Food for the Spirit and the Soul

Because the diverse parts of human nature need to be nourished in different ways.

American Muse: Jack Kerouac

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The low yellow
moon above the
Quiet lamplit house.
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December Offerings – Part XXII: Something to Delight both Head and Heart

American Art – Part I of VI: Alfred Henry Maurer

In the words of one writer, “Alfred Henry Maurer (1868-1932) was an American Modernist painter. He exhibited his work in avant-garde circles internationally and in New York City during the early twentieth century. Highly respected today, his work met with little critical or commercial success in his lifetime, and he died, a suicide, at the age of sixty-four.”
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Nobel Laureate: Samuel Beckett

“We are all born mad. Some remain so.” – Samuel Beckett, Irish poet, playwright, author of “Waiting for Godot,” and recipient of the 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature “for his writing, which – in new forms for the novel and drama – in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation,” who died 22 December 1989.
Some quotes from the work of Samuel Beckett:
“All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
“You’re on Earth. There’s no cure for that.”
“The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh.”
“Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness.” “Don’t touch me! Don’t question me! Don’t speak to me! Stay with me!”
“The end is in the beginning and yet you go on.”
“Nothing is more real than nothing.” is in the beginning and yet you go on.”
“My mistakes are my life.”
“‘Let’s go.’ ‘We can’t.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘We’re waiting for Godot.’”
“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”
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American Art – Part II of VI: Bill Mack

In the words of one writer, “The impact of Bill Mack’s art is achieved not only by his dramatic portrayal of the human form, but also by the utilization of a wide variety of materials with which to execute his artistic vision. The final work emerges as a classic example of the interplay of form and materials. For over 35 years, American sculptor Bill Mack has created sculpture in relief and in the round for government, corporate and private collections.”
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From the Music Archives – Part I of III: Ludwig van Beethoven

22 December 1808 – Ludwig van Beethoven conducts and performs in concert at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna, with the premiere of his Fifth Symphony, Sixth Symphony, Fourth Piano Concerto (performed by Beethoven himself) and Choral Fantasy (with Beethoven at the piano).

British Art – Part I of II: Crawfurd Adamson

In the words of one writer, “Though born in Edinburgh in 1953, Crawfurd Adamson moved to Hastings in 1987 where he has lived and worked ever since. He has devoted most of his working practice to the study and development of life drawing not only through his own work but also through the practical establishment of workshops, attended by artists with similar considerations. He has exhibited widely throughout the UK, Europe and USA in both solo and group exhibitions since the early 1980’s and his work is held in numerous private, corporate and institutional collections worldwide including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and The Fleming Collection, London.”

© Crawfurd Adamson
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“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – Mary Ann Evans, known by her pen name George Eliot, English novelist, journalist, translator, and author of “Middlemarch,” who died 22 December 1880.

Some quotes from the work of George Eliot:

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”
“Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.”
“It is always fatal to have music or poetry interrupted.”
“It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses.”
“It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.”
“No evil dooms us hopelessly except the evil we love, and desire to continue in, and make no effort to escape from. ”
“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”
“Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.”
“Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depths of love.”
“I am not imposed upon by fine words; I can see what actions mean.”
“Adventure is not outside man; it is within.”

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British Art – Part II of II: Jake Baddeley

In the words of one critic, “Jake was born in Nottingham, England, in 1964, and has been drawing since his early childhood. After finishing his education as an illustrator at the University of London in 1988 he decides to travel around Europe, which leads him to the Netherlands for the first time. During these travels he meets his wife Vanessa and in 1990 he decides to live in The Hague and to work as an illustrator. Inspired by the Dutch Masters he starts working with oil paint in 1992.
Jake draws his inspirations from many sources: the Ancient Greeks, the Italian Renaissance Masters, the Dutch Masters, iconography, mythology, psychology and philosophy. But most of all he relies on his own subconscious and intuition which has proven many times to have a logic and curious independence of its own.”
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“To some will come a time when change itself is beauty, if not heaven.” – Edwin Arlington Robinson, American poet and three-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, who was born 22 December 1869.

“The House on the Hill”

They are all gone away,

The house is shut and still,

There is nothing more to say.

Through broken walls and gray

The winds blow bleak and shrill:

They are all gone away.



Nor is there one today

To speak them good or ill:

There is nothing more to say.

Why is it then we stray

Around the sunken sill?

They are all gone away.



And our poor fancy-play

For them is wasted skill:

There is nothing more to say.



There is ruin and decay

In the House on the Hill

They are all gone away,

There is nothing more to say.
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Paraguayan painter Hernan Miranda (born 1960) was a Professor of Painting at the National University of Fine Arts in Asuncion from 1993 to 1997.
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From the Music Archives – Part II of III: James Gurley

Born 22 December 1939 – James Gurley, an American musician best known as the guitarist of Big Brother and the Holding Company, a San Francisco band that was fronted by Janis Joplin from 1966 to 1968.

Here is how one critic describes the paintings of self-taught Australian artist Steve Harris (born 1953): “Harris has become well known for his impeccably painted still life compositions, the skillful use of light, shadow and space being a hallmark of his approach. He tends to depict objects which have an everyday function or perhaps have even been discarded, but the work is about much more than simple representation. Harris is a master of understated realism which in turn evokes its own sense of ‘atmosphere’ and contemplative mood. His works have been described as ‘meditations in light,’ and this is very much the feeling one has when attending one of Harris’s exhibitions – a type of reflective silence emanates from the paintings and imbues them with a spiritual quality that one would not perhaps anticipate.”
"STILL LIFE WITH CHINESE SCROLL
"THREE SOULS" 101cm x 121cm.
"OUTDOOR LIFE" 50cm x 122.
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From the Music Archives – Part III of III: Maurice Gibb

Born 22 December 1949 Maurice Gibb, a Manx-English musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer best known as the guitarist, bassist and keyboardist of the Bee Gees.

American Art – Part III of VI: Victoria Selbach

In the words of one critic, “Victoria Selbach, in her youth, studied drawing and pastel at the Carnegie Mellon Museum of Pittsburgh and continued on to art classes at Carnegie Mellon University. Her years at CMU provided a range of course work including drawing from live models and studying anatomy at the Pitt Medical School Morgue. Victoria moved to New York City and graduated from Parsons School of Design. While making New York her home Victoria has traveled extensively and is indebted to all the amazing faces and startling visual environments that have fascinated and inspired her.”
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“I write for one and only one purpose, to overcome the invincible ignorance of the traduced heart. […] I wish to speak to and for those who have had enough of the Social Lie, the Economics of Mass Murder, the Sexual Hoax, and the Domestication of Conspicuous Consumption.” – Kenneth Rexroth, American poet, academic, translator and essayist, who was born 22 December 2905.

Kenneth Rexroth, a central figure in the San Francisco Renaissance, was one of the fist American writers to explore Japanese poetic forms such as haiku and to translate Chinese verse.

“Falling Leaves and Early Snow”

In the years to come they will say,
“They fell like the leaves
In the autumn of nineteen thirty-nine.”
November has come to the forest,
To the meadows where we picked the cyclamen.
The year fades with the white frost
On the brown sedge in the hazy meadows,
Where the deer tracks were black in the morning.
Ice forms in the shadows;
Disheveled maples hang over the water;
Deep gold sunlight glistens on the shrunken stream.
Somnolent trout move through pillars of brown and gold.
The yellow maple leaves eddy above them,
The glittering leaves of the cottonwood,
The olive, velvety alder leaves,
The scarlet dogwood leaves,
Most poignant of all.

In the afternoon thin blades of cloud
Move over the mountains;
The storm clouds follow them;
Fine rain falls without wind.
The forest is filled with wet resonant silence.
When the rain pauses the clouds
Cling to the cliffs and the waterfalls.
In the evening the wind changes;
Snow falls in the sunset.
We stand in the snowy twilight
And watch the moon rise in a breach of cloud.
Between the black pines lie narrow bands of moonlight,
Glimmering with floating snow.
An owl cries in the sifting darkness.
The moon has a sheen like a glacier.
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American Art – Part IV of VI: George Tsui

In the words of one critic, “George Tsui, Chinese-born American painter was born in Hong Kong and moved to New York in the late 60s, studying first at the School of Visual Arts and later majoring in oil painting at the Art Students League. While working at NBC, he was awarded the prestigious 1997 Emmy Award for Best Individual Art and Craft.
In the words of a second writer, “After twenty years in the New York art scene, George Tsui set out a creative journey into China in the pursuit of reaching the next level in his artistic career. The grand and splendid architect of the forbidden city and the mysterious and sensual character of the Dun Huang cave were the immediate inspiration for the first group of paintings George created. Always fascinated and attracted to the rare and exotic, elements of fantasy are often present in George’s work. Chinese themes filled his imagination. The idea of creating his own brand of classic romanticism, unrestrained by conventional reality, was deeply attractive to him. His models always dressed in exquisite beautiful silk gowns from the artist’s own collection of 20 authentic imperial dresses and posed in romantic, luxurious surroundings with a variety of antiques, artifacts, jewelry, and exotic landscapes and birds… George doesn’t pretend to be painting the real thing but draws us into a fantasy where the signs of subterfuge are plain to see, as the artist describes: these pieces ‘employ a dual technique of painting and sculpture that is traditionally ornate yet abstract in the most modern sense.’”

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Here is the Artist Statement of New Zealand painter and sculptor Susan Saladino:“An overview of my artwork reveals a diversity of materials and mediums I utilize to express a singular theme. I have examined the relationship we have with the natural world and all animal life, and invite the viewer to do the same. The work is strongly committed to the belief that we as humans have a kinship with all life; we are all connected.
A desperate concern for animal welfare is a sentiment patterned in the fabric of all my artwork. Over the years I have observed the human action as it roams between a celebration of animals and brutality towards them. I have drawn on this observation earlier in my career to create paintings expressing reverence for their lives and protesting cruelty. Recently I began an exploration using clay. The playful animal figures I built are seemingly amusing, yet a deeper look exposes a truth I want the viewer to look at.
In my current mixed media sculpture series, I employ materials from the earth to reference conservation concerns. Surface texture of the hand built clay figures is created using natural materials found in the environment. Twigs sheared from culled trees symbolically imply the loss of habitat. Birds in some of the work represent all animal life. My figures very often are blindfolded suggesting the human inclination to turn away from certain realities that perhaps are uncomfortable or may require change. Change is needed.
I have come to believe that as stewards of this planet we cannot afford to turn a blind eye. The kinship we have with all life ‘must be expressed in action, since belief is no longer enough.’”
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NPG P1825; Beatrix Potter (Mrs Heelis) by Charles King

“All outward forms of religion are almost useless, and are the causes of endless strife. . . . Believe there is a great power silently working all things for good, behave yourself and never mind the rest.” – Beatrix Potter, English writer, illustrator, natural scientist, conservationist, and author of “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” who died 22 December 1943.

Some quotes from the work of Beatrix Potter:

“Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were–Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter. ”
“I hold that a strongly marked personality can influence descendants for generations.”
“Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.”
“I cannot rest, I must draw, however poor the result, and when I have a bad time come over me it is a stronger desire than ever.”
“The place is changed now, and many familiar faces are gone, but the greatest change is myself. I was a child then, I had no idea what the world would be like. I wished to trust myself on the waters and the sea. Everything was romantic in my imagination. The woods were peopled by the mysterious good folk. The Lords and Ladies of the last century walked with me along the overgrown paths, and picked the old fashioned flowers among the box and rose hedges of the garden.”
“I remember I used to half believe and wholly play with fairies when I was a child. What heaven can be more real than to retain the spirit-world of childhood, tempered and balanced by knowledge and common-sense.”
“Thank God I have the seeing eye, that is to say, as I lie in bed I can walk step by step on the fells and rough land seeing every stone and flower and patch of bog and cotton pass where my old legs will never take me again.”
“Sunday, January 27, 1884. — There was another story in the paper a week or so since. A gentleman had a favourite cat whom he taught to sit at the dinner table where it behaved very well. He was in the habit of putting any scraps he left onto the cat’s plate. One day puss did not take his place punctually, but presently appeared with two mice, one of which it placed on its master’s plate, the other on its own.”
“It sometimes happens that the town child is more alive to the fresh beauty of the country than a child who is country born. My brother and I were born in London…but our descent, our interest and our joy were in the north country.”
“I am aware these little books don’t last long even if they are a success.”

Above – Beatrix Potter.
Below – The first edition of “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” (1902); Hill Top, Potter’s 17th-century farmhouse, now a National Trust.
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In the words of one art historian, Italian painter Giovanni Giacometti (1868-1933) “entered on the artistic career and moved to Munich in 1886 to attend the school of arts and crafts. There, Giacometti met Cuno Amiet, who became his close friend and with whom he studied the works of the French impressionists. Supported by his parents, Giacometti moved along with Amiet to Paris in 1888.”
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American Art – Part V of VI: Cesar Santos

In the words of one writer, “Cesar Santos is a Cuban-born American painter. He is best known for images that transmit the impression of paintings of the past, but are also imbued with contemporary, fresh concepts and his own philosophy.”
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A Poem for Today

“Appeal to the Grammarians,”
By Paul Violi

We, the naturally hopeful,
Need a simple sign
For the myriad ways we’re capsized.
We who love precise language
Need a finer way to convey
Disappointment and perplexity.
For speechlessness and all its inflections,
For up-ended expectations,
For every time we’re ambushed
By trivial or stupefying irony,
For pure incredulity, we need
The inverted exclamation point.
For the dropped smile, the limp handshake,
For whoever has just unwrapped a dumb gift
Or taken the first sip of a flat beer,
Or felt love or pond ice
Give way underfoot, we deserve it.
We need it for the air pocket, the scratch shot,
The child whose ball doesn’t bounce back,
The flat tire at journey’s outset,
The odyssey that ends up in Weehawken.
But mainly because I need it – here and now
As I sit outside the Caffe Reggio
Staring at my espresso and cannoli
After this middle-aged couple
Came strolling by and he suddenly
Veered and sneezed all over my table
And she said to him, “See, that’s why
I don’t like to eat outside.”

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American Art – Part VI of VI: Michael Mao

In the words of one writer, “Michael Mao, Chinese-born painter, grew up in Shanghai, China. He began teaching himself drawing and painting at the young age of seven. He also learned painting through many workshops during the weekends when he was in middle school and high school. After graduated from Tongji University, one of the most prestigious architecture schools in China, Michael did many architectural renderings while working as an instructor in School of Architecture and Urban Design at Tongji University. In 1992, Michael moved to the United States to advance his architecture career by pursuing his Master of Architecture at University of Texas at Arlington.”

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Welcoming Winter – 2014

Winter Solstice 2014 – Part I of II
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Welcoming Wonderful Winter – Part I of II

Below – The Rocky Mountains in Banff National Park
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Welcoming Winter with Poetry: William Carlos Williams

“Winter Trees”

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.
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Welcoming Winter with Art – Alex Calder: “Snow Flurry”
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Welcoming Winter with Prose: Edith Sitwell

“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.”
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On This Date:

“The birds are moulting. If only man could moult also—his mind once a year its errors, his heart once a year its useless passions.” – James Lane Allen, American novelist, short story writer, and author of “A Kentucky Cardinal,” who was born 21 December 1849.
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Welcoming Winter with Art – Pieter Brueghel the Elder: The Hunters in the Snow
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Welcoming Winter with Song: The Rolling Stones

Welcoming Winter with Prose: John Burroughs

“He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter…. In winter the stars seem to have rekindled their fires, the moon achieves a fuller triumph, and the heavens wear a look of a more exalted simplicity.” – “The Snow-Walkers”
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Welcoming Winter with Art – Vincent van Gogh: “Landscape in the Snow”
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Welcoming Winter with Song: Fountains of Wayne

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On This Date:

“Nostalgia is a seductive liar.” – George Wildman Ball, American diplomat, who was born 21 December 1909.

Below – “Mariner Nostalgia,” by Paul Pulszartti
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Welcoming Winter with Art – Camille Pissarro: “Road to Versailles at Louveciennes”
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Welcoming Winter with Song: Big Maceo Merriweather

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On This Date:

Nobel Laureate: Heinrich Boll

“An artist is like a woman who can do nothing but love, and who succumbs to every stray male jackass.” – Heinrich Boll, German writer, author of “The Clown,” and recipient of the 1972 Nobel Prize in Literature “for his writing which through its combination of a broad perspective on his time and a sensitive skill in characterization has contributed to a renewal of German literature,” who was born 21 December 1917.
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Welcoming Winter with Art – Edvard Munch: “New Snow in the Avenue”
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Welcoming Winter with Poetry: Jeffrey Harrison

“Mailboxes in Late Winter”

It’s a motley lot. A few still stand
at attention like sentries at the ends
of their driveways, but more lean
askance as if they’d just received a blow
to the head, and in fact they’ve received
many, all winter, from jets of wet snow
shooting off the curved, tapered blade
of the plow. Some look wobbly, cocked
at oddball angles or slumping forlornly
on precariously listing posts. One box
bows steeply forward, as if in disgrace, its door
lolling sideways, unhinged. Others are dented,
battered, streaked with rust, bandaged in duct tape,
crisscrossed with clothesline or bungee cords.
A few lie abashed in remnants of the very snow
that knocked them from their perches.
Another is wedged in the crook of a tree
like a birdhouse, its post shattered nearby.
I almost feel sorry for them, worn out
by the long winter, off-kilter, not knowing
what hit them, trying to hold themselves
together, as they wait for news from spring.
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Welcoming Winter with Song: Bruce Springsteen

Welcoming Winter with Poetry: John Crowe Ransom

“Winter Remembered”

Two evils, monstrous either one apart,
Possessed me, and were long and loath at going:
A cry of Absence, Absence, in the heart,
And in the wood the furious winter blowing.

Think not, when fire was bright upon my bricks,
And past the tight boards hardly a wind could enter,
I glowed like them, the simple burning sticks,
Far from my cause, my proper heat and center.

Better to walk forth in the frozen air
And wash my wound in the snows; that would be healing;
Because my heart would throb less painful there,
Being caked with cold, and past the smart of feeling.

And where I walked, the murderous winter blast
Would have this body bowed, these eyeballs streaming,
And though I think this heart’s blood froze not fast
It ran too small to spare one drop for dreaming.

Dear love, these fingers that had known your touch,
And tied our separate forces first together,
Were ten poor idiot fingers not worth much,
Ten frozen parsnips hanging in the weather.

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Welcoming Winter with Art – Ivan Shishkin: “In the Wild North”
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Welcoming Winter with Song: Elvis Costello

Welcoming Winter with Poetry: William Shakespeare

“Sonnet 97”

How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness everywhere!
And yet this time remov’d was summer’s time,
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burthen of the prime,
Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease:
Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me
But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And thou away, the very birds are mute;
Or if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer
That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.
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Welcoming Winter with Art – Claude Monet: “Snow Scene at Argenteuil”
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Welcoming Winter with Song: Fleet Foxes

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On This Date:

“Either you think, or else others have to think for you and take power from you, pervert and discipline your natural tastes, civilize and sterilize you.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, American writer and author of “The Great Gatsby,” who died 21 December 1940.

Some quotes from the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald:

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
“Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.”
“Life is essentially a cheat and its conditions are those of defeat; the redeeming things are not happiness and pleasure but the deeper satisfactions that come out of struggle.”
“There are no second acts in American lives.”
“I’m a romantic; a sentimental person thinks things will last, a romantic person hopes against hope that they won’t.”
“Advertising is a racket, like the movies and the brokerage business. You cannot be honest without admitting that its constructive contribution to humanity is exactly minus zero.”
“It is sadder to find the past again and find it inadequate to the present than it is to have it elude you and remain forever a harmonious conception of memory.”
“In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.”
“At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide.”
“It is in the thirties that we want friends. In the forties we know they won’t save us any more than love did.”
“Everybody’s youth is a dream, a form of chemical madness.”
“For awhile after you quit Keats all other poetry seems to be only whistling or humming.”
“The faces of most American women over thirty are relief maps of petulant and bewildered unhappiness.”
“The victor belongs to the spoils.”
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Welcoming Winter with Art – Wassily Kandinsky: “Winter Landscape”
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On This Date:

“We’ve come a long way in our thinking, but also in our moral decay. I can’t imagine Dr. King watching the ‘Real Housewives’ or ‘Jersey Shore.’” – Samuel L. Jackson, American actor and film producer, who was born 21 December 1948.

Welcoming Winter with Art – Caspar David Friedrich: “Winter Landscape with Church”
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Welcoming Winter with Prose: Mignon McLaughlin

“Spring, summer, and fall fill us with hope; winter alone reminds us of the human condition.” – “The Second Neurotic’s Notebook”
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Welcoming Winter with Poetry: Michael Ryan

“In Winter”

At four o’clock it’s dark.
Today, looking out through dusk
at three gray women in stretch slacks
chatting in front of the post office,
their steps left and right and back
like some quick folk dance of kindness,
I remembered the winter we spent
crying in each other’s laps.
What could you be thinking at this moment?
How lovely and strange the gangly spines
of trees against a thickening sky
as you drive from the library
humming off-key? Or are you smiling
at an idea met in a book
the way you smiled with your whole body
the first night we talked?
I was so sure my love of you was perfect,
and the light today
reminded me of the winter you drove home
each day in the dark at four o’clock
and would come into my study to kiss me
despite mistake after mistake after mistake.
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Welcoming Winter with Art – Claude Monet: “The Magpie”
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Welcoming Winter with Poetry: Emily Dickinson

“There’s a certain Slant of light”

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –
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On This Date:

Died 21 December 1933 – Knud Rasmussen, Danish polar explorer and anthropologist. In the words of one historian, “He has been called the ‘father of Eskimology’ and was the first European to cross the Northwest Passage via dog sled. He remains well known in Greenland, Denmark and among Canadian Inuit.”

Below – Rasmussen with his sled dogs in Greenland.

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Welcoming Winter with Art – Hiroshige: “Night Snow at Kambara”
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Welcoming Winter with Poetry: Dave Lucas

“Lines for Winter”

Poor muse, north wind, or any god
who blusters bleak across the lake
and sows the earth earth-deep with ice.
A hoar of fur stung across the vines:
here the leaves in full flush, here
abandoned to four and farther winds.
Bless us, any god who crabs the apples
and seeds the leaf and needle evergreen.
What whispered catastrophe, winter.
What a long night, beyond the lamplight,
the windows and the frost-ferned glass.
Bless the traveler and the hearth he travels to.
Bless our rough hands, wind-scabbed lips,
bless this our miscreant psalm.
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Welcoming Winter with Art – Grandma Moses: “The Old Bridge in the Valley”
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Welcoming Winter with Prose: Philip Pullman

“We feel cold, but we don’t mind it, because we will not come to harm. And if we wrapped up against the cold, we wouldn’t feel other things, like the bright tingle of the stars, or the music of the Aurora, or best of all the silky feeling of moonlight on our skin. It’s worth being cold for that.” – “Northern Lights”

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Welcoming Winter with Art – Frederic Edwin Church: “Aurora Borealis”
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Welcoming Winter with Song: Lindsey Buckingham

Welcoming Winter with Art – S.J.W. Grogan: “Coyote Caught/Winter Snow”
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Welcoming Winter with Poetry: Mark Strand

“Lines for Winter”
for Ros Krauss
Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.
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Welcoming Winter with Prose: Andrew Wyeth

“I prefer winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.”

Below – “Fence Line,” by Andrew Wyeth
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Welcoming Winter with Song: Neil Young and Crazy Horse

Welcoming Winter with Prose: Craig Childs

“Winter is a long, open time. The nights are as dark as the end of the world.
The elk that you glimpse in the summer, those at the forest edge, are survivors of winter, only the strongest. You see one just before dusk that summer, standing at the perimeter of the meadow so it can step back to the forest and vanish. You can’t help imagining the still, frozen nights behind it, so cold that the slightest motion is monumental. I have found their bodies, half drifted over in snow, no sign of animal attack or injury. Just toppled over one night with ice working into their lungs. You wouldn’t want to stand outside for more than a few minutes in that kind of weather. If you lived through only one of those winters the way this elk has, you would write books about it. You would become a shaman. You would be forever changed. That elk from the winter stands there on the summer evening, watching from beside the forest. It keeps its story to itself.” – “The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild”
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Welcoming Winter with Art – Gary Dee: “Winter Lodge”
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Welcoming Winter with Prose: Henry David Thoreau

“Nature has many scenes to exhibit, and constantly draws a curtain over this part or that. She is constantly repainting the landscape and all surfaces, dressing up some scene for our entertainment. Lately we had a leafy wilderness; now bare twigs begin to prevail, and soon she will surprise us with a mantle of snow. Some green she thinks so good for our eyes that, like blue, she never banishes it entirely from our eyes, but has created evergreens.” – “Journals”

Below – Walden Pond in Winter
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Welcoming Wonderful Winter – Part II of II

Below – “Mount Rainier in Winter,” by Toshi Yoshida
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Winter Solstice 2014 – Part II of II
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American Muse: Paul Violi

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“Appeal to the Grammarians”

We, the naturally hopeful,
Need a simple sign
For the myriad ways we’re capsized.
We who love precise language
Need a finer way to convey
Disappointment and perplexity.
For speechlessness and all its inflections,
For up-ended expectations,
For every time we’re ambushed
By trivial or stupefying irony,
For pure incredulity, we need
The inverted exclamation point.
For the dropped smile, the limp handshake,
For whoever has just unwrapped a dumb gift
Or taken the first sip of a flat beer,
Or felt love or pond ice
Give way underfoot, we deserve it.
We need it for the air pocket, the scratch shot,
The child whose ball doesn’t bounce back,
The flat tire at journey’s outset,
The odyssey that ends up in Weehawken.
But mainly because I need it – here and now
As I sit outside the Caffe Reggio
Staring at my espresso and cannoli
After this middle-aged couple
Came strolling by and he suddenly
Veered and sneezed all over my table
And she said to him, “See, that’s why
I don’t like to eat outside.”
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December Offerings – Part XX: Something to Delight both Head and Heart

American Art – Part I of IV: Victor Bauer

Artist Statement: “My name is Victor Bauer and currently I live and work in New York. My work can be found in corporate and private collections in the US, Europe and Canada. I consider myself a self-taught artist. Painting comes as natural as walking to me. My father was a painter, and I grew up playing in his studio, drawing experimenting with colors.
My earlier works were mostly abstracts and during these years I developed my own style and technique using mostly just a palette knife. My fascination with the human figure for its timeless sensitivity is reflected in my latest works. In my paintings I try not only just to replicate a scene, but to create the mood and feelings. Sometime when I feel it, I incorporate abstract fragments in a composition. I start with a drawing. When I’m satisfied with the composition, I begin to apply paint in bold strokes with a palette knife. My knife strokes are deliberate, strong and well placed. The goal is to be precise and minimal to create work that is striking and yet simple. The painting becomes almost 3D sculpting. I take away what is not important but concentrate on proportions and light.”
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“Though man a thinking being is defined,
Few use the grand prerogative of mind.
How few think justly of the thinking few!
How many never think, who think they do!” – Ann Taylor, English poet and literary critic, who died on 20 December 1866.

“The Star”

TWINKLE, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are !
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

Then the trav’ller in the dark,
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.

In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often thro’ my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye,
Till the sun is in the sky.

‘Tis your bright and tiny spark,
Lights the trav’ller in the dark :
Tho’ I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
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Artist Miguel Freitas grew up in Lisbon, Portugal and moved to Toronto in 1983. Here is how one critic describes his artistry: “His use of vibrant colors is what often strikes people first. The paintings convincingly depict the naïve impressions and memories left in your mind years after visiting a place. His unique style and execution bring to mind images of great frescoes on old crumbling wall.”
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From the Music Archives – Part I of II: Bobby Colomby

Born 20 December 1944 – Bobby Colomby, an American drummer and an original member of Blood, Sweat & Tears.

Greek painter Tasos Chonias was born in Athens in 1974.
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From the Music Archives – Part II of II: Peter, Paul, and Mary

20 December 1969 – Peter, Paul, and Mary’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” reaches number one on American popular music charts.

Frank Creton (born 1941) is a Surinamese artist who studied painting in the Netherlands.

Below (left to right) – “Midnight Serenade”; “Playful Dogs”; “Coronie No. 7”; “Basketball Players”; “Old Creole”; “Self-Portrait.”

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“I dislike organized games, swimming pools, fashionable resorts, night clubs, music in restaurants, and political manifestoes; I enjoy driving from coast to coast, good food and drink, a few friends, dogs, the theatre, long walks, music, and free conversation.” – James Hilton, English writer and author of “Lost Horizon” and “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” who died on 20 December 1954.

Some quotes from the work of James Hilton:

“if we have not found the heaven within, we have not found the heaven without.”
“Have you ever been going somewhere with a crowd and you’re certain it’s the wrong road and you tell them, but they won’t listen, so you just have to plod along in what you know is the wrong direction till somebody more important gets the same idea?”
“If I could put it into a very few words, dear sir, I should say that our prevalent belief is in moderation. We inculcate the virtue of avoiding excesses of all kinds—even including, if you will pardon the paradox, excess of virtue itself.”
“Is there not too much tension in the world at present, and might it not be better if more people were slackers?”
“What a host of little incidents, all deep-buried in the past — problems that had once been urgent, arguments that had once been keen, anecdotes that were funny only because one remembered the fun. Did any emotion really matter when the last trace of it had vanished from human memory; and if that were so, what a crowd of emotions clung to him as to their last home before annihilation? He must be kind to them, must treasure them in his mind before their long sleep.”
“There’s only one thing more important… and that is, after you’ve done what you set out to do, to feel that it’s been worth doing.”
James Hilton
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Spanish figurative painter Concepcion Ventoso was born in Granada in 1961.
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“What you have become is the price you paid to get what you used to want.” – Mignon McLaughlin, American journalist and author of “The Neurotic’s Notebook,” who died 20 December 1983.

Some quotes from the work of Mignon McLaughlin:

“Society honors its living conformists and its dead troublemakers.”
“Anything you lose automatically doubles in value.”
“Every society honors its live conformists and its dead troublemakers.”
“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”
“It’s the most unhappy people who most fear change.”
“A sense of humor is a major defense against minor troubles.”
“For the happiest life, days should be rigorously planned, nights left open to chance.”
“Learning too soon our limitations, we never learn our powers.”
“It is important to our friends to believe that we are unreservedly frank with them, and important to friendship that we are not.”
“The head never rules the heart, but just becomes its partner in crime.”
“We all become great explorers during our first few days in a new city, or a new love affair.”
“If you made a list of reasons why any couple got married, and another list of the reasons for their divorce, you’d have a hell of a lot of overlapping.”
“Even cowards can endure hardship; only the brave can endure suspense.”
“There is always some specific moment when we become aware that our youth is gone; but, years after, we know it was much later.”
“No one really listens to anyone else, and if you try it for a while you’ll see why.”
“We’d all like a reputation for generosity, and we’d all like to buy it cheap.”
“Our strength is often composed of the weakness that we’re damned if we’re going to show.”
“There are so many things that we wish we had done yesterday, so few that we feel like doing today.”
“The proud man can learn humility, but he will be proud of it.”
“If you are brave too often, people will come to expect it of you.”
“Most of us become parents long before we have stopped being children.”
“It took man thousands of years to put words down on paper, and his lawyers still wish he wouldn’t.”
“It’s innocence when it charms us, ignorance when it doesn’t.”
“No matter how brilliantly an idea is stated, we will not really be moved unless we have already half thought of it ourselves.”
“There are a handful of people whom money won’t spoil, and we all count ourselves among them.”
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Turkish painter Nihal Martli (born 1982) graduated from the Department of Fine Arts of Hacettepe University.
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Died 20 December 1820 – John Bell, a central figure in the Bell Witch ghost story of southern American folklore. From “History of Tennessee,” by the Goodspeed Brothers: “A remarkable occurrence, which attracted wide-spread interest, was connected with the family of John Bell, who settled near what is now Adams Station about 1804. So great was the excitement that people came from hundreds of miles around to witness the manifestations of what was popularly known as the ‘Bell Witch.’ This witch was supposed to be some spiritual being having the voice and attributes of a woman. It was invisible to the eye, yet it would hold conversation and even shake hands with certain individuals. The feats it performed were wonderful and seemingly designed to annoy the family. It would take the sugar from the bowls, spill the milk, take the quilts from the beds, slap and pinch the children, and then laugh at the discomfort of its victims. At first it was supposed to be a good spirit, but its subsequent acts, together with the curses with which it supplemented its remarks, proved the contrary.”

Above – An artist’s etching of the Bell home, originally published in 1894.

Below – An artist’s drawing of Betsy, Bell’s youngest daughter, who allegedly suffered violent encounters with the evil spirit.
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Here is the Artist Statement of Australian painter Erika Gofton: ”I am celebrating the sensitivity and beauty of the female figure. I wish to present an intimate look at womanhood and to create works depicting beauty, grace and harmony. I am captivated by the female form and intrigued with the subtlety between the sensual and the sexual, the unique motifs and iconography associated with femininity.
Texture, fabric and drapery play an integral role in my work. The natural beauty of the body and the echo of form beneath the natural folds of the drapery suggests a quiet and captivating sexuality. The evocative suggestion of flesh showing through lace is enchanting.
Lacework, embroidery, patternmaking and fabric designs, uniquely female experiences and motifs, are also prominent in my work and symbolise characteristically female practices. The strong design and composition of these elements also aim to reflect shapes and forms in the figure and the chosen dresses, offering a work built on layers of pattern and form. By hand stitching on the canvas in some works aims to give another layer of significance to the painted layers beneath but also employs the practice I am celebrating.”

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In the words of one historian, “On December 20, 1803, William Claiborne, former governor of the Mississippi Territory, and James Wilkinson, Commanding General of the United States Army, met with French representative Pierre Laussat in the Sala Capitular (capitol room) at the Cabildo in New Orleans. There they signed the document transferring the Louisiana Territory and ceremoniously passed the keys of the city from French hands to American hands.”

Below – “Ceremonial Transfer of the Louisiana Purchase in New Orleans – 1803,” by Mike Wimmer.
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American Art – Part II of IV: David Gray

In the words of one writer, “David Gray acquired a strong foundational education in art while obtaining his BFA from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. His art education has continued with independent and occasional formal studies in pictorial expression and oil painting. The resulting work reveals a personal and contemporary expression of beauty and order which pays homage to the Classical Tradition in its craftsmanship. David’s works are included in many discriminating private art collections throughout the United States and abroad.”
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“The older I get, the more I’m conscious of ways very small things can make a change in the world. Tiny little things, but the world is made up of tiny matters, isn’t it?” – Sandra Cisneros, American writer and author of “The House on Mango Street,” who was born on 20 December 1954.

Some quotes from the work of Sandra Cisneros:

“I spent my thirties living out of boxes and moving every six months to a year. It was my cloud period: I just wandered like a cloud for ten years, following the food supply. I was a hunter, gatherer, an academic migrant.”
“I wanted to write something in a voice that was unique to who I was. And I wanted something that was accessible to the person who works at Dunkin Donuts or who drives a bus, someone who comes home with their feet hurting like my father, someone who’s busy and has too many children, like my mother.”
“Well, I’m Buddhist, Ray, and so part of my Buddhism has allowed me to look a little more deeply at people and the events in my life that created me. And I think a lot of that Buddhism comes out in the world view in this novel.”
“All of my work is influenced by fairy tales, and I hope my work shows Hans Christian Anderson’s influence.”
“I think people should read fairy tales, because we’re hungry for a mythology that will speak to our fears.”
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American Art – Part III of IV: David Michael Bowers

In the words of one writer, “David Michael Bowers born 1956 in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and graduated from art school in Pittsburgh in 1979. He began working as a staff artist at various studios in Pittsburgh. Two years later, David began teaching at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh where he lectured for ten years. This job was perfect for Bowers at the time due to the short hours in the classroom. These short workdays enabled a lot of free time to perfect his painting technique before he entered the illustration field.”
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Nobel Laureate: John Steinbeck

“I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.” – John Steinbeck, American writer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize (for “The Grapes of Wrath”), and recipient of the 1962 Nobel Prize for Literature for his “realistic and imaginative writing, combining as it does sympathetic humor and keen social perception,” who died 20 December 1968.

Some quotes from the work of John Steinbeck:

“I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen.”
“All great and precious things are lonely.”
“And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed.”
“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”
“All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.”
“And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.”
“I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found.”
“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
“I guess there are never enough books.”
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A Poem for Today

“Dark Ceiling,”
by Edward Dorn

Broad black scar the valley is
and sunday is
where
……..in the wide arc
..the small lights of homes come on
in that trough.

……Burnish my heart
……with this mark

Furnish my soul with the hope
Far away and by a river
In the darkness of a walnut stand.

There
……..is
no home, no back.

All is this wrong key, the lark
sings
……but his voice trails off
in the snow. He has not
brought his meadow.
The starling’s
..insolent whistle
is the truth here — dark smoke

drifts in from the morning fertilizer factory
and men there return lamely
to work, their disputes not settled.

Below – The largest lead mine in the world surrounded by dead trees – Kellogg, Idaho: photograph by Arthur Rothstein, July 1936.

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American Art – Part IV of IV: Hollis Dunlap

In the words of one critic, “Born in northeastern Vermont in 1977, Hollis Dunlap is a painter living on the east coast of Connecticut in the USA. He paints modern paintings with a strong influence of old masters from Caravaggio to Vermeer. The color choices, brushwork, and compositions reflect the influences of various painters, from representational to more abstract in terms of composition and varying applications of paint.”
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American Muse: Edward Dorn

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“Dark Ceiling”

Broad black scar the valley is
and sunday is
where
……..in the wide arc
..the small lights of homes come on
in that trough.

……Burnish my heart
……with this mark

Furnish my soul with the hope
Far away and by a river
In the darkness of a walnut stand.

There
……..is
no home, no back.

All is this wrong key, the lark
sings
……but his voice trails off
in the snow. He has not
brought his meadow.
The starling’s
..insolent whistle
is the truth here — dark smoke

drifts in from the morning fertilizer factory
and men there return lamely
to work, their disputes not settled.

Below – The largest lead mine in the world surrounded by dead trees – Kellogg, Idaho: photograph by Arthur Rothstein, July 1936.
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December Offerings – Part XIX: Something to Delight both Head and Heart

American Art – Part I of IV: Eastman Johnson

In the words of one art historian, Eastman Johnson (1824–1906) “was a painter and co-founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, with his name inscribed at its entrance. He was best known for his genre paintings, paintings of scenes from everyday life, and his portraits both of everyday people and prominent Americans such as Abraham Lincoln, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. His later works often show the influence of the 17th-century Dutch masters, whom he studied in The Hague in the 1850s; he was known as The American Rembrandt in his day.”

Below – “Ojibwe Wigwam at Grand Portage”; “Negro Life at the South”; “The Girl I Left Behind Me”; “The Nantucket School of Philosophy”; “The Young Sweep”;“Benjamin Harrison”; “Nathaniel Hawthorne”; “Ralph Waldo Emerson”; “Self-Portrait.”
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Nobel Laureate: Robert MIllikan

“My idea of an educated person is one who can converse on one subject for more than two minutes.” – Robert Millikan, American scientist and recipient of the 1923 Nobel Prize in Physics, who died on 19 December 1953.
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Here is the Artist Statement of Russian painter Nikos Safronov: ”It has been proven that the human being’s life in the universe lasts but 3 seconds, but thanks to the interspecies communication and travel (including the Internet), a person extends his life-span up to 5-10 seconds. However, when communicating with and through art human being enters the Eternity.
I hope, that those of you who get acquainted with me or know me already will benefit from my art.”
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19 December 1776 – Thomas Paine, American political activist, author, revolutionary, and one of the greatest of our Republic’s Founding Fathers, publishes his first “The American Crisis” essay, which begins thusly:

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.”
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From the Music Archives – Part I of III: Phil Ochs

Born 19 December 1940 – Phil Ochs, an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist best known for his protest songs. In the words of on music critic, “(Ochs) was known for his sharp wit, sardonic humor, earnest humanism, political activism, insightful and alliterative lyrics, and distinctive voice.”

American Art – Part II of IV: David P. Hettinger

Contemporary painter David P. Hettinger began his formal training at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, where he studied classical realism and the techniques of Flemish, Dutch, and Spanish Masters. In the words of one critic, “Hettinger doesn’t think of his figurative pieces as portraits or paintings of people but rather of relationships and moments in time.”

Below – “Dancing Light”; “Spring’s Gentle Call”; “Jordan Rose”; “Glory”; “Fallen Leaves”; “Dancing with the Wind”; “Yellow Undies”; “Feathered Earrings”; “First Things First”; “Across the Valley.”
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From the Music Archives – Part II of III: Cornell Dupree

Born 19 December 1942 – Cornell Luther Dupree, an American jazz and rhythm & blues guitarist.

Here is the Artist Statement of Iranian painter Vahid Chamani (born 1984): “My work on the whole talks about Iran’s present cultural situation which is disturbed by deep contrasts between tradition and modernism. We have somehow turned away from or traditional culture but at the same time been left behind by modernism. We have distanced ourselves from our beliefs and now stand far from them to be able to join in the global stream of modern cultures but it seems like we have failed in reaching both of them. May be this is because we are doubtful of this liberation and don’t want to separate from our past. This has out us in some kind of cultural gap where we can’t find our true place in western modernism. I try to show this gap in my works, my dark and even colored backgrounds show a theme of having no place and time, where people are doubtful of their identity and worried for their future. Some figures and faces are shown with two different sides which show their stressed minds. Some eyes are blind and some show disappointment with traces of scares they have on their hearts and souls, few have hopes.
In some others I have used ornaments like earrings and necklaces with shiny faces on pretty figures who although have put on a lot of makeup still have their traditional dresses on, a sign of their inner want for returning to past cultures and in spite of that, trying to keep up with new trends of fashion, in order to hide their fear of being called backward. They have made a false identity for themselves and a world of self-deceit. My figures are never who they appear, they are acting all the time, trying to show off and sometimes it looks like they pity themselves and are trying to be self-consoling.”

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Born 19 December 1036 – Su Shi (Su Tung-p’o), Chinese poet, essayist, painter, calligrapher, and traveler who lived during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

“Remembrance”

To what can our life on earth be likened?
To a flock of geese,
alighting on the snow.
Sometimes leaving a trace of their passage.

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Painter Roberto Liang was born in Chengdu, Sichuan, China in 1964. At age 25, he arrived in Spain, and enrolled first in the College of Applied Arts and Crafts and then in the Department of Fine Arts in Madrid.
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From the Music Archives – Part III of III: Michael Clarke

Died 19 December 1993 – Michael Clarke, an American drummer best known for being a member of The Byrds.

American Art – Part III of IV: John Koch

In the words of one critic, New York-based painter John Koch (1909–1979) “was one of the key American Realists of the 20th Century. When the world seemed to turn its back on the realist tradition, Koch persisted and presented intimate views of his personal world. His paintings are populated with models, musicians, views of his studio, and his New York Apartment. Through it all, Koch was a quiet and understated voice who kept the heartbeat of the realist movement alive and respected.
Koch’s compositions were elegant. His warm tones and colours invited you into his world where, as you investigate the contents, you discover treasures amongst his beautifully observed objects. The objects themselves are chosen with care and a sense of knowledgeable appreciation. In all his work, the intricacies of light permeate and penetrate to create airy spaces into which the viewer enters. John Koch was a well trained artist who delighted in his profession and created an impressive amount of work.”
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A Poem for Today

“I think I should have loved you presently,”
By Edna St. Vincent Millay

I think I should have loved you presently,
And given in earnest words I flung in jest;
And lifted honest eyes for you to see,
And caught your hand against my cheek and breast;
And all my pretty follies flung aside
That won you to me, and beneath your gaze,
Naked of reticence and shorn of pride,
Spread like a chart my little wicked ways.
I, that had been to you, had you remained,
But one more waking from a recurrent dream,
Cherish no less the certain stakes I gained,
And walk your memory’s halls, austere, supreme,
A ghost in marble of a girl you knew
Who would have loved you in a day or two.

Below – “Ghost Girl” (Carrara Marble), by Kevin Francis Gray.
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American Art – Part IV of IV: Warren Chang

Artist Statement: “A common theme in my outdoor subjects is the fieldworkers of Monterey County where I grew up. I started exploring this subject around 2001 when I had recently relocated from New York to Northern California.
These paintings were in part inspired by the writings of John Steinbeck (1902-1968), whose novels I read as a youth. His works examined the lives of working class and migrant workers in the Salinas Valley, California.
In addition, I felt this subject had an historical precedent dating as far back as the 16th century with the paintings by Peter Bruegel the Elder (1525)-1569) known for his peasant scenes and then later on with the work of Francois Millet (1814-1875) and the 19th century Naturalist Movement in general. American artists Winslow Homer (1824-1906) and Eastman Johnson (1824-1906), both painted the fieldworker and later Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) painted the fieldworker in his regional works, so I felt I could pursue this genre with a sense of substance and tradition. My works though inspired by the paintings and subjects of the past are however contemporary records of our times. I depict the farmworker honestly without idealization with an understanding of their plight. In a way I see the farmworker as a tragic figure, a metaphor for the all humanity.”
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American Muse: Edna St. Vincent Millay

EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY

“I think I should have loved you presently”

I think I should have loved you presently,
And given in earnest words I flung in jest;
And lifted honest eyes for you to see,
And caught your hand against my cheek and breast;
And all my pretty follies flung aside
That won you to me, and beneath your gaze,
Naked of reticence and shorn of pride,
Spread like a chart my little wicked ways.
I, that had been to you, had you remained,
But one more waking from a recurrent dream,
Cherish no less the certain stakes I gained,
And walk your memory’s halls, austere, supreme,
A ghost in marble of a girl you knew
Who would have loved you in a day or two.

Below – “Ghost Girl” (Carrara Marble), by Kevin Francis Gray.
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December Offerings – Part XVIII: Something to Delight both Head and Heart

American Art – Part I of V: Thalia Stratton

Artist Statement: “Trained as an illustrator, I am naturally drawn to narrative and to using my work to suggest a story. These works are of unidentifiable but real subjects, and they are meant to be accessible to anyone’s imagination. My process begins as recording a specific moment at a specific place, and then transforming it into a fictional scene in order to create a powerful and distinct mood. My approach to color and light is in the forefront of my style, and is the main contribution to this transformation into mood: a limited palette of muted, sophisticated darks, minimal intensity, subtle values, along with the clarity of white to indicate how light plays off forms and seems to intensify darkness. With an expanded sense of place, I want viewers to feel so welcomed into the scene that they can create their own story of sense of place, and even imagined memories of what may have happened then and there.
Whether indicating backlighting or the warm soft glow of a quiet interior, whether tracing fleeting streams of light to achieve a graphic or dramatic effect, I strive for timeless transformed from the everyday moment, building a window into a visual dialogue with the viewer’s boundless imagination.”
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“A single day is enough to make us a little larger or, another time, a little smaller.” – Paul Klee, Swiss-German painter whose style was influenced by Expressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism, who was born on 18 December 1879.

Below – “Flower Myth”; “Nocturnal Festivity”; “The Goldfish”; “To Parnassus”; “Heroic Roses”; “Red Balloon.”
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“Basically, I only play one character; I just play him at different volumes.” – Christ Farley, American comedian and actor famous for his skits on “Saturday Night Live,” who died on 18 December 1997.

American Art – Part II of V: Tae Park

Artist Statement: ‘Painting is a doorway into another world – a gateway to another reality. It is not only an illusion of three-dimensional space, but a reflection of the world that exists within me. This inner world that I paint is partly based on reality, but it is an idealized reality. It is a place of calmness that exists in fleeting moments of time. With painting, I am able to capture these serene moments. The people, place, and events that I paint are frozen in a moment of time and reality that may not have existed in the material world (the world that we live in).”
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“Anyone who takes himself too seriously always runs the risk of looking ridiculous; anyone who can consistently laugh at himself does not.” – Vaclav Havel, Czech playwright, essayist, poet, dissident politician, author of “The Garden Party,” and ninth and last President of Czechoslovakia (1989-1992), who died on 18 December 2011.

Some quotes from Vaclav Havel:

“Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”
“Isn’t it the moment of most profound doubt that gives birth to new certainties? Perhaps hopelessness is the very soil that nourishes human hope; perhaps one could never find sense in life without first experiencing its absurdity.”
“Modern man must descend the spiral of his own absurdity to the lowest point; only then can he look beyond it. It is obviously impossible to get around it, jump over it, or simply avoid it.”
“Just as the constant increase of entropy is the basic law of the universe, so it is the basic law of life to be ever more highly structured and to struggle against entropy.”
“The deeper the experience of an absence of meaning – in other words, of absurdity – the more energetically meaning is sought.
“The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.”
“If we are to change our world view, images have to change. The artist now has a very important job to do. He’s not a little peripheral figure entertaining rich people, he’s really needed.”
“The exercise of power is determined by thousands of interactions between the world of the powerful and that of the powerless, all the more so because these worlds are never divided by a sharp line: everyone has a small part of himself in both.”
“Drama assumes an order. If only so that it might have – by disrupting that order – a way of surprising.”
“Even a purely moral act that has no hope of any immediate and visible political effect can gradually and indirectly, over time, gain in political significance.”
“The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less.”
“But if I were to say who influenced me most, then I’d say Franz Kafka. And his works were always anchored in the Central European region.”
“I think it’s important for one to take a certain distance from oneself.”
“None of us know all the potentialities that slumber in the spirit of the population, or all the ways in which that population can surprise us when there is the right interplay of events.”
“There are times when we must sink to the bottom of our misery to understand truth, just as we must descend to the bottom of a well to see the stars in broad daylight.”
“Work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.”

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Argentinean painter Mirian Constan (born 1961) graduated from the School of Arts in the Department of Philosophy and Humanities of the National University of Cordoba in 1987.
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From the Music Archives: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

18 December 1892 – The premiere performance of “The Nutcracker” takes place in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Italian painter Goffredo Civitarese lives and works in Pescara.
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18 December 1888 – Cliff Wetherill (1858-1910), a Colorado rancher and amateur explorer of excavation sites associated with the Ancient Pueblo People, discovers the Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde. In the words of one historian, “(Wetherill) was responsible for initially selecting the term ‘Anasazi,’ Navajo for ‘ancient enemies,’ as the name for these ancient people.”
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American Art – Part III of V: Guy Pene du Bois

In the words of one art historian, “Guy Pène du Bois (1884-1958) was an early 20th century American painter. Born in the US to a French family, his work specialised in the culture and society around him: cafes, theatres, and in the twenties, flappers.”
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If you’re looking for a holiday gift for a person who enjoys fly fishing, here’s a book recommendation:

Sheridan Anderson (1936-1984) was an American outdoorsman, author, illustrator, and, above all, a fly fisherman. Anderson dropped out of college and became involved in rock climbing, writing and drawing for various climbing publications and co-authoring books on the subject with Royal Robbins. In 1976, Anderson published “The Curtis Creek Manifesto,” which Yvon Chouinard, a fellow outdoorsman who founded the Patagonia outdoor clothing company, has called “probably the best beginner’s treatise on how to fly-fish.” My youngest son, who is an ardent (if ineffectual) fly fisherman, swears by this witty and richly informative book, and though I am not a member of the fly fishing cult, I have read “The Curtis Creek Manifesto” several times, always with great pleasure.
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American Art – Part IV of V: Richard Maury

In the words of one critic, “Richard Maury (born 1935) is a mature painter who is considered to be an important and continuing link in the rich tradition of American realism — the logical successor to John Singer Sargent and John Koch.
While still in his 20’s, Maury chose to leave the United States and settle in Italy. Ever since, he has lived in Florence and has worked diligently in pursuit of his craft, creating paintings that are set in his old and picturesque living quarters. Like Vermeer, his attention to detail is breathtaking without becoming overworked and trite. His flowing, painterly technique depicts haunting light that drifts through halls and beats through windows to create airy atmospheres. The mundane is elevated to magnificence.
Richard Maury paints his environs with scrupulously direct observation. His rooms are full of life’s discards and endless intriguing objects. In everyday life, these objects would be unseen — in a Maury painting the unseen is bared for all to see and treated with reverence. People appear rarely and are assimilated as another beautifully rendered texture — plain, simple and resonating with radiance.”

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A Poem for Today

“A Ritual to Read to Each Other,”
By William Stafford

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider–
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
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American Art – Part V of V: Megan Chapman

Artist Statement: “I was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I received my B.F.A. in painting from the University of Oregon. I have shown my work over the past nineteen years extensively throughout the United States and the United Kingdom. My work has appeared in various publications and is held in numerous private collections nationally as well as internationally. I create mixed media works on paper, canvas and panel. I love maps, pencil lines, vintage paper and paint.”

Below – “We Will Sink to the Bottom of the Ocean Together”; “Dreams of Fish”; “Stories of Her Travels”; “Falling into Sound”; “We Took the Quiet Roads”; “Remain a Stranger”; “If You Listen”; “New Lanark World Heritage Site”; “View From My Studio.”
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American Muse: William Stafford

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“A Ritual to Read to Each Other”

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider–
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
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