Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I'm still in the "do-over" mode, and still having fun do the do-overs.  OK, enough with that.

Basically, I'm creating texture with an acrylic molding paste, either alone, or mixed with paint or ink.  I like the ink because of its fluidity and um-predictability.  I start with a basic color theme in mind, and then let the work evolve.  Sometimes I preserve part of the original art, and other times everything is worked over.

Still have not come up with titles.




Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Or…why I don’t want a businessman running our country.

The United States of America is NOT a business. The government has responsibilities that go far beyond “balancing the budget”…security, postal service, regulation of interstate commerce, interstate transportation, and protecting the welfare of our neediest and most vulnerable citizens, to name only a few.

Fiscal responsibility is absolutely critical, but as a country we are about a lot more than “the bottom line”. Citizens have a right to expect certain services from their government, and they have a responsibility to pay for them. Paying taxes is not a punishment or a burden to be avoided; it is a civic duty that we all should embrace.

We are not a corporation whose only duty is to improve the bottom line for the shareholders. We are a government with a moral obligation to serve its citizens, and as citizens, we share that moral obligation.

I am not advocating fiscal irresponsibility, to the contrary, but unlike corporations, we cannot ignore our moral obligations. Depicting taxes as an evil government ploy to take your money away from you does not serve us well.

Like almost everything else, this is not and either – or situation. Reasonable, intelligent people can find a way to meet both responsibilities. Oops, I forgot; those are not the folks in congress.

Re-claiming and re-inventing

For the past several weeks I've been taking a few moments each day to look at the completed paintings that are scattered all over the studio and gallery, identifying those that I now consider to be "beyond redemption and giving them a thick new coat of gesso.  Somewhere along the way I got the idea of working with molding paste, inks, and acrylic to create what I am now calling Imagined Landscapes.

For now I have limited myself to smaller canvases and panels, and I am having fun...lots of fun; I may or may not decide to work larger. 

My plan is to show all the new work in the gallery in December on our Second Saturday gallery walk.

At this point none of the pieces have been titled.





Sunday, October 28, 2012


We read and hear a great deal about the sanctity of life, and that life is sacred.  It really is a very nice idea; unfortunately it is either not true, or if it is true our society pays no attention to it, except when it serves our cause.  Let me elaborate,

If life is indeed sacred, then we should, under NO circumstances, without exceptions, willfully destroy a life.

But few of us would accept that position.  If we, or our loved ones were threatened we believe it would be acceptable to fight back, even if it meant taking a life.  As soon as we accept that premise, then we are saying…Life is sacred, EXCEPT if we are protecting ourselves from a predator.
But what about war, and that thing we call collateral damage, where innocent people, not predators, are being killed.  That’s OK, isn’t it?  And then there is the death penalty, where we routinely kill people because of what they have done, or tragically, what they have not done.

Now we have three exceptions, and I’m sure with a little more effort we could find several more.

So when someone claims they are “pro-life”, and that they believe in the sanctity of life, what they are really saying is this; they believe life is sacred, but with a few exceptions.  And I believe that once you begin making any exceptions, then the sanctity of life becomes a hollow refrain.

So drop the sanctimonious banner of being pro-life because life is sacred. The real argument is about the exceptions, and how we, as a civil society decide what they should be.  It is not about being “pro-life”; we all are, whether we accept abortion, or the death penalty, or even collateral damage.  However, reasonable have differing views on what these exceptions should be.

One Butternut squash, two root veggies, and smoked salmon

I’m loving Butternut squash, and tonight I decided to try a variation of a very recent BN squash soup I prepared.  As before, I used a sweet potato and carrots to compliment the squash, but substituted smoked salmon for the pear, and served the soup with a garnish of asparagus, smoked salmon, and fresh Dill.  The result…a totally different aroma and flavor.


Butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1’ cubes
Sweet potato. peeled and cut into 1’ cubes
Carrot, peeled and cut into small pieces
Smoked salmon, coarsely chopped
Chicken broth
Olive oil
Garlic and green onion
Red pepper flakes
Fresh Dill
Asparagus, cooked for 2 minutes in microwave and cut into ½’ pieces
Fresh Dill
Salt and pepper to taste


Cook the garlic and onion in olive oil until soft – about 5 minutes – then add the vegetables and continue cooking over med-high heat for another 5-10 minutes.  Add the seasoning and enough broth and to cover the veggies, bring to a boil, cover and continue cooking over low heat until the veggies are soft.  Add the smoked salmon and cook for another 4-5 minutes.  Then puree with an immiscible blender or transfer to food processor.

I used a package of thinly sliced smoked salmon, saving a small amount to use as a garnish along with the asparagus.

Place the stalks of asparagus in a shallow dish with about 1 tablespoon of water, cover with plate or plastic wrap and nuke for about 1-½ minutes.  Cut and add to the soup as garnish.


Modesty prevents me from writing what I really think of this dish…so I will just call it a 10 and leave it at that.  However P says it is a 25…she can say that.  The smoked salmon, asparagus, and dill were made for one another.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The nap


I adjusted the canvas shoulder bag under my head as I lie in the cool spring grass of the park.  The abundant trees held enough young leaves to keep the bright sun out of my closed eyes.  Letting go of all thoughts, the street noise gradually retreated and I found myself in that wonderful stage between consciousness and sleep, and then – awakening to the realization that I had been sleeping, on the ground, in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square early in the afternoon on that late spring day in 1979.  After walking the streets with my camera all morning, and consuming more lunch that I really needed, sprawling on the grass in the park seemed like the only civilized thing to do.  None of the many people strolling about seemed to pay any attention to me or the others seeking comfort on the grass.  I hope I wasn’t snoring. 

Two paintings from that memorable outing, with apologies for the poor quality of the pics:

 Rittenhouse square...watercolor
 Levi's Hot Dogs...watercolor

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

1 squash, 2 root veggies, 1 fruit soup

I like soups, and I especially like thick, creamy soup, so Butter Nut squash is quickly becoming a staple in our kitchen.  Last night I thought I would try something a little different (although I am sure that someone, somewhere, at some time has done something similar if not the same.).  Wow, that is a helluva an un-intended alliteration.

The dish has three components:  First, the soup, that is ladled over roasted cabbage (the second), and third, the toasted Kale that is sprinkled over the soup.



1.    Butter Nut squash, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
2.    Sweet potatoes, 2, peeled and cut into 1” pieces (equal amount to the squash)
3.    Carrots -2- peeled and cut into small pieces
4.    One pear, peeled and cut into small pieces
5.    Green onions and garlic – coarsely chopped
6.    Fresh dill
7.    Chicken broth
8.    Red pepper flakes
9.    Brown sugar – 2 tablespoons
10. Salt and pepper


Cook the garlic an onions in olive oil until soft.  Add the pepper flakes, squash, potatoes, and carrots and cook over moderate to high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Then add enough broth to cover the vegetables, plus the chopped dill, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Add the pear and continue cooking until the veggies are soft. 

Transfer to blender or use an immiscible blender to create a creamy puree.  Return the soup to the pot, add the brown sugar and salt to taste.  Continue cooking over low heat until it is time to serve.  More broth can be added if you think the soup is too thick.



1.    One small to medium size head of cabbage
2.    Kale leafs, coarsely chopped
3.    Olive oil
4.    Salt and pepper


Mix the kale with the olive oil and seasoning in a bowl until all of it has been coated with the oil.  Spread it out on a baking pan and roast in the oven at 350 degrees until it begins to brown.  It has to be closely monitored because it can quickly become charred.  Remove, drain if needed, and allow it to cool.

Slice the cabbage crosswise in to ¾ inch slices.  Coat each side with olive oil and seasoning and place on a baking sheet in the oven at 375-400 degrees until it begins to develop a golden color.

Place the cabbage in the soup dish and cover with the soup and garnish with the Kale.  Grated Parmigiano is optional.

Both the soup and Kale can be prepared before as much as one day before the meal.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

BOSTON - a weekend that changed my life

1976 – I was 37 years old, the country was celebrating its bicentennial, and my wife, at age 34, was studying for the law school entrance exams.  Amy was 11 years old, Beth 7, and Sara 5.  My medical practice of 5 years, which had been a source of unbridled pleasure and satisfaction, was beginning to lose its luster, as my mental, emotional, and spiritual well being began to gradually decline.  Unknown to me at the time, this was to be the beginning of a journey taking me to places I never could have imagined.

State law required all physicians to complete a certain number of continuing medical educations hours (CME) in accredited courses every two years, and I was registered in an Oncology review course at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.  I arrived at the conference hall for the 9 a.m. session, and was confronted by an all too familiar CME environment, large hall with tables set up in rows facing the lectern and a large screen, and smaller tables on the sides of the hall with coffee, tea, and water.  Each registrant is given a syllabus with a daily schedule lectures and an outline of each presentation, along with a pad of paper and one or more very sharp pencils.  The lights are dimmed, the first slide is projected on the screen, and the speaker begins to read…directly from the slide, the same slide that is in the syllabus.  It takes less than 10 minutes for the sleep inducing boredom to set in; this is the last place on earth I want to be on this day, and after 30 excruciating minutes I get up and walk out, and will not return for the remainder of the 3-day course.

I walked back to the hotel to get my canvas shoulder bag with my camera, pens, and sketchbooks, and set out to explore the city.  And explore it is exactly what I did, walking through every section and neighborhood of Boston over the next 2 days.  On the third day, I took the train across the Charles River and experienced Cambridge and the Harvard campus.  I loved every minute of every day; quite remarkable for someone who was not fond of traveling, site seeing, and dining alone.  It was more than just the visual delights of the city’s remarkable urban landscape; I was experiencing an incredible sense of being centered within myself.  Everything was as it should be in my small world.  I was doing what I was intended to do. 

Those three days in Boston 36 years ago were to mark the beginning of an incredible journey, taking me through the most intense years of my life.  Four years later I would make the decision to leave my practice and pursue a life as an artist.

Friday, October 19, 2012


One of my struggles with the plant based diet is learning to cook with a minimum of fats, processed wheat, and dairy products.  A favorite dish of mine has been pasta with salmon and asparagus in a lemony cream sauce.  I am pleased to report that tonight’s dish, with several variations, was every bit as good as the pasta dish.


Quinoa – Inca red
Sweet potato
Olive oil
Garlic, onion
Fresh lemon juice
White wine
Fresh dill
Seedless grapes, cut cross wise into 3 or 4 pieces.


Bake or nuke one sweet potato, and when cooled, slice cross-wise in ¼ inch pieces.  This can be done ahead of time and the slices reheated.

Cook the Quinoa as directed on the package.  In the meantime, cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft.  Add the asparagus (cut into 1/3 inch pieces), celery, and a bit of the finely chopped dill.  Cook for about 5 minutes over medium-high heat then add the salmon (cut into bite sized pieces) plus some white wine and lemon juice.

When everything is done, place 3 or 4 slices of the potato on the plate and add the asparagus-salmon over the potatoes, and top with the sliced grapes.  Serve the Quinoa on the side, and drizzle everything with lemon juice to your preference.


Delicious...I did not miss the pasta or the cream


Breaking from the usual routine, the last 2 hours of my 12 hour drive from McKinney TX to Paducah were one of pure visual delight.  All day I had following a storm front moving west to east, and by late afternoon I found myself facing a sky laden with dark blue-gray clouds illuminated by the brilliant light from the sun deep in the absolute favorite combination of sun and clouds.  Unfortunately I could not safely stop to photograph the brilliant landscape, but I could paint it.

 Bathed in Light...acrylic...16x40

This is a theme I've visited many times in the past.   Here are several examples in acrylic from the past 6 years.

 Before the storm...24x48

 Perserverence 24x48

 Dark Skies...24x24

Summer Trees...12x48

Sunday, October 7, 2012


With a loud sigh of relief I stand back from the easel and look at the finished painting...the result of my week long effort.  I'm satisfied with what I see, until I'm not.  A few days go by and I realize what it is that bothers me; the painting needs something to help establish scale and distance.


So I add the building and a few trees, followed by another sigh of relief, and all is well, until it is not.
The very dark mountains "don't work".  They need to be lighter, like this....


Finally I'm done.  The lighter mountains have made a difference.  But have they made it a better painting?  That was yesterday.  Today I'm thinking I've gone to far, and the value of the mountains need to be somewhere between the very dark and the too light.  I'll have to think about that for a while.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

SALVATORE RENZULLI He chose his names carefully

My grandfather, Salvatore Renzulli, was born in Castelnuovo della Daunia in the providence of Foggia on November 10, 1872 to Pasquale Renzulli and Angela Maria Mazzone Renzulli.   He married Angelina Candeloro Martinelli, and the young couple, like so many others of their generation, planned to escape the poverty of southern Italy at that time by immigrating to America.  Because of a minor health problem, his wife remained in Italy and Salvatore made the journey alone, arriving at Ellis Island in March of 1902.  Angelina arrived 8 months later with their first child, Maria Stella.  After a short stay in Philadelphia they settled on a small farm in Landisville NJ.  They had 10 children: Maria Stella, later name Cornelia, was the oldest, Communardo was born in Philadelphia, and the remaining children were born on the farm: Marx, Ida, Era, Ferrar, Spartaco, and Olga.  Two children, Cipriano and Angelina died before the age of two.

Although he had very little formal schooling, my grandfather was an avid reader with a passionate interest in political and social history and the struggles of the common man.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the names he chose for his children.

Maria Stella was changed to Cornelia (Curly to her family) a Roman woman who spoke and worked for a democratic society 200 years BC.  She is the only woman from that period whose written work has survived. 

Communardo Leonido (known to family and friends as Ren), the oldest boy, was named after the Communards, French Revolutionists who fought against the aristocracy.  Leonido was a Greek patriot who led the defense of democratic Sparta.

Era Spiridanova was named after a woman who led strikes and marches to improve the working conditions in Europe in the early 1900s.

Marx Libero was named after Karl Marx, author of Das Kapital and a leading figure in the Socialist movement that was sweeping Europe in the early 20th century.  Libero translates to “free thinker”.

Bruno Ferrer (known to family and friends as Fatty) was named after Giordano Bruno, a Spanish, Dominican philosopher who was critical of the church.  Francisco Ferrer was a Spanish educator who opposed the churches role in education.  Both men were eventually executed.

Spartaco Diagoro (Duke to everyone) was the subject of recent post.

Cipriano, who died in early childhood, was named after Amilcare Cipriano, an Italian liberal who fought in Italy, France, and Spain, and like all to the other namesakes, was eventually executed.

Cipriano Lenin (Chippy to family and friends) was Cornelia’s first child and Salvatore’s first grandson.  No explanation required for the middle name.

 La Famiglia...circa early 1940s.

La Famiglia...circa 1990s  From L to R...Duke, Era, Fatty, Ren, Dolly.  Seated - Ida

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Dad...age 14

My father was born to Angelina and Salvatore Renzulli on October 27, 1913, in Landisville NJ.  His birth certificate lists his name as Spartaco Diagora Renzulli, and not Spartico as it was commonly spelled, even on his passport.  fortunately for him and everyone else, he was known as Duke.  He was 8 years old when his mother died, a loss that I now believe he felt his entire life.  While all of his older siblings completed high school and went on to college or business school, he chose to leave school after the 8th grade to work the farm with his father.  He never spoke about it, but I suspect there were times he regretted leaving school when he did.  Like his father, he loved to read; his favorite subject was political history, American and European.

My father’s name reflects the passionate social and political beliefs of my grandfather.  Spartaco was to pay homage to Spartacus, who led a failed slave revolt against the Romans.  Diagaro is Italian for Diagoras, the 5th century Greek atheist, philosopher, and poet. 

Dad (far right) with his older brothers Bruno Ferrar (left) and Commudardo Leinido (center) in front of the farm house that was to be home for the first 18 years of my life.

The names selected by my grandfather for all of his children is worthy of a post of its own.

Monday, October 1, 2012


A facebook friend recently posted a lament that our country is at risk at no longer being a “Christian nation”.  He went on to post that…” we were birthed from the womb of Biblical standards and our CONSTITUTION is based on Christian values”.

Although I agree with his comment about our values and the undeniable cultural influence of the Bible on our social and civil mores, I am not sure what he means with the term Christian nation.

The men who drafted our constitution made it quite clear that there was to be a separation of church and state.  Even with the influence of those biblical values, we are not a theocracy.  Nowhere in the constitution does it say that Christianity, or even Theism, is an official state sanctioned belief.  We are a nation that allows its citizens to embrace any religion…or no religion. 

Regarding the values that have guided our country for so many years, it is presumptuous to claim them as exclusively Christian.  Many people of different faiths or no faith embrace those same values, and it is offensive to non-Christians to imply otherwise. To call ourselves a Christian nation simply denies value to anyone who does not wear that label.  

(For further comments on "Values" see my post on March 14th of this year.)