Sentient in San Francisco – 12 December 2018

This Date in Art History: Born 12 December 1863 – Edvard Munch, a Norwegian painter and illustrator: Part I of II.

Below – “Kiss”; “Ashes”; “Anxiety”; “At the Coffee Table”; “Sister Inger”; “Lady from the Sea.”

A Poem for Today

“Look for Me”
by Ted Kooser

Look for me under the hood
of that old Chevrolet settled in weeds
at the end of the pasture.

I’m the radiator that spent its years
bolted in front of an engine
shoving me forward into the wind.

Whatever was in me in those days
has mostly leaked away,
but my cap’s still screwed on tight

and I know the names of all these
tattered moths and broken grasshoppers
the rest of you’ve forgotten.

This Date in Art History: Born 12 December 1863 – Edvard Munch, a Norwegian painter and illustrator: Part II of II.

Below – “Morning”; “Spring”; “Summer Night (Inger on the Shore)”; “Moonlight on the Shore”; “Eye in Eye”; “The Hands.”


Remembering a Writer on the Date of His Death: Died 12 December 1999 – Joseph Heller, an American novelist, short story writer, playwright, and author of “Catch-22.”

Some quotes from the work of Joseph Heller:

“It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.”
“When I grow up I want to be a little boy.”
“Peace on earth would mean the end of civilization as we know it.
“The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them.”
“You know, that might be the answer – to act boastfully about something we ought to be ashamed of. That’s a trick that never seems to fail.”
“The question is: what is a sane man to do in an insane society?
“The enemy is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he’s on.”
“What is a country? A country is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural. Englishmen are dying for England, Americans are dying for America, Germans are dying for Germany, Russians are dying for Russia. There are now fifty or sixty countries fighting in this war. Surely so many countries can’t all be worth dying for.”
“The night was full of horrors, and he thought he knew how Christ must have felt as he walked through the world, like a psychiatrist through a ward full of nuts.”
“There was no telling what people might find out once they felt free to ask whatever questions they wanted to.”

Contemporary British Art – Gina Parr

Below – “Haptic perception”; “A series of giant steps IV”; “Place”; “Summerland”; “When the river meets the sea”; “River mouth.”

Remembering a Writer on the Date of Her Death: Died 12 December 2016 – Shirley Hazzard, an Australian-American novelist, short story writer, essayist, author of “The Great Fire,” and recipient of the National Book Award.

Some quotes from the work of Shirley Hazzard:

“At first, there is something you expect of life. Later, there is what life expects of you. By the time you realize these are the same, it can be too late for expectations. What we are being, not what we are to be. They are the same thing.”
“Human beings need unhappiness at least as much as they need happiness.”
“Did you ever notice how easy it is to forgive a person any number of faults for one endearing characteristic, for a certain style, or some commitment to life – while someone with many good qualities is insupportable for a single defect if it happens to be a boring one?
It is the impulse of our century, with its nearly religious belief in magnitude, to fling an institution into every void.”
“Since the moment of the United Nations’ inception, untold energies have been expended by governments not only toward the exclusion of persons of principle and distinction from the organization’s leading positions, but toward the installation of men whose character and affiliations would as far as possible preclude any serious challenge to governmental sovereignty.”
“In the circle where I was raised, I knew of no one knowledgeable in the visual arts, no one who regularly attended musical performances, and only two adults other than my teachers who spoke without embarrassment of poetry and literature — both of these being women. As far as I can recall, I never heard a man refer to a good or a great book. I knew no one who had mastered, or even studied, another language from choice. And our articulate, conscious life proceeded without acknowledgement of the preceding civilisations which had produced it.”
“Marriage is like democracy – it doesn’t really work, but it’s all we’ve been able to come up with.”
“Nothing creates such untruth in you as the wish to please.”
“Great literature is like moral leadership; everyone deplores the lack of it, but there is a tendency to prefer it from the safely dead.”
“Americans’ great and secret fear is that America may turn out to be a phenomenon rather than a civilization.”
“There is balance in life, but not fairness”.
“The tragedy is not that love doesn’t last. The tragedy is the love that lasts.”


Contemporary Dutch Art – Astrid Oudheusden

Below – “Memory of Landscape”; “No Flood”; “Drawing Emma while on the Phone with Emma”; “The Shirt”; “American”; “Wanderlust”; “Dog Life.”


Remembering a Writer on the Date of His Death: Died 12 December 1889 – Robert Browning, an English poet, playwright, and master of the dramatic monologue.

“Love in a Life”
by Robert Browning

Room after room,
I hunt the house through
We inhabit together.
Heart, fear nothing, for, heart, thou shalt find her,
Next time, herself!—not the trouble behind her
Left in the curtain, the couch’s perfume!
As she brushed it, the cornice-wreath blossomed anew,—
Yon looking-glass gleamed at the wave of her feather.

Yet the day wears,
And door succeeds door;
I try the fresh fortune—
Range the wide house from the wing to the centre.
Still the same chance! she goes out as I enter.
Spend my whole day in the quest,—who cares?
But ‘tis twilight, you see,—with such suites to explore,
Such closets to search, such alcoves to importune!

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Sentient in San Francisco – 11 December 2018

American Art – Maynard Dixon (1875-1946)

“To me, no painter has ever quite understood the light, the distances, the aboriginal ghostliness of the American West as well as Maynard Dixon. The great mood of his work is solitude, the effect of land and space on people. While his work stands perfectly well on its claims to beauty, it offers a spiritual view of the West indispensable to anyone who would understand it.” – Thomas McGuane, American author.

Below – “Boulder Valley, Utah”; “Rain For The Gulf”; “Desert Mesa”; “Desert Journey”; “Remembrance of Tusayan”; November in Nevada.”


Remembering a Nobel Laureate on the Date of His Birth: Born 11 December 1918 – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a Russian novelist, historian, short story writer, and recipient of the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Some quotes from the work of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
“The strength or weakness of a society depends more on the level of its spiritual life than on its level of industrialization. Neither a market economy nor even general abundance constitutes the crowning achievement of human life. If a nation’s spiritual energies have been exhausted, it will not be saved from collapse by the most perfect government structure or by any industrial development. A tree with a rotten core cannot stand.”
“It’s an universal law– intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”
“You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: “Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.”
“The timid civilized world has found nothing with which to oppose the onslaught of a sudden revival of barefaced barbarity, other than concessions and smiles.”
“Unlimited power in the hands of limited people always leads to cruelty.”
“If you want to change the world, who do you begin with, yourself or others? I believe if we begin with ourselves and do the things that we need to do and become the best person we can be, we have a much better chance of changing the world for the better.”

Contemporary Iranian/Canadian Art – Majid Eskandari

Below – Untitled – A/29; Untitled – J/10; Untitled – J/9; Untitled – M/17; Untitled – A/34; Untitled – M/14.


Remembering a Writer on the Date of His Birth: Born 11 December 1932 – Keith Waldrop, an American author, poet, and recipient of the National Book Award.

“Poet”
by Keith Waldrop

The wind dying, I find a city deserted, except for crowds of
people moving and standing.
Those standing resemble stories, like stones, coal from the
death of plants, bricks in the shape of teeth.

I begin now to write down all the places I have not been—
starting with the most distant.
I build houses that I will not inhabit.


Contemporary Polish Art – Robert Babel

Below – “Places II”; “Next station Maslonskie-Natlin”; “A koc się już sfilcował”; “In daylight everything looks different”; “Loneliness.”

Remembering an Influential Musician on the Date of His Death: Died ii December 2012 – Ravi Shankar, an Indian sitar player and composer.

Contemporary Croatian Art – Lena Kramaric: Part I of II.

Below – “Season changes”; “Summer snow”; “Relations 2”; “Red socks”; “Another media, another technique, same author”; “Relations 3.”


Remembering a Writer on the Date of Her Birth: Born 11 December 1922 – Grace Paley, an award-winning American short story writer and poet.

“Walking in the Woods”
by Grace Paley

That’s when I saw the old maple
a couple of its thick arms cracked
one arm reclining half rotted
into earth black with the delicious
hospitality of rot to the
littlest creatures

the tree not really dying living
less widely green head high
above the other leaf-crowded
trees a terrible stretch to sun
just to stay alive but if you’ve
liked life you do it

Below – William Lester Stevens: “Old Maple Tree.”

Contemporary Croatian Art – Lena Kramaric: Part II of II.

Below – “If I ever feel better”; “Royal”; “Red in the snow”; “Over the snow-border 3”; “Wherefrom snow”; “Dubrovnik (duck) in the palm (of your hand).”


Remembering a Writer on the Date of His Birth: Born 11 December 1939 – Thomas McGuane, an American novelist, short story writer, and screenwriter.

Some quotes from the work of Thomas McGuane:

“We have reached the time in the life of the planet, and humanity’s demand upon it, when every fisherman will have to be a river-keeper, a steward of marine shallows, a watchman on the high seas. We are beyond having to put back what we have taken out. We must put back more than we take out.”
“I’d be happy to have my biography be the stories of my dogs. To me, to live without dogs would mean accepting a form of blindness.”
“The occupational hazard of making a spectacle of yourself, over the long haul, is that at some point you buy a ticket too.”
“My life was the best omelette you could make with a chainsaw.”
“Something had gone amiss with men, and the weak ones were dangerous.”
“An undisturbed river is as perfect as we will ever know, every refractive slide of cold water a glimpse of eternity.”
“I may be the wrong person for my life.”

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Sentient in San Francisco – 10 December 2018

Contemporary Czech Art – Jiri Havlik

Below – “In My Dreams”; “The Three Graces”; “Living room in the evening”; “Helen’s dogs”; “On the road”; “In the morning.”

A Poem for Today

“Sunday”

by January O’Neil”

You are the start of the week
or the end of it, and according
to The Beatles you creep in
like a nun. You’re the second
full day the kids have been
away with their father, the second
full day of an empty house.
Sunday, I’ve missed you. I’ve been
sitting in the backyard with a glass
of Pinot waiting for your arrival.
Did you know the first Sweet 100s
are turning red in the garden,
but the lettuce has grown
too bitter to eat. I am looking
up at the bluest sky I have ever seen,
cerulean blue, a heaven sky
no one would believe I was under.
You are my witness. No day
is promised. You are absolution.
You are my unwritten to-do list,
my dishes in the sink, my brownie
breakfast, my braless day.

Below – Amalee: “Relaxing Woman.”

Contemporary Canadian Art – Ieva Baklane: Part I of II.

Below – “Summer”; “Graffiti wall and ocean”; “Evening Cloud”; “Ocean in the end of the street”; “Pool by the Beach”; “Black Cube and Muses.”

Remembering a Writer on the Date of Her Birth: Born 10 December 1830 – Emily Dickinson, an American poet.

“I taste a liquor never brewed”
by Emily Dickinson

I taste a liquor never brewed –
From Tankards scooped in Pearl –
Not all the Frankfort Berries
Yield such an Alcohol!

Inebriate of air – am I –
And Debauchee of Dew –
Reeling – thro’ endless summer days –
From inns of molten Blue –

When “Landlords” turn the drunken Bee
Out of the Foxglove’s door –
When Butterflies – renounce their “drams” –
I shall but drink the more!

Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats –
And Saints – to windows run –
To see the little Tippler
Leaning against the – Sun!

Below – Caspar David Friedrich: “Woman Before the Rising Sun.”


Contemporary Canadian Art – Ieva Baklane: Part II of II.

Below – “Oceanside”; “Sunshine Coast”; “12 PM”; “Yellow door”; “Pink Wall”; “Summer Residence of Mr. Karlsson.”

Remembering a Writer on the Date of Her Birth: Born 10 December 1925 – Carolyn Kizer, an American poet and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize.

“Bitch”
by Carolyn Kizer

Now, when he and I meet, after all these years,
I say to the bitch inside me, don’t start growling.
He isn’t a trespasser anymore,
Just an old acquaintance tipping his hat.
My voice says, “Nice to see you,”
As the bitch starts to bark hysterically.
He isn’t an enemy now,
Where are your manners, I say, as I say,
“How are the children? They must be growing up.”
At a kind word from him, a look like the old days,
The bitch changes her tone; she begins to whimper.
She wants to snuggle up to him, to cringe.
Down, girl! Keep your distance
Or I’ll give you a taste of the choke-chain.
“Fine, I’m just fine,” I tell him.
She slobbers and grovels.
After all, I am her mistress. She is basically loyal.
It’s just that she remembers how she came running
Each evening, when she heard his step;
How she lay at his feet and looked up adoringly
Though he was absorbed in his paper;
Or, bored with her devotion, ordered her to the kitchen
Until he was ready to play.
But the small careless kindnesses
When he’d had a good day, or a couple of drinks,
Come back to her now, seem more important
Than the casual cruelties, the ultimate dismissal.
“It’s nice to know you are doing so well,” I say.
He couldn’t have taken you with him;
You were too demonstrative, too clumsy,
Not like the well-groomed pets of his new friends.
“Give my regards to your wife,” I say. You gag
As I drag you off by the scruff,
Saying, “Goodbye! Goodbye! Nice to have seen you again.”

Below – Mara Light: “Divided.”


Contemporary American Art – Laura Spring

Below – “In the Shadows”; “Windswept 2”; “Dark vs Light”; “Night Illuminated”; “White Nights”; “Into a Dreamworld.”


Remembering a Writer on the Date of His Death: Died 10 December 1972 – Mark Van Doren, an American poet, critic, and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize.

“Nothing Stays”
by Mark Van Doren

Nothing stays
not even change,
That can grow tired
of it’s own name;
The very thought
too much for it.

Somewhere in air
a stillness is,
So far, so thin-
But let it alone.
Whoever we are
it is not for us.

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Sentient in San Francisco – 9 December 2018

This Date in Art History: Died 9 December 1943 – Georges Dufrenoy, a French painter.

Below – “Les élégantes à Gand”; “Venise à la fenêtre”; “Bouquet of Flowers”; “Places des Vosges”; “Le panier de provision”; “La place de la Bastille.”


A Poem for Today

“Summer Apples”
by Cathryn Essinger

I planted an apple tree in memory
of my mother, who is not gone,

but whose memory has become
so transparent that she remembers

slicing apples with her grandmother
(‘yellow apples; blue bowl’) better than

the fruit that I hand her today. Still,
she polishes the surface with her thumb,

holds it to the light and says with no
hesitation, ‘Oh, Yellow Transparent . . .

they’re so fragile, you can almost see
to the core.’ She no longer remembers how

to roll the crust, sweeten the sauce, but
her desire is clear—it is pie that she wants.

And so, I slice as close as I dare to the core—
to that little cathedral to memory—where

the seeds remember everything they need
to know to become yellow and transparent.

This Date in Art History: Died 9 December 1991 – Berenice Abbott, an American photographer.

Below – “Bowery Restaurant”; “Manhattan Skyline”; “Encampment of the Unemployed, New York City, 1935”; “Pennsylvania Station”; “Seventh Avenue, looking south from 35th Street”; “Hardware Store on the Bowery in Manhattan.”

Remembering a Writer on the Date of Her Death: Died 9 December 1964 – Edith Sitwell, an English poet and critic.

Some quotes from the work of Edith Sitwell:

“I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.”
“My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence.”
“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home. It is no season in which to wander the world as if one were the wind blowing aimlessly along the streets without a place to rest, without food, and without time meaning anything to one, just as time means nothing to the wind.”
“Poetry ennobles the heart and the eyes, and unveils the meaning of all things upon which the heart and the eyes dwell. It discovers the secret rays of the universe, and restores to us forgotten paradises.”
“I am not eccentric. It’s just that I am more alive than most people. I am an unpopular electric eel set in a pond of goldfish.”
“Vulgarity is, in reality, nothing but a modern, chic, pert descendant of the goddess Dullness.”
“The child and the great artist — these alone receive the sensation fresh as it was at the beginning of the world.”
“The poet speaks to all men of that other life of theirs that they have smothered and forgotten.”

Below – Roger Fry: “Portrait of Edith Sitwell.”

This Date in Art History: Died 9 December 2015 – Soshana Afroyim, an Austrian painter.

Below – “Outside Havana”; “Alone in Mexico”; “NY Central Park”; “Thai Temples”; Untitled; “Kyoto.”

A Poem for Today

“Porcupine”
by Kelly Madigan

You think we are the pointed argument,
the man drunk at the party showing off
his gun collection, the bed of nettles.

What we really are is hidden from you:
girl weeping in the closet among her stepfather’s boots;
tuft of rabbit fur caught in barbed wire; body of the baby
in the landfill; boy with the shy mouth playing his guitar
at the picnic table, out in the dirt yard.

We slide into this world benign and pliable,
quills pressed down smooth over back and tail.
Only one hour here stiffens the barbs into thousands
of quick retorts. Everything this well-guarded
remembers being soft once.

Contemporary Dutch Art – Peter de Boer

Below – “Skyhouses”; “Caravan paradise III”; “From my Tent to the Sea”; “To the Sea”; “Oregon”; “Houseplant waterfall.”

A Poem for Today

“Nothing But Good…”
by Sarah White

I will not speak ill of Jack Flick.
I will rarely look
at the scar he made on my cheek
one summer at the lake.

I won’t speak ill of Jack whose freckles
and gangly legs are gone.
So is the drained face I saw when he saw
what he’d done with a sharp rock
nonchalantly skipped.

I will speak well, for it was somewhat
sweet to lie on the dock while Jack
and his friends bent down
and wiped my face with a sandy towel.
I will speak well of them,
for most are gone
and the wound proved small.

I will speak well, for the rock
missed my eye. I can hardly find
the scar. Jack went into the air
corps, fought in one of the wars,
retired, and lived less than a year
before his tender heart gave out.

I will speak well of Jack.

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Sentient in San Francisco – 8 December 2018

This Date in Art History: Born 8 December 1815 – Adolph Menzel, a German painter and illustrator.

Below – “Emilie Menzel Asleep”; “Balcony Room”; “Studio Wall”; “At the Beer Garden”; “Supper at the Ball”; “Living Room with the Artist’s Sister”; “The Bedroom of the Artist in the Ritterstrasse.”


Remembering a Writer on the Date of His Birth: Born 8 December 1960 – Bill McKibben, an American environmentalist, writer, journalist, and author of “The End of Nature” (1988), which has been called the first book on global warming written for a general audience.

Some quotes from the work of Bill McKibben:

“Climate change is the single biggest thing that humans have ever done on this planet. The one thing that needs to be bigger is our movement to stop it.”
“Global warming is no longer a philosophical threat, no longer a future threat, no longer a threat at all. It’s our reality.”
“The technology we need most badly is the technology of community, the knowledge about how to cooperate to get things done.”
“In 50 years, no one will care about the fiscal cliff or the Euro crisis. They’ll just ask, ‘So the Arctic melted, and then what did you do?’”
“In fact, corporations are the infants of our society – they know very little except how to grow (though they’re very good at that), and they howl when you set limits. Socializing them is the work of politics. It’s about time we took it up again.
“We’ve been given a warning by science, and a wake-up call by nature; it is up to us now to heed them.”
“It is unbelievably sad and ironic that the first victims of global warming are almost all going to come from places that are producing virtually none of the problem.”
“We can either save the planet from catastrophic warming, or protect fossil fuel CEOs. Not both. Do the math(s).”
“The real negotiation is between humans on the one hand and chemistry and physics on the other. And chemistry and physics, unfortunately, don’t bargain.”
“The world hasn’t ended, but the world as we know it has-even if we don’t quite know it yet.”
“A spiritual voice is urgently needed to underline the fact that global warming is already causing human anguish and mortality in our nation and abroad, and much more will occur in the future without rapid action.”

Contemporary Ukrainian Art – Olga Novokhatska

Below – “Pink Trees”; “Rock & Flowers”; “Poppy Fields in France”; “In the Garden”; “Anna in the Light”; “Sea Landscape.”

Remembering a Writer on the Date of His Birth: Born 8 December 1913 – Delmore Schwartz, an American poet and short story writer.

“Calmly We Walk through This April’s Day”
by Delmore Schwartz

Calmly we walk through this April’s day,
Metropolitan poetry here and there,
In the park sit pauper and rentier,
The screaming children, the motor-car
Fugitive about us, running away,
Between the worker and the millionaire
Number provides all distances,
It is Nineteen Thirty-Seven now,
Many great dears are taken away,
What will become of you and me
(This is the school in which we learn …)
Besides the photo and the memory?
(… that time is the fire in which we burn.)

(This is the school in which we learn …)
What is the self amid this blaze?
What am I now that I was then
Which I shall suffer and act again,
The theodicy I wrote in my high school days
Restored all life from infancy,
The children shouting are bright as they run
(This is the school in which they learn …)
Ravished entirely in their passing play!
(… that time is the fire in which they burn.)

Avid its rush, that reeling blaze!
Where is my father and Eleanor?
Not where are they now, dead seven years,
But what they were then?
No more? No more?
From Nineteen-Fourteen to the present day,
Bert Spira and Rhoda consume, consume
Not where they are now (where are they now?)
But what they were then, both beautiful;

Each minute bursts in the burning room,
The great globe reels in the solar fire,
Spinning the trivial and unique away.
(How all things flash! How all things flare!)
What am I now that I was then?
May memory restore again and again
The smallest color of the smallest day:
Time is the school in which we learn,
Time is the fire in which we burn.

Below – Joseph Catanzaro: “A Walk in the Park.”


Contemporary Argentine Art – Marco Ortolan: Part I of II.

Below – “Manhattan Bridge, NYC”; “Dancing underwater”; “A Spring Window”; “Still the Water”; “In the Rose Garden”; “Still the water.”


Remembering a Writer on the Date of His Birth: Born 8 December 1951 – Bill Bryson, an award-winning Anglo-American essayist, travel writer, science writer, and author of “The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America” and “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail.”

Some quotes from the work of Bill Bryson:

“Take a moment from time to time to remember that you are alive. I know this sounds a trifle obvious, but it is amazing how little time we take to remark upon this singular and gratifying fact. By the most astounding stroke of luck an infinitesimal portion of all the matter in the universe came together to create you and for the tiniest moment in the great span of eternity you have the incomparable privilege to exist.”
“That’s the trouble with losing your mind; by the time it’s gone, it’s too late to get it back.”
“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”
“But that’s the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don’t want to know what people are talking about. I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”
“Of all the things I am not very good at, living in the real world is perhaps the most outstanding.”
“I ordered a coffee and a little something to eat and savored the warmth and dryness. Somewhere in the background Nat King Cole sang a perky tune. I watched the rain beat down on the road outside and told myself that one day this would be twenty years ago.”
“Because we humans are big and clever enough to produce and utilize antibiotics and disinfectants, it is easy to convince ourselves that we have banished bacteria to the fringes of existence. Don’t you believe it. Bacteria may not build cities or have interesting social lives, but they will be here when the Sun explodes. This is their planet, and we are on it only because they allow us to be.”

Contemporary Argentine Art – Marco Ortolan: Part II of II.

Below – “The Spring”; “Sunset NYC”; “She”; “The Kiss of the Lovers”; “Romantic Venice”; “Two Women and a Cat.”

A Poem for Today

“Death of a Dog”
by Ted Kooser

The next morning I felt that our house
had been lifted away from its foundation
during the night, and was now adrift,
though so heavy it drew a foot or more
of whatever was buoying it up, not water
but something cold and thin and clear,
silence riffling its surface as the house
began to turn on a strengthening current,
leaving, taking my wife and me with it,
and though it had never occurred
to me until that moment, for fifteen years
our dog had held down what we had
by pressing his belly to the floors,
his front paws, too, and with him gone
the house had begun to float out onto
emptiness, no solid ground in sight.

Below – Ted Kooser with his Labrador retriever Howard (the subject of the poem) on his right.

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Sentient in San Francisco – 7 December 2018

This Date in Art History: Born 7 December 1892 – Stuart Davis, an American painter.

Below – Untitled (Pear); “Feasible”; Untitled; “Cubist Study: Airview”; “Private Way.”


Remembering a Writer on the Date of Her Birth: Born 7 December 1873 – Willa Cather, an American novelist, short story writer, poet, and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize.

Some quotes from the work of Willa Cather:

“There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.”
“One cannot divine nor forecast the conditions that will make happiness; one only stumbles upon them by chance, in a lucky hour, at the world’s end somewhere, and hold fast to the days.”
“There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”
“The end is nothing; the road is all.”

This Date in Art History: Born 7 December 1926 – Leon Kossoff, an English painter.

Below – “The Tube”; “City Rooftops”; “Landscape with Calm No. 1”;
“Inside Kilburn Underground, Summer 1983”; “Dalston Lane, Summer”; “Pilar.”

Remembering an Important Thinker on the Date of His Birth: Born 7 December 1928 – Noam Chomsky, an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, political activist, and social critic.
Noam Chomsky is an Avatar of Sanity in an increasingly deranged world.

Some quotes from the work of Noam Chomsky:

“As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.”
“Students who acquire large debts putting themselves through school are unlikely to think about changing society. When you trap people in a system of debt, they can’t afford the time to think.”
“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”
“The general population doesn’t know what’s happening, and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.”
“Concentration of wealth yields concentration of political power. And concentration of political power gives rise to legislation that increases and accelerates the cycle.”
“The world is a very puzzling place. If you’re not willing to be puzzled, you just become a replica of someone else’s mind.”
“That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.”
“It’s ridiculous to talk about freedom in a society dominated by huge corporations. What kind of freedom is there inside a corporation? They’re totalitarian institutions – you take orders from above and maybe give them to people below you. There’s about as much freedom as under Stalinism.”
“There’s a good reason why nobody studies history, it just teaches you too much.”
“Neoliberal democracy. Instead of citizens, it produces consumers. Instead of communities, it produces shopping malls. The net result is an atomized society of disengaged individuals who feel demoralized and socially powerless. In sum, neoliberalism is the immediate and foremost enemy of genuine participatory democracy, not just in the United States but across the planet, and will be for the foreseeable future.”
“The point of public relations slogans like “Support Our Troops” is that they don’t mean anything … that’s the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody is going to be against and I suppose everybody will be for, because nobody knows what it means, because it doesn’t mean anything. But its crucial value is that it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something, do you support our policy? And that’s the one you’re not allowed to talk about.”
“Jingoism, racism, fear, religious fundamentalism: these are the ways of appealing to people if you’re trying to organize a mass base of support for policies that are really intended to crush them.”
“Nobody should have any illusions. The United States has essentially a one-party system and the ruling party is the business party.”
“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, it’s unlikely you will step up and take responsibility for making it so. If you assume that there’s no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, there are opportunities to change things, there’s a chance you may contribute to making a better world. The choice is yours.”


Contemporary American Art – Thu Nguyen: Part I of II.

Below – “The Fallen Barbie”; “Passing Train”; “Mending”; “Happy Day”; “Koi Happiness”; “Madonna.”

Remembering a Writer on the Date of His Death: Died 7 December 1985 – Robert Graves, a British poet, historical novelist, critic, classicist, and author of “Good-Bye to All That” and “The White Goddess.”

Some quotes from the work of Robert Graves:

“There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either.”
“If I were a girl, I’d despair. The supply of good women far exceeds that of the men who deserve them.”
“I believe that every English poet should read the English classics, master the rules of grammar before he attempts to bend or break them, travel abroad, experience the horrors of sordid passion, and – if he is lucky enough – know the love of an honest woman.”
“Genius not only diagnoses the situation but supplies the answers.”
“Abstract reason, formerly the servant of practical human reasons, has everywhere become its master, and denies poetry any excuse for existence.
Though philosophers like to define poetry as irrational fancy, for us it is practical, humorous, reasonable way of being ourselves. Of never acquiescing in a fraud; of never accepting the secondary-rate in poetry, painting, music, love, friends. Of safeguarding our poetic institutions against the encroachments of mechanized, insensate, inhumane, abstract rationality.”

Contemporary American Art – Thu Nguyen: Part II of II.

Below – “Her Story”; “Star Maker”; “The Black Hmong Princess”; “I want to put a ding in the universe”; “Happiness comes from within”; “Alone Together.”


A Poem for Today

“Milkweed”
by Bradford Tice

I tell myself softly, ‘this is how love begins’—
the air alive with something inconceivable,
seeds of every imaginable possibility
floating across the wet grasses, under
the thin arms of ferns. It drifts like snow
or old ash, settling on the dust of the roadways
as you and I descend into thickets, flanked
by the fragrance of honeysuckle and white
primrose.

I recall how my grandmother imagined
these wanderers were living beings,
some tiny phylum yet to be classified as life.
She would say they reminded her of maidens
decked in white dresses, waltzing through air.
Even after I showed her the pods from which
they sprang, blossoming like tiny spiders,
she refused to believe.

Now, standing beside you in the crowded
autumn haze, I watch them flock, emerge from
brittle stalks, bursting upon the world as
young lovers do—trysting in the tall grasses,
resting fingers lightly in tousled hair.
Listen, and you can hear them whisper
in the rushes, gazing out at us, wondering—
‘what lives are these?’

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Sentient in San Francisco – 6 December 2018

Contemporary British Art – Jean-Luc Almond

Below – “Unity”; “Virginia”; “Reflection”; “Forgotten”; “Pie”; “Turquoise Jane.”

Remembering a Writer on the Date of His Death: Died 6 December 1882 – Anthony Trollope, an English novelist, essayist, short story writer, and author of the perfectly delightful “Barchester Towers.”

Some quotes from the work of Anthony Trollope:

“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?…Was ever anything so civil?”
“The habit of reading is the only one I know in which there is no alloy. It lasts when all other pleasures fade.”
“It has now become the doctrine of a large clan of politicians that political honesty is unnecessary, slow, subversive of a man’s interests, and incompatible with quick onward movement.”
“There is no royal road to learning; no short cut to the acquirement of any art.”
“There is no happiness in love, except at the end of an English novel.”


Contemporary Czech Art – Mark Hospodarsky

Below – “Princess”; “Aviary”; “Point”; “Aura – Black Dream”; “Parade”; “Phantom.”

A Poem for Today

“Taking Apart My Childhood Piano”
by Rebecca Macijeski

My mother and I sit on the back porch,
bare feet in summer grass
as we take the upright down to pieces,
breeze humming through its strings.

I extract each melodic tooth and sort them
in octaves for rinsing, tidy enclosure in boxes,
remembering in each how my young fingers
rioted over them searching for sound

and the way it grows like its own
unruly animal. The old piano
lies open to Sunday morning sun,
swallowing blossoms that drift over like stars

from the apple tree I climbed as a girl.
My mother and I sit here in a quiet
usually reserved for churches,
hands moving slowly over what we gather

—piles of soft hammers, odd coils of wire.
We take up wet rags and wash each wooden key
down its surface, wet music
pooling onto our skin.


Contemporary American Art – Katelyn Alain: Part I of II.

Below – “Dreams of McQueen”; “Ever Onward To The Sea”; “If I Too Am Nature”; “Ready for Change”; “Calm despite the whirlwind wishing”; “Looking out at the night as the night itself.”

A Poem for Today

“The Death of the Bee”
by Linda Pastan

The biography of the bee
is written in honey
and is drawing
to a close.

Soon the buzzing
plainchant of summer
will be silenced
for good;

the flowers, unkindled
will blaze
one last time
and go out.

And the boy nursing
his stung ankle this morning
will look back
at his brief tears

with something
like regret,
remembering the amber
taste of honey.


Contemporary American Art – Katelyn Alain: Part II of II.

Below – “Ambivalence”; “The Ship Was False And Held But One”; “As It Is Now”; “Self With A Gut Feeling”; “Hands Up”; “Illuminating Night.”

A Poem for Today

“The Guardians”
by Jill Bialosky

All day we packed boxes.
We read birth and death certificates.
The yellowed telegrams that announced
our births, the cards of congratulations
and condolences, the deeds and debts,
love letters, valentines with a heart
ripped out, the obituaries.
We opened the divorce decree,
a terrible document of division and subtraction.
We leafed through scrapbooks:
corsages, matchbooks, programs to the ballet,
racetrack, theatre—joy and frivolity
parceled in one volume—
painstakingly arranged, preserved
and pasted with crusted glue.
We sat in the room in which the beloved
had departed. We remembered her yellow hair
and her mind free of paradox.
We sat together side by side
on the empty floor and did not speak.
There were no words
between us other than the essence
of the words from the correspondences,
our inheritance—plain speak,
bereft of poetry.

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Sentient in San Francisco – 5 December 2018

This Date in Art History: Died 5 December 1946 – Louis Dewis, a Belgian-French painter.

Below – “Morning Landscape”; “The Port of Toulon”; “Bridge on the Nivelle”; “Landscape”; “Snow in Biarritz.”

A Poem for Today

“Red Rover”
by Jill Bialosky

We take our last walk.
Walls stripped of portraits,

warped mirrors, dressing tables,
and the grandfather clock

with its stoic face
and elaborate gentle fingers.

For years we struggled to break
free of the closeness of rooms,

the obligation of birth order,
the metaphysics that bind

one element to the other,
as if we were still wild girls

playing wild rover in the garden,
breaking through a chain of linked hands.


This Date in Art History: Born 5 December 1890 – David Bomberg, an English painter and illustrator.

Below – “The Mud Bath”; “In the Hold”; “Trees in Sun, Cyprus”; “Ju-Jitsu”; “Bathing Scene”; “Tregor and Tregoff, Cornwall.”

A Poem for Today

“Lifting My Daughter”
by Joseph Hutchinson

As I leave for work she holds out her arms, and I
bend to lift her . . . always heavier than I remember,
because in my mind she is still that seedling bough
I used to cradle in one elbow. Her hug is honest,
fierce, forgiving. I think of Oregon’s coastal pines,
wind-bent even on quiet days; they’ve grown in ways
the Pacific breeze has blown them all their lives.
And how will my daughter grow? Last night, I dreamed
of a mid-ocean gale, a howl among writhing waterspouts;
I don’t know what it meant, or if it’s still distant,
or already here. I know only how I hug my daughter,
my arms grown taut with the thought of that wind.

Below – Frank Dicksee: “The Mother”

Contemporary Dutch Art – Ad Van Riel

Below – “Fish Tank”; “Panorama (8)”; “Little Story (2)”; “Sight (30)”; “Vista (20)”; “Landscape (1).”


A Poem for Today

“My Mother’s Penmanship Lessons”
by Wesley McNair

In her last notes, when her hand began
to tremble, my mother tried to teach it

the penmanship she was known for,
how to make the slanted stems

of the p’s and d’s, the descending
roundness of the capital m’s, the long

loops of the f’s crossed at the center,
sending it back again and again

until each message was the same:
a record of her insistence that the hand

return her to the way she was before,
and of all the ways the hand had disobeyed.


Contemporary American Art – Patty Neal

Below – “All That You Hoped”; “Three Graces”; “Taxi”; “Summer in the City”; “Pile-up”; “On the Land”; “Peaks and Vales.”


A Poem for Today

‘Mending Time”
By David Mason

The fence was down. Out among humid smells
and shrill cicadas we walked, the lichened trunks
moon-blue, our faces blue and our hands.

Led by their bellwether bellies, the sheep
had toddled astray. The neighbor farmer’s woods
or coyotes might have got them, or the far road.

I remember the night, the moon-colored grass
we waded through to look for them, the oaks
tangled and dark, like starting a story midway.

We gazed over seed heads to the barn
toppled in the homestead orchard. Then we saw
the weather of white wool, a cloud in the blue

moving without sound as if charmed
by the moon beholding them out of bounds.
Time has not tightened the wire or righted the barn.

The unpruned orchard rots in its meadow
and the story unravels, the sunlight creeping back
like a song with nobody left to hear it.

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Sentient in San Francisco – 4 December 2018

Contemporary Romanian Art – Oana Unciuleanu: Part I of II.

Below – “Burning Flame”; “Creation of Man”; “Wondering”; “Talking”; “Still Life”; “Shadow.”

A Poem for Today

“Cash Register Sings The Blues”
by Maria Nazos

This ‘isn’t’ my dream-job. As a young sheet
of steel and plastic I dreamt of being melted

down into a dancer’s pole in Vegas. I wanted
a woman in a headdress glossy as a gossamer

to wrap her lithe limbs around me. I wanted
to be strewn in lights, smell her powdery perfume.

Instead I’m a squat box crouched behind the counter,
noticed only if someone robs me. I’m touched all day,

but never caressed. Listen: somewhere gold tokens
spew from slots. I want to drink space-alien-dyed martinis on black

leather sectional couches. Watch tipsy women with acid-
washed jeans and teased hair dreamily press their faces

against slot machines while people treat currency
carelessly as spit in the wind.

I’m everywhere you look, ubiquitous and ignored.
I’m the container of your dreams that tossed aside my own.

I’ve kept my clean, sleek lines but you never say a thing.
Feed me, feed me with the only love we know.


Contemporary Romanian Art – Oana Unciuleanu: Part II of II.

Below – “To Bid You Farewell”; “Looking Left”; “Desert Light”; “Feel the Spark”; “Really?”; “I found you in the dark.”

Remembering a Writer on the Date of His Birth: Born 4 December 1875 – Rainer Maria Rilke, an Austrian-Swiss poet and author.

Some quotes from the work of Rainer Maria Rilke:

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
“Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”
“The highest form of love is to be the protector of another person’s solitude.”
“Go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows.”
“Perhaps somewhere, someplace deep inside your being, you have undergone important changes while you were sad.”
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
“I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.
Think… of the world you carry within you, and call this thinking whatever you want to: a remembering of your own childhood or a yearning toward a future of your own – only be attentive to what is arising within you, and place that above everything you perceive around you. What is happening in your innermost self is worthy of your entire love; somehow you must find a way to work at it.”
“This is the miracle that happens every time to those who really love: the more they give, the more they possess.”
“To love is good, too: love being difficult. For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. Love is a high inducement to the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world for himself for another’s sake, it is a great exacting claim upon him, something that chooses him out and calls him to vast things.”
“The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things.”
“It is always what I have already said: always the wish that you may find patience enough in yourself to endure, and simplicity enough to believe; that you may acquire more and more confidence in that which is difficult, and in your solitude among others. And for the rest, let life happen to you. Believe me: life is right, in any case.”
“Understand, I’ll slip quietly away from the noisy crowd when I see the pale stars rising, blooming, over the oaks. I’ll pursue solitary pathways through the pale twilit meadows with only this one dream: You come too.”
“I am so glad you are here. It helps me realize how beautiful my world is.”


Contemporary American Art – Rely Penezic: Part I of II.

Below – “California Road Chronicles #8”; “California Road Chronicles #63”; “Extreme Loafing & Idling #36”; “California Road Chronicles #62”; “Out of Here”; “California Road Chronicles #68.”


Remembering a Writer on the Date of Her Death: Died 4 December 2014 – Claudia Emerson, an American poet and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize.

“Eight Ball”
by Claudia Emerson

It was fifty cents a game
beneath exhausted ceiling fans,
the smoke’s old spiral. Hooded lights
burned distant, dull. I was tired, but you
insisted on one more, so I chalked
the cue—the bored blue—broke, scratched.
It was always possible
for you to run the table, leave me
nothing. But I recall the easy
shot you missed, and then the way
we both studied, circling—keeping
what you had left me between us.

Contemporary American Art – Rely Penezic: Part II of II.

Below – “Extreme Loafing & Idling #34”; “Extreme Loafing & Idling #35”; “Extreme Loafing & Idling #16”; “California Road Chronicles #66”; “California Road Chronicles #71 (Silence)”; “Zen of L.A. (Shadows)”; “Extreme Loafing & Idling #29.”


A Poem for Today

“Bees Were Better”
by Naomi Shihab Nye

In college, people were always breaking up.
We broke up in parking lots,
beside fountains.
Two people broke up
across a table from me
at the library.
I could not sit at that table again
though I did not know them.
I studied bees, who were able
to convey messages through dancing
and could find their ways
home to their hives
even if someone put up a blockade of sheets
and boards and wire.
Bees had radar in their wings and brains
that humans could barely understand.
I wrote a paper proclaiming
their brilliance and superiority
and revised it at a small café
featuring wooden hive-shaped honey-dippers
in silver honeypots
at every table.

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Sentient in San Francisco – 3 December 2018

This Date in Art History: Died 3 December 1919 – Pierre-Auguste Renoir, a French painter and sculptor.

Below – “The Theater Box”; “The Swing”; “Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette”; “Luncheon of the Boating Party”; “Claude Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil”; “By the Water”; “Sleeping Girl with a Cat.”

Musings in Autumn: Edgar Allan Poe

“Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.”

Below – An engraving by Gustave Dore (1882) for an 1884 edition of “The Raven.”

This Date in Art History: Died 3 December 1941 – Pavel Filonov, a Russian painter.

Below – “Portrait of E. N. Glebova” (the artist’s sister); “Universal Flowering”; “Animals”; “Faces on an Icon”; “Horses”; “Heads.”

A Poem for Today

“For Elizabeth, Who Loved to Square Dance”
by Christine Stewart-Nunez

I wore Grandma Liz’s pearls
for play, a plastic strand long
enough to pool on the carpet
over my stubbed toes. When I pull
them over my head now, I smell
phantoms: cigarettes, Esteé
Lauder. I don’t smoke or spritz
on perfume. I don’t layer polyester
or perm my hair. I’ve slipped off
my wedding ring as she did, signed
divorce. What advice would she offer
for life between husbands? ‘Wear red
lipstick and always leave it behind.’


Contemporary American Art – Shih Young An

Below – “Ocular Trophy”; “Women in History”; “The Civil Rights Movement”; “Knotting Yellow Ribbons”; “A Spring Breeze”; “Feeding.”


A Poem for Today

“The Letter”
by Linda Pastan

It is December in the garden,
an early winter here, with snow
already hiding my worst offenses —
the places I disturbed your moss
with my heavy boots; the corner
where I planted in too deep a hole
the now stricken hawthorne: crystals
hanging from its icy branches
are the only flowers it will know.

When did solitude become
mere loneliness and the sounds
of birds at the feeder seem
not like a calibrated music
but the discordant dialects
of strangers simply flying through?
I have tried to construct a life
alone here — coffee at dawn; a jog
through the chilling air

counting my heartbeats,
as if the doctor were my only muse;
books and bread and firewood —
those usual stepping-stones from month
to freezing month. but the constricted light,
the year closing down on itself with all
the vacancies of January ahead, leave me
unreconciled even to beauty.
When will you be coming back?

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