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Raintown Review

April 19, 2014

R Town

The new issue of The Raintown Review includes a review of Soutine by Adam Palumbo. Getting a 200-plus page poem reviewed was a gargantuan task. Thanks to Anna Evans and Quincy Lehr for taking it on, and thanks very much to Adam, who wrote a very positive review. From which pertaining to form:

Mullin’s chosen form is terza rima, the rhyming verse form created by Dante Alighieri and employed by scores of accomplished poets ever since, including Byron, Shelley, Auden, Eliot, and Frost. Mullin expertly brings the form into the twenty-first century, blending the colorful imagery of the painter’s palate with the driving plot of Soutine’s life. His rhymes are often slant and his rhythms staggered, but the attention to form is evident and effective at establishing a framework in which to tell Soutine’s story. The terza rima form creates a linking effect from stanza to stanza, allowing the poet to bring about both a narrative and imagistic movement.

Raintown also nominated Book II, Chapter 4, the stretch on the Art Students League of New York (see previous post), for a Pushcart in 2012.

Always a lot of great work in this journal. Subscribe!


888 7th Avenue…

April 6, 2014

Reading in California~ Book II, Chapter 4, Part I. The Blood quest, NYC.

Still Life with Roses and Tortoise Head

February 16, 2014

roses and tortoise head

Oil on canvas, 20″ x 16″

View from the Chicago Fairmont

November 13, 2013


Oil on canvas, 36″ by 24″

Done from two pen sketches on hotel stationery several years ago. Found the sketches in an old sketchbook.


Local Knowledge Launch

October 25, 2013

A flashing light on our projectionist

portends a futuristic camera shot
by Leni Riefenstahl. The up-lit grimace.

~Book I, Chapter 3, Part III

Book Four, Chapter 3

August 31, 2013


Harari’s Demonstration

May 21, 2013


Book Two
Chapter 4

 La Cité Falguière

Harari 1


888 Seventh Avenue, New York.
The famous “Opera Man”, a semi-homeless
fixture, lifts his can and sets to work

another day, delivering his hopeless
arias. Removed across the Avenue
by uniforms at Carnegie Hall, the heartless

monsters, he resumes his ballyhoo
and de profundis on a sidewalk square
on 57th –just below the studio

of Ernest Crichlow on the second floor
of The Art Students League of New York.
Crichlow taught an open session there

on Thursday nights in ’93. By luck,
I’d landed at an office right across the street,
above the “Brooklyn Diner.”  What the fuck,

I thought—the League! What better place to meet
the likes of Crichlow, Romare Bearden’s partner
in the Cinque Gallery. And what could beat

three-hour sessions with the nude? Nirvana
every Thursday night. I’d cut across
the traffic snarled on 57th on a

blood quest with a bag of oil tubes tossed
and jostling on my back. It was a chance
to fail on par with painting in that most

auspicious gallery uptown. My pants
were caked with color on the night I met
a realist from the Harlem Renaissance!

Harari 3

“Another wild man!” Crichlow laughed. He’d vet
my canvas, shake his head, and say, “All right,
keep moving with the figure while it’s wet.”

When he retired, I switched to Wednesday night,
Harari’s class upstairs. Hananiah,
he was full of love. In Europe at the height

of things, at home a “Socialist pariah”—
the blacklist and the whole shebang—this gentle
man was in his eighties. An American

who figured in the School of Paris! Judgmental
he was not, but all encouragement.
“I love this color,” he would say, and bend to

see it closer in the battlement
of oil across my slab. “Spare no expense!
your métier’s impasto!” There I spent

Harari 4

my Wednesday nights. An intense experience.
The weary model, having posed all day,
conveyed a softness. I would often sense

her weight and form through color in the way
that greens and violets would develop in
the mono-fleshtone I’d naively splay

across my gessoed canvas. I’d begin
to understand what Crichlow told me: “Work
it wet, and keep up with the drama in

the pose.” Harari smiled—“I see a Turk!
An odalisque. Matisse would see the same.”
The man was going blind. Sometimes he’d lurk

behind a student quietly, then—“What’s your name?
You’re Sally, right?” “Um, Robert.” “Yes of course.”
But he could see the paintings! When he came

Harai 5

to mine, I’d watch his eyes. There is a source
of clarity in art, and in the process
of creating. And Harari had a vast resource

of images within. He could assess
a canvas with an acumen and skill
that cut through cataracts. “I’ll tell you this—

you’re learning how to work with white. It’s still
the toughest color on my palette. Agh ..,
that’s right. It’s ‘not a color!He would kill

with his derisive jabs at dilettante
opinions. I looked through catalogs and found
examples of his early work. His avant-

garde Parisian pictures brought to mind
Georges Braque. I came across a painting titled
Soutine’s Studio. Soutine? Remind

me where I heard that name. In fact the wild
landscape that unsettled me at MoMA
was the start of something huge. Beguiled,

I studied Soutine on the train, at home,
at work—it bordered on obsession. So
I asked about it. “That one? My, oh my,

it brings back memories. Did you not know
I took his studio in Cagnes? He left
a week or two before I got there, though.

We never met.” I have to say I loved
Harari all the more for this. “Where’s yours?
He’d lean into my painting. “It’s improved!

Harai 2

Come back next week and give it three more hours.”
And in the morning, there’d be Opera Man.
And I’d think, “You and me pal. Amateurs.”

Art in Translation

April 28, 2013


Dawn Potter closes her review of Soutine in New Walk, a poetry and arts journal published in the UK, quite sweetly~

It is rare to come across a writer who is able to transmit a painter’s creative visual vitality with such clarity. As a poet who is also a serious musician, I know how difficult it is to borrow one of my languages to describe the other. Mullin has found words for the wordless, without falling back on jargon or imagistic excess. He’s made me long to stand next to Soutine’s paintings:

The lava under wizened

evergreens and the bizarre catalysis
of crazing sky and undulating hills…
describing it, it seems ridiculous.

But every time I saw it, I felt chills.
I couldn’t look away. I let it churn
and work its color and its folding rills

into my consciousness. I let it burn.

A Little Mothering, Perhaps…

August 27, 2012

The word “mother” suffuses Soutine, coming up quite often as a verb. Motherhood is an important theme in Soutine’s paintings as well. He painted several portraits of women with their children on their laps, as did van Gogh. The portrayal of the women and infants in the paintings of both artists is fascinating. It is also interesting, in Soutine’s case, to compare the early paintings to the later ones. The first painting here is from 1919, the other two are from 1942. The latter are among his last. He painted many pictures of children in the two years before he died. Here are three mother/child portraits by Chaim Soutine.

From: Book I, Chapter 1—Portrait of the Village Idiot, part I

…Then she’s there,

as always, to collect him. “What a sight,”

his mother says, and pushes back his hair.

And what a sight indeed.

From: Book II, Chapter 2—Madeleine, part I

It was a matter of a good night’s sleep,

a decent meal. A little mothering,

perhaps. A day exploring in those steep

environs might have come to anything.

From Book V, Chapter  Three—Soutine in the Wind, part III

A dream and not a dream. A bleeding life,

a canvas on which subtle forms are drifting.

Mother, nurse, a model or a wife,

the lines and their relationship keep shifting.


And a van Gogh that comes to mind:

Gallery U Reading in Montclair

August 17, 2012

Chapter Two, Book 4, Part I of Soutine

Stones Jones Canzone No. 3: The Stones in Sympathy for the Devil