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My surrealist art

March 10, 2019

Albany’s Opalka Gallery (part of Sage College) hosts occasional “Pecha Kucha” nights. A wonderful event, with a bunch of presenters each talking about a series of 20 slides, each screened for 20 seconds. I previously did one about my love affair with numismatics. More recently, my surrealist art. It’s a challenge to time the patter to the progression of slides. Also, taking pictures of pictures turns out to be hard; balancing brightness and color was problematical. But here are my slides, coupled with my verbiage about each:

When I was 13, my mom saw this painting she liked in a friend’s house. I said if you buy me paints, I’ll copy it for you. So this became my first real painting. That was in 1961, and now it’s hanging in my house. For a while I did such normal-type pictures.

Then, in my early twenties, I became captivated by surrealism. So I started doing paintings like this, from my own imagination. Its title is “Christmas Toys.” Surrealist pictures, you know, are supposed to have enigmatic titles.

My favorite artist was the Belgian Rene Magritte. And as an homage, I did make this one copy of a painting of his, titled “Collective Invention.” It has also been called “The Practical Man’s Mermaid.” You see, the usual mermaid has . . . well, never mind.


I had a thing for doing paintings with an architectural flavor. You might see something familiar about this scene. But I titled it, “The Temple at Naddegomra.”  Which was the name of a city in a fantasy novel I was writing.

This next one is called “Cold Street.” I exhibited some paintings at the first modern Pinksterfest in 1972, and sold one or two. There was a gal who set up next to me, also with paintings. Hers I didn’t much like. But nevertheless, we wound up leaving the show together, which was nice.


Now this is not a painting, it’s a sculpture. Again you see my architectural proclivity. By the way, this was not photographed in dramatic lighting; I painted it that way, in black and white. Really so fantastically clever, no?


And then I thought the sculpture was so absolutely wonderful that I also made a painting of it. Call it synergy between two art forms. Or maybe incestuous or something. But it’s not stealing if you steal from yourself.


Here is another sculpture. These were made with wood scraps, basically because I didn’t want to throw them away. This one is called “The City of God.” Somehow that was the title it whispered to me. Even though I’m actually an atheist.





And here is the painting. I did actually have a show once, in a local art gallery. But eventually I realized what was really going on with that: the gallery owner just wanted to get into my pants. So much for my art.






But I was really only doing this for my own amusement anyway, I had no serious artistic pretensions or ambitions. I wasn’t a starving artist, I was working as a lawyer. Here is one more sculpture, this one was done with wood and plaster.


And, surprise, here is the painting. This is the last of these pairings, I promise. On this one, as you can see, I added a little something. This picture hangs in my office, but not where it’s staring at me all day. The title is “Portrait of the Artist as a Piece of Wood.”


I did sometimes utilize photos. I came across this striking photo of a rock, or maybe it’s an iceberg. And it was just crying out to have that red globe added. I think this picture really shows a strong Magritte influence. The title is “Thing in the Sky.”






This was also from a photograph, a very famous one, by Edward Weston, of a green pepper. The evocation of a human nude was so obvious, I decided to play on that by painting it in fleshy tones. Take particular note of the bottom right part of the image.





So then I later came across this other photo in which I saw a close affinity with Weston’s pepper. So I painted this as a companion piece, and of course for complementarity, this one I did in green tones.

To evoke green peppers, get it?




Now, the next one I titled “Night Watch,” although it has nothing in common with the famous Rembrandt picture with that title. But I thought the title was fitting anyway. To appreciate this picture properly, you should bend your head down to the left.


But never mind, here, I’ve done it for you. The wonders of technology. By the way, all this stuff was done almost half a century ago. I basically stopped doing art because I was devoting more time to my writing instead. Not that that was a huge success either.





Anyhow, I also had a fascination with optical illusion art. Here you see it combined with my architectural fetish. Look carefully at this picture, what is depicted is a nonsense construction, that could not be built.


This next one is titled “Bas Relief in Four Planes.” Actually it depends how you look at it, you can see two planes, or three, or four, with features either in relief or sunken. Generally Democrats can see three or four planes, Republicans only two.


And on this next one, I took it to the next level by adding double symmetry: the picture is identical both upside down and in mirror image. That was actually very tricky to work out. The title is “Bathroom Tile Design.”


And, finally, something a bit different. A woman crucified to her own erogenous zones. Some profound symbolism there, of course, though I’m not sure exactly what it means. Maybe I had issues. But an artist doesn’t have to explain his paintings, the meaning is left up to the viewer.

John McCain

August 26, 2018

The two presidential candidates I was most proud to support were both Arizonans. I believe that had John McCain won in 2008, America today would be in far better shape than it is. A better nation.

“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured, okay?”

No, not okay. I like people who don’t say such things, okay? Had McCain won in 2008, we surely wouldn’t now have a president who does.

McCain reflected honor upon America. Evoking the better angels of our nature.

With him gone, it is now up to us to make America great again.

“Reveal” International Contemporary Art Fair in Saratoga Springs

August 8, 2018

We had lucked out during vacation trips to Dubai and San Francisco, happening upon unanticipated international art shows in both places. So when I saw there’d be one in nearby Saratoga, we had to go.


(We are not real connoisseurs, or buyers. We’ve only ever bought one serious pricey art work. Our walls display paintings by my late father, a surprisingly good amateur, and my own from my surrealist phase half a century ago. Plus one large Picasso copy by my ex-girlfriend’s artist sister, a gift the girlfriend left behind.)


But my wife and I do enjoy the visual treats and surprises one always finds at such shows. People have been doing art for thousands of years, so you might think everything’s been done, with nothing new being possible. How untrue that is. What is great at such shows is seeing how artists are always coming up with amazing new concepts for art.



Well, not all do. My wife made a negative comment about those Rothko-like square canvases with bland horizontal color bands, a few of which were seen at the show. Borrrring! To me at least. But fortunately stuff like that was the exception.

One nice thing is being able to chat with artists about their work. Maybe they talk to us because we have a look like we might just possibly be eccentric millionaires. But they do seem to relish an opportunity to talk with anyone about their art. One gallery owner, too, chatted us up quite amiably, but then suddenly turned and walked away. Guess he decided we weren’t eccentric millionaires after all.

Most beautiful thing at the show








We discussed with artist Derek Gores his picture, “Directory Assistance” (above), a gigantic collage from fashion magazines, with many intriguing bits on close inspection (including quite a few breasts). Derek liked my wife’s boots.










Another artist, Brett Loving, showed us a video of how he’d done his painting “Evolution” (below) — with an excavator. That’s right, he sat at the controls of that huge piece of equipment with paint brushes fitted to its arms. Interesting results.


A painting by Daniel Marin (below) was quite stunning. I called it “Explosion in a Paint Factory,” but its actual title was “Arcane.” I couldn’t figure out how he could get paint to do what it did there.


Really incredible was Gwen Adler’s “Porcelain Frida” (below). That Frida Kahlo sure has become an icon.  Here her image in porcelain was at the center of what might have been a wildly baroque religious picture. It seemed to be a collage of innumerable photographed parts, with the whole thing then re-photographed as a single image. Is that a noose above her head?
























As noted, a lot of contemporary art aims to surprise the viewer. Sometimes it’s an aesthetic surprise, of real beauty achieved in novel ways. Sometimes it’s a matter of being playful with visual elements. Both applied in the case of the green sculpture shown below; I actually didn’t register the echo of the human body in it till I saw my photo.


Sometimes too the playfulness is an unexpected and strange juxtaposition of disparate elements — as in Timofei Smirnov’s “Where No Voices Heard” (with telephone).

Or this horse carrying packs of crayons.


But then there’s the category of just plain weirdness. This photo of Edgar Endress’s “The Shrine of the American Dream” (below) shows only a portion of the wooden panels, there were many more.



And how about Michele Mikesell’s “The Lookout” (right). Clown pictures can often be subtly unsettling, but this one has that characteristic in spades. An art work like this sure is arresting and intriguing to look at it, but I wouldn’t want it on my wall where I’d have to look at it every day.







And some pieces of contemporary art I put in the category of just plain fun. Here is Paul Rousso’s “A Twisted Grand.” It’s a Thousand Dollar bill, a pretty accurate representation of the real thing; oversized and sculptural.



And here’s one final piece, a photograph, that was not actually in the show. It’s a picture I took recently, of our kitchen sink. It’s titled “Kitchen Sink.”

Breath Debt — Poems by Therese L. Broderick

June 18, 2018

(Page Publishing, 91 pages, $12.95 + 2.50 shipping; order from author, Box 8600, Albany, NY 12208 or Paypal to; also purchasable from Amazon (click here) or Barnes & Noble (click here); e-book format will be available soon.)

Note, Therese will appear at Albany Library, 161 Washington Ave, Tues., July 3, 12 noon; light refreshments

I love being able to say my wife is a poet. Now, a lot of people write poems. But that’s not the same as being a poet. For Therese, poetry is her life. She went back to school in her forties and got a master’s degree in it, and she dedicates herself to her craft with total commitment.

She has published numerous poems and a few “chapbooks,” and won awards and prizes; this full-length collection, Breath Debt, is the culmination of years of intensive effort.

Here Therese deeply mines her own personal experience of life. Of course, such sharing enhances our insight into, and feeling for, the human condition. Isn’t that what poetry is (or should be) mainly about?

A powerful presence in the book is her father. Despite color-blindness, he served in WWII, and then — despite color-blindness! — had a career as a commercial artist. He also long suffered from lung disease, and died of it at 61, when Therese was 21. Thus the title, Breath Debt, as his struggles for breath figure in several of the poems. (The term also relates to breathing while singing.)

Therese and I often have conversations about poetics; our perspectives differ; of course mine are those of a layperson while she has devoted herself to studying the subject and developing her own distinctive voice. This is real poetry, in the truest sense of that word. I admit that much is “above my (literary) pay grade.” (That, in poetry, is what’s called a metaphor. I think.) You will not find here chirpy banalities about sunsets and moonrises (though one poem does play cleverly with the orthography of the word “moon”).

But that’s not to say it’s highfalutin. “Death in Yellowstone” delightfully recounts our young daughter’s fascination with a book so titled, during our Yellowstone tour. (A dip in its boiling pools is not recommended.) Another charming poem poignantly recounts her mother’s valiant weekly effort to get three small daughters’ hair washed before church. And one is about her cutting the lawn with scissors. (Therese is an unusual person in many ways.)

Again, lots of people write poems. But not like this. I salute my wife for a tremendous achievement.


June 15, 2018



@RealDonald Trump


Frank Robinson and myself had a very good meeting, really really terrific. We showed him a video how great it could be for him and his people if he’d just be nicer and got a better haircut, like mine. I think he wants to, he’s very talented and sincere (not like that backstabbing Canuck liar Trudeu), Frank swore he would totally cut his hair, which I believe is going to happen very very quickly! So now we’re BFFs and lifting sanctions on his blog. Americans can sleep soundly now!

5:12 AM – 15 June 2018


June 14, 2018

Notice: Pursuant to Executive Order #9038672, this blog (“The Rational Optimist”) is determined to be a threat to national security, very dishonest, an enemy of the people, and very very unfair, and accordingly is hereby terminated.








Ordered and Decreed                                       DONALD J. TRUMP

June 14, 2018                                        President of the United States





Cat picture

June 2, 2018

My wife said I should put this picture of our cat (yes, it is one cat) on my blog. I always obey my wife. Though it does seem a bit weird. I mean, who ever thought of putting a cat picture on the internet? Well, maybe it will become a thing!

Pecha Kucha Night – My love affair with numismatics

April 17, 2018

The Opalka Gallery at the local Sage College has a great event called “Pecha Kucha Night;” they’re held all the world. A bunch of presenters each shows and talks about 20 slides, each shown for exactly 20 seconds. I did one recently. It was quite a challenge to time my verbiage so that it matched up with the slides. Here’s my presentation:

Hello. My topic is my 60 year love affair with numismatics, which is the fancy word for coin collecting. It has enriched my life beyond measure. Eventually it took over my life, and I quit my real job and became a full time coin dealer. I’ll show you a couple of pictures of my coin office.

This is a small part of my “fulfillment center,” coins I have for sale. I assure you it’s very well organized, and I can locate any coin to fill an order. Usually. By the way, I sell coins only by mail. Quite a lot of them, as this picture suggests.

Now, often coins require some research, and here’s a picture of part of my numismatic library. Much of this kind of research can now be done on the internet, but it hasn’t totally replaced the need for reference books.

And speaking of books, I did write one myself about coin collecting, in 1992, called “Confessions of a Numismatic Fanatic.” Note the subtle, understated color I picked for the cover. Almost nobody noticed that the coins on it form a smiley face.

I’m going to focus tonight on just two things. The first is ancient coins, which I especially love. Here’s one from Parion, in what is now Turkey, around 300 BC. Every Greek city had its own coins. The face is Medusa. Supposedly, seeing it would turn you to stone. But this picture is safe to look at.

Now, that coin is in superb condition, which is rare. Quality is the name of this game. Here we see the more typical condition for ancient coins. I bought this boxful of junk to re-sell. But when it comes to my own collection, I’m very much a condition snob.

The next coin, from Larissa, is notable for its artistic quality. Also, it happens to come from the greatest collection of Greek coins ever formed. That collector is still around, he’s actually bought coins from me; my wife and I once had dinner with him in Athens. (And with his full time librarian.)

Next is a coin from the Roman Republic. This depicts the story of Tarpeia; she’s the figure in the center; with two soldiers bashing her to death with their shields. I’m showing this delightful coin to illustrate how ancient people had a different mentality about violence.

The main thing I want to illustrate is portraiture on ancient coins. Often again the artistry was pretty amazing. Here is Alexander the Great. He really had an amazing career. Note that he’s depicted deified with the horn of Ammon, an Egyptian God.

The next guy is not so famous: Philetairos, the eunuch king of Pergamon. One time my toddler daughter climbed into my lap while I had a coin like this in my hand. I explained to her that it had a picture of an ancient king. And she asked me: “Was he nice?” I had to say probably not.

And here we have Cleopatra. A realistic portrait. She was not in fact a great beauty. This coin is actually more worn than I like to have in my collection, but it’s fairly rare, and about as good a portrait coin of Cleopatra as you can get.

Next we have her lover boy, Julius Caesar. “Yuli-oos KAI-sar” as the Romans would have pronounced it. He was the first guy who dared to put his own portrait on a Roman coin. It was one of the things that got him assassinated; it was felt he had too much power.

The next coin is Caligula’s. I’m showing you the back, because this was again something unprecedented — it names and depicts Caligula’s three sisters. Whom he slept with, at least according to the ancient historian Suetonius, who wrote “The Twelve Caesars.”

Here we have another famously disreputable Emperor, Nero. His coin portraits are particularly impressive. Now this is the kind of condition quality I like in my collection. This is a bronze coin; notice the beautiful green patina. This is a coin to die for.

Next is Hadrian, another superb portrait. Look at this artistry. And again, a bronze coin. I do have some gold ones, but I really much prefer bronze and silver. The reason is that for the price of a very routine ho-hum gold coin, you can get a fantastic bronze.

This is the last portrait: Antinous. Who was he? The boy toy of the previous guy, Hadrian. (Do you think there’s too much sex in my talk?) Antinous seems to have killed himself at age 21 because he felt he’d lost the bloom of youth. This coin is from Egypt and is very rare.

Now for the second part we jump to the early 19th century, and a little tin coin from Palembang, a Sultanate on Sumatra. A few years ago I happened to discover that quantities of these coins, apparently recovered from a river, were being sold quite cheap by several guys in Indonesia.

So I e-mailed each of them: how many have you got? Want to make a deal? I wound up with 35,000 coins. This picture shows just a portion. The cool thing is that these coins come in many variations, which had never been properly studied and catalogued.

So I decided to tackle it myself, and published a little book. It was a monumental job to sort through all those coins to make sense of them; I now have a real appreciation for just how big a number 35,000 is. In the end, I identified 18 distinct issues, with 291 significant varieties.

This final picture shows two sample pages from the book. And in case you’re wondering, I have sold thousands of these coins, but still have many thousands left. So if any of you are interested in a great deal on Palembang coins, you can see me outside.

Thank you!


My humanist collage

March 24, 2018

My local humanist group recently had an arts-and-crafts afternoon. It was actually fun, a chance to be kids again. There was a pile of magazines, so I decided upon a collage; started with no concept in mind, just added things as they caught my eye. Here it is:

Shit-hole countries

January 13, 2018
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!