. Just standing there waiting for the right moment, the right fish... 

* Here is the Extra Pointy 2.0 

You know, I won't ask you to reread this all over again. But just substitute the initials FB for the Frigate Bird. Reading along, la la la. Facebook practices kleptoparasitism.... On high, hollow. Opaque. Lovely. Futuristic. Hooked Bill. Invisible forked Tail. 

Maybe I/we need to stop reading about that stuff on the news feed and pay more attention to the backyard and actual open windows. Birdsongs from the woods rather than the Merlin app. Staring into the depth of the sky instead of the lovely new OLED screen...

We balance when we are balancing in the balance. Originally from Latin, "balance" literally is the use of scales, keeping both sides even. For every virtual an actual. My artwork hovers in this interstitial--you can see the computer image but the thing itself is irreproducible. My art exists, in its essence, only in real life. You cannot experience it without wandering about in front of it. No video can do what your two eyes can do. The wiring from eyes to brain is miraculously precise in orienting space and light, reflection and depth, refraction and motion. To truly "see" my art requires your presence. It's a curse that I accept. It's like making a CD with only half the notes available every time I post an image. 

So, come to a show. Stop by my gallery. Take a walk. Ski really fast. Balance. 

And peace, 

And love.  


February 2018
Houston, we have a pair of slippers...
There's a crack in my windshield right now that is in the worst possible place--in the middle, crawling up from the lower left to be directly in my line of sight. Really?! Right there? Anywhere else and I could probably get through snow plow and sanding season. Nope, right smack in my line of sight... Cracked vision.

In 1900, L. Frank Baum was writing a book about a magical land of bizarre creatures, talking animals, monkeys with wings, witches, a man made of metal. On his filing cabinet was a label: "O-Z". Thanks to the movie made in 1939, we all know how that adventure turned out. A hundred and forty years prior, Voltaire wrote an insane bit of literature that was banned soon after publication, yet became a best seller. Translated into thirteen languages, the tale mocked government, religion, wealth, medicine, academics, travel, sexual mores, and fundamentally, the spirit of optimism. Our hero's mentor repeatedly stated, "It's the best of all possible worlds." In junior high, I discussed this book with my father, who explained to me the double-edged sword of this statement. "...best of all possible" sounded at once wonderful and depressing. This IS what we get. Yep, it's the best, couldn't be any better. Sounds like the heart of the blues to me... without the guitar solo. 

Turritopsis Dohrnii is a jellyfish from the Mediterranean and the Sea of Japan that has the capability to undergo cellular transdifferentiation. This means its cells can change from one to another--a nerve cell can become a skin cell--in a process considered the holy grail of medicine. Human stem cells have this potential as well. Scientists discovered that they can take a mature Turritopsis and stress it--poke it with needles, make it really cold--and it will revert back to a polyp, a baby, and then grow back into an adult. As far as we know, it is unique in the animal kingdom in its capacity to reverse its biotic cycle. Life, stress, revert to a previous form, regrow to maturity. Repeat endlessly. No other critters can do this. (Then again we humans have the power of writing things down). One of my brothers has told me over and over that stress is the point of growth. Ask anyone training for the Olympics...

Whack. Stress to fracture. Crack my field of vision. Shatter the worldview. And now, regrow. Colonists left the oppression to start the New World. The status quo is shattering behind the force of #MeToo. Solar and wind are destroying the global system of energy production; ask anyone in Colorado or Australia or Sweden. The cyclone comes to carry away Dorothy, Puerto Rico, Houston... Voltaire's hero, Candide, a bastard born to wealth, suffers and falls, loses his family, loses his true love, finds treasure, loses it, loses his mentor, his country. The story ends with a reunification and his family "tending their garden," -- the highest moral good in Voltaire's lacerating parable of redemption. (Come to think of it, there were monkeys in that story too; and a storm and a tsunami and an earthquake and a wildfire and a shipwreck). The Immortal Jellyfish is real. The ruby slippers work. Sometimes the windshield has to be replaced immediately.

And finally, "If the world were perfect, it wouldn't be." That's Yogi Berra--catcher, coach, philosopher, five foot seven inch giant of a man, lifetime batting average of only .285 but he holds more World Series rings than anyone else.

The word for this week is "apricity." It means the warmth of the sun in winter. We all need some of that.

May the apricity find your face. Keep the jets clean and the fires stoked. There is Beauty looking for you. 

Happy February.


December 2017

Solstice Aloha
Let's start with Peace. And Love. And warmth on the longest night of the year. That is tonight.
But let's not talk about the darkness, because tomorrow is the beginning of the light getting longer and brighter.

Something happened in October that has never happened before. Ever. We saw something in the sky that is not about us in any way. It was as foreign as a thing could ever be. Astronomers in Hawaii saw in the sky a reddish, pinkish object screaming along at 37 miles a second. It was a quarter mile long and about eighty yards in diameter, shaped like a hoagie, or a submarine. It brightened and dimmed, so it must be tumbling slowly. Its trajectory was such that it sailed inside the orbit of Mercury, around the sun, and is now slingshot up to 55 miles per second and is headed back into deep space, leaving our elliptic out past Jupiter. Whatever. Comets do that all the time...

But, this is no comet. Comets are dirty snowballs spewing debris and gases and ice as they cruise their long parabola around the sun and away. And then back again later. Often much much much later. That is what they do. This, however, is doing a profoundly different dance. This thing is not bound by our sun. Its trajectory is hyperbolic, meaning it came from outside our sun's pull and accelerated off in a direction different from the one it came from. We will never see this again.

The Hawaiian scientists named this object "Oumuamua" (Oh-moo-a-moo-a). (Say that four times and you realize that it's the start of a song, pretty sure.) What makes it so special is that it is the first "interstellar" object ever witnessed. Every "thing" we have ever seen is part of our solar system--it belongs to our sun. It is one of our dance partners that twirls around in our magical gravitational neighborhood waltz. Oumuamua is from another star, hurtling along independent of us. It's here. Aloha. (I love that this word means hello and goodbye).

So what does this "mean"? Nothing but what we impart. Space dust doesn't "mean" anything. But, what could it mean? The name, Oumuamua, means "scout" or "messenger." What might be the message? Why now?

Well, in my tiny and infinite universe, it is the metaphor for different. This red rock pickle from deep space is here to remind us that change happens. Anything is possible. The message is "paradigm shift". Wake up and recognize the temporality of everything. Hello people of Earth. Bet you didn't expect this. Surprise! And now everything is different. Time to think differently. Maybe someday one of these will have beings on board and will we be proud of our planet, our home, our neighbors, our warmth, our humanity? Oumuamua is the shot across the bow of our cruise ship.

So my friends, happy dark-change-to-light, happy solstice. Merry Merry. Now is a good time to love each other with all our hearts. Now is a good time to make change our path. Oumuamua is the signal, methinks. Why shouldn't it be? Peace on earth sounds good right about now.

Aloha and massive hugs,

May 2018 truly be a new year...

Bruce R. MacDonald


October 2017

Hot Soup, Gold and the Kiss of Creation
Hi folks,
Let's start with Einstein, smartest guy I never met. In 1916, he surmised that since space time was bendy, ("relative" is the term he liked) then there could be waves, like surf. Ripples in space time. Exactly 100 years later, in February of 2016, the LIGO, Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, detected a ripple caused by the merger of two black holes. The LIGO has two "light storage" arms set at right angles that are each 2.5 miles long. These are not like my "light storage"--a kitchen drawer with flashlights, bulbs and batteries. These are beams of a laser in a vacuum tube that through mirror trickery increase the effective length of the light beams to 696 miles. In essence, these brilliant scientists have a rod that long and they are looking for it to stretch the distance of 10 to the negative 18 meters, or roughly the size of one thousandth of the diameter of a proton. (Pretty weensy change, methinks. There is some serious math at work there). If they see that, and they did, this proves that Einstein was again correct and there is such a thing as a gravitational wave. Space time is indeed flexible. Things can go boom with enough force that a billion miles away space time ripples get to Earth. Imagine what is happening in that neighborhood! To imagine we need a DRFPMI. (Look it up). (Or not, if you are not into Noisebudget, Squeezed Film Dampening, Substrate Brownian, Parametric Instabilities or FINESSE. These are the poetics of quantum physics AND excellent band names....)

Last week scientists had a bonanza. LIGO and a sister instrument detected a ripple and told all the astronomers where to look. A gamma ray detector in orbit pinged confirmation two seconds later and all the major telescopes, around 70, on earth pointed at the same tiny spot of the cosmos. Even Hubble dialed in.

When black holes merge there is nothing to see--all radiation, gamma rays, X-rays, all light frequencies are eaten up by the all powerful gravity. KA BOOM with no evidence excepting the teeniest stretch of the LIGO beam.

Neutron stars are old suns that run out of fuel and collapse into the densest stuff we can still see--a teaspoon full has the mass of Mt Everest. Our sun would turn into a ball of magnetic flux 12 miles in diameter. (You guys all know it is around 864,300 miles in diameter. Right. Check.) Only 130 million light years away from us, (also check, a light year is 5.88 trillion miles) two neutron stars that were locked into a gravitational twirl finally got close enough for their first and last cataclysmic kiss. The resulting "kilonova," (new word y'all, spread that around), mashed protons and neutrons in a furious bath of radiation creating ALL the primordial elements heavier than iron. The debris field from these two 12 mile balls colliding is the size of our solar system. 40 to 100 times the mass of the earth of gold was created instantly. 10 to 30 times the earth's mass of platinum and uranium just appeared out of the atomic stew to be strewn across millions of miles of space.

I highly recommend checking out the animated renderings of all this that you can find on the interwebs. Cataclysmic events are best when you have a cartoon to go by. Once again the tiniest and the most massively unfathomable things are linked, and human beings with insanely sophisticated quantitative tools are marveling at our natural surroundings. There is poetry in the science, and metaphor too. What are children but the golden offspring of two super dense objects getting too close? If we are anything, we are precious and know it. If we are anything, it is a pair of eyes looking for nuance. Tiny ripples that prove we are here and watching. Tiny wavelets across the emptiness... light wiggling, sparks...

Surf the waves everyday, my friends. As my buddy Larry says, "Everyday is a gift. That is why we call it the present."

Come visit the latest playing with light and shapes at SO FA Chicago 2017 this weekend, November 2-5, at Navy Pier. 

We are stretching and bending and refracting and reflecting and hanging about looking for the next kaboom... 

September 2017
Venus, Vesuvius and James T. Kirk
Hi folks,
"Fortune favors the bold." Apply this quote from Pliny the Elder to Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, or Barack Obama. Go do what no one has done before! Ferdinand Magellan left Seville, Spain in 1519 with five ships and 270 men to circumnavigate the globe. He sailed through the Straits of Magellan (crazy coincidence there), named the Pacific Ocean because it was so calm, and died two years later halfway through the voyage in the Philippines, named for King Phillip the Second of Spain. Mutiny, cannibalism, ship immolation...the usual.

In 1989, NASA sent a spaceship named "Magellan" to radar map the surface of Venus. The craft weighed just over a ton, had the same wattage as a hair dryer and was mostly spare parts from other missions. Its data storage was two tape recorders with the storage capacity of my iPhone. In two years, it mapped 98% of the surface of Venus and showed us clearly that Venus is all about volcanoes and lava flows. Nothing like Earth. Nothing like Mars, or Saturn or Jupiter (all names of important guys). It was the first, and still the best, imagery, or atlas, (another important guy) of our brightest planetary neighbor. Its mission complete, Magellan disintegrated in the atmosphere, but some smart guys with degrees believe there is a bit of wreckage left on the surface. Space trash, possibly with a "Made in the USA" somewhere....

The explorer, the human one, chronicled two small smudges of light in the dark, ocean nights of the Southern Hemisphere. These were dubbed the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. We now know these to be two relatively close dwarf galaxies. Back then there were no telescopes to discern their stellar componentry, so they were thought to be clouds--space clouds.

"To boldly go where no man has gone before" is the tag line of a TV show from 1966 that "failed" after only three seasons. Pliny the Elder, an early bold human took a ship over the horizon to find out what a strange cloud was all about. He died from asphyxiation in the toxic fumes from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius which was busy burying Pompeii in hot gravel and ash--airborne lava.

So what of the "boldly going" idea? Will it lead to certain death? Everything leads to certain death. But the bold get things named for them: The Bering Sea, Washington, America, Buddhism... The bold make history. History is the stuff in legends and books that explains who we are and how we got here and where we should boldly go tomorrow. Einstein, Rosa Parks, Jackson Pollock, Leonardo Da Vinci, Madame Curie. They all headed into uncharted waters and shaped humanity. Volcanoes were named for Vulcan, the god of fire and forging, the god of making things, and Spock's home planet was Vulcan, so we come full circle once again. By the way, there is a beer named Pliny the Elder. Live long and prosper. And look out for weird clouds. Especially twirly ones.

And, of the 270 sailors, 18 made it home four years later.

Much love,

Be bold,


P.S. And typical of the strange loops in life, I paused on a bike ride yesterday afternoon with my bro to get water and looked up to see a sign that read, "Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve." Yep. Vulcan.

July 2017
Boo and the Bang and the Meaning of What
Hi folks,
In 2013 a rock the size of a house wandering through space at a random but not atypical velocity of 40,000 mph entered Earth's atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia. It exploded, colliding with the air around 18 miles up, releasing the equivalent of 30 times the energy of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb. 


When I was four my mom brought home two kittens and let me name them. Logically, I named them Boo and Whack and gave Whack to my brother. How do I know this? I remember it. Based on the number of neurons in the brain, around 100 billion, times the number of possible connections made by each neuron to its neighbors, we have a number estimated to be 10 to the one millionth power. Just to put this in some realm of a context--the total of all the atoms in the universe is about 10 to the eightieth power. Can anybody out there explain to me how those cats still exist amidst the near infinity of possibilities in my little head?

So, the universe has total randomness--dust, supernovae, black holes colliding in galactic centers... Our brain, all three pounds of it, makes sense of that stuff, and pets, with an absurd precision in a near infinite matrix of order and bio-processing. We exist with pure randomness everyday, rocks wandering through the cosmos or a chipmunk running in front of your bicycle; AND we have clear memories and exacting calculations of mass and velocity and Whack all going on at the same time. The fleeting nature of thoughts, of life itself, is a reason I make art. I want there to be a standing wave of a beautiful object. I want to have tangible things a part of your lives that are strange but familiar, magical but parts of home. Time flies. Art endures. Metaphorical bunnies run in front of us constantly...

Wallace Stevens once wrote, "Death is the mother of beauty." I would like to think the heart of his thought is our ability to see and feel and remember and then divide by our finite hours to find the answer of what truly matters. We are living in true randomness. Finding meaning is our duty and our privilege.

June 2017
The Last Snowflake
Hi folks,

In 2012, I made a four foot by eight foot snowflake named "Bentley," for Snowflake Bentley, the Vermont gentleman who, beginning in 1885, made over 5,000 precise photographs of the tiny, crystalline wonders we call snow. Recent research estimates (roughly) that the number of snowflakes that have fallen on earth to be sort of around the number 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 give or take. Approximately.

In the last five years I have made and sold fifteen snowflakes, all different, naturally, and now we come to the last one. Sixteen seems like a nice round number, (although my father used to say that about seven, but that's another story). Bugatti made seven Royales, only six survive. Brancusi made sixteen "Bird in Space." Bach wrote six Brandenburg Concerti. Number sixteen is the end of this series. The notion that they are all different by definition is appealing; I could go on with these the rest of my life. But I think it best to pick a point and call it the ultimate. Cal Ripken, Jr played baseball for the Baltimore Orioles for 21 years, along the way breaking the record held by Lou Gehrig, "The Iron Man," of 2,130 consecutive games played, a record that stood for 56 years that most writers considered unbreakable. When Ripken got to 2,632, he just stopped. That's it. Moving on...

Conceptually, the notion of "The Last Snowflake" speaks to our times. Could be the end of an era. The last Samurai. The last Tasmanian Tiger. Climate change. The last polar bear? The end of snowing... Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?

I have been calling this final one, "#16," the notion being that in the practically infinite number of them, one would have to be #16. This one is it! But, since all the previous have names, I have decided to call this one, "Scheherazade." She is the legendary story teller, the woman who prolonged her life by reciting great adventures, legends and myths. Every night was a new delight and always an open-ended tale that needed another night to complete... And thus she was spared beheading for 1,001 nights until the king fell in love with her and made her his queen. Seems like a fitting name for the final Snowflake. Scheherazade will not melt. She will not fade. The final snowflake stays frozen forever. The sparkling will outlast us all. And, it is a great word to say over and over... 

May 2017
Hello Friends,

Here is another one to add to your collection or to start your light sculpture addiction. "Warren" is $4,400 in the gallery, but for the tribe, it is $3,200 until 5/23/17.

The word "warren" comes from a Germanic word for "protection." Most people tend to think of a warren as a place where rabbits abound, not the old meaning-- a place for safety, where your group survives the vicissitudes of life.

Who wants to live a long time? Human lifespan has increased thirty years in the last century. Jeanne Calment (root word in French--"calme"), lived to be 122 1/2. She rode a bike until she was 100 and reportedly ate a kilogram of chocolate a week, which works out to over five ounces a day! On the other hand, the Greenland shark has a lifespan up to 500 years but is mostly a scavenger--rotting meat is a fav, particularly fish of course. None own bicycles, and they swim very, very slowly, less than a mile an hour. Calm fish. The oldest animals seem to be clams (just a two letter shuffle from "calm"), and they have never seen chocolate or bikes (no eyes) and really just spend their lives buried in sand. Super calm clams. No swimming. No riding. Just hiding out. Like rabbits in their warrens.

So, protective behaviors? Neil Young (see how the name works here?) said, "It's better to burn out than to fade away," but he is still making killer music with young dudes. I bet he has a warren.

All best, my friends,

rock steady.


May 2017

Time Turbine
Awake Spring Peepers,

"Time Turbine" is $4,400 in the gallery, but for you people who know me and read these notes, it is $3,200 until 5/16/17.

We know that time is relative. Albert says so and he knows way more than we do. That's why your map's blinking blue dot on your phone is corrected for the bending of space time by the mass of the earth AND the fact that the satellites figuring GPS are closer to light speed than you are. (Regardless of how fast you drove to work this morning). Without this math correction, that blue spot would be 10 kilometers off and 10 more tomorrow and 10 more...

But, we all know that. What you don't know is that there is a "spot" in space a billion light years in diameter called the Eridanus Supervoid. Nothing is going on there. Nothing. Cold. Vacuum. No explanation for that. Likely the aliens' DMV...

Less than half a mile from my house I have seen a pair of peregrine falcons sorting out a nesting spot on a cliff that drops into the water. We all know these are the fastest animals (180 mph), but they are relatively small birds and though handsome with the black and white chest striping, they are kind of unassuming. Loud when I paddled by but, otherwise, much more discrete than the ravens and turkey vultures in the neighborhood.

Listen to Miles Davis, "Freddy the Freeloader." In the first two notes, you know the song that is coming. Simple and relaxed. It is totally singular. Doesn't need to smack you. Brilliance often doesn't. But it's there and it's waiting for you, every time. Right there.

So, there is the mind-bending conceptual mathematics we know and accept, but can't do. There is the unfathomable stuff we are told. Massive and utterly invisible. Fun to think about. There is the stuff in the yard that is superlative and RIGHT HERE. A falcon and the blues, quiet, unassuming, but the best there is, and, completely accessible.

That is what I do, my friends. The paragraph above sums up "Time Turbine." No one does what I do. Nobody. It's massive and intimate. It's the universe, the ineffable. and it hangs in your dining room. It's always fresh, and a constant. It presents a bit of the light dance all around us, but with style, with intention. Complications like a time piece... 

April 2017
Everything is Visible, Last Dibs!
Hi folks,
It's The End. Or, at least, the Last Ones. Well, for now, and possibly for a long time. Hell, scientists may never again manage to bash atoms together and and have them stick to make a new Element. If you read science fiction or watch the movies I love, there will be magical new substances that change the nature of our lives. Travel across space, maybe time travel, maybe... Instant miniature batteries. Nano robots that pick the lint from your shoulder, or pancreas. Pills instead of ninth grade... But these things may very well all be built from the basic blocks that we have today. Besides, finding one more Element will make a periodic chart with a dangly-down, embarrassing thingy. Today's symmetry is kind of sublime. 

So, here we are. This is the end of the Visible Indivisibles project. I have completed 118 squares of metal to represent every Element. They are all alloy 316L stainless steel panels excepting three--Copper and Titanium, which are their respective Elements. Gold is 24K gold plate over brass, an alloy of Zinc and Copper. Only two were made by deforming the surface mechanically--Titanium and Gallium, and they weirdly were bought by the same guy on different occasions. One other panel is slightly deformed, and the buyer doesn't even know or know why, but that's the sort of stuff you will need to read in the book. There are lots of intriguing nuggets hidden in the process--one gentleman owns the two radioactive ones below Lead. There is a panel with a frog and one with a light bulb, life and death, and perseverance and inspiration, respectively. There is the dead mouse next to the open can, next to the active poison in Loco Weed, next to the poison that likely killed Mozart... Don't get me started. 

And mashed into this entire program is all the art history you can stand. The Visible Indivisibles project is a compendium of Cubism, Minimalism, Futurism, cave paintings, black boards, graffiti, Sol LeWitt, Lichtenstein, Miro, Twombly, ukiyo-e, Hubble photographs, Deco, Op, Pop, comics, X-ray imagery, origami, medieval heraldry, O'Keeffe, Ruscha, Pollock, Hirst, Warhol, Magritte, James Turrell, David Smith, Agnes Martin, Banksy, Rothko, Basquiat... The intention from the outset was to build a body of work approachable from the perspective of a layman, science weenie, or art weenie... Mash it all in there--Przybelski's star and floating, shimmery bits, half lives and a skull and a really big hammer, quantum mechanics and Mondrian, stellar nucleosynthesis and a big round circle on a square. You get a feel for what the book will be about...

Intentionally, I wandered around the chart, doing obscure Elements following superstar A-list Elements: Ununseptium followed by Iron, Roentgenium and then Platinum. Randomly, the last one I just completed a week ago, is Iridium, Ir, #77. And in the homework I read that Iridium is a marker in the Earth's geologic stratum of an extinction event, the end of the Cretaceous Era, the end of the dinosaurs and 75% of all species on earth. Turns out a meteor, rich in Iridium, reshaped the Yucatan and the rest of the planet in one swell foop. The vaporized Iridium settled evenly around the globe forming a thin layer, subsequently buried in the next 66 million years of time and dirt to get to today. Consequently, Iridium as a panel is the night sky with a tiny Earth shatterer streaking along, heading this way. It is after dusk and the stars are out. Nightfall. Day is done. The work is completed. The volcano along the bottom is there for a reason too. Have to read the book...

Fittingly, the end of the era is now (probably just as significant historically as the Mesozoic. I'm sure.). The panels shown below are for sale, the very last ones. This has been tremendous fun, as will be the book. But this is it for the artwork. There is no "later." Step right up folks. Don't hesitate. I expect these to be gone in a day or two...

And, thanks to you dear friends, this has been a blast. So much study exists in the metal, so many stories, so much texture, so much vision wrapped up in a light dance... 
February 2017
Go Aero, Eyes Up
One afternoon last summer I was out on my bike doing my hometown loop. It is a steady state experience for me--few variables excepting wind and rain. I know the course and every roller uphill, every long sweeper. I know where to hammer and where to look out for gravel before the downhill intersection. It is a constant. Hometown. I love it. It belongs to me. 

So, there I was about to crest a ridge line heading south. There's a short uphill run to a blind right hand and then a solid mile downhill with a nice cambered S swerve before a covered bridge. I always stand and hammer up to the top and over the crest carrying all the speed I can into that downhill mile. Over the top, full speed and then into the drops. Go aero and pedal hard. As per usual...   But just as I started down full rip, something BIG bounded across the road in front of me about thirty yards. Without thinking I braked hard, just short of locking up. The thing paused in the gully on the right and turned and looked right at me, huge eyes locked on mine. I stopped and put a foot down, and it turned and disappeared into the trees up a near vertical embankment. My heart rate was somewhat high to start with and now I was simply gasping. What the hell?! I wasn't really positive what just happened. Color of a boxer. Or a deer. Fat rope of a long tail.  Size of a really big dog. Really big. Bobcat movements. After I got home and google imaged "mountain lion," I knew for certain. Holy crap. Vermont is kind of benign on the wildlife front. (If you ignore the killer musicians who play here all the time). I also searched and found confirmation of sightings in Charlotte and North Ferrisburg of a full grown catamount. 

Cougars can jump fifteen feet from a standstill. They belong to a family that is the one of the oldest mammals, dating back eleven million years. Typically, they kill with a neck bite, positioning their fangs between the vertebrae and into the spinal cord. They only eat meat. Favorite foods include critters up to and over a thousand pounds--moose, elk, etc or the random coyote, deer, grey wolf...

I didn't even have time to be afraid. Once home and doing the homework I realized that I'm glad he wasn't peckish. Me and my lycra super suit... Hell of a defense I could mount with a fourteen pound skinny bike on the ice skates of road cleats...  

The take away from that afternoon is a simple one. Whatever you think is the course of life, think again. Life is fundamentally full of surprises, not all good ones, in keeping with the definition, but I guarantee ones that you never even considered. Providence is determined to keep us guessing. Recently I read that researchers have determined that we misplace an average of nine things a day. By age sixty, that is 200,000 things we have to look around for. Yep, lost the keys again. Surprise! They are in the kitchen. Surprise! We get used to that stuff. Surprise! Cougar on the hometown loop. Bring it on.
Just don't eat me, please. 

So friends, keep looking down the road... Just know that whatever you think is what is happening is just a guess. The outcome may be wildly different than what we are worried about. Just stay engaged completely and beware the predators... And, if I can be so bold, get outside and see what is what that is not all human racket... Lions stroll the planet.

Love you all. Spread that around everyday.

December 22, 2016
We are Zeros and We are Kings
Dear friends, 

Enough with the serious talk. I just want to point out a couple ideas and then wrap this solstice with a few words of grace. 

First, the temperature of space is minus 455 degrees Fahrenheit, give or take. The distance to the nearest habitable planet, assuming life is mostly like us, is around a billion and a half miles. Basically, we are flying through the infinite emptiness of a freezer. So, what are the odds? What is the probability that we exist at all? I did the math and it comes out to exactly (using the standard rounding error) ZERO. There is absolutely no plausible explanation for me being here to write and you being there to read. So....

Party up folks! As far as I can tell, a freaking miracle is all we are every moment of our lives. Life is just a thin smear of slime on the ball we call earth. AND, in my humble estimation, we should recognize this by showing love and kindness to every other freaking miracle we see everyday. That's it--lesson for today. Your mission is to recognize this simple fact and act accordingly. Hug your peeps. Smile a ton. Love and kindness. That's it. Don't forget. Peace on earth...

And just to make it all crystal clear, this is called 

Here and Then

With shared genetics
the sons, the daughters of forgotten kings
race light
on their miraculous feet,
gaining elevation
in time's wake,
streamlining their beings
with devotion. 
Dross lost. 
Crucible purification process 
back flip into oblivion.
Heirs to the thrones invisible

December 16, 2016
Fowl, Weather, and Brighter Skies
Howdy howdy amazing humans, 

So often, it's the little things. The simple can rescue the soul... 

You feel crushed. The world that you know and understand, pretty much, unravels. We all find ourselves on the floor at some point. Overwhelmed. Broken. The news that seemed bad turns out to be just the first volley. And there you are. What do I do now...

Well, nothing... breathe... and breathe and ... Feel what this emptiness really, really feels like. That is you. That IS your heart, your soul speaking. You are that voice. It is pure. All you are as a person is built above this core of your being. You can label it despair. Or not. 

Now. Remind yourself that you are not alone. There are nearly seven and a half billion people on planet earth right now. Today the counter is running with over 170,000 born so far, along with over 71,000 deaths. I guarantee there are A LOT of humans experiencing exactly the emotions you are experiencing right at the crux of despair. You are a part of this very large tribe expanding every moment, as important as any member. We are all kings, or paupers, inside. Your choice. We start with nothing and will end with the same. 

Then. Open your eyes, your heart...  let the smallest of the small speak. Your dog will stroll over and put his head in your lap. Don't have a dog? Birds are the messengers of the gods throughout the religions of the aboriginal world. They are there, just for you, waiting for your attention. They sing. They dance. They fly... And there are somewhere between 100 and 400 billion. (They are sort of hard to count.) Plenty of those guys to help lift...

Listen to those brilliant humans who have made communication from the heart their mission in life: Danny O'Keefe: https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=UaHw0pZNIHk 
Or Bob Marley. Try a Bonnie Raitt ballad. There is an entire concert waiting in your pocket. Sing the oldest song you ever learned. And, trust me, there is nothing better than the blues. Listen to "Blues the Healer," with John Lee Hooker: https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=0aFKgi5D6eU

Look at anything and see it fresh--the magnets on the fridge--what is this magic? Metal that likes to stick to stuff. But not everything... only special stuff. Freaky! The thermos on the counter?! Ridiculous engineering!! Put in cold; it keeps it cold. Put in hot; it stays hot. How does it know?! No moving parts! The wood under your feet--it grew! From dirt and sunlight and rain and now it's the floor. There are ducks that show up in the lake in front of my house as they travel about. They are social and really small and look like they were painted in the Jet Ski factory. I looked them up to find their official name: Little Black and White Ducks. Some people call them Buffleheads but I prefer the latter, more descriptive label. 
This time of year is symbolized by babies and old folks, so go talk to either. They are closer to the purest realm than any of us. They are filled with genius half forgotten or yet to express. We mourn the passing of so many of our finest here at year's end, but hold the thought that there are more of us every moment, so logically, there are more of the brilliant appearing than there have ever been before. 

So, keeping this brief: listen to the blues. "I been down so long, seems like up to me..." 
"If it wasn't for bad luck, I'ld have no luck at all." "I been tied to the whippin' post..." Because that is really our lot. The human condition is fun stuff mixed with heartache, then heartbreak followed by silence. That is the sum right there. Those are the facts. And when we feel that, we feel our true depth. Fallen angels. 

One of the truly wise, Pema Chodron, says, "You are the sky. Everything else--it's just the weather."

So, in the meantime (it's all we get)...open your eyes and hearts. Listen to that boogie music. Dance a little bit. FOCUS on the miracles: Twins! Contact lenses and reading glasses. Snowflakes. Shortbread. Kids' faces. George Winston playing Christmas music. Ice skates. Paint brushes. Sunrise. Favorite sayings. That rainbow this morning driving to work of low ice crystals refracting. Grandad. Voices. The funnies. Knee high chop. A choir. John Cleese. Sparkly lights. Aretha. (Did anyone hear the national anthem she sang on Thanksgiving Day?) Starfish. The HOLIDAYS.

All this stuff pours in when you just let it. We don't get much time. Better spread the love today. Say hey to the chickadee. Remember, YOU are the sky. Share your sunshine. And do your best to make people laugh. It's the lightning. 
Hugs non stop. 

P.S. "Nobody loves me 'cept my mother,
And she might be jivin' too." 
B. B. King

P.P.S."Friends seen an` unseen...to you that are ridin` along / In your automobile...to you that are sitting at you table / I greet you with the holy word `Peace`... / For with my infinite mind I thinks constructively...…"

"I am what I am, and I am it."
love love love

November, 2016
Sheepdogs and tiny lightning, matter and Mind
Hi all, 

A big part of my job is noticing things. Generally it's stuff that is right in front of everyone, but I happen to see it and want to point it out. Why do I do this? And, why do I have to be outside so much?

Ok, that's basically question number one (and maybe one and a half). Question two is a little less tricky: What is happening when I notice things? Tiny electrical pulses - miniature lightning - are firing in my head. Our brains are three pounds of jelly, hundreds of billions of cells, each sending bolts to other neighboring cells hundreds of time per second. One typical neuron makes about 10,000 connections to its neighbors. Quick math gives us trillions and trillions of connections. So, I or rather, we, are that. We are trillions of electrical zaps. You are reading this and thinking, "So what? Which brings us to question three: The thing that is thinking - your mind - which is just electricity, is organized by what? How did "I" get here?

Now comes the material part--if "we" are electricity snapping away, there has to be something to snap between. There has to be matter, physical, actual stuff for it to cross between. Yep, that is the pink jelly above the shoulders we keep under our hats. Our bodies, made of a handful of elements, are literally the support system for our brains. Food, oxygen, water is all just the processing system to keep the lightning on.

I live with two dogs. One is an Aussie shepherd with the no-tail-looks-like-a-sheep approach to managing his flock. We, the family, are the flock. He lies on the floor under our feet guarding us from within the flock itself. The other is a border collie and his flock management is to observe from afar. He is across the room, attentive, alert, never underfoot. He manages his humans from without. Neither of these guys has any training whatsoever. They do what they do based on 10,000 years of breeding and training to the degree that their behavior, the way they think, is hard-wired into their DNA. Along with the four-legs-and-a-cold-nose machinery is a pattern of electrical firings, a behavior, that makes them guard us the way they do. And that particular electrical pattern is passed on through matter. 

When my youngest son was in pre-school there was a graduation(?!) ceremony that required all the kids to file to the front of the room and sing a song for the attending parents. He took his spot with this paper crown cocked just so, and put his hands in his pockets and started to sing, rocking back and forth from his heels to his toes. EXACTLY the way my father did when he sang. My son had never seen his grandfather sing, and yet there was the same precise motion that I had witnessed hundreds of times. 

So, question two is answered by electricity--invisible firings in an organic computer we carry around. When I see things, when I move this pen around, when I ride my bike, the lightning is flashing. But when I smile seeing my son singing, when I make art, when I think about thinking, when I use the work "flock" a bunch 'cause I like the way it sounds, it is the manifestation of DNA, of time and chemistry. I, and you, are the culmination of all those grandfathers and grandmothers stretching backwards into history. How me move our hands when talking, how we choose what we talk about, is the expression of the material, the matter that organizes the electrical fields. Matter makes our minds. And matter makes our behaviors.

And finally, question four--do you have free will or are you enacting what is programmed in your cells? When I notice leaves in pirouette and then put that into my art, did "I" decide that? Am "I" something other than an electrical field playing out a pattern dictated by inherited protein matrixes? Are the shapes and shading in my artwork chosen by me? "I" think so. But, how do "I" know? My mother was a painter, a teacher full of stories. My grandad was a musician and an engineer. My father was a professor of literature and taught creative writing. I'm related to Daniel Boone through my mother's side, perhaps that explains question one and a half.

In conclusion, one of my favorite writers can offer a functional resolution that firmly grounds these notions in a lavender fog. Alan Watts says, "...you do not have a sensation of the sky: you are that sensation. For all purposes of feeling, your sensation of the sky is the sky, and there is no "you' apart form what you sense, feel, and know."  

Glad we sorted this out. "You" have an awesome week, day, lunch break, lifetime... 
Consider from whence you came... 
And don't forget to feed the shepherds...

August 2016
Winston Churchill, the Knuckleballer, and a Turtle
"Fall seven times. Stand up eight." That's what a little scrap of paper says that I snipped out of a magazine decades ago and currently resides thumbtacked to the inside of my closet door. Watching the Olympics recently refocused this notion for me. There are countless tales of athletes whose careers are a series of disasters and failures and yet they somehow continue performing their magic acts on the track or on the mat, in the ring, in the air...
R. A. Dickey is a pitcher drafted out of college in 1996 by the Texas Rangers and offered a signing bonus of $810,000. One of the team doctors noticed in a photo Dickey's pitching arm hanging oddly and further evaluation discovered he was missing a ligament in his arm. His bonus was reduced to $75,000 and off he went to the minor leagues. He finally debuted in the majors in 2001 with a losing season and was sent back to the farm teams. Struggling with obscurity and losing games, he toyed with different pitches and his signature forkball that he dubbed "The Thing." He became the rarest of the rare--a knuckleball pitcher--and battled on. Finally given the chance in 2006, he started for the Texas Rangers and gave up six home runs in his first game. Back to the minors in Oklahoma. Two years later he was called up again and pitched for the Seattle Mariners and tied the major league record with four wild pitches in one inning. By refusing to go back to the minors he was traded to the Minnesota Twins and started 35 games for them in 2009. In 2010 he was back in the minors pitching for the Buffalo Bisons and the Mets bought his contract. Then, he got it--the magic of endless hours distilled. In 2012 he was the most dominant pitcher in baseball rattling off 230 strikeouts and a series of staggering scoreless games. He went 44 innings on one stretch without an earned run and won the Cy Young Award, never before given to a knuckleballer, for the best pitcher in the National League. His contract was upped to $37 million for three years. Today they play the theme from Game of Thrones when he comes to bat and he swings bats named for weapons from the Tolkien books. Joe Girardi, who manages the Yankees, said during an in-game interview a couple years ago (while being walloped by the Red Sox) something so pithy I ran to the kitchen for paper to write it down: "That's what life is all about--fighting through things." 
Then again, there is the Ernest Shackleton voyage. If you haven't read the book "Endurance," you must. No better tale of adversity. Seriously. If they did THAT?! You can do anything. 

Leah Berliawsky  was born in 1899 in the Ukraine. Her family emigrated to Maine where her father was a woodworker, lumberjack and ran a junkyard. She went to school and became a secretary in Manhattan, changed her name to Louise and married her employer, Charles Nevelson, to become part of elite society. When the socialite, conformist wifey role her husband demanded didn't work out she left the money and security and returned with a son back to Maine and then back to the streets of New York to pursue the art that she felt was buzzing through her being. She struggled, studying art with some of the greatest of the Expressionists of the era, but selling almost nothing of her own work. She heated her apartment with scavenged wood from the streets. When she was 61 years old MOMA purchased one of her pieces. As an outspoken, feminist artist, she was on the cover of Life magazine and was courted by a large gallery to do a grand opening salon. Not a single piece sold. Left broke and depressed and nearly homeless, she relied on friends to get by. At 64, the Pace Gallery in New York gave her a show and the art world and museums across the globe stepped up to recognize her genius. Louise Nevelson started monumental outdoor sculpture in her 70's and today remains one of the influential visions of 20th Century art. Look for her work my friends. It hums silently. Kind of like Richard Serra. Check him out too. 

So, the theme for all these words started with the Olympics and circled back with my rereading the other blog pieces I have written in the past couple years. ((They are here.)) Resilience. There are some teeny animals called tardigrades, whose name means "slow walkers." These guys have survived all five mass extinctions--they have been around for half a billion years. Only a  millimeter long, they endured ten days aboard a rocket exposed to the searing radiation and absolute vacuum of space. They are able to withstand 1000 times more radiation than a human as well as 300 degrees Fahrenheit to near absolute zero. They like moss and swimming. They are nicknamed water bears and are arguably the most durable organism ever. However, there is a critter being studied called the immortal jellyfish that seems to apparently live forever by cycling between growing up and then reverting to childhood, endlessly. I like these guys too in a conceptual way, but we can talk about them next time. 
Winston Churchill famously said, "Never, ever ever ever ever give up." Attached to this letter is a video that I shot last week with my phone. It's two snapping turtles in the lagoon at Camp in Central Vermont. Our resident smartest guy in the room regarding the natural world, my buddy Red Dows, says the largest is likely protecting his territory. Their fight lasted for hours and hours. The big one looks to be around 35-40 lbs. and therefore might be around 75 years old. It's his lagoon cuz he sez so as long as he wants it. So back off young terrapin! 
R. A. Dickey wrote a book that says in the third sentence that he will never lead the league in strikeouts. He did just that in 2012. There was a young woman who grew up in a Rio favela. With judo she fought her way to the 2012 Olympic games and was disqualified for an illegal move. As a child she walked to the gym because she couldn't afford the bus. Last week she won a gold medal.

With health, with work, with athletics, with life in general... Churchill also said,  "If you are going through Hell, keep going."

We are what we do my friends. 
Rock steady,

July 2016
Time Machinery and Random Order 

Things happen with bizarre coherence. I moved to California years ago and was trying to find a house near the beach to rent. On the way to look at what sounded like an ideal spot a half block from the sand, we stopped in traffic just at that moment as the big red ball dropped into the Pacific. A moment's pause, a collective sigh and the green flash appeared. Just for a second or two a neon green blob appeared right where the sun had disappeared. Often seen by pilots, this rare optical phenomena was first photographed in 1960; it is momentary, fleeting, a magical convergence of refraction and witness.  The house on the beach we rented that day was on Emerald Court. 

Things happen randomly. Five days ago, the fourth of July, while out riding my bike, I was sitting up chatting with my brother Kevin as we soft pedaled down a mellow decline in the lusciousness of an 80 degree Vermont afternoon. Humid sunshine. Sweat. Perfection. My front wheel dropped off the pavement and my instinctual bunny-hop back onto the road whacked me into Kev's handlebars. Slam! Slide! Imagine being pitched out of a moving pick-up in skimpy pjs attached to some garden tools. Both of us down and grinding skin and tissue in less than a heartbeat. Bikes instantly worthless as bikes. Adrenaline hammered and twitching with survival body chemistry, we jumped up READY. Swords drawn. Pissed off. Blood dripping. 
Things happen on time. Also in the last week, Nasa's Juno spacecraft arrived after traveling five years and 1.7 billion miles to orbit and study our solar system's largest dance partner. It arrived off its projected schedule established five years ago by one second! Humans are great at planning long range stuff like this. (I have a hard time getting to lunch when I'm supposed to.) We spent 25 years building the most monumental machine in human history, the Large Hadron Collider, in hopes of taking a photo of a particle that exists for a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second. It works. Say "Cheese" Higgs Bosun. Some things happen VERY FAST.
Things happen we foresee. At New College in Oxford, England, founded in 1379 (classic Brit humor right there) massive oak beams in the dining hall were being eaten by beetles as old oak beams in England eventually do. Turns out 500 years ago a stand of oaks had been planted on college property to take care of this challenge when the time came.
We do what we do and then WHAM! Life seems to be a succession of things being just as they are nicely until they aren't, suddenly. But--and this is the heart of this missive--the staggering improbability that all the infinite possible vectors perfectly aligned to become me seated on a bicycle is an affirmation of the perfection lurking within every single moment of every day. Random elements collided. Water appeared. Life. Legs. Eyes. Families. I have a brother who loves bikes as much as I do. And we get to see each other and ride together. Science can't explain this. Things are just happening willy nilly in every direction all the time. Green flashes. Quantum collisions.
I was once told about a monk who painted in the Japanese Sumi-e tradition. When asked by an acolyte how long it took him to make a painting that appeared to be a single stroke of an inked brush on paper, his answer was "87 years, 10 months, 4 days, 8 hours and 6 seconds,"--his age at that moment.
The fovea is a small depression centered in the retina where visual acuity is strongest. Half of the nerves from the eye to the brain originate here. That is me, the fovea. I have spent all these years translating the subtle and not so subtle movement of light.  And I am convinced that it is all playing out exactly the way it is supposed to, needs to, in some ridiculous organic mechanism. Light reflecting this way and that. Precisely. The Jupiter probe showed up a second late, exactly that second that I needed to bunny-hop to safety. But nooooo. There must be some tiny whirring cog that I don't comprehend yet...
Change is the only constant. In my daily twirl, I build silent machines that hang there and monkey with light. They will be around when my time sneaks off. They change and don't change. I hope you all find some of that each day--solace in the steadiness, faith in the randomness. Keep the rubber side down and your eyes on the horizon. Plan long range and bounce when you have to. Our notions about time are deceptive and relative and subject to revision at any SLAM. But I am certain that it is the right time.
Enjoy summertime. 
It's quick, although the days are long.
See what I mean...
Hugs all around,

June 2016
Eagle Eye

Headlines tell us that gorillas are precious, politicians are super scary, four new Elements are getting actual names, guns kill, Brazil is a mess but has new stadiums, the Dead is on tour, Ali is gone, Prince too, and where does who go to the bathroom? In the middle of all of this shouting we find ourselves. Or we don't. That is the conundrum. Where do we as individuals live today amidst the massive explosion that seems to be civilization?  

Paraceratherium Grangeri (say that five times) was the largest mammal ever to walk the earth. It was a hornless rhinoceros species that survived for 11 million years ranging from Mongolia to the Balkans. Roughly 17 feet tall at the shoulders, it weighed up to 40,000 pounds or about the weight of five elephants. Imagine a herd of those wandering about, munching on trees, devoid of fear from any predators. In the '60s, there were 65,000 black rhinos in the wild. In the '70s, ninety percent of them were killed and today there are a total of around 5,000 rhinos altogether on the planet. The white rhino is down to three individuals, all in zoos. 

I recently read that the total time spent on the video game World of Warcraft was 5.93 million years, or about the equivalent time since our ancestors first stood erect. Biologically, the bodily sensations of anxiety and excitement are nearly identical, so fighting wars - pretend wars - can be really, really stressful and exciting. Clearly, this stuff is addictive. And how about the media? Well, does anyone notice the absolute incendiary nature of the headlines on the Internet? Every storm is the end of the world, every speech is the collapse of the Constitution. The most popular shows on the tube are about cops and terrorists or war and battles with dragons and torture and who gets killed (or magically brought back to life this week) and poison and bribes and judges and slaves and daggers and bedfellows. And this is just the election coverage...

But we can do this. In the 1950's, there were less than 417 breeding pairs of bald eagles in the contiguous U.S. Today there are over 10,000 pairs and the number is growing. I have seen one in my pajamas (How he got in my pajamas I'll never know... ;) Groucho) from my living room and one flew over my head at a Mariners' game in Seattle last summer. Think of that moment in the movie when the plucky short guy in the deepest of jams says to the hero, "Just go, I got this." And off the hero charges to save the rest of the universe. 

What is this about? (The exact moment to ask, I think). 

It's about what I say to my teenagers all the time. "Take care of each other." That's it. Look out for the person next to you all the time. If you have their back and they have yours we have a chance. Every single person you talk to today was a child and on many levels still is. Treat them with that love and caring you would show to a small, young human being and we can get through all this noise. Focus on the people around you. We are the pinnacle of evolution. Let's act like it. Killing mega fauna is stupid. Every kid will tell you that. Killing things on screens is just reinforcing killing, and wasting the most precious thing we all have...  

The root of the word civilization is the same as the one for civility. The non-stop shouting of disaster is the foreground visual assault from all these glass screens. Actual humanity is on the other side waiting. It's pretty awesome. You know, craft beer, garter snakes, bikes, surprise presents, boats of all kinds, lightning, strolling, love, and other cool stuff.... Just hug somebody and tell them we got this. Together.  Don't listen to the shouting and the hateful speech. We got this. 

Summer in,
Peace out,
"Summer of Love" sounds pretty great. Let's replay that notion. 
And while you are at it, slow down and have a look at some quality art, the kind made by the people who devote their lives to seeing and contemplating and making...

April 2016

Supernovas Become you

Yes, it's true. Stellar annihilation looks good on you. Or is it supernovae? Words can be so tricky. But they are fun to play with, kind of like Legos made of old jelly. "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money" said Boswell, quoting Samuel Johnson around 300 years ago. I, like Charlie Brown, have known my whole life that being a blockhead is ok, just challenging. This quote was given to me in freshman English by a class visitor in a white suit. His name was Tom Wolfe.

But, to the point--I am a blockhead. I write, not for money but to participate, which in many ways is what defines everyone of us before we become worm food. Participate. Have an effect. It's all you got. Do you need to be a visionary on the front lines of social change? Nope. Just coach Little League. Pick up around the neighborhood. Visit a classroom and chat to the mere mortals. Give away stuff you don't use.

Speaking of stuff, our bodies are primarily composed of four elements that happen to be four of the first seven most abundant elements in the universe. In fact we are 99% just six elements. Only Hydrogen and Helium were made in the Big Bang in any significant quantity. Every bit of the rest of our bodies was made in a large star (don't ask me which one) and would have stayed home until the supernova came to town. We only exist because of the stellar KABOOM that freed these materials to eventually become Us. Better add the life giving supernova to Thanksgiving dinner blessings or the salaams at the P-rade.  

Celebrating the supernova is part of my blockhead program. Fiona Apple sings, "If there was a better way, it would find me." As far as the participation part? Please add this email address and the address of havocgallery.com to your favorites list. Our web homework shows that using an actual professional emailing program means the majority of you brilliant friends have not been receiving the last few missives even though they look better than ever. Being in the junk box or spam folder is soul crushing and smells weird. This is never required reading but I write to share thoughts and images, and I want you to share these with your pals too. In the website www.havocgallery.com you can click around and find a heading called Current Thinking that has all of these blog thingys I have written recently. Share freely and respond. I had a buddy point out that the Cree word for dragonfly and helicopter is exactly the same. Thanks Ben. Look out for the "du whack a du..."

So, metals and gases made in nuclear infernos make us entirely. In the same song, Fiona Apple sings, "I am an extraordinary machine." That goes for you too. Be extraordinary today my friends. Again.

March 2016

Super Massive Burgers

If the earth weighs as much as a paperclip, the sun weighs as much as a Harley-Davidson. The most massive star we have found so far is 265 times heavier than that. Labelled with the totally unimaginative, R136a1, it is stupendously hot and bright--its surface is 100,000 degrees Fahrenheit, 10 times hotter than our sun and 10 million times brighter. We have also recently identified (and I say "we" meaning the frighteningly intelligent physicists hard at work on these matters) a star even larger in diameter that is named UY Scuti. It weighs less than our other new best pal star but if you put its center at the center of our sun, the surface of the star would be out past the orbit of Jupiter. Pause pause. Think about that for a moment...

But what's the big deal, Lucille? So what, so stars, yeah, really big... Then...
It's all about the scale. McDonald's feeds around 26 million people a day, more than the population of Australia. Every kilogram of beef generates around 59.5 pounds of greenhouse gases. Every gram of beef protein requires 29.5 gallons of water. The average American eats 185 pounds of meat a year, whereas the USDA 2010 guidelines are for 3.7 ounces a day. Recent studies show a typical male needs only 2.5 ounces of protein a day and an elite endurance athlete might require around 6 ounces. Here's the kicker--above that amount, it is simply excreted. 

What do stars have to do with food? Simply put--we are teeny, tiny motes of nothing stuck on a speck of dust orbiting a little warm ball. But, it's the only speck we get. If we can get this notion through our collective over-fed heads, there may be a chance to have great-great-great-grandchildren who look like us, can sing, dance and paint and play baseball and write pushy essays. And not have to swim to the grocery store. Right now factory farms in the U.S. produce thirteen times the sewage of the human population. If we were to eat meat only two days a week, we would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and water and land use by 45%. 
We can evolve. We can make conscious choices about our food and our future. Seems kind of important, yes?

The new James Webb Space Telescope is so sophisticated it can detect the heat of a bumblebee from a distance of 250,000 miles. That's as far as the moon, folks. With that kind of brain power we should be able to eat better. Bon appetit. 
Oh, and as for chocolate, well, dark only, everyday. Mandatory. 
And I was kidding about "motes of nothing." We are voters. 

March 2016

You Don't Have Time to Not Read This

In 2013, a groundskeeper at Stonehenge was trying to fight the unusually dry summer in Britain. His hose wasn't quite long enough to water the entire grounds and the subsequent patches of parched grass revealed the true geometry of the stones that researchers have investigated for centuries. Yep. It was originally a complete circle. 

Below all these words is a photo of my Dad and us four brothers at Stonehenge in 1964, corralled for a moment by my Mom shooting the picture. We spent the afternoon climbing all over those massive bluestone slabs. Dad was great at dragging us to visit strange stuff. Hadrian's Wall. Pisa. The Last Supper. Tintagel. "Lads, pay attention."

Wilhelm Röntgen was in his lab in 1895 experimenting with these newfangled things called cathode ray tubes. A black cardboard sleeve over the tube mysteriously failed to block some invisible ray that caused a piece of cardboard nine feet away painted with barium platinocyanide to shimmer faintly. He happened to notice this weird effect that resulted in the discovery of the paradigm shift we know as x-rays. 

We all know that Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin in 1928 (Right?) changing the field of medicine. But the story is told that the reason he didn't just heave into the trash that fateful petri dish is that six years earlier he had wept into a sample dish and discovered tears have a mild antibiotic property. Not sure what he was crying about in his lab, but he was being attentive.

In 1913, in Sheffield England, a guy was assigned to come up with a steel alloy that would withstand, without expanding, the intense heat of a bullet streaking down the barrel of a rifle. In the bin of cast-off ingots he noticed one hunk of metal buried in the pile was still shiny while the rest of the ingots were rusting as usual. His employers ignored his discovery of stainless steel with the magic ingredient of 12% Chromium. It's the same stuff I use everyday to push light around. 

Notice. That's this week's lesson, my friends. Be careful not to be bustling along too quickly as to miss the magical stuff happening constantly. It could make for a nice photo on your cell phone or change the course of humankind. Or solve a mystery 5,000 years old. Or teach a mob of unruly boys lessons that still gleam to this day. Socrates said, "Beware the barrenness of a busy life."

Smart old dude. And, by the way, thanks Dad. 

January 2016

Man's Best Invention

What do you think? Computers? Eyeglasses? The book? Smart phones? A solar cell? The wheel? Fire?
We have a device being newly studied and researched that can literally "sniff" for cancer in humans. Using a probe with around 300 million sensors and a mysteriously complex processor, this device is also capable of detecting particular elemental compounds such as explosives or illicit drugs, as well as the high frequencies preceding earth tremors or even if a human is about to experience a seizure. Its sensitivity is so acute it can detect in parts per trillion or a drop of blood diluted by twenty Olympic swimming pools. This device has actually been under development for around 35,000 years. 
Yep, this device will keep you warm in the mountains, chase down lions in Rhodesia, rid your house of mice, hunt for stag or raccoons or truffles. It can operate on fuels as diverse as raw meat, potato chips or cat poop. With nearly 525 million of these globally, we humans use them as proximity alarms or for herding sheep and cattle. Some cultures use them as a source of food, but in the U.S. 77 million people have this device in their homes and would never think to cook one. They exist in a staggering array of dimensions from 4 ounces and 2.5 inches tall to 345 pounds. We shot one of these into space to orbit the earth in 1957. Probably not that really heavy one. 
Their uses are diverse and specialized. Not only can they be used as a team to haul loads at 30-35 mph for 10 miles, they can pull this same load for up to 100 miles in sub-zero temperatures without needing an extended break. They see for the blind and hear for the deaf. Some are part tugboat while others are pure velocity machines. They comfort the aged and infirm and have been documented trying to teach babies how to play "fetch."
It's our best invention. Man's Best Invention. We adopted these family members millennia ago to get rid of household scraps and warn us of danger. And now they guard us with utter dedication and will fight to the death to protect us. As built-in entertainment centers for children and adults alike, they survive for years, bound to their charges. Endless tales recount their ability to find their way home to their people across extraordinary distances. They give us love and loyalty. They smile and dance around. So, TREATS, and go for an extra long walk today. We are lucky humans. We did a great job with this project. Way better than a cell phone.

January 2016

We Could be Heroes...

Hi Friends,

There is a lot I could say, which comes as a surprise to no one who knows me well, but there is beauty in economy. So this is just some paraphrasing from a bright light gone dim.
I, I can remember (I remember)
    standing, by the wall (by the wall)
And the guns shot above our heads
    (over our heads)
And we kissed, as nothing could fall
    (nothing could fall)...
We can be heroes,
What d'you say?
We could be safer
    just for one day...
We can be heroes
   What d'you say?
We could be heroes
    Just for one day...
We will be heroes. Thanks Mr. Bowie.
all best,

December 2015

The Force Awakens

Hi Friends,

It's the solstice, that moment when the gloom of December light in Vermont is offset by the thought that from now on the days get longer. Winter begins but from the celestial perspective summer begins today. The sun will get higher and stronger. The days will get brighter and longer. It feels nice to consider the darkness so strong will wane and light and warmth will rule. But first...  The days just now feel like the sunset is about to start around two in the afternoon. 
I was out for a paddle on my board a few weeks back. Typically I paddle straight into the wind to start, whatever its direction, and that day it was cranking hard due west; it's the workout part of a paddle. I crossed the bay. The sun sank behind Shelburne Point and I headed north out into the broad lake watching the orb get bigger and redder and finally drop into the skyline of the high peaks of the Adirondacks. Yellow gave way to burnt orange, the peaks shading navy to deep purple. The wind fell out altogether and I paddled possessed by the shifting light as the water turned to glass. Indigo and maroon danced slowly. The fluid surface to the west shimmered. Twilight. 

I was paddling a solid tempo, endorphin enhanced, when suddenly I realized--it's getting dark fast and I'm two miles from home. Yikes. Swing the board around and head east and south. But something weird was happening in town. House fire!!  Or wait... holy crap! Full moon rising from the quiet Vermont landscape --just the fierce yellow dome first outlining the blackness of the treetops, then the orb, the full disk above the trees. Bright. Clear. October night. 

I stopped paddling and instinctively looked around wanting to point and exclaim to someone. Anyone. No one? Alone truly on the broad lake. Is anybody else paying attention? Can anyone share this?

I paddled home in glory, moon shining on me. And I was reminded why I do what I do. Sharing. Why would I write this? Why do I make art? Sculpture out of light? Why, when I see a photo of the blue sunset on Mars, do I start telling everyone? Who really needs to know that we have eyes so sensitive we can detect a single photon?

A full moon will rise on Christmas, the next one not until 2034. Share it. Show it to the little kids. I wrote in a blog piece a year ago that the "Force" most important is love, but I would like to add participation to the idea. Share your vision, your voice, your music, your food, your home, your wealth, your gifts, your love. Share this letter, these ideas, as widely as possible. 

There are big lights in the sky, sunsets to see, moonrises too. Let's collectively awaken just a little bit more and share our blessings. Be the warmth and brightness. 
Peace and light, 
hugs all around, 

all best,

November 2015

Supernova, Spectre, Silence and SNO

Hi Friends,

There's a lot to cover and I will be brief AND there is a reward at the end so...

Dark Matter, apparently, maybe, makes up 84.54% of the total matter of the universe. This is based on studying the gravitational lensing effect of galaxies bending light from even more distant galaxies. Scientists have actual photographs of a portion of deep, deep space in which the same galaxy is seen at five different places in a single photo. The galaxies doing all that light bending shouldn't have sufficient mass to accomplish this. Therefore, something is helping. Something we can't see. A lot of it. Researchers have been focusing on the Bullet Cluster and the Train Wreck Cluster.

Also, and bear with me here, thermal relic abundance calculations and angular fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background, CMB, are mathematically explicable if Dark Matter exists. Essentially, the consistency of the Big Bang echo is lumpy; and cold, warm and hot Dark Matter could explain the large scale structure of the universe with its anomalies.

I went to the new Bond movie and it's fabulous. Just what you expect - helicopter tricks, buildings exploding, fast cars, snappy outfits, evil dudes. It's loud and busy. And fun. When I got home I stood in the backyard. There was no wind. No waves lapping on the rocks. No geese honking. It was profoundly dark. No moon. Low clouds covered the stars. Listening was strangely an activity. Anything...

Nearly a mile underground in Lead, South Dakota is a tank of 815 pounds of liquid Xenon cooled to minus 100 degrees Celsius looking for WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles) as experimental evidence of Dark Matter passing by. The Large Underground Xenon detector, LUX, is shielded by a mile of rock to reduce the "noise" of gamma radiation or other stray particles. It is the quietest place known to man. So far we have found no observational evidence of Dark Matter. Naturally we are building the 7 ton LUX-ZEPLIN (also in Lead) to come on line in 2016. Also searching are projects around the globe with names, (and these are only the ones whose acronyms I like) such as EDELWEISS, WARP, DarkSide, PandaX, SNO, IceCube, Double Chooz, SIMPLE and PICASSO.

Mankind is building unprecedented ears and eyes. Read about the James Webb Space Telescope. How is your silence quotient? When was the last time you could truly hear nothing? No sound. I fill my world with music nonstop but there is purity in nothingness. Go find some. Try that snowy evening walk...

And finally, we head into the holidays, a time for family and gifts and thoughtfulness for all our blessings. I want to say a huge thank you to all of you for sharing with me in this journey. 2015 has been a fantastic year! You are the folks who make this all fly and as gratitude I want to offer my current pieces to you for less money than the unwashed masses. Many of you already have my art so please think gifts for your family or friends. I want to end the year with an empty gallery, a clean slate for 2016, so one third off the prices (excluding the Element project) for everything. I love you people. You make this possible and fun.

I will be doing the Red Dot Art Fair in Miami Dec. 2-6th so please contact before then. The prices at the show will be standard. Check the website for "Supernova," "Axial Isinglass," "The Positive," "Power Wall," "One Away," "Sprezzatura," "Beam Steering," and "Salt Whistle." This isn't a sale my friends; it's your reward for sharing these rantings, this vision, this dance.

Blessings and hugs.

all best,

October 2015

Pink Stuff and Tiny Smart Things

Sometime when I polish metal I use rouge as the final buff to bring the surface up to a mirror finish. Rouge, fittingly, is red, pink actually, and is made of stuff, according to my friend Timothy, called diatomaceous earth. (Love that word). It is essentially the fossilized remains of diatoms, those microscopic algae that live in spectacular bi-radially symmetrical sculptures seemingly made by kajillions of tiny glassblowers. Google Image "diatoms" to see what I am talking about. It's great stuff for making dynamite or toothpaste or filtering beer.

The best part is the SiO2--the glass houses they live in. Built into the DNA of these phytoplankton is the nano-scale bio-mechanical blueprint to make offspring exactly the same encased in hard structures made of silicon, oxygen and a small dash of protein. Abalone make shells that are 98% calcium carbonate and 2% protein in a structural, tessellated arrangement that is 3000% stronger than a stone made of the same materials. These are engineered objects. 500
million years ago life spontaneously figured out how to make hard materials.

Researchers have also discovered magnetite or Fe3O4 being used by bacteria and higher life forms like birds and lobsters for magnetoception or navigation using the magnetic fields of the earth. Calcium, silicon and iron assembled by living things to perpetuate their species, or find dates, or both, in a different order I suppose. Calcium is the most abundant metal in the human body and most animals. Silicate minerals make up over 90% of the earth's crust. Iron, well, you know, steel, magnets, in cereal, cruise ships, fry pans... By mass it's the most common element on earth.

My favorite tools in the shop are the ones that I had to make since I NEED them and nobody makes them. I have a six foot compass made of wood, a suction cup and steel pins. Straightedges eight feet long that, as I use them, turn to dust. Clamps, jigs, parallel scribes, (and here you see my 18th century brain at work... might even be 15th century).

As higher life forms we need tools. You have seen the commercial where the guy has trained his dog to fetch beer from the fridge? At MIT a professor has devoted her career to manipulating viruses and bacteria to create things that we need nearly as much as food--solar cells and batteries and fuel. Can we grow batteries? Yep. Fuel cells splitting water into O and H? Yep. Solar cells? Absolutely. We just need to scale this up. She invited Obama to her lab and he has held in his hand a lit LED powered by bacteria and viruses. Imagine self replicating tiny structures complete with wiring built right in. It's happening. If we can just focus more on growing things and a little bit less on burning stuff....

Since 1990, printed right on my business checks is the phrase, "Truth is beauty is magic."

Oh, and did I mention beer? Higher evolution has opened four breweries within close walking distance from my gallery. Stay focused.

And, as always, thanks,
and boogie on...

August 2015

Flying Dragons

About twenty years ago I read a biography of Miles Davis after seeing him from the front row of the Flynn Theatre in Burlington, Vermont and having my head ripped off with bliss and funk. It was a mind/ear/spirit/horn blowing couple hours compounded by a day spent getting reasonably sunburnt and overly hydrated (say no more) on a sailboat. In the book, Miles described a young brilliant cornetist named Olu Dara as "just other and next." This morning on NPR I heard a blip for Ozy, the online source for "what's new and next." When I clicked over I found it is named for "Ozymandias", a fabulous and favorite poem and the title of a piece that I sold back in February of this year. Miles' phrase has stuck with me all these years as my professional, if formally secret, mission.

Step to the left. Last Friday I was at one of my boy's soccer matches in the middle of north central rural Vermont. As dusk fell during the game and the shadows stretched over the field a fleet of dragon flies were having a seriously uptempo dinner. Dozens of four inch long clicking and whizzing little choppers darted about hunting some invisible hors d'oeurves.  They were way better than the pre-season scrimmage going on. I announced to my friends there, "You know dragon flies migrate. Some fly 4000 miles from India to Africa and back." I got the look I always get. The one that says, "Dude, you are making this stuff up."

So, I came home and did my homework. I have always loved these little critters, all brittle and scary, and seemingly built by aeronautical jewelers. Years ago we watched them appear at twilight on a canoe trip in Canada to pluck biting flies right out of the air. Their heads are all teeth and eyeballs. Each eye is 30,000 individual eyes, and because of the size and placement they can see nearly any direction. EVERYTHING is in their field of vision; one researcher believes they can see better than any other creature. They showed up on the planet 100 million years before the dinosaurs. They can fly 30 mph and, with a tailwind, they have been clocked at 80. Fossils exist with a 25 inch wingspan.

Miles' music for me has always had this feeling of perfection. Like Mozart, the theme doesn't feel written. It just is and always was. He "found" it. And then played it. It is timeless. Dragon flies have been around for 300 million years and have changed very little in all that time. Why? Because they are perfect. They are just bugs that can flap 30 beats a second. And hover. Or jet.
Or migrate thousands of miles.

I have found in my life a yearly migration, a cycling from one place to the next with an annual rhythm. Over Labor Day once again I will be standing around chatting about what I do and why. In California, per usual. And the following weekend I will be in New York City with my work and the work of friends: Joel Urruty and Gabriella Firehammer. My mission for years now has been to be "just other and next." I want my art to feel discovered more than composed. Look at Joel's work and one will feel this. The best art is timeless. Miles and flying dragons, every time feels like a blessing, every beat a window into prehistory, the exposed mind of the creator.  

July 2015

Eating Spiders

The New Horizons spacecraft just strolled past Pluto at ten miles a second, cameras blazing. We now have some sweet photos of 11,000 foot mountains that are likely composed of water ice. (Are they making that up? Where did the water come from?) The lack of craters suggests that these are recent geological formations that are 100 million years young, or so. One of the mountains is informally named for one of my childhood heroes whose name has poetically rolled around in my head for decades--Tenzing Norgay. He is the Sherpa who helped Mallory summit Everest. Say that name a few times and don't be surprised if floats in and out of your head. Try Sylvain Chavanel, or Daniel Teklehaimanot, Lars Boom,  or .... If you are watching the Tour de France these are familiar names. Weird ones, but fun to say. My fave is from NPR--Ofeibea Quist-Arcton.

But I digress. Intentionally, I suppose, because I'm circling around to the close and familiar from the truly far off and distant. In my yard is a plant that is the only surviving genus of a class of plants that for 100 million years dominated the understory of late Paleozoic forests. It's a weird looking thing that once had cousins that grew to 90 foot tall trees. Equisetum. Reproduces with spores instead of seeds and happens to fix silicates in its stem. And it is the plant that fixates titanium in its tissue more than any other living thing. Titanium is the elegant metal that we are using to make bracelets this summer in the shop AND the correct material for building the SR-71 Blackbird. Fastest plane ever and almost 90% titanium. It has the highest strength to density ratio of any metallic element. 

But I digress. It's really about the black raspberries that grow all over the fence next to my house. Turns out that these fixate 10 different metals that we need to keep healthy. And they are free. And right there. And really tart and sweet. Did I mention they spontaneously appear? I've been picking these almost daily, eating all I can stand and then putting the rest in the fridge. Later when I open the container there are plenty of different kinds of little spiders sneaking around in there. 

So I'm busy doing my Elements homework, cranking out the heirlooms, watching the Tour and pushing light around in the studio. The deep space probe is telling us all about the farthest dance partners. Meanwhile, these primitive horsetail plants are invading my yard. (The story is Equisetum helped John Napier discover algorithms.) I, apparently, have daily been eating teeny spiders without noticing. 

Just trying to get those sweet antioxidants. I will keep you posted when the super powers appear. In the meantime, pay attention. Stop mumbling. Sit up straight. Summer is fleeting. 

June 2015



Years ago I saw Furry Lewis at the Memphis Blues Festival. He told us he was 92 but a little fact checking shows he was exaggerating by 5 years. Blind, with a wooden leg, he played an electric guitar that looked like a cigar box with a neck. He was grumpy but rocking the blues on stage to a mob of ecstatic fans.

B. B. King passed away a month ago. He was born on a cotton plantation to sharecropper parents, drove a tractor as a teenager for money. After years of playing and singing he worked up to making $85 a week in his early thirties. Later on he won 15 Grammys and became the legend we know today. The King is dead. Long live the King.

I ride my bike a lot. Maybe too much. When I'm cranking along on a road and a car or a truck rolls by just a bit faster than I'm moving I check my six and slide out into the turbulence of the tumbling air and put the hammer down. The fastest anyone has ridden a streamlined, recumbent bike is 83 mph, but the crazy man motorcycle racer Guy Martin (look him up--he rides the Isle of Man TT every year) has ridden 112 mph behind a truck. Drag coefficient increases as a square of speed so with the sweet spot of turbulence…

One of my brothers has told me for years that the point of difficulty is the place where growth occurs. Just this week he wrote, "Nothing is stable, balance is the only way. Doubt haunts the self until it tires of its own voice and withdraws, freeing the energies of possibility to find their potential." Yep, he is a genius and needs to write more, I know. He also introduced me to Clapton and the Allman Bros. so he knows the real sound of the blues. And last week he paddled a 102 miles in 15 hours on a stand up paddle board. Wind and waves.

The goodness of turbulence, my friends, is its ability to pull us up to our potential. Sure, coasting is great too, but you have to suffer to sing the blues. If you truly want to sing, you have to face the dragon trying to eat you. He's got fangs; you have skills you have forgotten about and far more strength than you use day to day. Pull into the turbulence and put the hammer down…

But, "the eagle flies on Friday and Saturday I go out to play…" Please join us for some summer time coasting and toasting this Friday, June 19, 5-10 p.m. Party and Art starts at 5 p.m. and free concert at 7:30 p.m.
June 2015 

Friday June 19th - 5 pm Art, 7:30 pm Music

Years ago, could be thirty three give or take, I saw a fantastic Laurie Anderson concert with Adrian Belew on guitar and a moveable stage set of screens and props. Amidst all the melodic electricity was a mini lecture regarding the power of music. She began by showing a binary representation of a number. I think it was the date, just a brief string of ones and zeros. Math is clean and concise. Then, she projected on the backdrop a binary representation of a page of text, Hamlet's soliloquy or a doughnut recipe. Yikes! Lots of ones and zeros. Finally, she justified her career as a musician by projecting a veritable ocean of ones and zero on the backdrop of the stage. "This is the opening four bars of Beethoven's Fifth…"

Please forgive the paraphrasing of an evening of brilliance from decades ago but the concept is profound. Music is an all consuming, all devouring beast at its best. It's an experience of mind/body/spirit. Alan Watts wrote, "To understand music, you must listen to it. But so long as you are thinking, 'I am listening to music,' you are not listening."

Music can transport those who are not listening/listening. Handel's Messiah, Sigur Ros, Louis Armstrong, Mozart, Danny O'Keefe, Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny, Eric Clapton, can bring tears, stop time, uplift. The Gospel tent at Jazz Fest in New Orleans can change the way you feel about music forever. Go there. Trust me.

Laurie Anderson was speaking about the volume of communication made possible by music. But the real "crux of the biscuit" is the communication itself - one human mind to another human mind, a purity of communion, a sharing of the same stuff. With rhythm. You don't need to know the words. You just need to give in and let go.

To this end HAVOC gallery is hosting a free concert on Friday, June 19, 5-10 p.m. Party and Art starts at 5 p.m. and concert at 7:30 p.m.

May 2015 

Chrono Logical

I was hiking next to the Na'ili'ili-Haele stream and thinking, "Time is a construct." The biggest company in the world is telling us we all need a new watch - the "Watch"- to help us keep track of how much time we spend doing things we should or should not be doing, like sleeping or running or sitting or checking our phones. And I was thinking I don't need to know the time exactly as my boys and I were walking through a bamboo forest in the middle of the classic discussion of "how fast does bamboo grow?" Compared to what? It's the fastest growing plant as we know - some species can grow as much as 3 feet in 24 hours or a millimeter every 2 minutes. That's pretty speedy, for organic stuff. But, cheetahs can hit 60 mph in 4 seconds and a falcon can fly/dive 240 mph.

The bamboo we were surrounded by was up to 60 or 70 feet tall; the tallest species of this giant grass gets up to 130 feet. But we have 6 feet of DNA in the nucleus of every cell in our bodies. And as far as speed goes, our microscopic biomechanical machinery replicating DNA and fabricating protein molecules is without peer - 100 trillion molecules of hemoglobin is being created per second in every person reading this.

So back to Time in the forest of fastest growing plants, bamboo also produces flowers and has the distinction of being the plant with the longest time between blooming. One species only blossoms every 130 years. There we go - fastest and slowest.

Do I need a watch? Do you? There's a guy in Britain named Krzysztof Szymaniec. I'm pretty sure he doesn't. He is the keeper of the "Caesium Fountain," an atomic clock accurate to one second every 158 million years. I hope he takes hikes with his boys. And by the way, uphill of the bamboo forest is a 400 foot waterfall. Take a dip when you get there. Without your watch.

March 2015

Ice whine and sunshine

"Write about Spring," said my gallery director. Rite. No problem. Let's see - reawakening, pick-ups plunging through rotten ice, daffodils, ice jam flooding, thunder, buds on a hillside as a pale chartreuse mist on the familiar dead sticks, a crocus, an umbrella…Immediately comes the recognition of the local, individual, aspect of this stanza we call spring. Mine is radically different from my cousin's in Virginia or Maui. Literally as I write, the rain this March morning just turned to snow. Vermont! It's falling now with intent, vertically.

So, I won't. Spring is your pivot not my poem. It's personal. It's the moment when exiting the house you don't layer; you put golf clubs/bikes/boats in/on the car; you pause at the top of Nose Dive with acres of corn snow waiting, super hero surfing snow, like butter; your forsythia explodes; you stroll rather than brave the elements; you sow; buffleheads reappear; music returns to the breeze...

The crux is the angle of light. That is what changes and what clicks in us all. For me my whole career hinges on exactly that, the angle of light, that subtle differentiation, diffraction, diffusion. Open wide those eyes my friends. Go walk the dog even if you don't have one. The light is higher and ready for you to notice.

Oh, and just so you know, the snow quit. 

But here in the gallery we have snow continuing. A book full of snowflakes, all 14 created so far by Bruce R. MacDonald, is almost at the printer. We will keep you privy of the release date. For now here is a taste.

February 2015

Jookin' Wanderers and Baltimore, Maryland

The earth doesn't revolve around the sun. In fact none of the planets do. We all revolve around the center of mass of the solar system which changes constantly. Sometimes it is near the center of the sun and sometimes it's in space around the sun. Technically, that shifting, looping point is called the "barycenter," in case anyone is on Jeopardy tonight. And, relative to the surrounding space, that point is moving 144 miles a second. Thataway. 

Now apply this principle to your life. Your axis is constantly shifting. Work, your partner, your kid(s), your obsessions, your horse, FB, music, skiing, vacation planning… Yeats famously said, "The centre cannot hold." I posit, the center is a fiction. We are just dancing around other stuff dancing around. All the time. I hope you got rhythm.

Dance on over to The American Craft Council Art Fair in Baltimore, February 20-22, Baltimore Convention Center, www.shows.craftcouncil.org/  baltimore. I will be in booth #711 with some hip hop, ballet, krumping, waltz, polka and jookin' collection of Elements and fresh light sculptures.

January 2015

Tokamaks and Moringas

A few weeks back I mentioned in writing some electromagnets being built in France that were twice the power of a Saturn Five's rocket thrust. Indoors. With an on/off switch. This prompted readers' questions of "what the hell?!" Ever heard of a tokamak? In essence, it is a star in a bottle. The visionary physicists out to solve long term the energy needs of the planet have a project going in the south of France to make a fusion nuclear reactor. All reactors today split atoms, fission, to generate power; and in the process generate nightmarish trash, radioactive by-products that will be toxic to humans and all living things for hundreds of thousands of years. And then there is the toxicity of uranium mining and processing, the preparation of the fuel.

A fusion reactor will basically run on seawater and generate massive amounts of power with no waste products. The challenge being faced is how to contain the hellfire of a star's guts inside a building. The solution is an electromagnetic torus, a tokamak, a doughnut shaped force field of pulsing energy constraining the forces capable of incinerating any material in existence--metals, vaporized; ten foot solid diamond walls, utter toast, instantly. But this power plant is being built, partly the construction project of a forty nation consortium, partly an improbable science experiment. Humans. We can do this.

Meanwhile, in Saharan Africa facing the droughts of climate change, researchers are planting Moringas. It's a tree sourced from India that is fast growing and nearly impossible to kill. "Extremely drought tolerant"  is the applicable descriptor here. Its leaves can be eaten raw, cooked, or ground into baby formula. They contain four times the calcium of milk, four times the Vitamin A of carrots, seven times the Vitamin C of oranges, three times the potassium of bananas and 150% the protein of soybeans. Their seeds can be pressed into an olive oil-like unsaturated fat or crushed into a powder that can purify water, the electrolytes in the powder attract impurities and precipitate them out of the fluid. The Moringa is the leading edge of food research to feed all of us and especially those where sweet rainfall is scarce.

So there we go. Farmers and physicists. Saving the world.

Likely none of these folks will read these paragraphs but the strength of their efforts has to reverberate. We can all focus wherever we can to dance forward. Little steps can preface big leaps. You have to love the fact the Wright brothers were bike mechanics first.

And of course Beauty with a capital B. There is a piece of my work hanging on the dining room wall of the director of the Hubble Space Telescope. This makes me happy and hopeful. Science and art. We got this...

December 2014

Critters, us and daily courage

The Golden Crested Kinglet is a bird that winters in Vermont foraging in little flocks for the insects that are its only source of food. He weighs as much as a nickel. Dressing in drab camo, he's somewhat hard to find, unless he is riled up and then he sports a crest of brilliant lemon yellow that magically appears on his dusky head. One of his specific survival adaptations to deal with his Siberian winter home is his ability to reduce his heat loss by minimizing his surface area at night. He cuddles with his mates. Snuggling together they handle sub-zero windy nights. And they weigh exactly as much as two dimes.

Big deal you say. Well, this guy is my new hero. Picky, brave, resilient, choosing to stick around rather than move to Miami. Dapper when he wants. Efficient. Sings now and then. Sticks close to the family. If I grow up I want to be like him. Happy Holidays all you fine people. Love, hugs, warmth and may a bounty of bugs to eat come your way in 2015.

Oh yeah, and buy more art. It's part of what makes us humans humans.

December 2014

I looked up the word "havoc" in my desktop Webster's and it's there on the very bottom of the page, five entries below the name of my college. Hmmmm. Anyway its derivation is from Old High German "heffen" meaning "to life up." Also referenced just above "great destruction and devastation," is the definition from Old French and Middle English "to take booty." Now we are talking. Aside from the general understanding we all have of "total chaos" is the notion of "booty" with "havoc." HAVOC is my gallery project to share the talents of some of my artist friends with the rest of you fine people. HAVOC is where one might find "booty" to uplift one's existence. To this end HAVOC Gallery will have a strong presence during The Art Basel week in Miami at Red Dot Art Fair, December 2-7, 2014. www.reddotfair.com. Come see wood, metal photons, glass and air working their magic in booth A108 with HAVOC gallery exhibited artists: Joël Urruty, Sam Stark, Gordon Auchincloss and Bruce R. MacDonald. Attached is complimentary admission for Wednesday and Thursday. See you in Miami to uplift your existence with HAVOC Gallery.

November 2014

The Force Now - Chicago

May the force be with you. This has always felt like the blessing most empowering to give. THE force. Not just any old force but THE force, the one that matters, that really works. As usual I think scientifically, first. Gravity is a good one. In even an everyday star like our sun gravity is so strong it takes a hundred thousand years for heat and light to escape and warm my face on my last bike ride. That's a nice feeling from a four hundred quintillion megawatt power source ninety-three million miles away. Yep. Force.

Some scientists in Europe are building an electromagnet as part of a project to solve the energy challenge that will likely end our world as we know it within a hundred years. Their design can generate inside a building the repulsion force equivalent to twice what the rockets lifting the space shuttle generate. And then there is the Strong Force which takes over from that repelling force once positively charged protons are brought close enough together. This is the force that binds atomic nulei. Squeeze two protons tight enough, so they are 0.000000000000001 meters close together and the Strong Force takes over uniting them. The Strong Force is about a hundred times stronger than electromagnetism.

Mostly I just like the name - the Strong Force. Can you feel it?! Well. Actually. No. Not so much. The strongest force I feel everyday is love. I love my kids. I love my brothers. My family is everything. Everybody knows that this is the real Force. Holidays are coming where we visibly and invisibly join hands to celebrate our religions and the solstice, but mostly there is an extra couple of logs on the fire of compassion and togetherness. Be warmer this season my friends than ever before. Take extra time to squeeze those hands tightly. The real strong force is love and may it be with you. For real.

Oh, and by the way. I'm bringing artwork to the midwest. I got a little distracted there. Again. Pismo Gallery from Colorado will exhibit the newest and latest stainless steel light sculptures, inspired by forces, at The SOFA Art & Design Chicago Art Fair, Festival Hall, Navy Pier, Chicago, November 7-9, 2014. www.sofaexpo.com 

September 2014

The human race is the size of a sugar cube

Anyone reading much of anything these days saw the news recently that the human body strolling about being you is 90% other microorganisms. Yep, apparently only 10% of your body is composed of cells that contain your individual DNA. The rest is all bacteria, viruses, molds, flora and fauna that populate the planet You. Do you feel special?

Next, consider that humans are about 60% water. Two Hydrogen atoms and one Oxygen, not exactly personal ingredients, compose most of what you are as an animal. In fact 99% of the human body by mass is just six Elements: Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Calcium, Phosphorus. Of these six, four are the same as the most abundant Elements in the Universe overall. The exceptions being Helium and Neon which are too gaseous to hang around and be useful.

Ok, basic, right? We are space stuff. But even more humbling is that we are overwhelmingly space itself. If the nucleus of an atom were the size of a marble the first electron whirling around it would be a football field away. Atoms are 99.999999999999% empty space.

If we could remove the space and pack all the electrons, neutrons and protons the way you pack your carry-on bag, the entire human race would be the size of a sugar cube. Sweet!

So we are simple chemistry sets and mostly nothingness. Great. The Universe is 13.7 billion years old and I hope to live to be 80. I'm just a temporary fog of almost nothing, literally. So folks, get busy. Make the most of today. Whatever you do keep in mind that you are nothing but what you do. That's it. Do good stuff NOW.

'Till next time.

Love you all.

July 2014

The Elements, KABOOM!
Hope your holiday was a fabulous celebration. 

Green is Barium, #56.  Red is Strontium, #38 or Lithium, #3.

We had our annual fireworks at the camp where I grew up in the summers. On a warm July evening that was wonderfully dry for a change we laid on our backs on a ball field by the lake and watched the pyrotechnics blossom and bang. Thwunk…. up up up, up, and then, POW, cascading stars, fizzing streaks of brilliance burning into our eyes. 

Silver is Titanium, #22. Blue is Copper, #29. 

Shock waves of sound echoed off the ridge behind and rolled off toward the mountain. Thwunk… Thwunk...again and again while the kids jabbered and the adults oooohhed and ahhhhed on cue. Boom, KABOOM… showers of light, gargantuan flowers in the deep cobalt blue of twilight. 

Orange is Calcium, #20. Yellow is Sodium, #11. 

As I closed my eyes after the explosions I could still see the image in negative on the backs of my eyelids and I wondered what makes that flash flash purple. (A careful mix of Strontium and Copper I discovered later).

White is Magnesium, #12 or sometimes Aluminum, #13. Is that coincidence, those numbers, that light color?  Magic or just chemistry or both…

The fireworks ended my week on the lake. Seemed fitting. It's a special place. My father's first summer there was 1936. Boys' camp. I have five brothers. On and on, my two sons are there...generations…As my brother Kevin and I drove away to bring me back to Burlington and to deliver him to the airport to return to California, we passed a familiar farmer's field in a little lowland depression by the road. I glanced and we came to a sudden stop, parked the car and got out in the blackness of a moonless summer night. The Summer Triangle and Milky Way shone above. In the field before us was a hatch of thousands upon thousands of lightning bugs madly twinkling in the featureless darkness. It was as though the brightest stars in the Milky Way had descended to sparkle one flash at a time across the backdrop of pure black nothingness. With complete arrhythmia, in absolute silence, the sparks of tiny bug butts transformed the emptiness of a peaceful Vermont night. I have witnessed very little as sublime and simple as our half hour in the darkness. A few cars passed and we screwed our eyes shut to preserve our night vision. The fireflies were having their moment and we were fortunate to be witness. 

The next day I got to work to find an email from a friend which contained a composite image from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Cassini Probe showing auroras on Saturn. They are huge, bigger than the Earth and they last for days. Stiff solar winds were creating ion storms lighting up the poles on our big ringed neighbor.

Incandescence, bioluminescence, and massive auroras… It's all about light my friends. Whether it's oxygen being excited or luciferase (from the Latin, "Lucifer"-- bringer of light) or burning Barium, we are surrounded by photons. It's why I do what I do--pushing light. Cheers to a summer of light and luxury, lassitude on a reasonable scale and magic everyday. Life is a wonder. 

Please visit the website, www.HAVOCgallery.com. The Elements project is in full swing. Who wants Strontium?
Who needs K?

March 2014

Let's assume that the earth is the size of a typical classroom globe. The moon which is about one quarter the size of the earth is how far away? What's your best guess? While you are thinking, consider in this little scale comparison that the ISS would be floating 3/8" off the surface of the globe. Ok. So, the moon would be about thirty feet away. You all got that one. Right? OK. Now how far would it be to Mars?

Researchers have been studying the way elephants communicate and have found that there is a special stance that these massive animals assume when they are listening. There are nerve endings sensitive enough in their front feet and trunk that they can hear sound waves passing through the ground up to twenty miles away and actually communicate over distances of around ten miles. When they "talk" subsonically through the ground they have muscles in their ears which can constrict to increase the sensitivity to vibrations through their bones. Their bodies can accurately triangulate location miles away. 

And then there are blue whales which are capable of communicating in good conditions over a thousand miles of ocean. "Hey guys, the krill over here is on special. Swing by." These guys don't need the internet. They are just paying very close attention to their own species in a completely organic way. Millennia of evolution has gifted creatures with unfathomable sensitivity. So what about us? Did we miss out on something? I can't hear through my feet. 
No. But I can and most of you can triangulate with our ears to within one degree of accuracy.  We can differentiate as many as ten million colors according to some scientists. While we focus on traveling to Mars and speeding up the next chip in the little screens in our pockets we lose track of our innate superpowers. My kids can ski though trees at frightening speed, their minds over clocking texture, gravity, twigs, stumps, drops, ice, their brother sailing out of nowhere and stealing their line… Go to Youtube and search up the Isle of Man TT and consider the computations those guys are making on the fly--country roads at 170 mph… We are gods of capability. 

So celebrate and scrutinize. Play that music and wiggle that body. Jump, swim, run, pedal, sing, paint, and fire every last nerve you possibly can before they fizzle. We are superheros. It's all a relative thing. And by the way, Mars is a mile away.

February 2014

Truth is beauty is magic.......Palm Springs and Baltimore 

Wow.  There is a lot going on. I was looking out the window from seven miles up and thinking how much the earth down there looks like one of my art pieces, except much flatter. And then how the most dominant feature is all these tracks left by one animal--us. Shouldn't there be buffaloes?

I read recently that the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone created all sorts of unexpected results like the resurgence of the songbird population. This led me to thinking of one of my favorite lines in all the movies is when the alien hands a monk a key and says, "Time matters not, only life." We are collectively pretty damn focused on time these days. Researchers have come up with circuit boards one atom thick of a form of tin and graphene that processes near instantaneously. Yay. But can whales hear each other? When was the last time you listened to Handel with a kid? Yoga or Facebook?

And so, how about a little less tempo and a little more listening to songbirds? I had a music prof back in school explain how art, music in particular, can suspend time. Please, take some, my friends, and consider the alien's advice. Slow down. Breathe and see the patterns we make. And consider the ones we make without intention.

I know this is a very crunchy missive, but then, I live in Vermont. Stop by and say hi in Palm Springs or Baltimore.

Ciao. And thanks for being an active agent. Next time we need to talk about glide ratio and Phi.
Happy stormy weather.

January 2014

2014, Unlucky plus 1

Swagger. Say that a couple times. Swagger. Swagger. Or make it a verb. Swaggers. It is like sauntering but with confidence, swiveling the hips with intention, subtly or with gusto, swerving through space as we go to signal that we are happy to be here and doing what we are doing. It is so different from marching in every way. And really the opposite of plodding, though plodding is a great word to say. Swaggering I am thinking is also uniquely human. Things and critters don't do this. Check that; things made with swagger can.

And at the inception of a new calendar this concept comes to the fore in my mind as something to embrace. Let go of any derogatory connotations of the word and make this motion an outlook. Swagger not because you are superior to others but that you are superior, period, the pinnacle of evolution, the highest form of life on the planet, with an awareness of self and of place. Put some swagger in your day and let the neighbors know that you are here for a reason.

What does this have to do with art? Well, glad you asked. All art is swagger. Why is any image worth creating, recording or preserving? Because it has swagger. It is a thing in space with intention and a smidgen of pride. It is because it is believed, (by somebody, at least one person) to be worthy, expressive, uplifting. That trumpet solo, that cast aside of the bat as the ball sails over the fence in center, those tights, those boots, that hat, the new wheel set, this photo, that painting, even that guy tromping patterns in the snow in a storm somewhere up high is doing something with swagger.

Go this route my friends. Take on 2014 with style and confidence. Be inspired each day and express it will just a little swagger.

Come see my latest in stainless swaggering at Art Palm Beach, www.artpalmbeach.com, with the Maria Elena Gallery, January 23-27, Palm Beach County Convention Center, Florida. I will be there to discuss the imperative of the original and its impossibility. And why James Brown is best for tree skiing.

See you in Florida. Thanks. Enjoy the turbulence.

September 2013

Birefringence and NYC
Some words just jump off the page. I was reading along and "birefringence" leapt out and whacked me with the realization that a group of scientists are spending their careers studying something that I have been looking at for years as my personal cool optical phenomena awareness. Wood like tiger maple has "chatoyance" or the ability to change its luster depending on the angle of the viewer. I first noticed this playing with my corduroy pants in grade school. Light, then brush it the other way, dark. I could make stripes on my non stripey pants with careful brushing instead of listening to the teacher talk about the Civil War. Again. A guitar maker friend years ago explained how some woods will shift their highlights as the angle of the light changes.  

And then I noticed the way the groundskeepers at Fenway can make stripes in the grass with careful mowing. There is a whole cadre of aestheticians riding around the ballparks and golf courses in the summer unleashing "birefringence" on the unknowing general public. Why is the grass two different colors when it's the same grass? Well obviously it's the propagation of light reflectance along multiple axes. Sweet. And this is exactly what I do for a living. I push light. Gently but with determination I make light do stuff. Ambient photons, light from ninety three million miles away, or waves from a halogen bulb on the ceiling are the pushees, the dancers, and the scratched facets in the stainless are the pushers. I'm just the coach. 

With a little homework I discovered this fathomless field of non Newtonian materials, liquid crystals, polymorphism and the next level which is all about refraction and not reflection at all. We will discuss that later. Meanwhile, please come see what this humble choreographer is making the dancers do. "High stepping into town..." at The Affordable Art Fair in NYC next weekend.

HAVOC Gallery will be exhibiting the latest in my stainless light adventures alongside the smooth, wood lines of Joel Urruty's sculptures and Susan Madacsi's vibrant steel at The Affordable Art Fair, www.affordableartfair.  com/newyork/, October 3-6, 2013.

See you in New York City.

August 2013

New words for the old friends

I like numbers. They exist in a place in our brains that is completely different than words. But for me it's the big ones that really dance. Knowing that your brain is three pounds of tangly mush says a bit, but knowing that in the mush are 100 billion neurons that make 100 trillion connections is the real magic. That is more intersections than there are stars in the galaxy, IN OUR HEADS. And these connections are constantly updating, reforming, refilling. Just the notion that you read this information has changed your head forever as well as the actual imprinting in your mush of the numbers themselves. Some of us will remember the numbers. Some of you will remember the idea.

And then throw in the poetic that for a moment here we are like chess pieces suddenly aware of ourselves, our choices and a game going on. AND to continue the metaphor, in a game of chess, in a little over forty moves there are more possible moves than there are atoms in the universe. Kind of makes one want to sit down. Maybe sip some tea. I guess I like numbers and brains. But mostly awareness. Thanks and enjoy your tea.

But wait, there's more. The Annual Art Hop is upon us which is even better than tea. Stop by on Friday, September 6th from 5 until 9 or Saturday the 7th from 10 until 4. Leave your email on an official scrap of paper and we will randomly select one out of the official hat to receive the panel 'Arc Light' free. No charge, just happiness.

August 2013

Reflecting on not reflecting

Hi every last one of you, 

Just returning to the studio after a fabulous two shows on the west coast. Seattle, as usual, kept a group of my new pieces and San Francisco pretty much took the rest. I returned home with one piece and commissions to keep me more than busy. Merci, gracias, and thank you. 

Attached to this missive are images of brand spanky new wood sculptures, pieces that reflect years' of my focus on wood as a visual medium. Almost antithetical to the intangibility of my light sculpture work, these pieces are a fixation of the organic time inherent in the grain of wood. Wood grain is time manifest. Air, sun, water and years and years grew these Douglas firs which were then milled by the Rasco Wood Products Company of Clarks Grove, Minnesota (says so in stenciled faded black lettering) into laminated curved beams which have been holding up a barn in Vermont for ninety years or so. I dismantled said barn seventeen years ago. 

These sculpture are generated by slicing the beams on the three different axes, X, Y, and Z and then reassembling. They are all the same material: pink in one, blackened by leaching iron nails in another, rock solid here, decaying and faded grey there, raggedy and fuzzy from time relentless...

They are not stained, by me anyway. One has a little oil rubbed in. One, a bit of wax. They are rugged chronicles and they are smooth in places; they are rhythmic and history fixed. They feel old and grown and a little bit fresh and unpeeled. Trees have souls. There. I said it. 

So, thanks for looking. It's nice for me to stretch and share. 
Hope August has been full of sun and vegetables, hammocks and beaches, cool drinks and many hugs.
May 2013

Not just passing through

Neutrinos (meaning "small neutral ones" in Italian) are sub atomic particles so small that their mass has never been accurately measured. 65 billion are passing through every square centimeter of your body and then continuing on through the Earth and away. Yep. Now. And now. Now.

How does this have anything to do with Art? Glad you asked. Turns out they have "flavors."
Yep. So even this infinitesimal bit of the universe has style, a manifestation of difference. You should too. And maybe not so subtle. Carry on. 

April 2013

Illuminate the mindful details in stainless

One of my school buddies back in the nineteenth century said,
 "Le bon Dieu est dans le detail."

As life and work have spooled out since then, I have come to recognize the applicability of this maxim to my apprehension of the universe. Tiny bits so often overlooked harbor the divine. Attached are just two details from larger panels that illuminate this wisdom. The macro view is great but the sublime lurks in the minuscule.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe echoed this in the twentieth century and I think it's worth repeating: "God is in the details."

Carry On.

December 2011

In Visibility

Brushed metal creates a unique pathway for ideas to travel from artist to object to viewer. The work is in its essence a creation of space where there is no space – a purity and power unique to this medium.

Etched stainless steel in particular creates dimensionality.   A painting or a photograph can be the same no matter where one stands in relation to it. At close range one may see brushstrokes, or pixels or screen-print dots but the image hanging on the wall is the same image wherever one stands. My work creates objects in space.  Consistent relationships exist in the defined space of the panel.  True parallax holds within the image so that things in front of other things maintain their spatial dynamic as a viewer walks around the room.  When one first sees the panel there is an immediate sense of depth. With patient viewing and movement comes the realization that one is looking into the panel.  Eyes are now focused on objects behind the surface plane.  One’s eyes can even find brushwork or elements which project off the surface plane, objects which our fingers confirm do not in fact exist in the room or in the air in front of the panel.  By manipulating specific tools and juxtaposing these projecting and receding elements, space is created. 

 As one moves about the room elements will come into view and disappear. Other elements will shift from black to bright white and black again. From every vantage a different image appears, and no two people standing in the room are ever seeing the exact same piece. From a distance the piece can completely dematerialize as an object and exist only as field of light as though there were a hole in the wall into a humming, shifting portal of energy. Up close one can look behind objects and study the background drifting away. Closer still and the scratch lines refract light into spectral colors. The surface can be hard, tangible, "right there,” or facetted, glinting with no sense of place.

Once the viewer is engaged and looking into the space a dialogue has begun.  As an example, I can make a panel, which depicts water, the shore with pine trees and mountains in the background and clouds drifting by….  But this is a closed experience. There it is, trees and water. Good art has the power to engage the viewer, to demand inquiry and reward with new information. These panels fulfill that role but also are about the process itself. Inspection reveals elements—big strokes, minute features. Further inspection reveals relationships between elements. Still further reveals the pursuit in the viewer of the intentions of the artist and now the loop is complete. What am I trying to do? What are we looking at anyway? Are these birds or nebulae? Are these waves or bamboo?

Duchamp remarked that good art is a dialogue between the artist and viewer. Paul Klee once said, "Art renders visible.”  What the viewer sees is the dialogue between us. He sees the workings of my mind and hands and tools to engage the perception of the person in the gallery.  He finds radiance and confusion and . . . moss, perhaps.  He finds distance and scale and harmony. He finds chaos and flowers and radiation, moonlight, dark matter, and conflict.  He has peered into the hours of creation and he finds himself wondering what is random and what is intentional and if the randomness might be intentional.  Welcome.

January 15, 2010 

What's the point? The crux of this is dialogue. You look and see "things" and wonder what the intention might have been. Or, "Did he mean to put that scratchy thing right there?" And why? As soon as this occurs the dialogue with me has started. I'm not even in the room and you are questioning what I was trying to do with that tool which made that mark. "My mind and your mind, and you and you and you...," to quote one of my favorite Adrian Belew songs. It's all about control. I want you to be engaged enough to squint, to wander back and forth, to see the jet black in a white field... If you think Louise Nevelson, then I have you. Or Pollock with the motion frozen. Or Rothko with the hovering field of energy... Google Hubble images or the Large Hadron Collider and you will start to feel the tone of this dialogue. Last Saturday I snowshoed up Cascade Mountain in the Adirondacks on a mint, blue sky day and descended in waist high fluff. Can you find that in "Jaco and the Twink?" There are snow crystals, diamonds in the sun, sparkling dust filtering down. There is the rush of gravity, inexorably pulling me to the ground. But I'm flying for just this moment.