Black Artists Matter



Black Artists Matter

At a time when there are demonstrations  in the streets, our cultural institutions need to step up to the plate and invest their resources to correct years of neglect for African American artists here in this country.  At this juncture, it should be clear that our country is much more diverse and efforts must be made to heal the wounds of the past and present  by acknowledging the contributions of artists who have not enjoyed the support of our cultural institutions and this has got to change!


Portrait  of Cab Calloway made by my father, Arthur Singer in the 1930s

Here in our local neighborhood of Rochester, New York, I write from the birthplace of Cab Calloway - jazz star of mega-proportions - but where in town is any recognition of his star power that shines through popular music?   A proud Rochester mayor should use this knowledge to connect to a wider population and instill in a younger generation a purpose that would lift people up, give them something to celebrate!


Luvon honors the life of Frederick Douglas at RoCo

I share an office at R.I.T. with Luvon Sheppard, an artist who has made a difference in this same community.  So why isn't there one of his paintings on view at The Memorial Art Gallery for other generations to see and contemplate?  Here, in Rochester, Luvon runs the Joy Gallery on West Main Street, and he has taught legions of students at Rochester Institute of Technology - and through his efforts he has inspired so many others - and is an inspiration to me when we can share our views about life!


William T. Williams and his recent work

The art scene is diverse but artists of color have often faced hurdles that comes from an embedded bias, so it is time to acknowledge this and move forward.  Demonstrations in the streets can have helpful repercussions if we welcome the efforts and acknowledge the work of the many artists who need our support.  I was reminded of this yesterday when I listened to an online presentation from the Museum of Fine Art in Houston, Texas.  My cousin, Michael Rosenfeld has a gallery in New York City that has championed the works of artists such as William T. Williams ( above ) , and Betty Saar among many others.  Michaels' gallery let me know that the Museum of Fine Art in Houston has an important exhibition up now, and that there was going to be a online discussion featuring William T. Williams, Mel Edwards, and Fred Eversley.


William T. Williams

I myself studied with Mr. Williams at Skowhegan in the summer of 1973.  His bold abstractions pushed me into a new direction in my own painting.  His  instruction was a very personal approach that had a lot of appeal with its bold color and edgy geometry, and he was not alone.  At the Cooper Union School of Art where I studied, there were several artists of color who I studied with including the photographer Roy DeCarava, and the painter Jack Whitten.  I was recently very involved in reading Jack Whitten's " Notes From The Woodshed" , a kind of diary he kept that involved all  kinds of notes about his art productions.  Also at Cooper Union in that moment was Bob Blackburn who ran the printmaking studios.  All of these folks were very influential!



Jack Whitten
Read his "Notes from the Woodshed"


Bob Blackburn ran printmaking studios and so much more

I was very lucky to hear the online presentation this Saturday, August 1st hosted by The Museum of Fine Art, Houston with the artists William T. Williams, Fred Eversley and Mel Edwards.  Mel spoke of those times in the past when his fellow artists were just breaking into the art scene.  I remember meeting Mel Edwards once at a sculpture show that took place in Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn over 30 years ago.  Since those times his art has really taken off!  His sculptures "Lynch Fragments" are very strong and evocative.  They have now become part of the fabric of our art world, our society.



Mel Edwards in his studio



Mel Edwards "Lynch Fragments"

For those who have the power and influence, it is beyond time to open the doors to the creative vision of a much more diverse population and see what new light shines on a path we have yet to take.  It is ABOUT TIME!







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Hope Springs Eternal


The sky outside my studio window
in
The Hungerford Building
Rochester, New York
July 19, 2020


I am writing this, today, and it is July 19th in Rochester, New York.  Last month on June 19th we learned about a political rally planned for Tulsa, and about a terrible event that happened there in Tulsa in 1921.  We can't undo the events of the past, but we certainly can recognize them and learn from them - and I am just puzzled as to why it has taken so long for this message to get out to the general public!  Juneteenth as it has come to be called was a staggering Catastrophe.  I can only hope that our community is strong enough to resist the forces that try to divide us as a nation, to disenfranchise citizens and deprive them of equal justice under the law.

This year, 2020, is one for the history books, AND it is still a work in progress!  During this period of lockdown and quarantine we here are still working on our own projects and for me that means unpacking because we have just moved.  I now have to deal with my inventory and trying to find a place for everything including my rather extensive library.



Work-in-progress on the studio work table...

As the hours slip away I work in the studio and I am looking forward to a time when it is safe to go to an opening or see an exhibition with a friend.!  And there are exhibitions that are beginning to happen that I am involved with including one at the Oxford Gallery in Rochester, and a Print Club show where my work will go on view later in the summer.  The Print Club is a great organization that will hold their annual exhibition at Main Street Arts in Clifton Springs in August and September of this year.  My print called: "Romeo" will be on view ( see below ).


"Romeo", transfer monotype on paper by Alan Singer

My print works are hand pulled in my studio on my etching press.  Images like the one above are actually visual compositions that I have made using traditional tools and digital programs like "Cinderella"  - which is a method for mathematical visualizations on the two dimensional plane of Fabriano paper that I select for my prints.  It is really interesting that I can use geometry to tell a story, or show something new that I had not experimented with before.

In any case the studio is a haven for me - at least for a few hours each day, and then I can come back home to deal with the events of the "real" world.  I have to continue with my college teaching assignments for R.I.T., which means that I have to prepare for my classes which will be mostly online.  I hope that my ZOOM account is up to the task!  Anyway - Good Luck to you, and STAY HEALTHY, Stay Strong!..



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Engage Anew




Alan Singer Studio 432 Hungerford Building 
Wall, June 2020

Emerging from a lockdown mode is wonderful, if still a bit un-nerving! 

During this viral wave, we washed our hands frequently and donned our masks, keeping our social distance which is becoming second nature in this crisis.  Left to our own devices, we search out fresh air from the porch of our new home and marvel at the woods all around us up in the Egypt Hills.  Luckily, I have my art studio in the Hungerford Building in Rochester, so I can escape and work on a painting or a print when the time allows.

Before the pandemic hit I had the chance to send off some images to a publication called SciArt.  They have a special initiative to engage with a community of artists online and present a gallery in this new issue that is dedicated to art and algorithms.  Artists like myself are trying out new avenues to construct an artistic expression which is very liberating and also very challenging.  Take a look at this site which is a blend of science and art and see what we are up to.  Here is a link:    https://www.sciartmagazine.com


In many ways the paintings by Mondrian and the art of Ellsworth Kelly and Sol Lewitt inform me and in the studio I can build on the path they set using geometry to enter a new world of composition that stresses color and pattern.  A concept I use to construct my new work depends on the notion of a cellular automata - this started out as a mathematical construct that would show how the aggregation of  matter ( atoms or cells ) can create structure and intelligence.  In some ways it also reminds me of building blocks or Legos and the miracle of how things fit together.



"Coming  Home" Oxford Gallery
Amy McLaren, Three Women,Three Animals"
Acrylic on canvas

Another way to engage anew is to go out and find artwork to look at and enjoy.  Here, in Rochester, I have that opportunity now that some business is beginning to re-open - and in fact I went over to visit the Oxford Gallery for the first time in many months.  "Coming Home" is the name of their new show and it couldn't be more apt a title for an exhibition.  Timing is everything and I am happy to say that one of my watercolors is part of this show along with about fifty other artists and their work.

One of my students from years past - Amy McLaren has her painting ( above ) in this new show which will run into September.  Amy has painted an allegory - as a story about women and how they present themselves - so in the gallery their is her painting and you have to read the wall label!

The ideas behind the show "Coming Home" can be very different for each artist, and you will find this show very entertaining when you go.  Think about the collections of things you might have had as a kid ( I collected baseball cards and models that I built by hand ).  David Dorsey has an oil painting of a collection of monopoly tokens in a glass jar that  can remind you of your childhood and his painting has an uncanny ability to be both very abstract and very literal at the same time.



David Dorsey at Oxford Gallery

In this time of social unrest, with demonstrations in the streets, the notion of home can be really tested as it is in the  little painting by Carolyn Edlund which she titles: "When Home Won't Let You Stay".
www.sciartmagazine.com


Carolyn Edlund, oil on panel
"When Home Won't Let You Stay"



There are always surprises with a big show like this one.  For example there is Bill Keyser's unique abstract  painted blue shape and a corrugated piece of rusty metal.  Considering the title of this show "Coming Home" - how does his artwork align with the theme of the show?  Bill's art is certainly strong, and I wonder what his take is on the message this sends....?


Bill Keyser's "Long Story Short"
at Oxford Gallery

Putting a show like this together you get many kinds of art in juxtaposition.  You can play one off the other.  A gallery visitor ( I was alone in that regard ) has the freedom to make choices of a work that they could live with.  Jim Hall told me of a comment made about my painting - that a viewer thought that  "Our Home" was the best painting of a house they ever saw!  Isn't that interesting?  I can enjoy this conversation with Jim because I can learn so much more about the artists that he has invited to exhibit their work, and considering the fact that there are not too many galleries open around town, this was indeed a delight....



Left and Right =Paula Crawford with "welcome Home" and Alan Singer with "Our Home"
www.sciartmagazine.com
www.sciartmagazine.com

    Engage Anew with photos courtesy of  Jim Hall from Oxford Gallery


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Past Present


In Rochester, New York - Interstate 490
is my usual route home....


After moving into my new home in Fairport, New York, and sorting through boxes of papers, I have come to the conclusion that I must begin to document the route I took to get here.  I am not talking about the roads ( Interstate 490 ) that I take to get to my house.  I am thinking about the places I grew up in and my family, friends and acquaintances that I miss, now in this new era of the pandemic.



WATCH OUT!!....Paul Singer paints a mural for the Bronx Zoo

Growing up in a family of artists, my inclination was to watch what father, mother, and big brother did to use their skills to the best of their ability, and then see how I might create something interesting as well.  I always wanted to go in my own direction, from the time I was a little kid - and my bicycle was a tool that could take me there.  For me it was more than just good exercise, it was my way to observe the world.  What I saw down the road, became the subject matter for my art.  I used my bike to do my job as a newspaper delivery boy but also I went far and wide to scope out themes for my paintings and drawings.

I was born in New York City in 1950 at Women's Hospital on West 33rd Street, and for years I spent my childhood either in New Hyde Park, or Jericho on Long Island.  By the early 1960s my father, Arthur Singer, spent his days illustrating books and magazines with his accurate images of birds and animals.  My mom was a painter who helped organize a Long Island art club.  Both of my parents taught me a lot about art and I also learned from my brother Paul ( above ) who painted in the style  first of Utrillo, and then Winslow Homer.  He also collected antiques - armor and boat models...



Frank Blair introduces Arthur Singer on the TODAY Show on NBC


In the early 1960s, I was home and I had the chance to watch my father on TV.  He had just published a major book project ( Birds of the World ) and the folks at NBC's TODAY Show introduced Arthur Singer to a national audience.  Frank Blair interviewed Arthur in this very rare experience - certainly you didn't see bird painters often on TV.  My dad was about 45 years old at the time and his career was gaining momentum.


Arthur and Alan Singer paint the State Birds and Flowers
for the U.S. Postal Service, 1982

Since Arthur worked at home, the family had the chance to see the whole process unfold.  Mornings were often spent outdoors photographing birds, followed by hours of research and drawing for his page layouts.  Later in life I had the great good fortune working with my dad on several projects, most notably the Birds and Flowers stamps, for the U.S. Postal Service.

In  recent years, my brother Paul and I have documented the artwork my father created in our book about his career, published by RIT Press.  Our book is titled: "Arthur Singer, The Wildlife Art of An American Master", and it is filled with details of his working life starting before World War ll and running up until he passed in 1990.

Here my brother Paul and I sign copies of our book at The University Gallery on the campus of RIT here in Rochester, New York.


Alan and Paul Singer author a book about their father - Arthur Singer
and happily sign copies at R.I.T.






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Restructure



"Who On Earth"
2020
oil on linen by
Alan Singer


To my readers: HELLO!  If you are still out there!!  It seems that it is time to restructure, time to think about what we are doing in the present to prepare for the future.  The pandemic sweeping across our country is changing the parameters daily.  I don't even go into the store now to do our daily grocery shopping and that is the least of it.  I do count myself among the lucky ones, my wife and I are healthy and are moving into our new home.  I have been working on a painting in my studio when I can.  It is a circle and it is both abstract and a representation at the same time.  This is a painted quilt - a grid of squares; oil paint in vibrant colors.

Now that I have time to contemplate our situation and I am off from teaching this semester, I found a focus by reading an article published by Jerry Saltz ( who wrote the book that I just finished called: "How To Be An Artist" - that I mentioned in my last post ).  His new article is titled: "The Last Days of the Art World...and Perhaps the First Days of a New One...( life after the coronavirus will be very different ).  You can go on the web to find his new article....

The New York Times also had a cover story about artists and their plans when everything they had to look forward to goes...POOF!  Our culture has now gone into a virtual lockdown and how do you recover from that?  Galleries go dark, and the only way to meet collectors or customers is online.

This all hits home for me as I was on schedule to give a talk about my art at The Memorial Art Gallery which is now closed because of COVID-19.  Also this spring my schedule included a solo show at the Multi-Cultural Community Center which has been postponed indefinitely, so I know the kind of disruption our new reality can have.


Art by Alan Singer on view at Elmwood Avenue


We have a show of artwork spread over three floors of our home on Elmwood Avenue, and we had a plan to preview this art, and then the virus crisis hit.  You can take a look at the way we have spread artwork around the house if you follow this link, and the house is now for sale.  Here is a link you can follow:  https://www.3021elmwoodavenue.com/ 
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Reading List



"How To Be An Artist"
by Jerry Saltz
published by Riverhead Books


Due to the pandemic, I read that the initial release of this publication that was scheduled for Strand Books in New York City had to be scuttled, probably at the last moment ( sorry for Jerry Saltz! ).
I built my library  by visiting Strand Books and had I been able to, I would have loved to see how they launch a publication like this...


The author, Jerry Saltz, and his new book

So this virus crisis should allow for a lot of reading, and I can say that I enjoyed this little guide of 125 pages, mostly at the end of a very long day, unpacking all the art books I had purchased over the years in the new home we have acquired recently.  Moving is not for the faint of heart, needless to say!

Reading "How To Be An Artist" causes me to think back to what I was doing when I was younger ( I am about to turn seventy! ) and did I follow a path that Jerry Saltz lays out in his text that is broken down into several steps and 63 easy to read,  instructive chapters - some with exercises that you can do on your own schedule!  I think early in life,  I was introduced to the life of an artist through my family, as both of my parents practiced their art at our home, and I have an older brother who also followed in their steps, so art is in the genetic make-up of the Singer Family!

This is not necessarily a "How To Paint" book, more of a Self-Help Guide for the Aspiring Artist...
and it has a personal twist, especially because  the author wanted to be an artist from a young age, and has ended up being an art critic, and someone who is worth reading in this day and age.  I did find his quick little chapters a little glib at times, but I appreciate his honesty, especially in the beginning where he did share his doubts and frustrations with the reader.  One thing that must be dealt with is the amount of time that one needs to spend - alone in a work environment that is conducive to making art.  This might be pretty difficult if you are part of a big, gregarious family, or if you don't have the requisite patience to see how things turn out.

Also on my reading list for this unusual period pf time, I have completed a very finely detailed book on the art of Romare Bearden that I mentioned in my last post written by Mary Schmidt Campbell  ( see below ).


"An American Odyssey" by Mary Schmidt Campbell

From the photo on the cover to the last pages, I learned so much from reading this book.  I grew to be a fan of Romare Bearden's artwork while he was still alive, and I could relate to his struggle, and I could applaud his success.  The author takes us into the milieu of pre- and post World War ll to inform us about what life was like for an aspiring African American artist.  Along the way I had met Romare Bearden and got to shake his hand.  I realize that this is a momentary gesture, but it meant a lot to me, and that is the kind of thing that I hope people will go out and do.  Follow the work of an artist, and by chance approach the person if you can at an opening and ENGAGE!

Readers of this book will learn that it is not necessarily a straight path to greatness, and there were many roadblocks for the African American artist in mid-20th Century America!  I can count myself very fortunate to have studied the art and creative impulse guided by some of our talented folks like Roy DeCarava, and William T. Williams to name a few.  I knew even at the time I was a student,  that an African American artist might have a hard time just showing up, being part of the scene so to speak.  I am glad to see - that though it has taken most of my lifetime - things are getting better!
And anyway, I have to get back to unpacking and arranging my books, see you later.....

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Changing Lanes


3021 Elmwood Avenue
Rochester, NY
14618

Hello readers  it has been a while since my last post early in the year and a LOT has happened since.

Of course there is the world-wide news of the Corona virus which has everyone in an unprecedented state of mind!  Closer to home - my home to be exact - we have been moving from the one you see above.  The neighborhood is in Brighton, and the area is called Twelve Corners, and we have lived in this house for over 26 years!  


My office in Brighton

Here is the room in which I have composed my blog posts, and much more over the past ten years.

It has been a pleasure to be in this house, which helped my family by being so effective as a dwelling with easy access to everywhere in the Rochester area.  But now is our time to move on, and we are starting a new chapter in a new place in Fairport!

Since moving, I have not been able to write about the art shows like I usually do.  I have not been able to spend time in my studio working on my art.  Packing and moving a house is an exhausting experience which doesn't get any easier as you get older!  I also had an artistic inventory to move out of my attic, taking into account a portion of over thirty years of paintings and drawings and prints, along with my own collection of art by other people.....

I do intend to get back to my writing, and my first intent is to say something about books that I have read as a form of relaxation after packing many,many boxes in order to make our move.  I had a wonderful encounter with the artist Romare Bearden years ago in New York City, so I have been very fortunate to have been reading a survey of his life and career which has been recently published.
Here is a picture of the cover of this new compendium by Mary Schmidt Campbell, below:


"An American Odyssey"
by
Mary Schmidt Campbell
about the life and art of Romare Bearden

Over the years when I was a student, I would go to the Cordier & Ekstrom Gallery in New York City to see the art of Romare Bearden, and finally had a chance to meet him and talk briefly with him at an opening for one of his last shows in that gallery.  In the new book above, I could read about his back story and the history of his development which is considerable.  I can even recall that Romare Bearden  an ardent maker of collage,  used some of my father's art that had been produced as an advertisement, and I mentioned that to him, and he just smiled!

In any case I want to spend more time with this book, and dig into it a bit more in my next post to this blog.  Thanks for reading, I will get back into the swing of things!  Stay healthy, stay safe!



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New Birds and Flowers




Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
presents
50 Years with Garth Fagan Dance

In Rochester this week we celebrate Garth Fagan and a remarkable milestone  presenting fifty years with his Dance Company.  Above you might see him in his green cap surrounded by throngs of well-wishers who have come out to see his troupe perform in the Eastman Theatre.  Here was an opportunity to see the magic of music and dance on a prestigious stage and it was so fabulous!

Jeff Tyzik was the conductor for the orchestra and they had just the right jazzy, snazzy performance to augment what the dancers were doing upfront.

I really appreciated the inclusion of Duke Ellington's composition ( Take the A Train ) and the story of how influential Ellington's music had on Garth Fagan as he developed his repertoire. I also admired the DANCECOLLAGEFORROMIE - which was the last dance of the evening, in honor of the visual art of Romare Bearden.  If you want to know more about Romare Bearden, check out the book by Mary Schmidt Campbell that was just profiled in The New York Review of Books.  Bearden is a seminal artist working in mid-20th century in New York City, and I am honored to say that I had a chance to meet him and shake his ( enormous ) hand!

Garth Fagan with his energetic choreography brought to life the collage artwork that Bearden specialized in.  Collage is also an art form that you will find in a new show that has opened at The Mercer Gallery on the campus of Monroe Community College.  This is a two person exhibition called: "All About Birds and Flowers" featuring the artwork of Kurt Feuerherm and Judy Feuerherm, and collage and drawing are the highlights that steal the show.


Judy Feuerherm flowers on Yellow...

It should be noted at the outset that Kurt Feuerherm has recently passed away ( 1925-2019 ) and this show was scheduled many months ago when he was still with us.  Kurt was a real presence in this town and he has many friends and collectors of his artwork.  Kurt had a real sense of humor which you don't often find in the visual arts.


Drawing and collage by Kurt Feuerherm

The show at the Mercer Gallery has a fine selection of works, some of which are on view in a set of small vitrines that feature sketchbooks and journals in one corner and small colorful sculptures in another.


Journals and Sketchbook by Kurt Feuerherm

"All About Birds and Flowers" will amuse you and also stimulate you to think about the subjects in new ways.  The images made by these two artists are graphic, colorful translations into a new language - something that keeps the roots but gives a whole new feeling to visual expression that verges on abstraction.  If images of birds can carry across an emotion - Kurt's drawings certainly do that.  In the collage work from Judy Feuerherm she re-invents a botanical art that has at its core a kind of abstract expressionist verve.


Artwork by Judy Feuerherm

This two person show will be on view thru February 14th, 2020, so catch it if you can!




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20 20 Vision




Begin a New Year at Breakfast 2020


Taking some time to go down memory lane before I get into the fast paced artworld of 2020, first I take a moment for breakfast and map out my week.  It is a new decade, but last year's headlines linger in the morning paper as read on and  munch on my toast.  We are moving from Brighton in the neighborhood of  Rochester east to the town of Fairport 20 minutes away.


Snow Steps 

I visited  the park across the street from The Lamberton Conservatory in Highland Park and found this wonderful scene of steps that lead you up into a blue sky.  Nice to take a break from packing and moving.  Mostly I have been sorting thru a large inventory of artwork.  Some of the art is by my father, Arthur Singer.  In recent years we have had the chance to show his paintings to a rather large audience around the country, but there is so much that hasn't been shown yet as he produced a few thousand images in his life.



Gouache by Arthur Singer
from one of his 20 published books


Then there are the family photos and things that  we collect.  And I inherited images that my father had including a moody photograph of the jazz composer Duke Ellington made years ago by Bob Parent  ( see below ).  My father was a life-long friend of the Duke, and jazz was always a part of our life because of this connection which was established in the early years of the 20th century.



Duke Ellington by Bob Parent circa 1960

I am taking an inventory of my paintings and prints as well and finding a way to safely package them for the movers later in the spring.  I am planning on catching some of the new gallery shows soon and return to writing about the local artists in our area.  Also in the plans will be my own gallery showing which will take place in the spring at the Multi-Cultural Community Center ( MUCCC ) and also a talk I will be giving at the Memorial Art Gallery early in April.

Moving artwork is a delicate matter for me as I have prints like the one below ( The Importance of Light ) which I made recently that may be included in one of my shows to come.  I am sure that this will be a busy year - right now I am grateful for the time off from my teaching responsibilities at Rochester Institute of Technology.  I will be back at it soon enough.  but for the moment I have to find some plastic bags and banker's boxes to fill up,  so excuse me!



The Importance of Light
monotype by Alan Singer




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20 20 Vision




Begin a New Year at Breakfast 2020


Taking some time to go down memory lane before I get into the fast paced artworld of 2020, first I take a moment for breakfast and map out my week.  It is a new decade, but last year's headlines linger in the morning paper as read on and  munch on my toast.  We are moving from Brighton in the neighborhood of  Rochester east to the town of Fairport 20 minutes away.


Snow Steps 

I visited  the park across the street from The Lamberton Conservatory in Highland Park and found this wonderful scene of steps that lead you up into a blue sky.  Nice to take a break from packing and moving.  Mostly I have been sorting thru a large inventory of artwork.  Some of the art is by my father, Arthur Singer.  In recent years we have had the chance to show his paintings to a rather large audience around the country, but there is so much that hasn't been shown yet as he produced a few thousand images in his life.



Gouache by Arthur Singer
from one of his 20 published books


Then there are the family photos and things that  we collect.  And I inherited images that my father had including a moody photograph of the jazz composer Duke Ellington made years ago by Bob Parent  ( see below ).  My father was a life-long friend of the Duke, and jazz was always a part of our life because of this connection which was established in the early years of the 20th century.



Duke Ellington by Bob Parent circa 1960

I am taking an inventory of my paintings and prints as well and finding a way to safely package them for the movers later in the spring.  I am planning on catching some of the new gallery shows soon and return to writing about the local artists in our area.  Also in the plans will be my own gallery showing which will take place in the spring at the Multi-Cultural Community Center ( MUCCC ) and also a talk I will be giving at the Memorial Art Gallery early in April.

Moving artwork is a delicate matter for me as I have prints like the one below ( The Importance of Light ) which I made recently that may be included in one of my shows to come.  I am sure that this will be a busy year - right now I am grateful for the time off from my teaching responsibilities at Rochester Institute of Technology.  I will be back at it soon enough.  but for the moment I have to find some plastic bags and banker's boxes to fill up,  so excuse me!



The Importance of Light
monotype by Alan Singer




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