That’s An Exhibit’s Name, a Web Site, and a Portsmouth Artist’s Sense of Humor
Showcase Magazine —a publication of Foster’s Daily Democrat , Arts and Entertainment,
Week of March 11-17, 1999
By J.L. Stevens, Showcase Writer
In his sunny immense corner of Portsmouth’s Button Factory, Roger Goldenberg can pretty much make all the noise and mess he wants.
Not that what he does is noisy or messy—though his jazz collection is large, his trumpet handy, and his sweatshirt well-flecked.
And he is good, too.
Starting off a bit shy in his blue rocker, Goldenberg turns on his roommate, Modine the heater, with a flick of the switch, and the conversation heats up to an accompaniment of WERS 88.9 FM’s Jazz Oasis.
He talks of growing up in Berlin, NH (a shibboleth accenting the first syllable he admonishes) and its cultural diversity, not having to wait to go down south, whether it be to college in North Carolina or just southern New Hampshire to where he lives, works and plays.
He takes of charges in his life: the death of his mother, the death of his dog Satchmo, the end of a long time relationship, and the death of a career as a cabinetmaker. But he speaks of a wonderful birth as well: the decision to become an artist full-time—to work at it and make a living from it.
“So much of what some artists do is about creating a realist illusion, a frozen moment, and for me that just doesn’t work,” Roger Goldenberg says. “I was trying to find a way to create sense of the ephemeral nature of the world and life.”
His paintings are his response to life in our time: Direct and bold. They reflect the drastic changes in his lifestyle, location and companions. “I think of these paintings a landscape, or ‘mindscapes.'” Goldenberg says, “They are memory pieces and allude to moments in time; a collage of instances, some lingering, some fleeting. The images challenge our illusion of permanence. The cadence is ours. The sound bite era of the ’80’s established the pace for this dialogue,” Goldenberg comments.
Though his paintings may look “quick”—the way your eye seems to be in demand by here a blue stripe, there a red squiggle—Roger Goldenberg stresses that he is a very slow painter and every stroke is considered. He likes painting in the light of gray days best and drinks coffee to keep his mood up. Jazz is a motivator for his work, and in graduate school, where he played his Charles Mingus, Art Blakey, Louis Armstrong and Sarah Vaughan CD’s, he was known as “the guy with the good music.”
“I love Jazz. I listen to it. I play along with the CD’s on my trumpet. I see a big correlation between my work—the method and the means are very similar to jazz improvisation. I just work with color and shapes and marks….” says Roger, who also plays trumpet as one of the local music group Jumbo Circus Peanut’s seven horns.
Goldenberg will be 41 in May. When he told this fact to his Introductory Drawing students at the University of New Hampshire , they were shocked and he gave them some sage advice: “I told them if I had any advice now it would be to work hard and not take life too seriously,” Goldenberg says.”
At one point, Roger took life just that way. “Way too seriously.” Now, he just takes his painting seriously, and you can see that, along with many other feelings and bench marks, if you look closely at his works.
“I think if one allows it, from their gut, your whole life shows in your work and it’s really very autobiographical,” says Goldenberg.
The only “human” representations in this painter’s studio are of himself. One is of a Berlin Reporter newspaper photograph from when he was on the from page for winning an art contest in the sixth grade. The caption aptly said, “Young artist.”
The other is tucked way out of the way beneath one of his seven large windows. It is from a time when he painted portraits, which he might do again, but for now he is attracted to his memory pieces. In his self-portrait, he looks much older that he looks today in his “thinking” cap.
“I think I’ve gotten younger,” Roger admits. “As you heal and get happier, it happens.”
And the happiness comes from his decision to make paintings his vocation rather than just the avocation it was in his youth.
“I love all colors,” Roger exclaims, ” And I think they all go together.” That means oils with names like Cadmium Red Deep join Pthalo Blue, Titanium White meets with Quinacridone Rose in an expression of joy.
Roger Goldenberg names every painting because to not do so, ” Is a cop out. Nowadays art needs to be more accessible,” he says. And naming your works, such as Crocus Bloom in My Back Yard, Cosmic Valentine, Sun Salutation II, and Spring’s Growth, allows the viewer a little closer to the them.
One way you can get closer to Goldenberg’s work is by visiting the recently opened Rye Gallery on 243 central road in Rye through April 10, where his works will find a temporary home for the exhibit his calls rgpaints.com.
On Sunday, March 14 there will be an opening reception from 3-6 p.m.
Until then, Roger Goldenberg still has lots to do: Canvases to stretch, paintings to name, trucks to borrow or rent to ship his 6′ x 5.5′ piece, and jazz to play.
But he doesn’t play to his paintings…
“Mostly you have to listen to the paintings. I swear at them now and then. Mostly they play to me, you know?”
See Goldenberg and his works for yourself at The Rye Gallery–Wednesdays-Fridays from 1-5 p.m.