The Light Within

The Angels and Art of Corbin Hollis Choate

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Inspiration . . .

A cathedral is a place of worship. It is meant to draw you upward to heaven . . . to inspire a sense of awe through beauty and majesty. Every so often a sunset comes along which draws you up into it. The sky is ablaze with colors and power, as if God pulled back the curtain just to give you, and you alone, a glimpse of the eternal. The most powerful sunsets happen during late Fall and Winter. There is a window of just a few minutes when everything comes together, exactly between day and night . . . dark and light . . . when the magic quietly appears. It's here and then it's gone but it always leaves a mark on your soul

. . . Cathedral . . .

The evening sky begins to slow,
Heaven’s own transcendant show
intensely burning colors glow
ethereal silver light...

Brilliant blue, orange, gold,
a painter’s vision to behold,

this lonely fire the sun does hold,

receding to quiet darkness...

- The Light Within . . .

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Gabriel III . . .

The Archangel Gabriel is a theme upon which much of my work is based, and he will make many appearances on canvas before I leave this world. This painting was completed during a time of great personal stress and anxiety. It is titled “Gabriel III” and is Gabriel’s third appearance. He always appears when I need him most . . . when I’m not sure which direction to go with my life and when I don’t know who to turn to. There have been several times in my life when I was forced to choose between painting and supporting my family. Being forced to give up something you love so dearly, something that is a part of you, is painful . . . . . . . however, something tells me that these paintings, these images were meant to be. Each time circumstances forced me to give up my art, to let it go, it always came back stronger . . . more focused and more real.

In this painting, Gabriel is reaching out to you, the viewer. He reaches out of the picture plane, to touch you, to heal and comfort you. The halo behind his head if full of golden light which envelopes nearly all of his being.

In my earlier post, In The Beginning, I shared with you my process of building the colors up in layers. This allows light to become trapped between a color’s layers . . . creating a strong and luminous appearance. This is the light within. It is also how I painted Gabriel’s red robe. I first laid down enough pure magenta to become opaque, about a dozen layers. Then I added layer upon layer of red, allowing for drying time in between. Each color is applied in this manner, but the jewel tones (reds, blues, greens and purples) usually require an opaque underpainting.

The lines in this painting are full of energy. They have an electricity about them which appears immediately. In some places the lines are actually sculpted in layers. In other places the lines are exactly as they appear . . . laid down in a single stroke, even some of the longer ones. Those are the best ones. The brush does it’s thing and I sit back and watch.

I have had to come to terms with this painting. For the first two years after it’s completion I did not think it was up to my standards. But the more I see it I realize that it is. Perhaps it was ME who was not living up to my standards at the time, rather than the image. It can take weeks to finish an image. Half of this one was completed in a single thirteen-hour marathon session. By the time I was done I was mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted. I was driven to do it.

This painting, Gabriel III, is on display at the Montserrat Gallery, in New York, until the end of the month. Please stop by and see it.

- The Light Within . . .

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Gallery News . . .

Just a reminder that my paintings will be on exhibit at the Montserrat Gallery until April 30th. If you are in New York City, please stop by and see them.

Montserrat Gallery
547 W 27 Street, New York NY 10001
Phone: +1.212.941-8899 Fax: +1.212.274-1717
Open Tuesday to Friday from 12 pm to 6 pm

The Light Within . . .

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Thoughts of Others . . .

Review from "Gallery & Studio", November-December 2004/January 2005, Vol 7 No. 3, New York

"Andy Warhol once said that "once you 'get' Pop nothing ever looks the same," and the work of Corbin Hollis Choate, seen recently at Montserrat Gallery, 584 Broadway, is a perfect illustration of what he meant. For once you have viewed Choate's paintings, you can never again view cherubim, or putti, in quite the same light.

Whether Choate considers himself a Pop artist or not is really a moot point at this late date. It is very likely that he considers himself an abstract painter who uses imagery simply as an ironic attention device to draw the viewer's attention. And a good case could certainly be made for this way of looking at his paintings, considering their formal virtues. These are considerable, since Choate's paintings are executed in a hard edge style that calls attention to the clarity of his form and his cool, carefully harmonized color areas. There is also a good deal of white space in his paintings that adds to their formal purity. So one can easily appreciate these cunningly conceived works for their abstract qualities alone.

That said, Choate's preoccupation with putti cannot be dismissed as a mere formal ploy, being far too resonant of art history, religiosity, the heavenly realm as well as more down-to-earth aspects of love. Cherubim, after all, are among the most ambiguous of symbols. We can just as easily think of them as messengers of Eros and harbingers of profane love as biblical attendants of God or a holy place. Indeed, they had their origin in Greek and Roman antiquity; thus in their more pagan incarnation they often figure prominently in depictions of the feast of Venus and are seen flocking like so many playful birds around a statue of the goddess. In much Renaissance art, however, they are guardian spirits, benign little angels, protecting souls during life and finally conducting them to heaven.

Corbin Hollis Choate seems to play off this ambiguity by employing neon colors and dynamically cropped compositions that give his images a campy charm in paintings such as "Gabriel III," where the figure wears its halo with a suggestion of foppish wickedness, as though his important role as messenger of God and herald of birth in the Annunciation has led him into vanity. By contrast, in "Raphael," the almost Grecian purity of the figure's profile does indeed suggest the archangel, the guardian spirit and protector of the young.

In most of the paintings in his recent show at Montserrat, with the exception of the full figure entitled "Solaris," the composition consists of close-up views of a face and part of a wing, the severe cropping increasing the abstract impact of the composition. However, as in the work of John Wesley, that other Pop formalist, we are compelled to consider possible meaning in Choate's work, even as we take pleasure in its formal attributes, which alone are sufficient to compel our admiration. This duality lends a complexity to the paintings of Corbin Hollis Choate that deepens and enriches their appeal.
-Gloria Kiehl

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Resurrection . . . . . .

The Light Within . . .

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Is It Pop Art?

Roy Lichtenstein is one of the major influences in my artistic life. I am drawn to the simplicity and the abstract qualities. I am drawn to the childlike colourations. I am drawn to the graphic purity which permeates his work. I feel his influence very strongly in this painting. You can see examples of his work here. My work has been considered to be Pop Art by a reviewer in New York, but I don’t think of it in such a way.

There are angels everywhere in our culture, as has been the case for over a thousand years. However, one of the tenets of Pop Art is it’s lack of substance. For the most part it is extremely shallow and meaningless. There is nothing but surface. The angels that come to me through the paintings are full of substance. They are full of meaning. They are powerful.

The painting above was began five years ago this Easter, thus I always think of it as an Easter painting. A few months into working on it, a friend of mine was having a major operation. I had had some visions of it not going well and they bothered me quite a bit. While I was working on the painting one day I was overcome by the need to repeatedly as for my friend to be brought through the operation safely and with no complications. My prayers were not only heard, they were answered, because everything turned out alright. This is a painting of the Archangel Michael.

Every painting is a new journey which reveals to me new depths within this style. I didn’t find this style . . . it found me, at a time when I needed something to turn my life around. Through this painting I discovered simplicity and purity of abstraction using simple lines and vibrant colour.

Many thanks Roy.

The Light Within . . .

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Influences . . .

The poetry of Robert Frost has affected my life a great deal. Here is a poem of his which talks about angels, light and heaven. It deals with the choices you make before coming into this world . . .and what God says in the end. Frost's work has a wonderful transcendent quality. The deepest understanding comes from repeated readings. Enjoy.

The Trial By Existence

Even the bravest that are slain
Shall not dissemble their surprise
On waking to find valor reign,
Even as on earth, in paradise;
And where they sought without the sword
Wide fields of asphodel fore'er,
To find that the utmost reward
Of daring should be still to dare.

The light of heaven falls whole and white
And is not shattered into dyes,
The light forever is morning light;
The hills are verdured pasture-wise;
The angle hosts with freshness go,
And seek with laughter what to brave;--
And binding all is the hushed snow
Of the far-distant breaking wave.

And from a cliff-top is proclaimed
The gathering of the souls for birth,
The trial by existence named,
The obscuration upon earth.
And the slant spirits trooping by
In streams and cross- and counter-streams
Can but give ear to that sweet cry
For its suggestion of what dreams!

And the more loitering are turned
To view once more the sacrifice
Of those who for some good discerned
Will gladly give up paradise.
And a white shimmering concourse rolls
Toward the throne to witness there
The speeding of devoted souls
Which God makes his especial care.

And none are taken but who will,
Having first heard the life read out
That opens earthward, good and ill,
Beyond the shadow of a doubt;
And very beautifully God limns,
And tenderly, life's little dream,
But naught extenuates or dims,
Setting the thing that is supreme.

Nor is there wanting in the press
Some spirit to stand simply forth,
Heroic in it nakedness,
Against the uttermost of earth.
The tale of earth's unhonored things
Sounds nobler there than 'neath the sun;
And the mind whirls and the heart sings,
And a shout greets the daring one.

But always God speaks at the end:
'One thought in agony of strife
The bravest would have by for friend,
The memory that he chose the life;
But the pure fate to which you go
Admits no memory of choice,
Or the woe were not earthly woe
To which you give the assenting voice.'

And so the choice must be again,
But the last choice is still the same;
And the awe passes wonder then,
And a hush falls for all acclaim.
And God has taken a flower of gold
And broken it, and used therefrom
The mystic link to bind and hold
Spirit to matter till death come.

'Tis of the essence of life here,
Though we choose greatly, still to lack
The lasting memory at all clear,
That life has for us on the wrack
Nothing but what we somehow chose;
Thus are we wholly stipped of pride
In the pain that has but one close,
Bearing it crushed and mystified.

The Light Within . . .

Friday, April 07, 2006

Hope & Light . . .

Hope and Light. Two things there are not enough of in this world.

Every day my job puts me in contact with cancer and what it does to people's lives. A very large percentage of the phone calls we receive are from people looking for help, of any kind, on how to deal with a disease which is destroying their life, or the life of someone they love. I hear the sadness, the desperation, in their voices. "Can you help?" they say.

They are looking for hope. They are hoping that the person on the other end can give the something, no matter how small, to hold onto.

The reason the angels came to me to give them expression is to give people hope . . .to inspire them to follow their dreams and leave something behind for humanity.

I am working on starting a charitable foundation, which will exist to help families of children cancer patients with their medical expenses. It will also help provide resources to make the children's dreams and wishes come true. I've been thinking about this for years, and am just now coming into a position of being able to do something about it. Keep in mind, however, that it is not about me in any way. It's about the look in someone's eyes when they find out that the thing they need most right then is theirs . . .when they realize that at least part of the burden they have been living under has been lifted . . .when the child gets to go to Disney World, or have a little book with his poems published. It's about the look in someone's eyes when they realize that there is hope . . .and that things can and will get better.

This foundation will be funded by sales of my artwork, corporate donations and gifts . . .and it will be set up so the donations are tax deductible. I have chosen to begin the funding with prints because a single image, printed and sold many times, will earn more than a single painting. The prints will look very much like the prototype above, and some of them will include images from the paintings currently on display at the Montserrat Gallery in New York City. This will be my small contribution to the hope and light of humanity.

If any of you have experience or thoughts on this subject, please e-mail me, using the link on the right side of this page.

Stay tuned.

The Light Within . . .

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Exercise in Line and Light . . .

If you haven't already done so, please take the time to become familiar with the Art Renewal Center (via the link on the right side of this page). It is an online museum, which is dedicated to the restoration of truth and beauty in contemporary art, and the revival of long lost standards of draftsmanship and excellence. It is a worthwhile visit indeed, and I truly hope that my work will someday be included in their collection.

It all begins with the basics. Draftsmanship. It's ALL about the drawing in the early stages. This is where you work out problems in symmetry, proportion, and perspective. It's where you decide areas of light and shadow. It's where you get to know your subject . . .let it in . . .so it can be expressed. The drawing is where you create the underlying structure for the painting. It's where you define your space. Structure and space are fundamental. The drawing is where I decide line thickness to show weight and volume. The drawing I ‘m presenting to you tonight was extremely difficult. It is a study of an angel which lives in the Hermitage Museum, in St. Petersburg, Russia. I tried to reduce everything to line, while showing you the volume and mass. The lines have an energy which leads your eyes along their lengths. This drawing will probably make it onto canvas someday. Until then it remains an exercise in line . . .and light.

My favorite draftsmen are Michelangelo, William Bouguereau and Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres. If you look at their drawings, the first thing you'll notice is the quality of their lines. They are at once expressive, beautiful, subtle yet bold, forceful and inviting . . .so few lines, so much life.

Michelangelo's drawings are instantly identifiable. At first glance they appear quickly done. But upon further study, you will notice a sublime beauty that reveals itself like a flower, opening layer after layer . . .telling secrets. Each drawing is just a few lines, weight here, volume there . . .the thoughts inside. Michelangelo's drawings are studies in the psychology of his subjects, their souls, as much as they are about their image.

William Bouguereau had the rare ability to work from memory as well as he could work from life. He believed in absolute perfection of the finished image, and thus would create numerous drawings, mastering the history of his subjects. He made a deliberate, careful study of form and technique, and saturated himself in knowledge of classical sculpture.

Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres was a master of line. In his time, he created an unrivalled and highly detailed record of the female image, primarily through portraiture. Ingres could, using nothing but line, make you experience the sensation of touching the fabric on his subjects. He was obsessed with perfection and mastery of form. He was an idealist in pursuit of "high art", combining the purity of draftsmanship with a love of classical historic painting.

Until next time . . .

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Written Word . . .

I promised you that I would share my poetry, as well as my paintings.

Here is the first poem I want to share with you, entitled “Endless Leaves”. Every year around September, my creativity is awakened from its deep summer sleep by the calling of the Fall. Of all the seasons this one is my favorite, and I am always grateful that God has given me another year of seeing the seasons change. Autumn is a deeply personal experience for me . . . it is religious. The colors in the trees . . . the deeply golden light . . . the burning sunsets . . .they call out to me in a way nothing else does. There have been times when I’ve actually felt the light beckoning me to come outside and be with it. God calls in mysterious ways.

My poems allow me to reconnect with my soul. They allow me to find that magic place where, for a few moments, I am at total peace with my self and my life. Each poem is an attempt to capture this fleeting experience of eternal beauty.

. . . Endless Leaves . . .

The season's change
called out to me
before it settled
in the trees
and scattered light
upon my dreams
like endless piles
of endless leaves
I try to gather
from the breeze,
collecting colors
no one sees . . .

endless leaves fall
through my hands
my hopes my dreams
I take my stand
through darkened forest,
weathered trees,
to find the path
through endless leaves,
the path my heart does see . . .

there's something about
the light today . . .
the endless leaves
have blown away
revealing colors
here to stay,
leaving whispers on the breeze . . .

I await the colors of my dreams . . .

The Light Within . . .

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Emergence . . .

Archangel Michael, Emergence . . .
This is the Archangel Michael.

The actual title of this painting is “Emergence”, but over the past three years since its completion, Michael kept coming back to me over and over . . .and over. I wasn’t sure which angel this was when the painting was finished, so I used the title Emergence due to the fact that it seems to be emerging directly in front of you . . .also because it represents a landmark in the deepening of my style. With this painting I was led to a place of deeper knowledge and understanding of the abstract qualities in my work. There is line and color, and nothing else. It also represents a step towards understand something, the event, which led to the vision of my style 15 years ago.

This image is quite powerful, almost confrontational at times. It came to me during an extremely tumultuous and stressful time in my life. St. Michael is the warrior angel and protector of souls. He is revered in each of the world’s three major religions. He was created before Gabriel . . .he is the angel of mercy. His name means “Who is like God?”

One of my artistic heroes is the Italian Rococo sculptor Antonio Canova. This painting is based on one of his sculptures which lives in the Hermitage Museum, in St. Petersburg, Russia. Canova’s work was nothing short of absolute perfection. The lines, the shapes and forms are so pure, its as though they existed before the sculpture was ever conceived.

This painting is acrylic on canvas, and is 40w by 30h inches. It is on display at the Montserrat Gallery, 547 W 27 Street, New York, NY, until April 30.

Corbin Hollis Choate