Art Criticism

My Silver Dollar Campaign Updated


“I’d Rather Rendezvous With This Sexy Italian Newt Than Wait Around Here For Tasteless Billionaires To Win Again” 2016. acrylic on discarded press cleaning sheet, 7 x 17″ (In private collection of a friend)

Repeatedly, I suffer bouts of intense self-doubt that usually presages a light epiphany of sorts. I get a new idea or a reaffirmation of a past philosophy, and all is set back right with the world. Always temporary though. Another self-doubt monster will invade my pshyche in due time. It never fails to torment again and again.

Last night was bad. I won’t go into it, because the good idea that transpired has charged me back onto a positive path.

For some unknown reason, the life of my great grandfather sprang into my mind this morning. Henry Throop lived in the central New York area all his life. He was born in 1880, raised in Lebanon, N.Y., attended Colgate when it was still a prep school, went to Cornell to study civil engineering, married, and settled in Syracuse, where he worked as a railroad engineer, and then on his own as independent engineer/contractor until his death in 1956.

I use his life often in writing and conversation to juxtapose today’s culture to the one of a hundred years ago. Was it a better time? Who knows? I can say with certainty that Henry was a very mature twenty-something year old. He kept a journal—observations and day to day life for the most part, and also an expense account book, showing where every penny went. This morning’s idea was to use this account book to revolutionize the way I intend to sell my work.

My Silver Dollar Campaign

I have had it with business and art. It doesn’t work. The moment the painting gets offered, haggled, denied, etc, on the market exchange, the entire culture of the thing created gets violated. I lose all semblance of its original innocence as soon as the money door opens. Only once have I made a painting thinking about money, or a sale. Here it is:


“My Heart’s Desire Is That One of You Is Drunk Enough To Buy This Painting” 2014. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 16″

I was invited to a rock concert with some friends where there would be a section of the parking lot cordoned off for vendors. I painted this the night before, and had it sold before we finished putting up the tent.

It is stated in my great grandfather’s account book that on September 14, 1907, he purchased the following for one dollar:

2 loaves of bread
1 dozen cookies
pound of butter

and a haircut…

A dollar in 1907 had the spending power of about $25 today, without the haircut (some small luxury to prove how contemporary inflation experts always seem to get it wrong). So, about $40 today would buy these goods Henry bought in 1907. A dollar was a dollar and it purchased what forty more dollars could buy today.

I love the silver dollar because it has an ever changing value on the money market. For several years I have watched its value move between about $15 to $35. And it’s just a dollar! It also feels good in the hand, and I bet many of them in a small pouch attached to my belt (a lá Rimbaud), would feel even better.

Henry’s items I listed above are worth any one of my paintings. No one is buying the luxury items I have made available. So I have sweetened the pot in order to avoid the money exchange problem for the rest of my life.

I will amass silver coins!

From this day forward, any one of my paintings not hanging in a gallery can be bought for a silver dollar. Not what a silver dollar will buy, but exactly one, shiny silver dollar. I don’t want to barter anymore. I want to jingle coins in a pouch. I have set the value, and it is universal. Any size. Any painting not in a gallery. Of course, the buyer must pay for frame and also shipping on top of the silver dollar. I have some very big paintings. If they were purchased, I would have to charge a handling fee. (Quite a bit of work goes into hiring a tractor trailer to pick up at a residence). Frames, shipping and handling could be exchanged in paper currency, however, the painting itself—always just one silver dollar.

Now imagine the creative time we could have. No more of that embarrassing “real” money exchanging hands. You can stop at the local pawn shop on your way to my studio and deal with the proprietor. He or she will certainly have silver dollars to sell you in trade for the paper money. Get it. Heck, get two, and stop by to pick out any painting(s) you want. If framed, I will price it fair, and you can give me the paper money that I will spend on groceries, or a dress for Rose at the second hand shop. I will mark your name, painting, and date of purchase in a little cardboard envelope, and if I make it to seventy-five, cash in on retirement fried eggplant sandwiches once in a while, thinking of you and our shared human experience.

(Please note: I can only accept silver dollars, and not paper money of what a silver dollar is currently worth on the pretend money market. I made the effort of the painting. Now you can go the extra mile to pick up the actual silver dollar).

Please think about this, and spread the idea far and wide. There must be some painting that you like for such a fair price. Think of birthdays, upcoming holidays. I am just so exhausted from these encounters with the self doubt monster. It’s time to kill the money.

Several of my recent paintings can be found here. I look forward to jingling coins in a pouch.



The Everson Vs. The Memorial Art Gallery


“The Everson vs. The Memorial Art Gallery” 2013. Acrylic on press cleaning sheet, 15 x 7″

From Last Communion:

Two feelings today. First individual. Second communal. In the second I fix museums. In the first I fight despair.

I am weary of thinking. S.A.D. covers me like a fog at this time of year. S.A.D. with financial worry is a toxic cloud sizzling acid into my frontal lobe.
Depression? I don’t think so. It is what any man, of any culture, of any time feels when he possesses creative energy and spunk but has no waiting outlet for his expression.
“Keep it to yourself for six months mister, then in spring we’ll be committed to the same routine, and not have time for you then, either.”
Lows like this always bring me back to Henry Miller. He is the artist whose legacy champions the driven failure. He is the dreamer’s Jesus, and Tropic of Cancer the New Testament. Forty-four year old man coughing up green gobs in a Paris artist ghetto delivers pure hope to the future neurotics inhabiting modern earth. Nihilism with warm bread and salted butter. Joy as a routine of failure. Happiness with no expectations. Scratch that… At least one expectation… Dinner!
Most houses of present day claiming to represent the artist are supermarket chains stocking their shelves with glossy Keebler® products. They have lost sight of the man and woman as artist. “Give us the output that PBS wants to see. We don’t care about your thoughts. As long as you supply us our boxed Toll House® cookie crackers—stale or fresh, it doesn’t matter. And you better dress well. And be approachable. And portfolio a resume that looks corporate like accounting…”
Oh Jesus, Henry, they’re taking away art’s right to failure, to jugs of wine, to 3 a.m. coffee, wild plans for the future, close friendships, and sleep as a favorite pastime for lovers. They are accomplishing the death of art in the cruelest manner to the artist. With silence! With form letters. With business. With pedaling works door-to-door, alone, in a car. Individuality and avarice. Now artists tap in like cable TV to a corporate model for communication. Twitter. Facebook. They’ve gone public. Promoters, promotees, a sculptor I just met telling me in a sports bar how his friend needs to show more in order to build his resume—
These are weapons wielded by the enemies of art. Soldiers paid by anti-creative institutions. Bootlickers of art history PhD’s. The temporary gatekeepers. Thank you Jesus Miller. Again.
Now to keep to my subject promise of finding creative ways to slaughter the corporate model that has usurped art in America.
Christie’s is a pig sty, and the people who work there are rats who feed on pig drippings.
The Everson Museum is a Syracuse treasure, as is the Memorial Art Gallery of Rochester. But they have lost their way. They are mirroring their favorite soda brand (“pop” in Rochester—so you can tell which city I advocate for). They are seeking identity in a sea of exactly the same thing museums. Each a division of Keebler® trying to outdo its sister product with the “individuality” of whatever a cool million can purchase this year for the collection. Brand identity. The new thing. Like the new normalcy of networking. Concepts verbatim from page 2 in the corporate charter.
We smell a rat.
There must be three hundred or more museums of equal size across America. And they all cry poverty in the sense that attendance is down, upkeep is up, and it just feels like so few are interested in the arts these days. The Cincinnati Art Museum spends 1.8 million on an 18 x 24″ Georgia O’Keeffe and Johnny’s mother is opening up a can of SpaghettiOs® for breakfast so his stomach won’t rumble at school today. Johnny likes the Cincinnati Bengals but the Bengals corporation wants to whore their “anything they can” on Johnny. So Johnny gets a Bengal helmet for Christmas this year. The Bengal business model was a success. The linebacker got three million. The art museum an O’Keeffe. Avarice can easily find its connections in Hell. Just plug into the bottom line.
So my idea is this: Bring local art to the status it has deserved since Barbara the Neanderthal iron oxided the cave wall with a horse. Today it’s like museums around the world would be jonesing for a slab of that rock.
“France has a lot of ‘gaul’ to keep cave art in its own caves, especially when we’re willing to offer thirty million a cubic yard.”
All the artists in the Syracuse area, represented by the Everson Museum, can enter a yearly juried competition, like in January, when creatives are locally the most desperate. Same for the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester. Each museum chooses ten of its favorites for the juror, who is from out of state and has no bias toward either city. She is invited to stay at a middle ground no-man’s land along the I-90 corridor. Clyde, for instance. The host museum will alternate each time the two meet to fight. The juror judges the work, both staffs sort it out, and the top three out of five of the total twenty declares the winner museum. There is a show in summer at the home of the victor. And it receives more hype than a dead O’Keeffe, born and raised in Wisconsin, ever deserved.
Local artists become the art stars of their own communities. Now the Everson can challenge Munson-Williams in Utica next year. The Memorial Art Gallery can take on Albright Knox in Buffalo. In a five year period, several cities can duke it out and declare a champion institution for that region.
So when the Jones family from California visits the Everson they will be shone a room displaying Syracuse’s artist cream of the crop. I know the work will be just as inspired as any from van Gogh, Picasso, or that internationally adored, anal retentive metal sculptor, who, by virtue of some corporate art Gnostics, sits atop the sculpture throne in America, even though he was born in Natchez and hates the snow.

An addendum

“On My Own Time” is an exhibit the Everson hosts every October. It is a show where participating businesses send the top two or three judged pieces from their employees, who all have a hobby called “art”. Just to give you an idea of how screwy things are in our culture these days, I cannot even well express the insult dagger that drives into the very heart of humanity, which is all things art. But it does, and it goes deep. My friend, a marble sculptor who has shown at this venue the past two years, does university teaching on his own time. He spends hours searching for stone, dreaming the stone, cutting, carving, and sanding the stone. And he has something to say that he can never say while hobbying at his day job, which always pays him on time for work that is one part inspiration, three parts stultifying. And he is lucky to practice the art of teaching. To receive his certificate for “doing art” even though he doesn’t have to do art, can be a rewarding result of herculean effort. Along a similar vein, the poor janitor, who works at the same institution on his own time, scrubs dried vomit off of toilet seats in dormitories. His non-art is all stultifying. He is a photographer snapping photos in the bright light of day, from mountaintops in the Adirondacks. This makes him forget briefly that his culture and society expect him to pull hair out of clogged drains in order to take pictures on his own time, and never the other way around.
The show costs ten dollars for guests. It’s catered. And my friend for his piece, which took him over a hundred and fifty hours of time to perfect, leaves with a show book and a desk top printed certificate.
Every time the Everson acquires another fifty thousand dollar piece of someone else’s culture, they figuratively ram a can of SpaghettiOs down little Johnny’s throat, and likewise remind the community that art is for the dead, just keep at it on your own time. The Everson needs our ignorance to fill its coffers. Like Walmart. Like Pepsi. Like McDonald’s and the Cincinnati Bengals.
My friend the sculptor is an artist and a teacher. Everything he does is on his own time. The problem is that the thieves of our culture want to snatch pieces of what is ours for themselves.
The Everson and Memorial Art Gallery should exist because they are our community treasures. But they need to wake up and throw open their doors to a new vitality. Keep the stuffy tomb rooms of worldly historical art. They have their story. In my opinion they should be restocked with the art of dead central New Yorkers. I would want to know what a painter living on Midler or South Geddes was up against back in 1923. Looks pretty good. Yeah, yeah, Picasso was in Paris painting a gargoyle. And Woodrow Wilson harbored no regrets after sending thousands of human beings to unecessary slaughter. Jesus my dear Henry Miller, are they ever going to cut out this worship of dead kings?

Answer To Agora Gallery’s Twitter Question: “Is Art Urgent?”


Without the Presence of a Justice Gene, Public Radio Will Have a Strong Corporate Bias 2015. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36″ Painting has little to do with following subject matter beyond dancing chromosomes.

From Last Communion

This also appears in my website that I have never advertised. Take a look. Lots of pictures. Many paintings available for silver dollar, or two.

Answer to Agora Gallery’s Twitter Question “Is Art Urgent?”

When viewing the work of an artist I seek the biography of the man/woman expressed in hard copies. I mark the energy of the joy or angst living in each piece. If there isn’t any, there isn’t art. Easy marker. With that said, allow me to cite a piece of yesterday that I hope will help answer this important question.
Early in the day I shared with my wife a break time video (via e-mail) of Tom Jones and Janis Joplin back in 1969 singing and dancing “Raise your hand”. I wrote to her that this is what gurgles through my veins most days.

Skip corporate commercial. Tom and Janis.

Did you see it? Got up and danced, yes? Made you almost feel ashamed to live in a land that has warped the meaning of joy and dance (which is often art) into Beyoncé, a phony by-product of Proctor and Gamble, Coca Cola, or AT&T smartphone toothpaste glued to your face.
Not ever, even in a very weak moment, say solitary confinement in a boy’s prison or island castaway, would I be interested in the choreographed faux-dance of Beyoncé. It is without real desire. I think it hasn’t loved since it was a little girl. It says “Me” like a blazing sun, but not a star. More like a thermonuclear detonation. All in all, I think Beyoncé hates art, and has sent her husband into gallery show rooms to rap about it.
Her dance is not an “outward expression of an inward harmony of the soul.” It is, to me, a kind of death of individuality and its right to expression. Poor Beyoncé. She is just a tool, as were Tom and Janis in their day to a degree. The difference lies in their humanity. That unlikely 60’s couple each got to dance like any nerd in the lunch line and feel good about it. Real good. Today the corporations steer us to do the impossible and copy the world’s champions, which sets up stone walls to our dance as expressive creatures. Then this negativity gets revealed in our every day lives: Paint a picture? Not if you can’t out dance both van Gogh in color and Wyeth in boredom. Chisel marble? Are your balls square? There has been only one Italian superstar worthy of that! The world’s champions, (a Kurt Vonnegut idea), existed in 1969 too. Yet from watching the “Raise Your Hand” video (I was 2 years old at the time thinking about becoming a painter), it is so obvious to me that the door was open for humanity (at least for those existing in a healthy economy) to virtually explode with creativity per capita.
Art’s urgent task is to reopen that door. It must go back a generation to Tom and Janis, further back to the Mohawk and Santee Sioux; I say shine light on the first clan even, to notice how Glub the Firestarter turned a rock into a Mastodon with his smoldering magic stick. Hurrah! Let’s party!
And Glub’s brothers and sisters gesticulate the wild human dance while drinking spit beer late into the night.
Beyoncé, Jeff Koons and Rita the corporate-sponsored conceptual artist who uses her feet to throw rocks at spider monkeys, are barbarian invaders in our once deeply expressive village. ABC and PBS are working overtime this week getting us to authenticate their celebrity. This will sell more Crest, more Toyota Corollas, and less and less of the truth that each and every one of us is deeply expressive if we dare to dig that deep. The entertainers can be amazing and excite us to our own expressive joys, which is art manifest. I got up and raised my hand with Tom Jones, but I didn’t want to be like him. I writhed and wrinkled and spilled my spit fermented beer on the hide carpet. I woke up and rock painted a saber-toothed tiger stalking a Super Bowl celebrity into the forest.
Art must coax art out of the box that money and power have stuffed it into. Museum is art history. Instrumental in preserving art’s stories. However, no joy comes from paced, clockwise observation at a respectable five foot distance, whether that be an afternoon at the Louvre or your local, struggling art association. And celebrity is anything but celebratory. Lady Gaga is Cindy Sherman. Mick Jagger is Jasper Johns. Millionaire super jocks with dead style choreographed. I think their art is as much fun to be around as burning plastic. It is urgent that we support the expression of our neighbors Donna, who paints us the real news, (what the fourth estate has abandoned for advertising deals), and Fred, the marble sculptor sweating out angst in the oppressive July heat. His suburban neighbors doze the live long day long in the cool of the swimming pool.
Hey, crank up the music.


Just another Beyoncé tune.



Three Presidential Primary Paintings

“The NY Times Must Think Sanders Is Talking In My Daughter’s Aquarium” 2016. Acrylic on press cleaning sheet, 17 x 7″


“Super-Predator” 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20″

“The Last Time Donald Was at a Funky Reggae Party He Dreamed of Destroying Everybody’s Happiness As An Old Man Confronting Mortality” 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14″

Homage To Painters Alive Who Understand What I’m Getting At


Tomorrow night the Russian Stuckists, the marvelous troop of Tuesday night painters, intrepid makers of two-dimensional eye candy, thinkers and doers maneuvering inside/outside the modern woe-box, saviors of Moscow and New York, deliverers of hope, sustenance, and joy to the alive mind, open an exhibition of their recent work and inspiration at a city pancake cafe. A Night of Dreadful Paintings. On Halloween! Wine and freedom, tingling fingertips… Running up to Alexey Stepanov’s flat with brushes and colors and wet leaves on the stairs. Anticipating the model and the night, feeling this:


“Couple In Bed” by Philip Guston

All night long they will pose publicly with the private knowledge that their painting is a life treasure, a fecund high that if revealed too openly, might cause a wave of mass enthusiasm to drown their individuality. Almost as if it were better to keep the secret to themselves. If too many catch on, to make the art of painting ubiquitous like jogging or taking out the garbage, then it was all for naught, there was nothing special in achieving the high art that is at least more lasting than a single human life.

I tell Alexey, and I hope he informs his friends, that I watch their gatherings with hungry eyes and aroused humility. Is there anything like this happening in the U.S. among the young and talented? They had a September show in the forest. Mulled wine, guitar, and I would hope in my dreams at least, much better conversation than “N.Y. Times—who’s great—let’s see—cause I’m great —look at me!” I am certain they talk of philosophy, culture, music, love, future. What everyone on earth alive wants to talk about, to be sure. But show me this enthusiasm, and group effort coming out of Brooklyn. I visit a painter’s blog calling itself Painter’s Table, but all I get is another look at a tremendously lonely, self-absorbed Brooklyn or Connecticut painter, touted (or is it tortured?) by another white-walled gallery. The image is nice, yes, but will it make us money? Every painter knows very well, without the helpful instruction of finance, if he or she is going to Hell. Quick now, another picture while I digress:


Look! Trees and art… Who knew?

Can artists in America sustain culture? Where are we going? What are we doing? What the hell is a “career artist”? The media mind is taking over. Listen here painters of America… You are not free and you are alone. Not one neighbor is moved by your presence. In fact, most would be openly hostile if their food bowls were not spilling over with high fructose Shepherd Faireys, Jeff Koonseys, Andy Goldsworthys, and the like. Some tried and true art catch phrase to hold the people’s little psychosis’ in check while the next state-of-the-art gew-gaw is pressed on their faces. The media has made up its mind. It will remain at war with reality. It mocks your life while luring humanity to crave its sugar-coffee-new thing high.

I couldn’t say if the Russian Stuckists feel this way. Whether they would agree or not, I know all sensitive peoples have their seasons in Hell. The practice of painting helps me with my push and pull out of private doom. Nietzsche wrote “All joys want eternity”. The more I paint, the closer I come to what I believe the generation in the photo possesses already—the eternal—and I pray they have the sense to carry on no matter what life throws at them. Which episode of “Sons of Anarchy” reminds us of our shared humanity? What smartphone app is glorifying the joy of man’s desiring?

More photos for your dreaming. Wish them luck. They are a high step above your concept of art, New York City. And climbing.

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If Our Neighbor Mr. Smith Caught Me Playing With An iPhone, He Would Have Mowed Over It With His Rotary


2015. On Masonite®, 12 x 16″

Right? Back in 1978, lazy, uninspired morons (Freud’s definition of 8 to 12 year old mentality) got mocked for being so non-disruptively apathetic. That’s why I stayed in my room many autumn days and nights dreaming by the window. If someone knocked at the door, I’d run to my room and hide. To me it was perfectly normal then, as it is now. Of course if it was a friend, I’d feel foolish for running, but for all the knocks at my parent’s door, the friend knock was very seldom. So overall I believe hiding from others is okay, especially if one believes like Sartre, that Hell is other people. Who wouldn’t run from Hell if given an escape route? Especially one that led to a cozy, thick blue shag carpet?

Lots of paintings on the walls for my show next weekend. Don’t think I won’t be hiding.

I Used To Get Early Apples Like That


Stuckism Russia “Before” by Alena Levina

I also used to cook and bake tremendous amounts of food to satisfy the hungry hoard that I imagined would come to see a year’s worth of Throop work. Soup, breads, cakes, cookies, quiches even. I remember my first public exhibition; I rented the space for a long weekend, designed and mailed 200 postcards, invited local media, spent hundreds of dollars on frames, and laid a veritable feast on several tables. I had a game where some lucky art lover could win an original Throop simply by answering correctly an obscure trivia question. I never once considered it compensating for the inferior work on the walls. Rather, I naively thought, “this is how it’s done”. As artist, you warm your friends, family, and even some strangers with the human touch, and they give back by purchasing a painting, or, if that is out of any guest’s price range, one of your several published books discounted on the table beside the free saved seeds. On the price list I included some barter ideas (still do), to get the conversation humming. On opening night, students from the college came at the behest of their professor, who was fast becoming a friend of mine. A few asked excellent questions, many showed serious interest. It was practically heaven while they eased in and out of the rented gallery. In the course of a weekend maybe up to five other unknowns came to view the work. One brought his elderly mother who really loved the food, and went so far to say that I should open up a catering business. Not a single word about the paintings! Even with several colorful titles like:

Veterinarian Ron Gets In Trouble With His Magical Time Machine

Welcome Suspicious Careerists

Don’t Underestimate the Bite of the Toothless Dragon

Aut Libri, Aut Liberi (Either Books or Children)

All in all, it was still wonderful. Truly a life-changing success. Likewise, a harbinger of future financial failures to come, but heck, it was an exhibition, not a stock speculation. An expressionist cannot help it if the laymen thinks television and a glass of wine the better night life to stimulate slumber. The dreams of the latter will amount to new cars and carpet. The expressionist as fool believes always in a better life. Often he or she must make one up to prove it.

These Russian painters are the future of art on earth. Their enthusiasm is more verve than the MoMA could squeeze from pathetic, uninteresting, uninspired bozos like the false clowns shown here:


Lady Goo-Goo and the latest uninspired director of the MoMA

Jesus, just look at them. No thought of exhibiting their innocence. They are prepaid for.

As to the constipated man in the photo, there is no doubt in my mind that he is oblivious to what makes art art. He would come to the Stuckist painting show, eat their food, chewing silently with no questions asked, and head back to the hotel with time to stream a few episodes of Breaking Bad through his iPad. Art think must break away from this kind of power that doesn’t even know what goes into an apple pie in order to bake it. There is art adventure out there. Seek it! Else fork over $25 to see what Bjork wears on a hot day.

Of course, many can partake in a revolutionary act. Attend the free art party to talk to human beings who help make talking to human beings a worth while pursuit.


Have fun tonight showing your work!