American Art – Part I of V: Jan Matulka
Born 7 November 1890 – Jan Matulka, a Czech-American painter.
“One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.” – Marie Curie, French-Polish physicist, chemist, and the first female professor at the University of Paris, who was born on 7 November 1867.
Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the only woman to win in two fields, and the only person to win in multiple sciences (Physics – 1934, with Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel, and Chemistry – 1911).
Here is one critic describing the artistry of Russian painter Sergey Belov: “The life of megapolis, co-existence and interrelations of people, buildings, plants and different things – is the main theme of the artist. Fragmentariness of perception and theatricality of composition are peculiar to his art works. Numerous everyday scenes are performed on canvas like on stage where common becomes amazing, ordinary becomes beautiful and exalted. In this theatre people are crowded and objects play key roles, assuming their own character, soul and destiny.”
Here is the Artist Statement of Australian painter Fred Cress (born 1938): “Business is widely considered to be the current religion of our society. With the promise of wealth, power and influence as “the carrot,” people scramble and fight to get to the top and the resultant toll on their humanity can be enormous.”
7 November 1940 – The original Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington collapses in a windstorm, just four months after its completion.
American Art – Part II of V: Ralph Goings
Artist Statement: “My paintings are about light, about the way things look in their environment and especially about how things look painted.
Form, color and space are at the whim of reality, their discovery and organization is the assignment of the realist painter.”
7 November 1811 – The Battle of Tippecanoe is fought near present-day Lafayette, Indiana. United States forces led by Governor William Henry Harrison of the Indiana Territory defeated a contingent of Native American warriors allied with the Shawnee leader Tecumseh.
American Art – Part III of V: Wendy Artin
From the American Old West – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
7 November 1908 – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are reportedly killed in San Vicente, Bolivia.
Above – Butch Cassidy (seated, far right) and the Sundance Kid (seated, far left);
Below – The cinematic version of the final gunfight in Bolivia – Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman, on the left) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford).
“Poetry is what happens when an anxiety meets a technique.” – Lawrence Durrell, English novelist, poet, dramatist, travel writer, and author of the “Alexandria Quartet,” who died on 7 November 1990.
Lawrence Durrell resisted formal affiliation with Britain – or any other country – and considered himself cosmopolitan. He was an intelligent, insightful, and eloquent human being, as his comments below demonstrate.
“I had become, with the approach of night, once more aware of loneliness and time – those two companions without whom no journey can yield us anything.”
“The richest love is that which submits to the arbitration of time.”
“Like all young men I set out to be a genius, but mercifully laughter intervened.”
“Music was invented to confirm human loneliness.”
“A city becomes a world when one loves one of its inhabitants.”
“I imagine, therefore I belong and am free.”
“There are only three things to be done with a woman. You can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature.”
“A woman’s best love letters are always written to the man she is betraying.”
“Everyone loathes his own country and countrymen if he is any sort of artist.”
“For us artists there waits the joyous compromise through art with all that wounded or defeated us in daily life; in this way, not to evade destiny, as the ordinary people try to do, but to fulfill it in its true potential – the imagination.”
“Guilt always hurries towards its complement, punishment; only there does its satisfaction lie.”
“History is an endless repetition of the wrong way of living.”
“I’m trying to die correctly, but it’s very difficult, you know.”
“Music is only love looking for words.”
“No one can go on being a rebel too long without turning into an autocrat.”
“Old age is an insult. It’s like being smacked.”
“Our inventions mirror our secret wishes.
“Perhaps our only sickness is to desire a truth which we cannot bear rather than to rest content with the fictions we manufacture out of each other.”
“The appalling thing is the degree of charity women are capable of. You see it all the time… love lavished on absolute fools. Love’s a charity ward, you know.
“Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection.”
“We are the children of our landscape; it dictates behavior and even thought in the measure to which we are responsive to it.”
Born 7 November 1901 – Norah McGuinness, an Irish painter.
American Art – Part IV of V: Michael Lierly
Artist Statement: “The American aesthetic, like the American religion, is obsessed with innocence. Opposed to other religion’s promises of immortality connected pragmatically to a forward looking aesthetic, the American religion promises what Hart Crane called “an improved infancy” and should be expected to produce little in the way of cultivation. When we demand newness, solitude, and sterility, and civilization is equated with European age, our art works can be judged only on their own merits and our art forms will continue to atomize us.
I believe much of the violence, anxiety, and cynicism in modern America stems primarily from a failure of culture and only secondarily from social, economic, or political problems. When we spend our entire lives surrounded by what is mean, unconnected, and disposable, our interior psyches become likewise fractured and uninspired. Particularly unconvincing in American art and architecture is an absence of human and humanizing themes and forms. The box cities we live and work in and the public spaces we inhabit or move though give us nothing to connect to and nothing to aspire towards. They say to us only ‘work!’ or ‘consume!’ If we can create spaces for gathering in mutual inspiration to behold objects for projection and reflection we will give evidence to what is now going unsung in the human animal.
These concerns and aspirations are the engine and content of my paintings. I paint the time and place I find myself in; a religiously mad country whose idols are self-reliance, freedom from time, nature, and others, and a national triumphalism with a fallout particularly among the embittered young who can’t legitimize the societies institutions and expectations. My paintings center on the causes and products of the aesthetic wasteland I wish them to help transcend.”
A Poem for Today
“Hinged Double Sonnet for the Luna Moths,”
By Sean Nevin
For ten days now, two luna moths remain
silk-winged and lavish as a double broach
pinned beneath the porch light of my cabin.
Two of them, patinaed that sea-glass green
of copper weather vanes nosing the wind,
the sun-lit green of rockweed, the lichen’s
green scabbing-over of the bouldered shore,
the plush green peat that carpets the island,
that hushes, sinks then holds a boot print
for days, and the sapling-green of new pines
sprouting through it. The miraculous green
origami of their wings – false eyed, doomed
and sensual as the mermaid’s long green fins:
a green siren calling from the moonlight.
A green siren calling from the moonlight,
from the sweet gum leaves and paper birches
that shed, like tiny white decrees, scrolled bark.
They emerge from cocoons like greased hinges,
all pheromone and wing, instinct and flutter.
They rise, hardwired, driven, through the creaking
pine branches tufted with beard moss and fog.
Two luna moths flitting like exotic birds
towards only each other and light, in these
their final few days, they mate, then starving
they wait, inches apart, on my cabin wall
to die, to share fully each pure and burning
moment. They are, like desire itself, born
without mouths. What, if not this, is love?
American Art – Part V of V: Andrea Benson
Artist Statement: “I live and work in Portland, Oregon, having moved here in my mid-twenties after growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Like any good Northwesterner, I love the trees, mountains, rivers and ocean, the quality of light and even the half year of grey drizzle that makes it easy to work in the studio or put your nose in a book. My surroundings have a big effect on my work, whether the beauty of the natural world or just the experience of being out and about – moving, seeing, sensing – all reverberate back into making.”