October Offerings – Part XXI: Something to Delight both Head and Heart

American Art – Part I of VII: Ellen Altfest

According to one critic, “Working from life rather than photos, Ellen Altfest’s paintings exude an experiential quality: capturing the transference the impact of looking as it becomes imprinted in memory, she replicates her personal engagement with the objects as a tangible sensation on her canvas. Tumbleweed offers a cosmos of this ethereal state. Stranded between representation and intuitive painterly indulgence, Altfest proposes a vision of quiet contemplation, rendering a bewildering beauty from the study of the simplest things.”
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“What comes from the heart goes to the heart” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge, influential English poet, literary critic, and philosopher, who was born on 21 October 1772.

“Kubla Khan
Or a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment.”

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And ‘mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And ‘mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw;
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ‘twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
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According to one critic, Ecuadorian painter Luis Alfonso Endara (born 1960) “has perfected his art through over 30 years of explorative and passionate work and, by sharing with European masters, has developed a formidable expertise and a polished technique of repeated thin layers of oil paint, as ancient painters used to apply to the canvas. Humans are the axial point of is artistic creation.”
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American Art – Part II of VII: Gary Faigin

In the words of one writer, ”Faigin’s paintings explore his two favorite themes: altering one’s perception of the commonplace and developing mood through intense contrasts of light and dark.
Faigin is the Artistic Director and co-founder of Gage Academy of Art in Seattle. He is the monthly art critic on Seattle’s NPR station, KUOW. A retrospective of his paintings was presented at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle in July and August of 2001.”
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“Biographical history, as taught in our public schools, is still largely a history of boneheads: ridiculous kings and queens, paranoid political leaders, compulsive voyagers, ignorant generals—the flotsam and jetsam of historical currents. The men who radically altered history, the great scientists and mathematicians, are seldom mentioned, if at all.” – Martin Gardner, American scientist, mathematician, skeptic, and author of “Science: Good, Bad, and Bogus,” who was born 21 October 1914.

In addition to being a first-rate thinker and mathematician, Martin Gardner was an aficionado of stage magic and the writings of Lewis Carroll, but his major contribution to the life of the mind was his uncompromising attack on pseudoscience. Intelligent people will be delighted by his ruthless and witty debunking of all manner of crackpottery, including creationism, food faddism, Scientology, UFOs, dowsing, ESP, parapsychology, psychokinesis, homeopathy, and New Age “philosophy.”

Some quotes from the work of Martin Gardner:

“There are, and always have been, destructive pseudo-scientific notions linked to race and religion; these are the most widespread and damaging. Hopefully, educated people can succeed in shedding light into these areas of prejudice and ignorance, for as Voltaire once said: ‘Men will commit atrocities as long as they believe absurdities.’”
“Her constant orders for beheading are shocking to those modern critics of children’s literature who feel that juvenile fiction should be free of all violence and especially violence with Freudian undertones. Even the Oz books of L. Frank Baum, so singularly free of the horrors to be found in Grimm and Andersen, contain many scenes of decapitation. As far as I know, there have been no empirical studies of how children react to such scenes and what harm if any is done to their psyche. My guess is that the normal child finds it all very amusing and is not damaged in the least, but that books like ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’ should not be allowed to circulate indiscriminately among adults who are undergoing analysis.”
“Biographical history, as taught in our public schools, is still largely a history of boneheads: ridiculous kings and queens, paranoid political leaders, compulsive voyagers, ignorant generals — the flotsam and jetsam of historical currents. The men who radically altered history, the great scientists and mathematicians, are seldom mentioned, if at all.”
“The last level of metaphor in the Alice books is this: that life, viewed rationally and without illusion, appears to be a nonsense tale told by an idiot mathematician.”
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American Art – Part III of VII: James Valerio

James Valerio (born 1938) earned both a BFA (1966) and an MFA (1968) from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
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“What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?” – Ursula Le Guin, American writer best known for her work in the fantasy and science fiction genres and author of “The Farthest Shore” (which won the 1973 National Book Award in the category of Children’s Books), who was born on 21 October 1929.

Some quotes from Ursula Le Guin:

“The creative adult is the child who has survived.”
“It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”
“I doubt that the imagination can be suppressed. If you truly eradicated it in a child, he would grow up to be an eggplant.”
“If you see a whole thing – it seems that it’s always beautiful. Planets, lives… But up close a world’s all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life’s a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern.”
“We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.”
“It had never occurred to me before that music and thinking are so much alike. In fact you could say music is another way of thinking, or maybe thinking is another kind of music.”
“The only questions that really matter are the ones you ask yourself.”
“There are no right answers to wrong questions.”
“To light a candle is to cast a shadow.”
“Morning comes whether you set the alarm or not.”
“Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for further development.”
“When action grows unprofitable, gather information; when information grows unprofitable, sleep.”
“There’s a good deal in common between the mind’s eye and the TV screen, and though the TV set has all too often been the boobtube, it could be, it can be, the box of dreams.”
“If science fiction is the mythology of modern technology, then its myth is tragic.”
“I talk about the gods; I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.”
“My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world, and exiles me from it.”
“Great artists make the roads; good teachers and good companions can point them out. But there ain’t no free rides, baby.”
“The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.”
“As great scientists have said and as all children know, it is above all by the imagination that we achieve perception, and compassion, and hope.”
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Japanese painter Tokuoka Shinsen (1896-1972) graduated from Kyoto Municipal School of Fine Art in 1917. In the words of one historian, “After considerable success as a student and the expectations of him in Nihonga (Japanese-style painting) circles, he was greatly shocked by repeated rejections of his submissions to the Bunten exhibitions. Tormented about his own art, he left the art world in 1919 to live as a recluse in Iwabuchi, on the lower slopes of Mt Fuji. In 1923 he began anew, returning to Kyoto. (His paintings were) highly regarded for their images based on profound introspection and expressed symbolically in simple forms. He became a member of the Japan Art Academy in 1957 and was awarded the Order of Cultural Merit in 1966.”

Below – “Pond”; “Pampas Grass”; “Stream”; “Carp”; “Bellflower”; “Red Lotus”; “Daffodils.”
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American Art – Part IV of VII: Colleen Ross

In the words of one writer, “Colleen Ross was born in Maumee, Ohio and began painting at the age of fifteen. She attended Bowling Green State University, where she earned a B.S. in art education with a specialty in painting. She recently settled in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and daughter after having lived in Mill Valley, California for many years. Colleen Ross’s work has always celebrated the nostalgic, reflecting her love of the classic movies of the ’40s and ’50s. She executes her work with visible, energetic brushstrokes and vibrant, emotional use of color.”
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21 October 1971 – Chilean poet Pablo Neruda receives the Nobel Prize in Literature “for a poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent’s destiny and dreams.” Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez, himself a Nobel Laureate, called Neruda “the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language.”

Here is part of Pablo Neruda’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

“I am a representative of these times and of the present struggles which fill my poetry. You will pardon me if I have extended my gratitude to cover all those who belong to me, even to the forgotten ones of this earth who in this happy hour of my life appear to me more real than my own phrases, higher than my mountain chains, wider than the ocean. I am proud to belong to this great mass of humanity, not to the few but to the many, by whose invisible presence I am surrounded here today.”

And one of his many great poems:

“Clenched Soul”

We have lost even this twilight.
No one saw us this evening hand in hand
while the blue night dropped on the world.

I have seen from my window
the fiesta of sunset in the distant mountain tops.

Sometimes a piece of sun
burned like a coin in my hand.

I remembered you with my soul clenched
in that sadness of mine that you know.

Where were you then?
Who else was there?
Saying what?
Why will the whole of love come on me suddenly
when I am sad and feel you are far away?

The book fell that always closed at twilight
and my blue sweater rolled like a hurt dog at my feet.

Always, always you recede through the evenings
toward the twilight erasing statues.
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American Art – Part V of VII: Pat Rocha

Artist Statement: “Since childhood, drawing and painting has always been an integral part of my life. It’s a constant reflection of my past experiences. My interest in human nature and the drama of living compels me what to paint. If the mood or moment is strong enough then people can draw their own conclusions. Sometimes real, sometimes imaginary.
Sometimes when I’m looking at an old photograph I’ll stare at the person in the photo and imagine myself in the same room. It’s impossible for me to paint a portrait without having a story to tell behind it. I simply couldn’t pass the time away drawing people or places without meaning. When the story hits me after the initial drawing, I’ll look for additional pictures to accommodate the central theme. Then it begins to take on a life of it’s own.
There is a reason for everything in my paintings. Gradually I understand why I spend so much time alone with one painting. I never stop thinking as long as I keep painting, it’s simply survival of the mind.”
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“All of life is a foreign country.” – Jack Kerouac, American novelist, poet, and author of, among other fine books, “On the Road” and “The Dharma Bums,” who died on 21 October 1969.

Some quotes from Jack Kerouac:

“All human beings are also dream beings. Dreaming ties all mankind together.”
“I hope it is true that a man can die and yet not only live in others but give them life, and not only life, but that great consciousness of life.”
“A pain stabbed my heart as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world.”
“Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.”
“Mankind is like dogs, not gods – as long as you don’t get mad they’ll bite you – but stay mad and you’ll never be bitten. Dogs don’t respect humility and sorrow.”
“I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”
“My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.”
“Offer them what they secretly want and they of course immediately become panic-stricken.”
“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”
“Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?”
“It is not my fault that certain so-called bohemian elements have found in my writings something to hang their peculiar beatnik theories on.”
“If moderation is a fault, then indifference is a crime.”
“All our best men are laughed at in this nightmare land.”
“Maybe that’s what life is… a wink of the eye and winking stars.”
“Avoid the world, it’s just a lot of dust and drag and means nothing in the end.”
“Write in recollection and amazement for yourself.”
“My witness is the empty sky.”
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American Art – Part VI of VII: Randy Ford

Realist painter Randy Ford (born 1962) specializes in painting still lifes, roadside signs, and diner imagery.
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A Poem for Today

“Clambering Up Cold Mountain Path,”
By Han Shan (translation by Gary Snyder)

Clambering up the Cold Mountain path,
The Cold Mountain trail goes on and on:
The long gorge choked with scree and boulders,
The wide creek, the mist-blurred grass.
The moss is slippery, though there’s been no rain
The pine sings, but there’s no wind.
Who can leap the world’s ties
And sit with me among the white clouds?
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American Art – Part VII of VII: Joseph Mendez

Artist Statement: “I paint on direct visual perception—an emotion. If I don’t get that emotion while painting, it hinders my ability to communicate to the viewer. That’s why I try not to reason while painting—I just paint! I like to paint more than one subject—be it people, landscapes, cityscapes or a bunch of flowers. I paint what attracts me. There have been many artists known primarily for their work on a particular subject matter. Diversification has been of great interest to me. Capturing the beauty of nature and the play of light on the motifs are my main goals. By diversifying my subjects, I become a master of none, so in essence, I am an eternal student. In pursuit of seeking my “truth” I encounter many difficulties. I may never reach the plateau of perfection, but as an artist I must constantly strive for it. In this business, you almost have to be a masochist or have an extremely large ego. Painting is never easy, but I’m certainly enjoying the trip!”

Below – “Storm Over Wyoming”; “St. Helena Winery”; “Malibu Rocks”; “American Legacy, Mojave: Cedar Canyon Mountain”; “American Legacy, Mojave: Burning Hills”; “Fall Sycamores.”
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