Thursday, November 05, 2009



I had the pleasure of meeting with Pomona College Museum of Art Montgomery Art Center Assistant Director Steve Comba this week to experience something so intense I have to wrench back a word into real language and call it awesome. Nothing inspires awe like real art, but real art up close and personal, with the Museum's Assistant Director at your side and all the time in the world to look at it, to draw impact from it, to savor it at angles, under the lights, on a table, just you…yes, awesome is the word.

I am privileged to be among a handful of local artists chosen to participate in a joint da Art Center/Montgomery Art Center project called In Front of the Real Thing. This project allows the artists to choose an object in the Museum's extensive collection for private study. The artist may then produce a work inspired by the piece which will be part of a public exhibition at the da Art Center in January of 2010.

Not content with one masterpiece, I chose two – and the Museum graciously allowed me this extravagance. My two chosen works are from the Kress Collection, Madonna and Child, a religious painting in the School of Barnaba Modena, c. 1370-1380 and from the Modern Art Collection,  Untitled, 1971, a lithograph by Sam Francis. I know they may look wildly different at first, but I see only the similarities when I look at them. My work, an oil painting, is inspired by the similarities I see.

After choosing a canvas in the right (for me) size and proportions, I then layered on fifteen coats of gesso, the last dozen in texture. This is not just homage to the Italian masters who gessoed their wooden boards, sanding them between coats to achieve that beautiful satiny finish, but also a way to achieve the raised splatter textures necessary to the work.

I met with Father Bill Moore to talk about what exactly halos are so I could get them right. I wanted to avoid the golden-plate-on-the-back-of-the-head concept while abstracting the image to its most basic form.

Then it was time to find an oil-based gilding medium (gold paint) that was in the right consistency for droplets to splash properly. After much experimentation, I found the right stuff, but it takes 21 days to dry. It's drying now.

More on the progress of the work as I finish it – the color will be transparent oil glaze thinned to the consistency of ink wash and will echo the reds, blues and yellows in both paintings.

I'll keep you posted on the progress of the work. Here are a couple of pics of the progress:

I have a bunch of new stuff up at the Sugar Rush Café & Gallery – it's worth a trip for their excellent food and artisanal coffee even if you aren't a big fan of the paintings.


I finished a Christmas story last week and sent if off to a magazine that has a tracking application online. Of course, I check it daily. Five days in slush and still not read – I may have to volunteer as a slush reader to get it going.

The really tough writing project I am working on is a novel I wrote in 1998. Back then, I thought I was a novelist and knocked out 3 or 4 long works - adventure/mysteries - that I thought were really good. Hah! Shows what little I knew! They needed a lot of work. So I shelved them (one was actually agented and had some interest from St. Martin's Press, only back then I didn't know enough about revisions to do the necessary rewrites.) But I had lunch yesterday with an old friend, a dear friend, who asked about that particular book and remembered it fondly.

So I am re-reading it first (I have a copy printed on my old laser printer) then doing a page-by-page rewrite into my computer. I used to have this work on an ancient five-inch floppy disc, but who knows what happened to that and what I could use to extract the info anyway. Also, I think it was in one of the very first iterations of Word Perfect.

I want to salvage the basic story, change the main character to one I have been developing, and update the technology (both in the storyline and what I use to write with.)

Maybe it will be a successful project. If so, I have three more "Trunk Novels" that could get the same treatment, if they're worth it.


My friend and mentor, Colonel George Francis O'Connor, died last week of complications of esophageal cancer. He was 86, old to some of you, but still young to me.

George made my life in the Army an exciting trip through the world of Counterintelligence. He spotted & recruited me, then made sure I got the training and opportunities necessary to make me into an agent. I was privileged to work several missions with him. As one of very few women in units mostly made up of Vietnam War veterans, it was tough going at first, but gentlemen like Col. O'Connor, First Sergeant Eddie Scroggins and CW4 Artie Gibford made sure I got equal opportunities and they cut me no slack on performance. I loved them all dearly – even more when we were called to war during Desert Storm and I was one scared puppy. Okay, we were a litter of scared puppies.

I wish I could tell you all the funny stories of the things we did. I nearly laughed out loud at the funeral when LTC Glenn Miller leaned over and told me about the time they ran a convoy to the Madonna Inn. I told him about the time George "decorated" a few of us after a mission no one could talk about. He knew we were disappointed that no one could talk about a rather nice thing we had done (we were the Good Guys, after all) so he wrote up notional citations under the nom de plume "Col. Murphy" – I still have mine, neatly framed, citing us in the most incredible and very funny terms for something never mentioned.

There's not enough space here to outline his remarkable life – he was commissioned before I was born – but he was a real gentleman – and a real hero. He made me proud to serve. Good bye, George. A grateful nation will miss you, but no one more than I.


Terry O'Connor, George's son – remembering the good times.

The flowers, of course.

And the way real art – like time – can heal.

Be careful out there.


John Clifford said...

A lovely post. Please keep them up. I'm sure that there are more than just me reading. Some posts are great but don't really require comments. But ssy something someone DOESN'T like and you get comments galore.

Kate Thornton said...

Yes, John, that's so true!
I try to update monthly, but get behind - life sometimes overtakes my best intentions when it comes to updating the blog. I am glad you enjoy it!

Kathleen said...


I love the way you write. I will add you to the blogs that I read. Good luck with the painting. I look forward to seeing the finihed art in January.

You know I enjoy reading anything that you write. I will send your blog to all the Home Tour Team.


Kate Thornton said...

Thank you, Kathleen - I appreciate your time & comments and I am delighted you enjoy it.

Clare said...

What a wonderful tribute. Thank you for sharing it.

Kate Thornton said...

Clare, I am honored by your visit - you were my original inspiration to find and include Three Beautiful Things in every blog post I write. Thank you for opening my eyes to the small - but important - beauties in life.

Anonymous said...

I love the way you write. I will add you to the blogs that I read. Good luck with the painting. I look forward to seeing the finihed art in January.
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