Artist in Residence

Artist in Residence:

Kirk Vaughn-Robinson

 

 About the artwork

Vespers:  the sixth of the canonical hours that is said or sung in the late afternoon or a service of evening worship.

My vision for the Vesper Concerts’ artwork has been centered around the theme of sunsets representing that late afternoon and evening time of day.  My goal was to create different variations on a theme in different visual styles, from finger painting to water color, acrylic to oil, illustrative to photographic, realistic to fantastical.  Some pieces are whimsical, some literal, while some are my own imaginative musings.  For more about this, scroll down and read about the creation of the Vesper Concerts logo image.

 

New for our 2019-20 Season!

 

 

Summer’s End

 

This piece was inspired by a recent trip to the coast.  It was the end of summer and school hadn’t started yet.  The drive should have only taken an hour and a half.  It took three.  When I arrived, the town I was visiting was packed with people and I drove around looking for parking that I would never find.  I could see the bayside of the beach area where sunbathers in their beach chairs were lined up, armrest to armrest, like a wall of people.  But as it would happen, as I left the crowded center of town and the beaches, I drove by a sign for a museum that was tucked away on a large beautifully manicured campus with outdoor sculptures.  From the road, behind the low profile modern building, I could see the ocean.  As I walked around it’s interior admiring the beautiful artwork, I finally made my way out to the back portion of the campus and rocky cliffs of the coast.  It was quiet, calm and exactly what I was hoping to see during this visit.  It was a reminder that often  times what appears to be a set of challenges, difficulty, and  disappointment, are merly detours to get us to where we’re ultimately meant to be, and in my case, find inspiration.

 

 

 

Fireflies

 

To this day whenever I smell fresh mowed grass, I think of my father.  We lived on seven acres of woods in northern Indiana when I was a young boy.  My dad kept the yard closest to the house mowed but would let large sections of grass grow wild and tall up the hill where he would mow a maze of winding pathways through the tall grass.  He explained that the tall grass was where the animals would make their homes.

I remember getting so excited when it was time for the fireflies to entertain us with nightly shows.  I remember one summer my father tapped holes into the metal lid of a pickel jar after my mother had washed and scraped away the lable.  He walked with me and we gathered some grass and leaves and dropped them into the bottom of the jar.  He then told me to see if I could catch some of the fireflies and he would help me put them into the jar.  What happened next truly amazed my young mind… he took the jar of fireflies into my dark bedroom where he put it on the dresser and we sat on the end of my bed and watched the fireflies flash and dance.

 

 

 

…And Yet She Persisted

 

The image for this piece was inspired by a competition I was invited to take part in titled…S/he Persisted.  I’ve reimagined the title as …And Yet She Persisted

I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by strong women all my life.  I’ve listened and learned from those who have fought to reinvent themselves.  Even through the loss of a spouse, loss of a child, loss of one or both breasts or other limbs, the loss of their hair, beloved pets, and jobs.  I’ve rejoiced with them when they beat horrific diseases or overcome traumatic life events, or sometimes escaped with just the clothes they are wearing.  I created this image with all of them in mind, absent all the exterior trappings of how society typically looks to define a woman.

 

 

 

Im Abendrot

 

Through Sorrow and joy we have gone hand in hand;
we are both at rest from our wanderings now above the quiet land.
Around us, the valleys bow as the sun goes down.
Only two larks soar musingly into the haze.
Come close and let them fly, soon it will be time for sleep –
let’s not lose our way in this solitude.
O vast, tranquil peace, so deep in the evening’s glow!
How weary we are of wondering – is this perhaps a hint of death?

Im Abendrot is the final song in Richard Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder song cycle with text by Joseph von Eichdndorff.

 

 

 

Cloudscape

 

This is a section of a larger work that I created.  I found that I was drawn to this section as a different vantage point for the story I was telling – as if flying among the clouds and seeing the reflection of the sun setting as it sinks below the horizon.  I also like that there is not the typical relationship between the sun and the horizon, but the time of day is clear.

 

 

 

 

 

The Sun Never Sets on the Emerald City

 

As I was creating this piece I wasn’t really sure what was coming through.  It was a little “dark” a little dystopian in its feel.  I considered brightening it, but there was something about it I really liked, as is.  The color scheme reminded me of the description of East Egg in The Great Gatsby and the famous book cover art by Francis Cugat.  There was something about the orange, blues and then the introduction of the green of the city that was dark, but not sad.  Then it struck me – it’s OZ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Mexico Summer

 

I was at lunch one day and the idea for this piece came to mind.  I did a simple finger sketch on an app on my phone so I wouldn’t forget the idea – a simple landscape comprised of just four lines and four colors.  There was something in the simplicity of the piece that I really liked, but I wasn’t sure if it would be “acceptable” as a piece for the series.  I lived with it for a few days and then decided to create a second version that was more developed.  Comparing the two, you can still see the outline of the four lines and the color scheme of the four separate areas.

Angels Among Us

 

Do not forget to show kindness and hospitality to strangers,
for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
Hebrews 13:2  – NIV

I had not had a dog since I was in high school.  In my late 40s, I had no reason to want one.  But one day in early August, a light switch went on inside me and I said to myself, “I need a dog”.  It was weird.  But by the end of the month Bentley, a three year old, 2o pound, Jack Russel/Beagle mix, entered my life.  When we first met, I knelt on the floor and Bentley happily trotted up to me, raised himself up on his hind legs like a meerkat with his front legs down at his side.  He then placed one paw on my chest, on my heart, and started sniffing my forehead, then sniffed my eyes, and then licked the end of my nose.  He went back to standing on all fours in front of me and looked up as if to ask, “Well?”.  I knew in that moment that he was supposed to be my dog.  He knew it too.

Like Mary Poppins, Bentley had come into my life at the exact right moment, to be my constant companion for the next five years through unexpectedly, my darkest time when my life hit rock bottom.  Bentley, it seems, was cued in and up for the task of sometimes being my only reason to get out of bed in the mornings.   Often times while sitting on my couch he would hop up on my lap facing me and put his front legs on my shoulders, on either side of my neck. He would then press his chest into mine and lay his head on my shoulder, press in even closer, and hug me close.  After five years of hard work, my new life started to emerge and redefine itself.  As unexpected and quickly as Bentley came into my life, it was his time to go.  This October marks the one year anniversary of Bentley’s passing.  I now realize that Bentley was divinely placed in my life for a time period that was truly life saving.  He loved me unconditionally and allowed me to love him with everything I had within me, without criticism or fault finding.  In hindsight we sometimes realize those times when we might have entertained an angel.

I woke up one night thinking about this photo I had taken.  But when I actually looked it up on my phone, it was in black and white and pixilated and went out of focus when I enlarged it.  I decided to trace the photo and then colorized it for clarity and vibrancy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works from Past Seasons

 

 

 

 

Creation

 

…Can there be any day but this,
though many suns to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we miss:
there is but one, and that one ever.

– George Herbert

The image is representational of a number of things.  The poem is the last portion of I Got Me Flowers from The Five Mystical Songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams.  The text is originally from four poems by George Herbert from 1633 titled The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations.  For brevity, I won’t go into how the text ties to the piece at this time.

The setting sun has been an on-going theme for the artwork I’ve created for Vesper Concerts.  In this picture the sun is shining behind the viewer, illuminating the main image for the viewer.

For me, the figure symbolically represents the earth, but the earth depicted as a man, collectively as mankind, out alone in the infinite darkness of the Universe.  The piece is lit from behind, as if the earth’s topography is etched into it’s surface.  I’ve seen pictures of Earth from outer-space where the oceans radiate this vibrant blue.  The other colors are the mountains and valleys of the dry land.

I’ve titled this piece CREATION and tried to leave it open for interpretation.  Which day of Creation is it?  Is it the sixth day where Adam has been created, and he is looking out into space contemplating his place in the Universe?  Or is it after the Fall, and he’s alone and looking for God in the vast emptiness?

Could it be the moment before man was even created, and the image in the picture is God contemplating, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” and we see, off in the distance, the lights from our constellation coming into being?   Like in this picture, in the Old Testament Moses only saw God from behind on the mountain, and not his full face.  “…you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ocean Vesper

 

Thy lips are like a sunset glow.
Thy smile is like a morning sky,
yet leave me, leave me, let me go
and see the land where corals lie.
The land, the land where corals lie

I painted this while I was on vacation this past summer. It was my time at the beach and view of the ocean along with the chance that my recording of Elgar’s Sea Pictures, op. 37 for orchestra and contralto, cycled through on my iPod. Dame Janet Baker’s rich contralto and interpretation of the text and musical line, along with Elgar’s sweeping orchestrations, hauntingly captures the serenity, power, and mystery of the sea.

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn’s Farewell

 

The property line of the back field of our neighbor’s farm joined the edge of the of the seven acres of woods that our house was situated on for my very early years as a child in the mid 60’s.  The woods that surrounded our house was my playground.  Many of the tree stumps or the occasional downed tree trunks were some of the first theatrical stages upon which I performed.  Both the simplicity and color of this piece is reminiscent of some the Mid-Century Modern artwork that I associate with this time of my life.

 

 

 

 

 

In His Hands

 

I was doodling one day and came up with this really interesting shape which is now the bottom portion of the picture.  As I sat and stared, this idea for a light burst at the crook of the shape came to mind.  I was playing around with it and all of the sudden the rest of painting came to me – the moon, the color of “Space”, the intense lighting outline of the original shape (the space cloud as I called it), all came into focus for me.

I had worked on it for many hours and put it away for the night. When I came back to the piece the next day, I took one look and saw a very abstract hand in the shape of the space cloud with the thumb pointing up and the light burst of a distant sun coming from the palm of the hand and gentle graceful fingers blending into the silhouette of the cloud.

As so many things in my life are inspired by music, a recording of opera singer Leontyne Price singing a verse of a gospel song came immediately to mind, “…He’s got the sun and the moon in His hands…”

 

 

 

 

Kirk’s painting “Ain’t It a Pretty Night” is available for purchase as a limited-addition print, signed and numbered by the artist. Contact kristi@vesperconcerts.org for details. Proceeds go to Vesper Concerts.

 

Ain’t It A Pretty Night

 

One of my favorite pieces of music is an aria from the opera Susannah, by Carlisle Floyd titled, Ain’t It A Pretty Night.  In the aria a young Susannah sings of her longing for adventure and change from her life in a small Tennessee valley town in the Appalachian Mountains.   The instrumental opening introduction to the aria has always struck me as pure Americana and the quiet reverie of evening setting in. In my imagination, that instrumental opening and the night that Susannah describes, maybe starts with a beautiful, misty, watercolor mountain sunset that gives way to a clear, starry night.

 

 

 

 

Vesper Concerts Logo

 

I was invited to be the Visual Artist in Residence for the Vesper Concerts in 2017 and to create individual pieces of artwork for each concert of the 2017/2018 concert season as well as opportunities for the images to be used for advertising for the series. Ideally, this artwork would capture the essence of the concert series, as well as the season, in one colorful glance.

In talking with Kristi Treu & Stacie Haneline I understood that they were wanting to launch Vesper Concerts in a new direction, but they still wanted to honor the history, hard work and accomplishments of the past. I started off looking up exactly what the word vespers meant. Vesper with a capital “V” was defined as, a planet (usually Venus) seen at sunset in the western sky. Vesper, with a lower case “v” was defined as, a late afternoon or evening worship service.

The challenge was, how do I capture this idea in a piece of artwork? With the romance of Venus and the the idea of early evening worship services, I came up with the concept of evening sunsets. I would create five different pieces that would be different interpretations and different artistic approaches to the idea of “sunset”.

Often when people think of a concert or a concert series, an image that might come to mind is dressed up, buttoned up, suits and fancy dress. In talking with Kristi and Stacie, what came across to me was a series that was accessible, open to all, and family friendly. The idea of family friendly stood out to me because it is something that is all inclusive as well as having the potential to introduce the next generations of concert goers to the Vesper Concerts series.

The first piece that I created was inspired by the idea of family friendly art and how a child might draw a sunset. I was immediately taken back to kindergarten, where my teacher, Mrs. Gavigan, would tape down large pieces of paper in front of me, and in front of each of my classmates, and invite us to put our fingers into the paints and create! This piece was a playful experiment for me to play and get my fingers into the paints, so to speak. Vesper Concerts also chose this as the new logo for the series.

 

 

 

 

Arctic Circle Sunset

 

As the February concert date approached, I was imagining how to interpret a sunset for this time of year. It didn’t make sense for me to create another sunset that felt warm and balmy. I was toying with the idea of a winter sunset, but also wanted to create something bright, colorful, and eye catching. This is my interpretation of a frozen northern ocean off the coast of the Arctic Circle. The frozen ocean reflects the clear, sub-zero, sky of a winter’s sunset.

 

 

 

 

It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere

 

Sunsets, sunsets, and more sunsets…I closed my eyes and asked myself, “How many sunsets can you come up with that aren’t repetitive and differ in artistic style?” I zipped around in my imagination, going from sunset, to sunset, to sunset of the myriad of sunsets that I have seen over my lifetime, and taken for granted to the point that, in this moment, I could no longer differentiate one from another. “Well, you’ve never seen a sunset from outer space,” came a reply. 

 

 

 

 

Summer Carnival Sunset

 

This is the last sunset of the concert season. It was a particularly frigid, snowy, winter’s day and my imagination wandered to summer. This piece is a geometrical, Art Deco flavored sunset at a summer carnival. The main image is representational of both the sunset and a carnival’s Ferris wheel.